Has the Church Replaced Israel?

Olive Branch

Romans Nine 1-33


(Note. This is Segment 1 of the study, “The Relationship between Israel and the Christian Church” under a different title.)

Before you tag me as a Replacement Theology teacher, please read the entire study. I do not teach Replacement Theology nor do I believe it. The Church has NOT replaced Israel. However, the church is a part of Israel (Rom 11:24; Gal 3:7, 14, 16, 29; Eph 2:19, 3:6). I am not a follower of Covenant Theology either. I believe that the covenants God made with Israel still stand. I do not subscribe to the doctrine of Dispensationalism, which I believe does not square up with the Bible. That is another study for another time. I suppose you would have to classify me as a Remnant Theologian, for I consider the believing remnant of Israelites and believing Gentiles to all be a part of the same group, which is God’s People. You may call them the church, an assembly, a congregation, a synagogue, etc. Whatever name you give them, they are still a unified group of believers in Christ. Thus they are saved.

Paul begins his epistle to the Romans with a salutation that he concludes in Rom 1:16. From Rom 1:16 through the end of chapter 8, the letter concerns the church and its doctrine. Paul defines the great doctrines of the faith at great lengths in those chapters. In fact, much of what we call church is outlined in those chapters. This treatise is not a work about the doctrines of the faith. It is, rather, a work concerning the historical setting of Israel, the believing remnant, and what is considered to be the Christian church. Hence we begin with the first verse of chapter nine, where Paul changed tack and struck out in the direction of his beloved brethren, the Jews of the First Century. Yet, in this epistle, Paul did not remain in the first century, but saw into the distant future to give us a view of the ultimate salvation of Israel.

While many, such as the late E.W.Bullinger, see chapters 9-11 as dispensational in content, this is not a dispensational study. The doctrines of Dispensationalism simply do not square with the Scriptures. Dispensationalists teach that in order to “rightly divide” the word of God, it must be broken down into segments, each with its own character. While I do not dispute that God worked in seemingly different ways at different times, I do dispute the entire canon of Dispensationalism, whose primary doctrine, or, by Dispensationalists’ own admission, its sine qua non [Latin for “without which it could not be”] is that Israel and the Church are forever separate. Accordingly, God has a plan of salvation for the Church and a separate plan for Israel. Unfortunately, the Scripture fully disputes this teaching. We will, therefore attempt to discern what the Scriptures have to say on the subject of the Church that was established by Jesus Christ and its interrelationship with Israel.

Rom 9:1-5 “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, (2) That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. (3) For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: (4) Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; (5) Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Since Paul was converted on the Damascus Road, he had been preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, mostly to Gentiles. But his teachings had converted many Jews (a moniker that, in Paul’s day, essentially meant all Israelites and not just the tribes of Judah and Benjamin as the word Jew originally meant). Therefore many of the churches he had a hand in starting had both Jews and Gentiles as their membership. But many Jews in the first century completely rejected the Gospel. Since Paul was a Jew himself and a Pharisee as well, he had some very deep feelings of love for his fellow Israelites in spite of their rejection of the Gospel. (This is a love that all Christians should share with Paul).

Those Israelites were his brethren, or kinsmen of the flesh. Ethnically, he was related to them. They were born Israelites and he was born an Israelite. He was actually in sorrow over their lost condition. He would have given up his salvation, if that were possible, for them.

He explains that through Israel, the scriptures were given to all of us. Israelites were the recipients of the law, of the promises, the covenants, etc. God had chosen them to be His Very Own People. God taught them how to worship. God drew them out of bondage in Egypt. Even our Savior, Jesus the Messiah, known as the son of Joseph according to the law, came from Israel. We owe our all to Israel. God blessed them, and subsequently the world through them. Christ Himself was an Israelite.

Rom 9:6 “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:”

Young’s literal puts it this way, “And it is not possible that the word of God hath failed; for not all who are of Israel are these Israel.” The New Living Translation puts it like this: “Well then, has God failed to fulfill His promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people!”

All the attributes listed above came to the Israelites. Yet they still had a problem. Not all who are born Israelites are the true Israel, or truly God’s people. Even if this is so, and it is, God’s promises to the fathers are still in effect. God’s word has not failed. It is still in force. It is still in force even though not all those of natural (or fleshly) Israel are true Israelites, who are God’s Chosen People. The people of God—those Israelites that have faith in Him (Gentiles as well as we will discover)—will still receive those promises and be the beneficiaries of those covenants made with the fathers. The promises are still in effect for all Israelites. Natural Israel, as well, still has a place in God’s plan. God is still sovereign; He is still in control (He never lost it); His Word is still in effect—but not to all who consider themselves to be Israelites; but only to those Israelites that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

Rom 9:7-13 “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. (8) That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. (9) For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. (10) And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (11) (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) (12) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. (13) As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

Just because the natural or ethnic Israelites are of the blood line of Abraham does not mean that they are all his children. (Yes, all Israelites are the physical seed of Abraham, but the children of the promise are spiritual seed and thus are believers in Christ). Paul explains that the seed line of Israel (and of Christ) came through Abraham and then through Isaac. Abraham had other children as well, but only through Isaac did the Israelites come. Paul continues to deepen the thought. Isaac was the promised descendant of Abraham. God promised Abraham and Sarah they would have a son in their old age. Thus it was a miracle. Isaac is the child of promise and only through his seed do the children of the promise come. Remember that Abraham had another son, Ishmael, but only Isaac was the child of promise. The children of the promise are the children of God and of Abraham.

We see that the promise that God made to Abraham was that his descendants through Isaac would be God’s children. To carry this further, the ultimate promise was that of the Messiah. So the children of the promise are necessarily the children of God because of the work that Messiah did at Calvary. The children of the promise are then, believers in Christ.

Then Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, had twins in her womb. Even though one of the twins would be born first, the firstborn would serve the second. Esau was born first, but Jacob received the birthright. Before they were born, God spoke to Rebecca:

Gen 25:22-23 But the two children struggled with each other in her womb. So she went to ask the LORD about it. “Why is this happening to me?” she asked. (23) And the LORD told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.”

God is Sovereign and He chooses His Own purposes. The purpose of this is to show that God chooses on His own basis and not of the basis of any works anyone does. I postulate that this is a type; as Adam was the first born and Christ was the second born, and Adam rejected God and sinned, that Adam and his offspring (the whole world) would serve Christ, though Adam was first and Christ was second (see 1 Corinthians 15:45-47). At any rate, God chooses whom He will, based on His Own purposes and not based on anything the chosen accomplishes or has accomplished.

The best way to understand why God hated Esau and loved Jacob even before they were born (Malachi 1:3) is to read other places where the word hate is used in a similar context. Prov 13:24 “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him quickly.” Here we cannot say that a man that does not discipline his son actually abhors the son. No! He loves his son. But he does not love the son enough to care how he turns out and thus does not discipline him. The man that does not discipline loves his son less the man who does discipline loves his own.

Luk 14:26, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Now Jesus does not advocate that one abhor his parents and family. God does not want us to hate our families. That being so, how could Jesus advocate hating one’s family? He does not. He is saying that we must put Him first and love our families less than we love Him. This is simply the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.

Just as in the two cases cited above that word means to love less rather than outright hate or abhorrence; it means the same thing here. God loved Esau less than Jacob, that is, He chose Jacob over Esau. His preference was Jacob. God preferred Jacob over Esau. This is what was meant by the statement, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” God went on to bless Esau and make him a great nation (Edom) showing the He loved Esau as well.

Rom 9:14-16 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. (15) For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (16) So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.

Some might say that God plays favorites. Well that is so, in a way. God chooses whom He will. Our human nature rebels against playing favorites. That is not fair! Hence, let us look at it another way. When an employer has a job opening, he seeks resumes and then he interviews some prospects. Eventually the employer chooses one. Is he playing favorites? Yes! But he has made an informed decision. The employer does not just pick the applicant out of the blue. No, he has seen the applicant’s resume and he has interviewed the applicant. Yet the decision is strictly the employer’s. The applicant can do nothing to influence the decision after the interview is over. When the employer does this, is he wrong or unrighteous? No, because it was his decision. The same is true with the election of God. He chooses whom He will, and that is not unrighteous.

It is not because someone is willing, nor is it because someone is striving to have God choose him that he is chosen. It is simply the mercy and grace of God. We are saved by grace through faith, not through desiring or striving, or works; it is the free gift of God. Therefore we cannot boast that we had anything to do with God choosing to save us. We did not do it; He did (Ephesians 2:8-9). God’s “favorites” are those that believe in Christ as Savior. God grants them salvation. The rest of the world, those that do not believe in Christ as Savior, are condemned to eternal separation from God.

Rom 9:17-18 For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. (18) Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

(This is from Ex 9:16) God chose Pharaoh to show God’s power. Pharaoh had nothing to do with it. In fact, had he known the result of God’s choice of him, he would have opted out. After all, Pharaoh lost his firstborn son to the destroyer because of God’s choice. The point of including this at this juncture is that Paul wants us to see that God chooses anyone He wants to, Even those who are His enemies (that is enemies by their own design and not by God’s desire, for God desires all people to be his children, 2 Pet 3:9).

Rom 9:19-21 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? (20) Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? (21) Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?

