SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH
Gabe Morris 11-6-15
Replacement Theology: What we Should Know, Psalm 94:14
Good morning. Can we take our Bibles and turn to Psalm 94:14. While you turn there I’d like to thank the Lord for giving me another opportunity to preach to you guys again. I’m always amazed that God gives little ole’ me opportunities to preach. Today we’re going to talk about something that is heavily debated in the body of Christ; some of you may be well aware of this doctrine, some may not. Christians have been more and more divided about this very topic, believe it or not, this century. It is the issue of replacement theology. I’ve entitled this sermon replacement theology: What we Should know.
You’ve heard Andy talk about replacement theology before, spread out in his sermons, and believe it or not, before coming to this church or even before going to seminary I was very ignorant of this idea of replacement theology. I heard about it here and there but I could never proficiently discuss it with a proponent or an opponent for that matter. And I’m sure most of you heard about it from this pulpit, but my goal today is to fill in those gaps for those of you who are unaware of this doctrine. And my prayer is that we can all be better informed and encouraged to know how to better serve the Lord and His people.
Can we pray; Heavenly Father, we love and we honor You this morning. In Your Word you have already expressed Your heart concerning the church and concerning the nation of Israel. So Father, grant us awareness and understanding as we wrestle with this idea of replacement theology, and help us to share our faith and love to our fellow brethren and sisters who may have a contrary view concerning this. And it’s in Jesus’ name we pray, and God’s people said Amen.
I want to tackle this topic asking the various questions, who, what, when, where, why questions. We’re going to ask five questions: What is replacement theology? What and why did the church begin to sway in the direction of replacement theology? Why is it dangerous for the body of Christ? What is the root of it? And lastly, does the Bible disprove replacement theology.
We obviously will not finish all of these points so this will be part 1 of 2; this will be a topical message so forgive me if at first it sounds more like a history lesson. There’s a lot of information, believe it or not, that we should know and understand about replacement theology, hence the title. So let’s begin.
Let’s begin with the first question: what is replacement theology? Replacement theology in its simplest form is the idea that the Gentile church has replaced the nation of Israel. It is the view that Israel, or the Jews, because of their rejection of their Messiah recorded in the Gospels they have been permanently replaced by the church, the church now called New Israel, or The True Israel, or The True People of God, and thus Israel has no eschatological future in the plans of God. Israel has essentially forfeited all of God’s promises given to them in the Old Testament. And now, as we speak today, the church has appropriated or assumed the role as the beneficiary of those promises.
In some circles this idea is also known as fulfillment theology or supersessionism. Supersessionism, which comes from the Latin word supersede, super meaning on or upon, and Seder, which means to sit. This carries the idea of a person sitting on another person’s chair displacing the latter. Replacement theologians and promoters believe, they actually believe this, that God has thrown off, cast off, disowned, rejected, renounced, discarded, abandoned and forsaken the nation of Israel (those are buzzwords) never to inherit what was promised to them in God’s covenants.
For example, the Abrahamic Covenant where God promised them land, seed and blessing… and just as a side note advocates of replacement theology, they choose to be identified as fulfillment theologians because of the negative connotations that replacement theology has. To them, to take a seat that rightfully belongs to someone else seems to be the more political correct route. For example, new covenant theologian, Steve Lehrer, doesn’t use the term “ replacement theology.” He says this, quote: “Instead I would rather use the term ‘fulfillment theology.’ Israel was simply a picture of the true people of God which the church fulfills.” See that? Close quote. What he just said is essentially replacement theology.
This leads to our second question: when did the church begin to sway in the direction of replacement theology? Dr. Wayne House, a theologian I admire, also an opponent of replacement theology, in his research he said this, [quote] “ replacement theology was a consensus of the church from the middle of the second century A.D. to the present day, with few exceptions.” [close quote]
So the research shows that this doctrine dominated pulpits and pews since the mid second century. So why is this so? What gave rise to replacement theology? Well, there’s basically four significant reasons why the church swayed in this direction, and the first reason was the historical strained relationship between the Jews and the church. If we look back on Israel’s history, particularly in the Bible, we know that the Jew (by and large) rejected their Messiah, you read that in the Gospels. But as the first century progressed very significant changes took place in the church and with Israel. For one there was, of course, the persecution of the church, the martyrdom of all the apostles, with the exception of John, he was not martyred, he was persecuted but not martyred.
