Covenant Theology Is Not Replacement Theology

israelRecently I had a question asking whether “covenant theology” is so-called “replacement theology.” Those dispensational critics of Reformed covenant theology who accuse it of teaching that the New Covenant church has “replaced” Israel do not understand historic Reformed covenant theology. They are imputing to Reformed theology a way of thinking about redemptive history that has more in common with dispensationalism than it does with Reformed theology.

First, the very category of “replacement” is foreign to Reformed theology because it assumes a dispensational, Israeleo-centric way of thinking. It assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement. Such a way of thinking is contrary to the promise in Gen. 3:15. The promise was that there would be a Savior. The national people was only a means to that end, not an end in itself. According to Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22, in Christ the dividing wall has been destroyed. It cannot be rebuilt. The two peoples (Jews and Gentiles) have been made one in Christ. Among those who are united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, there is no Jew nor Gentile (Rom. 10:12; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11).

At least some forms of dispensationalism have suggested that God intended the national covenant with Israel to be permanent. According to Reformed theology, the Mosaic covenant was never intended to be permanent. According to Galatians 3 (and chapter 4), the Mosaic covenant was a codicil to the Abrahamic covenant. A codicil is added to an existing document. It doesn’t replace the existing document. Dispensationalism reverses things. It makes the Abrahamic covenant a codicil to the Mosaic. Hebrews 3 says that Moses was a worker in Jesus’ house. Dispensationalism makes Jesus a worker in Moses’ house.

Second, with respect to salvation, Reformed covenant theology does not juxtapose Israel and the church. For Reformed theology, the church has always been the Israel of God and the Israel of God has always been the church. Reformed covenant theology distinguishes the old and new covenants (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 7-10). It recognizes that the church was temporarily administered through a typological, national people, but the church has existed since Adam, Noah, and Abraham; and it existed under Moses and David; and it exists under Christ.

Third, the church has always been one, under various administrations, under types, shadows, and now under the reality in Christ, because the object of faith has always been one. Jesus the Messiah was the object of faith of the typological church (Heb. 11; Luke 24; 2 Cor. 3), and he remains the object of faith.

Fourth, despite the abrogation of the national covenant by the obedience, death, and resurrection of Christ (Col. 2:14), the NT church has not “replaced” the Jews. Paul says that God “grafted” the Gentiles into the people of God. Grafting is not replacement, it is addition.

It has been widely held by Reformed theologians that there will be a great conversion of Jews. Some call this “anti-Semitism.” This isn’t anti-Semitism, it is Christianity. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The alternative to Jesus’ exclusivist claim is universalism, which is nothing less than an assault on the person and finished work of Christ. Other Reformed writers understand the promises in Rom. 11 to refer only to the salvation of all the elect (Rom. 2:28) rather than to a future conversion of Jews. In any event, Reformed theology is not anti-semitic. We have always hoped and prayed for the salvation, in Christ, sola gratia et sola fide, of all of God’s elect, Jew and Gentile alike.

Here is a resource for getting to covenant theology.

[This post first appeared in 2008 on the HB]

84 comments

  1. It really is odd, isn’t it? Baptist ecclesiology, as far as I can tell, necessitates the view that Pentecost is the “birthday of the church”; one naturally deduces that there was no church prior to that event, and that therefore God didn’t graft into an existing tree, but planted a whole new one. Who was it who was meant to be proposing replacement?

  2. It seems that a Dispensationalist’s attacks on Covenant Theology and an atheist’s attack on Christianity have this in common: the critique only holds up from their presuppositions.

    That’s what made it so difficult for me to understand and accept Covenant Theology. I failed to examine my assumptions when approaching Scriptures and though there were a ton of passages I couldn’t make sense of through a Dispensational lens, as long as I made literal fulfillment of OT prophecy (to ‘literal’ Israel) a test of God’s ‘sovereignty’ I couldn’t understand/accept Covenant Theology. Thankfully that’s not the case anymore.

    Anyway, thanks for the post, Dr. Clark.

    • Yes, neither can stand up to critique. The covenant with Abraham was a permanent covenant, it is everlasting, see (Gen. 17:7) “I will betroth you to me forever” (Hos. 2:19) God engraves Israel on the palms of his hands, (Isa. 49:16) and pledges that his covenant loyalty will be as constant as the shining of the sun, moon, and stars. (Jer. 31:35-36).
      In Hebrew to make a covenant is literally to shed blood ratifying and sealing the covenant, the blood served as a powerful solemn oath to be kept on pain of death. Since I believe we all can agree that God cannot lie and would not if He could, that the covenant he swore before Abraham is still in effect and will be for eternity.
      Yes, the gentiles have been grafted into the root system of Israel but without the original root where would the graft be? dead?
      The covenant was renewed to Isaac and Jacob. The covenant at Sinai was a renewal of extension of the original Abrahamic covenant. The Davidic covenant in 2 Sam. 7 was a restating and enrichment of the Sinai covenant.
      Now for the part you probably will not agree with: The covenant between Yeshua (Jesus) and the disciples at the last supper was an affairmation of the Abrahamic covenant but was expanded to include the gentile believers that were to come in the present age.
      There is no such thing as replacement or new covenant it is still the original one just expanded to include more. Remember the original was a one sided covenant, God made all the promises Abraham was asleep at the time.

    • I was wondering, would you be willing to share what scriptures helped you have an understanding of covenant theology & which ones you studied that caused you to change your mind from dispensational, to covenantal? I just recently learned the surface level differences about them. I come from a dispensational background, without even knowing it, nor what covenantal theology was. I have only heard statements along the lines of, “so & so teacher believes that the gentile church replaced Israel. If God doesn’t keep His covenants, then He is a liar, but God isn’t a liar, so therefore His covenants with Israle remain as He said.”

      And each time I heard that, it made sense to me, & I agreed. I haven’t study it. But now, someone recently explained that I come from a dispensational background, while they are covenantal. And now I don’t know which I believe, & would like to hear a perspective from someone who went from dispensational to covenantal, & what brought you to that conclusion. I would greatly appreciate any input =) Thanks so much, & I hope to hear back from you.

    • Itsy,

      This is a great question. It’s easier for me to tell you why I’m not a Dispensationalist than to tell you how I left, since, truth be told, I was never a very good Dispensationalist. When I became an evangelical Christian in the mid-late 70s I learned some aspects of Dispensationalism or just assimilated them but I was not taught Dispensationalism systematically.

      That said, when I did have the opportunity to compare them, I did reject the various forms of Dispensationalism (classic and revised). When you ask for a Bible passage I want to give the whole Bible! It’s not a matter of this passage or that but how we understand all of Scripture. Dispensationalism has the wrong center of Scripture. It is not national Israel, it is Christ. Moses is a worker in God’s house but Jesus is the heir and owner. Hebrews 3:5–6 says: “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (ESV). Dispensationalism reverses this order. It has Jesus working for Moses.

      I began with Ephesians 2, however. I asked a Reformed minister to explain his view on national Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple etc (which is quite important to Dispensationalism) and he said, “the dividing wall has been broken down.” He was right. Dispensationalism wants to rebuild the dividing wall which has been broken down, in Christ. Paul says,

      Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph 2:11–21; ESV).

