One Spirit, One People
Paul is adamant. “In Jesus,” no longer can there be “Jew or Gentile.” The old distinctions are wholly inappropriate in the One People of God. By his shed blood, the Nazarene “dismantled the middle wall of partition” that separated Jews and Gentiles so “he might reconcile them both in one body for God through the Cross.” In him, God is building Jews and Gentiles into one building, one habitation of God “in the Spirit.”
Having voided the “law of the commands in ordinances” that divided them through the death of Christ, God has been “creating in himself One New Man.” At one time, Gentiles were alienated from the citizenship of Israel, “strangers from the covenants of promise,” and without hope in the world.
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But now, those who were “afar off” are being “brought near…by the blood of the Messiah” and made members of God’s ONE covenant community. Moreover, Jewish and Gentile believers both have access to the same Father through “one Spirit.” Having believed the “word of the truth,” they were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” - (Ephesians 1:13, 2:18-22).
The implications of Paul’s proposition are profound. Among other things, they demonstrate that Gentiles are now full participants in the Abrahamic Covenant through Jesus. Circumcised or not, his disciples are heirs of the promises.
Jewish and Gentile believers become “fellow citizens and members of the household of God…having been built together into the habitation of God in Spirit.” Similarly, to the assemblies in Galatia, Paul wrote:
- “But now that the faith is come, we are no longer under a custodian, for you are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise” - (Galatians 3:25-29).
No longer is his disciple under the custodianship of the Mosaic Legislation, including the ordinance of circumcision. Whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free, all are now One People by means of one baptism, and “through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Thus, justification before God and membership in His people are not dependent on gender, nationality, or biological descent. What determines entry to the covenant community is repentance, faith in Jesus, baptism into him, and the Spirit.
CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM
Gentile believers are “grafted into the root,” and that “root” is Abraham. The “wild branches” are being grafted in by God’s Spirit based on faith, not the deeds and rites required by the Law. But unbelieving Jews, although they are the “natural branches” and possess the Law of Moses, are being cut off because of “unbelief” - (Romans 11:11-24).
When God confirmed His Covenant with Abraham, He promised to make him the “father of a multitude of nations.” The “nations” were always included in the covenant promises. Moreover, He promised to “establish my covenant between me and you, and your seed after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant.” This raises the question - Who is the seed of Abraham?
Paul provides a clear and definitive answer. The “seed of Abraham” is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, therefore, the group known as the “children of Abraham” includes all men and women who exercise faith in him - (Galatians 3:7-9).
The Abrahamic Covenant always envisioned the inclusion of the Gentiles. The formation of Israel from the loins of Abraham was an initial stage in God’s larger plan of redemption. Since the “seed of Abraham” has arrived, to return to the ethnic and national divisions of the earlier but incomplete revelation is regression.
At Mount Sinai, Yahweh summoned Israel to become his peculiar possession, a priestly kingdom tasked with mediating His light to the nations. “All the earth” was His, not just the nation of Israel or the tiny territory of Canaan. Israel was called to bring the “nations” to Yahweh, not to alienate them from Him - – (Exodus 19:5).
In his first epistle, Peter applies this very passage to the largely Gentile congregations “in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia”:
- “But you yourselves are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, who were no-people, but now are the people of God; who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” – (1 Peter 2:5-10).
The calling given to Israel has fallen to the church, the Assembly of God, the “body of Christ” comprised of all those who have been “sealed by the Holy Spirit.” Inclusion in this One “People of God” is based on the “faith of Jesus” and faith in him in response to his faithful act. In contrast, exclusion from the community is the result of unbelief and disobedience.
God did not abandon His promises to Abraham. He is fulfilling them in His Son and by means of His Spirit. He is making salvation available to all men and women for the asking, and on the same basis for all, the “faith of Jesus Christ.” Therefore, there can be only one covenant COMMUNITY, One People of God.