Galatians 6:12-16 NIV
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to[b] the Israel of God.
Galatians 6:16 KJV
16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
God’s master plan has taken place over three distinct eras.
- The period of time before any covenant with humankind
- The Old Covenant period with the Hebrew/Israelite people
- The New Covenant period and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
We are concerned in this lesson with the New Covenant period and the body of believers called God’s children and the Israel of God.
THE NEW ISRAEL OR THE ISRAEL OF GOD
Look carefully at what Paul is saying in Galatians chapter 6, verses 15 and 16.
He says NEITHER circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything any longer (since Christ died and was resurrected). Again, CIRCUMCISION now means nothing. One of the Old Covenant’s primary planks is now meaningless.
In fact, Paul warns the converted Jews explicitly in Galatians 5:4;
Galatians 5:4 NIV
4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
What is important now is the “new creation” obtained through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then…peace and mercy to all who follow this rule; to THE ISRAEL OF GOD.
The ”Israel of God” is now the Church, the aggregate body of believers composed of both converted Jews and all other believers.
It is no longer a race of people or Country. It is ALL believers who have accepted Christ as Savior, repenting of their sins and who are now reconciled with God.
The new Israel or Israel of God is now composed of all Jews who have accepted Christ as Savior and all Gentiles who have done the same.
Those who live after the cross of Calvary and have not accepted Christ are unfortunately lost, whether they are Gentile or Jew. God makes this very clear in His Word.
Since the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross, there is no other way to be reconciled with God. All of the works, rites, feasts or festivals are of no benefit. Only through the blood of Christ is there remission for sin.
Now, let us take a look at what the Book of Hebrews tells us about the New Covenant of grace, mercy and love.
THE NEW COVENANT
Hebrews 8:1-13 NIV
The High Priest of a New Covenant
1 Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.
3 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. 4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”[a] 6 But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.
8 But God found fault with the people and said[a]:
“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”[b]
13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
First of all, Jesus Christ is now our High Priest, who sat down at the right hand of God. He is the “last Adam”, superior to Aaron and our reigning King.
Believing that Paul is the author of Hebrews, we see that the Apostle outlines clearly the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant.
It is the New Covenant through Jesus Christ, that God declared long ago would come for ALL the Israel of God (Jeremiah 31:31-32).
It is the covenant of mercy, love and grace, compared to the Old Covenant of works, rites and rituals.
Whereas God once wrote His laws TO those under the Old Covenant, He now writes His laws IN those who accept Christ as Lord. He will give believers understanding of His law and they shall practice them. His laws are written in our minds and our hearts.
The great theologian of old, Matthew Henry states “this New Covenant is established on better promises, more spiritual and absolute promises and eternal blessings. It contains promises of the glory of heaven, which were more obscurely shadowed by the promises of the land of Canaan, a type of heaven.”
Under the New Covenant, believers will grow more and more acquainted with God. Verse 11 says “they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest.” Instruction in God’s law is not the sole responsibility of a solitary high priest and small group of priests. No, there will be pastors, teachers, singers, family members, neighbor to neighbor, in fact all believers, who will be the light of the world in their words and actions. There shall be a mighty increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the spreading of His word and teachings.
The Old Covenant was not sure or steadfast, because the Jews continued NOT in that covenant and the Lord regarded them not (Hebrews 8:9). It was also not found faultless. It was only a schoolmaster, to bring us to Jesus Christ and the New Covenant.
Again, per Matthew Henry, “the Old Covenant ended at the death of Christ, now vanishing and perishing along with the Levitical priesthood with it.”
Jesus Christ is now our reigning King and final High Priest.
Finally, in these scriptures the Apostle talks about the gift of the New Covenant being free. It doesn’t require any work or merit on our part. It is a full pardon of our sins, when we ask for forgiveness. The slate is wiped clean, and God remembers them no more.
God’s master plan culminated in the sacrificial death of His son Jesus Christ, as an atonement for the sins of humankind.
We don’t have to observe feasts or rituals or have a high priest make annual atonement for us.
If we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and repent of our sins, a new creature is born, and God removes our past sins as far as the east is from the west.
The New Covenant is a covenant of grace, and all believers are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:23-29 NIV
23 Before the coming of this faith,[a] we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Paul says in Romans 11:26 “that all Israel shall be saved.” After the death and resurrection of Christ, “all Israel” is the combination of converted Jews and all other believers.
If we are born again Christians, we are Abraham's seed and part of the “Israel of God” or the “New Israel” and joint heirs with Christ.
If one is a Jew adhering to the Old Covenant Law, or if one is a non-Jew/Gentile, who has not accepted Christ, then they are not part of the “Israel of God” and salvation is not theirs.
CHOSEN, ROYAL, HOLY and SPECIAL
1 Peter 2:9 NIV
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
In closing, as a believer in Jesus Christ, the Apostle Peter tells us that we are the following:
- A chosen people of God
- A royal priesthood
- A holy nation
- God’s special possession
As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, we are now the New Israel…THE ISRAEL OF GOD.
Let us close in prayer, thanking God for the cross of Calvary and the New Covenant of grace, mercy and love.