And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.Galatians 6:16(NASB)
The Galatians heresy was of deep concern to Paul because Judaisers had entered the region, infiltrated the church community, and discredited the true gospel of the grace of God, by substituting a false one which demanded a works-based salvation centred on the Mosaic Law and not the true grace-based teachings of the Bible.
These false Jewish teachers were so deceitful that they first brought Paul's apostleship into disrepute so that the Christians there would dismiss his instructions in favour of their erroneous and unbiblical teachings.
So destructive was their influence, that Paul found it necessary to firmly rebuke the believers there for being so gullible, accepting these false teachings so readily, and he gave an extended defence of the gospel he taught which, he reminded them, he received by direct revelation from God.
He detailed how the Lord had separated him from his mother's womb and listed the events of his calling, conversion, and early ministry: "Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?" is the memorable question he put to them. "Did you receive the indwelling Holy Spirit by the works of the Law, or through hearing with faith?"
Paul's extended letter of correction is brought to a close with a catalogue of godly rules and instruction on how to live the Christian life in spirit and in truth, and how to avoid being deceived by Judaisers and other unscrupulous men in the future: "Those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them," he prayed.
Paul invoked the blessing of peace and mercy on those who put his biblical instructions into practice: "Peace and mercy be upon them," he said, and then added "and also peace and mercy be upon the Israel of God." Paul pronounced his blessing on the Gentile believers in Galatia AND ALSO upon 'the Israel of God'.
The question is often asked, WHY did Paul apparently bless the Galatian Christians twice, if there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the Church dispensation? Why would Paul add "and also peace and mercy be upon the Israel of God," if he were addressing ONE group of Galatians Christians? For there is neither Jew not Greek in Christ, we are all ONE in Him – ONE Church, ONE Faith, ONE Body, ONE God and Saviour.
Some teach that 'the Israel of God' is simply another name for the whole Christian Church… but this gives rise to the unbiblical teaching of 'Replacement Theology' and 'Kingdom Now' teachings, where the Church has superseded Israel. A literal reading of the Bible in its historical context clearly exposes the error of this opinion.
Others suggest that it refers to the whole nation of unsaved Jews… and that in some way they do not need to be saved by grace through faith in Christ but are automatically redeemed because of their Jewish genealogy. Once again, this conflicts with the clear gospel message that ALL have sinned, Jew and Gentile alike, and ALL need a Saviour. It is at odds with the whole counsel of Scripture, where God used the Law as a schoolmaster to point sinners to Christ – for the Law cannot save. The Law can only expose sin and highlight man's need of salvation, through Christ.
It appears that in this verse, Paul was differentiating between Gentile believers and Jewish believers at Galatia. When we compare other places in the New Testament where Paul uses the word 'Israel', we see that he often differentiates between BELIEVING Jews and UNBELIEVING Jews. Jesus calls these two groups: sons of the Father and sons of their father, the devil.
In Romans 9 when Paul gives some clear teaching about the nation of Israel, he says, "They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." Not everyone who is born a Jew is a true Jew. The true Israel of God are physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who have also trusted in Christ as their promised Messiah. And Paul proclaims peace and mercy upon those "who will walk by his instructions.. and ALSO upon the Israel of God." (ALSO upon true Israelites who are Jews who have trusted Christ as Saviour).
There is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus and we are all members of the One New Man, for we are all ONE in Christ. Neither Jew nor Gentile is of greater or lesser importance than the other – for God is no respecter of persons.
Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we can trace a small, unbroken remnant of believing Jews who trusted God and whose faith is reckoned to them as righteousness. During the Church-age there continues to be a small remnant of Jewish believers who, having trusted Christ as their Messiah, have become part of the One New Man in Christ – and members of the Christian Church.
We pray that many unbelieving Jews will come to salvation through faith in Christ and become part of that blessed 'Israel of God'.
Heavenly Father, thank You that the more I study Your Word, the more You open up the truth to my understanding. Thank You for the nation of Israel, through whom was born the Lord Jesus, my God and my Saviour. I pray that many of those Jews who have been blinded in part and have remained dead in their sins, would trust in Christ as their Messiah and Lord. In Jesus' name, AMEN.
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