March 31 I Thursday
“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring…He is the father of us all.” —Romans 4:16
God’s choice of Israel was about purpose, not privilege; about service, not salvation; and about grace, not genetics. Genetics was an issue in the early church and remains one today. Paul writes, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children....In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6-8).
As a Christian, we are incorporated into God’s promises not on the basis of genetics, but on the basis of our faith in Christ. In the establishment of the early church, many Jews believed in order to become a Christian that one had to become a Jew first, which meant circumcision for every male. This was a contentious issue that wreaked havoc in Paul’s early missionary journeys. He clarified the problem and said, “A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code” (Romans 2:28-29). Paul makes the point that physical circumcision does not make one a Jew; similarly, it is not being outwardly conformed to a physical covenant, but being inwardly conformed to a heart aligned with God that makes one a Christian.
Twice the gospel is spoken of as being to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles, but the meaning of this does not imply first in priority, but historically and chronologically it was first to the Jews. Another misconception is that there are some who see two parallel movements of God going on simultaneously in the world: the church being one and the nation of Israel the other. But the Bible is telling one story with one theme and one movement from Abraham to the patriarchs, to Israel, to Christ and to the Church.
Others talk of replacement theology, which is God replacing Israel with the Church, but there is no replacement involved. The roots are Israel, the substance is Christ and the branches are the Church of Jesus Christ. Israel leads to Christ, the Church is from Christ and Christ is the pivot.
By the grace of God, both Jews and Gentiles may be saved through Jesus Christ, and become the means of God accomplishing His work in this world. In the history of the human race, God’s strategy has always been through His people, gifting and equipping them to be a channel by which He blesses the world. This remains His strategy today.
Prayer: Lord, You have made clear in Scripture that we are to be a channel for Your work in this world. I ask that You help me be a blessing to others, and put me to work. Thank You, Lord.