Let’s Talk About Replacement Theology

 

Introducing a New Author

From Time to time, I will be publishing articles that others have written. I will be reformatting, editing, and sometimes, rephrasing statements and paragraphs for clarity, but will not be changing to original intent. These articles must be unpublished by others and consistent with the stated purpose of this website. I reserve the right to reject part or all of what is submitted to me.

With this in mind, I am pleased to introduce a new acquaintance who submitted an article regarding Replacement Theology. It happened to be at a time when I have recently written an article stressing the need to understand the kingdom of heaven in Matthew's gospel as a literal kingdom, one not being offered today, but one that will one day be literally fulfilled on earth when Jesus returns.

Here is the articles by Clyde Blakley:

What is Replacement Theology?

There is a current train of thought which maintains that because the Jewish people rejected Jesus, God has replaced or superseded ethnic Israel with the church and punished them by rescinding all of the covenant promises He gave them.

It also maintains:

(1) the church began with Abraham in Gen 12,

(2) the church is merely a continuation of the Old Testament Israel,

(3) the church is true or “spiritual Israel,”

(4) true Israel in the Old Testament was comprised of Abraham’s Spiritual, not physical, descendants.

These four issues are crucial as each one of them creates a chain reaction of error upon error

In What Ways is Replacement Theology Wrong?

This train of thought is called Replacement Theology . It claims that we must first understand the New Testament before we can understand the Old.

The New Testament, they say, teaches us how to interpret the old testament. This method enables them to redefine Israel to mean Abraham’s spiritual descendants only. However, interpreting scripture this way ignores the progress of God’s revelation and implies that people with only Old Testament revelation could not have understood God’s plans for the future.

Replacement theology also conveniently manages to uncouple God’s covenant promise from His covenant curses using what theologians call a double hermeneutics. The church inherits all the promises to Israel, but the Jewish people keep all the covenant curses. This glaring double standard goes unnoticed when the conversation is about “Palestinian rights” instead of the truth of scripture.

Since the Replacement church sees itself as a continuation of Old Testament Israel, it applies portions of Old Testament Law to itself while ignoring important New Testament teaching.

Finally, Replacement Theology teaches there is no future for national Israel. God has thoroughly rejected Israel and no longer has a place for it in His plan for eternity apart from the salvation of individual Jewish people. They are no longer His chosen people, nor is there a future seventieth-week of Daniel or a future, literal, Millennial Kingdom of God on Earth.

Replacement Theology is the historical position of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches and the common position of the Reformed and Covenant Churches. When well meaning Christians enter this sphere of teaching, they need to be aware of where this type of teaching leads.

This type of teaching has fueled anti-Semitism for 1,800 years. It has been said that more anti-Semitic acts have been committed in the name of the church than by all other groups combined.

How Does Replacement Theology differ from What the New Testament Teaches?

 But what did Jesus say? Since Israel did not reject Jesus until the Gospels, we would expect Replacement theology to be taught in the New Testament. Using a literal-historical-grammatical method of interpretation, we would expect to find:

(1) Clear, concise statements that God has rejected Israel.

(2) Definitive passages that teach that the church has replaced Israel.

(3) God’s declaration that He has excluded Israel from the Old Testament Covenants.

(4) A total lack of New Testament verses that speak of Israel’s future in God plan.

Speaking to a Jewish audience, Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Mt. 21:43). Replacement theologians say this passage teaches that Jesus said,

(1) God has permanently rejected nation Israel, and

(2) The “nation” to whom the Kingdom of God will be given is the church.

On the surface, this explanation seems reasonable. However, scrutiny shows otherwise. Throughout the first part of His ministry on Earth, Jesus preached, “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand!” He offered the restored Kingdom of God to Israel if the people repented of their sins and accepted Him as their Savior and Lord. But they would not.

Later Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, “who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! You shall see Me no more till you say, “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (23:37, 39)

Although this passage teaches that Israel will be judged, it concludes by promising a future day when a new generation of National Israel will repent and accept Him as Messiah. If Matthew 21:43 taught that God had rejected Israel, then Jesus would not have taught that a future Jewish Nation will accept Him, Therefore, Matthew 21 does not imply God permanently rejected Israel as His people.

