Who Are God’s Chosen People and Why Are They Chosen?


Who Are God’s Chosen People and Why Are They Chosen?

by Adam Maarschalk (September 22, 2010)

What follows is an actual discussion which took place on my Facebook page during the month of August 2010, concerning the very pivotal theological question of who God’s chosen people are. I was pleased that the discussion drew out the common ideas which are normally expressed on this topic. Lord willing, this won’t be the only post at this site dealing with this question, but I believe that the reader will find the following conversation to be educational and profitable. Anyone is more than welcome to add further thoughts, as well as to express agreement or disagreement with any of the thoughts expressed in this discussion. All of the 29 comments have been numbered for easy referencing, and they are also color-coded to indicate which participant wrote them (Adam, Dan, Mike, Manuel, Nadia, David). Last names have been removed for the sake of privacy. Here are the questions posed, and the comments which followed:

ORIGINAL POST: Important Christian theology question: According to the Bible, who are God’s chosen people at this present time? For what purpose are they chosen? How many chosen peoples does God have? One? Two?

COMMENT #1 (by Dan):  Ah, your favorite subject. God can choose different people for different things simultaneously. He doesn’t have to cancel out one choice for one purpose before he makes another choice for another purpose. He can have more than one plan in operation at one time. God chose us, the church, for eternal life. He didn’t choose Israel for eternal life, He chose them for other things, like for preserving His words and for being a means of revealing the true God to this world, etc. So, 2 peoples chosen for 2 different purposes. There’s no conflict here.

COMMENT #2 (by Adam): Hi Dan. Thanks for your comment. I’ll share my own viewpoint later today after I see what feedback comes in. In the meantime, I have a few questions for clarification, in particular regarding the second group you named (Israel):

[1] Do you believe that all who live in Israel today are presently chosen to preserve God’s words, reveal Him to this world, etc? In other words, does this include Palestinians and foreigners who are working/studying there? Does this exclude Jews who happen to live outside of Israel?

[2] Do you believe that God had only one chosen people (the Church) from 70 AD – 1948 when there was no established nation of Israel, and that ever since 1948 He has had two chosen peoples?

[3] What, if any, New Testament Scriptures speak of a present calling for the political nation of Israel (or for ethnic Jews, if this is what you mean instead)?

COMMENT #3 (by Mike): My question would be… EVERYONE in Israel? Just the Jews? Or Christians? What about Israeli Muslims? Is it a question of religion or ethnicity? Also kind of along the same lines, who are the 144,000 in Revelations? I used to think that was a big number, then I grew up.

COMMENT #4 (by Manuel): 1) Those who have trusted in Christ for salvation. 2) They are saved and therefore are the “chosen” to spread the good news of God’s redemption through Christ. 3) God only has one chosen people which are the spiritual seed of Abraham. In other words, the believers in Jesus Christ (people of faith in Christ). This is also known as spiritual Israel (not the nation of Israel). In my opinion.

COMMENT #5 (by Adam): Manuel, you have articulated my position on this matter, and I very much agree with what you have written. God has only ever had one chosen people, and no one (regardless of race) is part of God’s chosen people if they are outside of Christ. God’s chosen people in Old Testament times were chosen for the same purpose as God’s chosen people at this time. Compare what was spoken by Moses to “the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:3) to what has been spoken to the Church through Peter. The parallel language is unmistakable, and I have letter-coded the parallels (A, B, and C):

[1] To ancient national Israel: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be [A] MY TREASURED POSSESSION among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to Me [B] A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS and a [C] HOLY NATION…” (Exodus 19:5-6).

[2] To the Church: “But you are a chosen race, [B] A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a [C] HOLY NATION, a people [A] FOR HIS OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…” (I Peter 2:9-10).

Can there be any question that the Church is chosen for the same purpose that the nation of Israel was once chosen? In fact, Dan, I forgot in my previous reply to ask about your statement that ancient Israel was not chosen for eternal life. I believe the people of Israel were indeed chosen for this, and that the faithful among them have this inheritance as much as we do. Otherwise, should we expect that Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many other faithful servants from Israel fell short of inheriting eternal life? Will we be separated from them for eternity? The people of Israel were to make known the path to eternal life (faith in the coming Messiah) to the nations surrounding them, but this often did not happen. The kingdom was eventually taken away from faithless Israel, as Jesus prophesied (Matthew 21:43, cf. Matt. 22:1-14), and given to “a people producing its fruits” (clearly the Church, those who belong to Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who enables us to produce spiritual fruit). This “people” (some translations say “nation”), of course, is made up of both Jews and Gentiles (i.e. those who trust in Christ).

As Manuel said/implied, Israel has never ceased to exist. The body of Christ today IS Israel in every true sense (see, for example, Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 6:16). Outside of Christ there is no Israel (as God’s people), despite the fact that a secular, political nation in the Middle East happens to bear that name today. Romans 9:6-8 is most profound on this point (parenthetical notes are mine): “…For not all who are descended from [natural] Israel belong to [spiritual] Israel, and not all are [spiritual] children of Abraham because they are his [physical] offspring…it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” See this article for an excellent explanation of Galatians 6:16’s use of the phrase “the Israel of God” to refer to the Church: http://www.bible-researcher.com/gal6-16.html. Furthermore, we who are in Christ are spiritual Jews, so to speak: “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter…” (Romans 2:28-29; see also Philippians 3:3).

