Monday, January 28, 2013

Replacement Theology and Galatians – Part 3

In the previous article, I presented Scripture that showed that the Church is not found in the Old Testament, and in fact, cannot be found there because: (1) it is called a mystery in the New Testament, e.g., something not revealed in the OT, but is now revealed; and (2) the Church was started in Acts chapter 2 and involves a new work of the Holy Spirit whereby His baptizing and sealing work is unique to the Church age. We now move to one of replacement theology’s favorite sections of Scripture – Galatians 3:27-29: 

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:27-29)


What is the big point of Galatians 2:27-29? The big point is that in the Church age, the Church is made up of both Jew and Gentile, and that Christ is the one that both groups are baptized into. In the previous article, I showed that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is unique to the Church age. In the Old Testament, individuals were temporally indwelt with the Holy Spirit for the purpose of accomplishing a special task, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit is nowhere found in the Old Testament. The baptism of the Spirit speaks of the believer’s association with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

In verse 3:27, “as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” can be taken either as water baptism or as Spirit baptism. Either way you take it, the Galatians would have been baptized with both the Spirit upon conversion and with water sometime later and understood its meaning as a new life associated (clothed) with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. So the statement, “put on (Greek: en-duo “in-clothing”) Christ,” meaning, we have put on new clothes, a new life in Christ.    

Replacement theology’s position

Let me introduce the error of their position by first stating a common interpretation from someone in their camp.  “Israel was the Church of the Old Testament and in its spiritual essence constitutes a unity with the Church of the New Testament, Acts 7:38; Rom. 11:11-24; Gal. 3:7-9, 29; Eph. 2:11-22.” This is a quote from Dr. Berkhof (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 409).     Dr. Reymond argues, “we can assert here that the church in Scripture is composed of all the redeemed in every age who are saved by grace through personal faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ, ‘the seed of the woman’ (Gen. 3:15) and suffering Messiah (Isa. 53:5-10).” (Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, p. 805)

As can be seen from these references, that both Drs. Reymond and Berkhof provide no verses that state the Church is called Israel in the Old Testament or that the Church is composed of all redeemed throughout history. In fact, OT saints are called “the remnant” (Isa. 1:9; 46:3; Jer. 23:3; 31:7; Joel 2:32; Mic. 7:18; Rom. 9:27; 11:5), whereas those that are associated with the Church are called members of the Church (Acts 11:26; 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; Col. 1:18).

Paul describes that what we have today is something new as both the Jew and Gentile are in this new body called the Church, the ‘ekklesia’ (notice the word for synagogue ‘sunagoge’ is not used for the Church). The distinction between Jew and Gentile has been broken down by the death of Christ on the cross. In the Old Testament law a distinction was made between Jew and Gentile, but the middle wall of separation has been broken down (Eph. 2:14) bringing about the dispensation of grace.     


Ephesians 3:2-10 describes this new age as follows:

If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,  by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, (Eph 3:2-10)

Problems with their view from the context

First, the statement “there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female,” is a statement of societal contrasts. That is to say, it is obvious that some sort of contrast is being drawn between the two classes of people. In this context, Paul has been getting after the Jewish brethren for treating the Gentiles in the old Jewish way as “sinners” (cf., 2:15). As a result of this mindset, the Jewish believers apparently started treating the Gentile believers as inferior, second class citizens, even separating from them during meals. They went so far as to seat at separate tables thus making themselves higher spiritually than those “sinner” Gentiles.  

In the next group, “there is neither bond nor free,” the big contrast has to do with status in society, specifically, one’s position of financial status or rank, or authority. With respect to salvation, one’s societal standing, whether slave or free, does not provide any favor in the gospel of Christ, and their individual inheritance as heirs of Christ.   

The last group, “male nor female” has to do with societal relations of the limitation of women to have the same rights as men. In that culture, women were very much limited in the things they could do. For example, they could not be admitted to certain sacred rites and ceremonies. But with respect to salvation, one’s sex does not provide any favor in the gospel of Christ. It is not that women are equal in the Church, for they cannot serve as elders equally with men, but they are saved equally with all the rights and benefits thereof as heirs of Christ.    

In summary, the relationship of the three pairs of groups has to do with a major societal difference in blood-line (Jew verses Gentile), financial status (slave verses free), and sex (male verses female). In society and reality these differences still exist. These differences still exist within the Church also, but with respect to salvation, God saves who He wills. There are still distinct individuals identified in the Church as Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. What is the central message Paul is making here? Paul is saying that God saves who He wills and all those He chooses are part of the family of God, will get to heaven, and are heirs of the promise of Abraham receiving a transformed heart and eternal life.  John states a similar thing in John 1:12-13:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Problems with their view from other cultural circumstances

If one claims there “is neither Jew nor Gentile,” means that God has given up national Israel what then do the other contrasts represent? The problem with this verse comes not only from those in the Church who claim Gentiles receive all the promises made to Israel, but also with  feminists seeking to use this verse to justify women in Church leadership. When we proclaim that “there is neither male nor female” we do not mean women can serve in a pastor/teacher role, since 1 Timothy 2:13 clearly states that women cannot serve this function because: 1) Adam was born first, then Eve; and 2) Eve was deceived.  Nor do we say that men and women do not have different gender roles; the husband is still the head over the wife (Eph. 5:22-24) not only within the Church and home, but in life. The meaning here is identified by context that both male and female are equal when it come to God’s salvation. No man can bring his wife into the kingdom of God, as the Mormon believes. Nor can a woman, because she is a woman earn her salvation (cf. John 1:12-13).  

To say “there is neither slave nor free” is not to say that those in the Church could not possess slaves, for Paul wrote the letter to Philemon, a runaway slave, urging him to go back to his slave owner to fulfill his legal obligations. Within that society the distinction still existed both inside and outside the Church. The free man cannot buy his way into heaven any more than can a slave suffer his way into heaven. But what this does means is that with Christ there is no partiality. No one can come to the Father but through Christ (John 10:9, 14:6).  And since everyone within the body of Christ is a son or daughter of God, everyone should be treated with respect, knowing we all will be with Him in heaven. God demands that believer’s treat all people with respect, since all mankind in made in His image, how much more the slave that has been chosen by God.

In the next article I will look at a common hermeneutical mistake with Replacement Theology – the error of prooftext hermeneutics.