There are multitudes of Christians within American evangelicalism today that lay the clear charge of ‘replacement theology’ against those who interpret the Old Testament with the New. Among such persons are men like John MacArthur who has come out with his own study Bible, after many years of ministry. What baffles me is the fact that men like MacArthur clearly understand what ‘replacement theology’ teaches, but nevertheless will still lay this charge against Reformed Theologians who teach no such thing.
I know that there are many dispensationalists who have spent their whole life writing against ‘replacement theology,’ but who clearly have misrepresented the Reformed position on the word of God. Now don’t get me wrong, scholars need to reject ‘replacement theology;’ nevertheless I cannot see spending one’s whole life writing against it. I am sure that there are some who hold to the erroneous position known as ‘replacement theology,’ yet I do not know of any. Therefore I believe that the reason this term is used against covenant theology is not so much an ignorance of what covenant theology teaches, but instead is used to discredit covenant theology and build prejudices against it. In my analogy of the situation, I just see it as a strawman argument against what covenant theology believes and represents.
Reformed Theology does not teach ‘replacement theology.’ Reformed theologians teach what is known as ‘expansion theology’ or ‘unity theology.’ Allow me to define both for clarification.
‘Expansion theology’ basically states that God, while initiating his new covenant towards Israel in the person and work of Jesus Christ, is also expanding the house of Israel unto the uttermost parts of the earth, by bringing Gentiles into the fold. This view is clearly taught throughout the Old and New Testament. Most dispensationalists will state that the mystery hid throughout the ages was that God would start a church during which time he would quit dealing with Israel and deal primarily with the Gentiles. But does scripture teach that? or Does scripture teach that the mystery that was hid throughout the ages, but is now revealed, was that God would make the Gentiles fellow heirs and partakers of the same body of Israelites? Let’s examine the scripture where the great mystery was explained by Paul:
Eph 3:4-6 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
How dispensationalists get two separate plans out of verse six is beyond me. There are not two separate plans, one for Israel, and another for the Church. Let’s examine several more scriptures to prove this:
Eph 2:11-19 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Paul is plain in these verses that Gentiles were at one time alienated from the citizenship of Israel, from the covenants, and from Christ. But now God is taking two peoples, Jews and Gentiles, and making one body of people out of them. Is this not what Christ declared in “John 10:16 and other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Did you get what Christ is saying? Jesus declared that he had sheep that were not of the fold of Israel, namely the Gentiles, which he would bring in and there would be one fold and one Shepherd.
We could also move to Romans 11 whereby Paul uses the metaphor of a tree when he speaks of Israel. Here Paul is plain that the Gentiles are being engrafted into the root of that tree.
The term ‘unity theology’ plainly states that there is unity in God’s plan of redemption. Men have always been saved by faith all the way back to Abel. There is unity in the Old and New Testaments and unity in God’s covenant dealings with man. God in the Old Testament had a people for his name and in the New Testament God is expanding that people.
It is clear that those of the dispensational stripe do not know the word of God, for if they did you would not hear them making the claims that all of modern Israel is God’s chosen people. Paul declared in Romans 9:6-7 “that they are not all of Israel who are of Israel…..Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children.”
John MacArthur at his 2007 Shepherd’s Conference, in his rant against the Reformed position concerning Israel and the Church, declared that if we believe in election, then certainly God is going to save all of Israel. Yet this is precisely why we should not believe in the salvation of every single Jew, because we understand that election is centered in God’s good pleasures and not in being born of natural descent from a certain person Ephesians 1:4-5.
Under the Old Testament administration of the people of God, God commanded that every Israelite that would not keep his commands should be cut off. So it is clear that the promises, even under the Old Covenant of Moses were only to the faithful. Can we find evidence in scripture that plainly states that God has cut off natural Israel and is engrafting Gentiles into Israel in order to fulfill the Abrahamic promise of a seed as numerous as the stars? Absolutely. Let’s examine some scripture from Hosea:
Hos 1:6-9 And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.
But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen. Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son. Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.
Listen to what God states here. God plainly declares that natural Israel is no longer his people. God cuts off all the unbelievers because Israel failed to weed them out. So God cuts them off himself. Can we find this type language in the New Testament? Absolutely. Jesus stated in Mat 21:42-43:
Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
Notice that natural Israel is again in the context of those of whom shall be cut off. The nation that the kingdom of God was given to is the Church 1 Peter 2:9.
So Hosea is told that natural, unbelieving Israel is cut off, nevertheless the faithful in Israel was still part of Israel according to Paul in Romans 9, whereby he declared: that they are not all of Israel who are of Israel…..Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children, but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
But if God cuts off unbelieving Israel, then how could Israel be as the sand of the sea without number? God plainly declares to Hosea that he will engraft foreigners into Israel. Let’s read Hosea 1:9-10:
Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.
God tells Hosea that natural Israel shall be cut off, but God will still keep the promises to Abraham of being blessed with a people that is numerous as the sand of the sea, because God is going to bring the Gentiles into the nation of Israel. Paul quotes this portion of Hosea in Romans 9:25-26 while discussing who true Israel consists of. Remember Paul declared that natural Israel is not the true seed of Abraham, but only spiritual Israel or called out Israelites Romans 9:6-7. Paul is showing the Romans that the word of God is not ineffective just because every single Jew isn’t saved. Paul goes on in Romans 9 and shows that Isaac was chosen and not Ishmael. Jacob was chosen and not Esau. So it is not of him that willeth or of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. Therefore God shows his wrath in vessels fitted for destruction that he might show his glory on those for whom he beforehand prepared to glory, of all that are called of Jews and Gentiles.
Rom 9:22-26 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
So God declared to Hosea that natural Israel would be cut off and Gentiles would be grafted in. This is the exact language that Paul uses in Romans 11 when he discusses the cutting off of branches on a tree. Paul also declares in Romans 11 that only elect Israel receives God’s grace and the rest are blinded. Romans 11:5-7
Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
When Dispensationalists get to Romans 11:26 they cannot understand it because they are not interpreting scripture with scripture. Dispensationalists believe that in the end of this age that there will be a move by God in which he will elect every single Israelite into spiritual Israel. Yet we have already seen that there is a remnant that is being saved and the rest are blinded. Also right after Paul quotes Hosea in Romans 9, in order to prove that God is saving Gentiles as part of his people, then he quotes Isaiah and shows that God is only going to save a remnant of those who come from Abraham’s natural seed.
Rom 9:27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
I challenge all my dispensational friends to read the Bible with eyes of understanding and to interpret scripture with scripture. Though there is a modern nation called Israel, nevertheless they reject Jesus as their Messiah and therefore they are not the children of Abraham. Gentiles who believe in Jesus are the true children of Abraham. Also even to this present time there are naturally descended Jews that are being saved. Paul declared in Romans 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. So every naturally descended Jew that comes to faith becomes part of the church.
I have shown that God has one plan. I have shown that Gentiles are fellow heirs and of the same body as the remnant of Israelites that are being saved. So if dispensationalists want to declare that Israel and the Church are two separate entities, then they do it against God’s very words. If dispensationalists want to declare that believing Jews will inherit the land while believing Gentiles inherit heaven, then they present a false dichotomy that is not present in the scriptures.