In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul states the following:

Galatians 6:16: "And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God" (emphasis added).

Are we to understand that New Testament saints are the "Israel of God" using N/T terminology?


6 Answers 6


Yes. The definition was made clear under the gospel of Christ and Paul stated it in both the letters to the Romans and the Galatians that God had always considered those who were "Israel" to be those of the line of the faith of Abraham.

"13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Rom. 8:13-14, KJV)


"7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. (Rom. 9:7-8, KJV)


"23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.....'

"30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;" (Rom. 9:23-26, 30-32, KJV)

And, Paul states it even more clearly in Gal. 3:26-29:

"26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

28 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.

29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (KJV)

It no longer the blood line that counts. It was always the faith line that counted with God. All who are in Christ are counted for Abraham's seed because of their faith. Therefore, as all who are of Abraham's seed through the promise (Isaac's seed) are the Israel of God, then all who are in Christ are now the Israel of God.


The noun "Israel" has two distinct but closely realted meaning in the NT - (a) literal biological Israel, and (b) spiritual Israel which includes some biological Israelites plus gentile converts to Christianity.

In the New Testament the word “Israel” occurs 68 times and the word “Israelite” 9 times, making a total of 77 times. These may be classified as follows. Those marked with “ * ” refer to a non-literal, non-national (ie spiritual) “Israel”.

  • Many instances of “Israel” (eg, Matt 27:9, Luke 1:16, Acts 5:21, etc) refer to the literal or national people of Israel collectively, but not a state of Israel (such is a modern idea).
  • Two (Matt 27:42, Mark 15:32) refer derisively to a “king of Israel”, despite these same people declaring (correctly) that their only king was Caesar (John 19:15).
  • Two (John 1:49, 12:13) refer to Jesus as the King of Israel, clearly, in these cases it was not a literal kingdom but a spiritual kingdom.
  • Gal 6:16 refers to “Israel of God” – a clear distinction that Paul makes with literal Israel, as per the previous verse: the “Israel of God” consists of those who do not distinguish between circumcision and non-circumcision.
  • Rom 9:6 is a clear instance where Paul makes an obvious distinction between literal Israel and spiritual Israel (“not all from Israel are Israel”) – a point he is at pains to expand upon in Rom 9-11. These chapters are the main source of “replacement theology”, that is, literal Israel being replaced by spiritual Israel, the community of Christian believers. (See discussion below.)
  • Eph 2:12, 13 is also another case where Gentiles are described as outside the citizenship of (literal) Israel, but Gentiles can become spiritual Jews by the grace of Christ alone as v13 makes clear.
  • Heb 8:8-10. While this reference is debatable, it is my opinion that it predicts a time when spiritual Israel (including those literal Jews who have accepted Jesus as Messiah) will be partakers of the new covenant introduced by Christ Himself at the cross. This has already occurred and was predicted (as then still future) by Jeremiah and celebrated as a fulfilment in this passage of Hebrews as indicated by v13.
  • The three references in Rev 2:14, 7:4, 21:12, I suggest, are also to spiritual Israel, rather than literal Israel.

Thus, there are numerous instances in the New Testament where “Israel” is not used of the literal “Israel of the flesh” (1 Cor 10:18).

Thus, "Israel" of God" is the equivalent of "the Kingdom of God" and the "Kingdom of Heaven" and the antithesis of "Israel of the flesh".


Although NT saints are indeed referred to as ‘the Israel of God’, it would be a mistake to limit them to just Christians from the 1st century A.D. onwards. Abraham is part of the spiritual 'Israel of God' due to what Paul said in Romans 4:9-11; Abraham was reckoned righteous before he was circumcised as the head of the fleshly Israel:

"...And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised." Paul also said in Romans 2:28-29 - “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circum-cision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Paul also said in Colossians 2:10-3:211, “And ye are complete in [Christ], which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross… If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”

Paul’s reasoning is that physical circumcision availeth nothing with regard to the Israel of God, for Abraham was sealed with the seal of righteousness due to his faith, before he was circumcised. It is faith that identifies individuals as being part of spiritual Israel. Abraham is “the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised.” All who have that saving belief are united to Christ by faith, all their sins are forgiven, and they are sealed – identified as belonging to God, part of the spiritual Israel of God.

