The Church has been debating a particular topic for quite some time.And it is unlikely that my paper will be the one to solve all the questions at hand.However, it is my goal to clearly communicate the problems at hand and dissolve them to the best of my ability.The topic being dealt with in this paper is the relationship between Israel and the Church.Respected scholars come from both ends arguing their point of view from scripture.How does one work through all of this?How can someone know which view is right?This paper will hopefully distinguish the differences between both camps, as well as state the proper view, according to the writer’s perspective.
The two major camps on this topic are dispensational and covenant theologians.Now it must be understood that even within these camps there are differing views on certain aspects.One must always be careful not to generalize when speaking on broad topics or whole systems pertaining to differing views.The fundamental difference between these two groups is one crucial understanding.The dispensationalist believes that the Church and the True Israel are distinctly different groups of people.The covenant camp sees the two being the same.An outworking of where one stands here can effect one’s understanding of numerous other doctrines such as: Ecclesiology, Soteriology, and Eschatology.This is another reason why this paper is being written.Because of a realization that no one doctrine stands by itself.Therefore, in the following paper, it is my goal to present both views on the topic, deal with certain passages pertaining to the subject matter, and state why I stand where I do.
Understanding the Abrahamic Covenant.
In Genesis 12,13,15,17, and 22 we find the Abrahamic Covenant.It is this covenant that is being argued over the most, when speaking about the relationship to Israel and the Church.In short, the covenant has three aspects which are as follows: land, seed, and blessings.In the Genesis 12 account of the Abrahamic Covenant, God speaks to Abram/Abraham and makes a covenant of what He will do to/for Abraham.In each following account (13,15,17,22) God does not make any changes to the covenant or to whom it pertains, He only expounds upon what was originally said to Abram.In Genesis 12 it says:
Now the LORD said to Abram, Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to a land that I will show you.I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you and him who dishonors you I will curse you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Just prior to this event, Abraham was a gentile.There was no such thing as a Jew before Abraham, for he is the father of all Jews.What is interesting to point out is that what made Abraham a Jew was that He was called out by God, whom he then followed, was selected to be a chosen instrument of God, and was later circumcised as a mark of the covenant that was made.This will be crucial to understanding later.
So the next thing that should be noted is, to whom was the covenant made?Renald Showers, a dispensationalist, believes the covenant was made to Abraham and His physical descendants.He says:
The Abrahamic Covenant was established by God with Abraham and his physical descendants, Isaac, Jacob, and the people of Israel.Genesis 15:18 states, “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘Unto thy seed have I given this land from the river Euphrates.’
This is the understanding for all dispensationalists.All would agree that the covenant given to Abram/Abraham was given to him and his “physical” descendants.This is a crucial point as well.The Abrahamic Covenant was given to Abraham and all his descendants.
The last thing that needs to be defined when dealing with any covenant is, “what are the conditions?”What are the conditions required by Abraham for God to follow through with what He is promising?Covenants in the ANE were understood to be made between two parties and a mediator.The mediator in the culture was always a god.What would often take place is what takes place in the covenant God makes with Abraham.Although there is something unique about this event.Genesis 15 says,
And He said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other.But he did not cut the birds in half.And when the birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram.And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him.Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.As for yourself, you shall go on to your fathers in peace.You shallbe buried in a good old age.And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadomnites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
Notice how only one person walks through “these pieces”.This is significant!Upon whomever walked through the pieces were placed conditions for them to fulfill.God makes a promise to Abram, Abram wants to know how he can “know” God is going to do this.God tells him to do what was common in the culture.Get out some animals cut them in half and thrown them down on two sides.What would then happen, is the people in the party would walk through the pieces, which would be understood by both parties that if the individual did not complete his side of the deal he would become like one of these animals. Only God walked through the pieces which meant that Abraham had no part to fulfill on his end of the deal to receive the promises spoken by God.In other words, the Abrahamic Covenant is what is known as an “unconditional covenant”.Therefore, we can conclude that the Abrahamic Covenant was an unconditional covenant of land, seed, and blessings made with Abraham and his seed.
