A dear friend recently asked me,
What’s the scriptural basis for calling all people “God’s people”?
This is a major sticking point for many, based on the scriptures in the New Testament that seem to indicate that only believers in Christ are children of God.
It’s a great question for which I don’t have a direct answer. I’ll have to see if I can find any “proof texts” that says such (LOL)! Seriously, though, there are several different biblical themes that contribute to my belief in this so this might be a little dense and complicated (In my head, it’s a lot simpler)! To try and help with this, I’ll do a small series of posts that addresses this question.
Well, of course, there aren’t any verses that come right out and say, “all people are now God’s people because of the work of Christ.” If there were, the conversation would be over. But I see it throughout the New Testament (and even suggested in the Old Testament; e.g., Psa. 86.9) in the same way some people see Jesus “on every page of the Bible” or the way Paul saw Christ as the rock that Moses struck (1 Cor. 10.1-11).
So what do I “see” that makes me think that “all people are now God’s people because of the work of Christ”? There are several things I see. First and foremost is that, “God is Love” (1 John 4.8). Second is that God (Yahweh), through Jesus, created all that is seen or unseen (Gen. 1-2; John 1.1-5; Heb. 1.1-2; Col. 1.16). Next, I see the call of Abram (Abraham) to be a grand promise for all people, not just his progeny, Israel, or those who believe in Jesus (Gen. 12.3; see Luke 3.6 and the list below). This leads me to see two things about Israel: covenant and “shadow”.
First is the idea of covenant. In the Old Testament (or “Old Covenant” as it’s sometimes called) Yahweh’s covenant was with the nation of Israel and them alone. When the high priest went into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 17), he sacrificed a goat for the sins of Israel. If Yahweh accepted the sacrifice, the high priest would then return to the people, bringing forgiveness and rescue from their sins…for another year, at least. Note that: the people weren’t rescued from their sins until the high priest returned to the them. And another key point: it didn’t matter if people “believed” this or not. That is, if there were Israelites who didn’t “believe” in Yahweh or that Yahweh had forgiven their sins or not, their belief or unbelief didn’t change the fact that they were Yahweh’s covenant people and that their sins were now forgiven because Yahweh had accepted the sacrifice offered by the high priest. Their belief or unbelief didn’t change that; it was a fact of their covenant with Yahweh.
Second is the idea of “shadow.” This means that Israel was the “shadow” of God’s intention for creation (Heb. 8; 10; Col. 2; Fairbairn, Typology of Scripture). They were the rescued people that were (on the one hand) a symbol of what God would (eventually) do with the rest of creation and the agent (on the other hand) through whom God would rescue creation—what God does for Israel, God does for the world (Wright, How God Became King; The New Testament and the People of God). In the New Testament we see this understood in the way the first followers of Jesus turned to the “nations” or the “world” (Gentiles) with the gospel. They realized being rescued from sin and death wasn’t just for Israel but for the rest of humanity, too (and, by extension, creation itself). They understood that the “nations” were to be part of God’s family (Acts 15; Rom. 8-11).
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC