The Meaning of “No Jews or Gentiles in Christ Jesus”


“We still recognize the distinction between males and females. So there is also still a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Galatians 3:28 doesn’t mean what you think it means.” 

Have you ever heard these words, or something similar, from a Christian Zionist or a dispensationalist? I have. At the end of this post I will quote Galatians 3:28, offer my explanation of what Paul meant, and also ask for your thoughts.

Christian Zionism thrives on distinctions. When Paul says that the middle wall of division between Jews and Gentiles has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14), Christian Zionism tries to rebuild that wall – and make it higher than it ever was. When Paul says that Christ created one new man in Himself (Ephesians 2:14-16), Christian Zionism suggests that there are two peoples of God, one based on faith and the other (the important one) based on ethnicity. When the New Testament defines the Israel of God as only those who are in Christ (Romans 2:28-29, 9:6-8; Galatians 3:29, 6:15-16; Ephesians 2:11-22, 3:6; etc.), Christian Zionism insists that only a national / ethnic group known as Israel inherits a large segment of God’s promises.

The Old Testament prophets looked forward to a day when the people of God would be made up of many nations and He would dwell in their midst. Zechariah had that vision (Zech. 2:10-12). Isaiah had that vision (Isaiah 11:10), and Paul taught that it had become a reality in his day (Romans 15:8-12). Amos had that vision (Amos 9:11-12), and James declared at the Jerusalem council that this had become a reality in his day (Acts 15:13-17). Despite these examples and more, Christian Zionism and dispensationalism insist that ethnic “Jews are God’s chosen people” and national Israel is God’s chosen nation (These four posts refute these ideas: #1, #2#3, and #4).

If we take away distinctions, favoritism, partiality, and superiority from the Christian Zionist movement, there wouldn’t be much left. That movement would fall apart without these elements – and that’s what I hope and pray will happen. Here are three instances where Paul taught that, in Christ, there is no difference or distinction between Jews and Gentiles:

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him” (Romans 10:12).

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

“[You] have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all in all” (Colossians 3:10-11).

This is how I understand these passages, even Galatians 3:28 in particular: In Christ, there are no blessings available to Jews that are not equally available to non-Jews, or available to males that are not equally available to females, or available to free people that are not equally available to slaves. In Christ, all such distinctions disappear, and there is no favoritism or superiority along racial, gender, or status lines. The line is drawn between faith or no faith in Christ.

Do you agree? Do you understand Paul’s words differently? Feel free to share your thoughts.

 

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CUFI’s Replacement Theology (Replacing Jesus)


For several years now I’ve been receiving email updates from CUFI (Christians United for Israel), not because I’m a fan but simply to remain aware of what is coming out of this organization. Yesterday’s email was a head-scratcher.

CUFI was founded in 2006 by John Hagee, the well-known mega-church pastor in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee and his Executive Director, David Brog, are fond of attaching the “replacement theology” label to those who fail to give unconditional support to the nation of Israel. Hagee defines “replacement theology” as believing that “the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel.” Accurate or not, he adds that adherents believe “God has replaced Israel with the church” (Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, 2006, pp. 72, 165).

Check out the email/infomercial CUFI sent out yesterday and see if you don’t observe a different “replacement theology,” one that assigns the role of “light unto the nations” solely to the nation of Israel and not rightfully to Jesus:

God Commanded the Children of Israel to Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Show everyone who enters  your home that you Stand with Israel! Receive this beautiful custom made in Israel CUFI Mezuzah and special CUFI Mezuzah scroll for a gift of $36 or more.
Dear Friend, Isaiah 49:6 tells us that the Jewish people will be a light unto the nations and a brief look at Israel’s humanitarian actions around the world prove the truth of this prophecy!Israel is a light unto the nations… Israel is the world’s first responder to natural catastrophes and humanitarian crises. Over the last few years, Israel has sent humanitarian, medical, recovery, and security teams to Haiti, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, India, the Philippines, and even to the USA after Hurricane Katrina, Super Storm Sandy, the floods in Colorado and tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Israel a light unto the nations… Israeli innovation is saving and improving lives around the world. The list of Israel’s technological advances is endless, but among the many: An Israeli bandage that stops intense bleeding has saved the lives of American troops in Iraq as well as Congresswoman Giffords. An Israeli baby breathing monitor has protected over 600,000 babies from SIDS. And a new Israeli medical device can detect an oncoming heart attack

Israel a light unto the nations… While Christians are being attacked and murdered throughout the Middle East, Israel is the only country where the Christian population is safe and flourishing. Israel’s Christian population has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today. The truth is that the safest and freest Christians in the Middle East are the Christian citizens of the Jewish state.

