June 27, 2008 ©Homer
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Commentary — From the Margins
Scholars will agree that the early Church
and the early Church apologists taught some form of “replacement
theology,” the teaching that the Christian Church has replaced natural
Israel as the Holy nation of God, with the Christian Church evolving from a mid
1st-Century CE sect of Judaism to a separate and distinct
theological paradigm that was “a logical outgrowth of late classical
thought and, at the same time, an astonishingly brilliant fulfillment of the
best traditions of ancient philosophy” (D. W. Robertson, Jr.
“Translator’s Introduction.” Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine).
Yes, the evolution of the Christian Church was away from Judaism and into
previously uncharted paganism: before the Apostle John died, the Christian
Church had ceased being Christian and
had become an extension of philosophical paganism. Yet from Justin Martyr, who
throughout his life wore his philosopher’s robes and who in 160 CE, in
speaking to a Jew said, “The Scriptures are not yours but ours,” to
Irenaeus who said, “Jews are disinherited from the grace of God,”
to Tertullian who in his treatise, Against
the Jews, said that God had rejected the Jews in favor of Christians, to
Eusebius who argued that the Christian Church was the continuation of the Old
Testament and had superseded Judaism, the early Christian Church in its
youthful rebellion against God declared itself to be the true Israel, heir to
the covenants of promise. This early Christian Church, which had not walked as
Jesus walked since
There is certainly adequate scriptural support to argue that the Church is the successor to the covenants of promise:
Paul writes, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29).
Elsewhere Paul writes, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom 4:13).
After Jesus enters Jerusalem as the Passover Lamb of God, He tells the chief priests and elders of Israel, “‘Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits’” (Matt 21:43).
Paul writes, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Rom 2:28-29).
Paul also writes, “If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so
is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Rom
11:16). Paul goes on to say that some
of the natural branches were broken off so that wild olive branches could be
grafted onto this root of righteousness, with these wild olive branches being
Gentile converts. This root of righteousness is neither the Church nor
In all of these points, the assumption is that the Church will walk as Jesus, an Observant Jew, walked (cf. 1 John 2:3-6; 1 Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17) … Paul writes, “For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision” (Rom 2:25-16). Elsewhere he says,
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace. / What then? Are we to sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, with leads to righteousness? (Rom 6:12-16)
The Christian who presents him or herself to sin as its willing servant has voluntarily given sin dominion over the person. This person is no longer under grace, but is under the law even if this person is a Gentile convert who was not before under the law.
Christ will not be mocked—and the person who voluntarily returns to sin after being set free through being born of spirit mocks Christ by not valuing His sacrifice enough to strive to keep the commandments, the reasonable expectation of everyone of the house of God. Therefore, the Church as the continuation of Israel bears no relationship to the visible entity in this world called Christian by the prince of this world … Justin Martyr wore philosopher robes throughout his later life because he never ceased being a philosopher. He expressed love for Jesus, but he was never willing to do as Jesus said, a subject to which we will return.
Although the early Church, a practicing sect of Judaism as the Pharisees and Sadducees were, taught that through Jesus Old Testament prophecies pertaining to Israel were being and would be fulfilled, 19th-Century theological revisionists mostly abandoned replacement theology, the teaching that the Church superseded Israel as the holy nation of God, and taught instead that God would save Israel through the law but saves the Church through grace, making two paths to God. This heretical teaching expanded to make salvation a many spoked wheel by which persons of good character of all religions are saved, but has recently contracted back to where only through Christ Jesus is a person saved. However, this teaching allows for Christianity to be a many spoked wheel by which good persons of every denomination are saved.
Replacement theology became entangled in civil
governance early in the 4th-Century CE, and remained entangled even after
Luther and Calvin separated themselves from the old Roman Church. As ancient
In a salvation tango, the dance of love, the dance of dispensationalists with Judaism, replacement theology became an ugly concept; for if replacement theology is true—if the Christian Church is endtime Israel, the holy nation for which endtime prophecies about being recovered from captivity in the north country pertain—then the Christian Church must go into captivity and be scattered and then return to God and be recovered from the far corners of the world. Christianity will cease being “important” theologically until God sets His hand to recover the Church from where He scattered it. To dispensationalists, this cannot be! Therefore, in the minds of dispensationalists who were certain that they were theologically pure, replacement theology must be a false teaching that infected the early Church as the flu bug infects the nation every winter. And these Evangelical dispensationalists (and a few others who utterly lack spiritual understanding) have made replacement theology one of those dirty labels they can verbally hurl to shout down disciples advocating what the Apostle Paul taught about endtime Israel being the new creatures, born of spirit, that dwell in the tents of flesh of the old man.
