Church: The Israel of God? Part 2

  • Genesis is the story of how Israel came to be and how God chose this family out of all the others in the earth.

  • The Bible then tells how God gave Israel a place to live, brought them out of slavery and into the land God promised.

  • Later books witness to Israel’s struggles and triumphs; God’s own people rebelling from the covenant, only to turn in repentance, then back to rebellion.

  • A famous king of Israel writes over a thousand songs exalting the God of Israel. A hundred or so made it into the Scriptures. God blessed this king and promised God’s anointed one – Messiah - would descend from him.

  • The books of the prophets, written by Israel’s own, tell of God’s plans for Israel, present and future. These Israelite prophets foretell God’s plan to redeem and save Israel.

  • The Messiah of Israel was born in Israel to Israelite parents. Messiah spends his much of his life centered around the Temple in Jerusalem, teaching the Torah and expounding upon it.

  • Messiah’s 12 disciples – all Israelites – imitated their master as a way of life. Their deeds are written in the next books of the Bible.

  • Further books describe Paul – an Israelite Pharisee – who spoke to gentiles about how to follow this Messiah of Israel.

  • Finally, the Bible ends with a smash hit of a book that foretells God’s final plan of redemption through Messiah for the whole world, God setting things right, dealing final justice, with Israel taking center stage as representatives from each of the 12 tribes of Israel surround the heavenly throne.

It is hard to imagine how one can read Israel out of the Bible, or replace Israel with some other entity. Israel is the tool God has used on this earth to accomplish His plans.

Yet earlier this week, the question was raised by a Christian friend: Isn’t the Church the real Israel? And do Christians have any business supporting that old, done-away-with state of Israel that we read about in the Old Testament?

Before I address these, I want to point out that, despite our theological differences, this Christian guy who raised these questions, Brian, is a good friend and a humble guy who loves the Lord. Earlier, after reading some of the comments on this blog, he related to me,

Apparently Reformed Covenant theology appears to be Anti-Semitic to some of your readers. I lament this misunderstanding with all of my heart. I hope that you do know that I would never knowingly subscribe to a theology that advocates against the Jewish people. The intention of my post was not to bash the state of Israel.

This is why I’ve focused solely on the theology and haven’t personally attacked anyone through all this.

Reformed Covenant theology, because it replaces Israel with a new entity, must also be lumped as type of replacement theology and I’ll refer to it as such in this work.

That said, let’s refresh what we’re talking about here:

My Christian friend had wrote a long note on Facebook asserting that:

  1. Christians ought not to support the state of Israel.
  2. The Church is the New Israel.
  3. Jews are no different than gentiles in the New Testament era.

Today I want to address these points in full.

To the first point, my friend had said,

I find it difficult to find New Testament warrant for [support for Israel] & my first thought is that Christ and His disciples had little if any stake in the political intrigues of Israel under the Romans, with the notable exception of Simon the Zealot - who is given no endorsement as such, but simply seems to have this as a qualifier to his name.

So, here is my thesis: The Church, as the true Israel of God, owes no political allegiance to any nation, regardless of Biblical prophecy about a restoration of the Jewish state.

Should Christians support Israel? The answer is yes.

Moving on. (I kid, I kid! See below. ;-))

Politics, really?

Why should Christians support Israel? Politically? Dunno ‘bout you fine blog readers, but I come from an extended family where certain relatives support the US Republican party in the view that it is the Christian party. Seeing these abuses, I’m uncomfortable saying Messiah’s followers are obligated to offer political support for any political entity.

I’m even more uncomfortable with “owing” political support, as if indebted. While the Church has built up lots of debt to the Jews through persecution, and it’s true Christianity was forked out of Israel and Judaism, I still don’t like the argument. It too closely resembles the “your ancestors did something to my ancestors, so pay me money” kind of thing. Let’s not go there, please.

The real reason Christians should support Israel?

Israel is God’s chosen. (Replacement theologians say, “Amen”.)

And Jews comprise Israel. (Replacement theologians say, “Ame..wha? OMG Noooooes!”)

It’s kind of silly, but that’s the primary dividing line.

Where’s the Beef?!

