Israel of God - Is God
"Finished" with Israel in His prophetic plan?
In 1847 the following article was published in Bibliotheca Sacra
The future condition of the Jews is a
subject which has received from various sources no small attention. The
subject is worthy of attention. It is worthy of attention for its own
sake. Every branch of truth and every department of the divine operations
has in it something to repay investigation. The connection of this subject
with other themes imparts to it a still higher interest. The right
understanding of it will lead to some views of essential importance in
regard to the general character of the religion of the Bible, besides
which some lessons of practical duty will grow out of it. The Jews have
been a people greatly distinguished… In the investigation of this subject
it is not a mere superficial view of it with which we should be satisfied.
It is a subject which enters deeply into the economy of the gospel and
involves principles of the very highest moment in the interpretation of
THE ISRAEL OF GOD:
Has God Replaced Israel with the Church?
Is the Church now "the Israel of God"?
In his last words
to the Galatian believers Paul asked that "peace and mercy be upon them, and upon
the Israel of God." (Galatians 6:16)
A not uncommon misinterpretation (in my opinion) is to use this verse as
justification for the hypothesis that since the majority of Jews rejected
the Messiah and His gospel, God has instituted a new program in which the
New Testament Church, the body of Christ, has replaced Israel and
inherited the promises He originally intended to bestow on Israel. This
genre of of teaching is often referred to as "replacement theology".
context Paul is not using "the Israel of God" as a
synonym for the church as is sadly taught even in evangelical works
(eg, "The Disciple Study Bible" comments that now "The church is the true
of God refers to Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, to those who are
spiritual as well as physical descendants of Abraham (Gal 3:7) and are
heirs of promise rather than of law
(Gal 3:18). They are the real Jews, the true Israel of faith, like those
referred to in Romans 2:28, 29 (see
notes) and Romans 9:6, 7 (notes).
J. Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press
respected conservative, evangelical Bible Knowledge Commentary agrees with Dr MacArthur's interpretation of
NIV errs in
translating it "even to the Israel of God" rather than “and upon the
Israel of God” as in the NASB (Ed: And ESV, NET, KJV). While some believe that “Israel of
God” is the church, the evidence does not support such a conclusion.
First, the repetition of the preposition (“upon” or “to”)
indicates two groups are in view. Second, all the 65 other
occurrences of the term “Israel” in the New Testament refer to Jews. It
would thus be strange for Paul to use “Israel” here to
Christians. Third, Paul elsewhere referred to two kinds of
Israelites—believing Jews and unbelieving Jews (cf. Romans 9:6-note).
Lest it be thought that Paul is anti-Semitic, he demonstrated by means of
this benediction his deep love and concern for true Israel, that is, Jews
who had come to Christ.
J. F., Zuck, R. B., et al: The Bible Knowledge Commentary. 1985. Victor
Some scholars believe that Paul’s
reference to “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16) applies to all true
believers-Jews and Gentiles-who make up the church. This cannot be the
correct interpretation for a number of reasons. First, the phrase “and
upon the Israel of God” is an afterthought to the general benediction
and shows Paul’s desire for Jewish people who embrace the Gospel of Christ
to receive God’s peace and mercy, referring to the true remnant within
Israel (cp. Ro. 9:6, 27; 11:5). In this passage Paul recognized the true
Jewish believers within the church. Second, the word and can be
translated even (NIV), identifying “the Israel of God” as
Jewish believers within the church. Third, the other 65 uses of the
term Israel in the New Testament refer to the Jewish people.
It would be strange for Paul to refer to Gentile Christians as “Israel.”
Fourth, Paul elsewhere referred to two kinds of
Israelites-believers and unbelievers (Ro 9:6). It is clear that the phrase
“the Israel of God” refers only to Jewish believers within the
church. (from Israel My Glory).
William MacDonald writes that...
Many have taken this (the
phrase "the Israel of God") to mean the church. However, the Israel
of God refers to those Jews by natural birth who accept the Lord Jesus
as Messiah. There was neither peace nor mercy for those who walked under
the law, but both are the portion of those in the new creation.
W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or
Logos) (Bolding added)
The King James Version Study Bible
The verse’s final and seems
to distinguish between Gentile Christians (as many as walk)
and Jewish Christians (the Israel of God).
E G, Charles Feinberg, E Hindson, Woodrow Kroll, H L. Wilmington: KJV
Bible Commentary: Nelson
Cleon Rogers comments on the
Israel of God....
The phrase is not to be taken as an
explanation of the preceding but as a separate entity or group. His
thoughts turn to his own brethren after the flesh and he pauses to specify
those who were once Israelites according to the flesh but now are the
Israel of God (Ellicott). (New Linguistic & Exegetical Key to the Greek
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary
comments that while the "Israel of God" could possibly refer...
to the whole church, in view of the
and (kai) the more probable reference is to Christian Jews, such as Paul
himself. These are the real Israel, as opposed to those who merely bear
the name (cf. Romans 2:29-note).
