The term “Replacement Theology” is a pejorative term used to describe some aspects of Reformed Theology and so it is usually said with a slight sneer like in the clip above. I believe the scare quotes are inferred so I’m going to use them consistently in this post. What “Replacement Theology” means and Reformed Theology doesn’t mean is that the church replaces Israel in God’s plan. Well, Reformed Theology kind of means that but not in the way that would necessitate scare quotes. Or the word “Replacement”. But “Theology” is fine.
What we Reformed types do mean is that the true Israel, the Israel of God is the Church which is made up of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, not just ethnic Jews. Where do we get such scare quote inducing theology? Mostly from St. Paul. We get it from his explicit statements like Colossians 3:11, “Here there is not Greek and Jew…but Christ is all, and in all.” Or from Romans 11 where he is talking about the gentiles being grafted in, “until the fullness of the gentiles is brought in.” Brought in to what? Can’t be grafted into Christ, otherwise, how did the unfruitful branches get there? They get grafted into the group known as “God’s people” or Israel/the Church.
So it isn’t like the church “replaced” Israel as God’s people. Rather, as was promised in Isaiah 54:1-3, Israel is expanded as the nations come in to her. This was pictured in Noah’s blessings on his sons in Genesis 9 where he blesses the LORD, the God of Shem, and his blessing on Japheth is that he would dwell in Shem’s tents. That sure sounds like the nations come in to the Shemites or Semites or Jews. And the other part of Romans 11 is that unbelieving Jews are cut off and removed, after all, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” (Rom. 9:6)
I recently came across another example of Paul’s “Replacement Theology” and this one jarred even me at first. As I waded thorugh websites that listed the “errors” of “Replacement Theology”1Obviously, I’m not persuaded by their arguments. Some portrayed “Replacement Theology” in a manner I would not even recognize as my theology on the issue. One site, though, was honest enough to acknowledge that this “error” was introduced when the first gentiles were converted to Christ and that it, in one form or another, had dominated the church for 1,900 years. That is to say, the universal Church was wrong on this doctrine until J. N. Darby invented Dispensationalism. I did not see anyone address this verse so it looks like it might have slipped under the radar.
In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul uses an allegory to sum up all that he’s spent two chapters defining and defending: the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Here’s a quick recap of that exposition. At the end of chapter 3 he said the law was like a prison guard holding all things captive (Gal. 3:23). Then he compared the law to child-minder, an attendant who would get the kids off to school and back home safely and ensure they behaved themselves (Gal. 3:24). Then he explained that while the heir is a child, he looks like a slave in the house since he has these people looking over him, telling him what to do. That lasts till the day the heir comes of age then he no longer looks like a slave (Gal. 4:1-3). That happened, Paul said, when Jesus came. Then we received adoption as sons and heirs.
Nothing jarring there, but that’s just the set up. Where it gets interesting is in the allegory. He says that present Jerusalem is in slavery (Gal. 4:24, 25). And what is the fate of the children of the slave? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” (Gal. 4:30, cf. Gal. 3:29) Whoa. So those who Jesus set free were the children of the free women. They looked like the slaves in the house while they were under law but once Jesus came they were shown to be heirs. Where does that leave those Jews who rejected Jesus? Cast out. So to Paul, the Jerusalem of his day, like Ishmael, would not inherit the covenant promises made to Abraham. What is amazing is to think that it was not that many years since Paul was in the group. He was a “Pharisee of Pharisees” and persecuted the church. So his “Replacement Theology” was personal.
As long was we want to establish our right staining before God on the basis of our performance rather than Jesus’, we are children of Hagar, members of the covenant made at Sinai, we’re Ishmael, cut off and sent away, inheritance-less.
So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:31)
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|1.||↩||Obviously, I’m not persuaded by their arguments. Some portrayed “Replacement Theology” in a manner I would not even recognize as my theology on the issue. One site, though, was honest enough to acknowledge that this “error” was introduced when the first gentiles were converted to Christ and that it, in one form or another, had dominated the church for 1,900 years. That is to say, the universal Church was wrong on this doctrine until J. N. Darby invented Dispensationalism.|