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INCOMPARABLE LOVE
by Philip Owen

          Does God love His natural people Israel? Without doubt and in an exclusive manner. In fact, He declared concerning that nation: “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). He expressed that love in another way; speaking of the capitol, Jerusalem, the Lord identified it as “the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name” (1 Ki. 11:36). Then we read His explicit declaration concerning the nation: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness” (Jer. 31:3). He loves them so much that, despite their rejection of His Son, their promised Messiah, and their insistence that He be crucified, God is going to fulfill His promise to them regarding an earthly kingdom, and they will reign with Christ over a universal kingdom that will last for one thousand years. Yes, God loves Israel.

            It would be difficult to conceive of a more privileged relationship. And yet there is one: the New Testament church of Christ. Consider these truths. No one has ever been or will ever be redeemed apart from the vicarious death of Jesus Christ. That includes those redeemed prior to the formation of the nation of Israel—men like Abel, Noah, and Job. That includes every Israelite whom God chose to redeem. That includes those who will be saved during the coming seven-year tribulation period. And that includes the innumerable souls who will be saved during the millennial reign of Christ. Without Christ’s substitutionary death, not one person in any of those groups would be saved. Yet it is only regarding the church that we read this explicit statement: “Christ . . . loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). And although the church had not yet been formed during Christ’s time on earth, He made a prospective declaration that He would build His church (see: Matt. 16:18). And immediately after this initial mention of the church, Christ speaks of His death: “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer . . . and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (v. 21). Such is the love of God and His Son for the church that, although Christ’s death was essential for the redemption of all who would ever be saved, Scripture explicitly reveals that Christ died specifically for the church.

            But the special relationship does not end there. For the New Testament further reveals that the church shares a unity with God in Christ unparalleled elsewhere. Paul explains in Colossians that Christ “is also head of the body, the church” (1:18). The church, then, is depicted as a body that functions at the direction of its Head, Jesus Christ, to fulfill God’s will. But there is more—not only unity, but intimacy. We learn from John’s Gospel that Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom (3:29) and from Paul that the church is His Bride, “betrothed . . . to one husband” presented “as a pure virgin” to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2).

            Nor do those relationships exhaust the exalted uniqueness enjoyed by the church. The church is said to be “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). And since God has “appointed [Christ] heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2), the universe and all it contains—both material and immaterial—will belong jointly to Christ and the church. Can there possibly be anything else? Remarkably, yes! Writing to members of the church in Corinth, Paul asked, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). We have mentioned unity and intimacy; Christ indwells the believer in the person of the Holy Spirit, effecting and sealing that reality. Each individual New Testament believer is indwelt by the eternal God, who will never leave nor forsake us.

            Does God love Israel? Unquestionably. Does the church enjoy a favored position? Unquestionably. None of the blessings mentioned here were given to Israel. The Book of Hebrews is devoted to setting forth the “better things” enjoyed by the church. But remember, these blessings are not merited; they have been bestowed wholly by grace. Give thanks, love the Lord, and serve Him faithfully.

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