Saturday, March 10, 2012

Has the Church Replaced Israel? - By Michael Vlach

This is a great resource for anyone doing a study on the identity of Israel in the New Testament, as I was doing.  It's also a good critique of supersessionism/fulfillment theology/covenant theology.  Vlach starts off by giving you the background of the view that the Church replaces Israel, or rather, the view that the church fulfills the role that racial Israel was supposed to fulfill but failed.  Most of these people seem to believe along the lines of what Luther argued, "...the Jews are no longer Israel, for all things are to be new, and Israel must become new."  Vlach evaluates their hermeneutics, and critiques their proof passages.  One such passage is Galatians 6:16, here is an excerpt:  "A second argument against the supersessionist understanding of Gal 6:16 is based on the context of the letter.  Paul is defending the concept of salvation by grace through faith against the error of the Judaizers who held that circumcision contributed to salvation.  In doing this, Paul singles out Christian Jews in Galatia who correctly believed the gospel of grace and did not follow the error of the Judaizers.  Paul, thus, commends these Christian Jews and calls them the 'Israel of God.'  As Johnson puts it, ''What more fitting thing could Paul write ,it is said, in a work so strongly attacking Jewish professing believers, the Judaizers, than to make it most plain that he was not attacking the true believing Jews.  Judaizers are anathematized, but the remnant according to the election of grace are 'the Israel of God.'"

And again, on Ephesians 2:11-22, "The fact that Gentiles have gone from being 'far off' to 'near,' or from excluded' to 'not excluded,' does not mean they have assumed the identity of Israel.  Second, if Paul wanted to say that believing Gentiles were now part of Israel, he could have said that, but he did not.  Paul will say that God has made both believing Jews and Gentiles 'one' (2:14) and 'one new man,' but he carefully avoids the title 'Israel.'…..(Quoting C. B. Hoch Jr.)'..They do not become Israel; they share with Israel.'"

Perhaps my favorite parts, were where he pointed out that, although there certainly are shadows and types in the Old Testament, the people of  Israel were neither of those things, nor were the promises of material things, like land.  Quoting Feinberg, " unconditional promises are not shadows, nor are the people to whom they are given."  And also, where he pointed out that material things are not evil, "…we should not assume that physical things are inherently unspiritual.  The physical universe God created was deemed 'very good' (Gen 1:31), not something that needed to be escaped or transcended.  We should not assume that things like land, temples, and nations are unspiritual.  Nor should we think that such things must necessarily be types or pictures of greater spiritual realities in some Platonic fashion."

I have so many quotations, I could go on and on…but then that would defeat the purpose of you buying the book.  I'll end with one more quote, "Contrary to the supersessionist position, it is not God's intention for everyone who believes to become part of 'Israel.'  Through Abraham, the nation Israel was created as a vehicle to bring blessings to 'all the families of the earth'(Gen 12:2-3), but it has never been God's intent to make everyone who believes 'Israel.'  Israel, through the ultimate Israelite, Jesus Christ, is the means for worldwide blessing, but Israel is not an end in itself."