5 Ways My Faith Changed after Returning from Israel: Israel and the Church

My Faith Changed After Returning from Israrel

The dominate view of Israel’s role in the “Church age” is that they essentially have no role.  They rejected Jesus; Jesus has thus rejected them.

Around six months before my trip to Israel, my wife and I felt like God was leading us to leave the church we were attending.  As we spent several weeks attending various congregations, we decided to try out a church where I had family that had been attending for several years.  We loved our experience.  The congregation worshipped with heart.  The pastor taught meat, rather than the fluff that so often comes out of our pulpits.  The people were very friendly.  It was a great experience.

After the service concluded, we were talking about the church with my family members, when one of them mentioned that the pastor had been teaching some doctrine that was radically different from what they had ever heard before.  They called it “covenant theology” and said that it was difficult for them to swallow at first, but upon studying it in detail they agreed that it was correct.

I had never heard that term before, so I asked what was so different about it.  They told me that the Old Testament had been completely “fulfilled” in Jesus work on the cross, and that it was essentially unnecessary.  They even stated that things like the “Ten Commandments” were no longer applicable.  They said that all we needed to understand about Scripture was found in the New Testament.

Huh?

This obviously didn’t settle well with me.  It didn’t pass the “smell test” so to speak.  And so in actuality, my Israel trip started right then.  I just didn’t know it.

Now let me be clear, the way “covenant theology” was described to me that day was greatly oversimplified and slightly misleading.  But what I found was that the end result of this doctrinal belief is basically the same: we live under the “New Covenant”; the “Old Covenant” is over, along with everything that comes with it.

So anyway, I started studying everything I could get my hands on by Biblical scholars who supported this position.  I digested their arguments and dug into the Scriptures they used to justify the position.

And what I found was that not only does this belief result in a rejection of anything related to the “Law”, it also rejects Israel.  It claims that Israel has been replaced by the New Testament Church.  In some extreme cases, it’s argued that the blessings of Israel have been transferred to the Church, while Israel bears all of the curses. 

Ouch.

Covenant Theologians love to quote Paul.  In their mind, he’s the poster child for this position.  But they seem to overlook three very important chapters from his most famous letter: Romans 9-11.  It’s like they aren’t even in the Bible.  While these three chapters are bursting with counter-arguments to Covenant Theology (also called Replacement Theology or Supercessionism), here are a couple sections that are pretty clear on this issue:

I ask then, has God rejected his people?  By no means!  For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not rejected his people who he foreknew.  Romans 11:1-2 ESV

But if some of the branches (Israel) were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot (Gentiles), were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches.  If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.  Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  That is true.  They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith.  So do not become proud, but fear.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.  Romans 11:17-21 ESV

These verses blow the replacement of Israel by the Church out of the water.  The Church is grafted into Israel, not the replacement for it.  Paul states clearly in verse 18 that “…it is not you (the Church) who support the root (Israel), but the root that supports you.”

As far as the work of Jesus nullifying the necessity of the Law, I’ll let Jesus’ own words speak for themselves:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Old Testament); I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18 ESV

The phrase “abolish the Law or the Prophets” was a common Hebrew idiom of Jesus’ day.  To “abolish” the Law was to interpret it in a way that leaves it unnecessary or unable to be fulfilled.  Jesus is clearly stating that this is not His intention (For further discussion on this see the first article in this series: “The Big, Bad Law”.)  And to be sure there wasn’t any ambiguity, Jesus said that heaven and earth will pass away before the Law is deemed completed.  Last time I checked, that hasn’t happened.

So eventually, we had to stop attending that church.  There is not a single place in the Old or New Testament that  – when studied in context along with the whole of the Scripture – indicates that this position is valid.

And so my journey to Israel began with six months of studying the Scripture; discovering that the Church is a part of Israel, and not the other way around.

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10 thoughts on “5 Ways My Faith Changed after Returning from Israel: Israel and the Church

  1. I came here through Frank Viola’s Blog (Apparently we are both fans) and I must say that I’m very impressed. Fortunately my introduction to the faith had immense ties to Isreal and Old Testament theologic grounding, so some of the pitfalls you mention were not as prevelant, but replacement theology goes far beyond the immediate church interraction; it really extends outward in a application and attitude across the entire “Body of Christ” toward the Jews and the Tanakh. I appreciate your aims and would love to discuss some of the more detailed nuances of loving the law and living the gospel because i think you may have skirted the issue a little in your writing (unintentionally), specifically regarding the underlying theme of is the law reliable (or can it get in the way of grace?), where does it play into our gentilic structures, and most importantly how do we apply Hebreaic themes to what is outright stated as “a grafted in” relationship where sonship is the faithright and not the birthright of us all. There is so much to discuss, I look forward to future blogs (maybe even a book?)

    1. I understand where you’re coming from. Please note that this blog is more of an introduction to this issue, rather than a detailed look at it. One thing I’ve learned is that balance on all of these issues is of the utmost importance.

      If you’d like to learn more about my position on Israel and the Church, you should check out my e-book here:
      https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/22371

      Use this code (XZ53D) to download it for free.

      Thanks!

      1. Thanks for the quick reply, i downloaded the book and hope to start reading it next week, IBetween Nee, Frank, and school I’m a little tapped. blessings and balance.

  2. David, it sounds like your exposure to “covenant theology” was a direct hit from seminary. It is an interesting study, but not a hill to die on. You will get an interesting perspective from Arnold Fruchtenbaum at Ariel Ministries who writes extensively on Isreal and the Jewish people. He can be found with a simple Google.

    By-the-way, I have always found “balance” to be an interesting dialogue. I picture a balance scale that must always be on center with the trays on either side being filled with equal measures of “something.” Those trays are usually filled with ingredients by somebody who feels thay are balanced.

    Would speaking the truth be an alternative to the opioins of balance? Just wondering….

    1. Thanks for your comments. While I didn’t pick up on the concept of “covenant theology” from any seminary classes, many of the books I studied were written by leaders in covenant and reformed theological seminaries.

      I am familiar with Fruchtenbaum (butI still have a hard time typing his name out). I have enjoyed much of his writings, and while I disagree on some issues, I’ve found him to be someone that is very reliable.

      As far as, “Would speaking the truth be an alternative to the opioins of balance? Just wondering…”

      Truth and balance are not opposed to, but rather dependent upon, each other.

  3. Yeah, New Covenant theology is just the newest incarnation of “replacement theology” It’s been around for centuries. Anti semitism in the church doesn’t disappear, it just takes on a new name every now and then. But hey, Jews and Christians have been trying to put distance between each other for almost two thousand years. Both will ignore their own scriptures to keep the walls up. I grew up in a family of Italian Jews and Pentecostals. I can smell replacement theology from the back pew (pun 🙂 ) One day though, all Israel will be saved, when the Spirit falls on Jews and Gentiles, One in Christ! Cool piece, David. Shalom.

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