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Replacement Theology

This terminology is often used to disparage the biblical teaching of the continuity between today’s church and ancient Israel. The opposing view is a disjoint theology where God changes how He deals with man. In this view, Israel and the church are separate and distinct from each other and God has two bodies of people that He deals with in different ways at different times.

The Scriptural view is that Ancient Israel was the center of God’s work with fallen man prior to the coming of the Son. The people of God in that time were all those—Israelite or gentile—that looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. Today the true church consists of all those—Jew or gentile—that look back and believe that Christ was that Messiah. Jesus said that Moses wrote of Him and believed in Him (John 5:45-47). So Moses and all the believing Israelites of his day were, in today’s terminology, Christians. In this view God does not change (Mal. 3:6); His people consist of one body, His elect, all that believe in Him and the Son. These are the redeemed that come from all of history, those that Christ died for and whose sins are forgiven.

God chose one man, Abraham, a man He endowed with faith, and through him established both the nation of Israel and the church (Gal. 6:16). God’s people, both before and after Christ, both Jew and gentile, were those that shared the faith of Abraham (Rom. 4:16). Unbelievers, then and now, were excluded (Deut. 13). There never was any distinction based on blood lineage; it was always a faith line and never a blood line that delineated God’s chosen people.

The physical descendants of Abraham had a significant advantage over the rest of the world. They were nation God chose to bless with His law and His presence. They had the law and the prophets and were continually called back to the faith when they strayed away. The bulk of the faithful, both prior to and immediately after the Incarnation were Israelites but with the coming of the Messiah, the sacrificial system, and with it the national boundary, was removed. The faith then spread throughout the world; but it wasn’t a new faith; it was the same faith that Moses held two thousand years earlier.

God’s distinction was always based on faith and never on nationality. The sacrificial system was always a pointer to the final sacrifice, Jesus the Messiah. God chose the time for the Incarnation and established this system as its predecessor. He never changed His plan in any way, shape or form. Our planning is necessarily contingent; we need to make changes as we see how things turn out. God does not; He sees the end from the beginning and is the same yesterday, today and forever. So also are His plans.

The detractors of this call it replacement theology. They do so because their theology begins with the idea that God deals with man in “dispensations.” This is the given, a fundamental tenet of the system. With this as a starting point, Israel and the church, because they are separated by the Incarnation, fall into separate “dispensations.” This makes them separate entities and the only possibility of some sort of continuity is that the one “replaces” the other. Hence, “replacement theology.” The idea of a continuum of God’s faithful that spans dispensational boundaries is not just rejected; it is never even given consideration.