Galatians 3:16 further points out that all the promises were made to Abraham and his offspring, “referring to One, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” In the same chapter, Paul says, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). Does Paul leave any room for those who are outside of Christ to be heirs of the promises? No, he doesn’t, not even for unbelieving Jews. Nor did Jesus (see, for example, John 8:31-47), nor does the New Testament in any place.

Today many teach that the Jews (meaning all ethnic Jews) are God’s chosen people. I believe this is classic false teaching. I Peter 2:9-10, already quoted here, makes it explicitly clear why God’s chosen people, the body of Christ (believing Jews and Gentiles), are chosen. His people have been called out of darkness and now have the privilege of proclaiming His excellencies to those who are still in darkness. Unbelieving Jews remain in darkness, and cannot possibly carry out any such calling. For those who teach that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people, the question remains: What are they (allegedly) chosen for at this present time?

Another implication of this teaching (that all Jews are God’s chosen people) is that it makes Jewish believers superior to non-Jewish believers, something that the New Testament declares cannot be the case (e.g. Romans 10:12-13; Galatians 3:16, 28-29; Gal. 5:6, Gal. 6:15-16). The reason this superiority is implied is that Jewish believers would then be heirs of two sets of spiritual promises/blessings. One set of promises would be theirs simply because they are ethnically Jewish, and the other set would be theirs because they belong to Christ. Gentile believers could only partake of the second set of promises, and could never partake of the first set. The New Testament doesn’t allow for this, and in fact combats this idea, saying, for example: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12).

God never rejected the entire race of Jewish people, but continues to have a remnant from among them (Romans 9:27, 11:1-5). Any Jew who trusts in Christ for salvation is part of God’s one and only chosen people, the Church. In Christ there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, no partiality, no superiority for one group over the other, and no special plan that applies to one group and not the other. Any Jew who does not trust in Christ is just as much lost and in darkness as any non-Jew who does not belong to Christ. They are chosen, along with lost Gentiles, only for condemnation (John 3:18).

COMMENT #6 (by Adam): An excellent, though lengthy, treatment of this subject of God’s chosen people can be seen here in this article by Stephen Sizer:

http://www.cc-vw.org/articles/zcs2.pdf

COMMENT #7 (by Adam): Hi Mike. I appreciated your thoughtful questions above. And I liked your line about the 144,000 (“I used to think that was a big number, then I grew up”). I can identify with that. 🙂 Regarding the 144,000, I personally believe they were first-century AD believers (all Jewish, or mostly Jewish) who fled from Jerusalem to Pella (in modern day Jordan) before that city was invaded by the Romans. They did this in response to a very specific warning given by Jesus (see Matthew 24:15-20 and Luke 21:20-23). I believe their virginity (Revelation 14:4) was not necessarily physical, but rather spiritual (this is language commonly used in the Old Testament for faithfulness versus faithlessness). If interested, feel free to check out the studies on my blog on Revelation 7 and 14 (where the 144,000 are mentioned):

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/revelation-7-study/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/revelation-chapter-14/

COMMENT #8 (by Nadia): Adam, I see you have your own theological forum. Nice work:)

COMMENT #9 (by Adam): Thanks, Nadia. Do you have any thoughts you’d like to add to what’s already been stated here?

COMMENT #10 (by David): The beginning of the Mission to the Gentiles is very strong evidence that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah. It was God’s purpose all along that the blessings promised to Abraham and his seed should go out to all the nations of the world. It is this that we see unfolding in the book of Acts.

COMMENT #11 (by David): We should learn to read the whole of the Bible missiologically, rather than see world evangelism as being based merely on the texts traditionally known as The Great Commission. That’s the grand narrative expounded in Christopher J H Wright’s book, “The Mission of God”.

COMMENT #12 (by David): Don’t you hate it when people who oppose Adam’s position accuse us of teaching “replacement theology”? If ever there was a bad description of consistent Biblical theology, surely that is one.

COMMENT #13 (by David): Often overlooked when Christians are debating this theological topic: The suffering of Palestinian Christians. Brethren – pray for them.

COMMENT #14 (by Adam): David, thank you for your comments. Yes, world evangelization was a Biblical goal long before Jesus delivered what is known as the Great Commission. I also understand what you’re saying about the common accusation of teaching “replacement theology.” This phrase seems to be used quite often as a cop-out or a conversation stopper. Ironically, those who use it as a weapon often assign promises made to the Church to either the modern nation of Israel or to the Jewish people as a race, the majority of whom are completely separated from Christ, in whom all promises are fulfilled. In effect, then, it’s the Church that becomes (at least in part) “replaced.”

I also agree with you about the plight of Palestinian Christians. Their suffering is not only far too often overlooked, but is even perpetuated by hardline Zionist policies which are rabidly supported by many American professing Christians. But that’s perhaps a subject for another time and place. Indeed, let’s pray for them.

COMMENT #15 (by Nadia): Unfortunately, I don’t have any thoughts to add. This was our last week’s assignment and I am behind 😦 Maybe later I will put my two cents 🙂

COMMENT #16 (by Dan): ‎? I guess I needed to be more specific. I didn’t use the word ‘Israel’ to mean the current political entity in the Holy Land. That seems to be the assumption behind the questions. God called the descendants of Jacob, “Israel’, regardless of whether they were living in the promised land or not. For example, the prophet Ezekiel was among the captives of Judah in Babylon, long after the northern tribes were taken captive by Assyria. He used the word “Israel’ almost 200 times. It looks like most of those times were the words of God talking to Israel and calling them ‘Israel’ even though they weren’t in their land. That’s the meaning I intended.

