If we would take the basics of the Christian faith seriously, then we must begin with what Jesus actually said.
Of One People of God

Jesus said: "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16).

By the words this fold Jesus refers to His believing sheep gathered out of Israel. They were the true flock of Jesus Christ, true spiritual Israel. As God's people in the Old Testament, Israel in its national existence was the visible manifestation in the world of God's church.

Yet it was never true of the whole nation, head for head, that they were God's people. Jesus says unto unbelieving Israel, "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep," (John 10:26) Note also what Jesus says to Nicodemus, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). The Jews were the seed of Abraham after the flesh by their natural birth, but they were not the true spiritual seed of Abraham, for Abraham believed God. Jesus said unto them, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham," (John 8:39, 40). The nation of Israel as such was never the people of God.

This is also the testimony of the Word of God which declares, "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel," Rom. 9:6. Not all the descendants of Israel, that is, Jacob, were the true Israel, the true spiritual Israel, the people of God. Israel as a nation was never head for head the chosen people of God. The nation was a visible form of the church. In it was true believing Israel, but it was never the whole nation. Only those born by the power of grace, as Isaac was, were true children of the promise. "The children of the promise are counted for the seed," not the children "of the flesh," Rom. 9:8.

Moreover it was the purpose of Christ to bring the believing remnant, the true Israel of God of this fold into the blessings of the promises revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus taught His disciples, "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem," (Luke 24:46, 47). It was also God's purpose to leave unbelieving Israel, and that outward manifestation of the Old Testament form of the church institute, as a nation, an empty shell. Thus Jesus says, "behold your house is left to you desolate," (Matthew 23:38). Not only so, but God would erase the visible form of that Old Testament institution. The temple with its altar and priesthood would be destroyed. Thus Jesus speaks of the destruction of the temple. He says, "There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down," (Matt. 24:2).

Rather it was Jesus' purpose, beginning with Jerusalem and this fold of believing Israel, to gather other sheep not of that fold, that is, the Gentiles, as He said "...Other sheep I have," (John 10:16). They too must be brought into the fold of His people, but now out of the nations. They are gathered into the one fellowship of salvation as the flock of Christ, "one fold and one shepherd," (John 10:16). Jesus did not set aside the true Israel of God for an interim while He turned to work with the Gentiles, but brought Israel into the church as the basis of the New Testament church. Jesus does not preach a special future for national Israel but that His church is the true Israel of God by faith. Into that church He brings the sheep given Him of the Gentiles. This being "given Him" of the Gentiles is the work of the Spirit and not the flesh. And the Gentiles believe, as did Abraham. Therefore the apostle Paul says, "And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed," (Galatians 3:29).

This is also the instruction of the Word of God in other passages. The Gentiles once stood outside the kingdom of God in its earthly manifestation which was Israel. As such they stood also outside the blessings of salvation. Hence we read, "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past gentiles in the flesh...that at that time ye 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," (Eph. 2:11, 12). Israel, as the manifestation of the kingdom of God, possessed Christ by promise. From those blessings of salvation the Gentiles were once excluded. But now Christ has died and risen again, accomplishing the true sacrifice for sins of which the Old Testament sacrifices spoke. The effect has been to bring the promises to fulfillment in Christ, to fulfill the law and raise the kingdom of God to a new spiritual realization whose end is in heaven. The result is that the Gentiles who were afar off have now been brought near. "But now in Christ ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ," Eph 2:13. The result is that the Gentiles are now citizens of the true spiritual Israel, the heavenly kingdom of God in its spiritual fulfillment. "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God," (Eph 2:19). In the light of this the New Testament church, in Christ sitting upon God's throne, has the glorified throne of David (Rev. 3:7). It is become by the Spirit the true spiritual temple of God (Eph. 2:21, 22) It has the true sacrifice, the cross. It has the true manna, Jesus Christ, the living bread. It has the priest-king after the order of Melchesidec (Heb. 5:10). It is come into the true city of God and the true Zion (Heb. 12:22, 23) which are spiritual and heavenly.

Not only so but that New Testament church has its consummation in the coming of Christ. It is, with all the saints of both the Old and New Testaments, His bride (Eph. 5:25-27). That bride in her glory is also the new heavenly city of God, New Jerusalem, (Rev. 21:2). It possesses the true promised land, which the saints in the Old Testament were seeking, "a better country, that is an heavenly," Heb. 11:15 (see also Heb. 11:10-16). For the promise to Abraham of which Canaan was only a shadow was that he should be "heir of the world," Rom. 4:13. That promise is one of a "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness," II Peter 3:13. That promise is for the true spiritual seed of Abraham, of Jew and Gentile, "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise," (Gal. 3:29).

The Gentiles are now "fellow citizens" (Eph. 2:19) of the true Israel of God, the kingdom, with the children of God of the Old Testament. The child of the Old Testament church, under the law, has become the adult of the New Testament fulfillment (Gal. 4:1-7). Israel and the church are one and the same spiritual organism, one people of God, one fold under one shepherd. Jesus does not teach a division between Israel and the church, nor does the rest of the Word of God. Jesus' church is the true Israel of God in the Spirit through faith. Jesus said, "There shall be one flock and one shepherd," (John 10:16). To introduce the notion of a separation between Israel and the church is a corruption of the purpose of God, which is to reconcile all things in Christ (Col. 1:18-20). It is to rebuild "the middle wall of partition between us," which the death of Christ broke down (Eph. 2:14). It is in fact a corruption of the cross and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do you believe in this Christ, one Shepherd of one people and one flock?

By Rev. Thomas Miersma, Missionary Pastor

Index to articles:

What Jesus said about...