This brings us to our first problem for the dispensationalist.Ifindeed, the Abrahamic Covenant is made unconditionally to Abraham and his physical descendants, then every descendant of Abraham would be, without exception: in the land, part of a great nation, and receive of the blessings in the Covenant.Many attempts have been made to solve this problem.Benware states:
If any involved in the covenant relationship chose not to “walk before the Lord,” they would lose out on the benefits and blessings on the covenant.That is a critical distinction to keep in mind.Sin and disobedience would cause the loss of the covenant blessings but would never cancel the covenant.The blessings of the covenant were indeed conditioned on the obedience of an individual.But the complete and final fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant depends on God alone.He intends to fulfill this covenant even if His people Israel are not faithful and obedient.
But does this response actually solve the problem?It does not. In fact, it only contradicts itself.Benware, along with all other dispensationalist want to stand firm on two doctrines that are incompatible.One, the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional.Two, that it is made with the physical seed of Abraham and himself.If indeed, the covenant is unconditional, then it does not matter whether the descendants of Abraham “walk before the Lord”.Did Abraham need to fulfill this stipulation for God to fulfill His end of the covenant?Was not that the whole point being made in the paragraph dealing with the covenant being unconditional?What the dispensationalist wants to do is make the covenant to Abraham and his descendants unconditional, but then, somehow change the conditions of the (un)conditional covenant when it applies to his descendants (“walk before the Lord”). Perhaps what Benware and the traditional dispensationalist is attempting to argue is that the Abrahamic Covenant is only unconditional on a corporate level and not on a individual level. But even still, this does not solve the problem.Was not this the problem with the Jews in Jesus’ day? They thought they were “in” because they were simply Jews by lineage.Jesus rebukes them and tells them that He can raise up sons of Abraham from stones.I will explain who this covenant pertains to when I get to some passages later in the paper to save space and redundancy.But for now, it should be acknowledged that the covenant should not and cannot be understood to mean unconditional to physical descendants.
How is the word “Jew” and “Israel” used in the Old Testament?
In the Old Testament the word “Jew” appears ten times.But what should be factored into this account should be the variable of this word, such as, “Jews”.With these two variations counted together we have the word used seventy times in the Old Testament.It is also undisputed that in every case this word is being used to refer to the people who followed the God of Abraham and were circumcised and were part of the nation of Israel.I did not use the word physical in this definition because of one reason.When Israel was brought out of slavery from Egypt, a large amount of Egyptians left Egypt and became a part of the nation of Israel.And this is not the only exception.There are a couple of other instances where gentiles who were not physically from the seed of Abraham were recognized as part of the nation.This is because in the Old Testament, anyone who forsook their false gods and followed the one true God, YAHWEH, and took the sign of the covenant was to be considered a Jew.So in the case of Esther, Haman wanted to destroy all of the Jews because they would not bow to him.It could easily be understood that even Haman would consider the gentiles who would not bow to him as Jews, whom he wanted to kill off.This being said, it should not be thought that this was the norm for the nation of Israel.The majority of Jews were physically descended from Abraham and Sarah.The word “Israel” is used two thousand four hundred and eighty-five times in the Old Testament.In the Old Testament it used to refer to the chosen nation as the chosen people of God.
How isthe word “Jew” and “Israel” is used in the New Testament?
In the New Testament the word “Jew” is used one hundred and thirty-four times.And the word “Israel” is used sixty times.Both these words are used in two types of ways.One refers to the physical descendants of Abraham.The second refers to the believing Jew or corporately believing Jews of Israel.In this section, we will take a look at some of the highly discussed and debated passages found in the New Testament.
The first passage to be looked at is Romans 2:28-29.Romans is an epistle written to the saints in Rome.The saints were composed of both Gentiles and Jews.The main thrust of the epistle is to prove that justification is by faith alone.In the first three chapters, Paul is demonstrating that all mankind fall short of the glory of God.He shows that no one is able to fulfill the requirements of the law, and as a result, is under the wrath of God.The pagan worships false gods that are images of creatures and other created things instead of acknowledging the One true God in his attributes that are displayed in all creation.He then goes to the Jew who claims to have the law.Paul condemns them because they had thought that by merely possessing the law they were righteous.Paul says it is not the hearer of the Law that is just, but the doer of the law.Paul knows that after saying this the Jew would think he stills has the trump card, that is, circumcision.Boice comments on this by saying that the Jews of this time believed that by just being circumcised that they were bound for heaven.He says:
Still, the Jew had one last card to play, one final argument.He had been circumcised, and circumcision had brought him into visible outward fellowship with that body of covenant people to whom God had made salvation promises.It was like saying that circumcision had made him a member of that body, and because of that membership his salvation was certain.
Some of the quotes from the rabbis were, “Our Rabbis have said that no circumcised man will see hell” and “circumcision saves from hell” and “Abraham sits before the gate of hell, and does not allow that any circumcised Israelite should enter there.” Therefore, in this passage, Paul is defining what true circumcision is, and as a result what a true Jew is.Romans says,
For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor, is circumcision outward and physical.But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.His praise is not from man but from God.
In reference to this verse, the dispensationalist says that this passage is saying that the true “Jew” is one who is both one outwardly and inwardly.They understand this by referring to whom they understand to be the audience for this portion of Romans.Because Paul has dealt with the Gentiles and now is dealing with the Jews, the outwardly should automatically be implied in the statement of what a true Jew was.Saucy interprets the passages in this light, when he says:
. . . the context of this statement-like that of 9:6- is concerned with ethnic Jews and not believers in general.Clearly, by verse 17 Paul is addressing those who call themselves “Jews.”The term “Jew” like “Israel,” carried not only ethnic but also religious meaning, and the apostle was concerned to define it’s true meaning, which always involved faith and obedience and not simply external covenant claim.The presence of the Spirit brought a new depth to the inward reality in accord with the promise, but neither in the Old Testament promise nor the New Testament teaching is there any indication that this changes the meaning of “Jew.”Although depth inwardness was new under the new covenant, one could argue that Paul’s notion of inwardness was not essentially different in kind from that under the Old Covenant, which likewise call for spiritual reality (c. Dt. 10:16; Jer 4:4).
Saucy argues this point as good anyone would, taking this stance.However, the question must be asked, “why didn’t Paul say ‘but also’ when explaining what a true Jew was?”Wouldn’t that be a more accurate way of saying what Saucy and the dispensational camp are attempting to argue that Paul is saying?Why would Paul not clarify and only speak of a true Jew being one who is one “inwardly”?In the immediate context we even have Gentiles (vs. 27).In fact, the whole point Paul is making is that there are Gentiles who are truly circumcised because they keep the law, while the Jew is not circumcised because he does not keep the law.Would not a plain reading of the passage within the context be stating that, just as the true circumcision is not the one who is outwardly circumcised, but rather, the one whose heart is circumcised, so also, the true Jew is not one outwardly, but inwardly? The first example is referring to true circumcision requiring inward only, so why wouldn’t the second example, true Jew, only require the inward only?Where in the text does Paul ever indicate otherwise?Furthermore, when was it ever required to be a blood Jew to be a true Jew, and recognized as part of the nation of Israel. Was it not seen in the Old Testament that this was not a requirement to becoming a Jew or part of the nation of Israel? No one would argue that Rahab, the ancestor of Jesus, was not a Jew, merely because in the flesh she was not a descendant of Abraham.How can one change the standard for Jewishness in the New Testament with no passage to back this new standard for becoming a Jew? Furthermore, in this time where Paul is writing, circumcision and the term Jew were nearly used interchangeably by the common people.Is not this Paul’s whole purpose in Philippians 3when he calls the Philippians the “real circumcision.”And following that thought, he says that he considers his flesh and accomplishments in the flesh as excrement! Why then does the dispensationalist insist that the physical is a requirement? Where did this idea even come from?Paul is very clear that salvation is for the doers of the law, who have the law written on their hearts, because they have been circumcised by the hand of the “Spirit.” R.C Sproul puts it like this,
Isn’t this a fitting climax to the argument in chapter 2?What Paul has beendriving at all along is this:God is going to look at the heart.We come adorned with all kinds of externals, but if there is no circumcision of the heart, it will be to no avail.He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit- that is by the Holy Spirit- not by the letter.