All Israel (all ethnic Jews) haven’t been saved (received eternal life). All the Church has been saved, or they wouldn’t be the Church. So, I meant Israel, as a whole, isn’t guaranteed eternal life. This doesn’t exclude Abraham, Moses, David, etc. from attaining it. The problem with contrasting Israel and the Church is that there is a lot of overlap between the two, as well as the contrasts. The Church wasn’t something completely separate from Israel. God gave the New Covenant to Israel, but called Gentiles to be a part, also, as wild olive branches grafted into the natural olive tree (Romans 11). God didn’t create a whole new tree, He grafted us into the old one. That’s why the parallel passages from Moses and Peter make perfect sense. At the same time, God does have covenants with ethnic Israel that are irrevocable (also Romans 11). Caboose…

COMMENT #17 (by Adam): Dan, thank you for following up on your previous comment, and for addressing some of my (and Mike’s) questions. OK, so I think we’re clear now that you believe that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people, and that this chosen people is distinct from God’s other chosen people, the Church. You and I have talked briefly about dispensationalism in the past, but I know that it’s this system (invented by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s) which holds that Israel and the Church are distinct, with each entity having separate (although some overlapping) promises.

To me, the parallel language used by Moses (Exodus 19) and Peter (I Peter 2) only makes sense if the Church now IS Israel, and if outside of the Church there is no Israel (regardless of the fact that a political entity bears that name today).

You said that God grafted Gentile believers into God’s natural olive tree. However, was/is the olive tree natural or spiritual? I believe it’s spiritual, and that it’s the natural branches (the Jews) who, because they didn’t believe in Christ, were cut off from the tree (Romans 11:17-24) but can be grafted in on an individual basis if they believe on Christ (verse 23). The grafting in of Gentiles is likewise on an individual basis, only for those who believe. You also said that the New Covenant was given to Israel, which you have defined as referring to ethnic Jews. Surely we agree, though, that unbelieving Jews have nothing to do with the New Covenant, right? The New Covenant was established through Christ’s work on the cross. Also, in response to what you said, what exactly are the covenants that God maintains with ethnic Israel to this day, and how do we reconcile this idea with New Testament teaching (see previous comments) that all spiritual blessings belong to the Church and that all promises are fulfilled in Christ (and therefore none are fulfilled outside of Christ)?

In any case, the words of Moses and Peter simply cannot be true of ethnic Jews as a whole or for anyone who does not belong to Christ. So the question remains: If ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people at this present time, where does the New Testament express the purpose for which they are chosen? On the other hand, here is what the New Testament has to say about God’s chosen people and why they are chosen (I did a quick Bible Concordance search for NT passages speaking of God’s chosen ones in a corporate sense):

[1] “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14; see verses 1-13 for context).

[2] “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you” (John 15:16).

[3] “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

[4] “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him…” (Ephesians 1:3-4; see also verses 5-14 for an even fuller description of what belongs to God’s chosen people).

[5] See also Ephesians 2:11-22 [The word “chosen” is not used, but this passage speaks of God bringing those who were far off (Gentiles) “near by the blood of Christ,” creating “one new man”, “one body,” and breaking down the wall of hostility that separated them (us) from the “the commonwealth of Israel” and “the covenants of promise.”]

[6] “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” (Colossians 3:11-12).

[7] “As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (I Peter 2:4-10).

Clearly God’s chosen people, according to these passages, are strictly those who belong to Christ. It’s all about bearing spiritual fruit, not being of this world, having every single spiritual blessing, being holy and blameless, being God’s own special possession, proclaiming His excellencies to those who are in darkness, receiving mercy, etc. None of these things can be true for unbelieving Jews, or for the Jewish race as a whole. So where is the evidence in the New Testament that all ethnic Jews are chosen for any unique purpose at all? What are they presently chosen for?

COMMENT #18 (by Dan): I guess John Nelson Darby organized ideas in the 1830’s about Bible dispensations to a greater degree than previously, but he didn’t invent it. Writings about various ‘dispensations’ (also called ‘economies’) in the Bible goes back to Justin Martyr (110-165 A.D.), Irenaeus (130-200 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria, who specified 4 dispensations (150-220 A.D.), and Augustine (354-530 A.D.). Some of them were even premillenialists, believing that Jerusalem and the Temple had to be rebuilt because of prophecies about the Antichrist. Nearer to Darby, Pierre Poiret (1646-1719) wrote a 6-volume systematic theology that included 7 dispensations. John Edwards (1637-1716) wrote a 2-volume systematic theology titled “A Complete History or Survey of All the Dispensations”. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote about 6 dispensations. Even the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians refers to a future dispensation: “… the dispensation of the fullness of times…” (Eph. 1:10). That would be the last dispensation, sometimes called ‘the eternal state’.

