Who Is The Israel Of God? – Part 4

We’ve seen the evidence to know God is not done with Israel. Now let’s look at the scriptures used to promote replacement theology to see how they’ve been misinterpreted.

I saw, when, for this very cause that backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorce, …

– Jeremiah 3:8

Taken by itself, this verse appears to say that God was done with the northern ten tribes of Israel. Once you’re divorced, you’ve cut all ties with your spouse. However, God did not cut all ties…

“They say, ‘If a man puts away his wife, and she goes from him, and become another man’s, will he return to her again?’ Wouldn’t that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the prostitute with many lovers; yet return again to me,” says Yahweh.

– Jeremiah 3:1

Yahweh said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, ‘Return, you backsliding Israel,’ says Yahweh; ‘I will not look in anger on you; for I am merciful,’ says Yahweh. ‘I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against Yahweh your God, and have scattered your ways to the strangers under every green tree, and you have not obeyed my voice,’ says Yahweh.” “Return, backsliding children,” says Yahweh; “for I am a husband to you. …

– Jeremiah 3:11-14

Notice even though God had given a certificate of divorce, He still called Himself a husband to Israel. This was an entirely one-sided divorce. Israel was the one who wanted a divorce, not God.

But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel. Neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children. But, “In Isaac will your seed be called.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as a seed.

– Romans 9:6-8

Replacement theologians see this passage as speaking of Gentile believers. But the key to this and some of the other passages that follow is to understand Paul is speaking of a subset, a remnant, of the descendents of Jacob, not a superset where Gentiles are added to Israel. The word “of” in this context means those who are descended from. Those who are “of Israel” is another way of refering to those who are descended from Jacob.

Just as not all are Israel who are physically descended from Abraham, so not all are Israel who are physically descended from Jacob. The children of the flesh are the natural offspring of Jacob, and the children of the promise are a subset of the children of Jacob. 1

Gentile believers are grafted into God’s people through Christ, not Jacob. Jesus, who is the Vine (John 15:1), who is the true Israel (Isaiah 49:3), who existed before Abraham and Jacob (John 8:58), is the root (Revelation 5:5), and we partake of the promises through Him. The only patriarch we have ties to is Abraham, the father of faith (Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:7-8, 14, 29). The blessings on the nations come through him. 2

Peter said in Acts 15, Gentile believers don’t have to become Jews (Israelites) to be saved, therefore Gentile believers are not part of Israel.

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God.

– Romans 2:28-29

Again, Paul is speaking of the righteous subset of national Israel, the children of the promise. A true Jew is one who is not merely physically circumcised, but is circumcised in heart (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6, Jeremiah 4:4). Nathanael, for example, was a true Israelite who received praise from God (John 1:47).

As many as walk by this rule, peace and mercy be on them, and on God’s Israel.

– Galatians 6:16

To understand this verse, you must know to whom Paul is speaking. The letter to the Galatians was written to the believing Gentiles of that church who were under pressure from the legalists to observe Jewish customs. In the immediate context, the rule he refers to is his instruction not to be circumcised (Galatians 6:11-15, 5:2). On those who walk by this rule, he wishes peace and mercy.

“God’s Israel” is a separate group of people within the Galatian church. They are not the Gentiles. They are the saved Jews of the Galatian church who, like Paul himself, were already circumcised, and therefore had no need to walk by that rule.

While there is no spiritual difference between believing Jews and Gentiles, there still remains earthly distinctions. Otherwise Paul would not have called Peter a Jew (Galatians 2:14), nor would he have declared himself to be of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1).

Ruins of the synagogue courtyard at Sardis

“I know … the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. … Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but lie. …

– Revelation 2:9, 3:9

These verses are used to teach that the Jews are the “synagogue of Satan”, but they really speak of the other subset of Israel: those who don’t believe. Jesus said those who didn’t believe in Him had Satan as father (John 8:44-45). 3 But there were some Jews who did believe, such as the disciples. They were not of the synagogue of Satan. This is not a blanket statement about all Jews. And even if it was, it has nothing to do with their status before God as His chosen people.

As he says also in Hosea, “I will call them ‘my people,’ which were not my people; and her ‘beloved,’ who was not beloved.”

– Romans 9:25

This is another verse that supersessionists only see as a clear proof of their theology. The Gentile believers were not God’s people, and now they are. But if you read Hosea along with this section of Romans, you will see it has nothing to do with Gentiles. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute to show in a symbolic way God’s relationship with His adulterous people. His wife bore some children. In the first chapter, God told Hosea to give a name to one of his children:

He said, “Call his name Lo-Ammi; for you are not my people, and I will not be yours…

– Hosea 1:9

This child symbolized God’s rejection of His people. But this rejection would not be permanent, for immediately after God said:

…Yet the number of the children of Israel will be as the sand of the sea, which can’t be measured nor numbered; and it will come to pass that, in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’

– Hosea 1:10

This must apply to Israel, the same people God declared were “not my people” in the previous verse. (See also Zechariah 10:6.) While it is true that the Gentiles were not God’s people, this was spoken to Israel, so these promises of restoration must apply to them. Paul gets his quote from a verse in the next chapter:

…and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; and I will tell those who were not my people, ‘You are my people;’ and they will say, ‘My God!'”

– Hosea 2:23

Again, this must refer to the same people spoken about in Hosea 1:9-11. It must refer to national Israel. Therefore, Paul’s quote in Romans 9:25 is about the descendents of Jacob, not the Gentiles. Yes, a remnant of both the Gentiles and the Jews are vessels of mercy (verse 24), but Paul’s focus in chapters 9 through 11 is national Israel. Those who were “Not My People” would be restored, not replaced. 4

Next, we will look at the effects of Replacement Theology on the Church.

Notes:

  1. If Paul intended to say Gentiles were added to Israel, he would have written, “Not all are of Israel that are Israel.
  2. Although God did speak of the blessing He would bring on the nations, He did not make promises to the Gentiles. He made them to Israel, and they are theirs (Romans 9:3-5).
  3. Before he was a believer, Paul was of the synagogue of Satan.
  4. Where the Gentiles are mentioned in this section, there is no statement that they are part of Israel. Gentile believers share in the promises, but are nowhere called a part of Israel.

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