This concludes our exegesis with Romans 2:28-29.However, it should be noted that much more could be said concerning this text.Also, because of the length of this paper, not all the problems with this passage could be dealt with.Therefore, it is my hope that this exposition will be sufficient.
In Romans 9:4-6, we have Paul dealing with the obvious question that was inevitably going to come after the great promises being made in Romans 8.“How can we count on this God to do all He is saying He is going to do when Israel has seemingly been forgotten?”Not only this, but also because of this great promise just being stated in Romans 8, it is likely that Paul is reminded himself of his kinsmen and what has happened.When the church began, it was physical Jews only.The Messiah was a Jew, the apostles were Jews, etc.But by the time Paul was writing this letter, the large majority of Jews had rejected the Messiah and Paul was seeing more and more Gentiles coming into the New Covenant that was promised to the “House of Israel and the House of Judah.”So within this context Paul writes:
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever, Amen.But it not as though the word of God has failed.For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. (Romans 9:4-6)
Here, the dispensationalist can make a strong argument that what Paul is doing here is not changing who Israel is, but rather narrowing the scope of who true Israel is.For example:
This is what should be understood in reading Romans 9 when it says that not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.This is a pretty accurate diagram illustrated what Paul is trying to communicate in Romans 9.Essentially what Paul is doing defending the faithfulness of God to His people by narrowing who the people are.By doing this God is not seen as abandoning Israel.However, this being said, there should be one change in the diagram.It is lacking in one area to Illustrate the completeness to what Scripture is communicating.This diagram has been taken from Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? (as shown below)
The reason for the slight change is because the first chart made no room for the rare exceptions like the Egyptians in the Exodus or Rahab.Therefore, this small addition to the chart makes room the rare exceptions for the Old Testament and early New Testament.With this understanding Paul is making it clear that for the ones with whom he shares ancestry and loves, He wishes that he could be accursed, so that some of his physical brothers (kinsman) could be saved.But he adds, that the word of God to Israel has not failed because, not everyone who descends from Abraham is part of the promises.But rather, true Israel are those who believe.This links with Romans 11.Therefore, I will go to this passage in the following paragraphs.
In Romans 11, Paul is further expounding on the fact that God has not forsaken His people Israel.Paul argues this throughout the whole chapter.It should be noted, that Paul, in this chapter, is dealing with the present time, not some future event.He shows this by speaking in the present tense the whole chapter, only going back into the Old Testament for support for what he is arguing is true for his time.The question is being asked in Paul’s present time, because so little Jews are coming to the faith, and yet so many Gentiles are being brought in.So the question is, “has God rejected his people?”Paul answers this question with an emphatic “NO!”or in Paul’s words, “By no means!”What is Paul’s argument that God has not abandoned his people?The first is that he himself (dealing with the present) is an Israelite, a descendant from Abraham, and from the tribe of Benjamin.Paul then shows an example from the past to liken to the present situation.Paul appeals to Elijah.Elijah felt the same as Paul, because the people of Israel had turned away from God and had killed the prophets sent by God.But God responds that He has kept for Himself “seven thousand” from that time who were His.Paul then says, “so too at the present time there is a remnant. . .”
Paul then explains that a hardening of Israel has taken place, so that a great amount of Gentiles can be “grafted in.”From what were the original branches broken off and into what were the foreign branches grafted?I think a good understanding can be grasped by looking at verse 25-26 which says:
Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.And in this way all Israel will be saved.”(Italics and bold added for emphasis).
Why does Paul want the readers to be careful to understand this mystery, lest they be filled with conceit?I think the answer is obvious.The Gentiles could easily become puffed up for being blessed, thinking that they had replaced the original branches and the nation of Israel.But there are two things Paul wanted to make clear.They were only brought in by God hardening others.They had been brought in at the expense of the original branches.Indeed, this would shut up the most boastful of men.They were obtaining something they never deserved nor earned.Rather, they were reaping the blessings of someone else!As a Gentile, I will always be humbled by this truth.I was not an original branch.I was without God in the world.I was without Hope.But according to God’s gracious choice, I have been brought in.Charles Hodge says it like this:
The stumbling of the Jews was not attended with the results of their utter and final ruin, but was the occasion of facilitating the progress of the Gospel among the Gentiles.It was, therefore, not designed to lead to the former but to leave the latter result.From this very design it is probable that they shall be finally restored, because the natural effect of the conversion of the Gentiles is to provide the emulation of the Jews.