      National Israel was only and ever a temporary arrangement. It was intended to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus the Messiah. National Israel was a 1500-year sermon illustration, the point of which was the incarnation of God the Son, our Savior. Jesus was never “plan B.” He was always the promise and the plan. Indeed, he was the planner!

      After the fall, God the Son promised to Adam, that he, as the Seed of the Woman would crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15). He promised salvation to Noah (Gen 6). He promised heaven, to save his elect, and to come as the seed of Abraham (Gen 12, 15, 17). He promised to come as the king greater than David (Ps 110; Matt 22). As Paul says, Christ is the “Yes and amen” of all the promises (2 Cor 1:20). As our Lord himself taught the disciples on the Emmaus Road, all the Scriptures testify of him (Luke 24). This is not “spiritualizing.” This is the way Scripture intends to be read. It is the way the apostles and our Lord himself interpreted Scripture.

      The Bible has a center and that center is Christ. Here’s a brief explanation.

      Here’s a recent episode of the Heidelcast where I discuss this very issue.

      Reformed covenant theology sees, (as you’ll hear in the podcast episode) both unity and progress in the history of redemption. Scripture is unified by a promise of salvation by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone. We see progress in the way that promise is gradually unfolded in Scripture.

      God is keeping his covenant with Israel! Paul says in Romans 11:26, “And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written…”. Dispensational writers say these sorts of things (e.g., that Reformed theology makes God unfaithful) for the same reasons that the Judaizers accused Paul of infidelity, because they do not understand correctly the nature of God’s promises. Here’s a brief explanation from Scripture of what Paul means.

      The Israel of God

      Remember what Matthew 2:15 says, “this was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'” Matthew there, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that Jesus was and is “the Israel of God,” he is the Son whom God called out of Egypt. What does Paul say? Who are the true Jews? What does Romans 2:28-29 say?

      For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

      Dispensationalism is more concerned about external Judaism than God is. God is more concerned about new life, true faith, and the circumcision of the heart than the circumcision of the flesh. Circumcision was always about a new heart.

      There are not many Dispensational writers or teachers who are able, in my experience, accurately to explain historic Reformed theology. Here is a follow-up to this post where I reply to some caricatures that Dispensationalists have repeated about Reformed theology.

      If you want to understand Reformed covenant theology, you should read it for yourself. Here’s a reading list:

      Resources For Those Studying Covenant Theology

      A Curriculum On Covenant Theology and Baptism

      Well, this is a start. I hope it helps.

  3. “It has been widely held by Reformed theologians that there will be a great conversion of Jews.”

    -Is it fair to say that in the exodus out of Egypt that the gentiles ( “mixed multitude”) were a flash in the pan compared to what was to come and now the Jew’s conversions are the flash in the pan compared to what is to come when the fulness of the gentiles has come in?

    -Another question: If the fulness of the gentiles has come in, would that mean then the convert jews will catch the brunt of the persecution, etc. world’s wrath?

    • You are correct, one day after the times of the gentiles is over, the veil will be removed from the Jew’s eyes and Millions will realize and accept Yeshua as their Messiah.

  4. Excellent post, Dr. Clark. From my browsing the only people who use ‘replacement theology’ are the dispensationalists attacking a straw man covenant theology. One cannot replace something with itself.

    J. Lim, my transition from dispensationalism to Reformed theology was similar, and until I was willing to let the Bible challenge my presuppositions, it wasn’t clear. Fortunately God has since given me more Biblical lenses.

  5. Durrell,

    My own reading of Rom 11, when Paul says, “so all Israel will be saved,” he is using the word “Israel” metaphorically or as a synonym for the elect. My point is that Reformed covenant theology is often criticized by dispensationalists for ignoring or neglecting ethnic Jews, of having no interest in their conversion or of being hard-hearted. So I simply reply by pointing out that there have been a number of Reformed writers who hold to a future conversion of Jews. As to the future proportion, I couldn’t say. It does seem as if, since the ascension, that it has been predominantly Gentiles who have been converted, but we have had a few Jewish converts at WSC in recent years alone. There does seem to be increased interest among Reformed folk in reaching the Jews with the gospel. It would be glorious to see a great conversion of jews (and Gentiles). We should pray earnestly that God would bless those faithful efforts to evangelism national Israel and Jews everywhere.

    • In my world, when I say I am a Calvinist, good Bible-believing and well-meaning Baptists and Pentecostals sometimes assume that means I am anti-semitic. That’s a serious problem in the Bible Belt, and it has to be addressed.

      I respond by pointing out that the Puritans looked for a future conversion of the Jews en masse, and that it was Oliver Cromwell who made it possible for Jews to legally live in England. Dutch Reformed ministers were encouraging Jewish rabbis to have books printed in the Netherlands all the way back at the time of the Synod of Dordt, when Catholics and other non-Reformed Protestants throughout most of the rest of Europe were engaged in open persecution of their Jewish communities. More recently, I point out the extensive Dutch Reformed work to save Jews from the Nazis. When I ask people how many Jews were saved by European Baptists (most of whom were German in the 1930s and 1940s) compared to Reformed Christians in the Netherlands and to a much lesser extent in Hungary and a few cities in France, it usually silences dispensational Baptists pretty quickly.

      I don’t claim to be an expert on this issue. I do believe it has to be addressed by Reformed people today or we’re going to continue to get attacked for being anti-semitic what that simply is not the case, either historically or theologically.

    • Given how clear Paul is in Roman 9-11 that he’s addressing the issue of ethnic Jews, there’s not much room to use Romans 11 as a reference to anything other than physical Jews.

    • I heard R.C Sproul at the conference in Seattle this year say that Israel in Rom. 11 is ethnic Israel. I’m pretty sure R.C. is a covenant theology guy. So are there different camps in covenant theology?

  6. At my previous seminary the straw needs replacing with something more durable like a nice synthetic fiber that can hold out because that man has been beaten to a pulp.
    Another straw man is that Covenants theme of the Bible is “Redemptive History” whereas the dispy’s is “The Glory of God.” Have you heard this argument. What does “The Glory of God” mean, its pious but hollow. What means does God use to bring himself glory? The answer to that question will produce their actual theme. It will probably have something to do with Land and a throne.

  7. Hi Jared,

    We agree. The Westminster Divines, though some of them were chiliasts, were not Dispensationalists, and they gave us the first Question and Answer of the Shorter Catechism:

    What is the chief end of man?

    To glorify God and enjoy him forever.

    We agree that the glory of God is paramount but the question is: how has God willed to glorify himself? We say that his revealed will is that he glorifies himself through the salvation of all of his people.

  8. Dr. Clark, would you perhaps discuss the change that has taken place within covenant theology during 20th century? It seems that covenant theology, as well as dispensationalism as described by historians have undergone some-what of a change/modification during the past 70 years or so. Most notably through the contribution of George Ladd and the evangelical consensus regarding Inaugural Eschatology. So, obviously progressive dispensationalism is a new aspect of dispensational theology (if you want to call it that)… how would you classify “New Covenant Theology” or “Modified Coventalism?” Thanks…

  9. Josiah,

    I don’t accept the premise of your question, that whatever folk call “covenant theology” necessarily is covenant theology. Dispensationalism may have been modified (original, extra crispy, and fat free) but “Reformed covenant theology” is what it is.

