Replacement Theology (otherwise known as Supersessionism) is the relatively modern term given to a highly pervasive and damaging teaching (with often tragic results) in the Church which claims that our God who;
- does not lie (Numbers 23:19 / Hebrews 6:18) and who also
- does not change (Malachi 3:6 / James 1:17)
has transferred to the Christian church the ‘everlasting‘ covenant which he made and reiterated with;
- Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3)
- Isaac (Genesis 17:18-21)
- Jacob (Genesis 28:10-14) and also to
- ‘their descendants forever’ (Genesis 17:7-8)
Supersessionism also teaches that God who hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 / Matthew 19:8) has divorced his Bride (Isaiah 62:1-5 / John 3:28-30) and has essentially married another. This however is not possible, since God is faithful to his promises (Hosea 2:19-20 / 1 Corinthians 1:8 / Romans 9:3-5).1
Origins of Replacement Theology
Exactly when this thinking crept into the church we couldn’t say. We do see from in some of Paul’s letters that he taught against this kind of thinking, particularly in his letter to the Romans, so we can certainly say this issue cropped up quite early on. In Romans and elsewhere, Paul pays particular attention to the value of the Jews, the promises of God to them and their irrevocable calling . He stresses that while they had fallen into disobedience, God’s mercy would be available to them just as it had been made available to us.
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. (Romans 11:28-31)
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul teaches that Gentile believers in Yeshua/Jesus were now grafted into the commonwealth of Israel. By the blood of the Messiah King Yeshua and His work on the cross, the dividing partition of hostility between Jew and Gentile believers was now torn down. For us to be in the commonwealth of Israel, just as say, Australia is in the commonwealth of Great Britain, there must remain the original Great Britain. Likewise there is still the Israel of God into which we are grafted. God in a way contradictory to nature has supernaturally taken us wild branches and grafted us into His cultivated olive tree (Israel). We are warned most plainly not to get ahead of ourselves and consider our position superior to the Jews.
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
Nevertheless, this did not stop the early church fathers from assuming that God had indeed finished with Israel. As our brothers over at oneforeisrael.org stated in their article about Replacement Theology.2
…for centuries it was extremely difficult for Christians to grasp that the word “Israel” in the Bible could possibly mean ethnic or national “Israel”, since it had apparently ceased to exist as a nation. The Jewish people were scattered across the globe for two millenia, and it certainly appeared to many that God’s purposes for them had come to an end. So scholars interpreted the Bible in light of their understanding, not imagining that Israel would exist again once more.
Since the Romans had destroyed the second temple in 70AD, the people were scattered by 135AD and to add insult to injury, the Romans renamed the regions Judea and Smaria to Syria Palæstina (from where we get the name ‘Palestine’ today) which is a reference to the homeland of the Philistines, the old enemy of Israel. A rather convenient way to erase Israel off the map after the people have been spread to the four corners of the world. As a result, and as I will discuss in my next article, this theology has led to so many Christians, mentally shredding whole sections of the Bible to overlook God’s faithful character.