We know that Peter and Paul died martyrs around 66 A.D. Christianity was the new and hated kid on the block, not to mention the struggle and differences between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians, and Judaism. We see that struggle in the book of Acts. Now what we have to remember is that the very first band of Christian members were what? Were Jewish! They were Jewish; this is where the idea of Judeo-Christianity comes from. In Acts 2, when the church was birthed there was approximately 120 followers of Christ, right? This includes the disciples, all Jews. And when the Apostle Peter gave his famous sermon the Bible says 3,000 souls were saved. And his intro to begin that sermon, “men of Judea and also live in Jerusalem.” In fact the very first Gentile convert was all the way in Acts 10, right? Cornelius.
Here is the oldest Christian symbol ever to be found in Jerusalem, dating back to the first century. From the bottom up you will see the fish, the symbol of the church emerging from the Jewish root, represented by the Menorah and the Star of David. And the fish became a symbol of the Christian church. If you notice this symbol is called the [can’t understand word], an acronym for Jesus Christ, God’s Son and Savior. And so every time you see this fish on the bumper of someone’s car just remember that its missing its Jewish roots. The fact that the church started off Jewish is very significant because as we will talk later, this plays a major role in the terms of the church separating from its Jewish roots.. as we will talk about shortly.
So regarding Israel, meanwhile in the first and second centuries a great tension between Rome and Israel increased; the Jewish people began to rebel against Rome, the Roman Empire. Despite being under Roman rule for so long the Jewish people thrived; they actually thrived economically, and were a significant part of Rome’s population. Israel’s prosperity led to Rome’s extortion of the Israelites through heavy tax burdens, [can’t understand word] taxes. Rome’s disdain was obvious, so obvious to the point Roman rulers began to take over high priest’s appointments, position.
Deep tension became so high to the point where zealots grew in huge numbers and any Jewish leader who was found against the rebelling of Rome was murdered. So the fed up Jews rebelled against Rome resulting in what… you guys may remember this, that the rebelling against Rome was the great revolt in 66 A.D. And in retaliation to that revolt the destruction of the temple came about in A.D. 70; we all know that. Rome surrounded and ransacked Jerusalem, destroying its temple. The Jewish historian, Josephus, actually became a mediator between Israel and Rome with no success; he claimed 1.1 million Jews were killed in that siege; 97,000 Jews were captured and sold into slavery.
It was one of the worst times in Jewish history; no city, no temple, no way to worship and perform their sacrifices, the Jewish people were scattered. The destruction of A.D. 70 was the first of three attacks on Israel, 135 A.D. being the third and final attack, what they called the Bar-Kokhba’s revolt. And then after that the Romans built a new town on Jerusalem’s ruins calling it Aelia Capitolina. And no Jewish person was to set foot in that city, lest they die.
This is a picture of the ark of Titus built sometime in 81 A.D. by the Emperor Domitian to honor his older brother, Titus. This was to commemorate Titus’ victory which included the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Underneath this ark, you see where that lady is standing, she’s looking at this release right here, a release of the spoils from the siege of Jerusalem. This was erected to ridicule the Jews and represent the diaspora. Notice the Menorah there, apparent and proudly displayed.
And until 1948 when the State of Israel was born the Jews refused to walk through this ark. Of course, the Jews were scattered throughout the world, known as the diaspora, Jerusalem was no more. And the Jews had no place to call home. Not surprisingly immediately after the fall of Jerusalem anti-Semitism soared. To many of the Gentile Christians this looked like the end of Israel as they knew it. From the outside looking in there was no hope for Jerusalem. In fact, there were many Jews that fled Jerusalem before Rome’s siege; they were labeled as deserters to Israel, disloyal to Israel.
