Who Are We? The Church or Israel? The Answer is Yes!

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The God of the Bible is the God of Israel.  Our Lord and Savior is Jesus (Y’shua), the Messiah of Israel.  Are we Israel!?  I thought we were the Church!?  This gets into the great mystery and more intimate wonders of a relationship with God that closely resembles a marriage covenant, with God as our Husband and us or the Church as the Bride or wife.

The Bride and Bride-Groom Relationship.  We know we are the Body of God (Jesus/Y’shua), but who are we really?  How does God identify us, his Body?  Are we “the Church” or “Israel?”  The short answer is Yes!  We are one and in the same, but God never referred to his People as ‘the church’ but always as ‘the Congregation of Israel.’  But there is much more to the story.

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One God, One Way, One People

Some in traditional churches say the laws of God in the Old Testament were given only to Israel or the Jews to obey.  Since we are “the Church” and not Israel those laws don’t apply to us so we don’t have to obey them.  Oddly enough, if this were true, Bible blessings they teach we should claim would ALSO not apply to “the Church” since they are based upon obedience to those same laws.  Some say God has two laws, one for the Church and one for Israel, or that we only have to obey the Old Testament’s “moral law” – an idea never mentioned in the entire Bible.  Is God divided!?  Absolutely not!  As there is only One God, there is only One Way, and One Law for One People.

Romans 10:12“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek (or Gentile) …”

Numbers 15:15-16:  “… as you are, so shall the foreigner be before the LORD י ה ו ה.  One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the foreigner that lives among you.”

Exodus 12:49 (ESV):  “There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

As God outlined in Isaiah 56 (seen later), God has always had one way and one people who were defined by those who obey him so that anyone could join themselves to him through faith and obedience.  In the Old Testament, even if you were a blood descendant of Israel and were disobedient to God you were not considered a part of God’s People.

The Church:
New Kids on the Block?

The word ‘church’ actually means a building and is mistranslated in the New Testament when it should be translated as ‘Congregation.’  The actual Greek word behind the mistranslated word ‘church’ is Ekklesia which means the ‘Called Out Ones’, ‘an Assembly’ or ‘Congregation’ from Strong’s Ref # G1577.  The word is pronounced ek-klay-see-ah.  In Matthew 16:18 what Jesus (Y’shua) really said was,, “Upon this rock I will build my congregation.” not church.  So what is the big controversy?  Let’s continue to dig deeper.

FAUSSET BIBLE DICTIONARY:

bart-kirk-circleChurch. From the Greek kuriakee, “house of the Lord,” a word which passed to the Gothic tongue … Kirk, a circle, because the oldest temples, as the Druid ones, were circular in form.  Ekkleesia in the New Testament never means the building or house of assembly, because church buildings were built long AFTER the apostolic age (Early Church). It means an organized body, whose unity does not depend on its being met together in one place; not an assemblage of atoms, but members in their several places united to the One Head, Christ, and forming one organic living whole (1 Corinthians 12). The bride of Christ (Eph_5:25-32; Eph_1:22), the body of which He is the Head.

EATON BIBLE DICTIONARY:

Church. Derived probably from the Greek kuriakon (i.e., “the Lord’s house”), which was used by ancient authors for the place of worship.  In the New Testament it is the translation of the Greek word ecclesia … meaning simply an assembly.

In my studies on the history of the Church, I’ve learned that the Roman Catholic Church, translators of the New Testament, purposely used ‘church,’ a word identifying a building rather than the people.  The Roman Catholic Church wanted to create a “new” religious system totally separate and apart from the Early Church.  bart-pope2Catholics claimed that early Christians were too Jewish because for the first 400 years of the Early Church they obeyed the Old Testament laws of God and 7th day Sabbath.  Catholics ridiculed and persecuted early followers of Jesus (Y’shua) calling such things ‘Jewish superstition and rituals’ even though they were directly commanded in by God himself in the Scriptures.  Catholics started to call themselves “the Church” rather than “the Congregation.” In doing this, the Roman Catholic Church began a tradition in the translation of the New Testament that still remains today.  This had the effect of creating a false distinction or separation between the Congregation of Israel and the followers of Jesus (Y’shua).  They are in fact one in the same.

Throughout the entire Bible there has only been one People of God:  the Congregation of Israel.

The God of the Bible is called “the God of Israel.”  Jesus (Y’shua) of Nazareth is called “the Messiah of Israel”, “the King of Israel” (John 12:13), the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16).

In Matthew 15:24, Jesus (Y’shua) states:  “… I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Jeremiah 31:33 foretells of the New Covenant instituted by Jesus (Y’shua):   “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel …”  “The Church” did not replace Israel as many suggest, nor is the Church and Israel two separate groups.  It is the disciples of Jesus (Y’shua) that are grafted (adopted) into Israel as Paul states in Romans 11.

