The controversy over God’s continuation of Israel as a viable nation despite their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah looms large in the Christian church.
Most followers of Jesus are not even aware of the various Christian theologies regarding the Jewish nation. Yet when uninformed evangelicals are exposed to such anti-Israel beliefs such as Replacement Theology (the view that Israel is no longer God’s elect people but replaced by the Church), these Christians are conflicted over what they are hearing and what the Bible teaches.
As a representative of Replacement Theology (though he prefers the term “Fulfillment Theology”) Gary Burge, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, in his book Whose Land? Whose Promises? the author states, “Abraham can become the father of many nations because when Gentiles share in Abraham’s faith, he becomes their father too (Romans 4:16). Physical lineage, therefore, has been spiritualized into a lineage based on faith (emphasis mine). The ‘land of Israel’ is likewise spirtualized now to include the entire world” (pg. 182).
The key concept to focus on from Burge’s theology is, “physical lineage . . . has been spiritualized into a lineage based on faith.” Israel is no longer a physical nation, according to the Wheaton professor, but has become a spiritual entity that one enters into by faith in Christ not by physical heritage through Abraham. If the physical seed has been “spiritualized” then the “physical” is no longer relevant, hence the physical nation of Israel is moot to God’s spiritual program.
The glaring mistake Burge makes is twofold: first, the physical lineage of a member of the nation of Israel never implied the individual within the nation has a relationship with God, and second, within the physical nation of Israel there has always existed a spiritual remnant of Israelites who remained faithful to God. These two truths do not redefined the nation of Israel, but describe the reality of a spiritual remnant within the physical Jewish nation.
In contrast to Gary Burge’s fulfillment theology which pushes aside God’s plan for the physical nation the Apostle Paul teaches that Israel still exists as a nation even after the first coming of the Messiah. In Romans 9:3-4a Paul pleads, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” To Paul, “those of his own race” are “the people of Israel” quite alive and not replaced by or fulfilled in the New Testament church. (more…)