In addition to that Judaism went through major changes at that time, after the fall. There was no temple, of course, there was no blood sacrifices and other competing systems. We read in the Bible, like the Sadducees, the Zealots, the Herodians, the Essenes, they eventually died out. The adherents of Judaism, in order to keep their religion pure and from extinction, they pushed the Jewish Christians out, outside their walls. Okay. House, in his studies says after A.D. 70 he says this: “The person who has the most impact on the new beginnings of Judaism was a man named Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai who according to one tradition, escaped from the zealot held city of Jerusalem in a coffin, before its fall. What’s important is that his survival and move to [can’t understand word] pronounced [sounds like: jahmnia] with the encouragement of Rome helped solidify Pharisaic Judaism’s control over the life and doctrine of Jewish life in the empire after the fall of Jerusalem.
Now at this time Christianity was soaring, it was building up, and with this solidification of religious expression, House goes on, the [can’t understand word] rabbis were not willing to share this status with Christians and so calls the Roman government to understand that Christianity was not part of Judaism. As [can’t understand word] said, as Christianity spreads, however, the Jews made it plain to the government that the followers of the Mosaic Law and the followers of Christ were not one and the same. This collaboration of Ben Zakkai in Rome allowed these rabbis the power of Rome to enforce their brand of Judaism over world juries, a fact that should not go unnoticed in light of the waves of persecution the early church would have to face.” [close quote]
So tension grew and grew between the Jews and the Christians further widening the gap of hatred towards each other. And as the years progressed Christian persecution was at its height. The conflict between Christian and Jews became so bad, Philip Johnson, a historian, says, “By 132 A.D. rising Christians and Jews were seen as open opponents and even enemies.
Here’s an example of the effects of the continual conflict between the Jews and the church. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, said this: “For if we are still practicing Judaism we admit that we have not received God’s favor. It is wrong to talk about Jesus Christ and live like Jews, for Christianity did not believe in Judaism but Judaism in Christianity. So because of this huge and perpetual rift between the Christians and the Jews this was a beginning of the formation of replacement theology. It was slowly, slowly developing there.
Wayne House says this: As the church’s membership became more and more Gentile the influence of the Jewish community became less pronounced. The church’s knowledge of Jewish Christianity became miniscule and as a result this strained relationship affected the Christian apologists who are on the horizon, many, many Christian apologists, a big factor in the rise of replacement theology.
This brings us to our second point, an important factor that contributed to the rise of replacement theology and that was a perceived anti-Semitism in the New Testament writings. It’s reasonable to conclude that when one reads the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, he or she may read certain themes into it, like the Jews being responsible for killing their Messiah; the Jews from the Old Testament to the New being stubborn, unbelieving, disloyal to their God; Judaism as an old and legalistic practice and other things of that nature.
The Gospel writers certainly don’t hold back and hide the fact that the leadership of Israel utterly rejected their Messiah. As a result of these historical developments in regard to Israel the church and the divide between the two became wider and wider. Naturally the writings of anti-Semitism and replacement theology, naturally this would increase. Second century writings, this letter, called The Epistle of Barnabas, the writer Barnabas argued that only the Christian could make sense of the Bible; the carnal Jews, with their earthly mindset, have failed to recognize the hidden message of their own Scriptures and thus had eternally forfeited their entitlement to the covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That was a book by Andrew D. Robinson.
This was a quote from Ignatius of Antioch, he says, “Those who partake of the Passover are partakers with those who killed Jesus.” This was written 50-117 A.D. Notice this quote by Origen; he was a contributor of the early formation of Christian doctrine. He said this: “We may thus assert in utter confidence that Jews will not return to their earlier situation” meaning their right standing with God, “for they have committed the most abominable of crimes in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race, hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed. The Jewish nation was driven from its country and another people was called by God to the blessed election.” See how the influence of newspaper exegesis affected Origen? This perception of anti-Semitism and hatred of the Jews and the perceived anti-Semitism in the New Testament carries to the modern day.
A book that’s usually blamed for anti-Semitism is the book of John. One Catholic scholar, Rosemary Ruether said this in her book called Faith and Fratricide, “The theological roots of anti-Semitism,” she urged that John, she’s talking about the Gospel of John, “uses the Jews to symbolize a fallen universe of darkness. They are the very incarnation of the false apostates, principle of the fallen world alienated from its true being in God.” Close quote.
