Culture is the accepted norms, practices, and beliefs that which a certain group or society holds. For example, if an individual is speaking or teaching, it's accepted for someone to have a cup of coffee or maybe even a donut or cookie while listening. Yet, if that individual is sitting down to a four course meal, well that's a different story.
Culture is developed and changes over time. As one is brought up in a culture, the norms of that culture are engrained into them. Ways of thinking or ways of doing can simply become tradition because of our culture and background. So, the questions beg to be asked, "What's the culture of the church today? What's accepted simply for the sake of tradition? What is truth?”
When were Gentiles first grafted in?
With this in mind, is the New Testament the first time the Lord provided for the Gentiles to be grafted into Israel? Many would say that this is the case. But, is this because of tradition or because of truth? Does the church understand that it IS Israel, or believe that it's a separate entity? It doesn't take much digging to find out the truth on this matter.
“One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you” (Exodus 12:49).
So, the Law wasn't just for natural born Israel. The Lord allowed the alien (from the nations/or Gentiles) to be grafted into Israel and to be counted the same as Israel with the same law, no differences.
Consider also the book of Numbers.
“One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations as you are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD” (Numbers 15:15).
Let’s read that one more time.
“You and the stranger shall be the same before the LORD”
Can you think of a New Testament verse that sounds similar?
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him, for, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:12–13).
This was not a new concept. It was one that had been around for a very long time. As the Father stated, “You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD.” So then, what's being taught in the New Testament is the same what was taught in the Old Testament. Christ confronted and rebuked the culture of the day when he came.
What was the culture in Christ’s day?
What WAS the culture? It was the teachings and traditions of men. That which was taught by the Pharisees and teachers of the law. You can read Mark 7:6-7 for that confrontation. Yet as the ministry of the disciples begins in the book of Acts, we find the traditions of those teachers still around causing problems. Compare the words of Peter in Acts 10.
“Then he said to them, ‘You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean’” (Acts 10:28).
Nowhere will you find, in the Law of God, that they were NOT to associate with a foreigner, especially a God-fearing foreigner that has left the Gentiles (the nations) to become an Israelite.
In fact, we find throughout the Scriptures that non-Hebrew people joined in and became a part of Israel. Ruth was from Moab (a Gentile), yet we see that she became a part of Israel.
“But Ruth said, ‘Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God’” (Ruth 1:16).
Ruth together with Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho who aided the 12 spies, not ONLY became a part of Israel but is listed in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1.
“Sal’mon begot Bo’az by Ra’hab, Bo’az begot O’bed by Ruth, O’bed begot Jesse” (Matthew 1:5).
These women were grafted in to Israel long before Romans 11 was ever written. God has always provided for anyone who chooses Him. The same blessings that are for natural Israel, in being obedient to God’s law, are also afforded to those who were once Gentiles. Yet, what establishes people as God's children? Is it being in the lineage of Abraham? No. The Pharisees in John chapter 8, who were of the lineage of Abraham, claimed God as their father, and yet Yeshua declared them as children of the Devil. Big difference! Paul even says:
“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Romans 9:6).
Meaning, that just because you are of the physical seed of Abraham does not mean you are of his spiritual seed. It's always been this way.
Faith and obedience
We actually find that it's those who live in the faith and obedience of Abraham. Remember that it's not faith alone.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect. And the scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works and not by faith only” (James 2:21–24).
So then, it is faith AND obedience, because obedience (to God’s law - and not man’s) is the certain result and proof of our faith. It always has been. The Word is the seed. Faith in God (the Word) is the root. Obedience to His law is the fruit.
Consider this from Deuteronomy.
“that you may enter into covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath which the LORD your God makes with you today, that He may establish you today as a people for Himself and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deuteronomy 29:12–13).
This verse tells us that those who walk in His covenant are those who are established as HIS people. It's not because you may be from the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but rather that you live the way they lived - in their faith, in their obedience. So those who walk in His covenant are the ones He calls His children. Compare a little later in this text.
“I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God as well as with him who is not here with us today” (Deuteronomy 29:14–15).
