by Norman Manzon
The burden of these studies is to provide scriptural support for the claims in our doctrinal statement and to respond to contrary claims.
We have seen in Part 1 that literal Israel and the literal church are not one and the same, that the church has not been joined to Israel, and that neither Jews nor Gentiles ever forfeit or lose their national identities for any reason. We have also seen that the overwhelming Bible-based definition of "Jew" is one who is a bloodline descendant of the Israeli patriarchs, and that that is the meaning of "Jew" that we will retain in this series - the meaning that Yeshua held to when He used the term. In Part 2 we have seen that, among the nations of the Earth, God has chosen Israel for divinely ordained purposes and privileges, and that her chosenness remains until the end of time. The materials contained in Part 1 and Part 2 constitute an essential foundation for consideration of the material in our present study, and it is respectfully urged that they be studied or reviewed before proceeding.
Part 3, which we are now engaged in, is of an apologetic nature: It is a defense against contrary claims. The chief arbiter will be the Word of God and, when called for, documented extrabiblical facts.
We will be addressing two classes of claims. The first is found perhaps exclusively in non-messianic Christian circles and has to do with Israel's being replaced by the church, or the church being Israel in some sense, and comes under the heading of Replacement Theology or Supersessionism, the latter of which means that the church has superseded Israel. The second is found perhaps exclusively in messianic circles and has to do with the claim that all believers are actually descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whether they know it or not, and comes under the heading of the Two-House or Ephraimite doctrine.
The biblical identity of a Jew has been examined in Part 1, and the fact that God has not rejected Israel as His covenant nation has been addressed in Part 2; yet, the claims of Replacement Theology and Two-House need to be responded to directly, and we will make a beginning of it here.
The meaning of this doctrine is that the church superseded or replaced Israel as God's covenant people. The three claims presented under this heading are:
If God has rejected Israel, then that clears the way for a replacement people; and if that people is the church, then the church may be considered spiritual Israel.
It is also conceivable that some who believe that Israel is still God's covenant people would consider the church spiritual Israel because it is composed of people whose spirits have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
We will now hold the light of Scripture to these claims and possibilities.
The meaning of this claim is that God rejected Israel as His covenant people when they rejected Yeshua as their Messiah and delivered Him up to Pilate to be crucified.
The point that Paul was making was that, despite the fact that some Jews didn't believe in God, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God in the matter of keeping the promises He made with Israel that are contained in the unconditional covenants that He made with them. The unbelief of some Israelites will not nullify the faithfulness of God. May it never be! In plain English, "Absolutely not!" God is not unrighteous so as to break His word, is He? May it never be! Absolutely not!
The next two times it was used are in Romans 11:1,11:
Paul used the expression in other contexts that show exactly what he meant. Some examples:
In these examples, also, Paul's question is rhetorical and calls for a negative answer; but just in case his readers would have any doubt, he supplies the answer: May it never be! Absolutely not!
Paul follows his emphatic response with, for I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. . . . What is his point? If God had rejected Israel as His covenant people, then every Israelite would be disqualified from the possibility of being saved; yet he is an Israelite who is saved, and that proves that God has not rejected His people.
To sum up, we have noticed two proofs that God has not rejected Israel as His covenant people:
Nevertheless, we'll address several passages that need clarification.
Paul is comparing the situation of his day with that of Elijah's. Just as God had reserved seven thousand men to be faithful to Him in Elijah's day, so He reserved for Himself a remnant, a minority of Israelites in Paul's day, of which Paul identifies himself as a member. Paul's logic is thus: If Israel was not rejected in Elijah's day though believers among them were in the minority, so she is not rejected in Paul's day though believers among them were in the minority. Paul's conclusion applies today, as well, for both Paul and we are in the same Church Age.
If Israel has not been rejected, then what is meant by Israel's stumbling in verse 11, fall in verse 11, and their rejection in verse 15?
Just preceding this passage, it is recorded, David says, "LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM (verse 9), and the nature of the stumbling block can be determined from 9:31-33:
The stumbling block that was laid in Zion, that is, Israel, was Yeshua. Israelites generally attempted to attain righteousness through the works of the Law and, on a national level, stumbled over the message that what was required for righteousness was faith in Yeshua. They stumbled over the message of faith in Him, but they did not fall: They did not become rejected by God.
