Jews, Gentiles, and the Church
The ethnic division principle teaches that throughout the Bible there are three distinct classes of people the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church. In the beginning, Genesis chapters one through 11, there was one race of people and one language. God dispersed mankind at Babel where He divided man into many races and languages. In Genesis chapter twelve, God called Abraham to be the father of a special race and a new class was born. God chose Abraham’s son Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob to father the nation of Israel. From Genesis twelve to Calvary there were only two ethnic divisions in the Bible, the Jews through Abraham from the line of Shem and the Gentiles from the line of Japheth. Most of the Old Testament was written to the Jewish people with only an occasional mentioning of the Gentiles. After the gospels, a third class of people arose, the church. Israel was the seed of Abraham, but this new class was spiritually descended from Christ. There was a change in the classes addressed in scripture after the birth of the church. Instead of scripture being written mainly to the Jew, the Jew and the Church were addressed with Gentiles remaining of little notation. Each of the three Biblical classes are still in existence with the Gentile’s roots found in Adam, the Jewish roots tied to Abraham, and the church’s roots being Christ. Understanding the ethnic division principle, that there are three separate classes, is vital to proper Biblical Hermeneutics. Classes should be examined when understanding Biblical text and proper identification made to the class being addressed by scripture. Failure to apply this principle has led to false doctrine therefore it must be adhered to when making interpretation for those that would know God’s word should not want to fall prey to heresy that could lead others astray.
The Jews were a special class as God called the nation of Israel to be set apart, a nation of priests through which all nations would be blessed. They were distinct from the other nations, the Gentiles. They were set apart because of their special calling, covenants with God, the law, and their special relationship with Yahweh. Early in man’s history, God called Abraham to father the Jewish race, a calling that would show God to the world during a time of steep idolatry.God specially adopted the Jews as His people through His special election of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No other nation in all of history was adopted by God, a privilege known only to the Jews. Likewise, no other nation could boast God showing Himself to them as He did with Israel. God led Israel through the dessert by His presence, showed Himself to them at Sinai, and filled their temple with His glory. God also made covenant only with the nation of Israel through Abraham, Moses, and David. The covenantal promise of a Savior was given to no other nation but the Jews.Thus, it is through the Jews that Christ came into the world. The covenant God made with David showed salvation came from the Jews through the seed of David. Israel’s unique and special relationship with Jehovah was further demonstrated as He chose them to write the Holy Scriptures. This special nation passed God’s word to the whole world. God gave further distinction to Israel as no peoples but the Jews received the Law from God. The Law God gave through Moses in the Mosaic covenant, a continuation of the Abrahmic covenant, further set the apart the Jews to God. The law of Moses was for the Jewish people for moral, spiritual, ceremonial, and civil rule to further separate them out from the Gentile world around them. The nation was also given a special land by God. The nation God promised to Abraham was the Jewish people, and the land He promised to them was Canaan. God set apart the land of Canaan at the center of the earth, for Israel which would better their service to Him in witnessing to the world around them. Salvation came to the Gentile world from the Jewish race as did the Holy Scriptures. As Paul said in Romans nine, to the Jews belong the adoption as sons, the glory of the covenants, the giving of the law, temple worship, promises, patriarchs, and the human descent of Christ Jesus.
It was the Gentile nations that the Jews were called to be separate from and to bring salvation to. The Bible recognized the Jewish nation as a class while all other nations, tongues, and races were grouped as Gentile. There is an important distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles that is maintained throughout the scriptures. With the exception of the prophesies of Gentile history in Daniel, the Gentiles are only mentioned as they come in contact with the Jews. God promised Abraham that those that blessed him would be blessed and those that cursed him would be cursed, so the Gentiles have thus been treated in accordance to the manner in which they deal with the Jews. Ruth was a Gentile but through contact with Jews she showed love towards Naomi and accepted the God of Israel and became part of the lineage of Messiah. Rahab was Gentile but because of her kind dealings with the Jews and faith in their God she was saved when Jericho was annihilated. Nebuchadnezzar believed in the God of Israel because of his contact with Daniel.All of Nineveh was spared because salvation came to them from the Jews in the person of Jonah and they believed what God said through Jonah. However, nations that have mistreated God’s people have suffered greatly. The entire nation of Edom was wiped out for their cruelty towards the Jewish people. The books of prophesy contain many such prophecies against the nations because of their misdealing with Israel. The biblical distinction between Jew and Gentiles also lies in the fact that Gentile nations are aliens to the covenant blessings and promises that were given to Israel. Because of this immense difference, the Gentiles are separate from God lacking any hope. Paul says the Gentiles are futile in their thinking and their understanding is darkened. They are separated from God because of their ignorance and hardened hearts. The Gentiles are separated from Israel, the God of Israel, and thus ultimately separated from hope.
