Dr Boyle builds his argument for there being two peoples of God by applying an ultra-literalist interpretation, or hermeneutic, to selected Scriptures. Each word is given equal authority and weight, and the wider Biblical context in which particular Scriptures need to be understood is ignored.
As an evangelical Christian, I share Dr Boyle’s belief in the absolute authority and infallibility of the Bible. But I do not accept his ultra-literalist and selective hermeneutic, which leads him to a theology, known as dispensationalism, which sees a restored Jewish kingdom and Jewish possession of the land as playing key roles in God’s redemptive purpose, alongside Christ’s atoning death on the cross. But such a stance risks negating the very heart of the Gospel, which is that the blood of Christ is wholly sufficient for our salvation (Romans 5:9, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:19-20) and that God now works in the world uniquely through his Church, which is the ekklesia or congregation of believers. As stated previously, this ekklesia is the body of Christ with Jesus at its head (Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:18), and in it there is no distinction whatsoever between believers, and certainly not between Jew or Gentile (Galatians 3:28).
As people of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13), Christians can only make sense of the Hebrew Scriptures by reading them through the interpretative prism of the New Testament. An example is the Book of Isaiah. In Chapter 41 we read of ‘Israel, my servant’ (41:8) – this refers to the nation of Israel. Yet in the very next chapter we are introduced to ‘my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight’ (42:1). But this servant is not the nation of Israel. We can only understand this verse and later references in Isaiah to the ‘servant of the Lord’ through the prism of the New Testament, where the echoing of the same words at the baptism and transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17, 17:1-13) points clearly to Jesus as the suffering servant who will be ‘pierced for our transgressions’ (Isaiah 53:5). Without the New Testament, Isaiah’s prophecy would make little sense to us.
...There is no distinction whatsoever between believers, and certainly not between Jew or Gentile
In the same way, Christians can only understand the outworking of the promises made to Abraham and his descendants in Genesis, and the Old Covenant made with the nation of Israel, through the prism of the New Testament, where it is clear that we are now all children and heirs of Abraham by faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:17), and where the New Covenant established through the blood of Christ has rendered the Old Covenant ‘obsolete and outdated’ (Hebrews 8:13).
Investigating the evidence
Some examples of where I do not share Dr Boyle’s selective interpretation of individual Scriptures or his view that these support his ‘two peoples of God’ theology:
- Dr Boyle points to Deuteronomy 4:31 as evidence that Jesus only fulfils the later Mosaic covenant (the law) and not the earlier Abrahamic covenant (the land), which he believes remains an eternal and unconditional promise from God to the Jewish nation. But this risks undermining the supreme efficacy of Christ’s saving work on earth. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:20: ‘For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ.’ There is no carve-out of the Abrahamic promise in Paul’s assessment of Christ’s redemptive mission. And for Paul to argue so is not to say that God’s promise has failed, because it is fulfilled in Jesus, the true seed of Abraham (Romans 9:6-8).
- Dr Boyle states that Jesus’s reply to the Canaanite woman about prioritising ‘the lost sheep of Israel’ (Matthew 15:24-26) illustrates his understanding of two different groups. But this was simply a matter of evangelistic priorities: the Gospel was ‘first to the Jew, then to the Gentile’ (Romans 1:16). But there remained a single Gospel message, and a single Gospel people.
- Dr Boyle asserts that ‘the Israel of God’ in Galatians 6:16 refers to Israel as an ethnic group separate from the Gentile church. But this interpretation rests on a particular reading of the grammar and punctuation of the verse in its original Greek, and it flies against what Paul teaches elsewhere about righteousness coming by faith in Jesus alone. If in Romans 4:11 Abraham, the father of historical Israel, is now the father of all who believe, then surely Israel in Galatians 6:16 refers to all believers in Jesus?
In a nutshell
No Christian, reading the New Testament from the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel to the end of the Book of Revelation can be under any doubt: there is a single Saviour, a single, final and sufficient act of redemption, and a single tree into which Gentiles are grafted in, or Jewish believers re-grafted (Romans 11), and where Jesus, the promised seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16), is the root. Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah remain broken off branches (Romans 11:17). In short, there is a single people of God, united by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-12). To argue otherwise risks subtracting from what Jesus achieved for us on the cross.
Jeremy Moodey is the CEO of Embrace the Middle East. He speaks on behalf of the organisation in churches and at conferences and festivals, and writes regularly in the press and through social media. Any opinions expressed here are entirely personal. Embrace does not take a view on such matters.
Follow Jeremy Moodey on Twitter @JeremyMoodey