One People - Part 1

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).

With what Scripture teaches concerning God’s promises, no other conclusion can be drawn except that which Scripture declares; God has one people.  There is probably nowhere else in Scripture that so clearly teaches the unity of God’s people than the second chapter of Ephesians.  In this letter, Paul tells the Gentiles to remember that they were formerly “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:12-13).  The very avenue of citizenship in Israel is Jesus Christ.  How were the Jews part of Israel without Him?  They were not!  If one is separate from Christ, they are excluded from citizenship and foreigners to the covenant.  Paul also tells us that Christ “has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14).  Christ did this with the purpose of creating in himself one new man out of the two (v. 15) and the Scripture says that He reconciled the two through the cross (v. 16).  Both Jew and Gentile, before and after the cross, are reconciled by the cross of Christ.  For, Paul says, that it is through Christ that both “have access to the Father by one Spirit” (v. 18).  So whether it is a believer before the cross of Christ or after, whether it is a Jew or a Greek, whether it is a slave or a freeman, there is one plan, one faith, one Mediator, and one body; for there is one Spirit.

Before this is brought to a close, one more minor detail should be expressed and explained.  Often it is noted that the church in the New Testament is called the body of Christ while it is never called that in the Old Testament.  Paul, in fact, does use this term but it must not be overlooked that several other terms in the New Testament are used for the expression of the church.  In fact, in Ephesians when Paul talks of the unity of the body of Christ, he says, “there is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”  (Eph. 4:4-6).  This packs a powerful punch when you take this passage in the context of Ephesians as a whole and Paul’s argument in chapter 2. 

Moreover, the church in the New Testament is also called the “temple of God”,  “the holy temple”, and “Jerusalem” (I Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:21; 2 Cor. 6:16).  All these designations certainly carry a Jewish significance.  Further, it must not be overlooked that the name “Church”  is used for Israel in the Old Testament.  The New Testament renders “ekklesia” as church while the Old Testament renders “qahal” as assembly, gathering, or congregation.  The fact that these two words, in their respective languages, both mean assembly, gathering, or congregation, while the New Testament translates it as church may be the ground for some of the confusion.  However, both of these words in their original meanings denote a congregation, an assembly, or a gathering of the people of God.  Therefore, as Louis Berkhof states, “both serve to designate the essence of the church.”    Robert Reymond in his New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith says as much when he says, “The church of Jesus Christ is the present-day expression of the one people of God whose roots go back to Abraham.”   Therefore, we can rightly say that the history of the church does not begin at Pentecost, but its roots can be traced back to the one people of God finding its first expression with the promise to Abraham and even further back to the promise of the seed of the woman in Genesis 3.

This post is part of the the people of god series (click to view the other posts in this series).