What does the Church think of Israel?
What is the function of Israel?
Let us consider the implications of “Replacement Theology” that contrives to confuse the identity of Israel and the Church by insisting that the former has mysteriously morphed into the latter. This confusion has been highlighted in the essay by John Stott, quoted earlier, where he declared that there are no less than four Israels; Jacob’s new name, the Jews in the Old Testament, all Christians and those who live in the country of Israel. The second and the fourth are the same to my way of thinking. In Stott’s view there is a disconnect between the Jews of today with those of biblical times.
But it’s Stott’s third definition that is at the heart of probably the most important (in God’s eyes) issue in the Church today. Again it’s all about form and function, but this time we look at it backwards. Biblically, from God’s perspective, what is the function of Israel?
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)
They were a people chosen out of all of the nations for the purpose of being His people, His treasured possession. This is a one-time proclamation to a single people group, a small people group comprising those unique individuals in the history of mankind who stood before the Almighty at Sinai and heard His voice. No other nation has had an experience to compare with this, even those who have been grafted-in spiritually to the spiritual Olive Tree that has Israel as its roots. (Romans 11 – just read the whole chapter to get the gist).
This is the function of Israel. Modern Judaism still believes this and most other religions, including much of Christianity, oppose it, despite the numerous evidences that there is something special about a people who, although only comprising around 0.19% of the world population (“the fewest of all peoples”), are the only ancient nation to survive despite being relentlessly persecuted by those who surrounded them, particularly the Christian denominations who owe their very existence to the crucified Jewish Saviour. And this tiny nation is currently vilified globally despite providing inventors, thinkers, leaders and creators who have enriched the world vastly beyond wildest expectations.
How do we explain this? We turn to Scripture and realise that if the Almighty God is going to declare a people as His treasured possession, He is going to guard and protect these people, despite the wickedness that has been thrown at them by their fellow man.
The evidence is all around, but the Church doesn’t see it. Instead the “John Stotts” of the institutional Church attempt to confuse and divide by redefining the form of Israel as “the Church”. Here is a partial list of the consequences of such thinking (unfortunately there is no space to expand on the following points, though Outcast Nation will help you on that score).
- They ignore Bible interpretation principles followed by the earliest Christians, the Protestant Reformers and Jesus himself and that is to give priority to the plain literal reading of Scripture.
- They deny God’s faithfulness in not breaking His promises (covenants) with the Jews. If He could, then why couldn’t He do the same with Christians?
- Their interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures in the light of the New Testament leads to confusion, uncertainty and the need to rely on the teachings of theologians (who don’t always agree with each other, anyway).
- They have to avoid the clear teaching of Romans 9-11.
- They don’t see the Old Testament and the New Testament as a continuous whole and would rather diminish the importance of the Old Testament, a consequence of a 2nd century heresy called Marcionism, born out of Platonism in the Early Church.
- They avoid biblical prophecy, preferring vague symbolic fulfilments to the more obvious literal and would fail to discern current world events through biblical eyes.
- They ignore the clear teaching in the Psalms and Prophets of God's continuous love for the Jewish people e.g. Jeremiah 31:37, "Thus says the LORD: ‘If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the descendants of Israel for all that they have done, says the LORD’."
- They fail to explain why the tradition they follow has never offered God's mercy and forgiveness to the Jewish people but has rather provided theological foundation for extreme hatred and persecution.
- They offer no reasonable explanations for the continuous existence of the Jewish people, the miraculous formation of modern Israel and the undeniable contributions of Jewish people to society.
But evidence is all very well. The real problem is at the heart of the established Church in the UK today. More next week …
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp