Let’s pick it up where we left off yesterday. We’ve established, based on Galatians 3:7, 29, that those who are in Christ are descendants of Abraham. God invites us (Gentiles) into a special family, and we will dive deeper into that today.
Let’s think of Israel in two ways: natural Israel and spiritual Israel. Natural Israel is the nation itself, to whom God gave a destiny. Natural Israel is the custodian of God’s Word, as it was written by Jews, primarily for the Jews (though we certainly benefit from it!), and it was preserved in Israel!
Spiritual Israel, on the other hand, is the true family of God. It is those circumcised in the heart by the Holy Spirit and “born again.” Spiritual Israel is made up of both Jews and Gentiles who trust in Jesus the Messiah.
Paul describes spiritual Israel in Romans 11:17-23. It’s a familiar passage if you’ve hung out at our virtual study table, but I encourage you to read it in the New Living Translation. Here, Paul uses the spiritual symbol of Israel, the olive tree, to describe spiritual Israel! Notice:
- Only believers in Jesus (Jew or Gentile) are part of the olive tree.
- Jews and Gentiles alike must believe in the Messiah in order to be grafted into the olive tree.
- Unbelieving Israel is cut from the tree…though they may be grafted back in.
- Christians are those grafted into the Jewish heritage spiritually (but not naturally).
- Those grafted in have no room for arrogance or boastfulness, as they do not support the root, but the root supports them!
There you have it! God made a way for Gentiles to be “grafted into” His family tree! We gain the spiritual benefits as adopted children. But let’s be clear: this DOES NOT mean Gentiles become Jews ethnically, nor does it mean all God’s promises now belong to us Gentiles. That is part of the teaching of Replacement Theology and it is not true. God’s promises to the the Jewish people still belong to them, and the church has in NO WAY replaced Israel.
Before we call it a day, let’s see how the apostle John describes the relationship. Read John 10:14-16. Here, John refers to “other sheep, which are not of this fold.” That reference is to unbelieving Israel. But His intent is to bring them into the fold, so we become “one flock with one shepherd.”
Again, God’s view is a worldwide view. He desires that none perish, but all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Those who do are “one flock with one Shepherd”…Jesus Himself!
The Old Testament prophets looked forward in history and saw the shadow of the cross. By forward-looking faith, they were saved. In New Testament times, substance replaced shadow. Jesus Christ lived, died, was buried and rose again to free us from sin. The faith we have is backward-looking, to the cross, and we are saved.
We are one family in Christ Jesus, and Abraham is our father. This is spiritual Israel…this is the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).
Amazing how God creates His family, isn’t it! By His grace alone, we Gentiles have been granted access to the family tree of His chosen.
But what about natural Israel? God still has a plan for them, and we’ll touch on that tomorrow! See you then.