So are the Jews still Israel?

My father-in-law once told me, “Everything changed with Jesus.” So did Jesus change Israel to mean “the Church”? If he did, there’d be a boatload of clear, unmistakable statements like,

“Hey guys, this is Jesus. Just coming in to say, my Church is the new Israel. kthxbye.”

Unfortunately for replacement theologians, there are no such statements.

There are a handful of ambivalent statements by Paul that maybe kinda sorta might be evidence, but not really. Here are 2 of the more popular ones:

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

-Paul, in his letter to Rome

Here, Paul suggests being a Jew is a good thing. And being a Jew isn’t about being one outwardly.

Some Replacement Theologians wish for this to say, “Christians, who have real hearts for God, are the New Israel. Those old Jews, who don’t really have hearts for God, aren’t really Israel.”

But unless you’re interpreting Scripture with an agenda, you’d never read it this way. “I have a theology to defend” is a terrible way to interpret Scripture. And even if one interpreted that way, the conclusion is that Christians are really Jews. I don’t think most Replacement theologians would be comfortable with this idea.

The other common one is Paul’s statement, “the Israel of God”:

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

-Paul, in his letter to Galatia

Replacement theologians wish for “the Israel of God” to mean Christianity and the Church, rather than Israel. (As opposed to that other Israel, now abandoned by God.) Of course, Paul never mentions Christianity or the Church here.

One might infer from this reading that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision account for membership in Israel. This may be inferred, but nowhere does this reading suggest replacement, instead, adoption and grafting-in is the theme woven throughout several of Paul’s letters, see Romans 9, 10, 11, Ephesians 2, for example.

A common assertion among replacement theologians and reformed covenant theologians is this:

With the abrogation of the Mosaic Covenant, Israel lost its status as the people of God.

I don’t rightly know how to address such nonsense. Israel broke the Mosiac covenant almost immediately upon its inception – God didn’t abandon them then. Instead, he invested a few thousand years into Israel’s redemption…only to throw it all away when Messiah came? Nonsense. Paul already addressed this foolish thinking, in a statement that makes replacement theologians squirm:

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written.

-Paul, in his letter to Rome

Notice the lack of replacement theology in Paul’s statements. Had Paul agreed that the Church replaced Israel, his words would make no sense here:

I ask then: Did God reject his people? Of course. I used to be a Jew myself, but now I’m a member of God’s Israel: the Church. Old Israel God threw away so that he could make new Israel in the form of Christianity.

-Imaginary, Paul didn’t say this

Honestly, folks, these are the best verses I’ve seen from adherents of Replacement Theology. Maybe there’s more, but these are the best examples I’ve been given over the last few years.

No! [Gasp!] Not Zionism!


Love and support for Israel is often termed Zionism. While neo-Nazis, fundamentalist Muslims, and even certain members of the extreme left use the term “Zionist” in a derogatory manner – in the world, it is becoming increasingly unpopular to be a Zionist – the term by itself is a good name: Zion is a name for Jerusalem. In other words, Zionism is the love and support for Jerusalem. See? Not so scary.

Some Christians, especially the ugly anti-Semitic few, have a problem with Zionism.

As I told my Christian friend: God is a Zionist. It’s almost heretical to say God supports [x socio-political platform], but honestly, God loves and supports Zion. In fact, God installs Messiah as King of Zion, God himself is enthroned in Zion, salvation for Israel comes from Zion, Zion is God’s city, God shines out from Zion, God makes Zion prosper and builds the walls of Jerusalem, God lives in Zion, will save Zion, and loves Zion eternally!

The psalmist commands us to pray for Zion and for her prosperity, with the promise that God will bless us if we do.

And Messiah? Even though the people of Zion have stoned the prophets, Messiah prophesies he will return when Zion says, “Baruch Haba BaShem Adonai” (Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord).

God is a Zionist. The Scriptures are Zion-centered. Messiah will reign as king of Zion.

Apologies to you would-be Zion haters.


Replacement theologians, as well as like-minded Reformed Covenant theologians, perhaps unwittingly perform a terrible anti-Jewish act: they remove the relevance of Israel and replace her with Christianity and the Church.