In order to constantly remind us that Israel is a light unto the nations, we have designed a second mezuzah to add to our CUFI collection. A “mezuzah” is a small box that Jewish families affix on their doors reminding them of the Lord’s presence in their lives.

The new CUFI mezuzah is not only a daily reminder that Israel is still a light unto the nations, but it is also a public declaration that your home stands with Israel and the Jewish people. We encourage you to mount a CUFI mezuzah on the entry and interior doors of your home as well as selected rooms within your home. We also have a special blessing for children if you choose to place them on the doorposts of your children’s rooms.

Every symbol on this custom-made mezuzah has special significance. The seven branch menorah is the official emblem of the State of Israel. The torch illustrates that Israel is a light unto the nations. The American and Israeli flags symbolize the importance of the US-Israel relationship.

May God Bless You and The Ones that You Love,

Pastor John Hagee
National Chairman
Christians United for Israel
David Brog
Executive Director
Christians United for Israel
For an additional $14 gift, you can become a “Watchman” member of CUFI. Watchman membership benefits include a personalized CUFI membership card, a CUFI membership pin, a personalized membership certificate, Because I am a Christian I stand with Israel Luggage tag, a CUFI car magnet, a 10% discount on registration for all CUFI events and a subscription to The Torch- CUFI’s quarterly magazine.

CUFI’s letter references Isaiah 49:6 as Biblical evidence that “the Jewish people” and Israel are “a light unto the nations.” (In CUFI’s language, “the Jewish people” and Israel seem to be used interchangeably, as if there are no non-Jews living in Israel.) Seven times in this letter, CUFI’s followers are told that Israel is the world’s light:

“Isaiah 49:6 tells us that the Jewish people will be a light unto the nations and a brief look at Israel’s humanitarian actions around the world prove the truth of this prophecy!” (1x); “Israel is a light unto the nations” (3x); “In order to constantly remind us that Israel is a light unto the nations…” (1x); “The new CUFI mezuzah is not only a daily reminder that Israel is still a light unto the nations…” (1x); “The torch illustrates that Israel is a light unto the nations” (1x).

I won’t deny that Israel has done some humanitarian deeds in its history. However, the role of “light to the nations” belongs to Jesus, and there was zero acknowledgement of this in CUFI’s letter. Jesus spoke this very thing concerning Himself and His disciples:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12; see also John 9:5).

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14).

Isaiah 49:6 was likewise a prophecy about Jesus, His role in bringing Jacob back to His Father, and the light of His salvation for the whole world:

And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ Then I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain; Yet surely my just reward is with the Lord, and my work with my God.’ And now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength), indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:3-6).

If this was about national Israel, how could Israel bring Jacob (itself) back to God? How could Israel “raise up the tribes of Jacob” and “restore the preserved ones of Israel” (itself)? This would be God’s doing, not Israel’s own doing. As I wrote in a March 2014 post (“Why I Stand With Israel“), 

Albert Barnes (1834), Adam Clarke (1831), John Gill (1746), The Geneva Study Bible (1599), Jamieson/Faussett/Brown (1882), Matthew Henry (1708), The Pulpit Commentary (1880′s), and John Wesley (1754) all stand in agreement that Isaiah was speaking here of Jesus, and that Isaiah referred to Jesus as “Israel.” See their commentaries on verse 3verse 4verse 5, and verse 6.

CUFI’s exaltation of modern, political Israel amounts to blatant idolatry and pushing Jesus to the side, even replacing Him. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament bear witness that Jesus is the light that the world needs.

Related post: “Why I Abandoned Replacement Theology

Israel Is God’s Chosen People – What Does That Mean?