Furthermore, nowhere does scripture define the Church as a “nation”. Rather, it teaches that the church is composed of people from many nations. Christ’s use of “nation” in Matthew 21 refers to the future generation of Jewish people who will accept Him and bear the fruit of the restored Kingdom. Christ chose the word nation rather than  generation because He knew the Jewish people would soon be scattered, and He wanted to note a future day when Israel would again be a nation, accept Him as Messiah, and usher in the restored Kingdom Of God.

Far from teaching Replacement Theology, Jesus emphasized that because the Jewish generation alive during His first coming refused His offer of the restored Kingdom, God would take the Kingdom from them and give it to the future Jewish nation that will accept him.

On another note, one of the most often quoted passages in defense of Replacement Theology is Galatians 6:16. “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God,” written by the apostle Paul. Replacement theologians say Israel of God refers to the church.

Their argument revolves around the Greek term, kai, that precedes the words upon the Israel of God. Kai is most commonly translated “and”, but they say kai is an explicative case (what follows explains what came before) and, therefore, should be translated “even.”

This change makes Israel of God refer to as many as walk according to this rule, meaning Christians, they also say Paul taught in Galatians the unity of all ethnic believer-groups. Therefore, the words Israel of God refers to all believers, that is, the church.

However, the explicative case of kai is extremely rare usage and is not supported by context or grammar. The more commonly used and, which connects the words, Israel of God, with the first half of the verse makes contextual and grammatical sense.

In Galatians, Paul defended salvation by grace through faith alone, He spoke against the Judaizers who taught circumcision was required for salvation. They added works (circumcision) to faith.

When Paul said, “as many as walk according to this rule,” he spoke of those who walked by faith in Christ alone. His use of Israel of God contrasts Jewish people who believed in Christ alone with the Judaizers who taught one must have faith plus works to be saved.

It is important to note that God used Jewish men, in a Jewish country, utilizing a Jewish language, to communicate this important message. So it is important to understand the Hebraic context of this passage. This is sorely lacking in Replacement Theology.

In all other Pauline passages, the term, Israel, refers to national or ethnic Israel. It is highly unlikely he would use Israel here to refer to the body of all believers. Paul prayed, in Galatians 6:16, that God would bless all who put their faith in Christ alone for salvation and that God would especially bless the Jewish believers who were distinct from the Judaizers.

This verse does not say the church has replaced Israel. Even if one accepts the Replacement explanation, the most it says is that Gentiles are included with Israel, which Paul did teach in Romans 10. But Replacement Theologians steer clear of Romans chapters 10 and 11 because of the clear distinctions, so for now we will also.

Replacement Theologians also use Galatians 3:7 and 29 in an effort to bolster their position: “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (v.7). “and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abrams’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (v.29)

They maintain the words sons of Abraham and Abraham’s seed means believers that are related to Christ, whom they say is the true seed of Abraham. Thus the church is true Israel.

However, it is possible to be Abraham’s son or seed, and not be Jewish. Ishmael was Abrahams son and he certainly was not Jewish.  In Romans 4:11 Paul taught that Abraham is the father of both the uncircumcised and the circumcised.

Abraham himself was not Jewish. He was a gentile from Ur of the Chaldea’s. If he had been Jewish, then all of his descendants would be Jewish, yet only the descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are Jewish. It wasn’t until Jacob that God bestowed the title of Israel, after Jacob wrestled with God all night (Gen. 32:24-30).

Galatians 3:7 and 29 do not say Israel has been replaced, they merely teach that people (Jewish or Gentile) who put their faith in Christ become partakers of the spiritual promises God made to Abraham. Paul affirmed this fact in 3:28 when He said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek,….for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Replacement Theology is nothing more than old Covenant Theology. Only now it is being repackaged and sold to unsuspecting pastors as a Christian response to Palestinian apartheid.

For further reading regarding Liberation theology and the kingdom of heaven visit:

Let’s Talk About the Kingdom of Heaven

Let’s Talk About Liberation Theology

Clyde Blakley has served as a prison chaplain at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, as a missionary with Jews for Jesus, an assistant pastor. He attended George Fox, Multnomah, and Western Seminary. He is the owner of Modern Refinishers (ModernRefinishers.com)