But what of their rejection in verse 15? They were rejected from seeing the Messianic Kingdom established in their day. This cleared the way for the Church Age during which God is taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name (Acts 15:14). As Paul said of Israel in 11:12, their transgression is riches for the world.
What will their fulfillment be based on? Their acceptance by God: 15. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? Their acceptance by God will be based on their national reception of Yeshua as their Messiah, as Yeshua Himself said, For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, "BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!" (Matthew 23:39). Israel will receive Him as their Messiah, all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26), and He will then return and establish the Kingdom.
To restate it in sequence, Israel stumbled over the fact that faith in Messiah was required for righteousness, not the works of the Law. Her rejection of Messiah led to their rejection from seeing the Kingdom established at that time, not to their being rejected as God's covenant people. This cleared the way for the Church Age after which they will receive Messiah and be accepted by God. On the basis of their salvation Messiah will return and establish His Kingdom on Earth.
They did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! Absolutely not! This is further developed just ten verses later: 25. For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery - so that you will not be wise in your own estimation - that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26. and so all Israel will be saved.
The fact that God has not rejected Israel cuts the legs out from under the claim that the church has replaced Israel. Replacement Theology, then, really does not have a leg to stand on.
Supersessionism or Replacement Theology holds that God rejected Israel because of their rejection of Messiah and then received the church as His covenant people in place of Israel because of its reception of Messiah. As God's sole covenant people, the church is now the sole possessor of the covenant promises that God transferred over to it from Israel.
This matter has been dealt with at length in Part 2, and will be dealt with only summarily here:
The church is a people of God, but it has not replaced Israel, which is also a people of God. Since the Day of Pentecost God has been orchestrating an interplay between the two for the benefit of both, the outworking of His divine purposes, and the glorification of His Name. All of this is explained in Part 2.
1. It misrepresents God as one who breaks His promises. If God breaks His promises, then how is one to know his salvation is secure (which is the whole point of Romans 9-11)? How may the church know that God will not find a people to replace it for the great sins it has committed?
3. From at least as early as the second century, anti-Semitic statement have been made by church leaders, and virulent anti-Semitic policies and campaigns have been launched on the basis of the claim that God had rejected Israel because of her rejection of Yeshua. Even today, major denominations that hold to this belief promote economic divestiture from Israel and find fault with her every move despite the fact that she is surrounded by implacable and voracious wolves.
6. Two Covenant theology was formulated by Franz Rosenzweig after World War I, but Replacement Theology prepared the way for its broad adoption after World War II:
Here is a classic case of error begetting error with the offspring being more insidious than the parent. Contrary to Replacement Theology, Two Covenant holds that Israel is in a favored relationship with God and therefore repudiates the evangelism of Jews!3
There are perhaps a dozen key passages that are used to support the various claims of Replacement Theology. We will examine them one at a time in the sequence in which they appear in Scripture, and then draw conclusions. The nature of the issues at hand compel me as a Jew to declare to you that I continually appeal to God to empower me in such a way that my analysis of Scripture will never be driven by an outcome that would be favorable to Jews, but on the basis of fair and reasonable analysis applied in an objective manner. I humbly appeal to my readers - Jew and Gentile alike - to take the same approach.
Following on the heels of believing that the church has replaced Israel as God's covenant people are the beliefs that the church is spiritual Israel and its members are spiritual Jews. The reasoning is thus: Since Israel is a people by natural generation, then the church, which is a people by regeneration of human spirits by the Holy Spirit, it may validly be referred to as spiritual Israel, the true Israel, the New Israel, the Israel of God, or some similar title, and its members as inward Jews, spiritual Jews, Israelites of God, or some similar title.
Since, according to Paul, the church has absolutely not replaced Israel, then none of these designations are valid. Nevertheless, scriptures that are used to support this contrary claim must be examined.
As a preliminary concern, let us see whether or not Scripture uses the word "spiritual" in reference to a believing Gentile being a spiritual Jew.
According to scriptural usage, even a believing Jew whose walk is not mature should be not called a spiritual Jew. How then can the church be called spiritual Israel and all of its members spiritual Jews?
