Transformation of Israel into the Church
How did the nation of Israel transform into the Church of Jesus Christ?
Matthew reveals in his Gospel the profound impact that the divine presence of Jesus has had upon Israel. Its very foundations - law, structure, and membership - have been radically transformed, resulting in a new Israel: the Church. This transformation has fundamental implications for the spirituality of the follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus. The law which the believer must follow is now completely internalized and directed towards the Father. Rituals, while still important, are to be the result of being a follower of God, not simply the means to it. Pietistic practices have their most value when performed in secret, and thus in complete humility and obedience to the Father. The goal has become literally humanly impossible: perfection in imitation of the Father. But through being a member of the Church this perfection is now possible through Christ. Furthermore, members of the People of God are now to be led by those who are called to imitate Christ's sacrificial obedience to the Father. Leadership in the Church is not a hereditary right, as in the Old Covenant, but is based on election by Jesus. He calls the apostles and their successors and gives them authority over even the gates of hell to guide us to the Father. Most radically, now all people are eligible, and are called, to this transformed People of God. None are excluded from the gift of faith given by God. Through baptism this faith transforms the believer into a full member of the Church, the new Israel.
The Gospel of Matthew, written within the Jewish/Christian struggles of the first century, powerfully demonstrates that the Old Israel has been transformed into the Christian Church, and thus its laws, structures, and membership requirements have been permanently altered. Matthew clearly shows that this all occurs due to the divine presence of Jesus Christ, which will continue until the end of time.