Having a covenant relationship with God
Jan 14, 2014
My recent postings showing that Israel is a nation rather than a race per se has caused some to say that I hate racial Israelites. In past years I was accused of hating Jews just because I said they were not Israelites. Non-Zionist Jews have been accused of being “self-hating,” and so now I stand accused of being a self-hating Israelite for similar reasons. Such accusations are designed to prejudice their own constituency by putting exaggerated statements in my mouth and by presuming to know my mind and motives.
Let may say first that I hate no one, not even myself. I must confess to being ashamed often of the manner in which genealogical Israelites have gone after false gods throughout history. The prophets, too, were embarrassed. I am also deeply disturbed at the way genealogical Israelites and church members have mistreated others, including all of the broken treaties in early America. But hatred? No way.
I have no deep-seated resentment against Jews either. My arguments are simply based on the Bible and on history in general. I have never been directly harmed in any way by a Jew, and it is my desire that they, along with others, might see the truth of who Jesus is, so that they may become truly “chosen” (i.e., God’s “elect”) by faith in Him.
I do claim, however, that Jews are not chosen by virtue of genetic descent from Abraham. Some have tried to argue the point that many Jews are not “real Jews” if they are only Jews by religious conversion. To me, this is a moot point, for countless people over the years have converted to Judaism, even in the days before Christ. Edom was forcibly converted to Judaism in 126 B.C. Centuries later, the Khazars voluntarily converted to Judaism around 740 A.D. Are they “real Jews”? Only in the sense that they have adopted the now-obsolete Old Covenant. They are not Jews insofar as the law of God is concerned, as Paul defines in Romans 2:28, 29.
In the first century, the Apostle Paul met many of proselytes to Judaism in the synagogues where he taught (or tried to teach). Any man who had joined himself to the Old Covenant (as per Isaiah 56:6) became a Jew by religion, so to speak, but obviously this had no effect on his race or genealogy. There were Greek and Roman Jews in the synagogues, but if they went to the temple in Jerusalem, they had to remain outside of the middle wall of partition with the women. Hence, they remained second-class citizens, something that Paul fought with all his might.
If the people of Israel or Judah followed the divine law, they were to afford the man equal rights and equal justice. Such a foreign believer could even settle in the land within the tribe of his choice and on a family estate that might accept him. Because the land had all been divided up among the tribes and families of Israel since the days of Joshua, he could not own land in Israel. But then, neither did anyone else own personal property. The land was divided up among families, and so there was no individual ownership of land. Each family estate was held in trust, administered by the family patriarch, just as the tribal allotment too was administered by the tribal “prince.” In the end, even the prince himself did not own the tribal land but was a steward of the land that God owned.
Hence, a new convert became part of a tribe, and this had nothing to do with genealogy. The law only mandates that there be one law for the whole land (Numbers 15: 16), that aliens were accountable to obey the laws of the land, and that the rest of the Israelites should love them as themselves (Leviticus 19:33, 34). God says also in Numbers 15:15, which reads in The Interlinear Bible, “as you do, so shall he do.”
This included keeping all of the feast days, which speak of one’s relationship with God. When anyone kept Passover, it was a type of justification by faith. When anyone kept Pentecost, it was a type of sanctification by the Spirit through Pentecost. When anyone kept Tabernacles, it was a type of the glorification of the body through Tabernacles.
The majority of the Israelites, whether Israelites by genealogy or not, remained unbelievers throughout most of their history, as Scripture tells us. While the nation as a political unit remained in a covenant relationship with God until the great divorce in Jeremiah 3:8, individuals could not claim a covenant relationship with God apart from faith-obedience. The Old Covenant stated specifically, “IF you will obey My voice… then.” Apart from faith proven by obedience, there was no covenant relationship.
God never cut off the nation or an individual every time they sinned. He always gave them time to repent. Israel as a nation was given centuries in which to repent. Individuals received time appropriate to their situation. Yet the fact remained that one’s covenant relationship with God depended on fulfilling the terms of that covenant. More accurately, it depended on their desire to fulfill its terms, since no one was actually capable of obeying God all the time. God looks at the heart and gives credit for trying.