Some would say that this is the height of unfairness. If God wills someone to oppose him, like Pharaoh, and then Pharaoh does what God willed him to do, then how could God lay any blame at Pharaoh’s feet? If we cannot resist God then how can he blame us? Paul’s answer to that question begins with the analogy of the potter. A potter can make a lump of clay into something of beauty or into something ugly. It is his decision; after all, he is the one forming the clay. The clay cannot question what the potter intends to do. It has no say. But there is more to it than just this. Paul goes on.

Rom 9:22-24 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: (23) And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, (24) Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

This passage basically asks the question, “But what if God is patient with those that do not believe in Him, or trust Him, but who are opposed to Him in order that He can display His mercy to them that do Trust Him? ” In other words, Pharaoh was opposed to God. He was a pagan who had his own beliefs and gods; in fact he considered himself to be deity. He would never become a believer in the One True God; it was not going to happen, forget it. God knew the man’s heart and knew he would never turn to God. Therefore He hardened Pharaoh’s heart even more that his heart was already hard. The LORD hardened the heart of the man so that Pharaoh would reject all of His moves to free His people. Hence God could display His power to His chosen People. Now, if Pharaoh had hearkened to God and believed in Him, then I believe God would have blessed Pharaoh. But, as the LORD already knew, that would never happen. Recall that God blessed Egypt and Pharaoh when Joseph was Grand Vizier. That is because that Pharaoh believed Joseph’s God (Genesis 41:39-40).

Pharaoh was never a believer and never would be so he was a “vessel of wrath fitted to destruction”. Pharaoh was hell bound and ultimately bound for the lake of fire by his own choice. God did not force him to be an unbeliever. It was Pharaoh’s own choosing. Pharaoh, being an unrepentant unbeliever was a person who would ultimately be cast into the lake of fire and that will be his destruction.

Thus God is not really unfair. The Scriptures are replete with references to God’s acceptance of those who would repent and turn from their sins (e.g. Proverbs 28:13, Isaiah 55:7, Ezekiel 18:30). The Scripture also tells us that God is revealed in His creation and that if one will accept that and, because of the creation, seek the Lord, then he will find Him (e.g. Isaiah 55:6, Romans 1:18-32). Pharaoh was not unfairly treated. God was patient with him and he had no excuse for not seeking the LORD. Everyone has the ability to see God through His creation. Everyone has the ability to seek God. If we will seek the LORD, we will find Him and He will reveal Himself to us.

Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? We who are God’s people are those to whom He has shown His mercy and the riches of His glory. Included are all saved people, both Jews and Gentiles. This is a reference to believers in Christ as Paul makes known in the next few verses.

As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. (26) And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

The Greek for Osee (Hosea) is ωσηε, osēe, which is pronounced ho-say’-eh, the same as the Hebrew. This is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew Hosea into Greek. In the KJV the pronunciation seems to be oh’-see, but the actual pronunciation is Hosea.

Paul explains his use of the term “Gentile” in the previous verse here. This is a reference from Hosea 1:9-10 and 2:23. In the first passage, God rejected his people Israel because of their idolatry.

(Idolatry is called whoredom in the KJV in Hosea. When the people of God begin to practice idolatry, it is the same thing in God’s eyes as a spouse committing adultery and whoredom. Idolatry, then, is spiritual adultery against God. God illustrated this in Hosea by commanding the prophet to marry a prostitute. This is not a study of Hosea so we will delve no further into Hosea than is necessary to enhance our current study. I heartily recommend an in-depth study of Hosea).

Yet, even though God rejected his people because of their idolatry, there was a time coming when God would once again call them His people, i.e. “sons of the Living God.” The first reference in Hosea (whose name means salvation) is about the rejection of Israel and their reuniting with God. The implication is that If God would allow His chosen people to be rejected and then return to Him, He will also do the same for the Gentiles, who were already not His people. This is confirmed in Hos 2:23, “And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” Here God is referring to a people that had never obtained mercy from him. These would not be Israelites, but Gentiles. Those people would also be God’s people. Peter confirms this. He says that believers in Christ are a chosen generation who, “in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:10). This is a direct quote of Hosea 2:23.

Thus both Israelites and Gentiles, which can mean the heathen or the people of the nations, would be called the children of the Living God. Paul now includes both Israelites and Gentiles in the group of God’s people.

Rom 9:27-28 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: (28) For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

Here Paul, using the Scriptures of his day (the Old Testament today), explains that out of the myriads of the children of Israel, only a portion of them, a remnant, will be saved. In the KJV, Isaiah 10:23, says only a remnant would return to the land. But the Septuagint (LXX) says the remnant will be saved. Paul used the LXX for his reference. The LXX says, το καταλειμμα αυτον σωθησεται (to kataleimma auton sothesetai), ‘a remnant will be saved.’