Paul expounds this mystery by unfolding the allegory of Sarah and Hagar from Galatians 3:15 to the end of chapter 4. There he shows who are liberated to enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God, the spiritual Israel of God. That liberation starts way back in the Old Testament (so that all those who had faith are included, verified by Hebrews chapter 11) and includes all those with saving faith in Christ.: “If you belong to Christ [by faith] then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29 NIV) This is confirmed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, where “all who were baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

Jews and Gentiles are included in this group. From Abraham onward, faith identifies all who God calls, who God forgives and who will be given new life (‘quickened’), a life that never ends, reserved in heaven. This “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews chapter 11) all form part of the Israel of God. Consider how many of those lived and died in faith before Jesus came to earth?

The Book of the Revelation gives more information on all the saints who are conspicuously sealed on their foreheads prior to God pouring out his judgments on earth. This identifies them to the avenging angels. This ensures the tormenting locusts of chapter 9 only harm those men who do NOT have the seal of God on their forehead (vs. 4). This means that all who come out of the tribulations on earth throughout the centuries have been identified by their faith as belonging to God, and they are the spiritual “Israel of God”, a huge crowd, too vast to number (Rev. 7:9-17), just like the stars in heaven – impossible to number – as Abraham was promised would be his seed – spiritual Israel (Genesis 15:5).

All who are sealed by the Holy Spirit form the Israel of God, and they will turn out to be an innumerable great crowd out of all nations, including natural Israel (but only a small percentage), from way back , long before natural Israel started to form, and until such times as the last trump sounds, and time shall be no more.

  • You are correct Anne. I'm convinced that all the faithful, both of the O/T as well as the N/T, are saints of God. It wasn't my intent to limit them to the N/T as my OP suggests. Abel and Noah were just as much saints as the saved of Christ's Covenant.
    – Xeno
    Jul 12, 2021 at 18:41

Gina, Dottard, and Ozzie's have given their good answers. Here I suplement a little from the context.

Galatians 6:

15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

Then comes the benediction, verse 16:

And those who will walk by this rule, 
          peace and mercy be upon   them, 
                         and upon   the Israel of God

Paul blessed exactly one group of people. They walked by the rule of new creation regardless of their circumcision status. They would receive peace and mercy. They were the (new) Israel of God.

Are we to understand that New Testament saints are the "Israel of God" using N/T terminology?

Yes, it is clear from the context and the parallelism.


The rule Paul established is that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters. The Gospel message of salvation has been extended to the Gentile nations and outward symbols of being God’s chosen people (i.e., circumcision of the flesh) matters not. What matters is that all who repent and place their faith in Christ Jesus have become “a new creation” – Jew and Gentile alike.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The church is an entirely new creation that came into being on the day of Pentecost (Ephesians 1:9-11) and will continue until the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13–17).

For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

“The Israel of God” is composed of New Testament saints and all who undergo the new birth – who are baptised by the Spirit and who belong to Christ Jesus. There is no restriction, numerically, as to how many people can be sealed with the Spirit and who belong to the body of Christ.

The Bible also tells us that long before Jesus came to dwell with us, Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness, which makes him (and other Old Testament saints and prophets) part of the Israel of God.

"And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them" (Romans 4:9-11).

All believers in Christ Jesus who are sealed for the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit are filled with the Spirit, not just a once-for-all experience but repeatedly, as the occasion requires (Ephesians 4:30; 5:18). They are “the Israel of God” and are sometimes referred to as “Spiritual Israel”. The expression “Spiritual Israel” is often used as a reference to the entire body of Christian believers, which includes Jews and Gentiles.

Some views of the relationship between the church and Israel are the church has replaced Israel (replacement theology), the church is an expansion of Israel (covenant theology), or the church is completely different and distinct from Israel (dispensationalism and premillennialism). Suffice to say that after Pentecost the promise of God’s forgiveness was open to Jew and Gentile alike. Peter, who was in Jerusalem for the festival, addressed his fellow Jews:

Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

About 3,000 were added to their number that day and more thereafter, Jew and Gentile alike. The promise of the forgiveness of sins and the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit is given to ALL Christians (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 12:13). They become part of “the Israel of God”.


What does Paul mean by the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16)?

Galatians 6:16: "And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God."

Are we to understand that New Testament saints are the "Israel of God" using N/T terminology?

In short to your answer the "Israel of God" are the saints/holy people (2 Cor.1:1 NIV)./partakers of the heavenly calling. (Heb .3:1)God’s Word shows that a person is not made a saint by men or by an organization. The Scriptures state: God:(2 Tim.1:9)

Sanctified by God (Not man-made saints)

2 Timothy 1:9 NIV

9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

Hebrews 3:1 NASB

3 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession: Jesus;

Romans 6:5 NET

5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.[a]

Privileges of the "partakers of the heavenly calling"(the invitation to heaven) they will reign as priest and kings over the earth.