Actually, I’ve never warmed up to the term, ‘Dispensationalism”. It’s never made sense to me to focus so much on dispensations. If someone says that I’m a dispensationalist, I think, “OK, whatever.” I also don’t think much about ‘Covenantalism’, the antithesis of Dispensationalism. I can’t get into the debate about whether to focus on dispensations or covenants. I see them both in the Bible, and I don’t understand this whole thing about drawing a line in the sand and lining up on one side or the other. I think it’s much more important to focus on whether to take the words of the Bible literally or to take them symbolically. And I realize that some of the differences between Dispensationalism and Covenantalism DO involve this. Dispensationalists tend to take the Bible literally and Covenantalists tend to allegorize the Bible. I read recently that any kind of ‘ism’ in systematic theology has problem scriptures. I suppose that’s true. Some dispensationalists are realizing the necessity to fine-tune some of their doctrine. They’re called Progressive Dispensationalists. Mostly, they’re realizing that Classic Dispensationalism makes too much distinction between Israel and the Church and that they shouldn’t keep them distinct forever. Some Covenantalists are also realizing the necessity to fine-tune some of their doctrine. They’re called Progressive Covenantalists, and they realize that they can’t just allegorize the wealth of specific details in all the prophecies about Israel’s future, including their national restoration in their land. I’ve also read that anyone’s beliefs about Israel indicate whether they’re a Dispensationalist of a Covenantalist. That’s actually not true. After reading some of Stephen Sizers articles on his website, I read a couple books by his friend, David Pawson, defending Christian Zionism. I was really suprised to find out that David Pawson, even though he is a Christian Zionist, is NOT a dispensationalist, and very much against dispensationalism. So, I find this whole ‘ism’ thing in systematic theology not very helpful in understanding things. Caboose time again (that pesky Post Office)…

COMMENT #19 (by Adam): Dan, I also don’t have a problem with seeing a few different ages or dispensations in history. I understand that some in the past have seen three dispensations: law (up until Christ), grace (this present age), and kingdom/eternal state. Others have seen four: patriarchal, Mosaic, Church age, Zionic and/or kingdom age. Darby, however, is credited even by Classic Dispensationalists as having developed the modern system of dispensationalism. You’re correct that some now favor Progressive Dispensationalism (which I’m not really sure how to define), and that some Christian Zionists are not classic dispensationalists.

Beyond the breaking up of history into ages (dispensations), the key component of dispensationalism seems to be the distinction between national Israel and the Church, as well as the assertion that God’s promises to national Israel have never been fulfilled but will be in the future. Another key component is the idea that this present Church age is an unforeseen parenthesis (interruption) in God’s program with national Israel, which He will allegedly fully resume during a future 7-year Tribulation period after the Church is taken away (raptured). According to classic dispensationalism, the “Tribulation saints” will somehow be saved without the work of the Holy Spirit (the restrainer of II Thess. 2), who will have been removed from the earth together with the Church. John Nelson Darby also championed the idea that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people, even if they reject Christ. It’s these ideas that I personally reject more so than the breaking up of history into different ages (although I also don’t believe that there will be a future earthly kingdom based out of Jerusalem–premillennialism, nor do I believe that the Great Tribulation is future or that it was ever said to be 7 years in length).

Anyway, as much as I’m happy to discuss dispensationalism, I hope this topic doesn’t become a rabbit trail leading away from the specific topic at hand:

“Who are God’s chosen people? Does He have one chosen people or two, and for what purpose are they chosen?”

Dispensationalism is related in a way, though, since Darby (and C.I. Scofield after him) did so much to promote the idea that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people. So feel free to respond to what I’ve written here about dispensationalism, but if at all possible I’d like to hear from you (and anyone else who shares your viewpoint) why you believe that even unbelieving Jews remain among God’s chosen people. That is, for what purpose are they presently chosen? In particular, I’d like to know which New Testament texts express this idea. Feel free to invite anyone else here to tackle this question.

COMMENT #20 (by Dan): I agree with much of what you said here. I’ve also heard that the Church age is an unforeseen parenthesis, and that God will someday ‘resume’ His program with Israel. Completely untrue. Even back at the beginning, when God first called Abraham, He promised him that all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham’s one, specific seed/descendent – which we know is Jesus. “All the families of the earth” reaches way out beyond the promised land to include the whole planet, and reaches way out beyond one particular line of the sons of Shem to include all men. The church would only be ‘unforeseen’ to someone ignorant of the Bible. And God’s dealings with ethnic Israel doesn’t have to ‘resume’ because it was never put on hold to begin with. God’s dealings with ethnic Israel during their diaspora/dispersion were fully explained by Moses in Leviticus 26 and elsewhere, so rather than being on hold, the program of God for Israel has been ongoing in just the way the Bible said it would.

You’re also correct that the Great Tribulation was never said to be 7 years in length. We’ve heard the phrase “seven-year Tribulation” so often that many think it comes from the Bible. It doesn’t. It comes from people thinking that the entire 70th week of Daniel is the Tribulation, but there’s no Biblical reason to think that. And you brought up the teaching that the ‘Tribulation saints’ will be saved without the work of the Holy Spirit. Right – saved without the Holy Spirit. Where do people come up with this stuff? It’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Christians should know better.

“Who are God’s chosen people? Does He have one chosen people or two?” Answering that with either a simple “one” or “two” could be misunderstood and misleading and wouldn’t communicate effectively or satisfactorily. The answer has to have more information with it than just one word. It has to also include some explanation. So, the best answer I can think of right now is to say that God has one chosen group and one group of chosen individuals. This is a very important distinction! We’re not comparing apples with apples here, or even apples with oranges – we’re comparing apples with trees. Again, God has one chosen group and one group of chosen individuals – and the chosen group is chosen for different purposes than the chosen individuals are chosen for. I think the distinction is profound. There’s no reason to think that God has to unchoose the group before He starts choosing the individuals. As I said before, God can have more than one plan in operation at one time. He’s God.

