God’s Unchangeable Purpose with Israel, part 7

Nov 29, 2019

The national election of Israel

We are in the process of demonstrating that the books of the New Testament were written to Israel. We have dealt with the book of Acts. Let’s move on to the next book, the book of Romans.

The apostle Peter said that Paul wrote things that were sometimes hard to understand. Well, Paul was the scholar among the apostles, and he did write, not only about some very deep doctrines, but he also wrote very long sentences. Here is the first sentence in Romans.

Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our focus here in showing that this epistle was written to Israelites will be on verses 6 & 7. Paul tells these believers in Rome that they are (verse 6) also “the called of Jesus Christ.” General rule for our studies: always keep your bookmark in the book we are studying as we navigate throughout the Bible to bring forth supplemental verses. So with your marker in Romans, turn to Isaiah 48.

There are various words and terms used in the Bible when God speaks of Israel’s special calling. Israel was called; Israel was chosen. Israel is God’s special people. These are various terms which can all designate the national election of Israel.

This term, “national election,” of course, has nothing to do with national election in the sense of the day we all go to vote. This term refers to the national selection of Israel as God’s servant people. “Called” is another one of those words which refers to God’s election of the nation of Israel. For example, God says in…

Isaiah 48:12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.

We could pull out more verses to witness to the fact that Israel was the “called” nation; but I don’t think anyone would really disagree; it’s quite clear-cut. Therefore, when Paul addresses these believers in Rome, he is telling them they are among those who were the called. In other words, they are Israelites.

As I stated earlier, I don’t think Paul is revealing any great secret here. There is not a bunch of rhetorical fanfare here; just a straightforward statement of fact. He knew who they were. They knew who they were. He is just acknowledging it and moving on.

Actually, though, he moves on to restate it in the very next verse, but restating it using another important term, “saint.”

In Romans 1, verse 7, he addresses them as “beloved of God, called to be saints.” And if you are using the KJV, you will note that the words “to be” are in italics, meaning they were not in the Greek, but were inserted by the English translators for clarity. Well, sometimes what they intended for clarity in fact obscures the true meaning.

The word called there is the Greek word G2822 kletos {klay-tos'} which means "1b1) divinely selected and appointed." Again, it points to the doctrine of the national election of Israel. Throughout the Scriptures, the only people referred to as saints are Israelites, as far as I have been able to determine.

Turn to Psalm 148, the third last psalm, and let’s look at verse 14 which equates all God’s saints with the children of Israel.

Psalm 148:14 He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.

So there in the very greeting of the letter to the believers in Rome, Paul has acknowledged twice their Israelite ancestry. Go to Romans 7.

Romans 7:1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

Paul says that I speak to them that know the law. What law is he talking about there? The traffic laws for chariots and oxcarts in the city of Rome? No, of course not. He is referring to God’s law, which is very obvious by the context of the chapter. You can verify that on your own.

Again then, Paul is simply acknowledging that these people he is writing to, were descended from the same people who stood at the base of Mt. Sinai and received the law from God through Moses some 1500 years before that.

There are other places—numerous places—within the epistle to the Romans which we could set forth for additional proof that these believers were primarily Israelites, but we will forego. I may have to do an extended version of this sometime or maybe write a book about it; there is that much available. We want to turn to secular accounts now which shed even more light on who these believers in Rome were. But we need to first set the stage in the remainder of this essay.

Let us proceed to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Again, we find the mark of their Israelite identity within the salutation of the letter.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

 2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,

We immediately see that phrase again in verse 2 where the KJ translators inserted the words to be. No, they were not called to be saints; they already were saints. Now if that statement sounds confusing, it is because we misunderstand the meaning of the word “saint” as used in the Bible.

These believers at Corinth, by and large, were among the people who were descended from ancient Israel. Let us take a deeper look now at the more complete meaning of the Greek word which is translated “saints” here. And to answer the question: who are the saints of God?

The Greek word is G40 hagios {hag'-ee-os} and Strong’s lexicon is very basic. It simply defines it as "1) most holy thing, a saint." That doesn’t tell us much, does it? But if we look at the roughly 100 times the word saint is used in the Old Testament, we will find that it applies exclusively to Israel, the only exceptions being once or twice in Job and once in Daniel 8, verse 13, where it appears to refer to an angel. Other than that, only Israelites were ever called “saints.”

The meaning that many people give to the word saints is in fact one of its meanings, as given for the Hebrew word H2623 chaciyd {khaw-seed'} which means "1) faithful, kind, godly, holy one, saint, pious 1a) kind  1b) pious, godly 1c) faithful ones."

But now I point out to you that throughout the Bible, more often than not, Israel has been anything but faithful, godly and pious. They have been unfaithful, ungodly and major league sinners, have they not?

So this idea that saints necessarily and always means someone, or some people, who are pious and godly is just not so. But another Hebrew word for saint is H6944 qodesh {ko'-desh} and it has the meaning of apartness, holiness, and separateness.

In other words, it refers to Israel as being a people set apart and separated for God’s special purpose. It does not necessarily mean they are all a pious and godly people all the time.

But it is because God called Israel apart and He made covenants with them, He sanctified them; He separated them for a special purpose and that is why they are called saints throughout the Old Testament. And remember, God’s Plan and purpose with Israel is unchangeable.

True, God was angry with Israel many times. In the marital metaphor, he divorced the ten-tribed, northern House of Israel in the 8th century B.C., and He threw her out of His house, the Promised Land. He did that by causing the Assyrians to come and deport them by the millions. They never returned. But as Paul rhetorically asked in

Romans 11:1  I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid…

But God did scatter Israel throughout the nations, or we could say He dispersed them among the Gentiles, meaning non-Israelites in this case. And what was God’s purpose for dispersing or scattering Israel? I can think of at least four reasons.