    Have there been proposed modifications? Sure. Was there development in the 16th and 17th centuries? Sure. I discuss all this in my Brief History of Covenant Theology. See also Vos’ history and other resources here. There’s a more detailed and academic history of covenant theology forthcoming from Brill (in ’09 perhaps).

    The revisions of covenant theology proposed by Barth and by some conservatives, e.g., eliminating the covenant of works or the covenant of redemption, are fundamental rejections of major aspects or of constituent parts of covenant theology. If I set a house on fire I’m not just remodeling the living room!

    As far as I can tell, the so-called “New Covenant Theology” is neither new nor covenant theology. Inasmuch as it rejects the fourth commandment as an expression of the natural and moral will of God, it is antinomian. Inasmuch as it is Baptist, it is a fundamental repudiation of the continuity of the promise and administration of the covenant of grace, “I will be a God to you and to your children.” I’m hard pressed to see what is “covenantal” about NCT.

    • Baptists != dispensationalists
      Baptists != NCT
      Baptists != Armian

      🙂

      NCT = some Baptists etc.

  10. Dr. Clark, please be forbearing with me here (especially in light of the context “God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see” 11:8 NKJV)! I’m not seeing how you’re coming to the conclusion that the text “so all Israel will be saved” is a metaphor the entirety of the elect. Unless you mean elect Jews, not all the elect (including gentiles) addressed. Then I’m tracking with you.

    Sorry about the eschatological digression. The text deals with the Jews, but not about the hardships, etc. I’ll try to stay focused.

  11. It depends upon how one reads Paul’s intent in Rom 11. It goes back to Rom 2:28. If, in Christ, there is no more “Jew” or “Gentile,” and if, according to Rom 2 and Rom 9, what matters is election, then the point of Rom 11 would be, in effect, to say that all the elect shall be saved.

    As I say, others read Rom 11 differently. In this reading the question Paul is answering the question: Is one disqualified from election and salvation because one is Jewish? The answer is, “No.” Paul appeals to himself as a case study. Notice that he says that he has not rejected his people “whom he foreknew.” People aren’t elect because they are Jewish. They’re not reprobate because they’re Jewish. The remnant is elect. It’s by grace, whether for Jews or Gentiles.

    • Hello Dr. Clark,

      I happened upon your posting while researching online. Over the past year or more I have progressed from being traditionally dispensational (I must admit by tradition rather than by a study of fact) to being more inclined to the reformed covenenant theology point of view. So many mainline churches and known ministries make the distinction between jews and the church…your article helped me understand that God has always had a remnant, of which Paul (a jew) was a part of, just as the many gentiles who had also accepted Christ by faith. I would definitely enjoy reading more of your writings on the subject. Thank you and God bless!

  12. Dr. Clark, thanks for your quick reply. Forgive my ignorance, im still trying to learn the distinctions between CT and NCT. Would you say that the promises are “literally” fulfilled in one man, ie: The Lord Jesus Christ, or would you see the promises fulfilled spiritually in the church ie: Israel? From what i have read, the divergence between CT and NCT hinges on this understanding. Are the promises fulfilled in the church (Israel), or in the one man (Israel)…? again, forgive my ignorance on this matter… thanks!

  13. Josiah,

    It’s been a while since I read the NCT materials so I cannot speak to their views in detail but I can speak to how the Reformed Churches have understood the covenants.

    It was not the the church, under the old covenant or the new, who obeyed the law. Christ obeyed the law. As I argued in the essay on “The Israel of God,” Jesus is the Israel of God. Those who are united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, become the Israel of God in Christ. As Paul says, not everyone who was in the national Israelite covenant was “Israel.” They were all baptized into Moses and they all ate the manna. A Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

    That is why we, following the early fathers, have always seen a substantial continuity in the covenant of grace under Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Christ relative to salvation and the abiding validity of the moral law as the norm for the Christian life. Christ was revealed to the typological church through types and shadows. We have the fulfillment, but we have the same Christ, the same grace, the same covenant of grace. There are real differences of administration but one covenant of grace.

  14. Dr. Clark,
    Forgive me once again for my ignorance. This question is just building up on your post but I was wondering what your thoughts on Ezekiel’s descriptions of the Third Temple were – when is it going to built/administered, where is it going to built, etc. As much as I would like to submit to Covenant Theology, this is something I am currently unable to put my mind around. I am just a college student so I don’t know much about theology but I do love my Bible. Any advice and resources would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  15. I’d like to ask some critical questions. What specific covenant with God has the Church entered merging Israel with the Church? Is it the New Covenant or is it some other? Where is this covenant recorded?
    I am sure that you are aware that God is sovereign and man is not. Man is obligated to God, not God to man. So show me in the word of God where Israel is called the Church in the Old Testament? Are we reading the same Bible?
    Further more your misquoting of scripture is most erroneous. Your mistreatment from the book of Hebrews both in the NKJV and the NASV of Hebrews 3:2 made reference to Moses as being ‘faithful’ as Christ in God’s house. One can be a worker but not necessarily faithful. Judas Iscariot, Ahithophel, Achan, Nadab and Abihu, need I name more? It amazes me how men take the words of scripture to mollify anti-semitism espoused by the likes of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, also his ‘une alliance, Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Summa Theologica’, Luther’s Commentary on Romans.
    God made a covenant with Abraham that was unilateral, unconditional and irrevocable, ‘Israel’, Abraham’s progeny (his physical progeny) will receive all God has promised. Ezekiel was commanded by God to tell lifeless, whorish, idolatrous, Israel that He would restore them and giving them a heart of flesh, breathing into them life and they will minister to their King in His Holy Temple as was decreed before the foundation of the world.
    Further more the Mosaic Covenant proves that Israel couldn’t qualify for the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant only cursed them. This did not negate the Abrahamic Covenant it further proves God’s irrevocable promises, that He will restore Israel according to His sovereign will.

    • Do you just “know it all,” or are you really curious how Bible-believing Christians could possibly disagree with you?

      Galatians tells us that we are Abraham’s children, if we share his faith. God made a covenant with him, and his children, Gen.17. Paul’s point is that the Law (Moses’ Covenant) that came 430 years after the promise to Abraham can’t annul the previous covenant based on promise. So, in substance it hasn’t changed.

      There’s one covenant, a gracious covenant, that we’re all saved by. The New Covenant is what we call that covenant, now that the Christ that Abraham hoped for is come already. So, what do you think? Are you Abraham’s child or not?

      How about the Old Testament Israel called “the church” by the New Testament? Will that do? Acts 7:38 “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:? And they are called “the congregation” all over the place in the Hebrew.

      You should probably not fixate on word-association anyway. Jesus said he had a single flock to merge. He said He was the vine, which picture Paul uses to describe us Gentiles as having been grafted into him. He also states that the middle wall of separation has been removed. There is not more “Jew” and “Gentile.” Those words have no meaning beyond the historical anymore. Jesus was and is the “true Israel.” All true believers derive their name from him.

      And I don’t know if you simply didn’t read the reference in Heb.3 correctly, or what Dr.Clark said about it. You seem to be judging improperly as to “whose” house Moses served in. He served in Christ’s house, who is the son and the heir. This is the writer’s point.