Most people use the term “chosen people” without really understanding what it means or how one comes to be chosen. A covenant relationship makes one “chosen.” Apart from a covenant relationship, NO ONE is chosen. Furthermore, because there are two covenants (Old and New), there are also two levels of “chosenness.” Type 1 is being chosen through the Old Covenant. Type 2 is being chosen through the New Covenant.
As long as a covenant remains in force, there are chosen people by that covenant. But if a covenant is abrogated, then all formerly “chosen” people lose their chosen status under that covenant.
God made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. Its primary foundation was FAITH, or BELIEF, for that was the stated reason for making this covenant (Genesis 15:6). This covenant was the model for the New Covenant which was to be fully ratified later.
God made a second covenant with Israel through Moses in Exodus 19. Its primary foundation was OBEDIENCE, as we read in Exodus 19:5. Hence, because of national disobedience, this covenant was broken; and when the people absolutely refused to repent, God then ended the covenant with a divorce (Jeremiah 3:8).
You see, both of the covenants were pictured as marriage covenants, each depicting its own kind of marriage relationship. I wrote about this in my book, Old and New Covenant Marriage. When God divorced Israel from their Old Covenant marriage relationship, the nation no longer was “chosen” under that covenant. Every individual, regardless of their genealogy or tribal affiliation, lost his right to be “chosen” under that covenant.
Fortunately, however, God had already established a prior covenant with Abraham. This covenant had remained largely in the background, so as not to intrude upon the Mosaic covenant during its effective time. But once that covenant ended with divorce and dispersion, the way was cleared to institute a New Covenant, as Jeremiah 31 prophesied.
From that moment on, the only ones having the right to be called “chosen” were those who were under the New Covenant, or those who would yet come under its terms of faith. Being of Abraham’s physical posterity was insufficient. The Israelites themselves had claimed such genealogy, and yet they had been divorced and cast out of the land. The epistles of Paul and others show clearly that the requirement is faith in Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant.
No one gets in by mere genealogy. The only advantage in being an Israelite is that out of all places on earth where the revelation of God had been given, it came to Abraham, even as the Old Covenant revelation later came to Moses and Israel at Mount Horeb. Those present were the first to receive it and thus had a tremendous advantage over others.
Likewise, we see that after Jesus mediated the New Covenant in the first century, the gospel was first revealed “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth”—in that order. Those living in other parts of the world had to wait. Millions and perhaps billions of them died, generation after generation, before the gospel arrived on their shores.
History shows that the gospel went mainly to the nations under the dominion of the Roman Empire first, although some went to Parthia and even as far as India. But for many centuries the dominant effect of Christianity was seen along the Mediterranean Sea and in Europe. When the gospel went inland to lands now known as Europe, it was preached to many ex-Israelites of the dispersion, who had been migrating there from Assyria ever since the collapse of the Nineveh in 612 B.C.
In other words, God saw to it that the gospel went to His ex-wife. History reveals God’s priorities. These priorities would not be fair, of course, if the people from all other nations were going to be lost for eternity. The gospel did not even begin to reach some nations until recently. Does that mean that those people will be lost forever, just because Christians failed in the Great Commission? Of course not.
A study of the law and prophecy reveals that the divine plan intends to save all mankind in the end. The only “unfair” element is attributable to God’s priorities. Some are saved sooner than others. Some are saved in this life time, while others must await a future age following the Great White Throne judgment. But in this matter, God has the right to order His priorities. It may not be “fair,” but it is just. It is just, because God’s ownership of His creation gives Him the right to set out His priorities. His law defines what is just.
The same would be true if a man wants to give gifts to someone else. It may not be “fair” to give a gift to one person but not to another, but it is his right to give what he owns to whoever he wants. This is the difference between justice and fairness.