The third and final class found in the Bible is the Church. The church is made up of both Jews and Gentiles as the Jews brought salvation to the entire world through their Messiah. The wall that separated the Jews and Gentiles was broken down in Christ. While the base of Christianity is Judaism the church is not a nation like the Jews. Rather than a single ethnic group, the church is the body of Christ with Christ as the head. Christ walked the earth in a physical body, but now He is manifested in a spiritual body, the church. Just as a physical body has different parts working together in unity, so the body of Christ has many members working together unified in Christ. With the church, God was no longer revealed through the law and its sacrificial system but through His redemptive work as manifested by the church. This body of believers is a result of the work of Christ and was the mystery of the Old Testament. This mystery of the church age was not forseen by the Old Testament prophets who wrote of end time events. However, in Acts 2 the mystery unfolded as the church was born. Acts chapter 2 marks the transition from the dispensation of law to grace in the church age. Prior to the birth of the church, God was with his people, but in Acts 2 there was a new relation and God now indwelled His people. Not only was the church and the church age a mystery in the Old Testament, but the baptism of the spirit in Acts 2 was a mystery. The Baptism of the Spirit is God’s indwelling His children. When one believes in Christ, they are baptized into the body of Christ and His spirit is put inside them. This is not a physical baptism, but a spiritual event. Because members of the body of Christ are baptized in the spirit they have a connection with each other and Christ. The church began at Pentecost with the baptism of the spirit, and will continue to exist on this planet until the rapture. During their time on earth, God bestows great honor on His church by using them to display His might and grace to the world and they will receive great spiritual blessing from God. However, God also promises that those who live godly lives during the church age will suffer persecution. Christ brought together both Jew and Gentile together to form the church. All Covenants belonged only to the Jews before Christ, but the promised New Covenant was extended to the Gentiles. Jeremiah prophesied that God would make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and Judah. Isaiah also speaks of the New Covenant that salvation would be brought to the ends of the earth as Israel would be a light to the nations. Christ came from Israel and brought down the wall between Jew and Gentile in the forming of the church bringing salvation to the world. Christ told the disciples to spread the word from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth which was done and continues to this day. The church was formed form the Jews and spread outwards to the Gentiles in its beginning. In Acts 1, Christ prepared the way for His church and it was born with the baptizing of the Spirit and spread from Jerusalem to Judea to the ends of the earth.
The church, the Jews, and the Gentiles are all distinct and in existence today. Understanding these classes and the differences between the three are vital to accurate hermeneutics. Dangerous, false doctrines have arisen out of improper understanding of the classes such as the replacement theory also known as Supersessionism. This theory teaches that the church replaced Israel, and the promises of Israel now belong to the church. However the church is not Israel, and God’s promises to Israel are eternal and Israel remains forever God’s covenant people. God has miraculously preserved His people throughout the centuries before and after Calvary, and in the end of times they, as a nation, will recognize their Messiah. Supersessionism is a dangerous doctrine as it leads to anti-Semitism which is in opposition to the heart of God. The Jewish people are still the apple of God’s eye and the promise of blessings and cursing that God gave to Abraham still stands. Romans 11 clearly states that God did not cast off His people, the Jews, and He will redeem them. The church did not replace Israel but was brought under the New Covenant. This does not mean that Gentiles were brought under the Jewish law. The Old Testament law was only for the Jews. The law was never intended for the Gentiles and this misunderstanding of classes has led to religion based on works through ritual and not on faith resulting in dead religion. The law was intended to bring one to the realization that only God can save man, but many have been deceived into thinking they can achieve righteousness through the ritualism of the law. This was seen when Roman Catholicism brought the law into the church, and dead ritualism replaced faith for many. When looking at the scripture in relation to the classes, proper biblical interpretation will ask which class was being addressed, who said it, and under what circumstances was it said. It is important to realize the difference between the classes and God’s manner in dealing with each class. The fact that the three classes still exist side by side is evident because in the end of times God will deal with each of the classes. The church will be first and ruptured away before the time of Tribulation. Christ will come back for His bride, the church, and take her to His Father’s house. At the end of the Tribulation, Israel will find themselves surrounded by their enemies about to be destroyed when Christ will come and rescue them. He will judge the Gentile enemies of Israel and set up His Millennial kingdom with Jerusalem at its heart. This is not to say because of their nationality the Jews are exempt from the need of salvation each man’s eternal state ultimately is determined by if he knew God’s Son. Instead, the classes teach the Jews are always God’s people and His promises and covenants with them stand forever. The Gentiles are all the other nations, and their state is separated from God with out hope. The church is the body of Christ comprised of both Jew and Gentile, a “called out assembly” under the New Covenant of grace and baptized by the Spirit. Each class is separate and the understanding of the classes is important to biblical hermeneutics. While God is not a respecter of persons, He does recognize three classes of ethnic division. Each class is distinct and will be handled differently by God in the end of times.