The Israel of God

May peace come to all those who follow this standard, and mercy even to the Israel of God!
-Galatians 6:16

Is the church the Israel of God?


Is Paul only referring here to nonjudaizing Jewish Christians of Galatia?  No.

Is Paul making an eschatological statement comparable to Romans 11:26 ("And in this way all Israel will be saved...")?  


People who take "Israel of God" in Galatians 6:16, to mean Jews only, might support this by citing the usage of terms and expressions for Jews by Paul and other NT writers.  But they ignore the context of this verse in Galatians.  Could Paul possibly be singling out, distinctively, nonjudaizing Jewish Christians in his benediction at the end of his letter?  No, because the message of this letter is that there now is no distinctions that separate Jewish and Gentile Christians.

The judaizers were saying, in a sense, that by keeping the Law while following Christ, we are now the Israel of God.  Paul here is saying that Jews and Gentiles, in Christ, are the Israel of God.  We get this meaning by reading the whole letter of Galatians, which is written to Jewish and Gentile Christians.

This benediction of Paul is a "stake to the heart" of the false teaching of the judaizers, who said that by observing God-given laws, the Galatian Christians, Paul's Gentile converts, would become "the Israel of God".  Do we have their writings to prove this?  No, it is a postulation about the message of the judaizers.  Paul's statement is an ad hominem, telling his converts that they already have this "in Christ" by faith: that they are truly children of Abraham together with all Jews who believe, and so properly can be called "the Israel of God together with all Jews who believe". (Richard N. Longnecker, WBC, Galatians, pp. 298-99)

Abraham's true seed is not by racial descent but by faith descent (cf. Gal. 3:7,9,29; Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6; Phil. 3:3). The gospel is about Jesus, not national Israel! Believers in Christ are the true "people of God"! (Bob Utley)