Israel was chosen as a nation, not as individuals – chosen as a group, irregardless of what any specific individuals within the group did or didn’t do; or what they believed or didn’t believe. God chose to bring about certain results/purposes through this chosen nation-group as a whole. He blessed them as a whole and judged them as a whole. It was primarily the whole – ‘the big picture’.

The church, however, is chosen one at a time, individually, and not as a group, a nation, or a people. They’re randomly scattered and completely unrelated. Like Peter said, “once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people“. 1Pt.2:10

Why did God choose ethnic Israel?
And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them;…” Deut. 4:37
The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;
“but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers
,…” Deut. 7:7,8
The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.” Deut. 10:15

What about now?
“…they are still the beloved (dear to Him) for the sake of their forefathers.
“For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call
.] Rom. 11:28,29 Amplified.

After Jesus came, was there still a legitimate expectation that God would still restore national Israel according to the words of the prophets? The disciples asked Him about this in Acts 1:6, “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus didn’t tell them that God wasn’t dealing with the nation of Israel anymore. He said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” In other words, God has decided when the restoration of Israel will happen, but is keeping that timetable to himself right now.

Caboose.

COMMENT #21 (by Manuel): To say that God loves the Jewish people more than any other is a racist statement. God chose Abraham as an example of the faith people and his seed or people of faith (in Jesus specifically for our time). Jesus himself wept over Israel’s decision not to follow Him. that He came unto his own but His own did not receive him. So what did Jesus do – He chose those who would believe in Him. Remember when Jesus’ 1/2 brothers and sisters came looking for Him. Jesus said to the onlookers – “But he answered and said unto him tahat told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Mat 12:48-50
So Jesus did not respect a blood line. He only sees a spiritual line to believers.

There is another principle we have to consider: God is not a respector of persons. And by the same token of nations, or creeds, or whatever.
God the Father is no respecter of persons, and He will not be showing any type of partiality or favoritism to any man or woman He has ever created.
Acts 10:34, Gal 2:6, Deut 10:17, 1 Peter 1:17

Now let’s look at the Jewish response to Jesus according to Jesus himself:

Matt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”  Verse 38 “Behold your house is left desolate.”
Verse 39 “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

On verse 39 – Jesus is saying that He will not be seen by the Jewish people until they individually can see Him as the Savior. In other words, until they become his spiritual children, not his physical ethnic group. Please remember that God does not save nations, He only saves individuals from nations. God will not wait for the whole nation to change its mind. If I have already decided to follow him now, I am accepted when I say yes to Him. When I say yes, then I am included into His spiritual family and become a child of God. Now I can rightly say that I am his brethren as noted in Mat 12:50.

I can’t make this more clear than using the Lord’s own words from the word of God.

I think that we as believers should concentrate more on the lost than to wait around for the Jewish nation to repent and see Jesus for who He really is – messiah. There should be an outreach to the Jewish nation as other nations that do not know who the savior is. God loves all people and has children in many nations. We clearly see that God is not showing any favoritism to Israel. We can choose Jesus as savior, or eternal judgement, regardless of our ethnic background. Period.

COMMENT #22 (by Dan): ‎”To say that God loves the Jewish people more than any other is a racist statement”. I agree – who said that?

COMMENT #23 (by Adam): Dan, I’ve been meaning for some time now to reply to your response from over a week ago, but here it is finally. I appreciate your openness regarding the claims of dispensationalism, and where you stand on some of these things. It all makes for very interesting discussion, and helps in getting to know you better. At some point in the future I’d be interested in knowing how you view the 70th week of Daniel (e.g. who makes—or made—the covenant with many, who the “many” are, how the sacrifices and offerings of Daniel 9:27 are to be viewed, etc.). That’s such a pivotal prophecy.

I agree with you that no program of God’s has been postponed or put on hold, including His program with Israel. The difference we have in this regard seems to be in how we identify Israel. In the viewpoint that you’ve articulated, Israel is made up of ethnic Jews. On the other hand, I see Scripture teaching that Israel is the Church, and that outside of the Church there is no true Israel. In other words, there is only continuity, and God has never ceased to have one special and chosen people for Himself, Israel. Some passages to examine on this point are those already quoted above: Romans 2:28-29, Romans 9:6-8, and Galatians 6:15-16.

Prior to Christ’s first coming, Israel as a nation was chosen, as you have said. Still, God always had a faithful remnant, just as He has now. Even at that time, provision was made for those who were unfaithful to be cut off from among God’s people. For example:

And God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations… Every male among you shall be circumcised… So shall My covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant” (Genesis 17:9-14).

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15; see also verse 19).

“…but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the Lord’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people…” (Leviticus 8:20-21).

Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord… For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places” (Leviticus 23:27-31).

The ultimate cutting off from God’s people was to come upon those who reject(ed) Christ:

Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to Him in whatever He tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up His servant, sent Him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:22-26).

Under the Old Covenant, God’s people weren’t as plentiful as it might seem that they were, for there were many who descended physically from Abraham but were not counted as being among God’s people, Israel, because of their unfaithfulness. God’s people were those Israelites who served Him faithfully, as well as those from other nations who joined them in this service. When John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7-12) and Jesus (e.g. John 8:37-47) refused to allow their Jewish audience to claim to be among God’s people because of their physical descent from Abraham, they really weren’t saying anything different than what Moses and the Old Testament prophets had said.

