Israel and the Church – [Ex 19:1-6]

All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

Exodus 19:1-6
1 In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.
2 And when they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount.
3 And Moses went up unto God, and Jehovah called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:
4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine:
6 and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.


I think it’s appropriate that we end this series with an Old Testament passage, because all along I’ve been saying that we can’t understand the Old  Testament apart from the New Testament. Now that we’ve established a good understanding of the NT regarding Israel and the Church, we now have the solid foundation we need to interpret the OT as it relates to this subject. Indeed, we can never again look at the OT the same way, and that’s exactly the way it’s meant to be.


As we look at the key phrases in this passage, we’ll see that the NT uses these same phrases (or similar) to refer to the Church in the New Covenant. The Old Covenant has its fulfillment in the New Covenant. The OT was a type and shadow of the NT. Everything in the OT had Christ and the Church in view. If you’ve been following along in this series, there shouldn’t be any doubt in your mind about that. This passage should eliminate any doubts remaining.


Phrases/Terms:


As you’ll see, the NT writers applied OT terms and phrases to NT believers (the Church):


children of Israel
house of Jacob
holy nation
kingdom of priests
mine own possession
among all peoples
brought you unto myself


“children of Israel”


Throughout this series, we’ve been learning that the NT views Christ and the Church as the completed Israel, and is now regarded as True Israel. The Church doesn’t replace Israel, it’s the continuation of it:  


Romans 2:28-29
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.


A true Jew is one “inwardly,” that is, a spiritual Jew in Christ, who is True Israel. Only those who have been born again through faith in Christ are regarded as children of Israel in the eyes of God.


Galatians 3:7
7 Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham.


Abraham is the Father of Israel. Thus those who are children of Israel are children (or sons) of Abraham. Here Paul identifies those those who are “of faith” (in Christ) are the true “sons of Abraham,” or children of Israel.


Romans 9:6-8
6 But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel:  7 neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.  8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.


1 Peter 3:6
6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose children ye now are, if ye do well, and are not put in fear by any terror.


Not all children of the nation of Israel are true children of Israel. Only those who are of the spiritual seed of Abraham are true children of Israel. We become spiritual children of Abraham through faith in Christ. Thus Paul identifies Israel of the New Covenant as spiritual Israel, in Christ.


Galatians 3:16; 27-29
16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. 28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.


As I’ve said before, this is a key passage that provides the true identify of Israel. The “seed” of Abraham that was spoken of in the OT was actually Christ. Thus He is True Israel. As believers in Christ, we are “Abraham’s seed.” Thus the Church is true Israel through our union and identification with Him. People-distinctives have been done away with in Christ, and we are now “one man in Christ Jesus,” that is, the Church.


Revelation 7:4
4 And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel:


Revelation 21:12
12 having a wall great and high; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:


In regard to these two passages in Revelation, I’m giving you a sneak peek at how these passages will be interpreted in my commentary on this book. Considering who the NT writers identify as the True Israel of the New Covenant, identifying who John is talking about here becomes obvious. These tribes of Israel are not to be taken literally, but as symbolic of the Church.


For Paul and Peter to identify believers in Christ (the Church) as true Israel, it would be inconsistent for John to identify them to be the national Israel of the OT.


“house of Jacob”


“House of Jacob” is equivalent to “house of Israel,” for Jacob was Israel, as God named him. It was directly from his line that the twelve tribes of Israel came.


Therefore, these phrases have real significance, and takes on an elevated meaning in the NT. It still refers to Israel, but not to national Israel, but to spiritual Israel, those who are in Christ, the Church.


Hebrews 3:1-6
1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus;  2 who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also was Moses in all his house.  3 For he hath been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by so much as he that built the house hath more honor than the house.  4 For every house is builded by some one; but he that built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken; 6 but Christ as a son, over his house; whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end.


As Jesus was faithful to the Father, so was Moses. Where it says, “as also was Moses in all his house” (vss. 2 & 5), this refers to God’s house, not his (Nu 12:7). God’s house in the OT, of which Moses was leader, was the nation of Israel.


The writer of Hebrews compares the “house” of the OT to the “house” of the NT. The house of the OT was national Israel, and the house of the NT is the Church: “but Christ as a son, over his house; whose house are we.”


New Testament believers in Christ are spiritual Israel, which is the Church. The Church is the NT “house of God” (He 10:21). That national Israel has its continuation as a spiritual nation, is clear from passages like this one.  


Hebrew 8:8-10
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, That I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt; For they continued not in my covenant, And I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, And on their heart also will I write them: And I will be to them a God, And they shall be to me a people:


I will be dealing with this passage in more detail in my next series, but this is a quote from Jeremiah 31:31-34. It’s a prophecy regarding the “house of Israel.” The author of Hebrews reveals that this prophecy has been fulfilled in Christ. The whole context of this passage in Hebrews is about Christ and the New Covenant in Him. Throughout this whole book in general, it’s a comparison between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant in Christ.


The point is, Jeremiah’s prophecy as given to Israel in the OT, had Christ and the Church in view, not the nation. This passage in Hebrews provides one of the strongest arguments for Fulfillment Theology, that national Israel has its fulfillment and continuation in the Church. The nation of Israel has been rebirthed in Christ as a spiritual nation. Peter confirms this in the following passages:


1 Peter 2:3-5
3 if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious:  4 unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious,  5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.


1 Peter 2:8-9
8 and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:


Note the terms Peter uses to describe the Church:


elect race
holy nation


Peter uses phrases that normally describe the nation of Israel, and applying them to the Church. Paul and Peter and the writer of Hebrews all view Christ and the Church as being the fulfillment and continuation of Israel.


These verses in 1 Peter leads right into the next three terms of our text:


“holy nation; kingdom of priests; mine own possession”


Again, we see the phrase “holy nation” from our Exodus text being using by Peter to describe the Church.


The phrases “kingdom of priests” and “mine own possession” from Exodus are also used by Peter to refer to the Church: holy priesthood, royal priesthood, God’s own possession.


There’s absolutely no doubt that Peter had Exodus 19:1-6 in mind, and was applying it to the Church as the fulfillment of it.


“among all peoples”


We see in the OT that Israel was chosen by God from “among all peoples” of the world. We see in the NT that believers in Christ have been chosen from among all the peoples of the world. That of course describes the Church. God chose His Son Jesus to be the Savior of the world, and we as believers have our election in Him.


“brought you unto myself”


As God brought the people of Israel to Himself, so does He bring us to Himself under the New Covenant through Christ:


2 Corinthians 5:18-19
18 But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation.


Ephesians 1:5
5 having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,


Ephesians 5:27
27 that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.


In the New Covenant, it’s the Church that God presents to Himself, consisting of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. One body in Christ. One people in Christ. One holy nation in Christ. One spiritual nation in Christ.


Conclusion


Peter and Paul and the writer of Hebrews clearly understood, and taught, that Christ and His Church are the fulfillment of all the OT prophecies and promises regarding Israel. This passage in Exodus is just one example of that.


Israel wasn’t replaced by the Church. On the contrary, the whole  OT looked forward to the time when Israel would be reborn in Christ as a spiritual nation. In Christ all people-distinctives are done away with. In Christ we are all one. We are a whole new creation, a whole new entity. Israel no longer has its identity as a nation of this world, but as a “holy nation” in Christ, which is not of this world:


3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: (Eph 1:3)