How Many “Peoples” Does God Have?
Let’s review what we’ve learned so far. Popular theology says that either
- The Church has replaced Israel, or
- The Church and Israel are both people of God, completely separate from each other in God’s plan,
Scripture has a consistent message throughout, however. God has only one chosen people, which is Israel, but He invites people from all nations to join themselves with His people.
While not an exhaustive list, the following passages seem to make this especially clear.
There is one flock, one shepherd.
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (John 10:16).
This couldn’t be any clearer. Most theologians interpret this verse to say that Jesus is bringing both Jews and Gentiles into a new people of God, called “the church.”
However, if this is what Jesus meant, it would be a direct contradiction of the words of YHVH in Ezekiel 34. In this passage, YHVH speaks a word of judgment “against the shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:2) because they did not take care of His flock.
7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of YHVH;
8 As I live, saith YHVH God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;
9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of YHVH;
10 Thus saith YHVH God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.
11 For thus saith YHVH God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. (Ezekiel 34:7-13).
It is very clear who the sheep are in this passage: Israel alone fits this description.
A few verses later, you will see a Messianic prophecy which was fulfilled in Jesus.
23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.
24 And I YHVH will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I YHVH have spoken it. (Ezekiel 34:23-24).
Therefore when Jesus, the Son of David and promised Messiah (Acts 2:14-36), says the following, we know that He is speaking in fulfillment of the prophesy in Ezekiel 34 and that the flock He is referring to is none other than Israel.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:11-16).
One Way, Only Through Jesus
In all this discussion of “who is Israel,” let us not forget for a moment that there is only one entrance into Israel, and that is through Jesus the Messiah! As we saw in Ezekiel 34, there are false shepherds, even among the nation of Israel.
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?
10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:6-10).
The Goal of Unity
The express pray of Jesus was that all those who were included in Israel would be only one body. It was never His intention for there to be both a Northern Kingdom of Israel and a Southern Kingdom of Judah. However, because of sin, the nation was divided.
Nor has it ever been His intention for there to be two ways to worship the Father: The way of Judah, which recognizes the words of the Father but does not accept His Son Jesus as their Messiah, and the way of Christianity, which shares the gospel of Jesus but will not submit to the commands of the Father.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23).
The Son and the Father are one. Jesus does not have a separate “people” (the Church) from the people of His Father (Israel). No, they are one. They speak the same words.
The Gospel Given to All
The gospel of the Kingdom, through faith in Jesus the Messiah, was preached to all people. Here are some brief quotations from Peter’s words when he addressed the crowd in Jerusalem at the feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) several weeks after the resurrection of Jesus. (See Acts 2.)
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh (Acts 2:17).
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21).
Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call (Acts 2:39).
Notice that the promise was “unto you, and to your children.” Who is Peter talking to? Who was in the crowd that day?
5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? (Acts 2:5-12).
Therefore, the promise was for Jews, proselytes to Judaism, their children — and all who are afar off.
God says clearly that He cannot reject His own people, so the only conclusion that makes sense is that Gentiles and all who are afar off will be included with His people Israel.
For YHVH will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance (Psalm 94:14).
Yes, at times, He set some of them aside because of their disobedience, but He never rejected them entirely. In fact, we can see even in this passage that some of the Jews (many, in fact!) believed in Jesus and accepted the message preached by Peter. (See Acts 2:47, Acts 6:7.)
Members of One Body
The disciples of Jesus continued to teach the same message.
Note: Remember that the word Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach, which always refers to the anointed king of Israel.
Paul writes to the believers in Rome:
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:3-5)
Paul writes to the believers in Galatia:
26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29).
Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus:
9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him (Ephesians 1:9-10).
What is the definition of the “mystery” Paul refers to here?
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel (Ephesians 3:6).
Paul also says that Gentiles can be fellow citizens in Israel:
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye 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:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.1While I have cut out Ephesians 2:14-18 at this time, I will cover these verses in another article.
18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).
Paul writes to the believers in Colossae, calling them the “elect,” or chosen, of God, a term used exclusively of Israel.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).
The author of Hebrews quotes the prophet Jeremiah and includes the believers in Jesus in the covenant given exclusively to the “house of Israel.”
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith YHVH, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith YHVH.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith YHVH; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know YHVH: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more (Hebrews 8:8-12, quoting from Jeremiah 31:31-34).
And at the end of the famous “Faith Chapter” (Hebrews 11), after the listing of the faithful heroes of Israel, the author of Hebrews writes,
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (Hebrews 11:40).
Finally, Peter writes “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:1-2),
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10).
God has only one chosen people.
People from every tribe and nation (ie. Gentiles) have been “called out” of darkness by faith in Jesus Christ and “made fellow citizens with God’s people” (Israel). All of these comprise the ecclesia, the “called-out ones.”
Although salvation was originally offered to Abraham’s seed, God extended that invitation to all who would believe.
The literal promises to Israel of a land and future King still apply, and every prophesy regarding the nation of Israel will be fulfilled, just as every promise regarding the Messiah of Israel will also be fulfilled.
Of course, the logical conclusion is that the commands and promises made to Israel would also then apply to us today.
If Israel’s commands apply to us today, we need to be sure we know what God’s instructions are.
|↑ 1||While I have cut out Ephesians 2:14-18 at this time, I will cover these verses in another article.|