Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth - #1

by C.I. Scofield

The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God

"Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God." (1Cor 10:32)

Whoever reads the Bible with any attention cannot fail to perceive that more that half of its contents relate to one nation: the Israelites. He perceives, too, that they have a distinct place in the dealings and counsels of God. Separated from the mass of mankind, they are taken into covenant with Jehovah, who gives them specific promises not given to any other nation. Their history alone is told in Old Testament narrative and prophecy; other nations are mentioned only as they touch the Jew. It appears, also, that all the communications of Jehovah to Israel as a nation relate to the Earth. If faithful and obedient, the nation is promised earthly greatness, riches, and power; if unfaithful and disobedient, it is to be scattered "among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other" (Deu 28:64). Even the promise of the Messiah is of blessing to "all the families of the Earth." [Gen 12:3]

Continuing his research, the student finds mention in Scripture of another distinct body, which is called the church. This body also has a peculiar relation to God and, like Israel, has received from Him specific promises. But similarity ends there, and the most striking contrast begins. Instead of being formed of the natural descendants of Abraham alone, it is a body in which the distinction of Jew and Gentile is lost. Instead of the relation being one of mere covenant, it is one of birth. Instead of obedience bringing the reward of earthly greatness and wealth, the church is taught to be content with food and raiment, and to expect persecution and hatred; it is perceived that just as distinctly as Israel stands connected with temporal and earthly things, so distinctly does the church stand connected with spiritual and heavenly things.

Further, Scripture shows the student that neither Israel nor the church always existed; each had a recorded beginning. The beginning of Israel he finds in the call of Abram. Looking then for the birth of the church he finds (contrary, perhaps, to his expectations, for he has probably been taught that Adam and the patriarchs are in the church) that it certainly did not exist before, nor during, the earth life of Christ, for he finds Him speaking of His church as yet future when He says (Mat 16:18), "Upon this rock I will build my church." Not, have built, nor am building, but will build.

He finds, too, from Ephesians 3:5-10, that the church is not once mentioned in Old Testament prophecy, but was, in those ages, a mystery "hid in God". Scripturally, he finds the birth of the church in Acts 2, and the termination of its career on the earth in 1 Thessalonians 4.

The student also finds, in the scriptural division of the race, another class, rarely mentioned, and distinguished in every aspect from either Israel or the church: the Gentiles. The comparative position of the Jew, the Gentile, and the church may be briefly seen in the following Scriptures:

Comparing, then, what is said in Scripture concerning Israel and the Church, he finds that in origin, calling, promise, worship, principles of conduct, and future destiny that all is contrast. Compare first the calling of Israel with that of the church.

Israel- an earthly calling:

The Church- a heavenly calling:

Of course, it is not meant that a godly Jew did not, at death, go to heaven. The distinction in that the incentive to godliness in his case was earthly blessings, not heavenly. It should be needless to say that, in this dispensation, neither Jew nor Gentile can be saved otherwise than by the exercise of that faith on the Lord Jesus Christ whereby both are born again (Joh 3:3,16) and are baptized into that "one body" (1Cor 12:13) which is "the church" (Eph 1:22-23). In the church, the distinction of Jew and Gentile disappears. (1Cor 12:13, Gal 3:28, Eph 2:14. So in writing to the Ephesians, the apostle speaks of them as "in time past Gentiles", Eph 2:11, 1Cor 12:2, RV, also says, "When ye were Gentiles".)

The contrast between Israel and the church further appears in the rules given for the conduct of each.

Israel- was to destroy its enemies:

The Church- is to love its enemies:

In the appointments for worship we still find contrast. Israel could worship in but one place and at a distance from God - only approaching Him through a priest. The church worships wherever two or three are gathered, has boldness to enter into the Holiest, and is composed of priests.

Lev 17:8-9 with Mat 18:20;
Luk 1:10 with Heb 10:19-20;
Num 3:10 with 1Pet 2:5.

In the predictions concerning the future of Israel and the church, the distinction is still more startling. The church will be taken away from the earth entirely, but restored Israel is yet to have her greatest earthly splendor and power. See what Scripture has to say:

Israel- the future glory of Messiah's earthly kingdom:

The Church- the future glory in Christ's heavenly presence:

It may safely be said that the Judaizing of the church has done more to hinder her progress, pervert her mission, and destroy her spiritually than all other causes combined. Instead of pursuing her appointed path of separation from the world and following the Lord in her heavenly calling, she has [miss-applied Scripture passages meant for Israel] to justify herself in lowering her purpose to the civilization of the world, the acquisition of wealth, the use of imposing ritual, the erection of magnificent churches, the invocation of God's blessing upon conflicts of armies, and the division of an equal brotherhood into "clergy" and "laity".

Continue on to chapter 2 - The Seven Dispensations
Return to the Table of Contents for "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth."
Return to the Intro & Resource Menu.

Go to The Book opening page.