A large segment of
Christianity is being taught that God no longer has a plan for physical Israel under the New
Covenant, and that He is now working with only a spiritual
Israel. Many Christians attempt to use Galatians 3:26-29 as justification for
this "spiritual Israel" doctrine:
ye are all the children of God by faith in [the] Christ Yahshua*. For as many of you as have been baptized into [the]
Christ have put on [the] Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor
free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in [the] Christ Yahshua. And if
ye be [the] Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
* Yahshua is the Hebrew spelling of our Savior's
name and is the author's preference. For a more detailed explanation view our tract The
Sacred Names of God.
** All Scripture quoted from King James Version unless otherwise noted.
Many Judeo-Christian writers conclude that the above passage
proves that God is no longer working with physical Israel under the New
Covenant, but only with a spiritual Israel (people from all races of mankind who have been
saved in Yahshua the Christ). Leonard C. Lee in his book, Clouds Over America, wrote the following concerning
physical Israelites under the New Covenant:
rejected the Israelites as a nation. 1
The Israelites have
now passed off the stage of action. 2
is of no significance in the ultimate purposes of God.3
Lee further concluded:
God rejected the Israelites as a nation, we can look for the fulfillment of His purposes
only in spiritual Israel.4
Lee then attempted to explain how this takes place, using Galatians 3:26-29 to support his
[of other races] who are grafted into Christ, the root, the true vine, will become
spiritual Israel and will receive all the blessings and promises made to
his book Just Before Dawn, Cornelius
Vanderbreggen Jr. wrote:
[Galatians 3:26-29] are words addressed not to physical descendants of
Abraham, but to saved [non-Israelite] Gentiles. They are informed that because of their
faith in Jesus Christ they are Abraham's seed. In other words, spiritually they are his
descendants or his children, for they have believed in the same One in Whose coming he
Ed Moore wrote the following in his periodical The
we can begin to see that being the children of Abraham has nothing to do with race.7
the Catholics make the same claim. Pope Pius XI is quoted as saying:
we [anyone of any race who has come to Christ] are Semites.8
a minister who once taught this "spiritual Israel" doctrine, I
feel it is imperative to take a closer look at this passage and at the arguments employed
by those trying to justify the teaching of a "spiritual Israel" under the New
Covenant. However, before doing so it should first be understood that even if this particular passage does seem to spiritualize
Israel, it does not invalidate the sixty or more New Testament passages that clearly deal
with Israel on a physical basis.*
* Please refer to Chapter 2 of God's Covenant People - Yesterday, Today and
Forever for a list of sixty New Testament passages that clearly teach God's
New Covenant plan for physical Israel.
Taking the foregoing into consideration, we can now ask:
"Does this passage spiritualize Israel in the sense that many
modern-day preachers and Christians claim?"
Those who believe in and teach a "spiritual Israel" under the New
Covenant will find that their
interpretation of this passage in Galatians is totally dependent upon their definitions of the words "Jew" and
"Greek." They assume the word
"Jew" is synonymous with the term Israel or Israelites - descendants of any or
all of the twelve sons of Jacob. They also assume
that the word "Greek," when used in contrast to the word "Jew," means
any or all non-Israelites.
DEFINITIONS FOR THESE TWO WORDS ARE CORRECT, THEN THEIR INTERPRETATION OF THIS PASSAGE IS
However, it must
also be understood that:
DEFINITIONS FOR THESE TWO WORDS ARE INCORRECT, THEN THEY HAVE ARRIVED AT THE WRONG
As an example, if
your mother had taught you when you were a child that a turkey walked on four legs, had a
tail, and said "moo," then more than likely whenever you spoke of turkeys you
would be making erroneous conclusions based on the original definitions given to you by
your mother. Initially, it would be difficult to convince you that your basic
understanding of turkeys was incorrect because your mother (preachers, college professors,
denominations, etc.) couldn't be wrong! How much more so if a whole society had been
taught the same way? However, the number of people, and so-called authorities, who falsely
believe and teach a lie does not make it true.
This is exactly the
scenario we find ourselves in today. Modern-day teachers have taught that all Israelites
are Jews, and that everyone else is either a Gentile or a Greek. However, the commonly
accepted definitions of "Jew," "Gentile," and "Greek" are
incorrect. Once the correct definitions are given, a different light is shed on Galatians
3:26-29 and on the remainder of Scripture as well.
JEWS - The Biblical use of the word
"Jew(s)" refers to the descendants of the house of Judah which was
composed primarily of the two tribes Judah and Benjamin. The word "Jew(s)" never refers to all twelve tribes as a whole or to
the ten-tribed house of Israel.*
* For a more exhaustive explanation
please refer to Chapter 1 of God's
Covenant People - Yesterday, Today and Forever.