1.    Obviously, it was disciplinary punishment for her unfaithfulness.

2.    To use Israel as an example (negative and positive)

3.    To demonstrate His sovereignty—His complete control of all things.

4.    To bring in all the nations. In other words, by having Israel scattered among the non-Hebrew people, they too would have the gospel brought to them, and eventually, all would be brought to Christ. After 2,000 years, it is still a work in progress.

But the first step was for Paul and the other disciples to bring the good news to Israel. So when Paul addresses the believers in Corinth, Greece as saints, he is recognizing them as fellow Israelites. This word saints is found in almost every book from Acts through Revelation, and so that in itself is proof that all the New Testament was written and addressed to Israel.

Unless I missed one, I did not find the word in the epistle to the Galatians, but that book is a special case which we will discuss later, Lord willing. There are plenty of other proofs in that book. But now in 1 Corinthians 5, we find another clue that the Corinthians are Israelites.

1 Corinthians 5: 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

Here we notice the reference is to the Hebrew feast of Passover. If these Corinthians were a bunch of non-Israelite pagans, they would have no idea what this crazy Paul is talking about.

“What’s he babbling about? …a passover sacrifice? What’s that?” But of course, they did know. It only makes sense when we recognize that Paul is addressing scattered Israel. We will skip the book of Galatians for now, and move on to Ephesians.

The city of Ephesus is in Asia Minor, which was often simply called Asia in New Testament times. It is modern Turkey. It is believed that Paul wrote this letter during his two years of house arrest in Rome at approximately 60-62 AD. There is a clear tip-off in the very first verse.

Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

I have said this before, that the gospel is open to everyone. Because every race and tribe and nation and people will ultimately come under the rulership of Jesus Christ. The glory of God will fill the whole earth. (Habakkuk 2:14)

This salutation by Paul gives evidence that more than physical descendants of Israel were among the church in Ephesus, because it says, “to the saints”—that is Israel, and “to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” Those would be the non-Israelite believers.  The Israelites would be included in that group, of course.

They also were “the faithful,” but the non-Israelite believers could not be included in the group referred to as “saints.” But they were part of “the faithful,” they were believers in the faith of Christ, and therefore they would be addressed in that manner, do you see that? Moving on…

Ephesians 1: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

As we see above, Paul discusses these Ephesians as having been predestinated to adoption as the sons of God by the sacrifice of Jesus. Who was predestinated and chosen for service as the children of God before the foundation of the world?

Moreover, regarding the “adoption,” literally the “son-placing,” whose privilege was that? It belonged to Israel, according to Paul.

Romans 9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

Next, let us consider this passage:

Ephesians 2: 11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Paul addresses these believers in Ephesus as being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (v. 12). You don’t become alienated from something unless you were once part of it.

They are also described as “far off” (v. 13)—a reference to both geography and spirituality. They were far off because of their physical captivity and dispersion among the nations. And they were far off spiritually because of their national sins, but now through Christ, they are brought back as fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. (verse 19).

Only Israel was the household of God. She was married to God, remember? God the husband, Israel the wife. They had many children. Ephraim was one of them. Ephraim was the leading tribe of the House of Israel. God had called Ephraim “my firstborn” (Jeremiah 31:9). That’s the household of God.

Moving on to the letter to the Philippians. In chapter 1, verse 1, once again, in the salutation, Paul refers to the believers as saints.

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Clearly then, this letter is addressed to the “set apart people,” the people who had been separated from all other people to be a special servant people for God.

Now go over to chapter 4, the close of this epistle, and again we find the saints.

Philippians 4: 21 Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.

22 All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.

Paul’s epistles to the Philippians, the Ephesians, the Colossians and to Philemon are called his prison epistles because they were all written while Paul was a prisoner of the Romans. Actually, it was a two-year house arrest.

 Acts 28: 16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. …

30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,

31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

Now, don’t you think it is rather strange that Paul as a prisoner of the Romans is allowed to rent a house, and have all kinds of people come into his house for teaching, and he has only one Roman soldier there to guard him? This is the fearsome Roman empire which already was very antagonistic towards Christians, and yet they don’t seem to be too hard on old Paul, at least not at this time.

Well, we will see the reason for that later in this blog series, but before I close for now, I want to read this passage back in Philippians 4 again, so that you have it in mind for our continued study.

Philippians 4: 21 Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.

22 All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.

23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. <To the Philippians written from Rome, by Epaphroditus.>

First, notice that Paul is surrounded by believers because in verse 22 he passes on “best regards” from all the saints. And he makes special mention of those of Caesar’s household. …  Caesar’s household!? How is that? Stay tuned; it will be prominent in our upcoming studies.

Notice here at the end of verse 23 that Paul was using a secretary. Paul dictated the letter, but it was actually penned by Epaphroditus. And over in the epistle to the Romans, it was actually transcribed by a man named Tertius. (Romans 16:22)

Most Christians know that Luke was Paul’s frequent traveling companion. He was not with him in Rome during this imprisonment evidently, but he was with him on many of his missionary journeys.

There is evidence to support the idea that just as Paul used secretaries to write these epistles, so also the book of Acts and the gospel of Luke were quite possibly given by Paul and then Luke did the actual writing. Furthermore, I believe that Mark was actually the scribe of the apostle Peter.

So that instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; we could say that the four gospels were of Matthew, Peter, Paul and John. I won’t go into the details on that at this juncture, so you can just tuck it away on a shelf in your mind for now. With that, we will break till next week.

Click here for part 6 of this series.

Category: Teaching