arguments against replacement theology distill down to one point: God never
says that natural
All of humankind has, in Christian theology, biologically descended from the first Adam and as such are of the house of Adam. Their paternal ancestry can be traced back to Adam—with one exception, Jesus of Nazareth, whose Father was the Logos, Theos, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt 22:32). Thus, Jesus was not born as a man into the house of Adam, for He was of the house of God.
Sin entered the world through one man, Adam (Rom 5:12), who covered Eve’s transgression by being her head, her husband. Because of Adam’s transgression, all of humankind has been consigned to disobedience so that God could have mercy on all (Rom 11:32), mercy coming in the form of being liberated from disobedience and given “life” residing in the tent of flesh of the old self. For the firstfruits of God, this giving of life (or being raised from the dead — John 5:21) began when Jesus breathed on ten of His disciples and said, “‘Receive the Holy Spirit [pneuma hagion]’” (John 20:22), and this giving of life will continue until He comes again to also give life to whom He will through the mortal flesh putting on immortality. So both the Father and the Son must give life to a person born physically of the house of Adam before this person will enter into the heavenly realm … this person must mentally leave the house of Adam and begin to identify him or herself with the house of God, for the new creature dwelling within the tent of flesh—the new creature that is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek—is of God and of His house.
The life that the Father gives or will give to a person through receipt of His divine breath [pneuma Theon] was foreshadowed when this divine breath descended as a dove, lit and remained on the man Jesus of Nazareth (Matt 3:16), the only Son of the Logos. The man Jesus now became the beloved Son of the Father (v. 17) through receipt of a second life within the tent of flesh that was the man Jesus. Literally, Jesus was born of Mary as the only Son of the Theos of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and He became the firstborn Son of the Father, Theon, the Host of heaven, when the divine breath of the Most High descended upon Him as a dove to cause Him to be born again, or born a second time to fulfill all righteousness (v. 15).
Jesus was never of the house of Adam; He was not
born consigned to disobedience. Thus, He was free from birth to keep the
commandments of God—and by keeping the commandments, He did not sin, so death
had no claim to His life. He was a mortal man, but not a man under sentence of
death. He could walk on water because death had no claim on his life. He had to
choose to be made sin—He had to choose to take on the sins of
The city for which Abraham waited was New Jerusalem, the house of God grown very large and glorified, the great nation promised to him. His descendants would be numbered through Christ Jesus, a life-giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45), the spiritual Abraham whose son of promise was a spiritual Isaac, according to Paul (Gal 4:21-31).
Every descendant of Abraham is of the house of
Abraham, who was to become the father of many nations as well as the father of
a single nation, two promises that are conjoined through
Extending this argument Paul makes that was not well understood in the 1st-Century nor well understood today, every son of God is of the house of God; thus, Jesus as the beloved Son is of the house of God and is known simply by the name of that house, God. Likewise, disciples who have been born of spirit are sons of God and as such are of the house of God. Jesus uses this logic when He cites Psalm 82:6 to Jews determined to stone Him: Jesus said, “‘Is it not written in your Law, “I said, you are gods”? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”’” (John 10:34-36).
Those Jews who sought to kill Jesus knew they were not of the house of God. They claimed to be of the house of Abraham (John 8:39), not the house of God. And Jesus confirms that they were not of the house of God when He said they were of the house of the devil (v. 44).
Gentiles have been grafted into the household of
God through faith that will have these Gentiles
living as Judeans who believe that Jesus is Lord and that the Father raised
Jesus from the dead. And there is the error in both so-called replacement
theology and in all arguments against replacement theology: the visible (in
this world) Christian Church is not of God. Just as the Pharisees of the 1st-Century
were not of God (a claim that rabbinical Judaism will vigorously dispute), the
Christian Church is neither of
How can the Christian Church not be of God? How, by what John writes: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. … Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil” (1 John 3:4, 8). … Jesus said Pharisees were of the devil because they sought to kill Him, and John said lawless Christians are of the devil because they practice sinning. The defining characteristic of the visible Christian Church is its open transgression of the law, visible for all to see every Sunday morning.
