Q. I was wondering if you could clarify for me what Paul was referring to in Galatians 6:16 when he said, “And as many as walk according to this rule [neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availing to anything], peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. I don’t know how many times I’ve read passed this and probably always switched it in my mind to be the “God of Israel.” But does this verse imply then that the church is in itself accounted as Israel in God’s eyes or is there something else to it? I’m aware that we as believers are grafted in as wild olive branches, but is that the same thing? Thanks so much for your help.
A. Gentile Christians in Galatia were being encouraged to accept circumcision to escape persecution from the Jews (Galatians 6:12). Paul said that circumcision of the flesh didn’t make any difference to God, because even those who were circumcised didn’t obey the Law. What counts is to become a new creation, which can only be done by faith (2 Cor. 5:17).
By the phrase “Israel of God” Paul meant those who were His inwardly, not just outwardly, whether Jew or Gentile. He made a similar statement in Romans 2:28-29, saying a man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly. A man is only a Jew if he is one inwardly, because true circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit.