What is the Israel of God?
“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.” Gal 6:16
There has been much debate as to the meaning of the apostle Paul’s expression “the Israel of God” in his letter to the Galatians. Much of the debate has been caused by people holding to various eschatology theories of the nation of Israel and its relationship to the church. However, the apostle gives us a clue as to the meaning in the expression itself. If there is an Israel of God, there must be an Israel that is not of God. Who or what is this false Israel? In the book of Galatians and throughout his writings, the apostle tells us who makes up this wrong Israel. The false Israel is made up of fleshly Israel, including those who believe in Christ yet want to bind the law of Moses on all Christians. In other words, they believe that a person is saved by faith in Christ plus the law of Moses or by becoming a Jew. This group of people are called Judaizers and have been present within the church since its earliest beginning. In the book of Acts, you can read about how they actually followed the apostle Paul around undermining his message of salvation through Christ alone and attempted to convert Paul’s disciple back to Judaism (Christ plus Judaism) bring them back into the bondage of religion.
Let’s look at what Paul and the New Testament says about fleshly or the physical descendants of Abraham who made up the physical nation of Israel in the days of Paul and today. Our first text will be a metaphor given to us by Paul in Galatians Chapter 4:21-30).
“(21) Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? (22) For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. (23) His son by the slave woman was born in an ordinary way, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
(24) These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. (25) Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem because she is in slavery with her children. (26) But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. (27) For it is written:
“Be glad, O barren woman,
who bears no children;
break forth and cry aloud,
you who have no labor pains;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband.”
(28) Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. (29) At that time the son born in an ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. (30) But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son” (31). Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman” (Gal 4:21-31).
We can gather from Paul’s words that there are two Israel’s one is spiritual and one is fleshly or physical. Physical Israel is born through natural processes (physical birth) and is based on biology. On the other hand, spiritual Israel is based on a birth brought from above by the spirit of God (John 3:1-5). Paul’s conclusion is stated in verse 30, which is that the slave woman physical Israel will not receive the inheritance of eternal life unless they become spiritual children through faith in Jesus Christ. “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8, In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring (Rom 9:6-8).
Who are the children of the promise? It is clearly stated that they are believers in Jesus and those that have been baptized into Him. “26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor 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” (Gal:26-29). We can gather from this that now a new humanity or nation made up of all men who are saved by faith in Jesus. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). Who is Peter talking to? Is he not talking to the Israel of God?
The citizenship requirement in this new nation is a spiritual birth into it through water and spirit him (John 3:1-5).
For further study, I’d recommend T Austin’s Sparks “The Israel of God.” You can get it free by coping into your browser the link below.
 Phi 3:1-6, Gal 3:1-26