In this series, One New Man, I am reading the teachings of Jim Hutchens from 2011 and his commentary on Ephesians 2:15. One of the least understood, yet most intriguing and stated purposes of Jesus is this: “to create in himself, one new man.” Please read Ephesians 2:11-20 for the full context of the scripture.
According to Ephesians 2:12, Gentiles, in their former state of unbelief, were excluded from citizenship in Israel. However, after coming to faith in the One True God and believing in Jesus as Messiah, they are ‘fellow citizens with Gods people.” The One New Man is a citizen of Israel. He has all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. Does this mean every follower of Jesus can automatically be a citizen in the modern State of Israel? Not likely, but the One New Man may be found also in the modem State of Israel. More to the point, the One New Man is a citizen of the God of Israel and the Israel of God. The One New Man is primarily a spiritual entity.
Again, to adequately grasp this, some basic definitions are in order. What do we mean by Israel? This question, of course, has been debated by Bible scholars and interpreters for centuries. However, for Christians, Israel has too often been defined in terms of its relationship to the Church, which is seen as something totally unique and different.
We are suggesting however, that the church, or the “congregation or community of believers,” is really an enlargement or expansion of Israel. The church does not replace or supersede Israel. If anything, Israel replaces the Church. Rightly understood, the church, or “congregation” or “community,” as we have defined it, simply expands our understanding of who Israel really is in the plan of God. To see it as anything else is to impose a non-Biblical split, dividing the body of true believers – a division that negates the obvious continuity of the believing covenant community between the Old and New Testaments.
In view of the word church meaning “congregation” or “community,” we believe any attempt to define Israel in terms of its relationship to the church is the wrong place to begin. An understanding of Israel must begin with Hebrew sources.
For a brief overview, we note that the term Israel is first used in Genesis 32:29, where Jacob wrestles with a Man until daybreak and then receives the name Israel, which means “he struggles with God.” His new name evidently revealed his character. From this event, it is possible to see a progressive unfolding and defining of Israel’s identity, always in the context of struggle.
“The descent into Egypt of a group of Hebrews laid the foundation for the subsequent Exodus when the history of Israel as people may be said to have begun. This people merged into nationhood forty years later when they crossed over Jordan under Joshua. ”
As we enter the New Testament writings, the term Israel is basically a “people” and a “nation,” primarily seen as the physical descendants of Abraham through the Patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob. However, there is further clarification given by the Apostle Paul, a thoroughly religious, educated and knowledgeable Jew. For the Jews of that day and for gentiles who came to faith, God’s definitive last word regarding the Jews is found in Romans 9-11.
Paul begins by confirming the people of Israel’s prominent, privileged and chosen position:
“Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ.” .
Join me next week to answer the question: Who are Abraham’s Descendants?