Two days ago Andrew Strom, a well-known minister from New Zealand, created a firestorm with his post, “Replacement?? – Israel & the Church.” I personally agree with about 90% of what he wrote. As expected, there have been many responses, some very emotional. There are nearly 350 comments under that post, as of last count, and they address so many different aspects of this topic (and beyond) that it can make the mind spin. I’m very interested in what some have to say, but quite baffled at what others say. I’d like to get feedback, if possible, regarding one baffling statement that appeared repeatedly in that forum, one which I’ve heard so many times before:

“Israel is God’s chosen people.”

For those who say this and believe it, what does that mean? Does it mean that all citizens of Israel are God’s chosen people? At face value, that’s what it seems they would mean. Somehow, though, I get the impression that people mean Jews only, when they say this. Did you know that there are roughly 1.6 million Arab citizens in Israel? According to this Wikipedia entry, that’s the case. Are they also among God’s chosen people, since they live in Israel?**

Others claim that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people, and I also completely disagree with this idea. Scripture teaches that only those who belong to Jesus are God’s chosen people. In I Peter 2:4-10, for example, those who belong to Jesus are chosen to be a royal priesthood, to receive mercy, to be a light in the darkness, etc. This is true of those who belong to Christ. It’s not true for those outside of Christ, even if they happen to be Jewish. For a deeper discussion on this topic, please see this post:

http://kloposmasm.com/2010/09/23/who-are-gods-chosen-people-and-why-are-they-chosen/

However, I’m even more baffled by the claim that the nation of Israel is God’s chosen people. It makes no sense Scripturally, and it doesn’t even make sense politically. What are your thoughts on the claim that “Israel is God’s chosen people”?

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**I believe that some Arab citizens of Israel actually are among God’s chosen people, but only those who belong to Christ. And some of them do – praise God.

Why I Abandoned Replacement Theology


I once believed in and taught “replacement theology,” but no one ever accused me of it at the time. Since turning away from replacement theology, however, I’ve faced this accusation numerous times.

What is replacement theology? Matt Slick, the president and founder of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), says this on the subject:

Replacement theology is the teaching that the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God… [In] replacement theology the church has replaced Israel as the primary means by which the world is blessed by God’s work… Replacement theology is also known as supersessionism, which means that the Christian church has superseded Israel in God’s plan.

John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), said this in his 2006 book, “Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World”:

“Adherents of replacement theology believe that the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel” (page 72)… “Replacement theology means that Israel failed, and God has replaced Israel with the church” (page165).

Ironically, when I formerly taught replacement theology, my thinking was very much in line with Slick and Hagee. I wasn’t replacing Israel with the church, but I sure was replacing Jesus with the modern nation of Israel. I would have agreed with graphics like this one I saw posted on Facebook by a fellow Christian a few weeks ago:

false interpretation of Genesis 12-3

SOURCE

This illustration epitomizes the replacement theology I’ve left behind. It takes the role belonging to Jesus and assigns it to a political nation whose population generally has nothing to do with Him. The New Testament is especially clear in showing that it’s through salvation in Jesus that the nations are blessed.

Consider the progression of Biblical revelation regarding the promise recorded in Genesis 12:3:

[1] It was first made by God to Abraham alone: “It will be through you [Abraham], that all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

[2] It was repeated again in Genesis 22:18, and this time expanded to include his offspring: “And through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed Me.”

[3] In Acts 3:25-26, the apostle Peter, speaking to a Jewish crowd in Jerusalem, is clear in identifying Abraham’s offspring and the means of blessing for the nations:

And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up His servant, He sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

It’s Jesus who is Abraham’s offspring, and He blesses the nations, beginning with the proclamation of the gospel to Jews in the first century.

[4] The apostle Paul, in Galatians 3:7-8, declared that Jesus’ followers are Abraham’s offspring too:

Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’”

According to the terms laid out by Matt Slick and John Hagee, the apostles Peter and Paul were guilty of teaching replacement theology. Yet according to Peter and Paul, when it comes to God’s plans, purpose, and promises, Slick and Hagee are seeking to replace Jesus and His church with a geopolitical nation located in the Middle East. It’s highly ironic that there are Christians who are comfortable with the idea of replacing Christ (their Savior) with a mere political nation, but are up in arms with those who allegedly replace Israel with the church.

