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Not All Israel Is Israel Part 1

Is “replacement theology” becoming the newest fad among Christians?  Lately I run across more and more Christians who claim the Church has replaced Israel as God’s people.  The sad thing is that most of them don’t know why they believe what they claim. As I dig deeper speaking with these individuals, they all share the same defect – they are sadly deficient in their knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures.

For those who teach Israel has been replaced by the Church, Romans 9:6 is an essential verse in their arsenal. On the surface, the verse can be confusing.  Rebirth of IsraelThe verse reads, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” It’s like saying, “Not all players wearing a LA Dodger uniform on the field at Dodger Stadium and sitting in the dugout are really Dodgers.”

The replacement theologian would say, “Not all Jewish people who are wearing the Jewish uniform and sitting in the Jewish dugout are really members of the team.  In fact, the real Jews consist of members of the Church who have placed their faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah.”

Replacement theology can be very confusing.  If you follow their line of thinking, in some passages “Israel is the Church” and in other texts, “Israel is the Jewish nation.”  Israel keeps switching leagues.  Sometimes they are in the National League; then at other times they are in the American League.  I don’t know who to root for because I don’t know who is who.

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Love Wins Loses Out

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…)

Does the Christian View of God Need Revising?

As kids we compared one another’s fathers to prove “my Dad is better than your Dad”.  When my son Justin was attending kindergarten, he informed me about a kid in his class who boasted his father played baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Since I am a baseball fanatic, I had to check it out.

After spending an hour investigating the Dodger website, I concluded Justin’s friend was lying.  In fact, the kid’s father did not even work in the Dodger front office as a business executive let alone as a baseball player.  I told my son his friend is making up stories about his Dad.  I then proceeded to tell my kindergartner that I used to play first base for the New York Yankees!

Speaking of dads, in chapter seven of Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins,  the Pastor compares our earthly fathers to God the Father.

The Theology of a Bi-Polar God

In light of Bell’s comparison, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan comes up with the reason why people  do not accept Jesus. Bell wonders, “If your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all of eternity for sins committed in a few short years . . . no amount of clever marketing . . . will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring, untenable, unacceptable, awful reality” (page 175).  In light of this statement the author sums up what his view of hell is:  hell is refusing to trust and refusing to trust is often rooted in a distorted view of God (pg. 175).

If we had a human father who like the God of Christianity was loving one second and then cruel the next, we would tag him an “abusive father.”

Therefore, the God portrayed by followers of Jesus is both loving and cruel.  Therefore, how can Christians expect anyone to accept the Christian message of a cruel, abusive God the Father after also being told God so loved that world that He sent His Son to die on a cross to save people from eternal torment? (more…)

Wondering What Happened at the Cross?

The wearing of the cross by celebrities and their imitators as seen in tattoos and jewelry has created too much of a  familiarity with the instrument upon which Jesus died.  In Pastor Rob Bell’s book Love Winshis aim in chapter five is to sift through the familiarity of the cross and get to the truth about what took place when Jesus died. With this goal in mind, I am in complete agreement.

As Bell lists the various perspectives on the cross, once again the Love Wins author gravitates to a position of uncertainty. He wants to make the results of Jesus’ death an “either/or” situation.  Once again Bell takes a giant leap from traditional Christianity and  invents as emergent church godfather Brian McLaren calls, ” a new kind of Christianity.”

The Cross Speaks of the Sacrifice Jesus Made On Our Behalf

First, the author speaks of the death of Jesus by which the Messiah paid for our sins much like the sacrifices in the Old Testament (pg. 123). He quotes from Hebrews 9:26 which claims Jesus appeared “once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

Bell compares the sacrifice of Jesus to other cultures where worshippers offered sacrifices to appease the gods or forces in order to maintain a peaceful, favorable relationship with them.  How odd!   Jesus did not die to put an end to pagan sacrifices or simply to please a whimsical, vengeful.  Yet Bell says, “Whole cultures centered around keeping the gods pleased. . . . And now the writer [of Hebrews] is announcing that those days are over because of Jesus dying on the cross” (pp.124-125).

The problem with Bell’s view of the substitutionary death of Christ is that he forgets Jesus was fulfilling and putting an end to the Jewish sacrificial system as described in the Torah books of Leviticus and Numbers. Jesus was not dying to appease the gods of the Greeks or Romans.

The Cross Signifies the Reconciliation Between God and Man

The next meaning of Jesus dying on the cross has to do with reconciliation .  In Colossians 1:20 Paul taught, ” and through Him [Jesus] to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven”. Reconciliation, according to Bell,  has to do with bringing two people together who were estranged and now they found a way to work it out and come back together in a new relationship. (pg. 125).

Here is where you have to watch the craftiness of  Pastor Bell.  He says on pg. 126 when Jesus died, He made peace “with all things.” You can bet your last dollar Bell will take those words to a place Paul had no intention for the phrase to go. The application of the reconciling work of Jesus to “all things” will be discussed further. (more…)

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