Covenant Theology Is Not Replacement Theology

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    Covenant Theology Is Not Replacement Theology

    R. Scott Clark

    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 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.

    #2
    That's a very good post, at least apart from one statement. Why would Reformed theologians believe that there will be a mass conversion of Jews? Dispensationalists believe there will be a mass conversion because of OT prophecies that say God will restore Israel and be their King.

    Dispensationalists are wrong because the state of Israel is not Israel. And, God being their King is a condition of the restoration, not a later event. As scripture plainly tells us in Ephesians 2:11-22, and elsewhere, the Church is Israel. And, indeed, God is our King.



    Comment>

      #3
      Ephesians 2:20-22 says the church is built upon the cornerstone, Jesus, not Israel. The Abrahamic Covenant back in Genesis tells us that all the land Abraham could see would make up the nation of Israel, unconditionally. Part of that land is occupied by Israel, the rest will be at Jesus' second coming at the end of the tribulation period. If Reformed theologians are saying there will be a mass conversion of the Jews, that is correct. They shall seek out the Gentiles to be converted and saved. Your own reference to Ephesians, Cornelius, validates this. Why make such a big deal over what Premillennialists believe? You don't believe it, so why do you care? What I believe is Biblical, so I don't see your problem. After the tribulation, God restores the remaining land promised to Abraham to Israel. That is the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant, in part. Also, all the nations of the world will be joined together with Israel because Christ-centrically speaking, Jesus opened the door to invite the Gentiles in and to make Israel jealous, but not abandon them. The Mosaic Covenant was broken, not the one with Abraham. The Bible says this, not me... I believe it though. It all starts back in Genesis 12. It still hasn't been fulfilled yet, but will be as I explained. Without Genesis 12, one cannot understand the end times.
      Comment>

        #4
        Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
        Dispensationalists are wrong because the state of Israel is not Israel. And, God being their King is a condition of the restoration, not a later event. As scripture plainly tells us in Ephesians 2:11-22, and elsewhere, the Church is Israel. And, indeed, God is our King.
        "God being their King is a condition of the restoration, not a later event", I agree, unbelief and rejection of God and His Covenant means forfeiture of the promises which are part of the Covenant. Modern Israel is treated too often as an entertaining clock that counts down the salvation of the church - 2 Corinthians 6:2: "now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation". The Reformed Covenant view holds that there is one people of God. The “People of God” is comprised of both Jewish and Gentile descent. The common factor is that they are “saved by grace through faith.” Israel means “People of God.” Israel is a conjunction of two Hebrew words: yisra-el. Yisra essentially means “people ruled by God.” “El” is a name for God Therefore, Israel means “People of God.” While some Jews accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah, most did not. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:11) There is a massive central message found throughout the New Testament that Christ's coming had insured there would be "one people of God." Being a "light to the Gentiles" was God's original purpose for the Jews and Jesus succeeded where they had failed. “But to all who did receive him [both Jews and Gentiles], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12) Both Jew and Gentile would come by faith / belief.

        Reformed or Covenant theologians simply do not hold that the church replaced Israel. Reformed theologians believe that God “pruned off” many Jews in judgment for their disbelief; then God grafted in Gentiles by faith. This correct view promotes a continuity of God’s faithfulness to both believing Jews and Gentiles from the Old Testament and on into the New Testament.The Old Testament is a story of the“ People of God.” It is primarily “salvation history.” In the Old Testament, genetic descendants of Abraham are understood to be a blessed nation, from which believing individuals were called to become "true Israel." The true “People of God” (saved) are individuals that have expressed faith in God’s promise toward a coming Messiah. Such faith allowed the Jew to move from the ranks of genetic, national Israel to believing Israel. A widely quoted verse is: “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” This distinction is fully explained in the New Testament as faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:8 explains justification by faith in Jesus. “So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Hence, Old Testament salvation was based on faith. Salvation was grace not race.

        Lastly, it is at least theologically proper to separate believing Israel (members of the church) from national Israel. Apparently Paul thought so when he said, “All Israel is not Israel.” The context in (Romans 9:6b) makes it very clear that Abraham’s true offspring (Israel) are those who believe. Paul emphasizes that every saving benefit that the believer enjoys comes to him by the merits of Christ and through the Holy Spirit. In fact, Christ died precisely in order that "the blessing of Abraham," that is the promised Spirit through faith" might come to the Gentiles (Galatians 3:13-14). Paul stresses that the gospel that he preached and the gospel that we have received through faith alone is the same gospel that was preached to Abraham (Galatians 3:8). All believers in Christ, who is the promised offspring of Abraham (Galatians 3:16), are thereby "Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:29).