We are dealing with terms here, but the concepts underlying the terms will be examined further.
29. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly. Does the passage indicate that a believing Gentile is an inward Jew?
There are three keys to understanding verses 23-29:
Verses 25-27 is a refutation of that Pharisaic belief. What Paul is saying is that Jews and Gentiles who conform to God's requirements will enter the Kingdom, and Jews as well as Gentiles who do not conform to God's requirements will not, because it is inner circumcision, the circumcision of the heart, that determines entry, not outward.
What he is saying in verses 28 and 29 is, "Jews were called out by God to be a people circumcised in heart; but though you are Jews by birth, you are not Jews who are true to your calling because you are not circumcised in heart. To be a true Jew, you must be one inwardly."
Verses 23-29 may be summed up as follows:
There is no reference in the passage to Gentile believers being inward Jews. The circumcision of the heart renders one inwardly righteous, not inwardly Jewish. This is consistent with what we've already seen in Part 1: Nicolas, who was a proselyte to Judaism and was outwardly circumcised, and had come to believe and was inwardly circumcised, was still not called a Jew in any sense, but a proselyte (Acts 6:5).
As has been shown, it was the covenant that God made with Abraham that laid the foundation for the New Covenant, which is applicable today and by which all who have faith in Messiah are counted righteous before God: So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham (Galatians 3:9). In this sense Abraham is the father of all Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Messiah; but verse 12 says that Abraham was the father of circumcision to both Jews and Gentiles who follow in the steps of Abraham's faith, and also contains the phrase our father Abraham. This again raises the question: Does a Gentile's faith make him an inward Jew?
The passage is addressing the matter of Abraham's being the father of all who have faith, an inward matter, and is summed up by the quote, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU." Now, if Paul was concerned about a matter of the heart, why did he refer to MANY NATIONS if he was trying to convey that all who are of faith are inward Jews: one nation? The only way his reference could make sense is if he meant that Abraham was the father of faithful Jews, Arabs, Chinese, etc. He was not even thinking of a believing Gentile being an inward Jew.
Paul explained that Abraham's outward circumcision was a sign and a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised. He didn't say that it changed Abraham's race inwardly or outwardly. To be the father of circumcision, then, means to be the fountainhead of those who bear the sign and seal of the righteousness of. . . faith, which is the circumcision of the heart, which Paul didn't say changes one's race inwardly or outwardly. Americans say, "George Washington is the father of our country," but I'm an American and my name is not Washington. As Americans are recipients of the heritage of which Washington is considered the fountainhead, so all those who are of the faith of Abraham are recipients of the heritage of the faith of which Abraham, humanly speaking, is considered the fountainhead. This is the sense in which the passage uses father, and it is still a commonly used expression in the Hebrew language today. There is therefore no basis in the passage for referring to a believing Gentile as an inward Jew.
Again we'll draw a parallel from the natural realm: Abraham was the father of eight sons (Genesis 16:1-16; 21:1-3; 25:1-2), but only one, Isaac, was in the covenant line. Furthermore, Isaac fathered two sons, Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:19-26), but only one was in the covenant line: Jacob, whose name became Israel; and none of the sons of Abraham's other seven sons were in the covenant line. It's plain to see, then, that not all whom Abraham fathered physically are Israelites or Jews. In a parallel manner, not all whom Abraham fathered by virtue of the faith of Abraham are inward Jews. Paul makes just this kind of comparison in Romans 9:7, as we'll see right now.
Such translations as For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel (New American Standard) and For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel (American Standard Version) seem to say that those who are of the nation of Israel do not constitute the entire nation, but that there are those who are not of the nation who are also part of the nation. But consider these literal translations: all the [ones] of Israel, these [are] not Israel (Analytical-Literal Translation); not all those of Israel are Israel (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible); not all who are of Israel are these Israel (Young's Literal Translation). They start out with the entire nation then eliminate some. They speak of subtraction, not of addition or replacement. Well, is Paul saying that Israel is added to, or subtracted from? If one needed to judge on the basis of translations, he should lean toward literal ones; yet, this is not conclusive. Another thing that needs to be considered is this: Is the statement speaking of people being added or subtracted physically or inwardly?