      Your tendentious accusations of “anti-semitism” are quite out of line, and show a shocking anachronism. Covenant-theology isn’t anti-semitic, its philo-semitic. It refuses to re-erect that dividing wall that Jesus tore down. It calls to the Jews to join the rest of the world in celebrating the Messiah their fathers helped bring into the world.

    • Philo-Semitism? How euphemistic? That term my friend reminds me of the covering Adam and Eve used to cover their nakedness. Let’s be realistic, what this erroneous teaching does, it further alienates Messianic Jews and Jewish people from people like you, and it is sad. Call me anachronistic if you must, but I must tell you, I am not a dispensationalist of any sorts, neither am I trying to keep up with the latest ‘groupie titles’. I don’t need labels or titles to distinguish who I am. I am a chosen child by God’s wonderful grace and I am indeed grateful to be ‘just grafted in.’

    • Jennifer,

      You cannot set it up so that anyone who disagrees with you is anti-
      semitic. That line of argumentation literally begs the question, i.e.
      assumes the conclusion in the premise.

      The question I was addressing in the post is whether historic Reformed
      covenant theology is, as some allege, “Replacement Theology.”

      We deny the premise.

      Have you read any historic Reformed theology (e.g., Witsius)?

    • What kind of reply is that? Non-substantive.

      Not that I thought you were serious in the first place…

      Alienating Messianic Jews and Talmudic Jews alike? Because I don’t “affirm” them if (peradventure) they have this counter-factual, unbiblical self-conceit? Please. Jesus had enough to say to Jewish elitism.

      “Your house is left to you desolate.” (Mt.23:38)

      “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness:” (Mt.8:11-12)

      Paul’s testimony:
      “And he [Christ] said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.” And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, (Act 22:21-23)

      Yet he said of these would be murderers:
      “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom.9:3).

      It isn’t loving to affirm people in their sinful, no-longer-necessary ethno-religious sectarianism. Indeed, its sin to do so. 1Cor.14:38.

    • “Let’s be realistic, what this erroneous teaching does, it further alienates Messianic Jews and Jewish people from people like you, and it is sad.”

      Jennifer, I can’t resist piping up here because I happen to be a Christian of Jewish heritage, recently converted to the Reformed faith (and covenant theology). I thank God that he delivered me from the bondage of dispensationalism (though I realize you claim not to be a dispensationalist). What you are saying about Messianic Jews and Jewish people being alienated is true unfortunately in many cases (I should know because I used to be one of the alienated ones and many of my friends still are) but that is only because they don’t know better. I, like you, used to rail against “replacement theology” until finally, after 15 years as a Christian, I decided to read some primary sources, starting with Calvin’s Institutes. When I read Calvin, I was shocked to discover that for all those years, I had never really understood the gospel or the grace of God. If you haven’t yet read Calvin, Luther, or some of the Reformed confessions, I highly recommend it!

    • David R.
      Thank you but I am quite familiar with both Calvin’s Institutes and Martin Luther. My suggestion is to you that you read ‘The Church and The Jews’ (The Biblical Relationship) By Dan Gruber. Elijah Publishing P.O. Box 776 Hanover, NH 03755
      ISBN 0-9669253-3-5
      This book is a real eye-opener i.e. Part Three: The Traditions of Men,
      Section A: Augustine and Aquinas
      Augustine’s City of God
      The Allegory of Galatians 4:21-31
      Augustine’s City
      The Millennium
      Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica
      John Calvin’s Institute of the Christian Religion
      Luther’s Commentary on Romans
      Would please read this book.

  16. You’ve stated that the church was referred to in Acts 7:38? Was it really? It should be noted that it is found in the King James Version. Most other translations have more correctly translated this verse to read, congregation in the wilderness. or assembly in the wilderness. The Greek term ekklesia is not only used in the technical sense of the New Testament Church, but I have also found in my studies that in the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew ‘kahal’, means “congregation.” I believe that was the intent of Acts 7:38. There are several other passages where the term ekklesia is used in the non-technical sense of “assembly,” Acts 19:32 “So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the ‘assembly’ (ekklesia) was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together.” So, was this the church also? A bunch of gentile pagans? “And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly (ekklesia). Acts 19:41 So an assembly of pagan gentiles who where yelling “Great is Diana of the Ephesians, was this the church also?

    • Jennifer,

      The meaning of
      εκκλησια is, of
      course, determined by it’s immediate context which is interpreted in
      light of usage, e.g. in the LXX.

      If one knows, a priori, that
      εκκλησια cannot = “the
      visible Christ-confessing covenant community” then the text and
      context isn’t really determining the meaning.

    • Jennifer,
      I’m responding here since there is no reply link above. I haven’t read Gruber but I have read several books dealing with Christian anti-Semitism. Has there been Christian anti-Semitism? Of course. Do Jews need Christ? Of course. Should Christians love the Jews? Of course! But I can’t for the life of me see how one makes the leap from these premises to the conclusion that Christian anti-Semitism flows from Reformed covenant theology (well, I actually can – I used to do it myself)! Jennifer, I’m curious – can you point to any passages in Calvin that are more “anti-Semitic” than certain “harsh” passages in Paul, or in the gospel of John, or even in the synoptics?

    • David,
      First of all, I must say that I am appalled at your stance on this heretical teaching which promotes the very sentiments of anti-semitism.
      I am then equally appalled how you’ve taken the stance of negativity against the True Fathers of the Church, the Apostles Paul and John. Need I remind you that these men were not influenced by Origen’s allegorical interpretation of scripture, as did Augustine who so blindly followed. Au Contraire, need I remind you of 2 Timothy 3:16? “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Paul and John were moved by the Spirit of God to write these things no matter what your may presuppositional interpretations are. To compare these men with these ‘so called fathers’ of the church is ludicrous to say the least. I am not negating the fact that these men were not instrumental in positively influencing the church with some of their exegeses and hermeneutics, but I must say they were not always on target many of them followed the ‘Father of Allegory’, spiritualizing scripture with mere presupposition.
      May I share with you this writing from Horatius Bonar….
      “Let us speak reverently of the Jew. Let us not misjudge him by present appearances. He is not what he once was, nor what he yet shall be.
      Let us speak reverently of the Jew. We have much cause to do so. What, though all Christendom, both of the East and West, has for nearly eighteen centuries treated him as offscouring of the race? What though Mohammad has taught his followers to revile and persecute the sons of Abraham?….
      Still let us speak reverently of the Jew, if not for what he is, at least for what he was and what he shall be, when the Redeemer shall come to Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob. {Isa 59:20; see. Rom 11:26}
      In him we see the development of God’s great purpose as to the woman’s seed, the representative of a long line of kings and prophets, the kinsmen of Him who is the Word made flesh. It was a Jew who sat on one of the most exalted thrones of the earth; it is a Jew who now sits upon the throne of heaven. It was a Jew who wrought such miracles once on our earth, who spoke such gracious words. It was a Jew who said, “Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me.” It was Jewish blood that was shed on Calvary; it was a Jew who bore our sins in His own body on the tree. It was a Jew who died, and was buried, and rose again. It is a Jew who liveth to intercede for us, who is to come in glory and majesty as earthly judge and monarch. It is a Jew who is our Prophet, our Priest, our King.
      So it is with the Jew, I mean the whole Jewish nation. There are indelible memories connected with them, which will ever, to anyone who believes in the Bible, prevent them from being contemned; nay, will cast around them a nobility and a dignity which no other nation has possessed or can attain to. To Him in whose purposes they occupy so large a space, they are still “beloved for their fathers’ sake” (Romans11:28). Of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.”
      H.Bonar, “The Jew,” The Quarterly Journal of Prophecy (July 1870):209-11
      I ask you, do you actually think God has merged the Church with Israel making in the sense that these people of the anti-judaic persuasion would want you to believe? Yes, Paul has stated in Ephesians: 14. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15. having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16. and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross there by putting to death the enmity. 17. and He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. This distinctly speaks of the Mosaic Law, not God’s covenantal promises He’s made with the Jews, which includes Eretz Yisrael. My friend, God is not finished with Israel on an individual basis. I pray that God will open your eyes from this blindness that has infected your vision.

