Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 12, PAGE 32-34a

The Church Is The Israel Of God

Robert C. Welch

Multitudes of religious people today hold the old Judaistic, Pharisaic, Sadducaic theory that the fleshly descendents of Jacob are still God's people as in the days of David. They think that God will eventually provide them with a fleshly kingdom surpassing the glory of the kingdom of David. They think that the Israeli nation now formed and warring against the Arabs is proof of this expectation. No influence is stronger, perhaps, in promoting this fallacy than the Armstrong radio and literature racket. Of course, the effect of the dissemination of this fallacious theory by the Jehovah's Witnesses is not to be ignored or minimized. Then, there is the teaching of this theory among and by premillennial churches of Christ. This is done through a relatively heavy program of mission work, through a college and a lower graded school, and through two or three magazines.

The examples which shall be used here are from the March, 1969, Word and Work, the major publication of these brethren. The news announcement of the spring lectureship of their college at Winchester, Kentucky, contains this statement:

"The theme will be 'The Jew, in History, Prophecy, and Current Events.' The college believes that the Biblical record clearly points to the importance of the Jewish race in world events, and feels that an effort should be made to understand the Jew as a part of history and religion. The Churches of Christ sponsoring S.C.C. (abbreviation for the name of the college) while believing in a future for Israel in God's plan, in general are unfamiliar with the Jew, his life, and culture."

The above quotation shows that they are pushing this feature of premillennialism, as evidenced by the very nature of their lecture program. There is no doubt, from the announcement, that they consider the "Israel" described in the New Testament as the fleshly Jew. If there is still doubt, however, that this is their position, consider this statement from an article in the same paper by Winston N. Allen:

"It is as if the pieces of a great jig-saw puzzle, after a period of almost 2,000 years, are suddenly fitting together. Events and conditions prophesied in the Bible as heralding the end of this age include: Israel as a nation in their own land and controlling Jerusalem, widespread and increasing lawlessness and violence, world-wide missionary activity, signs in the heavens, and preparations for world government under the Anti-christ."

The particular feature of this quotation with which this article is specially concerned is the affirmation that the Bible teaches that Israel as a nation is to be in Palestine ruled from Jerusalem at the end of this age. This statement plainly shows that they do not believe that Christians, today, without regard of Jew and Gentile blood, as the church, are the Israel of God. That the fleshly Jew is thus thought to have a place with God above the honor of being a Christian from whatever nation or race, is taught in an article by R. H. Boll, the progenitor of the present premillennial movement among churches of Christ. This article of his is a reprint from 1953. Notice his assertion:

"Yet there is much trouble ahead for Israel — in fact, the greatest trouble they have ever experienced is yet in store for them; but they shall be saved out of it. Truly the Lord has chosen them 'in the furnace of affliction' (Isa. 48:10)."

Their entire theory concerning such a special place in God's sight for the fleshly descendents of Jacob, is a misapplication of the prophetic utterances of the Old Testament, and is a flat contradiction of the things said about them and about the church in the New Testament.

Fleshly Israel No Longer God's Nation

The Jews of the time of John the Baptist boasted that they were the people of God because they were the descendents of Abraham. John warned them that they were about to be cut off: "Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." (Matt. 3:8-10).

To those Pharisees who were blinded (John 9:39-41) with this false pride and security, Jesus said: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock, one shepherd." (John 10:16). They should have known from reading the prophets that the fleshly Israelites would not always be God's exclusive or peculiar nation; for the new nation and blessings. In the above cited Shepherd chapter of John, Jesus emphasizes that it no longer belongs to them exclusively, but that others (Gentiles) will be taken in to make one flock.

These same arrogant, smug, deluded national leaders of the Jewish nation had this edict of final overturn addressed to them: "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." (Matt. 21:43). From the time when Jesus made this statement there is no inspired utterance to the effect that it will eventually be given back to the fleshly Israelites, or that they will ever be God's peculiar people again. The gospel which is now to go to all nations and bring in disciples from all nations is to go to the end of the world (Matt. 28:18-20).

Neither Jew Nor Greek In Christ

When Jesus died upon the cross he eradicated the distinction between Jew and Greek so far as God is concerned (Eph. 2:11-22). Jew and Gentile are made both one, one new man, in one body reconciled unto God, fellow-citizens, the household of God, a holy temple in the Lord, a habitation of God in the Spirit. These Zionists who teach that fleshly Israelites are yet God's peculiar and favorite people flatly contradict the word or the Lord as revealed in this chapter to the Ephesians.

That God no longer recognizes a distinction between the fleshly Israelite and the Gentile is a principle theme of Paul's letter to the Galatians. This precise proclamation is given; "There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:28,29).

A Remnant Included By Gospel Faith

When God cut off the Israelites as a nation he did not make it impossible for the individual, who was willing to lose his Israelite identity in Christ, to become a citizen of the kingdom by faith. A remnant was saved. Paul includes himself in that number as the example (Rom. 11:1,5). They are declared to be broken off by their unbelief (Rom. 11:20). This remnant who by individual faith obey the Lord are said to be received as "life from the dead." (Rom. 11:15). Using the figure of grafting in plants we are told that God will graft them in if they continue not in their unbelief (Rom. 11:23).

In summing up his proof that the Israelite is not favored above the Gentile with a special plan of salvation and blessing the apostle says; "and so all Israel shall be saved..." (Rom. 11:25). Some would have this statement mean, that Paul is affirming that every Israelite, hence, Israel as a nation, will be saved. The word so does not have the meaning of therefore in this passage. It is an adverb of manner, meaning "in like manner." This and the entire context teaches that Israelites are to be saved in the same manner as Gentiles. Scholars of the languages point out that the original language in which Paul wrote had two words which are translated so; one of which meant therefore, but that the one used here meant in like manner. He is not saying how many will be saved but how they will be saved.

Church — New Creature — Israel

In his letter to the Galatians Paul emphasizes that the preaching of the gospel is related to the church in contrast with the Jew's religion (Gal. 1:11-13). The church of which he speaks in this first chapter are those who are "children of God, by faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." (Gal. 3:26, 27). Those are in Christ by faith and baptism are declared to be new creatures (II Cor. 5:17).

Today this is the rule of God; "For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." (Gal. 6:15). All those who think that the present nation of Israel has a special place above others in God's design need to get the force of this precept. They are contradicting God's rule. When they accept this rule, from whatever race, nation or station in life they may come, becoming new creatures in Christ, they will have this blessing upon them; "And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and upon the Israel of God." (Gal. 6:16). Let us teach all men, whether Jew or Gentile that this is what God has designed for them, rather than teaching them and going along with them in the false theory that God has made a national special place for the Jews of today in his purpose and prophecy. The church, composed of new creatures in Christ, without distinction of Jew and Gentile, bond and free, male and female, as the seed of Abraham according to the promise, is the Israel of God.

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