Revelation 5:9-10 NASB

9 And they *sang a new song, saying,“Worthy are You to take the scroll and to break its seals; for You were slaughtered, and You purchased people for God with Your blood from every tribe, language, people, and nation. 10 You have made them into a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth.”

How Many Are Sealed?

The scriptures indicate that the number of the sealed ones is limited

Jesus said to those in line for this sealing: ( Luke 12:32NASB)"

Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father has chosen to give you the kingdom.Also Rev. 6:11 states "11 And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told that they were to rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers and sisters who were to be killed even as they had been, was completed also. And (Rom 11:25)states: " And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told that they were to rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers and sisters who were to be killed even as they had been, was completed also."

The scriptures above indicate that the number of this little flock is indeed limited and, in fact, predetermined, the number sealed is 144,000

Revelation 7:4-8 NET

4 Now[a] I heard the number of those who were marked with the seal,[b] 144,000, sealed from all[c] the tribes of the people of Israel:[d] 5 From the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand, 6 from the tribe of Asher, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand, 7 from the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun, twelve thousand,from the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve

Footnotes NET 7:4d

However, many scholars understand the expression in this context to refer to Christians rather than ethnic Israelites.

Does not the apostle Paul speak of Christians as being “predestinated”?

Rom. 8:28, 29: “We know that God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose; because those whom he gave his first recognition he also foreordained [“predestinated,” KJ] to be patterned after the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Also Eph. 1:5, 11) Yet, to these same ones, 2 Peter 1:10 says: Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choice of you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;(NASB)

(If the individuals were predestinated to salvation, they could not possibly fail, regardless of what they did. Since effort is required on the part of the individuals, it must be the class that is foreordained. God purposed that the entire class would conform to the pattern set by Jesus Christ. Those selected by God to be part of that class, however, must prove faithful if they are actually to attain the reward set before them.)

  • 3
    To make clear - are you saying that only 144,000 people are 'sealed' and thus identified as 'the Israel of God'? I ask because the next verses in Rev. 7 show that a great multitude that no man can number must also be 'sealed' because they too are in heaven with Christ, their saviour. Only those identified as belonging to God and Christ (i.e. being 'the Israel of God') are so marked symbolically and have verses 14 to 17 apply to them. I'm not out to start a debate on this point - just for you to be clear if you think only 144,000 can ever be 'the Israel of God'.
    – Anne
    Jul 11, 2021 at 15:50
  • Anne your not starting a debate, I appreciate your query, we are here to share information about the truth. Yes, you are right only 144,00 are sealed as "Israel of God". In the parable of the sheep and the goats Mt.25:31-46, three groups of people are mentioned, the sheep, the goats, and the least brothers of Christ Vs 45 (The Israel of God) . Jul 11, 2021 at 19:43
  • For the meek, the sheep-like people Jesus said they will inherit earth Mt5:5, the goats will go to everlasting destruction,that is no hope of resurrection.In Vs 9 you will notice that the great multitude are holding palm branches in their hands, this is no possible in heaven. Their “standing before the throne” (Greek: e·noʹpi·on tou throʹnou, “in sight of the throne”) of God does not require that they be in heaven. Their position is simply “in sight” of God, who tells us that from heaven he beholds the sons of men. (Rev. 7:9; Ps. 11:4; compare Ps. 100:1, 2, also Lk 1:74, 75 and Acts 10:33, Jul 11, 2021 at 19:45
  • 1
    I'm sticking to the query about your claim that only 144,000 people are 'sealed' as 'the Israel of God'. Rev. 9:4 says that locusts from the bottomless pit can only hurt "those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads" in the build-up to Armageddon. So, the great crowd in heaven are sealed to God. We all know they don't have literal palm branches any more than the 144,000 are literally virgins. Such things are symbolic, but why do you insist the numbers are literal when we know they are symbolic too? There's no spiritual apartheid with God; a tiny number in heaven, billions not.
    – Anne
    Jul 12, 2021 at 8:08
  • 1
    Ozzie, that has nothing to do with the Q or my comments. The Q is, WHO is 'sealed' so as to be included in the Israel of God, (which is spiritual Israel according to faith)? It's not about who will end up living on a paradise earth. The Bible states there will be a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell, so people will be living on it, but that does not prove such ones cannot be called 'the Israel of God' spiritually speaking, which is what you seem to think. But that's not the Q!
    – Anne
    Jul 12, 2021 at 10:04

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