        God bless,
        William
        Comment>

          #5
          Originally posted by William View Post
          Reformed or Covenant theologians simply do not hold that the church replaced Israel.
          The Church is Israel, therefore the Church did not replace Israel. [FONT=Helvetica][SIZE=13px]And, yes, Israel is the people of God, the faithful throughout time. [/SIZE][/FONT] But, the administration of Israel has changed from the circumcised to the baptized. Jerusalem has changed from the ground in the middle-east to heaven above.

          Did you answer my question about mass conversion of rabbinic Jews, or did I miss it?
          Comment>

            #6
            Originally posted by Cornelius View Post

            The Church is Israel, therefore the Church did not replace Israel. And, yes, Israel is the people of God, the faithful throughout time. But, the administration of Israel has changed from the circumcised to the baptized. Jerusalem has changed from the ground in the middle-east to heaven above.

            Did you answer my question about mass conversion of rabbinic Jews, or did I miss it?
            R. Scott Clark says,

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

            The Geneva Bible expresses this belief in the marginal notes on Romans chapter 11:15-26. On the latter verse they comment, `He sheweth that the time shall come that the whole nation of the jews, though not everyone particularly, shall be joined to the church of Christ.'

            Belief in a future conversion of the Jews became commonplace among the English Puritans from around the first quarter of the 17th century.

            God bless,
            William
            Comment>

              #7
              If Reformed theologians are saying there will be a mass conversion of the Jews, that is correct. (From post 3.) They shall seek out the Gentiles for knowledge of the Messiah and many will be converted. This will happen during the tribulation period of seven years. The 144,000 of 12,000 from each tribe of Israel is as the Bible says, not as someone else might say. They are the martyrs under the altar when they are killed. There are also the two powerful witnesses who are killed, lay dead for three days, then rise from the dead. All these among other reasons are why we are not yet in the tribulation period. To study the end times, start at the beginning of the Bible and work your way through the Revelation, just as you would read any book. The books are ordered the way they are for a reason. It would make a good study on why the order is what it is, in a new thread.
              Comment>

                #8
                Originally posted by William View Post

                The Geneva Bible expresses this belief in the marginal notes on Romans chapter 11:15-26. On the latter verse they comment, `He sheweth that the time shall come that the whole nation of the jews, though not everyone particularly, shall be joined to the church of Christ.'
                If you want to use Romans 11 to argue for mass conversion of Jews, how do you avoid being a universalist in regards to verse 32. What God says about mercy for the Jews is then expanded to all men.

                Romans 11 speaks only of the salvation of the few Jews, the remnant, that had remained faithful to God in the first century, but who hadn't yet accepted that the person of Jesus is the messiah. There is no mass conversion, no conversion at all; they already belong to God by faith. They just hadn't at the time come to terms with some new details. They were still living in the Temple age.

                Romans 11 also speaks of the natural branches. Rabbinic Jews are not the natural branches nor followers of a true religion, so Romans 11 has no application to them, on way or another.

                Romans 11, like many places in the Bible, makes the case that the Church is Israel. Verse 25 speaks of the gentiles coming into Israel.

                Comment>

                  #9
                  Originally posted by William
                  Furthermore, in order for the church to fully prosper, the Jewish people must be restored to faith and join in the missionary enterprise (Romans 11:12). In order for them to be restored, they must, of course, be preserved. I would argue that in order for the Jewish people to be preserved, the Nation of Israel needed to be created and needs to exist. We must stand for the continued existence of the state of Israel and for a just expression of that existence. Is ethnic Israel still properly called Israel?
                  How do you conclude that Rabbinic Jews are ethnic Israel? Regarding Romans 11:12, Jews are fully included in the church. The covenant of circumcision is obsolete, made obsolete by Jesus on the cross and completely ended in 70AD, Hebrews 8:13.