In Romans Chapter 11, Paul talks about Jesus (Y’shua) being the root of the Olive Tree (Israel).  Also Jewish branches being cut off because of their unbelief in Jesus and also Gentile branches being grafted into the Olive Tree because of their faith in Jesus.  It is a well-known symbol, the Olive Tree, that it represents Israel, as Paul states.

Romans 11:17-20(17) And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree (Israel)  (19)  You will say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.  (20)  Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.

In Ephesians 2:12,18-19, Paul writes:

(12)  That at that time you 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.  …  (18)  For through him (Jesus/Y’shua) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.  (19)  Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

James, in the first verse of his book, in James 1:1 writes:  “… to the twelve tribes (of Israel) which are scattered abroad, greeting.”

 

We are the Children of the Promise,
the Children of Abraham

Quick Family Tree:

Abraham    Issac    Jacob (Israel) 12 Sons (tribes) of Israel

Exodus Chapter 1 outlines the sons of Jacob, the tribes of Israel:  Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.

The term ‘Jews’ or the nation of Judah refers to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  After Israel split in a civil war, the House or nation of Israel referred to other tribes, but generally it refers to all the tribes of Israel as one People. God divorced the House of Israel and scattered them throughout the world because of their continued disobedience.

PLEASE NOTE:  It is highly inaccurate to call Israel or Israelis “Jews” since the tribe of Judah is only one of 12 tribes of Israel.  It is also inaccurate to identify Israel solely by any current geographical location with borders.  The People of Israel exist throughout the world and still God identifies them as one people and as one nation.

In Genesis 35:10 God changed Jacob’s name to “Israel” which means “he will rule as God.”  The Promises given to Abraham came down to Issac and then Jacob (Israel).  One son of Jacob is Judah, where we get the term “Jews” from.  King David and Jesus (Y’shua) are of the tribe of Judah.

As you’ll read below, God identifies Israel as a people who follow and obey him, those born “of his Spirit” through Faith by the Will of God and not those born “of the flesh” by the will of man.

There are many references to the “seed of Abraham” in the New and Old Testaments.  The Seed of Abraham is, in fact, Jesus (Y’shua).  Paul states that the followers of Jesus (Y’shua) are the Children of the Promise and are considered the real sons and daughters of Abraham.  This is an important teaching because it identifies who are the true heirs to the Promised Land and of the promises God gave to Abraham.  This also helps us understand through God’s eyes who he identifies as Israel or the Nation of Israel, God’s Chosen People.

In Genesis 26:4-5, God says:  “And I (God) will make your (Abraham’s) seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto your seed all these countries; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because that Abraham  obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

In Galatians 3:29, Paul states:   “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

In Romans 9:6-8, Paul talks about those who are of the promise of Abraham are counted as Israel, not the flesh and blood descendants:  “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” and “the children of the flesh (of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed (of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).”

John 1:12-13“But as many as received him (Jesus/Y’shua), to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Before Jesus (Y’shua) started his ministry, before he was baptized, these words of John the Baptist were recorded in Matthew 3:7-10 (ESV):

But when he (John the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.  Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

 

The Congregation of Israel

“The Congregation” is sometimes called The Congregation of the Children of Israel.  In the texts above we have learned that those who are followers of Jesus (Y’shua) are the children of the promises given to Abraham and are the TRUE children of Abraham.

The book of Acts in the New Testament refers to Moses and the Congregation of Israel of the Old Testament as “the Church in the Wilderness.”

Acts 7:37-38:   “This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him  shall you hear.  This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”

There has only ever been one People of God, the “Ekklesia” (the Congregation) – the Congregation of Israel.  The real test to see if you are a member of the Congregation of Israel is having faith in the God of Israel and seeking to obey and serve him and also Jesus (Y’shua) the Son of God, “That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).   Even in the Old Testament you could be a descendant of or a blood relation to Israel but not of the Congregation of Israel because you walked contrary to God’s ways.   “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6).

bart-carrying-the-arkEven in the Old Testament, God offers the entire world inclusion into the Congregation of Israel to become a part of his People (see Isaiah 56 below).  God made the Covenant at Mount Sinai out of Egypt, but all the foreign slaves, called the mixed multitude, who came out of Egypt with them.   God called them ALL the Congregation of Israel and made his covenant with them ALL of them as one people.

God’s Open Invitation in Isaiah 56

Even in the Old Testament, God had an open invitation to the entire world to become a part of his People.  Since his mighty works in the Exodus, there had always been a world-wide following the God of Israel.  In Isaiah 56:1-8, God describes those who obey his Sabbath, his laws, and his Covenants are considered his Chosen People.

