Want to take a moment to thank those who have sent me private feed-back concerning this essay. May God bless you.
Part (5) tackles what I believe is a vital issue: that of chosen-ness.
Claim No.2: “The Nation Israel is still God’s Chosen People Today”
We hear a great deal of complaining today from Christian Zionists about what they call “replacement theology” — a disparaging nickname they have given to the idea that the New Testament Church is the people of God today (which is precisely what we are teaching in this paper). However, it is rather bizarre to give a nickname to something which the Bible plainly teaches and then call it a heresy, thus pulling the wool over so many young and gullible believers’ eyes.
(*I want to interject the link to an outstanding message on the topic of what “real” replacement theology is. Please take time to read this at Pursuing Truth: Why I Abandoned Replacement Theology)
The reality is that a replacement has indeed taken place. The old inadequate, obsolete covenant was replaced by a new one. This replacement has happened on many levels. For example, the Holy Spirit was given to the Church on the Day of Pentecost. The beautiful significance of this can be seen in the fact that Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks) was actually a Jewish festival reaffirming the Sinaitic Covenant (Ex.34:10,22) and commemorating the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai (Deut.16:9-12). We see here that the Holy Spirit, given to the Church at Pentecost in Jerusalem, was a replacement for the Law given to Israel on Sinai.
Replacement Theology is indeed taught in the Scriptures. The Body of Christ — made up of converted Jews and Gentiles — are the people of God today. They have replaced Old Testament Israel, which did not obtain what it sought. That is a fact not a heresy.
The real heresy-teaching “replacementists”, are those who teach that Israel today represents the chosen people of God. This is the reality of the situation. The idea that corporate national Israel is still God’s chosen people is prevalent in the minds of many today. But we wonder if they have seriously considered the plain verdict of Scripture. For the Word of God shows that as a nation Israel has come under the wrath of God, who — although ever-willing to receive into the New Covenant kingdom individual believing Jews — has finished with Israel as a national-religious theocratic entity. Israel broke the Old Covenant and thereby forfeited any rights to it. Virtually all Israel — except for a remnant — rejected the New Covenant in the blood of Christ.
But what does the Word of God say?
In the first place the Bible shows that Jesus was rejected by the Jews: “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (Jn.1:11). No one would argue with that. However, it does not stop there, for the guilt for that sin which then came upon Israel is almost beyond comprehension. First, the Lord Jesus Himself upbraided the rulers of the people with the charge:
“Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of right- eous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Bere- chiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar”. (Mt.23:32-35)
He saw His own rejection as the culmination of a pathological pattern of rejection which had dogged the children of Israel from the outset. When they rejected Him, He laid the punishment clearly before them:
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bear- ing the fruits of it”. (Mt.21:42-43)
And the Lord Jesus predicted how the judgement for His rejection would begin when he told a parable concerning
“a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city”. (Mt.22:2-7)
And this was fulfilled in AD.70 at the fall of Jerusalem under the Roman army commanded by Titus, which was given a literal prophecy by the Lord Jesus:
“If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your chil- dren within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation”. (Lk.19:42-44)
The Jews even invited this judgement upon them- selves when they chose Jesus rather than Barabbas before Pontius Pilate:
“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Per- son. You see to it’. And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children’”. (Mt.27:24-25).
It is a great mystery to us to know how anyone could imagine that the Jewish nation bore no guilt for the death of Christ. The Apostle Peter charged them in his sermons thus:
“Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death… Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both LORD and Christ”. (Acts 2:23, 36)
“But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses”. (Acts 3:14-15)
“Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Naz- areth, whom you crucified…”. (Acts 4:10)
And Stephen said to the Jews:
“Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers…” (Acts 7:52)
And Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica:
“For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Jews, who killed both the LORD Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbid- ding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost”. (1 Thess.2:14-16)
“Wrath has come upon them to the uttermost”. As anyone can testify, that wrath which began at Jerusalem in AD.70 has echoed down even to our own day. Here Paul is referring back to the curses for rejection of the covenant which are so awesomely and graphically por- trayed in Deut.28:15-68. The Old Covenant thus became obsolete, as the Apostle said in the sixth decade of the first century AD:
“In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb.8:13)
Surely it is plain to see that the nation of Israel can no longer be God’s chosen people. The New Covenant Church, made up of both converted former Jews and converted Gentiles, has now replaced the Old Covenant nation-state of Israel as the people of God today. This is basic New Testament teaching which any disciple of Christ should know. The Lord Jesus himself warned that this would happen when he said to those who sat in Moses seat: “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matt.21:43). And it was prophesied long ago by God to Abraham when He said “In you all nations of the earth will be blessed” (Gen.22:18, etc.).
Yet we are continually told that the Jews are still God’s chosen people. How can God have two different covenant peoples today, when the New Covenant has replaced the Old? Which covenant could the Jews possibly be under? There is only one covenant and one covenant people.
It should be stressed that the ‘replacement’ which has occurred is not a straight ‘one for one’. For the New Covenant people of God began among the godly Jewish remnant who received their Messiah. In that sense, salvation is indeed “of the Jews” (Jn.4:22). So the new Israel began with the Jews, grew out of the people of Israel, and became the root of the New Covenant people of God. But Jesus Himself said that as well as those Jews who would believe there would also be
“other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one Shep- herd” (Jn.10:1).
“One flock and one Shepherd”. There are NOT two covenant peoples of God — Israel and the Church, with one somehow held in abeyance for a time. The covenant people of God are one.
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the LORD, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph.2:14-22)
So it is wrong to teach, as some do today, that God now deals differently with Jews and Gentiles. Both Jews and Greeks are all under sin (Rom.3:9). There is no difference between the two; “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:22-23).
“Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the cir- cumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith”. (Rom.3:29-30)
Jew and Gentiles together. God now deals with them as one. As Paul says:
“So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham” (Gal.3:9). “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring” (Gal.3:29).
Believing Jews and Gentiles are both the true seed of Abraham today, understood spiritually. Once the Seed (Christ) had come there was no further need for the theocratic nation of Israel under Old Covenant law (Gal.3:23-25). The restoration of Israel and the salvation of the Gentiles are one and the same: namely, in Christ as part of His Church.
To be continued…