Galatians 3, incidentally, goes on to make the point even more strongly that all of God’s promises are wrapped up first in Jesus and second in His followers. Paul says this in verse 16:

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”

Jesus is singularly the recipient of all of God’s promises, and He extends those promises to His followers (verse 29), who are all one in Him regardless of ethnicity, societal status, or gender (verse 28):

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

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 Jews who are outside of Christ. Neither did Peter (Acts 3:23), and neither did Jesus (e.g. Matthew 8:10-12Matthew 21:43John 8:31-47). As Paul says in II Corinthians 1:20, all of God’s promises are “yes” and “amen” in Jesus. What are they outside of Jesus? Meaningless and void.

One of my questions for Slick and Hagee is this: If God’s plan, purpose, and promises are waiting for the nation of Israel to carry them out, then did God utterly abandon the world between 70 AD and 1948 when there was no nation of Israel? Or is it not possible that God’s plan, purpose, and promises continued to be carried out by true Israel, i.e., Jesus and His church?

Consider also what Paul said to the Roman church: “A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit…” (Romans 2:28-29). “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring… This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of Godbut the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:6-8).

The church is Israel, that is, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). This is only true because Jesus is true Israel, and we who belong to Christ are made one with Him. One more example of each of these points will suffice. First we will look at how Matthew takes what was once said about the nation of Israel, and applies it to Jesus. Then, finally, we will look at how Peter takes what was once said of the nation of Israel, and applies it to the church.

[1] In Exodus 4:22, God instructs Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is My firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let My son go that he may serve Me.”’” Then in Hosea 11:1-2 we read, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.” Who is Israel in these Old Testament texts? Clearly it’s that ancient nation, known as Israel, which was finally destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Yet look at how Matthew treats this same statement. To set the background, an angel has warned Joseph, the father of Jesus, to flee to Egypt with his family, because Herod would seek to destroy Jesus: “And he [Joseph] rose and took the child [Jesus] and His mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called My son’” (Matthew 2:14-15).

Only 40 verses into the New Testament, Matthew declares, by strong implication, that Jesus is true Israel.

[2] Compare what Moses spoke to “the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:3) to what Peter said was true of the church. It’s impossible to miss the parallel language, and I have letter-coded the parallels (A, B, and C):

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).

To the church: “But you are a chosen race[B] A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a [C] HOLY NATION, a people [A] FOR HIS OWN POSSESSIONthat 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).

Peter leaves no doubt that Christ’s followers are chosen for the same purpose for which the nation of Israel was once chosen.

I abandoned replacement theology because Jesus is irreplaceable, and I love His church.

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I first published this article on Hubpages on February 10, 2013.

No Alienation from the Commonwealth of Israel


(Thoughts on Ephesians 2:12)

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a remarkable book, one that is full of wonderful expressions of truth. In the first three chapters Paul lays out, in glorious fashion, the riches of the grace we have in Christ. His adoration for the gospel just keeps spilling out, and he even gets long-winded (in a good way) as he does so. Take a look at some of his gospel-saturated, lengthy sentences which span several verses at a time (e.g. 1:7-10, 1:15-21, 3:14-19). Some of the most magnificent portrayals of the New Covenant are found in this book.

With this in mind, it’s amazing to consider that today there is a popular teaching insisting that the New Covenant which Paul describes here in Ephesians and elsewhere is NOT the same New Covenant which was foreseen by the Old Testament prophets (e.g. Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:26-27). This is despite the fact that the author of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah’s prophecy and explicitly states (Hebrews 8:6-13) that this New Covenant had been established in his own time (i.e. in the first century AD). The “problem” seems to be that Jeremiah and Ezekiel addressed their prophecies to “the house of Israel.” Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism are notoriously unwilling to acknowledge that the Church IS spiritual Israel, and their proponents often have harsh words for those who believe this. Shortly we will see that Ephesians 2:12, being just one such example in the New Testament, does not allow their position to stand.

