I was enjoying a friendly discussion with a Christian at a local coffee hangout. This well-learned and articulate believer quickly let me know that she holds ot the Reformed position – another way of telling me she believes the Church has replaced Israel. We engaged in a friendly conversation for a brief period. One statement she shared has stuck with me when I asked, “What do you do with all the prophecies made concerning Israel in the millennial kingdom after the Second Coming?” and she replied, “All those prophecies are fulfilled in Christ.”
Galatians 3:16-17 is one of the major passages that is used by replacement theologians to support the idea Jesus has become the “greater Israel” and all those who follow Jesus are now the true Israel. Some Christians might call themselves “spiritual Jews.” I usually cringe when I hear my fellow Gentile believers make this statement and beg them not to tell any Jewish people.
Imagine if God chose to work with Africa as His chosen nation and in the New Testament age, Africa was replaced by the Church. Then we would experience Christians telling others, “We are the new Africa. We are ‘spiritual blacks.’” That is how ridiculous it sounds when Christians make statements that have no roots in the Word of God but are based on misguided theology or by people who have not dealt in depth with the passages they use to broadcast their beliefs.
Galanatians 3:16-17 says:
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.
From Galatians 3:16-17 we are to conclude, according to replacement theologians, that the Abrahamic promises were not spoken to the nation of Israel, but God’s commitment to Israel find their fulfillment in the one true seed of Abraham – the Messiah Jesus – rather than the nation.
Seed of Abraham
Since believers belong to Jesus, then Christians are the true seed of Abraham through the one true seed-Jesus of Nazareth. If one reads this passage without asking questions or checking out the surrounding context of Galatians 3, I can understand this conclusion. However, upon deeper investigation, the student of the Bible discovers Paul’s intention was not to teach that the Church has replaced Israel or that Jesus is the true Israel. (more…)
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. (more…)
Rich Stearns, president of Christian relief organization World Vision had spent a memorable meal with Palestinian Christians and 30 American pastors and church leaders in a cave west of Bethlehem. After the half mile hike to reach his destination at the top of a hillside, he was greeted by a sign that read, “We refuse to be enemies.”
The West Bank section of land where this Christian gathering took place is a mere 100 acres. However, its Palestinian residents, the Nassars have turned their property into an touch point for demonstrating to evangelical American Christians how unfairly Palestinian Christians are being treated by Israelis.
The Nassars claim they have owned the land since 1916, and according to international law, the territory does not belong to Israel, but to the Nassar family. Currently, according to World Vision President Stearns, the parcel of land is surrounded by 50,000 Israeli settlers, “living on similar land confiscated from other Palestinian families.”
After seven years of trial, testimonies from a lineup of archaeological experts and a 475 page verdict, presiding Judge Aharon Farkash of the Jerusalem District Court court not reach a decision supporting the fact the ossuary [a limestone burial box] of James, brother of Jesus, was a forgery. As a result the Jerusalem judge could not charge Israeli collector Oded Golan, the owner of the bones box of James, with forgery regarding the ossuary.
A Huffpost Religion article summed up the seven year controversy and what the final verdict implies:
Golan said the ruling put an end to what he portrayed as a 10-year smear campaign against him. Hershel Shanks, editor of the Washington-based Biblical Archaeology Review, said he was delighted, insisting the burial box, or ossuary, is authentic and a “prized artifact to the world of Christianity.”
The Israel Antiquities Authority, which believes Golan’s most high-profile items are forged, said the case shows the limits of science in proving forgeries, but it also prompted museums and universities around the world to be more suspicious of finds of uncertain origin.
In light of the ruling students of the Bible are left with the conclusion the ossuary may be authentic after all and that science could not debunk the veracity of the claim that the box once housed the bones of James, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth.
In the last installment of my examination of Rob Bell’s Love Wins, the focus was on the character of God. Bell continues his questioning of the person of God in the remainder of chapter seven, “What is God like?”
Throughout Love Wins Pastor Bell struggles with the idea of a God who is just and punishes sin and a God who demonstrates His love by sending His Son into the world to die for our sins. A quote from a sermon by Pastor Alistair Begg best summarizes the interchange between God’s holy character and love – concepts Rob Bell cannot swallow:
If God in His love . . longs to forgive sinners . . . longs to enjoy friendship with sinners . . and if in His justice He cannot ignore our sins, how then He display His love and execute His justice? The answer lies in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the cross Jesus is an emblem of the Father’s love and Jesus is the one who bears the Father’s wrath. If He [the Father] were to excuse sin, He would not be true to Himself in the perfection of His holiness. Therefore, sin must be punished. But because of the magnanimous, unbounded nature of His forgiving love, He execute His justice on His Son so that those who deserve that judgment may find in the Son forgiveness, love and eternal life.
The Mars Hill Church pastor feels this kind of statement from Alistair Begg communicates a gospel that “subtly teaches people that Jesus rescues us from God” (pg. 182). Rather Bell offers his Love Wins Gospel as an alternative, “We do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin and destruction.” It is that Rob Bell ha a foggy notion of the biblical doctrine of salvation. On this point alone Love Wins loses out.
From the Old Testament we learn an innocent animal had to die in exchange for the life of the guilty sinner who offered the animal to find forgiveness of sins. Yes, under the Jewish sacrificial system an innocent goat had to die so the guilty sinner can have his sins atoned for.
In addition, much to Bell’s chagrin,we cannot escape the fact our sin earns God’s wrath as explained in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” and Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”
When Jesus died on the cross, He satisfied the wrath of God against sin. The nature of God is not separate from the “death, sin and destruction” He pronounces against our sin. In fact, the consequences to our sin flow out of the holy character of God and not removed from His character as Bell implies. It is because God is just in dealing with sin that there sin death, sin and destruction. The wrath of God against our sin is due to God’s just character. It is this wrath that Jesus had to deal with on the cross for us to be forgiven. (more…)