“Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you…,” so the old children’s song goes. Although it’s a silly song that requires the raising of arms, legs, and the nodding of heads, the song’s theology is unquestionably biblical. In Romans 4:1–16, the Apostle Paul explains that: Abraham is the father of us all.
As new Covenant believers, we have been justified by grace through faith alone because of the finished work of Christ. As an old Covenant believer: Abraham, the father of Israel, was justified by God’s grace alone through faith because of his faith in the future work of Christ. Abraham stood on the promised salvation of God in the Messiah who was to come just as we stand on the promised salvation of God in the Messiah who has come. True believers in the Old Testament were saved in the same way that true believers are saved in the New Testament— by faith, and by faith alone. Abraham believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6 The Lord declared Abraham righteous because he believed, just as the Lord declares Christians righteous because we believe.
Thus, adoption into God’s family and eternal Covenant community is achieved not through having the right ethnicity, gender, land of birth, or language. Or because of Sabbath-keeping, or unconditional support of the State of Israel’s practices and policies. True Israel is believing Christian Israel, and only faithful Israelites inherit God’s promises. And faithful Israelites are those circumcised in their hearts, those who have trusted in the Messiah. This is the way God has always fulfilled His purposes in saving His people. Romans 2:28–29
True Israel is faithful Israel because they have faith in the only truly righteous Israelite who has ever lived—Jesus the Messiah. Only Jesus completely fulfilled all of the Father’s righteous laws for Israel. As the faithful Israelite, Jesus is the true Israel because He is the true Son of God. Matthew 2:13–14
By faith in Jesus, the Spiritual Israelite, all people can be reckoned as Israelites. All who are united by faith alone to Jesus the Christ are the true Israel of God. Galatians 6:16
As such, those of ethnic Israel who trust Jesus as their Messiah are closer to me than they are to their Jewish families who don’t believe in Jesus. Likewise, I am closer to Jewish believers in Christ than I am to my unbelieving Gentile family. For our Father has graciously made us His children having freed us from bondage in order to live as true Christian followers of Jesus, as the true Israel of God. d