Christ said He did not come to abolish the law. Why - Because it's for us as well, for Israel. Technically, God’s law is NOT for the nations or Gentiles; however, when we leave the nations and become part of Israel, the ONE body, the ONE holy nation, then the ONE law for ALL is to be how we live our lives. Let me explain, in the faith we are NO LONGER Gentiles. Gentiles by natural birth yes, but no longer a Gentile in the eyes of God. That’s why we are to follow Christ's example in obedience to the law. We are established as His children in our faith, and it is through our obedience of faith that we prove we are His children. Again, we are established as His children in our faith, and it is through our obedience of that faith that we prove we are His children. We are to have faith in the Word of God. If the seed of the Word is truly in us, it can ONLY produce the same fruit that was produced in Christ—obedience to the law.
Like produces like
As we are taught from the beginning, like kind produces like kind. The same seed (the Word) that was in Christ is the same seed (the Word) that is to be in us by our faith. The proof of that seed being in us is in the fruit that we produce. It's never been about lineage. It's always been about the faith and walk that CAME from that lineage.
“Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7).
“Therefore, remember that you once Gentiles in the flesh who are called ‘uncircumcision’ by what is called ‘the circumcision’ made in the flesh by hands, 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11–13).
Then a few verses down...
“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:18–19).
Thereby making us a part of Israel, exactly like Ruth and Rahab.
“Israel” vs “the nations”
Many struggle in a correct scriptural understanding on this particular matter, so perhaps we should read it again.
“Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners (Gentiles), but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Israel)” (Ephesians 2:19).
As Peter also says…
“Who once were not a people, but are now the people of God; who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).
In Scripture, “Gentiles” simply means “nations.” It always has. We are called to come out of the nations (Gentiles) and into His holy (set apart) nation. It's truly that simple.
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
We are a holy “nation” – singular; not “nations” or “Gentiles.” Consider how this parallels.
“‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:6).
Nothing has changed. The New Testament is only giving us what was established in the Old Testament.
As we read in Ephesians 2, we once were Gentiles, but now we are citizens of Israel - just like Ruth and Rahab. It's just like the “mixed multitude” of the Egyptians (alien/foreigner) and “natural born” Hebrews that left Egypt and collectively referred to themselves as “Israel,” the holy nation.
“A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock” (Exodus 12:38).
We are all ONE nation, ONE body.
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
So, what body is this referring?
“That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs of the same body and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).
There is only ONE body. So, there is no such thing as the church and Israel in the sense of being separate. Believing Israel IS the church and Gentiles are grafted in. This is what ALL the Scripture teaches. As the scriptures clearly say…
“Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD speak saying, ‘The LORD has utterly separated me from His people. Nor let the eunuch say, here I am, a dry tree’” (Isaiah 56:3).
“Church” vs “congregation”
It wasn't called the "church" in the Old Testament. It was called qahal, and it means “assembly.” In fact, the word interpreted as “church” in the Greek is “ekklesia.” It actually means “congregation or assembly.” This parallels perfectly with that of the Old Testament.
We know that the apostles considered Israel in the Old Testament as “the Church.” Many dispensationalists have said, “Israel is not ‘the Church’ and ‘the Church’ is not Israel.” A lot of doctrines and eschatology are built upon this premise. Yet, when one examines scripture itself, they will be surprised to discover that Israel in the Old Testament is called the “Church.” Stephen speaks this fact in Acts 7 when he defends himself to false accusations to not teaching or practicing the Law of Moses. Listen to what Steven says in referring to Moses.
“This is he, who was in ‘the congregation’ (ekklesia) in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers: the one who received the living oracles to give to us” (Acts 7:38).
Stephen clearly refers to Israel in the wilderness as “the congregation” (church) (ekklesia). Stephen was a Jewish believer (meaning from the tribe of Judah). He understood the Greek customs in calling Israel the “church” (ekklesia) because of using the Septuagint (LXX).
The Septuagint was simply a Greek translation of the Scriptures. This Greek version of the Old Testament regularly uses “ekklesia” to refer to Israel. There were believers in those years who relied on the Septuagint, and the New Testament is filled with quotations from it. By way of the Septuagint, those in the first century were well acquainted with the fact that true Israel was the “Church” in Old Testament times, and this concept never changed in the writings of the New Testament. It would be hundreds of years later that the theological interpretive framework of dividing the church and Israel would be invented and taught. Even though it is contrary to the teaching of the Scripture, it spread and became known as dispensationalism.