GREEKS - For the most part,
the word "Greek(s)" is used in the Bible interchangeably with the word
"Gentile(s)" as illustrated in 1 Corinthians and several other locations:
indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search
for wisdom; but we preach [the] Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the
called, both Jews and Greeks, [the] Christ
the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:22-24, NASV)
the word "Greek" in Galatians 3:28 could be replaced with "Gentile"
without doing harm to the intent or meaning of Galatians 3:26-29.
GENTILES - The word
"ethnos," from which the word "Gentile(s)" is derived, has at least
five Biblical applications:
"gentiles" - used in reference to non-Israelites - Acts 7:45.
"gentiles" - used in reference to heathens - I Corinthians 12:2.
"nations" - used in reference to a multitude of people; specifically the whole
human race - Acts 17:26.
"nation" - used in reference to the Jewish people, descendants of the house of
Judah - Luke 7:3-5.
"Gentiles" - used in reference to Israelites, descendants of the house of Israel.
* For a more exhaustive explanation
please refer to Chapter 1 of God's
Covenant People - Yesterday ,Today and Forever.
[Editor's Note: In the following verse, it is Paul referring
to Israelites of the House of Israel as "gentiles", indicating that even though
he considers himself to be an Israelite of the Tribe of Benjamin, of the House of Judah,
he still considers Israelites of the House of Israel to be "gentiles" while
those of the House of Judah are "jews":
In the following verse, Paul uses the same word
in reference to NON-Israelites, demonstrating that the English word "gentile",
translated from the Greek word "ethnos", can refer to both Israelites and
non-Israelites, depending on the context:
Rom 9:24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of
Acts 7:45 Which also our fathers
that came after brought in with Joshua into the possession of the Gentiles,
whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
It demonstrates the falsity of the notion by many Americans that
"gentile" always refers to non-jews.]
can be seen, there is more than one possible application for the word "ethnos."
It can refer to either Israelites or non-Israelite gentiles. It is foolish, if not
dishonest, for anyone to randomly select the interpretation which happens to suit his
doctrinal position and apply it to a particular passage. The context must be taken into
consideration and studied to determine which of the interpretations is the correct
CONTEXT OF GALATIANS
So what does the context of Galatians tell us about these Greeks or Gentiles? We should
begin by asking: "To whom was the book of Galatians written?"
an apostle ... and all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia. (Galatians
the understanding that the word "church" means those "called out" or
"saved in Yahshua," it is obvious that the Apostle Paul was addressing this
epistle to those of Galatia who had responded to the call of salvation. We
must now ask, "Who were these Galatians who responded to the gospel?" If we turn
to the first epistle written by the Apostle Peter we find an important clue in answering
this second question:
an apostle of Yahshua [the] Christ, to the strangers
scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia,
Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.... (1 Peter 1:1)
phrase "strangers scattered" is also rendered "sojourners of the
"Israelite resident(s) in Gentile countries,"
10 and is the same Greek noun as found in James 1:1:
a servant of God and of the Lord Yahshua [the] Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered [dispersed,
NASV] abroad, greeting.
this understanding, 1 Peter 1:1 can be interpreted and understood to say:
... to the strangers, Israelites of the dispersion
scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia,
Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia....
of the Israelites, after being taken captive by the Assyrians, migrated and made their
residence in the country of Galatia. These Israelites were some of the
people Peter addressed in his first epistle. Thus it would be safe to say that when the
Apostle Paul, who was contemporary with the Apostle Peter, wrote to those in Galatia, he
was writing to some of these same people. This, alone, does not prove that the
"Greeks" mentioned in Galatians 3:28 were Israelite Gentiles, but it certainly
deserves consideration in our attempt to discover their identity. Let us now examine the
context of Galatians 3:
ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
verse is also often quoted in an attempt to spiritualize Israel in the New
Testament. But this verse taken alone as it is translated in our modern English versions
of the Bible does not support the concept that Israel is merely spiritual. If the word "they" spoken of in this verse
refers to non-Israelite Gentiles, then one must conclude that the children of Abraham are spiritual children rather than physical children. On the other hand, if the word "they" refers to literal
Israelites from either the house of Judah or the house of Israel, then one must conclude
that only those physical Israelites who are of faith are to be considered true children of Abraham. The remaining physical
Israelites would be an anathema, just as the house of Israel had become when God divorced
her (Jeremiah 3:8; etc.) at an earlier time in her history.
Nothing can be
proven by proponents of either position using this verse as it is translated in most of
our modern-day English versions. However, if one takes a look at The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by
Pastor Alfred Marshall, another clue is provided which helps determine the correct
ye then that the [ones] of faith, these sons
are of Abraham.11
other words, those who are already physical sons (Israelites) and who are of faith are reckoned as being truly "of Abraham."
