From Solomon’s Porch Sunday Evening Sermon Series in Hosea
In our last installment of “Inclusion: Israel, Abraham, and the Church Part II ”, we suggested that Galatians 3 gave us strong evidence that the Gentile church should be included as part of the Israel of God. Where else would I find evidence in the New Testament for the inclusion of Gentiles into the Commonwealth of Israel? Perhaps you think that the Gentiles of the Church and the Jews of Israel are two very separate entities. To that notion I would say that the New Testament itself speaks very clearly to the contrary. Let’s take a look take a look at Ephesians 2:11-19,
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,”
Initially, let’s begin by noting that this letter is written to a Gentile church by St. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. In the early church there were a group of heretics called Judaizers that taught that the only way to become Christian was to first convert to Judaism. Why? Because clearly you must become one of the people of God in order to be saved. These people, by the way, were the same group of false teachers harassing the Galatian believers, and they were the chief reason Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians. So to answer this notion of whether or not the Gentile churches were part of the Israel of God, and to refute the Judaizer’s claim that Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism by becoming circumcised and keeping feasts, Sabbaths, etc, Paul writes the previously stated passage from Ephesians 2:11-19. Let’s review what he says there.
First he says that they should remember that “at one time” they had been (past tense) Gentiles in the flesh. What does that mean? It means, according to verse 12, that they were “separate from Christ, excluded from the Commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise”. This is very significant to all believers. As stated previously in our discussion of Galatians 3, it is our union with Christ that gives us ground to claim our inheritance before the Lord. Here we are told that two major privileges that come to us by faith in Christ are, citizenship in the Commonwealth of Israel, and a claim to any and all of the promises God ever gave to His people, Old or New Testament. How can this be?
Christ has made peace between Jew and Gentile. Having removed both of our sins by the Cross and fulfilled the ceremonial law that made them have to remain separate from us, He made fellowship and communion possible between Jew and Gentile. That’s what verses 14 and 15 tell us.
He now has placed us both into one body, the Israel of God, removing everything that once made God’s people enemies to other nations. That’s what verse 16 tells us.
The same Gospel of peace was preached to both parties, Jew and Gentile. The same cleansing of the human heart occurred, and the same Spirit filled both groups of people, granting us both direct access to God our mutual Father. That’s what verse 17 and 18 tell us.
Now for the icing on the cake, verse 19. So then “you are no longer strangers and aliens”, wait, “strangers” from what? “aliens” from what? We are no longer strangers from the covenants of promise, no longer aliens, or outsiders to the Commonwealth of Israel. (see vs 11 again) We are fellow citizens….. citizens in what? The Commonwealth of Israel. In Christ Jesus all the promises are yes and amen, “for all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Now you might say, “Ah, now I understand you are one of those people that teaches “replacement theology”. That is a made up term that does not refer to any proper Biblical Theology. It is only a straw man meant to distract from the real point. I have not at any point in this article argued that, Israel was replaced by the Gentile church in God’s economy. She was not. I am stating two things. 1) That the scope of Israel goes beyond the borders of one nation. Israel is an international, even an inter-dimensional empire that spans both heaven and earth. Jesus is King of Heaven and Earth 2) That the Gentile Church is included now in Israel. I am not arguing for replacement, but for inclusion. Inclusion into the totality of God’s work and design through the “covenants of promise”. No one has been replaced. Israel has been expanded and enlarged to fit the size of the Gospel. Now she is truly, the Israel of God.
Are there any other passages that speak to the enlargement of Israel and the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Israel God? The short answer is yes! This will be the subject of the fourth installment of “Inclusion: Israel, Abraham, and the Church”.
Soli Deo Gloria