1. Galatians 6:16 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

Who are the Israel of God?

Galatians 6:16 (ESV)

16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

Historically, there has been some debate about who Paul has in mind with this phrase. Some people argue that he is making a distinction between Gentile Christians, believers who do not have any Jewish heritage, and Jewish Christians, Christians who can trace their DNA back to Abraham. If this is what Paul meant, then he would be driving a wedge between Christians and undermining everything he has written. Again and again, he has repeated that those who believe in Jesus are the heirs of the promises made to Abraham (Galatians 3:9, Galatians 3:14, Galatians 3:29), are all one in Christ, no Jew or Gentile, no male or female (Galatians 3:26–28). 1 If he is now saying something different, referring to two peoples of God, not only would he be playing into the hands of the Judaizers, but he would also be defeating his own argument.

The context suggests, then, that this verse should be translated or at least interpreted somewhat differently: not and to the Israel of God, but even to the Israel of God. Peace to those who follow this rule—they are the Israel of God. That is to say, the church of Jesus Christ, the people who have been united to him, they are the ones that belong to God. 2 No matter their ethnic background—Jewish or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, rich or poor, male or female—all true believers in Jesus Christ are part of the true Israel, the heavenly Jerusalem (Isaiah 54:1–3), the Israel of God. 3