The Kingdom of God starts small and grows until it fills the whole earth. It started small with one man, Abraham, and then grew to a small nation, Israel. Israel was to become a multitude of nations, but in the end, Christ will be the God and King of the whole earth (Isaiah 54:5). He created it all, and so He will claim it all in the end (1 Corinthians 15:28).
When the divine plan is complete, the whole earth will come into covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. This will make everyone one of the “chosen people” on account of this covenant relationship. It will not be on account of their genealogy, but rather their faith.
Hence, even in the days of Elijah, when it appeared that all Israel had forsaken God, it was said that 7,000 were left as true believers (1 Kings 19:18). Though the nation yet remained under the Old Covenant, nearly all of the individual Israelite citizens had broken the covenant and were no longer chosen (individually), apart from repentance. Paul makes this clear in his commentary in Romans 11:4-7,
4 But what is the divine response to him [Elijah]? “I have kept to Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. 7 What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened.
In other words, the 7,000 men in Elijah’s time were “chosen,” but the rest were blinded or hardened. The rest were not chosen. That which Israel as a nation sought—i.e., the Kingdom, utopia, perfection, Eden—they failed to obtain. Only “those who were chosen obtained it.” Who were those chosen? The entire nation? Not at all. Only 7,000 were “chosen” out of the entire nation of Israel. The KJV translates the word as “election,” that is, “the elect.” These terms are interchangeable.
The point is that to be chosen, that is, one of God’s elect, one must be in the same category as the 7,000 in Elijah’s day, and NOT like one of the other Israelites who bowed their knee to Baal.
It is clear from this that Paul’s definition of “chosen” excluded millions of genealogical Israelites, along with all Baal-worshiping aliens who lived among them. Millions of Israelites were disqualified, even though the nation (as a political entity) had not yet been divorced from God, and the Old Covenant was yet in force. If individual Israelites wanted to be truly “chosen” (in the sight of God), it required faith in Yahweh, the God of Israel.
This alone shows that one’s genealogy is not the determining factor giving a person the right to claim he is one of the “chosen people.” So whether a person is genetically of Judah or of Israel is not one of the conditions of either the Old or the New Covenant. The respective requirements were obedience and faith, not pedigree or church membership.
We might also show from the law that the penalty for committing certain sins (without repentance) could result in an Israelite’s expulsion and disinheritance from his people. Under this law, the millions of “hardened” Israelites in Elijah’s day were NOT chosen, for they had already been cut off as far as God was concerned. The earthly authorities in their day would have disagreed with God, of course, but men have always disagreed with God. Men have always fancied themselves as “chosen,” regardless of God’s viewpoint.
When we put all of this together, we may conclude that the law trumps genealogy, and that being chosen is not a matter of genealogy but depends fully on one’s covenant relationship with God. Physical circumcision was supposed to be a sign of this covenant relationship, but too often it meant nothing in men’s hearts. Apart from faith, even under the Old Covenant, physical circumcision could not create a covenant relationship.
Even as foreigners could come into an Old Covenant relationship with God (Isaiah 56:6), so also the same provision was made under the New Covenant. For this reason, many others have come by faith into a New Covenant relationship with God, and are therefore “chosen,” or “elect,” by the terms of that New Covenant. Though it was given to Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 31:31), by no means does this mean that such pedigree was a requirement to come under such a relationship.
It only means that Israel and Judah (combined as one nation under Christ) was the recipient of the New Covenant, through which all individuals worldwide must come into a covenant relationship. Those who come into the New Covenant first are called to dispense the truth of the gospel and its blessings to the rest of the world. This is known as the Great Commission and the work of evangelization.
When the rest of mankind sees Christ in you and understands the blessings of the New Covenant, they will gladly receive it and enjoy the freedom of the children of God. But when Christians are stingy and treat other ethnic groups as second class citizens, as Judaism has done, they create an unlawful atmosphere that hinders the Kingdom from growing as it should.
The law of God teaches us to treat everyone impartially and to love the aliens as ourselves
Dr. Stephen Jones