Thursday, 23 June 2016
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. Galatians 6:16
“And as many as walk according to this rule” is speaking of the rule he has just laid out concerning circumcision. It is a practice which avails nothing concerning our righteousness before God. As circumcision is the benchmark for speaking of the corporate body of laws known as the Law of Moses, it means that Paul is speaking of those who hold to the grace of Christ alone, apart from deeds of the law, for a right standing before God.
The word for “rule” here is kanón. It “was used for a summary of orthodox Christian doctrine in the early Church (its “consensual theology”) – called “the rule (kanōn) of truth” or “rule of faith” (regula fidei). This represented the core theological convictions prevailing in the local churches in the “post-apostolic era” (particularly from ad 100 on)” (HELPS Word Studies). It is now what is thought of as the doctrine to be found in Scripture, which is the rule and canon for our doctrine.
It is to such as these that Paul petitions “peace and mercy be upon them.” These are terms used elsewhere by Paul, to indicate a sense of wholeness, both internally and externally, concerning life, spiritual contentment, and the blessed hope of redemption through Jesus Christ.
Following this come some of the most misunderstood or twisted words in the New Testament. They say, “…and upon the Israel of God.” Charles Ellicott incorrectly states in part –
“The benediction is addressed, not to two distinct sets of persons (‘those who walk by this rule’ and ‘the Israel of God’), but to the same set of persons described in different ways. ‘And’” is therefore equivalent to ‘namely:’ Yea, upon the Israel of God. By the ‘Israel of God’ is here meant the ‘spiritual Israel;’ not converts from Judaism alone, but all who prove their real affinity to Abraham by a faith like Abraham’s.”
Ellicott has mixed apples and oranges here. He is correct in some aspects, but then faulty in others. Vincent’s Word Studies says –
“The και ‘and’ may be simply collective, in which case the Israel of God may be different from as many as walk, etc., and may mean truly converted Jews. Or the καὶ may be explicative, in which case the Israel of God will define and emphasize as many as, etc., and will mean the whole body of Christians, Jewish and Gentile. In other words, they who walk according to this rule form the true Israel of God. The explicative καὶ is at best doubtful here, and is rather forced, although clear instances of it may be found in 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 15:38. It seems better to regard it as simply connective. Then ὅσοι [many] will refer to the individual Christians, Jewish and Gentile, and Israel of God to the same Christians, regarded collectively, and forming the true messianic community.”
Vincent’s is correct up until the last sentence where he, like Ellicott, unites Jews and Gentiles under the umbrella of “Israel,” thus making “Israel” a spiritual entity formed from the two.
Paul never calls Gentiles Israel. Rather, when he speaks of the Gentiles, he calls them under the collective father of the faith, Abraham. However, Israel is always considered separately from the Gentiles. Therefore, the first clause is speaking of all who follow the practice as is laid out by Paul in this letter, Jew and Gentile who reject the false teachings of the Judaizers.
The second clause, speaking of the Israel of God, specifically refers to those Jews – of the stock of Israel – who have followed this truth. They are the true Israel who have left deeds of the law behind and have pursued righteousness through Christ alone. In other words, they are set in contrast to the Judaizers who have not.
Life application: The church did not replace Israel and this verse cannot be used to substantiate that teaching. Rather, it shows that Israel is Israel, but there is only a portion of Israel – a remnant (Romans 9:27 & Romans 11:5) – that is in a right standing with God.
Lord God, Jeremiah promised a New Covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. If a New Covenant has come, then the Old is set aside. Thank God for the shed blood of Christ who has fulfilled the law for us and who has set us on a new path, a better path, to restoration with You. Thank You that we have peace with You through the blood of His cross! Amen.