At the recent Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem, an array of pro-Palestinian Christian speakers shared their thoughts on the current status of the Palestinian Christian Church, their opposing views to Christian Zionism and their own theological stance commonly known as replacement theology. Munther Isaac, Instructor, Vice Academic Dean and Choir director at Bethlehem Bible College, delivered a message entitled, ” A Palestinian Christian Perspective” in which he referred to himself both as a person of Arab descent and since he is a follower of Jesus, claimed to be one of the “seed of Abraham.” Then in his message he took a theological leap to refer to himself as part of Israel, the true spiritual Israel.
The belief that Christians are members of the seed of Abraham is nothing new in Christendom. While several verses are found in the New Testament referring to followers of Jesus as the “seed of Abraham,” most evangelicals commit a theological error by referring to themselves as the “true Israel.”
It is my contention no verses exist in the New Testament can be found where Paul or any other New Testament writer refers to Gentiles as anything other as “gentiles.” Listen to Paul in Romans 1:5: Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes fro faith for his name’s sake. Then again in Romans 11:11: 11 “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.
In Romans 11:11 Paul makes a distinction between Gentiles who follow Jesus from Jewish people or members of the nation of Israel. In Romans 11:13 Paul speaks to gentile converts to Christ and refers to them as “gentiles” and not spiritual Jews or members of spiritual Israel: I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry.
Once again Paul distinguishes Gentile followers from the Jewish people in Romans 15:27: They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.
It behooves the gentile Christian or any advocate of replacement theology to demonstrate that Gentiles who accept Jesus are now spiritual Jews or members of the true Israel. Gentiles and Jewish followers are baptized or placed into the Body of the Messiah (1 Corinthians 12:13). The passage reads: For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Paul does not say that when gentiles accept Jesus, they are placed into the nation of Israel: physical nor spiritual. However, followers of Jesus become members of the Body of the Messiah also known as the church.
The issues I raise has been quite common in Christianity. Christians normally refer to themselves as spiritual Jews, which is an erroneous assertion as I will show in several blogs. At the Christ at the Checkpoint conference replacement theology was openly taught by several of the speakers. While Christian anti-Zionists are guilty of rejectionism or rejecting the nation of Israel as given biblical promises to the land of Israel, I find it odd these same Christians still want to be connected to Israel is a spiritual manner. It is much like gay men who reject women as an object of their romantic aspirations but they are comfortable dressing like women, mimicking women in their speech or taking on a feminine mystique despite rejecting feminism when manifested in a woman.
It would be nearly impossible to cover this subject in one blog. Therefore, I will cover the topic of the seed of Abraham in several articles. The best place to start with attempting to identity the seed of Abraham is the Word of God. Several key passages are used to support this teaching that Christians are now the seed of Abraham, thus replacing the physical Jewish person who rejects Jesus, and claiming to be the true seed of Abraham.
The Confusion Created by Gentile Christians Claiming to be the true Israel
During the 1980s singer and entertainer Pat Boone, made a sincere effort to connect with the Jewish community by calling himself a “spiritual Jew.” After all, he worships the Jewish Messiah Yeshua, honors many Jewish holidays and reads from the Jewish Bible. However, Mr. Boone, signed a contract with Hoffy Products and consequently had his picture plastered all over Los Angeles on billboards in which he was advertising Hoffy Bacon and Sausage. Not very Jewish for a “true Jew.”
Jewish people I had spoken to were confused by Boone’s hickory smoked Jewish identity. I had a lot of explaining to do to many secular Jews and religious ones as well.
In Bible College in Dallas, Texas I had a hermeneutics professor claim in class to be a “spiritual Jew” or a “true Jew.” I stared in amazement at this gentile Texan telling me he was Jewish.