[Please bear with this brief explanation before we get back to looking at Ephesians. Prior to Progressive Dispensationalism taking root in western Christianity within the last few decades, Classic Dispensationalists like H.A. Ironside, Charles Ryrie, Dwight Pentecost, and John Walvoord claimed that the Old Testament never foresaw the coming of the Church age, and that God will one day bring an end to the Church age and resume His program with national/ethnic Israel. This was the teaching of John Nelson Darby, who founded this theological system in the 1830’s, and of C.I. Scofield, who published his famous reference Bible in 1909. These men and others also taught (or teach) that the New Covenant is reserved for a future millennium period! Consider the following statements regarding Jeremiah’s prophecy of a coming New Covenant:

[1] “This covenant must follow the return of Christ at the [yet future] second advent… This covenant will be realized in the [yet future] millennial age… the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 must and can be fulfilled only by the nation Israel and not by the Church” (Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, 1958).

[2] “…the new covenant is with Israel and the fulfillment [will be] in the millennial kingdom after the second coming of Christ… the new covenant as revealed in the Old Testament concerns Israel and requires fulfillment in the millennium kingdom” (John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, 1959).

[3] “The Church, then, is not under the new covenant…it is Israel which is God’s covenant people” (Harry Ironside, Notes on the Prophecy of and Lamentations of Jeremiah, 1906).

One proposed solution by more recent Progressive Dispensationalists is that there are two new covenants (!) in Scripture, one for the Church (now) and one for national/ethnic Israel (later). This belief seems to be true for those who would affirm that the Church presently lives in the New Covenant (and experiences the taking away of sin), but who also assert that Romans 11:26-27 (“And in this way all Israel will be saved…and this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins”) will only be fulfilled in the future for ethnic Jews. This belief doesn’t stand up either, as we will see. For a much fuller treatment of the implications of this facet of Dispensationalist teaching, please see the first half of this post from our series on Revelation 20.]

Having expressed these thoughts, let’s now look at a very pivotal section in Ephesians 2, verses 11-22. I don’t want to take anything away from the very valuable things Paul expresses earlier in this chapter, and in fact verse 11 begins with “therefore,” meaning that what Paul says next is based on what he has just said earlier. So here’s a quick summary of the first half of the chapter: Paul reminds the believers in Ephesus that they were once dead in their sins (verses 1-3), but that God in His mercy and love had made them alive in Christ (verses 4-5). They are now seated with God in Christ in heavenly places (verses 6-7). It was not by any works of their own that they were saved, but only by grace through faith. Their salvation was a gift from God, and they were created anew for the purpose of walking in good works (verses 8-10). With this as context, here’s what Paul says in verses 11-22:

11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once werefar off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18Forthrough Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

It would certainly be profitable to break this passage down verse-by-verse, and there are so many rich truths here, but I’d like to mainly zero in on verse 12 which is highlighted above. First, we should note that Paul is specifically addressing Gentile believers (verse 11), that is, non-Jewish followers of Christ. One of his reminders to them is that they were once “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.” By speaking this way, Paul clearly indicates that they are now part of “the commonwealth of Israel.”

There is simply no getting around the idea that Gentile (non-Jewish) believers are part of God’s people, Israel, here in Ephesians 2:12. And make no mistake about it, Jewish believers are part of this same covenant people of God, but no more so and no less so: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12); “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). There are no spiritual blessings which are available for males but not for females, nor are there any spiritual blessings which are available for Jews but not for non-Jews. Does Scripture leave us any room to believe that a future age will come along and change this reality? No, it does not.

In Ephesians 2:12 Paul also reminds His believing Gentile audience that they were once “strangers to the covenants of promise.” Again, by speaking this way, Paul clearly indicates that they are now recipients ofthe covenants of promise” which were made to Israel. In the next chapter, Paul explicitly defines the mystery of Christ (which had been kept hidden in generations past) as the joining together of Jewish and non-Jewish believers in the partaking of the promise in Christ through the gospel: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). In Galatians 3 Paul likewise declares that all the promises were made to Abraham and his offspring. He then defines Abraham’s “offspring,” contrary to what many might expect, as singularly Christ (Gal. 3:16). He finally adds that those who belong to Christ—with zero regard for ethnicity, gender, or status (Gal. 3:28)—are heirs of those promises (Gal. 3:29). So Paul says here in Ephesians 2 exactly what he also says in Galatians 3.

With these things established, can it be possible that any Old Testament covenants or promises are yet to be fulfilled for ethnic Jews only? Can Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:26-27 (which promised a coming New Covenant) be awaiting a fulfillment which Gentile believers will have no part in? No. Such an idea does great violence to all that Paul argues in Galatians, Ephesians, and elsewhere. Those who are still looking for such a covenant to arrive are about 2000 years too late, and far too narrow in their view of to whom this covenant belongs. The New Covenant is already here, and the heavenly Jerusalem is already a reality for God’s people (Hebrews 12:22-24).