    • The “blndness” here is found in the failure to see in Ephesians 2:12.13 that “strangers from the covenants of promise” . . .are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” All the covenants and promises have been fulfilled in Messias Yeshua. At the moment of His death, the veil before the holy of holies was rent from top to bottom. This was no mere symbolic gesture—it confirmed that God, after the atonement, was finished with ethnic Israel. Consequently, only “the Israel of God” who glory in the Cross have been granted the “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh (Hebrews 10:19,20).” Why then would a Christian want to promote an “Israel” idol crafted from a Christ-hating, geo-political state in the Middle East.

  17. I hope I’m not too late to join this discussion.

    Dr. Clark, you wrote: “At least some forms of dispensationalism have suggested that God intended the national covenant with Israel to be permanent. According to Reformed theology, the Mosaic covenant was never intended to be permanent. According to Galatians 3 (and chapter 4), the Mosaic covenant was a codicil to the Abrahamic covenant. A codicil is added to an existing document. It doesn’t replace the existing document. Dispensationalism reverses things. They make the Abrahamic covenant a codicil to the Mosaic. Hebrews 3 says that Moses was a worker in Jesus’ house. Dispensationalism makes Jesus a worker in Moses’ house.”

    If possible, would you please link to a document or tell me where to find one that maintains that Dispensationalism makes “the Abrahamic covenant a codicil to the Mosaic.” Also, please tell me your source for the statement that “Dispensationalism makes Jesus a worker in Moses’ house” in Hebrews 3. Thank you.

    “The two peoples (Jews and Gentiles) have been made one in Christ. Among those who ae united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, there is no Jew, nor Gentile (Rom 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11).”

    In the Galatians passage, it also says that, in Christ, there is no male or female. Obviously, the gender differences will remain. Doesn’t it mean that the most important thing is that both are in Christ, but that lesser things (gender, roles, etc.) remain? And couldn’t that apply to Jews and Gentiles? That they’ll still remain Jews and Gentiles? Throughout Scripture, God distinguishes between them (e.g. Rev. 3:9).

    Recently I had a question asking whether “covenant theology” is so-called “replacement theology.” Those dispensational critics of Reformed covenant theology who accuse it of teaching that the New Covenant church has “replaced” Israel do not understand historic Reformed covenant theology. They are imputing to Reformed theology a way of thinking about redemptive history that has more in common with dispensationalism than it does with Reformed theology.

    First, the very category of “replacement” is foreign to Reformed theology because it assumes a dispensational, Israeleo-centric way of thinking. It assumes that the temporary, national people was, in fact, intended to be the permanent arrangement. Such a way of thinking is contrary to the promise in Gen 3:15. The promise was that there would be a Savior. The national people was only a means to that end, not an end in itself. According to Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22, in Christ the dividing wall has been destroyed. It cannot be rebuilt. The two peoples (Jews and Gentiles) have been made one in Christ. Among those who ae united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, there is no Jew, nor Gentile (Rom 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11).

    At least some forms of dispensationalism have suggested that God intended the national covenant with Israel to be permanent. According to Reformed theology, the Mosaic covenant was never intended to be permanent. According to Galatians 3 (and chapter 4), the Mosaic covenant was a codicil to the Abrahamic covenant. A codicil is added to an existing document. It doesn’t replace the existing document. Dispensationalism reverses things. They make the Abrahamic covenant a codicil to the Mosaic. Hebrews 3 says that Moses was a worker in Jesus’ house. Dispensationalism makes Jesus a worker in Moses’ house.

    Second, with respect to salvation, Reformed covenant theology does not juxtapose Israel and the church. For Reformed theology, the church has always been the Israel of God and the Israel of God has always been the church. Reformed covenant theology distinguishes the old and new covenants (2 Cor 3; Heb 7-10). It recognizes that the church was temporarily administered through a typological, national people, but the church has existed since Adam, Noah, Abraham, and it existed under Moses, David, and it exists under Christ.

    Third, the church has always been one, under various administrations, under types, shadows, and now under the reality in Christ, because the object of faith has always been one. Jesus the Messiah was the object of faith of the typological church (Heb 11; Luke 24; 2 Cor 3) and he remains the object of faith.

    Fourth, despite the abrogation of the national covenant by the obedience, death, and resurrection of Christ (Col 2:14), the NT church has not “replaced” the Jews. Paul says that God “grafted” the Gentiles into the people of God. Grafting is not replacement, it is addition.

    It has been widely held by Reformed theologians that there will be a great conversion of Jews. Some call this “anti-semitism.” This isn’t anti-semitism, it is Christianity. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The alternative to Jesus’ exclusivist claim is universalism which is nothing less than an assault on the person and finished work of Christ. Other Reformed writers understand the promises in Rom 11 to refer only to the salvation of all the elect (Rom 2:28) rather than to a future conversion of Jews. In any event, Reformed theology is not anti-semitic. We have always hoped and prayed for the salvation, in Christ, sola gratia et sola fide, of all of God’s elect, Jew and Gentile alike.

    Here are some resources for getting to covenant theology.

    Here are Lig Duncan’s lectures on covenant theology

  18. Sorry, I accidentally included your post. My comment ends on the fourth major paragraph.

  19. Recently I’ve been discussing Romans 11 with someone on a Reformed message board, who says that after AD 70 the Jews ceased to exist! It’s one way to avoid anti-Semitism if you believe they don’t even exist!

    Is that compatible with Scripture – including obviously Romans 11? I would have thought not.

  20. Richard,
    (Speaking as a Jewish Christian), they did not cease to exist–that would be absurd. But with the abrogation of the Mosaic Covenant, Israel did lose its status as the people of God. After all, it was the Mosaic Covenant that constituted them such–and once that covenant became obsolete, those who were “ami” (my people) became “lo ami” (not my people)–though of course a large number of individual Jews continued to enter into the blessings of the New Covenant through faith in Christ.

    • Thanks, David.

      Do you believe that Romans 11 teaches a future national (re)conversion of the Jews, as well as the numbers that have believed over the centuries?