We find a similar
expression in 1 Peter 3 which acts as an additional witness:
Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is
right without being frightened by any fear. (1 Peter 3:6, NASV)
wrote his first epistle to Israelites of the dispersion; consequently, verse 6 can be
interpreted and understood to say:
[who are the physical daughters of Sarah] have [truly] become her children if you do what
is right without being frightened by any fear. (1 Peter 3:6)
when using the literal translation of Galatians 3:7 we are not provided enough evidence to
determine the correct application for the word "Greek" in verse 28. Therefore,
further study in Galatians 3 is necessary:
before faith came, we were kept under the
law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto [the] Christ, that
we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (Galatians
are the "we" whom Paul is addressing in these verses? Clearly they are the same
people as the "ye" (you) whom he addresses in verses 26 and 27:
ye are all the children of God by faith in
[the] Christ Yahshua. For as many of you as
have been baptized into [the] Christ have put on [the] Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27)
"ye" in verses 26 and 27 is represented as either "Jew" or
"Greek" in verse 28; thus we can safely conclude that the "we" of
verses 23-25 are both Jews and Greeks. Paul described those people, who are both Jews and
Greeks, as being "under the law." Which people had been given the law or were
considered under the law? This description fits only one group of people - Israel.
Consider carefully the Scriptures quoted below:
Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance
[possession, NASV] of the congregation of Jacob.
For He established
a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel,
which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children. (Psalm
...who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth [belongs, NASV] the
adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the
giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. (Romans 9:4)
Scriptures plainly teach what every preacher across this land already knows: the Law was
given to the Israelites, it belonged to them, and they were under its requirements. It not
only was given to the Israelites as their possession, it was given exclusively to Israelites as their possession. This
exclusiveness is made clear in the following passage:
He sheweth his words to Jacob, his statutes and
his judgments ["laws," Moffatt translation], unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for
his judgments ["commands," Moffatt translation], they have not known them. Praise Yah! (Psalm
irrefutable evidence correctly identifies the "Greek(s)" of Galatians 3:28. They
can be no one else but Israelite Gentiles. Let us look at further evidence which confirms
this conclusion. In our examination of the context thus far, we have reviewed the three
verses immediately preceding the passage in question. Let us now examine the five verses
which immediately follow it:
I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though
he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the
father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the
world: but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman,
made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the
adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:1-5)
are provided with three clues in this passage. "Under
the law" is the first clue which has already been reviewed from verses
The second clue is
uncovered when we are told that Yahshua came to "REDEEM
them that were under the law." Notice it says nothing about redeeming
those who were not under the Law. Why not? Why would Yahshua not want to redeem
non-Israelites as well? Simply put, He could not! He could
purchase them, but He could not redeem
them. The reason is simple when one understands that the word "redeem" means to
"buy back". Only people who had once been the possession of Yahweh could be
bought back or redeemed. Which people had previously been Yahweh's possession?
'Now therefore, if ye will obey my [Yahweh's] voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye
shall be a peculiar treasure [possession,
NASV] unto me above all people; for all the
earth is mine; and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are
the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel."
For thou [Israel,
see Deuteronomy 6:4] art an holy people unto Yahweh thy God; Yahweh thy God hath chosen
thee to be a special people unto himself [a
people for His own possession, NASV], above all people
that are upon the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6)
is quite clear, only Israelites had been the "possession" of Yahweh, and only
Israelites who had subsequently been divorced and rejected by Yahweh could be bought back
or redeemed by Yahweh. Both Old and New Testaments attest to the accuracy of these
the Redeemer shall come to Zion,
and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob,
saith Yahweh. (Isaiah 59:20)
Blessed be the Lord
God of Israel, for he hath
visited and redeemed his people. (Luke 1:68)
But we [the two on
the road to Emmaus with Yahshua after His resurrection] trusted that it had been he [Yahshua] which
should have redeemed Israel. (Luke 24:21)
again we have evidence which points us to the correct choice in identifying the
"Greeks" spoken of in Galatians 3. They must be Israelite Gentiles because only
Israelites could be redeemed by Yahshua.
The third clue is
found in the word "adoption." To
whom do the Scriptures say the adoption belongs?
are Israelites, to whom pertaineth [belongs,
NASV] the adoption, and the glory, and the
covenants, and the giving of the law, and service of God, and the promises. (Romans 9:4)
is conceded that this verse does not harmonize with what many Christians have been taught
concerning the adoption, i.e., that anyone of any race can receive the adoption. However,
I hope that you are honest enough to lay aside any previously held misconceptions and to
accept what the Apostle Paul clearly teaches. With this evidence from Romans 9:4, only one
conclusion can be drawn concerning the identity of the Gentiles (Greeks) in Galatians 3 -
they are Israelites to whom "belongs the adoption."