It is, for Sabbatarian disciples, sometimes too easy to dismiss well-intended Sunday-observing Christians as being of the devil through their continued sinning, apparent by when they attempt to come into the presence of God. But John would have identified—going back farther than Justin Martyr—those who practicing sinning by transgressing the Sabbath commandment as being of the devil, and again, this would place all the visible Christian Church in a similar relationship to Sabbatarian disciples as Pharisees had to Jesus and His disciples. Judaism, now, might be compared to the Sadducees.
The visible Christian Church has not and will not
Understand! Jeremiah records,
“‘Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not
obeyed my words, behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares
the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will
bring them against this land [Israel] and its inhabitants … [t]his whole
land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of
Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish
the king of
Cyrus isn’t king of the Media-Persian Empire when the seventy years transpire: Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, is (Dan 9:1-2). So the remnant of Israel that returned to Jerusalem to build for Cyrus a house for God (Ezra 1:1-2) by the hand of Zerubbabel did not return after seventy years, but returned earlier. The first temple was razed and its debris burned in 586 BCE, and Zerubbabel’s temple was dedicated in 516 BCE, exactly seventy years later, but a remnant of Israel had returned to Jerusalem more than two decades earlier—so a remnant of Israel was not absent from Jerusalem for seventy years. Rather the house of God in any form was absent for seventy years … the remnant of Israel that returned to Judea as servants of the king of Babylon—Cyrus is identified as “king of Babylon” by Tattenai the governor of the province (Ezra 5:13)—were not the house of God; they were not of God; and they still were not of God when Jesus, centuries later, said they were of the devil, the prince of this world and the spiritual king of Babylon (again, Isa 14:4).
The tango of love that dispensationalists and Judaism perform nightly for the world to see and admire is the dance of the dead … the prophet Haggai asks the priests about the law:
“If someone carries holy meat in the fold of
his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind
of food, does it become holy?” The priest answered and said,
“No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact
with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The
priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai
answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation
before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what
they offer there is unclean [
The remnant of
The house of God is the lineage of God, and this
“house” goes from being a physical structure built of timber and
stone to being the tents of flesh in which the divine breath of God [pneuma Theon] dwells, what Paul understood but others
apparently did not (1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:16). Likewise,
Only one tribe of
As the Promised Land shrank through Israel’s
lawlessness until it was no larger than the polis Jerusalem before
Nebuchadnezzar razed the city (Ezek 12:9, 21-28), Israel as the firstborn son
of God (again, Ex 4:22) shrank until it was no larger than the man Jesus of
Nazareth when He entered the temple as both the only Son of Theos (John 3:16) and the firstborn Son
of Theon—to repeat, the
circumcised nation of Israel left Egypt as the first son of “I Am,”
but this firstborn son broke covenant with the Lord over and over again, so
Israel was sent away from God and out of His presence; God’s glory left
the temple not to return until Jesus as the Wave Sheaf Offering entered in the
presence of the Most High. Here on earth, not until Jesus as the firstborn (and
only) Son of the Logos who was Theos and was with Theon from the beginning (John 1:1-2) entered the second temple did
All ten upon whom Jesus breathed were Galileans, Israelites by birth and by faith. Paul was an Israelite by birth and by faith. The Circumcision Faction with whom Paul battled were Israelites by birth but here problems enter, for they professed to be of Christ but they lacked spiritual understanding. They would have made dispensationalists wonderful tango partners. There were like the alleged scholar, a Sabbatarian who, when a disciple mentions that Israel is today a nation circumcised of heart, a nation that is the Christian Church, immediately responds with some variation of, “That’s replacement theology, you have to be careful of that.”
Yes, a person has to handle replacement theology
carefully, for the physicality of the creation concealed the Logos, the beginning and end (Rev
When Israel as the firstborn son of God left Egypt,
it was a nation of about 600,000 adult males of which only two entered into the
Promised Land, and one of these two was of Esau by birth and Israel only by
adoption. So by biological descent, the firstborn natural son of God that left
Disciples, regardless of their biological heritage, will only enter into God’s presence through adoption by faith, this adoption displayed through the presence of a different spirit that has them believing God.
The natural descendants of
At another time, more will be said about physically
Continued in Part II
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."