Lawry said this, he found a direct line of development from John’s portrayal of the Jews as the spawn of the devil to a Nazi picture book for children whose first page is headed, he said something in German, [can’t understand German words he says]. It means the father of the Jews is the devil. [can’t understand name], another author, sees John, the Gospel of John as a message of condemnation for the Jews. [can’t understand name] another scholar, writes, calls it a diatribe against the Jews and of the Jewish faith. So there was no shortage of anti-Semitism here, a perceived anti-Semitism in the New Testament, mixed in with the next contributing factor made its grip on the church even tighter, and that was the allegorizing of Scripture.
In second century Rome, because of the significant rise in Christianity, there arose two major institutions or schools of study; the biblical exegesis and the study of theology. One of their functions as a school was to settle a religious conflict in their region. The first one was the school of Alexandria. Alexandria was a very important city next to Rome itself. This school was located near the coast of Egypt, and despite the existence of other smaller schools in the area the school of Alexandria was recorded the first Christian school ever to be founded. Now this school became famous in their institution. Now just because this is called a Christian school, Christian learning of that era, attracting the educated, the philosophers, the scientists and the like, they were traditionally founded late second century, so between 150-200 A.D. The other school was the school of Antioch, located in Syria, north of Damascus.
Now we have to remember, despite being Christian schools they both adopted a different method of approaching Scripture. The school of Alexandria, for example, was renowned for their allegorical method of interpretation; allegorical interpretation by definition is consisting of or pertaining to allegories, figuratively.
According to Roy Zuck, in his book Basic Bible Interpretation, “Allegories arising is searching for hidden or secret meaning underlying but remote from and unrelated in reality to the more obvious meaning of text.” In other words, allegorizing ignores the plain, the obvious and literal meaning of a text and attaches to it a foreign meaning. The allegorizing method, we must remember, was the preferred method of the Greek philosophers of that day. That was the way things were interpreted. That’s how they interpreted their own Greek poets. This method had a tremendous impact on Jewish philosophers, Judaism, and the Christian church. It infiltrated the church. In regard to the church the school of Alexandria produced men like Origen, some of the quotes we just read. Every passage of the Bible to Origen has three meanings; a literal one, a moral one, and a spiritual meaning. Origen says that the literal meaning was unimportant; it was earthly, it was sensual, carnal and Jewish he said, and not always true he says.
These three methods we still see today in the church; that’s how strong this grip was on the church. You say what’s an example of moralizing Scripture? Well, let’s take David, for example. David was a courageous… he was courageous when he confronted Goliath. Right? So you too must be courageous. That’s moralizing. Paul, when Paul went of his missionary journeys he reasoned with the Gentiles, the Bible says. So when you develop your evangelism strategy you need to look for likely places where non-Christians hang out, like the bar, you know… moralizing Scripture.
At first glance moralizing methods seem harmless. After all, the facts are there, that’s true; the virtue or action is probably commended in other places of Scripture. So what’s the problem? The problem is authorial intent. If we want to be faithful to the text we must remain faithful to the intention of the author. And who was that? The Holy Spirit. He wrote the text, not us. Is David and Goliath there in the Bible in order to teach us how to be courageous? Or is it there to teach us that God is a living God and that the battle belongs to God, not Israel. And does he not say He will not deliver by sword or by spear, 1 Samuel 17: 46-47, [“This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,  and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.”]
I would agree to the latter.
What does spiritualizing the text look like? Well, spiritualizing is converting the text to a spiritual analogy. For instance, in the book of Joshua, chapter 6, God knocked down the walls of Jericho, did He not? So God wants to knock down the walls in your life: spiritualizing. Jesus calmed the storms of the sea, did He not? So He wants to calm the storms of your life: spiritualizing. Jesus cast out demons, do you want your demons to be cast out? That’s spiritualizing.
The problem here, again, is authorial intent; it not only takes the authority off the Holy Spirit, it places it on the interpreter. It changes the intended meaning. Today the contemporary church is rife with spiritualizing Scripture, God’s Word. Does Jesus want to calm the storms in your life? I’m sure He does, but is that the question? The question is, is that what the verse talking about. I don’t think that’s the case. If we respect the literalism, when Mark says “storm” he means nothing more, nothing less than storm. If we respect context we learn that Jesus is revealing to the disciples who He is, the sovereign God that controls all things, even nature; by calming the storm Jesus assumed the authority of God, that only God has. Psalm 89:9 says this: “You rule the swelling of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.” He was assuming the position of God; he was revealing that to the disciples.