C F: Wycliffe Bible Commentary. 1981. Moody
Somewhat surprising is the addition:
and upon the Israel of God. In view of what has gone before (cf. Gal
3:29, 4:28, 29) we can hardly doubt that this Israel of God does not refer
to the empirical, national Israel as an equally authorized partner
alongside of the believers in Christ (“they who walk by this rule”). As
elsewhere (cf. Rom. 9:7), so here, Israel designates the new Israel.
(Ridderbos, Herman N., The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia: The
New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament. 1953)
The Holman Christian Standard Study
The Israel of God may mean: (1)
the Gentile church, which through faith has inherited the promise God gave
to Abraham (Gal 3:29) or (2) more likely, the "remnant"
of believing Israel "chosen by grace" (Ro 11:5-note),
as opposed to the "false brothers" among the Jews (Gal 2:4), who were
seeking to be justified by "the works of the law" (Gal 2:16).
Johann Bengel writing in the
mid-1700's (he is clearly not a dispensationalist!) comments that "and
upon the Israel of God" is used by Paul...
In antithesis to the circumcision
[the Jews] (Ed: Bengel is referring to the immediate context, Gal
6:15, in which Paul describes two distinct groups, circumcision and
uncircumcision.). The Israel of God are believers of the
circumcision or Jewish nation [Phil 3:3]. (Gnomon of the New
John Eadie who is not a
dispensationalist and whose scholarship on the NT Pauline epistles (on
which he has written commentaries) is considered by most to be beyond
reproach, has the following somewhat technical note on the phrase "and
on the Israel of God" aptly noting that...
The meaning turns on the sense assigned
to kai. If it be only copulative “and,” then the Israel
of God is an additional body...and would mean Jewish believers. But if
kai be explicative, signifying “to wit,” (Ed: Cp NIV "even") then
the Israel of God is the same body with the "those" (hosos), and is
the whole believing community, comprising alike Jews and Gentiles...Can
kai be really explicative? (Ed: It is interesting that this
very word kai is used twice in this one verse, the first time at
the beginning of the Greek sentence where it is translated "and"
without any hesitation even by those who then chose to translate it as an
explicative rather than a copulative in the second use). Ellicott says
that Meyer's examples do not seem conclusive (1Cor 3:5, 8:12, 15:38), nor
do they (Ed: In other words, Eadie an esteemed Greek scholar agrees
with Ellicott who is also a well known Greek scholar). Still it is to be
found in this sense, which Winer (§ 53, 3) calls epexegetical, introducing
the same thing under another aspect. But there is no case so peculiarly
distinctive in sense as this would be. And, (1) In the quotations
commonly adduced to prove this position, that Israel means
believers, Gentiles as well as Jews, as Ro 2:28, 29, 9:6-8, Gal 4:28, 31,
it is Jews by blood who are spoken of or referred to in connection with
the appellation (Ed: In other words in the passages Eadie lists, the
context clearly is referring to ethnic Israel or physical Jews). (2)
The simple copulative meaning (of kai) is not to be departed from, save on
very strong grounds; and there is no ground for such a departure here, so
that the Israel of God are a party included in, and yet distinct
from, the those (hosos). and on the Israel of God The apostle is
not in the habit of calling the church made up of Jews and Gentiles—Israel.
Israel is used eleven times in Romans, but in all the instances it refers
to Israel proper; and...in every other portion of the New
Testament. In the Apocalypse (Revelation), the 144,000 sealed of Israel
stand in contrast to “the great multitude which no man can number,” taken
out of the Gentile or non-Israelitish races. Rev. 7:9. The “Israelite
indeed” is also one by blood. John 1:47; comp. 1Cor 10:18. The hosos may
not be Gentile believers as such, and opposed to Jewish believers, but the
entire number who walk according to this rule; while Paul finds among them
a certain class to whom his heart turns with instinctive fondness—“the
Israel of God.”... It may be said indeed, on the one hand, that the
apostle has been proving that the Jew, as a Jew, has no privilege above
the Gentiles, that both Jew and Gentile are on a level, so that both
believing Jews and Gentiles may therefore be called Israel. It may be
replied, however, that the apostle never in any place so uses the name,
never gives the grand old theocratic name to any but the chosen people.
(4) To the apostle there were two Israels—“they are not all Israel which
are of Israel,”—and he says here, not Israel according to the flesh
(physical lineage), but “the Israel of God,” or the true believing
Israel; his own brethren by a double tie—by blood, and especially by
grace. Was it unnatural for the apostle to do this, especially after
rebuking false Israel—the wretched Judaizers—who certainly were not the
Israel of God?
