Volume 7, Issue 4: Similitudes
The Church is Israel?
The only thing I don't understand," I said, "is how you can say that the
Church is Israel today. I have always been taught that God had one purpose
for Israel as His earthly people in the Old Testament, and another purpose
for the Church as His heavenly people in the New Testament."
Martin leaned back in his chair and took a sip from his coffee. "I know.
I was taught the same thing."
"What made you change your mind . . .?"
"It may sound cheap to put it this way, but . . . Bible reading,
"You just read the Bible, and mysterious gnostic things happen in your
Martin laughed. "No. Bible reading and Bible study."
"Let me put it another way," I said. "Can you show me, can you prove
from the Bible that the Church is Israel?"
"Well?" I said.
He smiled. "The proofs take three basic forms. The first is that the
teaching of the New Testament requires it. The second is that the
illustrations of the New Testament require it."
"Go on," I said.
"And the third is that this is the theology that personally works best
We both laughed. "No, seriously . . ."
"The third reason is that the promises and commands given to Israel in
the Old Testament are naturally applied to the Church, without explanation,
in the New Testament."
"Well," I said, "if you can back all this up, that would really be
something. And totally unlike anything I have ever heard before."
"Okay," Martin said. "Look up Ephesians 2:11."
When I had found it, Martin sat back in his chair and quoted--"`Therefore
remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision
by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands--that at that
time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel
and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God
in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been
brought near by the blood of Christ.'"
He stopped,and I looked up.
"Now, what does that say?" he said.
"It says that the Gentiles who used to be apart from Christ have now
been brought near to Christ."
"No. They have not been brought near to Christ. They have been brought
near to something else in Christ, and by the blood
of Christ. What is that
I looked at the page again, and stared for a minute. "They used to be
aliens and strangers. And now they are not."
Martin nodded. "Good. Aliens to what and strangers to what?"
"Aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of
promise. I have never seen this before. And I have read this passage a
"So because of Christ, Gentiles are no longer aliens to the commonwealth
of Israel, and no longer strangers to the Old Testament covenants of
"Yes," I said. "That's what it teaches."
"The illustrations are just as powerful," Martin said. "Look at
Galatians 4:1-7, and then Romans 11: 15-27."
I found both, and read them both aloud. Martin followed along in his
"Okay." I said. "Now what?"
"Consider the nature of these illustrations. In Galatians, Paul compares
the Jewish nation to an underage heir, indistinguishable from a slave. But
now, in these days of fulfilled promise, that same heir is grown up and has
come into his inheritance. His name as a child was Israel. His name now is
the Church. But Paul is clear there is no change of identity
from the older
covenant to the new."
"What about Romans?" I said.
Martin continued. "In Romans, Paul gives the illustration of an olive
tree. If Israel and the Church are completely different entities, then what
are they doing as fellow branches in the same tree? A difference between
them requires two olive trees. But there is only one tree. Same sort of
thing in John 15."
"I understand what you are saying." I said. "But we don't have much
time left. What about your last point? Can you make it quickly?"
Martin smiled. "No. But I can make it at treetop level. Christian
pastors are to be paid because an old covenant ox is not to be muzzled.
Gentile children at Ephesus are told that the commandment given at Sinai
contained a promise for them. Abraham is the father of all who believe,
whether circumcised or not. Moses chose to follow Christ,
and refused the
treasures of Egypt. In other words, Moses was a Christian. The children of
Israel in the wilderness tempted Christ, the Rock from whom they drank, and
the first-century Christians are admonished not to be like them."
I threw up my hands. "Hold on, hold on! Can we talk about this more next
Martin laughed. "Fine. Next week."