Replacement Theology or Inclusion Theology?

The church doesn’t replace Israel. The church IS Israel as God always intended it to be.

I believe that what we see in the NT isn’t the replacement of Israel but an expanded definition of who Israel is. During the time of the old testament one was an Israelite (primarily) because one was a physical, biological descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. One’s ethnicity was the deciding factor. But with the coming of Christ and the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles, the meaning of what constitutes a “true Jew” has undergone revision, or perhaps a better word would be expansion.

 

I was recently asked by a member at Bridgeway if I believe in what is called “replacement” theology. Although this is a massively complex subject, I tried to provide a brief answer. Here it is.

All biblical interpreters recognize that there is development between the Old Testament and the New. Some say the Old Testament is the seed to which the New Testament provides the flower. Others speak of the relationship as one of symbol to substance, or type to anti-type. The point being that we must strive to understand the progress in redemptive history. And when I look at the relationship between Israel and the Church I see something similar to the relationship between the caterpillar and the butterfly.

The butterfly doesn’t replace the caterpillar. The butterfly IS the caterpillar in a more developed and consummate form. The butterfly is what God intended the caterpillar to become. Likewise, the church doesn’t replace Israel. The church IS Israel as God always intended it to be. Let me explain that further.

I believe that what we see in the NT isn’t the replacement of Israel but an expanded definition of who Israel is. During the time of the old testament one was an Israelite (primarily) because one was a physical, biological descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. One’s ethnicity was the deciding factor. But with the coming of Christ and the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles, the meaning of what constitutes a “true Jew” has undergone revision, or perhaps a better word would be expansion. Not one believing Jewish person has been replaced. Not one believing Jewish person has been set aside or lost their promised inheritance.

Rather, God now says that a true Jew is one who is circumcised in heart and not just in one’s physical body (Rom. 2:28-29). The key passage is Galatians 3:16-18 and 3:25-29. There Paul says that the promises were made “to Abraham and to his offspring” (v. 16). I prefer the translation “seed” instead of “offspring” but the point is the same either way. In other words, when God gave the promises to Abraham and his seed in Genesis 12-17 it appeared he had in mind Abraham and all his physical progeny. But later we learn that it was limited to the progeny of Isaac and not Ishmael. Then we learn that it had narrowed down even further to be the progeny of Jacob and not Esau. When we get to the NT, Paul says it has been narrowed down even further, to but one Jewish person, Jesus.

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