Prior to the cross, the majority of those who were counted as God’s people were ethnic Jews. God’s people today are those who belong to Christ, whether Jew or Gentile. There has been an expansion, a very intentional opening up of the gospel to the Gentiles, and today the majority of those who are counted as God’s people are Gentiles. Aside from this difference, there is also much continuity. God had a faithful remnant prior to the cross, and the same is true today.

I have to confess that I don’t understand the distinction you tried to make between God having one chosen group and one group of chosen individuals. I have pondered what you said, but I just don’t see it. You said that the chosen group (and by this, I understand that you mean ethnic Jews) is chosen for different purposes than the group of chosen individuals (the body of Christ) is chosen. But how is this true? As already shown in previous comments, “the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:3-6) were chosen for the very same purposes that the body of Christ is presently chosen (I Peter 2:9-10). You also said that the nation of Israel was chosen as a group, regardless of what individuals did/believed or didn’t do/didn’t believe. However, as shown above, provision was made to cut off faithless individuals from among that group known as Israel, so that only a faithful remnant remained (from God’s vantage point) to make up God’s people. You also said that a distinctive of the Church is that we are chosen “individually, and not as a group, a nation, or a people.” We are saved individually, yes, but our calling/purpose/choosing is certainly corporate, and we are declared by Scripture to be a people and a holy nation (e.g. Matthew 21:43, II Corinthians 6:16-17, Ephesians 2:11-22, I Peter 2:4-10).

Regarding Romans 11:28-29, the Jewish people are spoken of as “beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” This speaks of the historical significance of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, and to me it also fits with what Peter said (quoted earlier): “God, having raised up His servant, sent Him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:26). Jesus lived and ministered among the Jews, and the gospel was first made available to them, before being proclaimed throughout the nations. At the same time, “God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32). In other words, Jews are just as lost as anyone else without Christ (and on this I know we agree). However, the Jews are not utterly cast off, for any Jew who would turn from disobedience, drawn to Jesus by the Father (John 6:44), would receive mercy (just as any Gentile would). At that point, and at that point only, could they possibly take their place in fulfilling the purposes for which God’s people are chosen (both in ancient times and also now): to be a holy people, a nation of priests, a people for His own possession, and a light to the nations.

My response concerning Acts 1:6 will follow in the next comment…

COMMENT #24 (by Adam): Regarding Acts 1:6, you’re right that Jesus didn’t explicitly rebuke the disciples for asking a nationalistic question. Their question was similar in nature to the statement made by the two men on the way to Emmaus: “But we had hoped that He was the One to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Jesus was patient in His reply to these two men, just as He was with the question asked by the apostles as recorded in Acts 1:6 (“Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”). In addition to His statement regarding times and seasons, part of His reply was to again prophesy of the Day of Pentecost, the giving of the Holy Spirit with power, and the mandate to be His witnesses even to the end of the earth. It’s interesting, and I would say very revealing, that after Pentecost came the apostles never again spoke of the kingdom of God in nationalistic terms. I appreciate the explanation that Stephen Sizer gives regarding Acts 1:6.

“It is interesting that in this question, the Apostles at least, see ‘Israel’ as having a separate existence as a people without sovereignty in the land. In his commentary, John Calvin writes, ‘There are as many mistakes in this question as there are words.’ John Stott, in his commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, succinctly appraises errors made:

‘The mistake they made was to misunderstand both the nature of the kingdom and the relation between the kingdom and the Spirit. Their question must have filled Jesus with dismay. Were they still so lacking in perception?… The verb, the noun and the adverb of their sentence all betray doctrinal confusion about the kingdom. For the verb restore shows they were expecting a political and territorial kingdom; the noun Israel that they were expecting a national kingdom; and the adverbial clause at this time that they were expecting its immediate establishment. In his reply (7-8) Jesus corrected their mistaken notions of the kingdom’s nature, extent and arrival.’

Since the Holy Spirit had not been given, the disciples may be forgiven for still holding to an Old Covenant understanding of the Kingdom with the reestablishment of the monarchy and liberation from the brutal colonialism of Rome. Had they been present at Jesus’ trial they might have understood things differently. Jesus explained, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place’ (John 18:36).

Jesus repudiated the notion of an earthly and nationalistic kingdom on more than one occasion (see John 6:15). This is why, in reply to the disciples, Jesus says that he has another agenda for the Apostles:

It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

The kingdom which Jesus inaugurated would, in contrast to their narrow expectations, be spiritual in character, international in membership and gradual in expansion. And the expansion of this kingdom throughout the world would specifically require their exile from the land. They must turn their backs on Jerusalem and their hopes of ruling there with Jesus in order to fulfill their new role as ambassadors of his kingdom (Matthew 20:20-28; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21). The Acts of the Apostles suggests that they needed something of a kick-start to get going. It is only when the Christians in Jerusalem experience persecution following the death of Stephen and are scattered that they begin to proclaim the gospel to others (see Acts 8:1-4). The Church was sent out into the world to make disciples of all nations but never told to return. Instead Jesus promises to be with them where ever they are in the world (Matthew 28:18-20).”

Source: http://www.cc-vw.org/articles/zcs3.pdf (pages 14-15)

COMMENT #25 (by Adam): Manuel, thank you very much for your latest response as well. I most appreciated your opening up of Matthew 23:39. This is my understanding as well, that Christ was speaking of an individual response, not a corporate one, and that both Jews and Gentiles (us included) have been responding in this way during the last 2000 years. May we continue to labor in the vineyard so that even more will do so.