I also highlighted Ephesians 2:19 because Paul refers to the Church as “the household of God,” very similar to the way he calls the Church “the household of faith” in Galatians 6:10. It would seem that these phrases are a New Testament equivalent to the oft-used expression in the Old Testament, “the household of Israel,” used by both Jeremiah and Ezekiel as we have seen. As mentioned near the beginning of this post, it seems that Dispensationalists and Christian Zionists tend to trip up over the Old Testament phrase, “the household of Israel,” because they are somehow convinced that the promises made to ancient Israel must only be fulfilled among their physical descendants.

However, we must let Scripture interpret Scripture. First, how often did Jesus and the apostles make the point that being able to physically trace one’s self to Abraham means nothing? Observe what Jesus said in John 8 to the Jews of His day who appealed to Abraham as their father, and observe whom Jesus said was their father instead. Observe what Paul says in Romans 9:6-8, “…For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring… This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Here Paul equates being a part of Israel with being a child of God. In this New Covenant age, then, can you be a child of God and not be a part of Israel? (Of course, I’m not referring to that nation in the Middle East which happens to bear this same name. By “Israel,” I mean God’s covenant people.) In Romans 2:28-29, Paul further says that “no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly…a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart…” In Galatians 6:15-16, Paul declares that only a new creation counts for anything, and then pronounces peace and mercy upon “the Israel of God.” If, despite the evidence above, you are one of the many who believe that Paul’s use of this phrase, “the Israel of God,” must refer only to Jewish believers, please examine this very well-written and informative article by Michael Marlowe.

Secondly, an honest appraisal of the New Testament will show that the inspired writers of the NT clearly apply many specific promises once made to ancient Israel to the Church, the body of Christ. Shall we rebuke them for promoting the allegedly false teachings of “replacement theology”? As we have seen above, the NT authors also declare that the Church is no longer alienated from ANY of the promises and covenants, because they are recipients of ALL of them. They are all found in Christ, but they are not to be found outside of Christ. Again, Jews are not left out, for a remnant from among them would call out to the Lord and be saved (they have done so throughout the last 2000 years). Paul makes this clear (see Romans 11:1-6, where he uses himself as an example).

Let’s look again at what Ephesians 2:12 says: “[R]emember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise.” What is “the commonwealth of Israel”? What is it not? As we consider how we are not alienated from this entity, if we try to replace this phrase with “national Israel” or “ethnic Jews,” we’ll see that this doesn’t work. If you are a non-Jew (ethnically speaking), can you say that because of Christ you are now fully integrated into the political nation of Israel? Or can you say that you are very much a part of the worldwide ethnic Jewish community? No, but I believe you’ll find that this explanation given by Albert Barnes in 1834 makes sense:

Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel – …This means more than that they were not Jews. It means that they were strangers to that ‘polity’ …or arrangement by which the worship of the true God had been kept up in the world, and of course were strangers to the true religion. The arrangements for the public worship of Yahweh were made among the Jews. They had his law, his temple, his sabbaths, and the ordinances of his religion; see the notes at Romans 3:2… The word rendered here as ‘commonwealth’ – πολιτεία politeia – means properly ‘citizenship,’ or ‘the right of citizenship,’ and then ‘a community,’ or ‘state.’ It means here ‘that arrangement or organization by which the worship of the true God was maintained.’”

Indeed, Paul says this of his own “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3),

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:4-5).

Paul, who agonized over his own people so much that he could have wished himself “accursed and cut off from Christ” (verse 3) for their sake, yet affirms to the Gentile believers in Ephesus that they were present heirs of all the promises and covenants which were articulated to the commonwealth of Israel in times past. All alienation had ceased. It hasn’t resumed since then, it hasn’t resumed in our day, and it won’t resume in the future. It’s gone because of the work of the cross, and that alienation is gone forever. Please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you are a follower of Christ, it doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is. You are a full-fledged member of the commonwealth of Israel, and all of God’s promises are yours through Jesus Christ.