Secondly, the Gentiles were not replacing Israel.Why is this important?Because Paul had just spent the whole chapter and the two preceding it, demonstrating that God was not going to reject His people despite their unfaithfulness.He was not going to forget His people.How then, does Paul argue this?In verse 26, Paul argues this by stating that they are not replacing Israel, but rather being blessed by being grafted into Israel.Did you catch the link between verse 25b and 26a?“Until the fullness of Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved.” (Italics and bold added for emphasis). In what way was God going to save “all” of Israel?By bringing in the “fullness of the Gentiles.”I am not making this up.This is plainly stated in this text.
So what is the point?The point is, God is not replacing Israel!He has not rejected His people Israel.But rather, He is expanding the nation of Israel.This is the mystery Paul is referring to.In the past, true Israel was composed mostly of the physical descendants of Abraham.But now, a partial hardening has happened to the physical descendants, so that the fullness of Gentiles can now come “in.”In this interpretation, God may remain faithful to His promises and yet open the blessings of Abraham to all the nations.In this way, God’s promises and gifts are irrevocable!
Paul writes to the Galatians, because, the Jews are imposing the idea that to become a part of the blessings of Abraham they have to become circumcised.This is because the promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed.To become a Jew one must be circumcised, so how dare they act as though they were recipients of the blessings apart from circumcision?Paul later points out that these Jews who persecute the Gentiles for not being circumcised are not different then children of the bond woman Hagar.But it should also be noted that Paul is equating the uncircumcised Gentiles as being the children of Sarah as children of promise!Just “like” Isaac was a child of promise, so too, were these uncircumcised Gentiles because of their faith in Christ!How can Paul say this?We find his ground for saying this in Galatians 3:16-29.In Galatians 3:29 he says, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”How can Paul say if you are Christ’s then you are the offspring of Abraham?In Galatians 3:16 Paul lays out who the Abrahamic Covenant was made to, as well as, explain the answer to this, seemingly, outlandish statement.Paul says, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring.It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.”(Italics, bold, and underline were added for emphasis).Who was the Abrahamic Covenant made too?Is it the physical descendants of Abraham?No!Had it been made to the physicalJews, the Jews would have all the right to be angry.But what Paul points out is completely crucial.The Abrahamic Covenant was spoken to two people, that is, Abraham and Christ.If you are in Christ, then you are in the Abrahamic Covenant.Now here is where the dispensationalist says, “yes, the Gentiles are in the Abrahamic Covenant, but only the ‘blessings’ aspect, not the land, or the seed aspect.”They argue this because, in the context of chapter three Paul is dealing with Salvation by faith not by works.But does this do justice to the text?First, the problem the Jews had was how could the uncircumcised Gentiles be part of the Abrahamic Covenant.In response to this, Paul does not distinguish to the readers, by stating that he is speaking only of eternal life but not the land and the commonwealth of Israel.In other words, not all the promises, just one of them.But Paul does not do this, he contradicts this idea by saying that all the promises were being spoken to Abraham and Christ.Notice, Paul uses the plural when referring to the promises of the covenant made to Abraham and Christ.How can anyone exegetically argue that only one promise is being spoken of here in the context?Nor could anyone argue that only two of the promises are being spoken of, for no clarification by Paul is given to which two He would be referring to.Instead, Paul does not specify, but rather, uses the plural, implying all the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant were made to Abraham and to His seed, that is Christ.And if you are in Christ, then you are heirs to all the “promises.”
Paul carries this idea through the whole book, even in his closing statements being made in the epistle.Galatians 6: 15-16 says:
For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon you, and upon the Israel of God.
