Welcome! So glad you’ve returned to pick up our study. We were left to ponder a thought yesterday, so you may want to review yesterday’s post in order to pick up where we left off.
Review Romans 2:28-29 and remember that a true Jew is not one outwardly, but is one in whom circumcision is a matter of the heart. We asked the question: What does that say for us as believing Gentiles?
To understand that question, we must recognize the concept of natural Israel and spiritual Israel. A Gentile does not become a Jew in a “natural” sense, but joins a “Jewish family” by putting trust in the Jewish Messiah!
What about those outside that family (natural Israel)? Well, they still have a historical mission. Israel must have a real national destiny, not a symbolic one. There must be a nation of Israel because prophecy (Ezekiel 36-37, for example) tells us they must be in their own land in order for the King to come. They also remain the custodians of God’s Word.
Yet, spiritual Israel is the true family of God. Spiritual Israel is made up of those circumcised in the heart by the Spirit of God. Jew and Gentile believers in Jesus as Messiah share a spiritual heritage!
Romans 11:17-23 uses an olive tree to help us understand this concept. (Stop to read that passage before continuing. You may find it helpful to read it in the New Living Translation.) Verse 17 identifies broken off branches as Jews, a wild olive shoot as Gentiles, the root as Jesus, and the olive tree as Israel. Given that, the passage teaches us:
- Only believers of Jesus are part of the olive tree.
- Jews and Gentiles alike must believe in Jesus the Messiah. (verse 23)
- Jews in unbelief are broken off (natural Israel). (verse 17)
- Grafted in Gentiles must not be arrogant toward natural Israel. (verse 18)
- We do not support the root, the root supports us! (verse 18)
- If God did not spare natural branches (that were once IN the tree), He will not spare us (who are not grafted in until belief in the Messiah).
So, not only is there one family, one flock, one shepherd, there is also only one olive tree. By “believing backward” in the Messiah, believing Gentiles are grafted into that tree and become one big family with the patriarchs and other Jews who “believed forward” in the Messiah. We are one big family, with Abraham as our father!
Turn to Galatians 6:15-16 to find out what God calls this family. Did you catch it? In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul tells us once more that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything. However, those who walk in grace, brought through the cross of Jesus, make up the “Israel of God.”
Yes, friends, we are part of the Israel of God. We are part of a Jewish heritage, and we are the offspring of Abraham. We cannot deny the Jewish roots of our Christian faith!
But, where does all this leave natural Israel? Come back tomorrow when we dig into detail and attempt to answer that question.