Israel and the ChurchB. Kelson
There are many who talk about Israel and The Church and we rejoice that at least they are trying to show some difference between them as there surely is. But there is a problem brought about by the various meanings of the word church and sometimes in our discussion of Gods Word we might not be thinking the same thing as we use the term.
As we all know, we use the word church in a variety of ways. In common parlance it can refer to a building, the meeting inside the building, the denomination which owns and runs the system, or to some, it can have some vague connotation about all believers.
In the New Testament the original word is used for the Jewish synagogue (Matt.18:17), a group of believers (Acts 2:47), a group of believers at a specific location (Acts 13:1 et al), the Law Courts of the time (Acts 19:39) and an unruly mob (Acts 19:410). In these last two references, assembly is the Greek word ekklesia but the translators baulked that an unregenerate mob could be called a “church.
For too long Bible expositors have injected traditional concepts of the church into every occurrence of the word church. This has not helped in my view. We must examine the context very carefully whenever we see the word church.
For example there have been those who, because they see the word church in Matt.16 or Acts 2 assume that it automatically means us, today, and the tradition therefore remains that Pentecost was the birthday of the Church. This concept, after careful examination, must be rejected by all students of the Word of Truth.
Used in isolation, the word church is not specific enough. It is a confusion to talk about Israel and the church.
Here are some different churches of Gods redeemed. These are not local assemblies; they are named corporations of believers, groups of Gods children formed into companies or churches:
The Church of the Firstborn
Heb 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
Heb 12:23 to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are written in Heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
The Church which is His Body
Eph 1:22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
Eph 1:23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.
The Church which is Israel
Act 7:38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
It surprises some to see that Israel is in fact a church, but this is very true. Israel is a called out company, with a specific inheritance, specific promises and a specific purpose before God.
Can we see the problem when we talk about Israel and the church? We are in fact talking about two churches and we must be more specific in our language in my view.
Let us be very clear about this. The New Testament must be handled very carefully. In all its pages are truths which apply to all time, for all churches, but there are truths which are church specific.
The Lord Christ said this which is true for all of the Redeemed no matter what church they belong to;
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, I am the Resurrection and the Life! He who believes in Me, though he die, yet he shall live.
But the Lord Christ also said this;
Mat 5:5 Blessed are the meek! For they shall inherit the earth.
The above statement of Matt.5:5 is church specific. It must not be applied to our church. It has nothing to do with us today who live in this present dispensation of the Mystery. Members of the church which is His Body will never inherit the earth. But the church, Israel, has always been destined for the earth. See Gen.12:1-3 et al.
And indeed, it offends some when it is suggested that the Lord Christ Jesus actually came to minister to the church, Israel;
Rom 15:8 And I say, Jesus Christ has become a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,
Heb 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, called to be partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus,
Heb 3:5 And Moses truly was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken afterward.
Heb 3:6 But Christ was faithful as a Son over his own house; whose house we are, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
In the above passage from Hebrews, the writer uses the word we in the phrase whose house we are. Just because he uses the word we does not give us license to include ourselves. The writer is specifically talking to Hebrews, not we Gentiles who live in this dispensation of the Grace of God. We must be very careful when we read the word we or other plural pronouns in the Word of God. The Lord Christ was faithful as a Son over his own house; The Lord had a ministry to Israel as Moses had foretold in Deut. 18:15 and we today, are not included in that particular house.
The Lord Christ was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and there is salvation in no other One; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved BUT, His ministry was to Israel.
Mat 10:5 Jesus sent out these twelve, commanding them, saying, Do not go into the way of the nations, and do not enter into any city of the Samaritans.
Mat 10:6 But rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Mat 10:7 And as you go, proclaim, saying, The kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Mat 15:22 And behold, a woman of Canaan coming out of these borders cried to Him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is grievously vexed with a demon.
Mat 15:23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and begged Him, saying, Send her away, for she cries after us.
Mat 15:24 But He answered and said, I am not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
The mother of our Lord was told church specific truth:
Luk 1:31 And behold! You shall conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name JESUS.
Luk 1:32 He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God shall give Him the throne of His father David.
Luk 1:33 And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
The Lord Christ will reign over the house of Jacob on the earth, this truth relates to the church, Israel. It must not be spiritualized to mean anything else. The word of God means what it says and says what it means.
The minister for today, the Apostle of us Gentiles (we are not spiritual Israel, we do not replace an Israelite), is the Apostle Paul;
Eph 3:1 For this cause, I, Paul, am the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you nations,
Eph 3:8 This grace is given to me (who am less than the least of all saints) to preach the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ among the nations,
Eph 3:9 and to bring to light what is the fellowship of the mystery which from eternity has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ;
Col 1:24 who now rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf, and I fill up the things lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, on behalf of His body, which is the church;
Col 1:25 of which I became a minister, according to the administration of God given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God;
Col 1:26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.
The specific truths relating to the church which is His Body will only be found with the Apostle Paul. This does not suggest that Paul is in any way greater than his Lord. Indeed, Paul tells us very clearly that he is only teaching the truths the ascended Lord Christ gave him, please see 1 Cor.1:13, 2Tim.1:8, Eph.31, 4:1, and Philemon 1:1.
Here are some church specific things which are about us in our church, the Body of Christ, given to us by the ascended Christ through His messenger for us today;
Our blessings are in the heavenlies.
Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ;
Our condition is holy and without blame but our location is before Him, that is, in front of His Face;
Eph 1:4 according as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him
The church which is His Body is seated in the same place Christ is seated;
Eph 1:19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us, the ones believing according to the working of His mighty strength
Eph 1:20 which He worked in Christ in raising Him from the dead, and He seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies,
Eph 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us
Eph 2:5 (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved),
Eph 2:6 and has raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,
Yes, there are universal, or what I would call fundamental truths in all of Gods Word which are indeed applicable for all of Gods redeemed, but we must beware, there are passages in the NT which are church specific and cannot be applied to us today. It is the apostle Paul who warns us of the shame and disapproval of those who do not rightly divide Gods Words, please compare the following;
2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
2Ti 3:17 that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work.
2Ti 2:15 Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
Before Paul tells Timothy that all scripture is God-breathed, he warns him to rightly divide that Scripture.
I appreciate that this is not easy, but it is my view that certain traditions have made it so, not the rightly divided Word of Truth.