When we read this statement in light of what we have learned from Paul in Galatians, not to mention, how we have seen Him use Israel in Romans 11, we can understand it more clearly.The dispensational view of this chapter is that Paul is given a blessing first on the Gentile Christians for their observance of this rule and not succumbing to being circumcised and standing firm in the midst of persecution.The word “kai” is then understood to be in addition to these people and this blessing, a blessing also to the believing Jews who do not associate with these Jews who persecute the Gentile believers.However, there is a serious problem with this interpretation as Robertson points out, he states:
First, the word kai may be understood as meaning “and,” as it usually does in the Greek New Testament.On this understanding, Paul would be pronouncing his benediction of peace first over “as many as” (that’s, “all who”) hold to the rule that the distinction between Jew and Gentile cannot serve as a basis for determining who is and who is not to be reckoned among the people of God.But then he would be extending that blessing to another category of people, and that presents the problem.He would in effect be violating the very rule that he himself has just established by pronouncing his blessing over elect Jews who did use circumcision to identify themselves as the people of God.“The Israel of God” would be a group of people other than all those who make it a practice never to regard a distinction between Jew and Gentile as a basis for identifying the people of God.But this would have Paul contradicting his own line of argument.It would include in his apostolic blessing people who made the very distinction that Paul has just disallowed.
This is, indeed, what the dispensationalist is arguing for.A strong distinction of the Church and the nation of Israel being different, both now and forevermore.Ryrie says,
The heavenly Jerusalem we are told, is inhabited by angels, the church, God, Jesus, and the “spirits of the just men made perfect.The point is, however, that there are distinct groups of believers in Heaven. Distinction is maintained even though the destiny is the same.(italics added for emphasis)
Is this really what the Bible is teaching?Distinctions among the people of God?Distinctions being made concerning: blessings, promises, and covenants among the people of God?Are not all the promises yes in Christ (II Cor. 1:20)?Are not all those who are saved in Christ co-heirs with Christ?Is not Christ an heir to all the promises in the Scriptures concerning the covenants?How can anyone draw such strong lines of distinctions, from the Scriptures?
The last passage to be exegeted is in I Peter 2:9-10.Peter is writing to the saints to comfort them in the midst of suffering.He just told them of an imperishable inheritance that is theirs in Christ.He then builds off this theme by speaking of Christ being a cornerstone to a temple of which we are built upon also as “living stones.”It is in this context that Peter says to the saints:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness in His marvelous light.Once you were not a people of God, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
I will comment little on this passage, because I have already gone over the page limit.Please note first that Peter is not just making a random statement here.He is quoting from the Old Testament a promise that was given by God to the nation of Israel(Exodus 19:5).This is significant.Often when one is making an attempt to prove Jesus is God we will go to the Old Testament where we see phrases, titles, and names that are designated to God and then show how these exclusive titles, names, and phrases that are used for God are now being used for Jesus.We then conclude, this must mean that Jesus is God.So when we go to the Old Testament and we see all these covenants, promises, titles, and names used exclusively for Israel now being applied to the Church, would not the same logic follow?No one would say, “Oh, you are replacing God with some guy named Jesus!”So why do some conclude that about those who see the Church being a gift to the true Israel as an expansion to all the world, when, all the names, phrases, and titles, being applied to the church were also used for the nation of Israel. As some say, “OH, you are replacing Israel with the Church.”It should be understood that, the Church is Jewish in its roots.The Church has a Jewish heart! With Jewish Covenants, and a Jewish Messiah, along with Jewish Apostles.How else could Peter refer to the Church as a “chosen race” or a “holy nation”.I often hear, “Israel is a nation, the church is not.”How can some understand that, in light of Peters statement?According to Peter and God the church is a “holy nation.”Should we spiritualize the text and say, “well, that’s just spiritually, it is not literally a nation.”One could ask, “if the church is a nation, where is it’s land?”To this I say, “The Jerusalem above, she is our mother (Gal. 4:26).”Just as Paul did.I believe the Church has a citizenship in Zion in the New Jerusalem above where it awaits being finished by an architect who’s builder is God.For when it is finished it will descend from Heaven on the New Earth. And for all eternity Heaven will be on Earth. Once again, just like in the original creation, only better, will this New Earth be.For the Garden will extend its boundaries around all the earth.Who is the king of this nation?It is Christ Jesus who has been given all authority (Matt. 28:18), and has come from the tribe of Judah, a seed of David (Matt. 1:1).The covenants spoken to Abraham should not be seen as only physical nor only spiritual!Too often we fall to one extreme or the other.God’s promises to Abraham and his offspring was “forever.”The only way this can be fulfilled literally is for it to be fulfilled in the New Heavens and the New Earth.This was the hope of Isaiah that we find in Isaiah 65.We also find that this was the hope of all the patriarchs, in Hebrews 11.