How about allegorizing, allegorizing the text of Scripture? Allegorizing basically discards the plain obvious meaning of words and in the time of the Church Fathers the parts of Scripture that received the most allegorical abuse were the parables, the parables of Jesus Christ. What’s a parable? A parable is a saying or a proverb, a metaphor, a story, intended to communicate truth by comparison. It’s relatable to its hearer. The parables concern how God is at work, right, in history and in the lives of believers. Now parables in the New Testament, we must remember, were basically judgments given to unbelieving Israel and a blessing to the disciples. He concealed truth from Israel, concerning the kingdom, Matthew 13:11 says that, and he revealed to them truth about the kingdom, to the disciples. Matthew 10:10-11 says, “And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?  Jesus answered them, ‘To you” the disciples “it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them” unbelieving Israel, “it has not been granted.’” And when Jesus said this statement, by this time the leadership of Israel had already rejected Him as their Messiah. So as we read the parables we must read it in that light.
Everyone here has heard of the parable of the good Samaritan; right, I hope, in Luke 10:25-37. This parable was a lesson about God’s love. In its context this illustrates the Old Testament verse,
“You shall love the Lord with all your mind, strength,” right, and “love your neighbor as yourself.” The parable of the good Samaritan.
[Luke 10:25, “And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’  And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’  And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’  And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.”  But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’  Jesus replied and said, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.  And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion,  and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’  ‘Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers hands.’ And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’”]
This parable revealed the lack of love in that lawyer’s heart. He was the one that asked the question, “Who is my neighbor.” And his neighbor was, of course, the Samaritan. Right? The Samaritan was the hero; he helped the man in need. And Jesus’ answer to the Lord’s question, regarding who is his neighbor, this parable reveals to the lawyer that he must also love those in his heart that he chooses to hate. You must love them… the parable of the good Samaritan.
That says this is an example of the allegorical interpretation and how far it can take someone. One author studied Origen’s interpretation of the parable and he says this, this is what Origen says: “The man who fell among thieves is Adam. As Jerusalem represents heaven so Jericho, to which the traveler journeyed, is the world. The robber are a man’s enemy, the devil and his minions. The priest stands for the law; the Levite the prophet, the Good Samaritan is Christ Himself, the beast on which the wounded man was set is Christ’s body which bears the fallen Adam. The inn is the church; the two pence, the Father and the Son, and the Samaritan and the Samaritan’s promise to come again is Christ’s Second Advent.” That’s allegorical interpretation for you.
Now if we interpret the parable of the good Samaritan with an allegorical approach what happens? Christ’s lesson, original lesson, intended for love for a neighbor disappears. The parable of the prodigal son, the lesson here Jesus is trying to convey, in its context what’s happening? Jesus is hanging around the sinners, the tax collectors, right? And then He gives this story about the Prodigal Son; the Pharisees were angry at Jesus for hanging around these guys; they were grumbling. Why is this guy hanging around with sinners? And so the lesson here is that God gladly receives the repentant sinner. Right? In this case the tax collector and the sinner.
That said, here is an allegorical interpretation from the church Father, Tertullian. You guys know the Prodigal Son right, the elder son in the story is the Jew; the younger is the Christian, the patrimony of which the younger claimed his share is that knowledge of God which a man has by his birthright. The citizen in the far country to whom he hired himself is the devil. The robe that’s bestowed on the returning prodigal is that sonship which Adam lost at the fall. The ring is the sign and the seal of baptism. The feast is the Lord’s Supper. The fatted calf slain for the feast is Jesus Christ. You see how far this can get? Allegorizing can get completely out of hand. So that’s a problem; authorial intent is lost, you become the final authority. Allegorizing is completely subjective and it has no boundaries. It can vary among interpreters, it removed Scripture from its context leaving ample room for manipulation; it suppresses and even erases intended meaning. Allegorizing is reckless, it’s disrespectful so the Scripture.
But what’s a safe way? What’s a safe way to interpret Scripture? Let’s use an everyday example. How do you process and interpret everyday interaction with people? Literally, right? The plain way. Can you imagine if married folks communicated with their spouses allegorically? That would be very interesting. Could you imagine how much trouble you would be in if you interpreted your mortgage contract allegorically? Or your tax return? Or the law? Or the Constitution? Big trouble! The correct way to understand and interpret Scripture is through the normal plain and literal manner. This is also so say you respect figurative language, symbolic language when the immediate context demands it.
