The Israel of God

Galatians 6: 14 But far be it from me to boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Dispensationalist often use Justin Martyr as roots of its theology because of his pre-millenium stance. However, when it comes to the doctrine of separation of Israel and the church, Martyr writes this concerning Galatians 6:16…

Jesus Christ … is the new law, and the new covenant, and the expectation of those who out of every people wait for the good things of God. For the true spiritual Israel, and the descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (who in uncircumcision was approved of and blessed by God on account of his faith, and called the father of many nations), are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ.

Martin Luther on Galatians 6:16 from his Lectures on Galatians, 1519. 

“Walk” is the same verb that is used above (5:25). “Walk,” that is, go, by this rule. By what rule? It is this rule, that they are new creatures in Christ, that they shine with the true righteousness and holiness which come from faith, and that they do not deceive themselves and others with the hypocritical righteousness and holiness which come from the Law. Upon the latter there will be wrath and tribulation, and upon the former will rest peace and mercy. Paul adds the words “upon the Israel of God.” He distinguishes this Israel from the Israel after the flesh, just as in 1 Cor. 10:18 he speaks of those who are the Israel of the flesh, not the Israel of God. Therefore peace is upon Gentiles and Jews, provided that they go by the rule of faith and the Spirit.

And from his Lectures on Galatians in 1535.

“Upon the Israel of God.” Here Paul attacks the false apostles and the Jews, who boasted about their fathers, their election, the Law, etc. (Rom. 9:4-5). It is as though he were saying: “The Israel of God are not the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel but those who, with Abraham the believer (3:9), believe in the promises of God now disclosed in Christ, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.”

John Calvin writes,

Upon the Israel of God. This is an indirect ridicule of the vain boasting of the false apostles, who vaunted of being the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh. There are two classes who bear this name, a pretended Israel, which appears to be so in the sight of men, and the Israel of God. Circumcision was a disguise before men, but regeneration is a truth before God. In a word, he gives the appellation of the Israel of God to those whom he formerly denominated the children of Abraham by faith (Galatians 3:29), and thus includes all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, who were united into one church.

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One Comment on “The Israel of God”

  1. Jeff says:

    I Peter 1:1, addressed the Galatians using the word Diaspora; “Israelite resident in Gentile countries.”

    This makes it clear that the Galatians were Israelites in exile, not Gentiles.

    He also used the words “chosen generation – royal priesthood – holy nation – peculiar people” all OT references to national Israel (2:9)

    In 2:10 Peter quotes Hosea 1 verbatim telling the Galatians they fulfilled the prophecies when they came to Christ. We now know that Peter was addressing expatriated Israelites from the ten-tribe northern kingdom. Hosea was not addressing these prophecies to Judah, they were exempt. (Hos.1:7)Nor was Hosea addressing Gentiles.

    Paul, in Galatians 4:9, wrote; “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

    “Again” anew, over again. (Strong’s 509) The Galatians were returning to the Law of Moses “over again.”

    And, Paul addressed them as “the Israel of God” in Gal. 6:16 because they were from the divorced/exiled northern kingdom.


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