COMMENT #26 (by Nadia): Adam, I think it’s time to publish a book based on these insights 🙂 looks like you have enough material!

COMMENT #27 (by Manuel ): I have to agree with Nadia on this Adam. That way we can reference from that resource.

COMMENT #28 (by Dan): Adam, I’m getting the distinct impression that we don’t completely agree on some of these things. 😉

Actually, I know that any difference of opinion in these things is just a temporary situation. Ultimately, we will see and know and understand these things in exactly the same way. Now, we know in part, but then we shall know as we are known. Imagine Stephen Sizer, Hal Lindsay, and John Hagee all being in complete agreement about Israel and the Church (OMGosh). It will happen. That’s the power of God.

It’s been awhile since I looked at anything connected with Daniel’s 70th week, so I remember generalities, but I’m a little hazy on specifics. I’ll have to look at it again, and then I’ll get back to you about it.

COMMENT #29 (by Adam): Now, Dan, what gave you that impression? 🙂 Yes, that day you’re speaking of, when we will know fully even as we have been fully known (I Cor. 13:13), is definitely something to look forward to. Very good reminder. I have to admit that the image of Sizer, Lindsay, and Hagee being in complete agreement is a startling one.

I would very much look forward to a discussion of Daniel 9:24-27, if we’re able to do so. When that time comes, it would be good to start a new discussion thread, rather than host it here in this thread. I do continue to appreciate your willingness to dig deeper on some of these things, to challenge and be challenged, etc. It’s very good exercise for the mind and spirit.

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This wraps up the discussion as it took place on Facebook. What viewpoint do you, the reader, have on this subject of the identity and purpose(s) of God’s chosen people? Are God’s chosen people the physical descendants of Abraham (ethnic Jews)? Are they the spiritual descendants of Abraham (all who belong to Christ through faith)? Do both of these groups make up God’s chosen people? In any response that you may have, please—if you are able to—make an effort to interact with the question of why God’s chosen people are presently chosen. Thank you.

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All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.

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Muslims in America and Beyond: How Would Christ Have Us See Them?


Muslims in America and Beyond: How Would Christ Have Us See Them?

by Adam Maarschalk (September 12, 2010)

By now, all are likely aware of the planned Koran burning by pastor Terry Jones which was supposed to take place yesterday. An international media frenzy took place as the news spread that this pastor in Gainesville, Florida had declared September 11th to be “International Burn a Koran Day.” More than a hundred Korans were to go up in flames at the hands of his roughly 50 church members. In the end, this event did not take place. Refreshingly, before President Obama and other political leaders spoke up in opposition to Jones’ idea, large and influential organizations such as the National Association of Evangelicals had already done so.

In Jones’ own words, he wanted to make a public statement that radical Islam is dangerous and that Sharia Law is not welcome in America. Jones is now known much more for who and what he opposes than the truth he says he wants to promote.  Jones decries those Christians who will not take a bold stand “on issues.” He justified the burning of the Koran by appealing to the story recorded in Acts 19:18-19 of new followers of Christ burning occultic books by which they themselves had once been bound. (It should be noted in Jones’ case that his followers would be burning books belonging to a religion they had never had anything to do with.) Another justification involved appealing to some of Jesus’ radical acts and statements concerning the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders. (Again, it should be noted that in Jones’ case he was not so much taking on false teachers who claim to hold to the truth of the Bible, but rather those belonging to another religion altogether.)

In the end, it also appears that one of Jones’ motives for this whole drama was related to another recent hot-button issue: the proposed community center containing a mosque which is to be built about two blocks away from Ground Zero (the site of the World Trade Center collapse in 2001). The news the last 2-3 days has been saturated with stories about Jones’ attempt to engage a Florida-based imam to help in negotiating a deal with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in New York City to have the project moved to a different location. No such deal appears to be going forward, and even as Jones has at least temporarily abandoned his plan, others, including the infamous Rev. Fred Phelps, have picked it up.

In a way, I’m glad that these two issues (Terry Jones’ aborted plan, as well as the proposed community center in New York) have become so public, and especially that they have been so vigorously discussed in various Christian circles. It’s all been so very revealing. As I’ve paid attention to discussions by professing Christians on Facebook, in the comments sections under various online articles, etc. I’ve seen everything from “we are called to love Muslims just as much as we love everyone else” to “Muslims are the enemy and they need to be sent back to the countries where they came from before this country is destroyed from the inside out.” Amidst the calls to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ among Muslims, which I’m grateful for, there has also been an incredible amount of fear-mongering, anger, and nationalistic pride coming from those who claim to be followers of the Prince of Peace. An example of this can be seen in the 138 comments left so far under J. Lee Grady’s editorial in Charisma Magazine titled “Just Say No to Anti-Muslim Bigotry.”

While I’m glad that these sentiments are being revealed so plainly so that the Church in America might see this darkness (and by that I mean these ungodly attitudes toward Muslims) and hopefully repent, the downside is that all of this is playing out very publicly before the eyes of a watching world. If one peruses the comments left under secular articles online, one will soon find out the reputation that Christians have gained in the eyes of those we ought to be reaching with the message of the gospel. It’s not good, and very little blame should go to Terry Jones. The marriage of the church in America to the US political machine was long established before Terry Jones made headlines in Afghanistan.

