When parents are blessed with both a daughter and a son, there are obvious differences. Each has his or her own distinct looks, clothing, goals, and requirements. Both are recognized for their God-given differences, and loved separately, yet equally. Even after they have children of their own, this continues to be true. In a similar way, God established two distinctly different programs and peoples in the Bible. One is the children of Israel, who were given the Mosaic Law as their instructions and to whom nearly two thirds of the Bible was written, and the other is the sons and daughters of God in the Body of Christ, who are under Grace.
The Nation of Israel
There are several specific reasons why God made the nation of Israel His “special people” (Deut. 7:6). It begins with the persistent rebellion of man very early in history. We learn from Romans 1:21-32 that even “when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.” Mankind plunged so deeply into idolatry and immorality that they sank to the level where “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” Since man was created as a free moral agent with choice, God did not force man to have a relationship with Him. However, He was not willing to stand idly by and allow the entire human race to foolishly run down a course leading to the eternal Lake of Fire, so He intervened by establishing the nation of Israel.
When Abram was called to become the father of Israel, God promised him three things: “I will make of thee a great nation… and make thy name great… and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3). The first two promises amount to using the nation of Israel as an undeniable witness of God to an unbelieving world. Repeatedly, the Scripture tell us this was one of the primary purposes for Israel as a nation and all she encountered in history. Solomon’s prayer was “that all people of the earth may know thy name…” (I Kings 8:43). Hezekiah prayed that the Lord would deliver them from enemies “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only” (II Kings 19:19). Ezekiel was told to predict a future when enemies will “come up against my people of Israel…that the heathen may know me” (Ezek. 38:16). Likewise, Isaiah predicts a day when “all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob” (Isa. 49:26). Even those who do not want to retain the knowledge of God have heard of the Lord parting the Red Sea and providing a host of miracles for Israel. Israel has been God’s witness to the world.
The third promise to Abram was to bless all the families of the earth through him and his seed. Ultimately, this was fulfilled in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, coming as the Son of Man and Son of God to pay the ransom for the sins of all mankind. Salvation is now available to all because God used Israel to produce a needed Savior.
The Mosaic Law of Israel
It is imperative that we understand to whom the Law of Moses was given, what it involved, and why it was given. The Lord told Moses, “I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments…that thou mayest teach them [to Israel]” (Ex. 24:12). These laws were given only to the nation of Israel. They were not given to, nor intended for, Gentiles of the past or present. Moreover, many further misunderstand the scope of the Law of Moses. It was far more than the Ten Commandments; it included volumes of strict requirements governing the social, civil, dietary, and worship life of Israel. It was an entire package to be obeyed. No one was allowed to pick and choose certain requirements and ignore others.
God had several important purposes for giving these laws. They were to be a testimony to all who “hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people…who hath God so nigh unto them” (Deut. 4:5-8). It was intended to draw lost souls back to God, but it was never intended as a way to merit eternal life. Paul taught, “Ye could not be justified [from sin] by the law of Moses” because it was given that “all the world may become guilty before God… for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:19,20). The law was a beautiful system for Israel, but even Peter acknowledged that it was a heavy “yoke…which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). God’s ultimate purpose for the law was to prove man’s guilt, to prove his inability to be righteous through good works, and to become “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). It is absolutely not intended for the practice of believers today.
How Long Did the Mosaic Law Last?
The Lord Jesus clearly said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). He told His disciples, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles…but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6). In the early chapters of Acts, it is clear that Israel was still the exclusive focus of ministry (Acts 2:5,22,36; 3:12,25; 7:2,51,52; 11:19,20). Moreover, these Jewish believers were still operating under the law. The Lord Jesus taught, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do” (Matt. 23:1,2). They were still to keep the law because Christ said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law… but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17).
For many present-day Christians, much confusion exists because they incorrectly attempt to apply instructions or promises that were given exclusively to Israel under the law. Only Israel was to “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat…or drink…but seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:25-33). Only Israel was promised, “And these signs shall follow them that believe… In my name shall they cast out devils… speak with new tongues… they shall lay hands on the sick” (Mark 16:17,18). Only Israel was promised, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it”(John 14:13,14; 16:23; Matt. 18:19). When we read the Old Testament, the Gospel accounts, and the early chapters of Acts, we are not to claim promises or instruction intended exclusively for Israel. These books were included as part of our present-day Bible because God intended them “for our learning” (Rom. 15:4). Let’s learn the lessons God intended without claiming Israel’s promises.
The Body of Christ
Believers today are not part of the nation of Israel. In the early part of the Book of Acts, God set Israel aside from her favored and exalted position due to repeated waywardness (Rom. 11:11,12). Today, “There is neither Jew nor Greek…for ye are all one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28). Those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ today are placed into a new group of believers called “the church, which is His Body” or the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). This is a brand new group of believers that began with the Apostle Paul. Dr. C. I. Scofield said it well in his reference Bible when he wrote: “In his [Paul’s] writings alone we find the doctrine, position, walk, and destiny of the Church.” 1
The Apostle Paul teaches us, “Ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). God saves us by His grace (Eph. 2:8,9), keeps us Growing in God’s Grace secure because grace “reign[s]” (Rom. 5:21), and grace provides a lasting daily peace “wherein we stand” (Rom. 5:1,2). Finally, “…the grace of God [is]… teaching us that, denying ungodliness… we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-13). As we live in this current Age of Grace, we are to depend on grace in every area of our lives, and look consistently for our promises and instructions in the letters of the Apostle Paul.
Israel (under the law), and the Body of Christ (under grace), are like a brother and sister. God is the Father of both, yet each is distinctly different. These differences are not intended to be diluted until they are indistinguishable. We are to recognize, respect, and maintain these distinctions. This is a key to understanding our Bible.