Of all the Israelites that comprised the nation of Israel, only a portion were truly God’s people. There were always unbelievers among them. These folks, because of custom, went along with the religious rites that applied to Israel. Their hearts were not right but their outward appearance was that they were Israelites. God spoke of these people many times in Scripture (e.g. Isaiah 29:13, Jeremiah 3:10).

The same can be said for our nation. We were once considered a God-fearing people. In 1892, The Supreme Court decreed that America was a Christian nation (Holy Trinity v. United States). Yet our country was never a country where 100% of the people were Christians. In fact, there was probably only a minority of the populace (less that 50%) that were truly Christians. Yet God blessed us. He blessed the whole nation because of the believing remnant. The same is true of Israel. The entire nation of Israel received God’s blessings because of the believing remnant.

Yet, the day is coming when God will no longer bless the unrighteous because of the believing remnant. He will one day finish His work and the righteous will be saved while the unrighteous will be consigned to the fiery lake. God will destroy unrighteousness and righteousness will reign. When He begins His work the end will come quickly (see Isaiah 10:23). But that has not happened yet. In fact,

Rom 9:29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

The Lord of Sabaoth (Sabaoth is the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning a large group of persons; an army; a host) is the Lord of hosts, or the Lord of the multitudes of heaven or, as some translations put it, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. If there were no remnant of believers, the Lord of Hosts would have already destroyed everyone; He would have spared none. The destruction would have been complete like Sodom and Gomorrah. However, because of the believing remnant, God destroyed none.

When God revealed that he would go down and destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham intervened on behalf of the righteous there (Lot and his family in this case). He asked God if He would destroy the righteous with the wicked. God said He would not do that. Read the entire story in Genesis chapters 18 and 19. The upshot of that conversation is the angels got Lot out of harm’s way before the Lord rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. For a small believing remnant, God held off the destruction of two evil cities. He will do the same now. He will protect His remnant. And for the sake of His believing remnant, nonbelievers benefit as well. God held off the destruction of those two cities for the sake of Lot and his family. The people of the cities had a brief respite from their doom, hence they benefited, if only for a few hours, because of the remnant.

Rom 9:30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

Paul asks the question about the last few verses (starting in 24), “What does this all mean?” It means that those people in the world that did not seek the righteousness of the Law, which they did not have, but have attained righteousness anyway. Their righteousness is imputed to them because of their faith in Christ. Conversely,

Rom 9:31 Israel, who had the Law, and followed the Law to the letter, has not attained the righteousness that comes with faith in Christ.

Rom 9:32-33 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; (33) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Why? Because they depended on their work in following the Law to the letter for salvation rather than depending on their faith in God that He would save them. They trusted their works to save them instead of trusting God. Paul does not condemn them for obedience to the Law; he condemns them for their lack of faith. This became apparent at the advent of Christ. When Christ entered Jerusalem in triumph the people expected a great warrior leader that would lead them in the destruction of their enemies, namely Rome. When He did not do that, they turned against Him. They misunderstood His purpose, which was the salvation of mankind. They expected him to lead them in victory against their enemies. He will one day but that is at the Second Advent. Hence, because of the unbelief, they stumbled at Jesus the Stumbling Stone.

The literal meaning of a stumblingstone can be seen in Leviticus 19:14, “Thou shalt not … put a stumblingblock before the blind.” That literally means do not put an object in the path of a blind person or he may stumble over it and fall. Only a cretin would actually do that on purpose, so the statement, though it has a literal meaning, is usually figurative. Figuratively it means to cause a person to make a mistake or grievous error such as a spiritual downfall. Or, in the case of a weaker brother or sister, an action on our part, though not in itself sinful, may cause the weaker one to sin. In other words our action may cause a weaker Christian to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:9-12).

Jesus made His entry into Jerusalem and did not pick up the mantle of a great general and lead the armies of Israel against Romans as they expected. Instead, He came to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world. They could not accept that He would first come as the Suffering Servant and not as a conquering hero; hence he became a stumbling stone that prevented them from believing in Him as their Messiah.

Isaiah said of the Messiah that some would believe and some would not. Isaiah 8:14, “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin [a bird trap] and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” To those that believed He would be a sanctuary, or as He said in Isaiah 28:16, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” To the believer Jesus is the precious cornerstone and sure foundation of the Church. Jesus causes the unbeliever to stumble and fall spiritually. The Israelites of Christ’s day fell into two camps: believers and unbelievers. The unbelievers were the natural Israel and the believers were true Israel. Natural Israel stumbled and fell, believing Israel was saved.

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