Formerly, they were not a people, henceforth they are the “people of God”

Formerly, they were not a people, henceforth they are the “people of God”

Because of this, the First Letter of Peter, addressed mostly to believers converted from paganism, confers on them the titles “chosen people” 120 and “holy nation” 121 in the same manner as those converted from Judaism. 122 The Second Letter of John calls the Christian community whom he addresses as “the chosen lady” (v.1), and “your chosen sister” (v.13) the community from which it was sent. (1 Th 1:4). Thus, the conviction of partaking in the divine election was communicated to all Christians.

36. In the Letter to the Romans, Paul makes clear that for Christians who have come from paganism, what is involved is a participation in Israel’s election, God’s special people. The Gentiles are “the wild olive shoot”, “grafted to the real olive” to “share the riches of the root” (Rm ,24). They have no need to boast to the prejudice of the branches. “It is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you” ().

To the question of whether the election of Israel remains valid, Paul gives two different answers: the first says that the branches have been cut off because of their refusal to believe (,20), but “a remnant remains, chosen by grace” (11:5). It cannot, therefore, be said that God has rejected his people (11:1-2). “Israel failed to attain what it was seeking. The elect [that is, the chosen remnant] attained it, but the rest were hardened” (11:7). The Jews do not cease to be called to live by faith in the intimacy of God “for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” ().

The second response says that the Jews who became “enemies as regards the Gospel” remain “beloved as regards election, for the sake of the ancestors” () and Paul foresees that they will obtain mercy (,31)

The New Testament never says that Israel has been rejected. From the earliest times, the Church considered the Jews to be important witnesses to the divine economy of salvation. She understands her own existence as a participation in the election of Israel and in a vocation that belongs, in the first place, to Israel, despite the fact that only a small number of Israelites accepted it.

To newly converted pagans Paul does not hesitate to declare: “We know, brothers, beloved by God, that he has chosen you

While Paul compares the providence of God to the work of a potter who prepares for honour “vessels of mercy” (Rm 9:23), he declines to say that these vessels are exclusively or principally the Gentiles, rather they represent both Gentiles and Jews with a certain priority for Jews: “He called us not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles” (9:24).

Paul recalls that Christ “born under the Law” (Ga 4:4) has become “a servant to the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God, in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs” (Rm 15:8), meaning that Christ not only was circumcised, but is at the service of the circumcised because God has made promises to the patriarchs which were binding. “As regards the Gentiles”, the apostle says “they glorify God for his mercy” (15:9), and not for his fidelity, for their entry into the people of God is not the result of divine promises, it is something over and above what is owed to them. Therefore, it is the Jews who will first praise God among the nations; they will then invite the nations to rejoice with the people of God (15:9(b)-10).

Paul himself recalls with pride his Jewish origins. 123 In Rm 11:1, he mentions his status as “an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” as proof that God has not rejected his people. In 2 Co , he sees it as a title of honour parallel to his title as minister of Christ (). It is true that in Ph 3:7, these advantages which were for him gains, he now “regards as loss, because of Christ”. But the point he is making here is that these advantages, instead of leading to Christ, kept him at a distance from him.

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