How important is it to accurately identify True Israel?


But why?

Why is it important?

The first answer to that question is that the identity of True Israel should be important to us because it’s important to Jesus.

True Israel is Jesus’ bride. True Israel is the apple of His eye. True Israel is the means by which He’s chosen to advance His Gospel-fueled Great Commission, all by His grace, all for His glory, and all to the eternal benefit of…[*drumroll*]…His chosen people (aka “True Israel”).

So yeah, True Israel is what’s known in deep theological terms as a Big Deal, which is why we should expect enemies of King Jesus and His bride to concoct all manner of counterfeit versions of True Israel in order to undermine the advance of His Kingdom in accordance with His Gospel-fueled Great Commission.

One popular spin on the identity of God’s chosen people (centered on flesh/genetics/ethnicity) has experienced a surge in popularity over the past 50 years or so, culminating in a spike in the latter part of the twentieth century. While its popularity has been fading since that late-20th-century peak, it still holds sway with a significant number of evangelicals (particularly older evangelicals) in the United States. During its peak of popularity in the mid- to late-’80s, this flesh-focused approach to the identity of God’s chosen people spawned a large number of emphatically proclaimed and widely publicized false prophecies on a scale that would (or should, anyway) make even a Jehovah’s Witness blush.

Based on scores of “clear” and “obvious” pronouncements made in Scripture, so we were told, the formation of the modern nation state of Israel meant all sorts of major things were about to happen right on schedule…until they didn’t.

Megachurches were built and scores of Christian authors sold millions and millions of books, videos, and conferences by assuring us all that the rapture was coming in 1988 or, when that didn’t happen, in 1989 instead, or…well…you get the picture.

Truckloads of steaming false prophecies were dumped on the culture again and again for decades, with the “prophecies” and date-setting specifics turning out to be roughly as reliable as Al Gore’s pronouncements on global warming. We would do well to note the offense brought to the name of Jesus by associating these blatantly false prophetic approaches with His name. Proclaiming what are now known to have always been laughably inaccurate prophecies in the name of Jesus has produced many well-deserved consequences that we are still largely buried under in 2019 America. America’s professing Christian subculture, having embraced (and made bajillions of dollars in profit) from such delusions, has done much to corrupt and corrode the credibility of Christianity in the eyes of many. This is no small thing. It’s a very big deal.

One central element in most, if not all, of the flagrantly false prophecies made by many Christians during that time was their misidentification of God’s chosen people in an acutely flesh-focused manner.

We shouldn’t need to be told that the consequences of misidentifying True Israel can be profound. We should know it by experience at this point in 2019 America. Yet we don’t seem to have that knowledge yet, do we? At least not on a large scale. Many Christians in the United States still seem to be laboring under the weight of this fundamental error, in no small part because many of their leaders are still pitching it as truth.

That said, please understand that many of my absolute favorite Brothers and Sisters in Christ hold to the misidentification of God’s chosen people that I’m describing. Having been raised in an Ozarks backwoods Baptist setting, I once shared the view in question, more by default than through any sort of vigorous biblical examination.

I assumed the “obviousness” and “clarity” of the same things that I hear many of these passionate Brothers and Sisters point to as “obvious” and “clear” in defense of a flesh/genetics-based approach to identifying God’s chosen people in 2019.

Am I questioning their salvation as a result of their views on this subject!

No way!

Not even close.

I’m merely (and properly) questioning their view on this important subject while elaborating on the importance of the subject by exploring some of the serious consequences of their approach to God’s chosen people. Put another way, I’m testing all things by the perfect, sufficient light of the whole counsel of God, as I have been commanded and equipped to do by none other than King Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Matthew 28:18-20).

It’s in this spirit that I’d like to share a modified version of a Facebook post I made a while back on this subject, with a few added thoughts tacked onto the end:

On Race/Ethnicity vs. God’s Choice as the Defining Attribute of True Israel:

When we center on the genetics or ethnicity of Jews described in the Old Testament as the primary attribute by which we attempt to define or categorize true Israel, we’ve missed the mark in a profound and consequential manner. Genetics are not, never have been, and never will be the primary defining attribute of God’s chosen people. Ethnicity is not, has never been, and never will be the primary defining attribute of God’s chosen people. God’s choice is, has always been, and will forever be the primary defining attribute of God’s chosen people.

