Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Israel and the Church

"His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." Ephesians 2:17,18

The Glory of the Church

God's desire is for both Jew and Gentile to be reconciled to Him. His eternal purpose, which He accomplished in Christ, was to enable Jew and Gentile through faith in Christ, to be gathered to Him when Jesus comes again  (Eph. 3:11; 2 Thess. 2:1). The Church, made up of Jewish and Gentile believers is the revelation of God's wisdom and the demonstration of the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7; 3:10). The Bible is clear that when Christ returns, "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of the our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed" (2 Thess. 1:8-10). Christ is the hope of glory and it is He who indwells the community of believers, His Body the Church. Apart from Christ there is no hope of glory. This applies to both Jew and Gentile. 

Has God rejected Israel?

Christ came first for Israel and then for the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16). God says of Israel, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people" (Rom. 10:21). However, God has not rejected His people but has made provision for them through Christ to come back to Him. The apostle Paul testifies to God's patience with Israel when he declares that even though he was an Israelite himself, God rescued him through faith in His Son (Romans 11:1)!

Is God gathering Israel?

Many people believe that God is gathering the Jewish people to the land promised to Abraham so that at some point in the future God will pour out His Spirit upon Israel and all Israel will be saved. However, this is a view that completely disregards the purpose for which Christ came. It assumes that God will rescue His chosen people apart from faith in Christ. God apparently has a special plan for Israel that is different to His plan for the Church. So while the Church is to go out from Jerusalem and be dispersed among the nations to make disciples of all people (Matt.28:18-20; Acts 1:8), God is gathering the Jews to Israel for His special plan for them. 

The truth is that God poured out His Spirit at Pentecost and Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, explained that this outpouring was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy (Acts 2:16-21). The Jewish people in Jerusalem were urged to believe in Jesus, to repent and be baptised. This was God's way to restore His chosen people to Himself and to create in Christ one new man, the Church. Instead of building a temple of stone, God chose to build a dwelling of living stones, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church of Christ. The Church is looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth when Christ comes forth from Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:18-29)

The Church's responsibility toward Israel

It is because of Israel that salvation has come to the Gentiles (John 4:22; Rom. 11:11-24). Although there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, we owe our "spiritual blessings" to the Jewish people and therefore we should be praying for their salvation as we would for a family member. The Church's responsibility toward Israel is to share with them the Good News of reconciliation to God through Christ. That is what we are called to do as ambassadors of Christ (Rom. 15:27; 2 Cor. 5:18-20). We should not comfort them in their disobedience and obstinacy but urge them to believe, repent and be baptised into Christ. Let us pray fervently for the veil to be removed from their hearts, "because only in Christ is it taken away" (2 Cor. 3:14,15).

Prayer for Israel

Pray for opportunities to witness to Jewish people
Pray for the veil to be removed in the hearts of the Jewish people
Pray for the Church to have a burden for Jew and Gentile alike to be saved
Pray for workers to be sent to share the Good News in Israel and the nations
Pray for the truth to be revealed in the Church concerning God's heart for Israel
Pray for the Prince of Peace to be revealed in Jerusalem and in Israel   

For more reading on this subject I recommend the following article by Adrian Birks: http://thinktheology.co.uk/papers/article/israel-the-church

"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." Romans 10:1-4

No comments:

Post a Comment