                  Romans 11:25 does not refer to Jewish unbelievers (which is like saying Christian unbelievers). The verse refers to Old Covenant believers. They were faithful to God, hence they are part of Israel, they just hadn't yet accepted that the person of Jesus is the Messiah. They were hardened against the person of Jesus, especially before the crucifixion, until the church was fully established, which was accomplished by 70AD. The dawning of the New Covenant didn't doom those born during the Old Covenant.
                  Comment>

                    #10
                    Many of the Reformation views I totally agree with, some I do not. The reason for this is that I apply a literal interpretation of scripture when it makes perfectly good sense just as it is written. Therefore, I have some questions relative to Reformation Theology.

                    1) What is your definition of “covenant”?

                    2) How many of them are in the OT and how many in the NT?

                    3) Which ones are conditional and which ones are unconditional?

                    4) Does God ever break His covenants or his promises?

                    5) Using MW definition of “dispensation” (a general state or ordering of things; specifically: a system of revealed commands and promises regulating human affairs) how many are there in scripture?

                    6) Can you provide scripture, as it is written, in support of your answers?

                    Simple, clear answers would be appreciated if you are interested in answering the questions.
                    Comment>

                      #11
                      Originally posted by Cornelius View Post

                      Romans 11 also speaks of the natural branches. Rabbinic Jews are not the natural branches nor followers of a true religion, so Romans 11 has no application to them, on way or another.
                      I agree, in part. Romans 11 applies to Rabbinic Jews if they no longer abide in unbelief (vs. 23).

                      Rev



                      Comment>

                        #12
                        Originally posted by William View Post

                        In fact, Christ died precisely in order that "the blessing of Abraham," that is the promised Spirit through faith" might come to the Gentiles (Galatians 3:13-14).
                        William, I believe there is more to that verse, when taken in context. This is the context:

                        "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." -- Gal 3:13-14 KJV

                        There are three fulfillments in that passage:

                        1) Christ died to redeem Israel from the curse of the law
                        2) Christ died to extend his blessing to the Gentiles
                        3) Christ died to send the Holy Spirit to the faithful


                        The 1st was exclusively for Israel, as Paul explained here:

                        "Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." -- Rom 7:1-4 KJV

                        Christ, the husband, died to release Israel, the wife, from the first covenant, so they could remarry under the new covenant:

                        "For this is my blood of the new testament (new covenant), which is shed for many for the remission of sins." -- Mat 26:28 KJV

                        "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:" -- Jer 31:31-32 KJV

                        The blessings were always to the Jew (or, Israelite) first:

                        "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities (sins)." -- Acts 3:25-26 KJV

                        So was the Holy Spirit:

                        "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." -- Acts 1:8 KJV

                        "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven." -- Acts 2:5 KJV

                        The Gentiles were allowed into the kingdom later on, but to my knowledge they never received all the powers of the Holy Spirit that were entrusted to the disciples and the remnant. The Gentiles did receive the power to speak in tongues (ex. Acts 10:23), but I do not recall any additional powers.

                        Anyway, that is the way I see it.

                        Rev

                        Comment>

                          #13
                          Originally posted by Rev20 View Post

                          William, I believe there is more to that verse, when taken in context. This is the context:

                          "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." -- Gal 3:13-14 KJV

                          There are three fulfillments in that passage:

                          1) Christ died to redeem Israel from the curse of the law
                          2) Christ died to extend his blessing to the Gentiles
                          3) Christ died to send the Holy Spirit to the faithful


                          The 1st was exclusively for Israel, as Paul explained here:

                          "Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." -- Rom 7:1-4 KJV

                          Christ, the husband, died to release Israel, the wife, from the first covenant, so they could remarry under the new covenant:

                          "For this is my blood of the new testament (new covenant), which is shed for many for the remission of sins." -- Mat 26:28 KJV

                          "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:" -- Jer 31:31-32 KJV

                          The blessings were always to the Jew (or, Israelite) first:

                          "Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities (sins)." -- Acts 3:25-26 KJV

                          So was the Holy Spirit:

                          "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." -- Acts 1:8 KJV

                          "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven." -- Acts 2:5 KJV

                          The Gentiles were allowed into the kingdom later on, but to my knowledge they never received all the powers of the Holy Spirit that were entrusted to the disciples and the remnant. The Gentiles did receive the power to speak in tongues (ex. Acts 10:23), but I do not recall any additional powers.

                          Anyway, that is the way I see it.

                          Rev
                          Hi Rev20, though I haven't anything to add, I'd just like to give you a big welcome to Christforums!

                          Looking forward to reading more of your posts and getting to know you better, brother.

                          God bless,
                          William
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