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Archive for July, 2009

Based on a response I received from comments I made in church I began to review and reflect on physical Israel and spiritual Israel.  Most of what can be gleaned from Scripture about the relationship between these two and the existence of the latter as distinct from the former is found in Romans and Galations 3. 

In Romans 2:28-29, Paul clearly says that being Jewish is not merely physical, having the sign of circumcision.  Real Jews would have physcial and spiritual (“by the Spirit”) circumcision.  There is, however, a physical Israel, Paul’s “own race”, still recognized by God, who have a type of adoption and the covenants and more but are lost (Romans 9:3-5; 10:1).  Romans 11:28-29 sets forth the relationship between them and the redeemed (spiritual Israel).  They are clearly enemies in the sense of being unbelieving and counter to the gospel of Jesus, but because “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable” (cannot be nullified), God still has a plan for them and we should still love them.  They are lost apart from CHrist, but some will not be in the future and others are part of God’s end time plans as set forth in the seventieth week of Daniel (9:24-27).  And God is saving Jews as Paul testitfies about himself and other “He foreknew” (Romans 11:1-8). The remnant that believes is exemplified by the 7000 of Elijah’s day who had “not bowed the knee to Baal” (11:4).  So Israel, the elect, have not fallen “beyond recovery” (11:11).  And Israel as a whole provided the means for fulfilling God’s plan of salvation (Romans 15:8; Act 2:22-24).

But what of this spiritual Israel, is it merely the saved Jews?  No, for Paul says, “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (Romans 9:6), but rather, “the chidren of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (9:8).  Who are these other children of Abraham?  “Those who believe are children of Abraham” (Galations 3:7).  “God would justify the Gentiles by faith” (3:8), and “those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham” (3:9).  We receive “the blessing of Abraham… to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus” (3:14).  “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (3:29), what I’m calling spiritual Israel.

How did this transition in Israel come about?  Paul uses the analogy of grafting branches onto an olive tree in Romans 11:17-24.  Israel was cut off because of unbelief and Gentiles were grafted in based on belief.  The reverse is said to be possible as a warning against unbelief.  The fact that Israel is referred to as “natural branches” (11:21) once again emphasizes that physical Israel exists and has a claim on God’s calling.

A better understanding of these concepts may be gained by reading the fuller passages to which I have referred, namely, Romans 2:17-29, Romans 9-11, and Galations 3.

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