The Promises of God fulfilled in Christ (Luke 1:68-73) part 4: Israel of the Flesh an the Land
In part 3 of the study we discovered that Jesus Christ is the Seed promised to Eve and Abraham (Gal 3:16). We also saw that through faith in Christ anyone, Jew or Gentile, can become a child of Abraham (Gal 3:6-9, 14, 29). This left us with some questions. What about physical descendants of Abraham? How do they fit into this economy? We also need to take a look at the land promise and see how that plays out if the children of Abraham are spiritually made and not physically made.
What about Israel of the flesh?
The first section of scripture I will call your attention to is Romans 9:6-13,
“6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. 10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
When you read through this section Paul is making a profound point. He says in verses 6-8,
“Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”
Paul is stating here that not all the physical descendants of Abraham are a part of God’s true Israel. He is separating out a spiritual Israel within physical Israel. He then points to the example of Jacob and Esau. Even though both of them were physically from Abraham’s seed only Jacob was a part of God’s true Israel, through election. God had chosen Jacob and hated Esau, not according to works or physical lineage, but according to the purpose of election. Those who are a part of true Israel are chosen and elected by God!
In stating this Paul has now said that not all Jews are Jews. This is a point he makes earlier in Romans 2:28-29,
“28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Paul is pointing out that being a Jew is not just being able to trace your lineage to Abraham and being circumcised but is a matter of faith. In this way of thinking we see what he meant in Galatians 3 when he stated that even Gentiles can be children of Abraham and a part of true Israel through faith in Christ. Those in Christ are the true Israel, the church.
Look at Phil 3:3,
“3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
Paul says that the church is the true circumcision, the true Israel, and the true Jews, because we worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ, and take no confidence in the flesh. He then spends the better part of Phil chapter 3 explaining that his being born a physical Jew matters nothing in being a part of God’s true Israel and those things are all counted loss so that he may know the excellency of Christ!
These points may cause confusion in some people. There is a nasty label that people like to put on this theology, “replacement theology”. They say that people who believe this are saying that the church has “replaced” Israel. This is not true at all, what God has done is EXPANDED Israel and multiplied to children of Abraham across the whole globe. The people of God are not chosen according to race or physical lineage but instead through God’s election in faith. This can be easily proven in scripture.
Turn with me to Ephesians 2:12-3:6,
“12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. 3 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel”
In the interest of your time I will make my points brief and to the point here. Look at verse 12. Paul tells the Gentiles that they were aliens and strangers to what? Paul says they were aliens from the commonwealth OF ISRAEL and strangers from the covenants of promise. Now look to verse 14-15. Paul says that the gentiles and Jews have been made one in Christ. He then tells them in verse 19 that they are no longer strangers and foreigners to Israel but are now FELLOWCITIZENS! In Eph 3:6 he says Gentiles are fellow heirs and of the same body with the Jews. Paul is saying that through faith in Christ Gentiles have now been made citizens in the Israel of God and partakers of the covenants of promise! This is not a replacement of Israel but an expansion of it.
Turn with me to John 10:16,
“16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
This idea of Gentiles being added into the Israel of God matches exactly with what Jesus said during his public ministry. He said he had other sheep, not of this fold (gentiles) that would be brought in and there would be ONE FOLD and ONE SHEPHERD! Paul says in Eph 3:6 “Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel”. This is where dispensational theology goes completely off the tracks! God never intended for there to be division between the church and Israel, Jew and Gentile, but always intended for there to be one people of God in Christ!
Another place you can see this is obvious is Romans 11. I will not copy the whole chapter here but Paul speaks of a tree with its natural branches being broken off (Jews) and wild branches being grafted in (Gentiles). Ask yourself what that tree is. The tree is God’s Israel! God can graft Gentiles in if he wishes and He can break off fleshly Jews if He wishes. True Israel is made of those who believe.
It has to be this way because the New Covenant that we are now under is promised to who? Look at Jer 31:31-34,
“31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
God promised the New Covenant to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In order to partake of this covenant God turns Gentiles into spiritual children of Abraham (Gal 3:29) and makes them fellow heirs and of the same body as Jewish believers (Eph 3:6).
To cap off this section I would ask you to turn to Acts chapter 15:1-32. To give this some context you need to know that Gentiles were now having the gospel preached to them and coming to faith in Jesus. They were receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit that had been promised to the people of God in the Old Testament, just as fleshly Jews had. This caused a stir in the church. The early church was made up of all fleshly Jews that had faith in Christ, but when Gentiles started to come into the church many Jews did not know how to handle this. Many of the Jews, up to that point, had thought that the church would be a strictly Jewish organization. There was a church council called and a discussion was had about what to do with the Gentiles that believed. The Jews understood that this meant they were being made a part of the Israel of God, that is why some Jews wanted them to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. In the end they were guided by God to not make them get circumcised and keep the law but they were viewed as fellow heirs, with fleshly Jews, of the promises of God. The entrance to be a part of Israel is the same for Jew or Gentile, faith in Christ!
What about the land?
The other question I wanted to address in this study was the land promise. This is easily covered in a very short section.
Take a look at these scriptures with me.
“13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” Rom 4:13
“8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God…… 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” Heb 11:8-10, 13-16
We, as the people of God, are not looking for an earthly plot of land. We are not looking for a country of this world, made up of fallen sinful people looking to have their earthly, fleshly desires fulfilled. Abraham was looking for a heavenly country whose builder and maker is God. As the people of God we are pilgrims and strangers in this current world. We are surrounded by sin, death, Satan, and evil in this world. Our hope is the coming world and that heavenly city that God has prepared for us. We look for the return of Christ and the renewal of ALL CREATION! The promise of Abraham is expanded in the New Testament and it is revealed that God has promised Abraham, and all his children, THE WHOLE WORLD! The land promise was a shadow and type of the real promise. God will renew all creation, and give His people a world where there is no sin, death, or Satan. God Himself will dwell with us!
In Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16 we see that those who had true faith and a true understanding about this world never looked for a kingdom here but looked in hope for the kingdom coming. Let us too not look for a kingdom of this world but for a kingdom that will come with Christ’s return!
In the next part we will expand on the idea that God’s kingdom is not of this world and look at how Christ fulfilled the promise to David of having a man sit on his throne.
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