The Israel of God and Abraham's Seed

Galatians 6:16  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The expression of the Israel of God, as being the whole body owned of God in heaven and earth, has been repeated so very frequently, that the hearer will have got the habit of using it in this sense in his mind, and so lose the sense that it is quite unfounded. The expression is used once in scripture, and with no. possible connection with the subject, or the millennial state at all. It is found in Gal. 6:1616And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:16), where, false teachers having sought to introduce Judaism among Christians, the apostle (having closed his reasonings and exhortations on the subject, and shown what was really valuable, namely, the new creature) says, “As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God” —evidently in contrast with fleshly Judaism, which the false teachers were seeking to introduce. But they were those then and there owned of God as His Israel; and there is not an idea of the millennium, nor any gathering of all into an Israel of God in heaven and in earth. Such a thought is never found in Scripture anywhere.
And then what is the proof? Why, that Jewish things are used as types, or symbols as the author calls them. And what then? Who denies it? Why does the use of circumstances of the fleshly Israel prove that the church is a constituent part of another Israel? We keep the paschal feast typically or figuratively. Well, and what then? I repeat. What does that prove? “Sons of Aaron.” We are priests—everyone owns that; and if it be merely that, in the whole creation, to all on earth, and I add even ostensibly to the unconverted during the millennium, we hold the place of priests; nobody will deny that. We are the children of the heavenly Jerusalem which is above. And what does that prove but just that we are a separate people, having a Jerusalem of our own? As to children of Abraham, and branches in the Abrahamic olive-tree, it has been already considered. It is of more importance than the others, which really are of none.
There is one general principle, owned of all who believe John 3, that for earthly blessings as well as for heavenly, a man must be born again, must have the new creature. But it does not follow thence that, if this be necessary for all association of man with God, even in the lowest place, there can be no special place of glory. It would as much set, aside degrees in glory as anything else, and I should pretend to be necessarily as exalted as the Apostle Paul, because I was born again. But this is not so. The principle is quite false. There is a difference, and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor, though all be saved and born again.
But, branches in the olive-tree and Abraham's seed? Well, how are we Abraham's seed? By being in Christ: that is, that we take the place of the promises down here, as Israel especially will hereafter, and therefore succeed them, and they us, as heirs of promises down here. Yet still God had reserved some better thing for us. We do so in virtue of being in Christ, who is in the highest sense Abraham's seed. But we are in Him in a way that makes us His body, His bride, as His own flesh. And it is quite clear that the principle alluded to has nothing to do with our highest privileges, because it is, as has been already remarked elsewhere, the own olive-tree of the Jews, the seed according to the flesh, loved even in their unbelief for the fathers' sake.
Further, it is a principle which is false in another way. It is only their own olive-tree as descendants of Abraham specially called out as father of many nations down here before God. Now all the saints before Abraham will, I doubt not, be in glory. Yet they were not of this olive-tree, or else the Jewish question never could have been raised. The question of Rom. 9; 10; 11, is the Jewish question, and so in Galatians, and to which the Israel of God evidently alludes. That the saints will be in a certain relation to Israel yet dwelling in the earth, everyone who has received the doctrine of the Lord's pre-millennial advent believes. But then the reader is left here to draw some important conclusion from it as to his system: whereas it proves exactly nothing, and is believed as much by those who utterly reject the system, and believed more accurately and more scripturally: that is all. But it is true of all the world as of Israel. Yet here again this does not put Israel in the same place down here with all the world, because all saints will be born again. Nor does this latter truth set aside the special distinctive promises made to Israel, any more than the far more important distinctions which are true about the heavenly church.
When it is said, Israel will not be of the earth any more than the church of the first-born, it is partly true and partly false. Israel, as Israel, will be of the earth, and Isa. 65 proves that some will be wholly so, though such will be cut off when manifested. But the spared remnant, and all who really enjoy millennial blessedness, will be born again, and that life which they receive will not be of the earth. It will be the new creature, But it is true of everyone else then and now, and has nothing particularly to do with Israel. But the very passage (if passage were needed) which specially proves it calls this whole state of things earthly, in contrast with heavenly things which belong to the church; and therefore, though, they have a life which is not of the earth, their whole condition and state will be then earthly, in contrast with what is heavenly.