Again let’s take an everyday example. When your wife says, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse,” we’ve all heard that before. When she says that you don’t call PETA, you know, cruelty to animals. No, you fix her a sandwich, she’s hungry; normal, literal interpretation, respect context, respect history, respect language and the rules therein. That’s called grammatical and linguistic interpretation. You know there’s rules to language. We respect authorial intent, what the author intended. We respect original language. We respect culture and times. There’s a world of difference between first century culture and our culture. We must honor that.
Sugar Land Bible Church is clear on this issue. In our position statement concerning hermeneutics (hermeneutics is a fancy word, it means the art and science of interpretation), it says the goal of the biblical interpreter is to discover what the text (the Bible) meant to the mind of its original author and for his intended audience; the means of accomplishing this by applying a literal, grammatical, historical approach to interpretation. By literal, grammatical and historical we mean a customary socially acknowledged meaning of a word or phrase within its context. The Bible uses figurative and poetic language and these portions should be interpreted accordingly. However, we reject any attempt to allegorize or spiritualize Scripture, [can’t understand words]. Praise the Lord for a position statement like that.
A [can’t understand word] of thumb to remember concerning interpretation, I’m not sure who said this but I heard it called… it was called the golden rule of interpretation, and Andy quoted it many times so you know it’s right… right! It says this: When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense. Therefore take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truth indicate clearly otherwise. I’ve also heard a high and lofty scholar, he says: Those who consistently follow that golden rule usually end up dispensationally. That’s a good rule to follow, I think, if you ask me.
Moving on; allegorical interpretation was a major factor in the rise and development of replacement theology. The strained relationship between Judaism and the church to perceive anti-Semitism found in the New Testament were all contributing factors of replacement theology.
This brings us to our fourth and final reason of what contributed to the rise of replacement theology in the church and that was Rome’s conversion to Christianity in the fourth century by Emperor Constantine. In 306 A.D. Constantine, as we all know, ended Christian persecution and finally made Christianity a recognized religion, the official religion of Rome. This would ultimately open the door wide for anti-Semitism. This Edict of Milan made that possible, ending all oppression and penalties on Christians. And although this edict ended that it opened the way for hostility, persecution towards the Jewish people. [Edict of Milan, a proclamation that permanently established religious toleration for Christianity within the Roman Empire. It was the outcome of a political agreement concluded in Milan between the Roman emperors Constantine I and Licinius in February 313.]
Constantine turned the hostility towards the Jewish people; he restricted their religion, he restricted their practice. Not to mention the Catholic Church soared in power. Synagogues were outlawed. If Jews were convicted of breaking laws they were burned; they were withheld, they were restricted to serve in offices, in the military. Something that I wasn’t aware of before studying this, the Council of Nicea, that’s probably a familiar word to some, the first ever ecumenical council of the church convened by Constantine himself. It was to settle Christian doctrine, but that’s not all. It says, “particularly a doctrine concerning the nature of the Son in relationship to His Father” that was what they were supposed to settle, that was true. But the Council also had the Jewish people in mind with a mindset to oppress them. So what they did was the Council took the Jewish celebration of the resurrection from the Jewish first fruits and changed it to Easter, with the goal of disassociating it from Jewish roots. Fascinating!
Theologian David Regan said in his research, said that the Council was recorded saying: For it is unbecoming beyond measure that on this holiest of festivals we should follow the customs of Jews, henceforth let us have nothing in common with this odious people. In addition to calling them “odious people” the council also referred to Jews as political or polluted wretches, a most hostile rabble and parasite.