  21. Richard, I personally do not believe in the national conversion interpretation of Romans 11:25-26. It seems to me that that text is too isolated and the evidence drawn from it is too tenuous–not to mention that the conclusion seems to go against the clear NT principle that God in the New Covenant no longer makes a distinction between nations.

  22. Time and time again I encounter people who hold the dispensational interpretations of prophecy that are found in every other pop-prophecy book, and with the same tendency to ignore or demonize any other view. Volumes have been written and many sermons preached which promote this view. This teaching has become so entrenched in the church as a whole that it is never questioned; and anyone who would dare do so would be immediately dismissed as having departed from orthodoxy. As with all traditions of men, dogma itself, not Scripture, becomes the test of orthodoxy. Error is perpetuated by the antiquity of a belief and by the sheer numbers who hold to it.

    Let’s look at some “replacement theology” as stated in the Bible by the first “Replacement Theologists” namely Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul. The New Testament declares these things in unmistakable terms (e.g., Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 3:16, 29; 4:22–31; Phil. 3:3), and never mentions any future blessings that are to accrue to ethnic Israel outside of the church. Dispensationalists, nevertheless, regard “replacement theology” to be a great evil. Ironically “replacement theology” was the view of our Church fathers, of the Medieval Church, of the Reformers, of most modern Reformed Christians and many other great historical evangelicals! Now Dispensationalists call it, “a New Age doctrine from hell” that “feeds Jew-hatred.” If this is indeed the Devil’s doctrine, one wonders why it took the church 1,800 years to see through it. Was not Jesus teaching some form of “replacement” theology when He declared, “The kingdom of God will be taken from you [Israel] and given to a people [the church] who will produce its fruit” (Matt. 21:43 NIV)? It was Jesus, and not some “New Age” anti-Semite, who said, “I say to you that many [Gentile believers] will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom [Israel] will be cast out into outer darkness.” (Matt. 8:11–12 NKJV).

  23. If the church and Israel are one and the same,can someone please explain to me why the distinction is made in Rev 21 verse 12 & 14 between the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles of The Lamb in the New Jerusalem?
    How does the 12 sealed tribes of the nation of Israel in Rev 7.4-8 turn onto all nations at the end of Rev 7 according to Reformed exegesis? Are the 12 tribes listed in the Old Testament meant to be interpreted as meaning all nations?
    Please explain how the 1,000 years mentioned in Rev 20 is to be interpreted allegorically as an indefinite period of time instead of literally. Is that an allegorical devil who is being bound? Who chooses what is allegorical and what is literal? Many, not all Reformed commentaries interpret the book of Revelation has having been fulfilled in 70 AD, and they see the RC Church as being the antichrist etc. if so, when was the rest of chapter 20, excluding verses 11-15 fulfilled in history. When did the martyred saints rule and reign with Christ? When did verse 9 take place? When did events in Revelation 6-18 take place in history.

    I am not interested in getting into a blog discussion. I would like my email address to be kept anonymous. Just looking for some answers on these questions. Thank you

    • RJ,

      1. I’m not sure what you want. You don’t want a discussion but you ask questions. How does this work? Is it an interrogation?

      2. On the historic Protestant view, the church and Israel are substantially the same or there is great continuity between Israel and the NT church but there are discontinuities too. Here’s an essay on this topic. Take a look at that and then let’s talk.

      3. On the Revelation, see Greg Beale’s recent commentary or see Dennis Johnson’s commentary.

      4. I only know of 2 “Reformed” commentaries that argue that the Revelation was fulfilled in AD 70. This is NOT the dominant view. I say “Reformed” because one of them, Jay Adams, is certainly Reformed but the other was a theonomist/reconstructionist, which is a minority view not endorsed by the confessional Reformed churches. Most Reformed interpretation of the Revelation is, like Beale and Johnson, a-millennial, i.e., see the millennium as a figurative way to describe the period between the ascension of Christ and his return.

      5. Allegorical is not the correct adjective. “Figurative” is not the same as “allegorical.” In an allegory there is usually a one to one correspondence between the allegory and something else. The figurative approach would say that the Revelation uses figures intentionally to illustrate the nature of Christian existence between the ascension and return but they don’t correspond in an one to one way with any particular episode.

      6. The Revelation is intended to be taken figuratively. If I say, “It’s hot as Hades today” I don’t mean that it really is as hot as Hades. I’m using hyperbole. It’s meant to be taken as hyperbole. The Revelation uses figures that are intended to be taken as figures. Very few people, even the most devout “literalists” actually read the Revelation “literally” consistently. When Rev 14:3 says, “And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.” I don’t think most people think that will happen literally. It’s the literalists who usually end up talking about helicopters etc when the Revelation doesn’t say anything literally about Russia and helicopters. Those same interpreters sometimes end up taking the 1st three chapters figuratively (when they’re meant to be taken to refer to the historical churches in Asia Minor!) Thus, it’s not a matter of whether the Revelation is to be taken figuratively but rather how extensive the figures are.

      7. If anything in the Revelation is meant to be taken figuratively, as a way of illustrating a truth, it is chapter 20.

  24. R. Scott Clark,
    I’m still exploring the different viewpoints. At this time I would say I’m a Calvinist as far as soteriology and God’s Sovereignty, though I’ve yet to be persuaded fully of Covenant theology and am only beginning to explore both sides of Baptism, which I plan to read more on and, honestly, worry I may not be able to reach a conclusion on since I respect men on both sides.
    My inquiry is this. I’m certainly not dispensational. But I am not yet ready to see full-on Covenenant theology as super clear in the Bible. For example, the law given at Mt. Sinai was given to national Isreal, as far as I can tell, and I my biggest hold up with accepting the “moral law” as still binding, in opposition to the ceremonial or civil law, is I’m not seeing this break up of the law into three categories in Scripture. Likewise I’m having trouble on how to interpet Ephesians were Christ abolished the law , which I could take to mean simply the parts of the law that divided Jew from Gentile though I don’t know how I would defend it. I likewise have a problem with Galatians where law and gospel seem to be put at odds…
    As I stated, I think Covenant theology makes better sense of the text, but I’m not sure it makes full sense. I don’t know if I would say I adhere to NCT or lean that way. I am wondering if you could offer a defense on the inquiries I have raised, or a link to one. I’d like to buy into it all the way before I adhere to it.

    • Hi,

      There are more resources here.

      Take a look at the brief history of covenant theology and the theses. Maybe they will help. You should also read this book. On the moral law, here’s a beginning.

      The short answer is that, for us, the moral law persists because it’s built into creation. Moses was a temporary, typological re-statement of the moral law but it didn’t begin with Moses. This is the big assumption that I think lots of people make that we don’t share.

      The threefold distinction is pretty basic to Western theology. The fathers made similar distinctions in order to explain to their Jewish critics why we’re no longer under the ceremonial and civil laws. Thomas expressed it very clearly in the 13th century and the Reformation continued it.

      Jesus re-stated the summary of the moral law in Matt 22:37-40. I suspect that most Christians understand that idolatry, false worship, murder, theft, adultery, covetousness etc are contrary to the moral will of God. Why? Because Paul says that these laws are part of creation (Rom 1-3). The Sabbath is difficult but not impossible. There’s a chapter on this in Recovering the Reformed Confession. There’s a link to the book to your right on the top of the screen. Just wait a second. See also the pamphlet there on covenant and baptism.