The context of
Galatians 3 helps us to correctly identify the Gentiles as Israelites. This conclusion is
supported by the Apostle John:
Jews therefore said to one another, "Where does this man intend to go that we shall
not find him? He is not intending to go to the dispersion
["Israelite resident(s) in Gentile countries." Strong's Exhaustive Concordance] among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He?" (John 7:35, NASV)
addition to the previous three clues, note the emphasis placed on the words "if"
and "then" in verse 29 of Galatians 3:
if ye be [the]
are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29)
in mind what we have already discovered, we can understand this verse to say: "Only
Israelites (either Jews or Gentiles) in the Christ
are reckoned as true descendants of Abraham." In other words, Paul was dealing with
Jewish [Judahite] Israelites who were under the misconception that simply being a physical
descendant was all that was necessary to be considered an heir of the promises. In
contrast, Paul is pointing out that physical descent alone is not enough under the New
Covenant. Physical descendants are only
considered "heirs according to the promise" if
they are also spiritual sons of Abraham
through salvation in Yahshua the Christ.
This is not to say
that people of other races could not and cannot become proselytes to the covenants which
belong to the Israelites (Isaiah 56:3-7, etc.) and thus receive benefits derived from
those Covenants. However, one does not have to distort Galatians 3:26-29 in order to prove
In conclusion, Paul
once again states:
ye are all the children of God by faith in [the] Christ Yahshua.... (Galatians 3:26)
"ye" (you) in verse 26 is identified in verse 28 as being:
"Jews" who are descendants from the house of Judah, and
"Greeks" who (in this context) are descendants of the house of Israel who had
been under the Law, divorced by God, and dispersed to Galatia whom Yahshua came to redeem
and to whom belonged the adoption.
It certainly does, but not in the sense
that so many today are claiming. This passage declares that only Abraham's physical descendants, who have become spiritual descendants through salvation in Yahshua
the Christ can be considered true descendants of
Romans 2:28-29 & Romans 9:6
Two other passages are often used in the attempt to make Israel in the New Testament a
"spiritual" group of people from all races who have been saved in Yahshua. Each
of them will be examined briefly:
he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in
the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart,
in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Apostle Paul is simply addressing Jews (Judahites) who have the same erroneous outlook as
previously described in our study of Galatians 3. These Jews assumed that physical descent
alone was enough. Paul is not declaring to
non-Israelites that they can spiritually become "Jews"; instead he is declaring
to Jews that unless they (as Israelites) are circumcised of the heart (saved in Yahshua
the Christ) they are not to be reckoned as true Jews or Judahites at all.
Keep in mind that
even if Paul were addressing this to
Gentiles, he identifies the Gentiles in Romans 9:24-26 as Israelites (descendants from the
house of Israel).
as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are
are two ways in which this verse by itself can be interpreted:
"Israel" is comprised of more than
just physical Israelites.
2. Not all physical Israelites are
Option 1 implies inclusion, an addition of
Option 2 implies exclusion, a subtraction
Since we have two
possible options for interpreting this verse, we must allow the context to be the
determinant in choosing the correct interpretation. Does the context imply an inclusion or
an exclusion? Read the verses which immediately follow verse 6, and it becomes abundantly
clear that Apostle Paul's intent was an exclusion.
First, the physical
line of Ishmael is excluded (verse 7-9). Next, the physical line of Esau is excluded
(verses 10-13). Verses 14-22 explain God's sovereign right to do this. Next, the majority
of Israelites from both the house of Judah and from the house of Israel are also excluded
The Apostle Paul's
point in writing verses 6-26 was to illustrate that only a remnant of all Israel (from
both the house of Judah and the house of Israel) will be saved (verse 27). Not all
physical Israelites are considered true Israel in God's sight. This conclusion harmonizes
completely with what we have already discovered from Galatians 3:26-29 and Romans 2:28-29.13
- Leonard C. Lee, Clouds Over America (Washington: Review and
Herald Publishing Association, 1948) p. 71.
- Lee, p. 71.
- Lee, p. 74.
- Lee, p. 71.
- Lee, p. 75.
- Cornelius Vanderbreggen, Jr., Just Before Dawn (Hiawassee,
GA: Reapers Fellowship, 1988) p. 35.
- Dr. Ed Moore, The Last Trump (Jan./Feb., 1991) p. 7.
- Pope Pius XI, The Point (October, 1958) p. 18.
- Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958) p. 908.
- James Strong, "The Greek Dictionary of the New
Testament," The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Thomas
Nelson Publishers: 1990) p. 23.
- Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958) p. 747.
- For this same study on audio cassette tape, write MISSION TO
ISRAEL, P.O. Box 248, Scottsbluff, NE 69363, and request Defending Identity.
- For a more in-depth study of Romans 2:28-29 and Romans 9:6-27 on
audio cassette tape, write Mission To Israel
and request Objections of a 2nd Modern-Day Preacher -
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