The good news is, they have almost no evidence to support their case: the apostles never took this deviant route, and there is virtually no Scripture that can be interpreted in support of this theology without performing Scriptural acrobatics.

More good news: if the replacement theology adherents are wrong, we get the benefit of reading the Scripture as-is! That means we don’t have to fudge Scriptures where we reinterpret “Israel” to mean, “us modern-day Christians”. (Or the flipside, when a curse or judgment is pronounced on Israel, we no longer have to have a double standard of, “well, the curse was for Israel and the blessing for Christians…”) And since Israel is all over the Scriptures, that’s a pretty nice bonus.

Does support for Zion mean a blank check to the modern state of Israel? No. Please, no. Israel is run by men that make mistakes -- just like the ancient state of Israel. God is not blind – and as he loves Zion, he also corrects and judges Zion.

Likewise, we cannot be blind to Israel’s offenses. But it should not detract from our underlying love and support for her and her people, whom Paul calls God’s oldest friends, with whom God’s call is still under full warranty, never canceled, never rescinded.


  1. Question: Even if these people find no Biblical basis to support the modern State of Israel, do they think that the State of Israel has any right to exist?

    Even Hank Hanegraaf thinks that Israel can be supported on the basis of it being a U.S. ally.

  2. Fortunately, the Open Bible, Foursquare Gospel, and Assemblies of God pastors from my early years as a believer were never so blatant with replacement-like ideas. If they were there, I never perceived them.

    Further, they always taught that loving Jew and Christian alike was a necessary. They were politically pro-Israel (which is my natural inclination anyway) in the same way that they were pro-American. They didn't always agree with everything that happens, but they continued to support the existence and protection of the nation itself.

    There was even a big name preacher who said something along the lines of "God will not hear the prayer of a Jew". My pastor at the time made sure we understood that our creator is listening to all, but particularly to his own people.

    (Some other time, we'll have to discuss the "two brothers" analogy that is often used to describe the relationship between Jews and Christians.)

    Theologically, replacement theology sounds like "the Apprentice", where a very old guy with a bad comb-over says "you're fired." The problem, as you've pointed out, is that old Jacob has an unbreakable contract.

  3. @JK,

    I don't know about replacement theology espousers in general, but as for my friend, he supports Israel's right to exist. He only believes that they aren't God's chosen people anymore, and that Christians have no obligation to support Israel.

    (Brian, I know you're reading this, so correct me if any of this is off.)

  4. Judah,

    Your statement:

    "And Jews comprise Israel."

    Would it not be more accurate to say that the people who are called Jews are a part of Israel? Since the promised reuniting of the two houses has not come to its completion yet, the tribe of the Yehudim, though the most recognizable group at this time, would be one portion of the whole House of Israel.

    Would it not?

    I do agree with you about unconditionally supporting a corrupt political process in the Land. We shouldn't. Support of Israel should be based on YHVH's mandate that is found in scripture.

    I do not believe that what is called the "Church" has replaced Israel. I do believe that the "Church" as a whole does not realize who they are at this time. That may change in the near future. I certainly hope so.



  5. I deliberately chose to simplify. It's a true statement, "Jews comprise Israel". Obviously, gentiles can join Israel, and gentiles are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, and the house of Israel largely has not returned from dispersion, something Josephus and the Talmud confirm.

    There are all kinds of nuances.

    I chose to keep it simple as we address replacement theology.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. This was a good read brother. I personally appreciated this statement.

    "God is not blind – and as he loves Zion, he also corrects and judges Zion. "

    But more so than that I was encouraged by affirmations of God's love for Israel, and the centrality of Israel throughout the scriptures. And I am grateful as a believer in Israel's Messiah to have a deep love and be a part of such a dynamic family/group of people.

    The fate of us all is tied to this family and its powerful,, more so than we can begin to imagine.

  8. Here is a related article on the issue of the New Israel

  9. I think the author here was trying to be fair in his depiction of Reformed Theology on this subject...and obviously trying to be simple.

    But here is a better, if longer, explanation of the predominate Reformed and Covenantal view of the relationship between the Israel of God and the church of Jesus Christ.