I have to admit, I was a bit shocked by a recent poll conducted by Infinity Concepts and Grey Matter Research that discovered only 51% of Americans believe that the Jews are God’s chosen people.
On the nay side, 29% said they did not believe the Jews were God’s chosen people and 19% said they were uncertain.
Christian Headlines adds that of those who did not believe the Jews were God’s Chosen had varying reasons for holding this view:
- 17% believe the Jews have been replaced by the church,
- 10% believe the Jews were never God’s chosen people, and
- 2% checked the ‘other’ box, which I have no idea what that means.
But this opinion about the Jews is slipping because a Lifeway poll in 2014 revealed that seven years ago, 66% of Evangelicals believed that the Jews are God’s chosen people.
It was also a bit shocking to see that nearly 20% believe that the church has replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people.
Though the church and Israel seem like two distinct groups, from a Biblical perspective they are one and the same thing.
In the speech that led to his martyrdom, Stephen described Israel as the “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) and in his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul referred to the church as the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:15-16).
In other words, Israel is the church and the church is Israel.
From a Biblical perspective, the early church was formed as thousands of Jews initially believed that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. This was complicated when gentiles also began believing in Jesus, as they eventually became the dominant group, and this led to a visible separation between the Jews and the church.
Though this is what happened in the natural, this is not how it looks in the spiritual.
In Roman 9-11, the Apostle Paul uses the analogy of a tame and wild Olive Tree to explain the relationship between the Jews and the gentiles, Israel and the church.
He likened Israel to a tame olive tree that is made up of those who believed that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. This includes the famous patriarchs like Abraham, Issac and Jacob who were looking ahead to the promised Messiah and the Jews in Paul’s day who believed in Jesus.
It all hinged on whether a person accepted that Jesus is the Messiah, as the Apostle Paul makes an important distinction on what constitutes a true Jew.
In other words, it is not based on race. Genetics does not make a person a true Israelis (Romans 9:8), but rather it is based on belief in the promised Messiah.
So, what happened to those Jews who didn’t believe in the promised Messiah, and there were many? In addition to Esau, Paul writes that only a remnant in Elijah’s day had not bowed their knee to Baal (Romans 11:2-5).
Paul says that those Jews who did not believe in the promised Messiah are considered dead branches, and they have been broken off the tame Olive Tree/Israel (Romans 11:17-21).
What remained is the true Israel of God, composed of those in the past who looked ahead to the promised Messiah and those in the present who accepted Jesus after the Lord’s arrival.
So, how do the gentiles fit into this analogy?
Paul says the gentiles are a wild Olive tree, and when they believed in Jesus, their branches were grafted into the tame Olive tree (Romans 11:17).
In other words, those gentiles, the church, who believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, are now part of the believing true Israel of God.
The church is Israel and Israel is the church.