The major problem with this unfounded claim on the part of gentiles to be the true Israel is that this teaching strongly implies the church has become Israel. Think of it this way. If a Jewish person accepts Jesus as Messiah, he then becomes a spiritual Jew. Yet when a Gentile makes the same claim, then the Body of the Messiah or the church is only made up of “spiritual Jews.” Consequently, there are no gentiles in the Church according to this replacement theology teaching.
The confusion comes when the Gentile Christian or the replacement theologian uses the word “spiritual” to imply there is an ethnic transformation when one accepts the Messiah. The New Testament contradicts such an idea. A Gentle who accepts Jesus remains a gentile. I challenge anyone to show me one New Testament passage where there is a transformation of national lines when one accepts Jesus.
When I accepted Yeshua as a Jewish person, I remained a Jewish person. I did not become a Gentile. I became a Jewish person who is now connected to the God of Israel through the Jewish Messiah. With the Gentile, he or she has come into a relationship with God through the Jewish Messiah and enjoys spiritual blessings promised to the Jewish people. Gentile Christians partake in the Jewish blessings of salvation through the Messiah, but they do not experience a national change of identity.
The Confusion Caused by the Misuse of Galatians 3:6-9.
Here is the New International Version of Galatians 3:6-9:
So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Galatians 3:6-9 is a major text used to support the belief that a Gentile who accepts Jesus becomes a member of the nation of Israel or now is part of a spiritual Israel. It is true that in this passage Paul makes it clear Gentile Christians experience the blessings of Abraham by faith. In fact, they are blessed with the faith of Abraham. Let me say that one more time: Gentiles are blessed with the faith of Abraham.
Gentile followers of Jesus have the same faith that Abrahamic had when God acknowledged his trust and “accredited to him as righteousness.” From this standpoint Gentiles who place their trust in Jesus are “children of Abraham.” So why not make the leap and call them “spiritual Jews”.
Paul said nothing about an ethnic change. Besides, not all children of Abraham are Jewish; Arabs are children of Abraham through Abraham’s son Isaac. Why not call Gentile Christians who accept Jesus “spiritual Arabs” or”spiritual Palestinians”?
That would be absurd since in the physical relam not all the children of Abraham are Jewish. So we have to conclude a Gentile can be a child of Abraham because he shares the same kind of righteous faith as the father of the Jewish nation, but that does not make that person a spiritual Jew. What is true on the physical level is true on the spiritual one. Not every physical child of Abraham is Jewish; not every spiritual child of Abraham is a member of the nation of Israel – spiritual or physical.
The Clarification of Galatians 3:6-9 in relation to Spiritual Israel
What is the meaning of Galatians 3:6-9? If one stands back and looks at the context of the passage, the student is struck with the fact the context has to do with the question whether salvation is by works or by grace through faith. Paul concludes that Abraham was declared tobe righteous based on faith and not on that of works.
The true children of Arbaham in the spiritual sense are those who are declared to be rightoeus on the same basis as Abraham – faith and not works. Gentile Christians are children of Abraham because they are declared righteous by God the ame way Abraham was – by faith. I hate to be redundant but I have no choice. This passage has nothing to do with any transformation of ethnic identity. The false teaching that Gentile Christians are “spiritual Jews” or part of Israel must be rooted out of evangelical Christianity once and for all.
If one follows the seed line of Abraham, the reader of the Word of God notices Abraham had two sons: Isaac and Ishmael. God made it clear in Genesis 21 that His promises were to be passed down to Abraham and continued through the line of Isaac and not Ishmael. After Isaac the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant was given to Jacob and then his twelve sons. If one wants to claim to be a spiritual Jew and if Paul wanted to teach that doctrine, he would have called Gentles who accept Jesus “children of Jacob” not merely children of Abraham.
By including Jacob,Paul would have mnade it clear that gentiles are now spiritual descendants of Isaac, Jacob and the twelve trives. But nowhere is that taught in the New Tstament. Paul stops with Abraham only because of the simularity of the path of faith to be declared righteous. Nothing more is to be added other than that truth.