Dr. Randy White
It is impossible to read the Old Testament and conclude anything other than the fact that God chose the nation of Israel and her people, the Jews, to be His chosen nation through whom He would accomplish His chosen task of walking among His created order. This experience was realized just for a brief time in the Garden of Eden, but with the sin of Adam and Eve, the experience was lost, and the waiting for a Redeemer, the anointed Messiah to remedy the problem, began. Through time, God chose Abraham and promised through him a great nation, one that would bless all the families of the world. It was through this nation that God’s Messiah would establish God’s presence among men once again.
This purpose was never brought to completion in the Old Testament. The New Testament introduces the Messiah and, through Him, God gives an offer to the Jewish nation to receive her King and experience the fulfillment of the Kingdom. Led by the Pharisees, however, the nation rejected God’s Messiah, and the Kingdom was no longer near, but now postponed to a distant future. During this interim time of delay, God is saving people “by grace, through faith” and completely apart from Judaism or the keeping of the Law. During this time of saving grace, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, but whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Many people have taken this to mean that God is done with Jewishness forever. Because this claim fails to fit the “forever” nature of God’s promises to the Jews, these Christians have developed a theological scheme in which the church (that is, Christians) has become the “New Israel.” Though this scheme has no New Testament support, it has been taught with such vigor by the church through the ages that one would think it a basic concept of the Biblical text.
Who is a Jew?
One of the passages often used by the proponents of the New Israel scheme is Romans 2:28-29:
“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” (Romans 2:28–29, NASB95)
This Scripture clearly teaches that “real Jewishness” is a heart condition, not a matter of circumcision, nor (in its context) of the family tree, or obedience to the Law. So, armed with this reality, the New Israel schemers begin to build a theology that Jewishness is based solely on one’s spiritual condition. In fact, noted theologian N.T. Wright got it all wrong when he says, “a real Jew could be Jewish or gentile.” Perhaps he is echoing the words of William Barclay (and so many others), who says, “Jewishness is not a matter of race at all.”
Along this same line of thinking,Romans 9:8 which says, “…it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” Once again, the New Israel schemer says, “See, I told you so!”
On both accounts, the schemer fails to take into account basic principles of Biblical interpretation, not the least of which is to check the context!
Is Jewishness Only Spiritual?
It makes all the difference in the world to realize that Romans 2:28-29 is written to Jews alone, in the context of Paul’s argument for the need for Jewish salvation. Paul is saying that which he consistently says; namely, that Jews need to be saved by Jesus Christ. In the conclusion to his argument that Jewishness alone, marked by circumcision, will not save the Jew, he says that it is “inward Jewishness” which is of greatest importance. The words of Paul in Romans 2 no more say that Jewishness is not a matter of race than they say the moon is made of blue cheese!
Let me give a simple example. I can preach in my congregation saying, “He is not a Christian who has been baptized, but he is a Christian who has been Born Again!” I would be accurate in my statement. I would not, however, be saying, “everyone who is Born Again has been baptized!” Such would break the laws of simple logic. But this is exactly what the New Israel schemers do when they say, “Since Jewishness is a spiritual matter, everyone who has experienced this spirituality is Jewish.”
All I have to say is, “give me a break!”
In Romans 9:8 we have the same issue. When Paul says that it is the “children of promise” who “are regarded as descendants” he doesn’t even come close to saying, “so the church has replaced the nation of Israel, and is now the recipient ofIsrael’s promises.” To make this claim breaks the simplest and most mundane levels of the meaning of words and their interpretation. In the context of Romans 8, Paul is defending the sovereignty of God and saying that God is just in choosing Isaac’s children and excluding Ishmael’s children. It is so clearly simple that the “children of promise” are the descendants of Isaac that we can only conclude that those who teach otherwise are either imbecilic or involved in a blatant anti-Semitic theological scheme to place themselves in a position of blessing to which they were not born.
What Paul Says
In a number of places in the Scripture, Paul says that the Israelites “according to the flesh” cannot rest on their lineage, but must find from God the circumcision of heart, entering into the New Covenant which is sealed in the blood of Christ. Paul’s message is one of Jewish evangelism, not Jewish replacement.
“What then? If some [Jews] did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God [to Israel], will it? May it never be.” (Romans 3:3-4a, NASB95)
The conclusion: replace your replacement theology with Biblical theology! Run from “New Israel” jargon in the church like you would run from the plague, because such teaching brings a spiritual plague that is and has been deadly to the church. Then, rejoice in the fact that, though you are not Israel, you are blessed through Israel. Finally, respond by blessing Israel with support for their rightful position as the forever chosen people of God.
Interested in more on this subject?
- Check our our other ministry, Friend of Zion
- Dr. White’s Sermon “I Believe in God’s Covenant with Israel” ($2)
- Travel to Israel with Dr. White
- Article: West Bank or Biblical Israel?
- Article: Theological Makebelieve and Israel-Centric Scriptures