The link below will take you to an article published by Charles Spurgeon in his magazine “Sword and Trowel” published in March, 1867. The article is written in response to the Dispensationalist crisis that was beginning to simmer in his day and served as a rebuttal to articles lately being published by Plymouth Brethren in their magazine “Things New and Old”. The title of the article is “Old Testament Saints: Members of the Church”, and it deals with the question of whether there is one or two peoples of God – one faith or two?
“There Be Some That Trouble You” (Gal 1:7)
A few brief notes follow:
The early gentile believers were keenly aware that in believing in Jesus Christ, they were joining themselves to the one true people of God – the Hebrew descendants of Abraham “to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises…”. It is because of this fact that new Gentile converts began dutifully submitting themselves to the Old Covenant religious law and began circumcising their children and observing the feasts and Holy Days of the Old Covenant Israelite religion.
The epistle to the Galatians was written to correct this error on the basis that the Gentile believers were engrafted into Christ, the heir of all the promises, by faith. In being in Christ, all the promises to the fathers were theirs without having to be a part of the Old Covenant. In fact, Christ fulfilled all the required righteousness of the Old Covenant on behalf of all His people.
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. …For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal 3:16,26-29
From Spurgeon’s perspective, there is only one people of God, because only those that are in Christ are the people of God. Although there is a “difference of dispensations”, there is one plan of Salvation that runs through them.
So far as dispensations reach they indicate degrees of knowledge, degrees of privilege, and variety in the ordinances of worship. The unity of the faith is not affected by these, as we are taught in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The faithful of every age concur in looking for one city, and that city is identically the same with the New Jerusalem described in the Apocalypse as “a bride adorned for her husband.”
So, there is one faith and one plan of Salvation differently administered through the various dispensations of Scripture. In this one faith then, are comprised the one people of God – the true Israel, the body of Christ.
That Covenant [God’s Plan of Salvation] was declared to Noah; it was still further opened to Abraham and Isaac, it was confirmed to David; Isaiah rejoiced in its sure mercies, Jeremiah was privileged to relate many of its special provisions; and Paul avers in his epistle to the Hebrews that this is the Covenant under the provisions of which the precious blood of Christ was shed; it is the blood of the new Covenant. The priesthood of Christ is declared to be after the order of Melchizedec; it was, therefore, revealed in the days of Abraham. The word of the oath by which he was consecrated is communicated to us in the 110th Psalm, and so it was well known to David. In like manner, the gift of the Holy Spirit, though not bestowed till after the ascension of Christ, was explained by the Apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, to be the fulfillment of prophecy that was spoken before the Incarnation. The dispensational succession of events does not affect the Covenant. If it did, then Abraham could have no more interest in the Jewish than in the Christian economy…Had none of those believers any interest in the death of Christ, they must have died in their sins; but if they were interested in His death, why not in all the blessings that ensued?
Next, Spurgeon handles his major point of contention with the Plymouth Brethren of his day – whether the Church was in Paul’s mind in his epistles to Galatians and Romans, or whether he was only considering the justification of individual believers. The Brethren believed that the Gentiles were justified by faith like Abraham was and so Abraham served then as their moral example or moral father. As Paul did not have the church in mind, Abraham was not in his mind, a part of the same body as Gentile believers after Christ.
Spurgeon’s answer to this is to refer to Galatians 4 where Paul uses Abraham’s physical sons as an allegory for his Spiritual descendants.
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid (allegory for law, slavery to sin), the other by a freewoman (allegory for grace in Christ). 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai (Sinaitic Covenant define Old Covenant nation of Israel), which gendereth to bondage (slavery to sin), which is Agar. 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem (Old Covenant is subserviant to the New Covenant) which now is (New Covenant is in Effect), and is in bondage with her children (Those not trusting in Christ are in bondage to sin and subject to the curse of the law). 26 But Jerusalem which is above (New Covenant of Grace, the Church or New Covenant Israel) is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written, ‘Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate (more spiritual children born to unbelieving Gentiles than to the wife of Jehovah) hath many more children than she which hath an husband. 28 Now we (Church, Jew/Gentile believers in New Covenant), brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise (By faith members of New Covenant). 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman (The Judaizers will not be heirs, but those that are in Christ). 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Gal 4:22-31
Spurgeon’s point here, is that in this allegory, Paul is contrasting those that are in slavery to sin, bound by the law, and those that are in the Church – the one true faith of all ages – the body of Christ, which is the New Covenant of Grace. Spurgeon goes on to say that those that came before had just as much interest in Christ’s death as those that came after. Christ’s death served to “gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” from all dispensations.
When Jesus heard it [the faith of the Gentile Centurion], he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt 8:10-12