      It’s a paradigm change but lots of us (including myself) have made the journey over the years. The HB is here to help.

  25. p.s.
    I also couldn’t find a place where a New Testament believer is commanded to obey the OT law. I see it spoken of positively a few times. Of course, some of this is the tension I haven’t resolved of how to take it when Christ speaks to Jews who are still underneath the the Mosaic administration… wanting to respect that Jesus had a unique message to them without going so far as to suppose Christ words had no instruction for us readers today

  26. We don’t obey them because they are Mosaic but because they are from God.

    Read Matt 5:17 ff. Our Lord re-states much of the Ten Commandments and even intensifies them!

    1 Cor 10 re-states the 1st commandment.

    2nd commandment – Acts 17; Matt 15

    Third commandment – James 5

    Fourth commandment – 1 Cor 16; Heb 10 [see the chapter in Recovering the Reformed Confession]

    The fifth Eph 6.

    Sixth see Matt 5, 19

    Seventh – Matt 5, 19, James 2,

    Eighth – 1Cor 5, 6, 1Thess 4

    Ninth – Rom 1, Eph 4

    Tenth – Rom 7 and 13; James 1

  27. Thank you for that! Succinct yet thorough. Every now & then a seminary student pops up in my Bible study class & accuses me of teaching RT. I go through a longer explanation but may need to memorize yours.

  28. There is often a slanderous charge of anti-semitism attributed to the Reformed community by dispensationalists. One needs only to look to Europe during WW II to see those charges are false.

    In addition their erroneous view actually fails to recognize Israel’s progress in redemptive history and essentially relegates them to a shadowy existence both now and in the future. They fail to recognize and thusly give Glory to Christ the true Israel, for His work of redemption to Israel and His inclusion of Gentiles into the covenant. Their view is actually the more injurious and degrading, in essence they hold out hope for a stone when God promised bread. They promise and confine Israel to types and shadows and fail to recognize the eschatological inbreakings of Israel’s kingdom. They treat Isreal as though they are children of Hagar rather than Sarah.

  29. This is not so much about replacement theology as much as some help on rules of bible interpretation. I am really trying to understand when the rules of interpretation are to be taken figuratively ( thank you Dr Scott for the clarification) or literally.
    Sincerely, are the 12 tribes listed in Revelation 7 Jews or the church. Is the church is made up of tribes?
    When the tribes are listed in the OT, I take that to mean that they are Jews and not the church. Correct?
    If they were Jews in the OT, please explain to me how the rules of interpretation change to make them The church in Rev 7?
    As ar as the literal view of interpreting prophecy….was the Genesis flood literal? Was the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah literal? Were the plaques of Egypt literal? Did the Red Sea really part? Did the sun really not go down for 1 day in Joshua?
    I do not think that a literal view of prophecy, like Mt Olives splitting in 2 at the Second Coming or the incredible demonic activity and carnage in Revelation is hard to understand, to me it is a matter of taking The Word as literal as any other portion of Scripture. is this wrong? I am asking this honestly…..thank you all for your comments. John 13.34,35

    • The rules of interpretation changed when Jesus came. The people of God are no longer a fleshly nation, but a spiritual people. The cross changed everything. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Even Abraham understood that when God promised that he would inherit the promised land, that he looked for “a heavenly country, whose builder and maker is God.”

    • Todd,

      Can you show me from Scripture when and where the rules of interpretation changed? This seems much more like an assumption than truth or fact. The Apostles did not think that they were interpreting Scripture differently than the prophets. There is certainly progress in the history of redemption and the NT writers took account of that but the rules or method followed by the writers of Scripture did not change.

      Here are some resources:

      Reading Scripture As the Apostles Did.

      Is There An Apostolic Hermeneutic?

      What the Bible Is All About

      On Covenant Theology

      The notion that national Israel was a purely “fleshly” administration is false. There were unique aspects to the administration of the covenant of grace under Israel. Paul explains in Gal 3 that the Mosaic covenant was temporary and national but that it was also an administration of the covenant of grace. The elect, whether looking forward to Christ or after his first advent, have always been saved by grace alone, through faith alone.

      The new covenant is superior. The old, Mosaic covenant was “inferior,” “fading,” and is “obsolete.” Those are adjectives used by NT writers to describe it. Abraham, however, was not an old covenant figure. Read Jer 31:31-34 (and following) very closely. Notice the contrast. It isn’t between Abraham and the new covenant but between Moses and the new covenant.

      Remember, Paul says in, Rom 9:4, 5: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” In Rom 3:1-3 Paul had already explained: ” Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means!”

      Let’s not overstate the discontinuity between the typological period and the period of fulfillment. Let’s rejoice in God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises. By nature, after the fall, we’re all in Adam and Christ Jesus, a Jew, came to rescue all his elect, Jew and Gentile alike. Let’s give thanks that we do not live under the types and shadows, that we’re not longer under the schoolmaster of the Israelite law but let’s also give thanks that God used that law to drive his old covenant elect to faith in Christ.

      None of us thinks that the law can change hearts. Only the Spirit does that but he uses the law to teach us the greatness of our sin and misery and by the gospel he sets us free from the law as a pedagogue and sets us free to seek to obey God’s holy law out of gratitude for Christ has done for us.

  30. Thanks, Scott
    Whenever I begin to speak of this issue, many dispensationalists immediately write me off by saying, “Oh you believe in replacement theology.” No, I believe in the original Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12. Some dispensationalists misquote Gen 12 to me and say that if God will bless those who bless Israel and curse whoever curses Israel. It doesn’t say that.
    I believe that Jesus is the Seed of God and that Gal 3 teaches that if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed.
    Usually before I teach on Romans 11, I go back to Rom 2:28-29, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and Rom 9:6-8, not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
    Paul seems to use Israel in different ways in the book of Romans.
    Regarding Romans 11, are there some who really believe that all physical Israel, every person descended physically from Jacob, will be saved? Is that through a different way than through Jesus?
    Also, it says and “so” all Israel will be saved; it does not say and “then” all Israel will be saved. The “so” here means “in this way,” not then.
    Sorry to start rambling.. blessing to you
    Jesus is the way

  31. An old, overlooked classic on this subject, is “Hope for the Jews, or or, The Jews will be converted to the Christian faith; and settled and reorganized as a nation, in the land of Palestine” by Jacob J. Janeway (1853). [ https://archive.org/details/hopeforjewsorjew00jane ]

    Despite the secondary title, this is not a dispensational work. Janeway was a Presbyterian pastor in Philadelphia in the first half of the 19th-century, served as associate under Ashbel Green, and was a close friend of all the early Princeton professors.

  32. Nod to David R. I’m Jewish on my father’s side myself. Also, I accept covenantal theology.

    @Jennifer–Pleased to see your concern for my kinfolk. But before anyone should go labeling covenantal theology “anti-Semitic”, I’d urge them to look at some of its big names such as Richard Sibbes, etc. Also, the fathers of Jewish missions in 19th century Europe and America were covenantal theologians of Presbyterian and similar persuasion (the Free Kirk’s “Rabbi” Duncan comes to mind). I will, however, sadly admit that I have known people who’ve moved from dispensational to covenant theology who seem to have an attitude of “Gee, we can dis the Jews again!” (and this makes me wonder what kind of “Philo-Semites” they were before).