Nor is it at all true that the moment when the church receives its actual, Israel will receive its virtual, deliverance. There is no connection in scripture between the actual placing the church in its heavenly glory, and the quickening of individual Israelites, which is their virtual deliverance; nor is this latter the placing Israel as a nation or a body in the place of their earthly glory as purposed of God. The statements we have already considered as to the Jews—Ezek. 20 as to Israel, Isa. 66—all prove the contrary, as indeed do Ezek. 36; 37 It is never said that Israel are to be individually horn again at the coming of the Lord to receive the church; nor all individually born again at the same time; nor all restored at the same time, if public manifestation be referred to; but the contrary in the chapters I have cited. That they have their life from Christ, I do not doubt. That the resurrection of Christ secures to them the sure mercies of David, we are expressly taught in Acts 13. But it is never said they are, of the one body, nor the bride of Christ in glory. They are not His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.
That all things will be headed up in Him in earth and heaven, all admit, and thus far they will have one center; but so will all creation; and earthly and heavenly are definitely distinguished in this very passage—we having part in the heavenly.
I do not believe that the passage applies to the post-millennial state, which cannot properly be called a dispensation, for it is eternity; and the heading up all things to be administered by Him in whom we have received an inheritance who have first trusted (or pre-trusted) in Christ (that is, before His manifestation in glory), evidently speaks of the special time of Christ's administration as the glorified Man, and our association with Him in that glory. The fullness of times itself is not an expression for eternity. That would not be called “times” or “seasons” (καιρῶν), and the heading up all things in the man, as administrator, is not God being all in all, and the Son subject, as in 1 Cor. 15, Rev. 21; and this view of the passage is completely confirmed by verses 22,23. That Christ will be the center of all in heaven and earth in the millennium is clear: but this does not hinder the church being in the proper, special, peculiar place of the bride, the body of Christ, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all when He is in glory. Israel, moreover, has its place as Israel, distinct, and in many respects in contrast.
Nor is it ever said that Israel will govern the earth at all. That they are the favored glorious nation on the earth, where the government of Christ is placed which extends over the earth, is true; but they do not govern nor judge the earth. It is the heavenly saints who do this. They are governed by Christ, who will be “great to the ends of the earth,” and “all nations call him blessed.” That they will celebrate the ways of God in justice and judgment, I fully believe. But what then? There is nothing at all like the knowledge, the anticipative knowledge, of the mind of Christ, and of His glory, which we find in verses 9-11. When the things are accomplished, they will understand them and celebrate them.
But the peculiar character of the church's place is to know and celebrate them before by faith—not to know The justice and judgment merely which are the habitation of His throne, but His counsels and thoughts. The “mind of Christ” is more than the works or the ways in God in judgment. It is all His counsels in Christ. Who hath known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God.” Thus it is we have the mind of Christ; as: Joseph yet unexalted was the interpreter of the revelations of God. And Christ is the wisdom of God, and the power of God. Power will be displayed hereafter; we have but samples of it now, the display of which confirmed faith. But Christ is made unto us wisdom: and if in infirmity we know only in part, still, as regards the object of knowledge and the source of knowing, the whole wisdom of God is in Christ, and we have an unction from the Holy One and know all things—we have the mind of Christ. But it is never said that Israel has the mind of Christ. They will see the displays of His power, recognize and celebrate them. But is this having the mind of Christ as we have it? The Egyptians knew what Joseph knew, when the things came: but had they the mind of Joseph?
The Holy Spirit will be poured out on all flesh in the millennium. They will prophesy and see visions; but, though the lump is holy, it is not that separate consecrated first-fruits. The Holy Ghost will enable them to enjoy, but will not in identity with the sufferings of Christ make saints the vessel of the outgoings of His heart in the sorrow of a groaning world, nor in the joy of its deliverance by power, as the day when their love is answered. They will profit by the answer themselves, but they will not as in the love which has thought of others, though in itself “according to God” —this place they will never have, they can never have. It is reserved for us who have gone before the day of His power, and fore-trusted in Him. Blessed privilege! If sovereign grace has given it us, shall we disown or depreciate it?