The Beginnings of Israel and the Church.
The people of God have taken on different names as more revelation reveals more fully the purpose of Gods people.It started with the seed of the Adam and Even.In Genesis 12 we find the selection of a man (Abraham)through which will come the promised seed. From Abraham comes forth a great family and a chosen race.The great family becomes a nation (Israel).In acts 2, the birth of the Church is brought forth in new power and authority.This power and authority come as a result of a new and living King, that is, Jesus Christ.
Similarities and distinctions between Israel and the Church.
There are a number of similarities between Israel and the Church.Both are likened to the wife/bride of God.Both are given the New Covenant.Both have the same Messiah.Both have outward and inward aspects to them.Not everyone that was from Israel was truly Israel.So also not all professing Christians are truly apart of the true catholic Church.Both are saved by grace through faith.Distinctions are fewer, whereas Israel was mainly composed of one physical ethnicity, the church is composed of countless nationalities.Israel was under the Old Covenant.The Church was never under such a law.Israel of the Old Testament did not have the power that the Church is given at Pentecost.There are other similarities and differences between the two, but this will suffice for this papers purposes.
In the following paper, I have presented to the reader the two major views concerning the relationship of the Church and Israel.I have exposited the major text listed, as well as, share my own personal views concerning the topic at hand.I also hope, that this paper may be used to clear up any confusion that has been going on for over a hundred years now.I also want to thank the dispensationalist, although I disagreed with their main point. It was the dispensationalist that actually showed me the importance of seeing the Jewish ancestry in the Church, as well as, equip me to study the Bible.As a result, I have seen the importance of a physical fulfillment, as well as, a spiritual one.Much thanks can go out to many of the books published from dispensationalist demonstrating the importance of proper hermeneutics.I feel confident that the conclusions I have come to are a result of the hermeneutic taught by men such men as Roy B. Zuck and Dr. Michael Rydelnik.It is teachers like these that have shown me the importance of taking the Bible and specifically the covenants found in Scripture, literally!I anxiously await to enter the promise land with my Messiah and King who will reign over me and all His people forever!He will be our God, we will be His people, and He will dwell amongst us!
Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference, (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1990) pg. 56
R.C. Sproul, ESV Reformation Study Bible, (Orlando, FL: Ligonier Ministries, 2005)pg. 35
Paul N. Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishing, 1995, 2006) pg. 43
James Montgomery Boice, Romans Volume 1 Justification by Faith, Romans 1-4, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991) 258
Rabbi Menachem, Commentary on the Books of Moses, (Fol. 43, col. 1) quoted by Charles Hodge’s commentary
Jalkut Rubeni, (num. 1)quoted byCharles Hodge’s commentary
Akedath Jizehak, (fol. 54, col. 2) quoted by Charles Hodge in Commentary
Robert L. Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, (Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan Publishing House, 1993) pg 197-198
R.C. Sproul, The Gospel of God Romans, (Ross-shire, Great Britain:Christian Focus Publications, 1999) pg. 58
Keith A. Mathison, Dispensationalism Rightly Dividing the People of God?, (Phillipsburg, NJ, Reformed Publishing Company, 1995) pg. 39
Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, (Grand Rapids, MI:WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1886) pg. 361
O. Palmer Robertson, The Israel of God Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, (Phillipsburg, NJ:P&R Publishing Company, 2000) pg. 41-42
Charles C. Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine, (Chicago, IL:Moody Press, 1972) pg. 158