Continuing my look at the Church, Israel, and Replacement Theology:
Romans 9-11 is one of the most important New Testament passages about the Church and Israel. It’s interesting: People on both sides argue, “My side has to be right–just look at Romans 9-11!” There are other important passages–Galatians, Hebrews, & Revelation (particularly Gal. 6:16 and Rom. 2:29.) I know I haven’t studied them enough to come to really solid conclusions. But on Romans 9-11, there are some things that I think are pretty clear.
The three chapters culminate in 11:25-32. And that passage includes the key phrase, “in this way all Israel will be saved”. What does Paul mean? Is he talking about ethnic Israel? Or is he talking about “true Israel”–all the children of God in Christ?
Dispensationalists (and some Replacement theologians) take “all Israel will be saved” to mean that there will be a future restoration of ethnic Israel: Many Jews will turn to Christ. (“See!”, they say, “Israel is still distinct from the Church in the plans of God!”)
Replacement theologians tend to take it this way: Even though so much of Israel has rejected Christ, the promises of God will not fail–because true Israel is all those who believe in Christ, both Jew and Gentile. And all of true Israel will be saved. (“See!”, they say, “Everyone who knows Christ is now part of Israel!”)
I’m still trying to work some things out–there are pieces of this passage that aren’t clear to me. I do think the Replacement crowd are at least partly right. Ch. 9-11 is definitely about how the promises of God have not failed, and it definitely emphasizes unity between Jews and Gentiles in salvation. The whole Church is definitely part of God’s family, and does inherit promises from the Old Testament.
But I’ve also concluded this: Paul does point to future restoration & salvation for ethnic Israel, i.e. for currently unbelieving Jews. And ultimately, this passage doesn’t say, “‘Israel’ now means the Church.” Replacement theologians are reading that in, they’re not getting it from here. (Maybe you could build a case from other passages, but here, it’s not what Paul said.)
To see that, I want to walk through the passage to see the major flow of thought. Then I want to look at how is the word “Israel” is used–and at what exactly the Gentiles are included in. (I’m not perfectly clear on the last part.) (more…)