When we start with God and His sovereign, gracious choice of specific individuals who then, by virtue of His choice, become a part of His people, we’re on the path to rightly identifying True Israel. When we start instead with the literal flesh of man as the primary identifier of God’s chosen people, we’ve made a seriously wrong turn. Since we can’t begin to rightly understand, much less properly support, True Israel until we accurately identify True Israel, this is an important concept to get right.

The apple of God’s eye and His bride are one and the same. Always have been. Always will be.

There is one Vine. One assembly of God. One people of God. One true Israel.

This has always been the case and will forever be so.

Is one Christian any more or less True Israel than another Christian? No. They are not. All Christians are 100% in the True Israel camp because their identity as such is in no way limited or defined by their genetics, gender, or ethnicity, however much our present age insists that we obsess over such things.
Every individual member of True Israel was chosen by God for that role before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
The vine is not an ethnicity. It’s not a set of genetics. The true vine is neither rooted in nor defined by the flesh of man. The true vine is rooted in and defined by Christ. Jesus is the Vine into which all of His people are grafted.
What man would divide and define by the flesh, Christ defines, unites and empowers by His Spirit.
For those who still cling to a flesh-focused definition of “God’s chosen people”, there are many problems, including “lesser” things (compared to biblical contradictions) like: What, exactly, is the flesh/genetic/ethnicity-based line of demarcation between God’s chosen people and everyone else?
If not even a vague range of general parameters can be identified for the purpose of confirming that the people in question as a group are in fact distinct from the rest of the population, then what are we left with in the claims from some that there is a flesh/genetic/ethnicity-defined “God’s chosen people” group? Nothing, that’s what.
We can’t coherently claim that there’s a specific flesh/genetic/ethnicity-defined “God’s chosen people” group out there that we should identify and treat in some special way based on their flesh/genetic/ethnic distinction while simultaneously refusing to define the line of demarcation necessary to allow for the existence of such a group in the first place.
I addressed this important question over three years ago in a post entitled Does God have a genetically identifiable chosen people? If so, who qualifies?
Here’s a clip from that article:

“The first problem with these questions, from the perspective of a great many professing Christians in America, is that anyone would dare to ask ’em in the first place.

We’re not supposed to think about (and biblically test) whether or not God has a genetically identifiable chosen people here and now on earth.

We’re supposed to assume it.

We’re not supposed to wonder as to how such a group, if it exists, is actually defined in any sort of even semi-detailed manner – which is kind of necessary to have a distinct group in the first place. We’re not supposed to notice, much less be bothered by the fact that you can’t have a distinct group of people without identifying and applying distinct parameters to define who’s in and who’s out of the group in question.

There’s no way around this, and yet, when it comes to the claims of many professing Christians in America pertaining to the identity of “God’s chosen people”, these questions are never asked, much less addressed.

More often than not, they’re not even tolerated.

To even ask these vital questions, much less test them biblically as commanded by God, is to risk being auto-painted and shouted down by professing Christians as anything from an anti-Semite to a heretic.

This thoroughly pagan approach to silencing debate through pre-emptive shaming is something that cannot be allowed to stand.

So let’s ask – and strive to honestly answer – these questions, shall we?

Does God have a chosen people that are defined (or are definable at all) by genetics?

If so, who qualifies for inclusion in the group, and who does not?

What are the parameters?

Where’s the line, if there is one?

And if there isn’t a line, how can the group in question be considered distinct?

If they’re not distinct, how can they even be reliably identified?”

A little later in the article I got into more specific and relevant rhetorical questions:

“I am not arguing that anyone holding such a view of “God’s chosen people” is somehow inherently not really a Christian. (Please see also: Never forget that apart from God’s grace you and I are complete morons.)

I am simply asking those who hold such a view to define it in some (at least semi-)substantive way.

If my great grandmother was an ethnic Jew, would I be qualified for inclusion in the “God’s chosen people” group?

Why or why not?

And what is the cutoff, if there is one, on the genetic/lineage side?

If the hypothetical great grandmother mentioned above was only half Jewish, would she still be one of “God’s chosen people”?

Would I?

These are anything but trick or silly questions.

They are not peripheral or little things.

They are central.

They go directly to the credibility of claims regarding a genetically/physically identifiable “God’s chosen people” here and now on God’s earth.”

I hope that at least some of the significant problems with a flesh/genetics-focused approach to “God’s chosen people” have been addressed in a helpful manner here.

I’d like to close this article out with a few precisely relevant (and inspiring!) passages from Scripture.

Romans 4:

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Romans 9:1-8:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.”

Galatians 3: 17; 26-29:

“To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. . . for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

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