Monday, November 26, 2012

Replacement Theology and Galatians - Part 2

In the previous article, I presented the introductory remarks concerning what replacement theology is and introduced Galatians 3:7 as a verse used to support replacement theology’s basic tenet – that the Church replaces Israel in the Abrahamic covenant due to Israel’s rejection of Jesus. I then showed that the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-3; 22:15-18) was given specifically to Abraham and his seed after him, specifically, to the ethnic line of Abraham, Isaac (Gen. 26:24), and Jacob (Gen. 28:13-17).

Replacement theology is not only destructive with respect to hermeneutics and the basic rules of reading, but is also destructive to several fundamental characteristics and attributes of God. If God can make a promise to Israel and then not fulfill that promise, then God is not immutable. Immutability of God means that God is unchangeable.

For example, James says,
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17)

Can God change His covenant with Abraham? If God protects His holiness, and He does, then how can He then establish a people set apart for service to Him, then not live up to the legal demands that He defines in the first place? God has and will continue to protect His remnant of Israel. Notice what the Lord says in Malachi 3:6:
For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
So, when the replacement theologian says something like the following, it is truly mystifying:
“The covenant made with Abraham was primarily a spiritual covenant … This covenant is still in force and is essentially identical with the ‘new covenant’ of the present dispensation.” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 632-633).    
Dr. Berkhof in relating the Abrahamic Covenant to the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-33; Ezek. 36:22-32) bypasses the Land Covenant (Palestinian Covenant, Deut. 28-30), and the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:4-16; 1 Chron. 17:3-15). This is typical of replacement theology as there can be no promises for Israel outside of the Church in their system, since the Church is not promised land.

The Abrahamic covenant has three aspects: (1) the promise of seed or physical offspring; (2) the promise of a physical land; and (3) a promised ruler over that land. From the basic covenant made to Abraham in Genesis 17:1-3, comes the three outworking with the seed in the New Covenant, the promise of the land in the Land Covenant, and the promise of the king in the Davidic Covenant.     

In Galatians 3:16, the replacement theologian sees only a spiritual blessing in both the original Abrahamic and the “new covenant.” Again, notice what Dr. Berkhof says:

“The unity and continuity of the covenant in both dispensations follows from the fact that the Mediator is the same…, the condition is the same, namely, faith, Gen. 15:6 … ; and the blessings are the same, namely justification, … regeneration, … spiritual gifts, …, and eternal life, …” Peter gave those who were under conviction on the day of Pentecost the assurance that the promise was unto them and to their children, Acts 2:39. Paul argues in Rom. 4:13-18; Gal. 3:13-18 that the giving of the law did not make the promise of none effect, so that it still holds in the new dispensation. And the writer of Hebrews points out that the promise to Abraham was confirmed with an oath, so that New Testament believers may derive comfort from its immutability, Heb. 6:13-18.” (Berkhof, p. 633)
As can be seen from this quotation, Dr. Berkhof understands the theological importance of God’s Word being immutable. What he has left out, however, are the promises of a physical seed, a physical land, and a physical king in the land – the only thing that remains within replacement theology is the transformed heart that comes from the New Covenant.

Galatians 3:16-17

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. (Gal. 3:16-17)
What should be noted at this point is that there is a great amount of agreement with expositors here. The common agreement is as follows: (1) Paul is speaking about promises that cannot be broken and the law did not break the Abrahamic covenant (hard core replacement theologians see the Abrahamic covenant replaced by the Mosaic Covenant which in turn was replaced by the New); (2) Paul uses both senses of “seed” (cf., Gal. 3:16) and “seeds” (in Rom. 4:18 Abraham’s offspring of Gen. 15:5 is identified with the many nations of Gen. 17:5) in Scripture. However, it should also be noted that the plural usage is naturally interpreted as physical seed (sperma) as physical descendants, then secondly as metaphorical. With respect to the metaphorical usage, it is used of the righteous remnant of Israel (Isa. 41:8; Rom. 9:6), and anyone in general, Jew or gentile that possess the faith of Abraham (Gal.3:29).    

