By Dr. James Ach , Dr. Elisha Weismann, James A
We are going to spend the next few articles examining some of the “proof texts” of Replacement Theology for claiming that the church is Israel. Although there are different versions of this heresy from Preterist Theology, Covenant Theology, Historicist Theology, and all post millennial and amillennial schools of thought (which includes most Calvinists), we will refer them under one simple heading of Replacement Theology (“RT”).
It is critical to understand the context of Romans chapters 9-11 as the failure to get God’s plan for the future restoration of Israel leads to several gross interpretations of Scripture including the misnomer that virtually all prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70, or that, as with the Calvinists, Romans 9-11 is a treatise on election of individuals and therefore Romans 9-11 contains a chain of texts that prove reprobation and Unconditional Election.
Undoubtedly, one of the most popular starting points for the RTs is found in Romans 9:6, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel“. However, the RT normally only cites the latter half of this verse. It is important that this verse not be separated from its following qualifier, verse 7. The verse in context reads,
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel; Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
The logic of the RT in isolating the highlighted portion above of verse 6 to prove that the church is Israel goes something like this:
Paul explains that not everyone in Israel is of Israel. There were descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that were excluded from whatever Paul means by Israel. Paul used to be called “Saul”, so when Paul came to Christ, even though he was from the tribe of Benjamin, his name was changed to reflect his transfer from Israel to the church. The natural descendants of Israel do not count, and Paul is really describing a spiritual lineage of Israel. Israel rejected their covenant by rejecting Christ, and therefore are permanently cast off by God and all of their inheritance and blessings go to the church that now includes Jews and Gentiles that make up the “true Israel” as part of the “New Covenant”.
The first thing the RT does is invent the term “true Israelite” or “true Jew” (in part based on a gross misunderstanding of Romans 2:26-28, which we will address in another article). By default, if there is a true Jew, then there must be a false Jew and a false Israel against the true Israel, and that “true Israel” is the church. Thus the RT’s have given a new definition to “church” that is found nowhere in Scripture.
Now to understand the entire context of Romans 9, it is important to see how Paul begins his discourse in verse 3-5,
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen”
Nobody in the church made of Gentiles are Paul’s “kinsmen according to the flesh“. Paul thus begins the chapter by defining that the audience he is referring to are his physical kinsmen, not spiritual. To further support this notion, Paul identifies these kinsmen according to the flesh as “Israelites” (“Who are Israelites”). Now that Paul has shown that these were not only kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, are these spiritual Israelites or physical Israelites? Paul states that to these Israelites pertained to the adoption, the giving of the law which was given to Moses, not the church, the covenants (plural) which was given to Israel, not the church, the service of God, the Levitical priesthood, which was exclusively Israel, not the church, and the promises. Thus Paul is clearly identifying national, corporate Israel made up of physical Jews.
So just what does Paul mean then by “they are not all Israel which are of Israel”? To answer this, you must leave verse 6 in its context without citing the last half as a proof text. “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect”. Why is that important? Because the question in everyone’s mind is that if all of these promises and covenants were given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Israel rejected the Messiah, then what now is to become of Israel? And what about those who were born to Abraham? If the promise was given to Abraham’s seed, and I was born from that seed, what about me? Is God finished with them? Paul begins answering this by clearing up the misconception first that just because a person was born of Abraham does not mean they are included in the lineage of the blessings, because the promise was then confirmed in Isaac, the natural son of Abraham, and not the handmade, Hagar,
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.” Galations 4:22-27
Therefore, those who were born to Hagar and her son Ishmael, were not considered part of the lineage.
Then from Isaac was born Jacob to whom the promises to Isaac and Abraham were then reaffirmed. Genesis 25:19-26; 26:1-6; 28:10-22. To Isaac, however, was born 2 sons, Jacob and Esau. Esau gave up his birthright (Gen 25:34) and eventually produced the Edomites which persecuted Jacob and his offspring all throughout the Old Testament. Because of Esau’s trading his birthright and his treatment of Israel (read Obadiah), God said that He hated Edom which was shown to demonstrate how Esau was not the recipient of the promises, but Jacob’s heritage was *[see note below]
Now this part is CRITICAL to understanding why God has not written off Israel. Jacob then had twelve sons, and the promise to Abraham was then given through Joseph, and to Joseph’s youngest son, Ephraim. Genesis 48:1-22. Pay attention on purpose now. The promise of the Messiah went through the line of Judah, Genesis 49:1-12, but the physical blessings promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob went through Ephraim!
Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s:)” 1 Chronicles 5:1-2
To sum this up, you could have been born TO Abraham, but not be OF Abraham because you were not IN ISAAC. Then you could have been born TO Isaac, but not be born OF Isaac because you were not from Jacob.
We arrive now at how this affects the church and why Paul spent 3 chapters on addressing the question: What about Israel?
The church inherited the spiritual promises to Abraham that were given while he was yet in uncircumcision. Romans 4:9. These blessings were inherited THROUGH CHRIST FROM THE LINE OF JUDAH. From Judah “came the chief ruler” Jesus Christ. Rev 5:5. But the physical land promises go through the line of Ephraim which of whose “genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright”.
This is why no RT could possibly harmonize the numerous prophecies regarding Israel being brought back to a specific piece of LAND:
And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” Amos 9:15
Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” Ezekiel 37:12
Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:37 (This verse also shows that the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel will not be revoked simply because of Israel’s actions.)
Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” Zechariah 8:23
Notice that in Hebrews 8:8, Paul shows that God will fulfill His covenant to TWO distinct groups,
For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel AND with the house of Judah“
It should be common sense that since the book is written to HEBREWS, Paul did not have the church in mind.** In the Old Testament, Israel became a divided nation, with the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi making up Southern Israel, and Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Isaachar, Zebulun, Ephraim and Manasseh making up Northern Israel. During the tribulation, God will restore BOTH HALVES of Israel,
And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” Ezekiel 37:22
During the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7), the veil will be lifted from Israel, and the gospel will be preached to the Jew and welcomed. Although the promise to Ephraim is yet to be fulfilled, and the “gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29), the Jew must still acknowledge Christ as their Messiah (Matthew 23:39). One hundred and forty four thousand Jews will be sealed out of the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev 7:4-8), led by 2 witnesses, Moses and Elijah (Rev 11:3-7) who reach the Jews for the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation. They are then killed by the dragon (Rev 11:7-8) after he is ousted from the heavens (Rev 12:3-12) which begins the last 3 1/2 years (Rev 13:4-7) in fulfillment of the 3rd woe of Revelation 8:13.
The Jews as a whole will receive Christ as those who reject Christs admonition to flee to the mountains (Matt 24:16) who are helped by God and hidden (Revelation 12:6, 14, Isaiah 26:20), and who have not remained to carry the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev 12:17) will be killed. So by the end of the tribulation, only a remnant of believing Jews are left (Rom 9:27) and thus literally, all Israel is saved (Romans 11:26).
Thus the program that God has for the nation of Israel is entirely different from the program that He has in mind for the church. The promises that God has given to Israel are directed toward the literal, physical Jew of the literal and physical land of Israel. So even though not all who were born to Abraham were of Abraham, and not all who were born to Isaac were of Isaac, and not all who were born to Jacob were of Jacob, neither are those who are of the church, “OF Israel” either. The church or “ekklesia” is a called out assembly that had a starting point (whether you believe began with Peter in Matthew 16, or with Pentecost in Acts 1-2) that inherits spiritual blessings of faith that was fulfilled in Christ through the tribe of Judah, but no part of the church is included in the fulfillment of the promises yet to be consummated in Ephraim and the restoration of the divided land of Israel. The church includes Gentiles that were grafted in to those spiritual promises, and they will be grafted out when the times of the Gentiles are completed (Romans 11:25), and God again turns His attention back to the nation of Israel. The Gentiles were branches, they were not the ROOT. The Gentiles were grafted into an OLIVE TREE (Romans 11:15-24) through Judah (Jeremiah 11:16), Israel is a FIG TREE. Matthew 24:32, Joel 1:7, Hosea 9:10.
Failure to GET THIS will lead to an erroneous view of salvation, election, predestination, the rapture, tribulation, and the coming millennial kingdom. Now although there are some pre-millennialists among Calvinists that agree with this position about Israel, they make the mistake of imposing a dual allegorical interpretation to Romans 9 where one meaning agrees with its corporate/national application to the Israel, but then also equally demonstrates the “doctrines of grace” and “sovereignty of God” in the predestination and election of individuals which is a fatal error in rightly dividing the word of truth. Romans 9 has ONE premise in mind, to answer the question about the Jew (“Hath God cast away his people which he foreknew?” Romans 11:2) and our relevance to the future in light of Israel’s rejection of Messiah to which Paul affirms that “NO” He has not cast away the Jew, because God intends to save a remnant of JEWS within a NATION OF JEWS. This is the significance of the illustration Paul uses of the story of God reserving 7,000 Jews OUT OF A POOL OF OTHER JEWS in Romans 11:1-5 (with 1 Kings 19:18, Romans 9:27).
Although we have expounded a little beyond our intent to cover Romans 9:6, the above facts demonstrate that “Not all Israel are of Israel” is taken entirely out of context by the RTs, and given an interpretation that completely defiles the integrity of Scripture, and the intent Paul intended to convey about Israel from Romans chapters 9-11. In our next articles, we will cover Romans 2:28-29, Galatians 3:28-29, Galatians 6:16, 1 Peter 2:9, Matthew 21:43, and Romans 4:11-13.
* The Calvinists use this term, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” to show that God does not love everybody, and hates sinners. However, the term “hate” here is used to show position, that God chose Jacob OVER Esau. For example, Jesus said in Luke 14:26 ” If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Now was Jesus commanding His disciples to disobey the first commandment with promise? (Eph 6:2). Of course not. To hate did not mean to literally despise and dishonor ones parents, but to show the importance of the authority and relationship of Christ above that of a parent. Luke 2:48-50.
Again, the contrast shown in context with national Israel is to show that God had the right to select the nation that He wanted to bring forth Christ, not that God personally hates individuals, but how God chose one nation over another to herald the blessings and promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Also, the fact that Paul is quoting Malachi 1 which says of Esau that God will “lay his MOUNTAINS and HIS HERITAGE waste” clearly shows that Paul is referring to Esau as a NATION, not Esau the individual. Unless of course you choose to believe that Esau was a hunchback and Malachi was describing Mt. Sinai and Mt. Ararat on his back (see photo).
** Note also that in verse 11 of Hebrews 8, Paul writes of this future restoration, “And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” If the church were the fulfillment of these covenants and promises, then the command to evangelize and “be my witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8) would be obsolete. Yet in THIS dispensation, we are told to preach the gospel to every creature.