    Having a Chinese wife, I note that a late 19th-century Episcopal Bishop of Shanghai (founder of the famous St. John’s College and big contributor to the development of the Chinese Bible translation), David Schereschewsky, started his career as a Melamud in Tsarist-ruled Lithuania. I guess it’s coming full circle, for lots of Chinese Christians, covenantal, dispensational, and whatever, believe it is the providential mission of the Chinese church to carry the Gospel across their continent and Back to Jerusalem.

    Further, I note that in the Westminster Larger Catechism of 1648, we are taught that when we pray “thy kingdom come”, we ask for both the conversion of the Jews and the fulness of the Gentiles to be gathered to Christ. My guess is that the Westminster divines were thinking in terms of the worldwide spread of the Gospel–with the Gospel door still very much open to its first hearers. I also seem to recall a stray quote from Jonathan Edwards about how ultimately “Negroes and Indians” in America would be writing learned tomes in divinity; so I guess he thought that every Christianized people, starting with the original Jewish church, would pass on the torch of the Gospel to others.

    To all: My real name (I have views that are unpopular in my working milieu as a public employee, so I use a pseudonym) is recognizably a Jewish one (at least to people versed in Central European history). Of course the memory of the holocaust haunted my formative years.

    I would not say that any school of Christian theology had a lock on who was a rescuer and who was not. Yes, Doleantie people were disproportionately numerous among the rescuers in the Netherlands, as were the Reformed in Southern France. But among the Eastern Orthodox, the Patriarch of Athens was put under house arrest for urging hiss flock to help the Jews of occupied Greece. In occupied Norway, even as starchy a Lutheran confessionalist as Bp. Ole Hallesby taught that the Nazi and Nasjonal Samling decrees against the Jews were evil and Christians should help their Jewish neighbors. Denmark’s rescue of almost all of its Jewish minority was blessed by both Pietist and modernist elements in its Lutheran church. Yet how many people have screamed at Lutherans for fostering the sort of unqualified submission to the state that made the Shoah possible?

    I guess I’d argue for “addition theology” rather than “replacement theology”. The Gentiles get “added onto” the covenant, but the Jewish presence is still not done away with. I think that was what Paul was getting at in Rom. 11 and Ephesians.

  33. HeidelPing: Covenant Theology Is Not Replacement Theology

  34. It’s not THEN, all Israel will be saved, but in THIS manner. Ethnic Jews have always been beneficiaries of the promises, and Paul pointed to himself as an example of God being faithful to His word way back then, not only at the end. The closing off of the Gentiles is a dispensationalist myth.

  35. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4:667—“The community of believers has in all respects replaced carnal national Israel. The Old Testament is fulfilled in the New.

    Bruce Waltke, “Kingdom Promises As Spiritual” , Continuity and Discontinuity, p 274—“National Israel and its law have been permanently replaced by the church and the New Covenant”.

    see also Mark Karlberg, The Significance of Israel in Biblical Theology, JETS, 1998, p 257-69

    http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/31/31-3/31-3-pp257-269_JETS.pdf

    • Yes, one can find Reformed writers (and others) using the word “replacement” or variants thereof but however ill advised the use of that word may be, it is more or less irrelevant to the discussion.

      “National” is the key adjective here. We confess that the “nation” of Israel has expired but that’s not what is in question in the allegation that Reformed theology teaches “replacement” theology. Jews and Gentiles are still being saved by our Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. God is graciously fulfilling his promise to make Abraham the father of many nations.

  36. Martin Luther on Genesis 17 —“But at this point it is proper to raise the question why in this passage God clearly distinguishes one covenant from the other, for he mentions two covenants. The first is the covenant of circumcision, to which Ishmael also is admitted, yes, the slaves to whether born in the house of Abraham or purchased…The second covenant is here established with Isaac. Ishmael is clearly excluded from it. Hence this text proves that besides the covenant of circumcision there is another, which pertains to Isaac alone and not, like the covenant of circumcision, Ishmael also.”

  37. Hello,
    My name is David and I would like to thank you for this discussion. I have been interested in Jewish Roots of Christianity since 2006. I read, Our Father Abraham, Marvin Wilson, which was the book that opened the door for me into this faith perspective. My background is Lutheran, and our current minister sees Romans chapters 9 through 11 as misplaced when comparing with Romans chapter 8 and chapter 12. Lutherans seem to more less dance around covenant theology being new, renewed, including or excluding the national Israel. Of course, grace alone by faith alone sort of slaps the notion of covenant in the face. When using the word, “reform” are you referring to a denomination?
    Are there Hebrew Christian or Messianic congregations online that ascribe to Covenant Theology and observe the appointed times?
    Thanks for your assist and this ongoing discussion.
    In Messiah,
    David R

  38. David,

    You raise a number of issues. Here are some resources for further reading.

    1) On the history of covenant theology. See this: A Brief History of Covenant Theology

    For those just beginning to study covenant theology

    2. I don’t know what it means to say that Rom 9-11 are “misplaced.” It’s the word of God. Nothing is “misplaced.” The Spirit knew what he was doing. Perhaps these will help:

    Covenant Theology is Not Replacement Theology

    Has the Church Replaced Israel?

    In short, I think the best understanding of Romans 9-11 is that God will save all his elect, both Jew and Gentile by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. He has added Gentiles to the people of God and he continues to save elect Jews. Perhaps there will be a great future ingathering of Jews to faith in Christ. This is a matter of debate.

    3) Lutherans have long been uncomfortable with covenant theology (though there were attempts by Lutheran orthodox Reformed theologians in the 17th century) because of Luther’s roots in Franciscan covenant theology, which was baldly Pelagian (salvation through works).

    The Reformed, however, explained the law as the covenant of works and the gospel as a covenant of grace and sanctification as the natural, necessary consequence of the gospel and grace. In other words, for the Reformed covenant theology is a way of articulating the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone.

    There have been versions of covenant theology that did not observe the fundamental distinction between law and gospel and such are destructive but corruption is not due to “covenant theology” per se but to prior errors.

    4) “Reformed” refers to a historic Protestant theological tradition tracing back to the 1520s in Zurich, Basle, Strasbourg, Geneva, France, the Netherlands, and parts of Germany (e.g., Heidelberg).

    Here are some resources. You might take look at these books.

    5) All true churches are Messianic, i.e., all Christians confess Jesus the Messiah but I take it that you’re referring to Jewish-Christian congregations who retain some aspects of old covenant practice. My impression is that many such congregations have roots in Dispensationalism and that theology does not account adequately for Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2 that, in Christ, the dividing wall has been broken down and that, in Christ, there is no Jew or Gentile etc (see Gal 3:28; and Col 3:11).

  39. There seems to be a typo in this sentence: “It has been widely held by Reformed theologians that there will be a great conversion of Jews. ” Shouldn’t this read “there will not be a great conversion of Jews”?

    • Dennis,

      No, it is not a typo. It has been widely held by Reformed theologians since the 16th and 17th centuries that there will be a future mass conversion of Jews. Not all Reformed theologians hold this but it has been widely taught and held.

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