Dr. Couch summarizes the following observation concerning the verses leading up to 3:1-14:

“In the covenant made with Abraham (the Abrahamic Covenant), God prophesied that through Abraham ‘all the families of the earth will be blessed’ (Genesis 12:3). This prophecy was in seed form in Genesis 12, but the full implication would unfold with the passage of time as God revealed more and more of His plan for humanity. Paul quotes Genesis 12:3 and offers an explanation in Galatians 3: ‘The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you’ (verse 8). To everyone who trusts Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, ‘it was reckoned to him as righteousness’ (verse 6), by which believers become ‘sons of Abraham’ (verse 7) and are ‘blessed with Abraham, the believer’ (verse 9). Within the New Covenant is a promise in which God told the Jewish people, ‘I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes’ (Ezekiel 36:27). The Church is not the beneficiary of this promise, but it does benefit from the New Covenant. Christ reminded the disciples just before His ascension that ‘you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’ (Acts 1:5). These verses are not c0-mingling Israel and the Church, as taught by amillennialists. God was simply prophesying, through Abraham, the master plan of how the world would be blessed by Abraham and his descendants, the Jewish people.” (Mal Couch, in Tim LaHaye & Ed Hindson gen.ed., The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary, p. 420)  

Seeds verses Seed

The key verse is 3:16 “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Most replacement theologians will at this point ignore Paul’s recognitions of the plural use of “seeds” in Romans 4:18, describing Abraham’s offspring of Gen. 15:5 as identified with the many nations of Gen. 17:5. It is not that they deny the dual meaning in Scripture, it is just that they choose to ignore the dual use here in order to talk around the meaning of this section and justify their replacement doctrine.

It is clear that the Lord in the Abrahamic covenant intends to give Abraham a physical offspring of which there will be a chosen ethnic line through Isaac, Jacob and etc. And that the promise includes Jesus, the Savior of the World coming through the ethnic Jewish line. It is also clear that through the Abrahamic covenant all the nations of the world will be blessed as Jesus died as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world ( John 2:2).     

The Church is the Old Testament

The primary presupposition that the church is found in the Old Testament is simply bad theology. The Church is only found in the New Testament because it is unique to the dispensation of the Church.

The Church started at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 and is tightly linked with a new work of the Holy Spirit. The Church is identified as believers who believe in the gospel of Christ and have to be baptized, indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is the uniqueness of the baptizing of the Holy Spirit that starts with and identifies the Church. The baptizing work of the Holy Spirit is not found in the Old Testament.

Notice what John the Baptist says concerning the baptizing of the Spirit. “I [John the Baptist] did not know Him [Jesus], but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33).

The giving of the Spirit was prophesized to come after Jesus was raised from the dead, therefore, the Church could not exist until the resurrection of Christ. Notice John 7:39, “But this He [Jesus] spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

The Church cannot be found in the Old Testament since it was not known there (Eph. 3:9; Rom. 16:25). It is described as a mystery (something not revealed previously, but is now revealed) (cf. Eph. 5:32) and described as a new thing (Eph. 2:14-18; 3:1-7). The Church is made up of both Jews and Gentiles placed into one body (Eph. 2:14-18).

All Israel Will Be Saved

What does it mean then, that all Israel will be saved? Romans 11:26 states very clearly:

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins." Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Rom 11:25-29 NKJ)
Israel is ethnic Israel in Romans 11 as 11:1-2a brings the national Israel in context:

I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.

How can God save all of national Israel? By His sovereign work as He brings judgment upon the nation and upon the nations during the Great Tribulation that was known in the Old Testament as the Day of the Lord and the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jer. 30:7). As the story is told, when the Lord returns again all those representing the nation Israel will call upon the name of the Lord (Isa. 62: Zeph. 3:8-13). In the millennial kingdom Israel will be exalted above the other nations (Isa. 14:1-2; 49:22-23; 60:14-17; 61:6-7)., and the nation will become God’s witness (Isa. 44:8, 21; 61:6; 66:21).

In the next article I will examine one of Replacement Theology’s most quoted verses: Galatians 3:27-29.