The Israelites were the descendants of Abraham through his son Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob. Jacob’s other name was “Israel” (Gen 32:28), so all of his offspring were known as “Israelites” or “the children of Israel.” They later were identified also as “Jews.”
It is a fact that in the Old Testament era, the children of Israel were the chosen, special people of God. The Lord instructed Moses to tell the Israelites, “. . . if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people, for all the earth is Mine” (Ex 19:5). Moses later reminded them, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deut 7:6).
What was the significance of the Israelites or Jews being God’s “chosen” people? Jesus was the Messiah, the “Seed” about whom God had spoken to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, promising that through their “Seed” all nations would be blessed (Gal 3:16). The Christ came from the Jewish nation, making Him a Jew “according to the flesh” (Rom 9:5). When Jesus told a Samaritan woman that “salvation is of the Jews” (Jn 4:22), He did not mean that the Jews are the source of salvation. Only “the God of our salvation” (Ps 69:18) can provide redemption. By God’s eternal plan, His Son would come to shed His blood, as a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet 1:18,19). When He became flesh (Jn 1:14) in order to be the Savior of the world (1 Jn 4:14), He was a Jew. That was the thrust of God calling the Israelites His “chosen” people. They were blessed to be the ones through whom the one-and-only Redeemer came.
So, if we are considering the past, yes, in God’s plan the Jews were His special people before the establishment of the Lord’s church. There are several New Testament facts that we need to recognize. First, in the Christian era the chosen of God are in the Christ, which is also where all spiritual blessings are available. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world . . .” (Eph 1:3,4). In the same manner, Paul addressed the Christians in Colosse as “the elect of God” (Col 3:12).
Again, in the gospel age it is Christians, not Jews, who are identified as “the people of God.” Hear Peter’s inspired description of Christians: “But you are a chosen generation a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people . . . who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9,10).
Who are the children of God today? Is it those who are biologically of the Jewish race? No. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:26,27). When one responds to the faith (the gospel) by believing and being baptized into the Christ, he becomes a child of God – a member of God’s family. All of God’s children are in the Christ. God’s house or family is the church (1 Tim 3:15). Salvation or forgiveness is in the Christ (Eph 1:7). The Lord add saved people to His church (Acts 2:47).
The chosen ones of God are in the Christ, God’s children are in the Christ, saved people are in the Christ, and God’s people are identified as Christians. According to the message of the gospel, a person is born into the family of God through a spiritual birth (Jn 3:3,5). Does that mean, then, that physical Jews cannot be saved? Not at all. Any Jew after the flesh can become part of God’s family just like any non-Jew can. How? By obeying the same gospel which was preached at Pentecost and was preached unto all the world (Mk 16:15,16 f; Col 1:23).