God’s Promises for the ‘Israel of God’

Israel was God’s chosen nation. 

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth (Deut. 7:6).

They were a people awaiting the coming of a Messiah, one born of a woman who would bruise the head of the serpent. Yet, when this Messiah came, they rejected him. They crucified him. How could this happen? Paul, speaking of Israel, states,

“to them belong the adoption (Rom. 8:15), the glory (Exodus 40:34), the covenants (Eph. 2:12), the giving of the law (Deut. 4:14), the worship (Heb. 9:1), and the promises (Acts 13:32)” (Rom. 9:4). 

Did the word of God fail? Furthermore, if his promises to Israel failed, how can any of us be confident and assured of the promises he has given us? If God’s promises did not fail, then in what way have they, or will they, be kept?

First, Paul tells us that the word of God did not fail. Why? Becauseisrael not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel (Rom. 9:6). God’s ‘promise’ was never extended to every Jew. “Not all who descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are the children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named” (Rom. 9:7). There was always a mixture of children of flesh and children of promise according to God’s sovereign mercy (Rom. 9:15). Paul was an Israelite. There was always a remnant of those who were of the promise in Israel, and Paul notes that there remains one in his day (v. 5).

Yet what happened when the Jews rejected the Messiah? God rejected his people and turned to the Gentiles:

“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him” (Matthew 21:43-44 (1 Pet. 2:7-10)). 

God rejected his people. He brought his covenant lawsuit. But, Paul tells us this rejection will not last forever. Paul states that through the rejection of the Jews, salvation has come to the Gentiles (11:11). Using an olive tree analogy, Israel’s branches had been broken off because of unbelief, and the wild branches of the Gentiles, through faith, had been grafted in. 

So did God’s promises to Israel fail? By no means! Paul continues on to give us this “mystery:” There has been a partial hardening that has come upon Israel and will continue until the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (11:25). Once the “fullness” of the Gentiles have been reached, then an overwhelming majority of genetic Israel (not a land promise) will be converted. They will be grafted back into the olive tree, which is, and has always been, the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), which includes all of the children of promise.

His past and future promises, affirm those of the present. 

What a glorious and reassuring passage of scripture!

“For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Cor. 1:20)

Disclaimer to those dispensational folks: There are not two plans of salvation, one for Israel and one for the Church. And the Church has not “replaced” Israel. There has always been the Israel of God. Christ has created “one new man in place of two, so making peace” (Eph. 2:15). There has always been an olive tree, with Gentiles grafted in. It is expansion theology. The converted Jews, after the fullness of the Gentiles, belong to the church of Christ, a totality, not a distinct and separate group.