We are grafted into Israel
If believers today would grasp hold of this and see that there is no difference between the Old Testament and New Testament terminology, then we would truly understand that we are Israel—maybe not by way of blood lineage but definitely by way of being grafted in. It must be noted that there is a distinction between physical Israel and spiritual Israel. Paul himself shows the distinction in Romans 11.
“And they also if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again” (Romans 11:23).
So, some of Israel has been cut off because of unbelief. Are they then still Israel? Yes, but not the spiritual Israel as intended from the beginning. It's just as in the days of the first generation under Moses.
Compare this in Hebrews.
“For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as the rebellion.” For who having heard, rebelled? Indeed was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in, because of unbelief” (Heb 3:14–19).
Take note here that lack of faith was the reason.
“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us, as well as to them…” (Hebrews 4:1-2).
What was the gospel they heard? It was that ANYONE can come to the Father in faith and obedience. The verse continues.
“… but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Hebrews 4:2).
Faith was required by the Father EVEN THEN, just as it is today. The Father is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His standards remain the same. This same principle applies for Gentiles. Though you may have been physically born as part of the nations, or Gentiles, if you have been born again, you are now an Israelite and no longer a part of the Gentiles (nations). You are a spiritual Israelite in the eyes of Yahweh. You are grafted into the cultivated olive tree. You are now a citizen of the true nation of Israel. Regardless of what the culture you are in may be saying or teaching, if you are born again, you're an Israelite and no longer of the Gentiles (nations).
Losing the baggage of tradition
For so long we have been taught because of tradition that we are not given the same instruction as the Israelites because we are foreign Gentiles. Have you been taught this? If so, can we really continue to believe this? The real practical question is this. Now that we know that we are no longer Gentiles in the eyes of God but instead Israel, His children, and the holy nation - should we not do what Israel is commanded to practice and obey in the Word of God? This is the very FOUNDATION of who we are and NEEDS to be understood. Remember…
“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord over all, is rich to all who call upon Him; for “WHOEVER CALLS UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED” (Romans 10:12–13).
How many of us have been taught that the Jews rejected the Messiah and now the Lord is building His church through the Gentiles? Not only this, but that the Lord did away with the Law and now it is only by faith? Now those who want to come into the Kingdom do so by joining the Gentiles. But, as we can see, FAITH has ALWAYS been the foundation. It has always been faith that establishes one in the LORD, then obedience to His Word would follow.
“Having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).
The incorruptible seed is not of the lineage of Abraham but rather of the Word. Israel has always been those who walked in His covenant IN faith. So remember, we ARE Israel, and the Father tells us that we are His treasured possession if we keep His covenant.
“Now therefore if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people, for all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5).
Take note that it doesn't say they are His treasure by being of the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob but rather by keeping His covenant. So let's read that again.
“‘Now therefore if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people, for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).
The life of Christ
I once heard a pastor say that the Lord gave the law to the Israelites to prove to them that they didn't have the capacity to obey. His actual words were, “And what we discovered under this God-ordained covenant of Levitical law (is that) mankind does not have what it takes to pull off God’s desired results.”
NOTHING could be farther from the truth. Let us read the words found in Deuteronomy 30.
“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious/difficult for you nor is it far off” (Deuteronomy 30:11).
Think about it. How could the Father have judged His people in the Old Testament for not keeping His covenant IF they never had the ability to keep it in the first place? Is that a loving God? Consider the words found just two chapters later.
“Moses finished speaking all these words to all Israel, and he said to them, ‘Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess’” (Deuteronomy 32:45–47).
THEY ARE NOT JUST IDLE WORDS! Yet, they have become idle words in the eyes of the Church today. They are no longer the LIFE of the church (ekklesia) today. The church believer today has tossed them aside EVEN THOUGH they were the very life of CHRIST himself. He is our example—not our excuse. He has grafted us in to follow His perfect example and to walk as a citizen of Heaven—not of the nations.
It is my prayer that you realise if you have given your life to Christ that you understand YOU ARE AN ISRAELITE, and He is calling us today to walk in the ways of His Son—to walk in the eternal covenant. Walking in the law is the fruit of your salvation.