(1)  Thus says the LORD י ה ו ה, Keep you judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.

(2)  Blessed is the man that does this,  and the son of man that lays hold on it; that keeps the Sabbath from polluting it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.

(3)  Neither let the son of the stranger (foreigner), that has joined himself to the LORD י ה ו ה, speak, saying, The LORD י ה ו ה has utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.

(4)  For thus says the LORD י ה ו ה unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and takes hold of my covenant;

(5)  Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters (of Israel): I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.

(6)  Also the sons of the stranger (foreigner), that join themselves to the LORD י ה ו ה, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD י ה ו ה, to be his servants, every one that keeps the Sabbath from polluting it, and takes hold of my covenant;

(7)  Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.

(8)  The Lord GOD which gathers the outcasts of Israel says, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.

Pentecost:
Men of Israel from Every Nation

bart-id-dove-fallingA full account of this is given in Acts Chapter 2.  The day was Shavout, the day the Holy Spirit of God was given to the followers of Jesus (Y’shua) in Jerusalem.  This same day is commonly known as Pentecost, Pente meaning 50. The Biblical Holiday “Shavuot” takes place on the 50th day from the end of Feast of Unleavened Bread (right after Passover).  Followers of the God of Israel were assembled in Jerusalem from all over the world, as he commanded, for Shavuot memorializes the giving of the 10 Commandments at Mount Sinai.   See Leviticus Chapter 23 for all of the Biblical Holidays.

Acts 2:5-11:   (5)  “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.”

Devout Men from all nations were gathered there in Jerusalem.  Why?  Because following the God of Israel was not just a local event in Israel or the Middle East.  Following of the God of Israel had long been a world-wide movement!    Remember Israel was created as nation of priest unto the world (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 42:6).  Devout followers of the God of Israel established synagogues in every nation around the world!  Paul accounted himself to the “ministry of the Gentiles” (literally translated as “foreigners” or non-Israeli citizens), in other words, everyone outside of the physical borders of Israel proper in that day.   See Strong’s Ref. #H1471 and #G1484.

On the Sabbath Paul taught in Jewish synagogues outside of Israel to those who were already followers of the God of Israel, both Jews and Gentiles who were already raised in the knowledge of the Old Testament and who were Torah obedient.

Acts 15:21:   “For Moses of old time had in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”

In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul writes to Timothy:   “And that from a child you has known the holy scriptures (Old Testament), which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Acts 17:1-2“… they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.  And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures …”

Acts 13:5 (ESV):  “When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them.”

Acts 13:13-14:   “Paul and his company … they came to Antioch … went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day …”

Acts 13:42-44:   “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.  Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes (new converts) followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.  And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.”

Acts 14:1 (ESV):  “Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.”

Acts 18:19“And he came to Ephesus … he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.”

Acts 19:8, Paul again was in Ephesus:  “And he went into the synagogue, and spoke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.”

 

Our Self Identity

Who Does God Say We Are?
Israel, the Congregation of Israel.

bart-id-cowboys-and-indiansAs a young boy I chose Cowboys when playing ‘Cowboys and Indians’ with neighborhood kids.  I had the gunslinger holster with a shiny plastic pistol that shot caps and had the red bandanna and cowboy hat.  Little did I know that I was much more of a real little Indian boy than a Cowboy.

There are all types of cultures and sub-cultures around us from tribal to national origins, from philosophy oriented to activity oriented, from career oriented to church oriented cultures.  It can be so easy to adopt an outside identity and grow into the mindset (a way of thinking) that comes with it, all without truly knowing the where that road really goes.  Whether it is inherited bart-id-thumb-printfrom parents, family, friends, or work – it’s curious to see how often it changes us and moves us onto a journey that may or may not be fulfilling, or even worth it – sometimes leaving it behind, backing up or abandoning that road – starting another – and the cycle repeats and or we just get comfortable sitting on the side of one road.

bart-id-boot-prints-walkingIt’s important to know who you are because that directs your path, your lifestyle, and your thinking.  Regardless of our upbringing or family culture, when we are adopted into God’s family (Israel) and follow Jesus (Y’shua) as the Messiah, we leave our culture behind and adopt God’s culture in the Bible, a culture of truth, of Scripture, and of obedience.   We leave behind our own interests and become joined into the Congregation of Israel and partake in the blessings and promises of Israel.   Just as most Middle Eastern cultures of that day viewed things, the wife (us in this case), leaves their tribe or family culture behind and adopts the culture of their husband (God).  It’s not that we lose our identity or culture entirely, it is that the focus of the wife is to become truly joined to her husband including his ways and his culture.

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