Charles J Ellicott (1863)
It is doubtful whether kai is
explicative....or simply copulative....it is doubtful whether kai
is ever used by St Paul in so marked an explicative force as must here be
assigned....and as it seems still more doubtful whether Christians
generally could be called ‘the Israel of God’...the simple
copulative meaning seems most probable. St Paul includes all in his
blessing, of whatever stock and kindred and then, with his thoughts
turning (as they ever did) to his own brethren after the flesh (Ro 9:3),
he pauses to specify those who were once Israelites according to the flesh
(1Cor. 10:18), but now are the Israel of God, true spiritual
children of Abraham. (St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians : with a
critical and grammatical commentary, and a revised translation)
Andy Woods lists ten facts
favoring the interpretation of kai in Galatians 6:16 as a
copulative and thus the Israel of God as born again Jews in the the
1 Continuative kai (Ed:
Use as a copulative, a simple connective joining together words or
phrases) is the most common New Testament form
2 Appositional kai is the rarest New
3 Point easier made by eliminating
4 “Israel” always means national,
ethnic Israel elsewhere in the New Testament (Fruchtenbaum, Israelogy, pg.
5 Israel not equated with church by the
fathers until A.D. 160
6 Why introduce sweeping point in
conclusion rather than doctrinal section?
7 Twofold repetition of “upon” (epi)
8 Paul elsewhere designates two groups
(Gal 6:15; Gal 2:7-8)
9 Paul elsewhere singles out ethnic,
believing Jews (Ro 2:28-29; Ro 4:11-12; Ro 9:6; Ro 11:1, 5; 1Cor 10:18)
10 Paul is not anti-Semitic-Burton pg.
358 (E. D. Burton, The Epistle to the Galatians - ICC; Edinburgh, 1921)
(non-dispensational) such as Matthew
Poole (1624–1679) have not seen the "church" in the phrase "the Israel of God", Poole
Upon the Israel of God,
upon the true Israelites, whom he calls the Israel of God hereby
intimating and confirming the truth of what he had said, Romans 2:28, 29
and what our Saviour had said of Nathanael, John 1:47, calling him “an
Israelite indeed,” because in him was “no guile;” and establishing a distinction
between such as were so really (Ed: Jews who placed their faith in
Messiah - see Nathanael's open declaration in Jn 1:49 and Jesus'
"interpretation" in Jn 1:50), and those who were only Israelites in
name (Ed: non-believing Jews), because descended from Jacob, to whom God gave the name of Israel.
Hereby also checking the vanity of the Jews, who gloried in the name of
Israelites, and thought there could no water come out of the fountains of
Israel which God would cast away. The apostle doth not promise, or
prophesy, mercy and peace to all Israelites, but only to the Israel of
God; that is, to believers, that received and embraced Jesus Christ
offered in the gospel." (Matthew Poole's Commentary on the New Testament)
And of course the best "Commentator" on Scripture is always
In Romans Paul teaches us that... "all Israel will be saved" (Ro 11:26-note).
Who is Israel here? Clearly
in context Paul is referring to ethnic Israel, those who are the physical
seed of Abraham. Indeed, Israel is used 77 times in the NT and all refer
to ethnic Israel (the only disputed use is Gal 6:16!) In the present
passage Paul is referring to the remnant of Jews who will be saved when
"the Deliverer will return from Zion" and "will remove ungodliness from
Jacob" at which time they enter into the New Covenant. As William Newell
comments in his excellent exposition on Romans "This is the real Israel
of God of whom it is written, "All Israel shall be saved.""
Jeremiah records Jehovah's promise of the New Covenant
given initially not to the Church but to
ethnic Israel, a promise that will be consummated at the end of this age
when "all Israel will be saved"...
Behold, days are coming," declares the
LORD, "when I will make a new
with the house of Israel and with
the house of Judah, not like the
covenant which I made with their
fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land
of Egypt, My
covenant which they broke,
although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. But this is the
covenant which I will make with
the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My
law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their
God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach again, each man
his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they
shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,"
declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I
will remember no more. Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by
day, and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who
stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the
LORD of Hosts is His name:
"If this fixed order departs from
before Me," declares the LORD, "Then (When?)
the offspring (Hebrew = zera = seed used in Isa 6:13-note) of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me
forever." Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured, and
the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off
all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done," declares the
LORD." (Jeremiah 31:31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37) (Bolding added)
Comment: And need one mention
the miracle of the nation of Israel reborn in one day in May, 1948 against
all human odds! How anyone
can teach God is finished with Israel in the face of such a clear miracle
of divine providence is beyond comprehension! Such would simply have
to "ignore the facts!"
Beloved, Jehovah could not have been much clearer!
God is not finished with the nation of Israel or the ethnic Jews! So continue to
the peace of Jerusalem"!