Paul's dissertation begins with verse 1, and verses 1-5 show that Paul's focus is on the salvation of literal Israelites. His dissertation continues on through the end of the chapter where he reiterates the same concern, and then carries it over to chapter 10. Paul's overriding concern in 9:1-8 is the salvation of Israelites.
In verse 7, Paul tells us that not all of Abraham's physical descendants will be in the covenant line, and uses that as a parallel to the situation within Israel, that not all Israelites are children of God by means of salvation (verse 8). The point is strengthened by verse 31-33:
In verse 31, Paul is speaking of literal Israel, which Mt. Zion in Jerusalem represents. HE in Israel WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED, and he in Israel who does not believe in Him will be disappointed. Again, he is distinguishing between Jews who believe and Jews who do not. They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel means that not all who are physical Israelites are true to the nation's call to have faith in God.
The unbroken focus since verse 1 has been on Israelites, and it continues unbroken through verse 13. Gentiles who are saved are not brought into the picture until verse 23. They are called MY PEOPLE in verse 25, but no mention is made of their being Israelites in any sense. We know that the church is a people of God: for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua (Galatians 3:28). They are MY PEOPLE as members of the church, not as members of Israel.
There is no support in the passage for thinking that believing Gentiles are inward Jews or that the church is the new Israel.
We've covered the relevant points of Romans 11:1-5 and 11-15, and we'll begin with verse 15 here so we can see the flow of Paul's thoughts in an unbroken manner:
Many hold that believing Gentiles, being the wild olive branches, are grafted into Israel, being the olive tree. Based on that premise, they also hold that believing Gentiles are joined to Israel on the basis of their faith and are therefore inward Jews; and extrapolated to the church, the church is Israel inwardly, the New Israel, etc. Can these claims validly be derived from the passage?
The key question we need to answer is, Is the tree Israel?
Let us consider:
Is the tree Israel?
It cannot be for the simple reason that Israel owns the tree, and Israel is not owned by itself in any sense.
Since the tree is not Israel in any sense, the passage does not state or imply that believing Gentiles are grafted into Israel in any sense, and it cannot be said on the basis of the passage that they have been added to Israel in any sense, or that they are physical or inward Jews, or that the church is Israel physically or inwardly, or the New Israel, or some similar entity, or that it has replaced Israel.
Not only can the tree not be Israel, it cannot be Messiah, the Gospel, or the church either, because Israel does not own any of them either. What, then, is the cultivated olive tree?
Another element in the passage also refutes the idea that the church has replaced Israel. Consider verse 26, All Israel will be saved. If Israel is taken literally as context calls for it to be taken, then God has not rejected Israel and the church could not have replaced her; but if Israel is taken as the church, then the statement could read, "All the church will be saved," which would be an absurdity because the church is composed solely of people who are already saved, and Paul had gotten writer's cramp over a three chapter span to climax with an absurdity.
In none of the passages that we have thus far examined is there any justification for believing that God has rejected Israel as His covenant nation, or that the church has replaced or been added to Israel in any sense. The church cannot, on the basis of these passages, be called inward Israel, spiritual Israel, New Israel or any such entity, nor can its members be considered inward Jews or some similar entity. Nor can any of its members be called a spiritual Jew unless that member is a physical Jew who has a mature walk in the Lord.
We have examined what seems to be all the key passages in Romans that are used to support claims contrary to these biblical truths. We will continue in our next edition with other such passages as well as the matter of the Ephraimite or Two-House doctrine.
1. Quoted from an email of August 19, 2010 to the author by Dr. Blaising.
2. From "The Future of Israel as a Theological Question," Craig A. Blaising, Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Presented to The National Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, November 19, 2000, Nashville, Tennessee.
3. For a plain and simple refutation of this doctrine from Hell, see the author's study, Messianic Issues in Jewish Salvation.
Chafer, Dr. Lewis Sperry, Systematic Theology, (Kregel Publications, 1976). Sections on Israel and/or the church in volumes I, III, IV, V, VI, VII.
Materials by Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum *
* Dr. Fruchtenbaum's materials are available for purchase at Ariel Ministries in various formats. Some of