A PERSONAL STORY

I’d like to share a recent personal experience in which I came face-to-face with some of the ungodly attitudes I’ve just mentioned. On July 4th of this year I was back in my hometown in Ohio for a one-week visit. That morning I attended a Sunday School class at the Pentecostal church where I grew up and where my parents still attend. My favorite feature of that class is its interactive and participatory style. The topic of the class that day was “Focusing on Christ,” and that indeed happened for a while, but then things took a definitive turn.

One class member (“P”) took a discussion and somehow switched the topic to Muslims and the events of September 11, 2001. In response, the leader of the class obliged him by asking the whole class, “As believers, what should our response be to what happened on 9/11?” I listened in shock as “P” immediately made an appeal to a passage in the book of Joshua where the Israelites were commanded to destroy man, woman, and child, “sparing none” from among the Canaanites. “Yes,” remarked his wife, “just like the book of Psalms talks about dashing the Babylonian children against the rocks.” It became clear that “P” and his wife were indeed using these examples in reference to the ideal response of believers to the worldwide Muslim population.

My sister-in-law, “C,” who was in the class, began to cry as she asked them what she should say to a certain 12-year old boy in the church. This boy was born into a Muslim family. He became a follower of Christ early this year, and within a few months his father also became a believer. His mother remains a Muslim at this time. “C” asked “P” and his wife if she should tell this boy that his mother deserves to die because she happens to be a Muslim. “P” responded by saying (I’m paraphrasing), “All I know is that when we have people saying that they’re going to kill us because we’re Americans or because we’re Christians, we need to get them before they get us. We need to take them out before they can take us out.”

One couple brought up the point that not all Muslims are terrorists, and that many simply wish to live a peaceful life. The response of “P” was this: “I know, but we don’t really have a way of knowing who is a terrorist and who is not. Their religion is not peaceful, and if you read their holy book you’ll know what they’re told to do to Christians like us.”

At some point I jumped in and emphasized that Muslims are no more and no less lost and in need of salvation through Jesus than are Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and anyone else who is outside of Christ. I added that if some Muslims have declared themselves to be our enemies, then we have the clear words of Jesus as for how we are to relate to them: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 5:43-45).

Another man, “S,” spoke up and said that Muslims have declared themselves to be enemies to Israel, and that we need to take out Israel’s enemies before they can take her out, because that’s what the Bible tells us to do. Exasperated at this point, I turned to “S” and said, “No, it doesn’t! Please tell us right now where the Bible says any such thing.” Instead of acknowledging my question, though, he told me that the Muslims in Malaysia were trying to kill my brother at that very time. Well, “S” had things quite a bit mixed up. “First,” I clarified, “none of my brothers have ever been to Malaysia. Second, I’m Adam, and I did live in Malaysia for nearly six years, but I’ve been back in the US for the last three years. Third, as far as I know, no one ever tried to kill me while I lived there. Fourth, even if they had, it only serves to illustrate that they need Jesus.”

As the discussion continued on with no one recanting their views, I finally decided to bring up something I had been holding in for some time. I related an encounter that I had with a church staff member about five years ago. At the time the pastor and an associate pastor were up in arms with a gas station owner across the street who was violating an obscure Ohio law about not selling alcohol within 500 feet of a church. This man was denounced from the pulpit numerous times, with remarks even made that “as a Muslim he ought to know better than to sell alcohol.” One day that summer (this was during a month-long visit I had made to Ohio from Malaysia) I was at the church on a weekday and one of the staff members brought up this situation in a conversation with me. She was quite belligerent about this man and his “awful misdeeds,” saying he needed to be brought down in court, taught a lesson he would never forget, uprooted from the neighborhood, etc. After listening in disbelief for a little while, I calmly asked this staff person if anyone from the church had taken the time to walk across the street, build a relationship with this man, and share the love of Jesus with him. “But he… but he…” was the only response I got, so I asked the question again, only to get nowhere. Quite clearly, there was something much deeper with some of the leaders at this church than the simple fact that alcohol was being sold by this man. The more I listened, it had everything to do with him being a Muslim.

CONCLUSION

Much of the church in America has become so infatuated with political involvement that we’ve taken on a lot of the stances, fears, sentiments, and viewpoints of those who have only the things of this world to live for.  This is perhaps nowhere more evident than when it comes to Muslims who live in this nation. We often regard them with fear or keep them an arms-length away (in reality, much further away than that). We would like to see them leave this country so that we can preserve our precious “way of life,” but we fail to see that God has brought them here so that they might have a much greater chance of hearing the saving message of the gospel than they would if they were back in their native lands. May God forgive us for squandering such an open door!

Thank God, though, for the good works that are being done by believers regarding the Muslims whom God has placed around us. I know of some great ministries right here in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul), where we have some 100,000 Somalian refugees, to identify just one cluster of Muslims. Likewise, I’m encouraged by what I see in this brief video recently featured on NBC Nightly News:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/39087645#39087645

Please take just over two minutes to watch the video in the link above. I know that some may recoil because Muslim prayers are being conducted in a church building, but the Church is not about buildings anyway. Those who follow Christ are the temple of the Lord, according to the New Testament. I hope that more efforts like this, and even those which may perhaps be more clearly gospel-centered than this one, will spring up around this country, replacing the all-too-common fear and bigotry that has become such a plague among us. May the Lord be honored by many Muslims, and non-Muslims as well, coming to know Him in ever-increasing numbers, all for His glory.