Sam Waldron, Michael Vlach On The Israel Of God (Part 2)

From the pen of Dr. Sam Waldron:

Michael J. Vlach is a Professor of Theology at the Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California. He is also the founder and president of TheologicalStudies.org, a cutting-edge website devoted to providing quality articles, news, and information related to Christian theology. Vlach specifically addresses the problem of Galatians 6: 16 on his website:

“Galatians 6: 16 – Paul is referring to Christian Jews in his reference to the “Israel of God.” Paul scolded the Judaizers who said circumcision was necessary for salvation, but he acknowledges those Jews in Galatia who had not followed the Judaizers in their error. These Christian Jews are the true “Israel of God.” Ronald E. Diprose: “Galatians 6: 16 is insufficient grounds on which to base an innovative theological concept such as understanding the Church to be the new and/ or true Israel.”

…In Galatians 6: 16, Israel does not refer exclusively to ethnic Jews, but to the entire Church of Christ. It is the context that demands this assertion. Let me anticipate, however, the objection of Diprose cited by Vlach. Diprose writes, “Galatians 6: 16 is insufficient grounds on which to base an innovative theological concept such as understanding the Church to be the newand/ or trueIsrael.” Diprose regards my understanding of “the Israel of God” as innovative. MacArthur even says that only Romans 9: 6 and our current passage are cited as support for viewing this phrase as a reference to the Church. In what follows, I will show that such a reference is not solely based on Galatians 6: 16. Nor is it solely based on Romans 9: 6. Rather, it has a much broader basis both in the other uses of Israel in the New Testament and in the fact that various synonyms for Israel are used to refer to the Church. Thus, though I only examine the immediate context of Galatians 6: 16 in my interpretation below, I am confident that my interpretation will be supported by the broader context of the New Testament itself.

…When we employ this strategy of reading the epistle backward, a startling observation leaps to the forefront. In the immediately preceding context of Galatians 6: 16, Paul is engaged in a polemic against those who were compelling the Galatians to be circumcised (Galatians 6: 12). Paul pursues this polemic by affirming that those who do this do not even keep the law themselves (Galatians 6: 13). He then asserts the true boast of the Christian is the crucifixion of Christ, not the circumcision of his flesh (Galatians 6: 14). Following this, Paul emphatically declares that in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters, but a new creation (Galatians 6: 15). Now, in this context, would it not be startling, to say the least, for Paul to finish his polemic by referring to a sub-group of Christians who are distinguished precisely by their circumcision? Think of it. Paul has just said that circumcision means nothing in Christ. But now, according to the Dispensational interpretation, in the very next verse, Paul supposedly distinguishes between Jewish and Gentile Christians by exclusively awarding to Jewish Christians the honorable title, “Israel of God.” And he does this solely on the basis of their circumcision in contrast with the Gentile Christians’ uncircumcision. This would be a startling and, indeed, exceedingly unnatural thing for Paul to do– especially in this context. Furthermore, we must not fail to notice the parallel relationship between the phrases “new creation” and “Israel of God.” The Church is described as a new creation. 6 It is the new creation– not circumcision or uncircumcision– that makes a man a member of the Israel of God. So, to make physical circumcision a necessary prerequisite for membership in the Israel of God flies in the face of the nearest context.

…In reality there are only two possibilities available for the Dispensationalist position. Either it is significant to be a member of the Israel of God, or it is insignificant. If it is insignificant, why does Paul bother to mention it? Why does Paul ascribe such an honorable title to Jewish Christians in contrast to Gentile Christians if such membership is insignificant? Yet, if it is significant to be a part of the Israel of God, we are left with a startling conclusion. At the very end of his letter, Paul would be implicitly encouraging physical circumcision. For, on the Dispensationalist interpretation, one cannot be a member of the Israel of God without circumcision. It is impossible to think that Paul would do this in of all places Galatians.

…In light of the context of Galatians 6: 16 in the letter as a whole, there is every reason to reject the Dispensational understanding of the phrase “the Israel of God.” Instead, we should regard it as parallel in meaning to “sons of Abraham,” “seed of Abraham,” “children of promise”; and being sons of the Jerusalem above. In none of these phrases is there any question that Gentile Christians are included. There ought to be no such question with regard to the Israel of God in Galatians 6: 16. The only reason for MacArthur and his Dispensational brethren to exclude the Gentiles from the Israel of God in 6: 16 is the doctrinal constraints of the Dispensational system– not the exegetical constraints of Scripture. The entire letter is a polemic against the Judaizers who insisted on the necessity of physical circumcision for authentic Christianity and true membership in the people of God. Consequently, when Dispensationalists argue that physical circumcision is necessary to membership in the Israel of God they are out of step with the argument of the entire epistle.*

*Waldron, Samuel E. (2009-12-23). More of the End Times Made Simple (Kindle Locations 1192-1277). Calvary Press. Kindle Edition.

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About lalvin1517

I'm married with two children and pastor McCall Baptist Church in McCall, Idaho.
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One Response to Sam Waldron, Michael Vlach On The Israel Of God (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Eschatology & Interactions on the Israel of God by Sam Waldron | The Confessing Baptist

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