Now because Constantine gave his stamp on Christianity the church became not only increasingly dominant but vicious anti-Semitic. Fourth century Christian apologetics came out of the woodwork with force. Here’s John Chrysostom, known as the golden mouth. He said this: The synagogue is worse than a brothel… it is a den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beasts…. the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults… the refuge of brigands debauchees, and the cavern of devils. It is a criminal assembly of Jews… a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ… a house worse than a drinking shop … a den of thieves, a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, the refuge of devils, a gulf and an abyss of perdition.” … “I would say the same things about their souls… As for me, I hate the synagogue… I hate the Jews for the same reason. [From The Roots of Christian Anti-Semitism, by Malcolm Hay]
A little anti-Semitic there, do you think? This continues throughout the second and third centuries. Enter Church Father Augustine of Hippo, considered one of the greatest influences on Church Fathers. This guy has the biggest impact and the tightest grip on the church’s theology, particularly in eschatology. He was a Juggernaut of the allegorical approach and he was responsible for the systematizing of the doctrine of amillennialism. Amillennialism means no future, no literal thousand year reign of Christ. He put it on the map.
Here’s Michael Vlach in his book, Has the Church Replaced Israel? A Theological Evaluation. He said, “Concerning Israel’s role in the plan of God, Augustine argued that national Israel pre-figured spiritual Israel to Christian people: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, three fathers and one people. The fathers three, as it were in the beginning of the people; three fathers in whom the people was figured: and the former people itself the present people. For in the Jewish people was figured the Christian people. There a figure, here the truth; there a shadow, here the body: as the apostle says, ‘Now these things happened to them in a figure.” Did you notice the allegorical approach? Continuing on, “in the fourth and fifth century, a volatile mixture of these things greatly contributed to the rise of this erroneous doctrine called replacement theology. It was the dominant theology of the church.” And sadly, believe it or not, still is.
This leads me to the third question, which is why replacement theology is so dangerous for the body of Christ. But to learn this we must wait for the other part. Part 2, this is a very huge subject, very huge. Today we just set the foundation, we set a foundation concerning replacement theology. We asked the question, what is replacement theology. When and why did the church begin to sway in the direction of replacement theology. We learned four significant reasons for the rise of replacement theology and they were the strained relationship between the early church and the Jews, a perceived anti-Semitism, the rampant allegorical approach, Rome’s conversion to Christianity by Constantine.
It doesn’t stop there, we clearly see replacement theology alive and well in the church today. Next time we convene, God willing, we will get into the meat and potatoes of replacement theology. We’ll ask a final question, why is replacement theology dangerous to the church? What is its root? And does the Bible disprove it?
I want to conclude here by giving a little insight into what our next session together might look like and show you a truth, glaring truth. The Bible teaches this from cover to cover and it’s that God is a covenant making God, period. He committed Himself to a covenant with Israel, binding Himself to fulfill certain promises to Israel. Okay. Keeping promises to God is a very big thing, wouldn’t you say? Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? [Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?]” The book of Hebrews in chapter 6, verse 18 teaches that it is impossible… IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie. [Hebrews 6:18, “so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”] So the idea of the church replacing Israel becomes silly; replacement theology teaches that the promises given to the descendants of Abraham have been transferred to the church.
If God can break His covenant the Bible itself begins to crumble. If God can break His promises then eternal salvation itself comes into question. Salvation is a promise, right? If God can break His promises naturally His trustworthiness comes into question. His grace, His character comes into question. Do you see how important this is? He made a binding covenant with Israel. When we started I had you turn to Psalm 94:14, can we turn there really quick? Everything else was intro, now we start our lesson. Take a look at Psalm 94:14 says, “For the LORD will not abandon His people, Nor will He forsake His inheritance.” If that doesn’t disprove replacement theology I don’t know what does. He cannot break His promises.
Did you know that He made a promise to unbelievers? He said, “Whosoever believes in My Son will have everlasting life.” John 3:16. God promises unbelievers eternal life if they believe in His Son. John 11:25-26 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,  and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” That sounds like a promise, doesn’t it. Then He goes on, Jesus goes on to say this: “Do you believe this?” “Do you believe this!”
I believe this in September of 1995, I was 18 years old. The pastor I was listening to shared some very bad news with me; he told me that because of my sin, because of my unbelief I was not a candidate for eternal life. If I had died that day I would be forever in a place, absent of God’s presence. Then he shared the good news, the gospel. He said Christ died for every sin in my life, past, present and future. All you do to gain eternal life is by believing on His Son; by believing what He did for us on that cross. I was convicted, and if you find yourself today convicted of that very fact you have not believed in Jesus Christ and there’s judgment in your heart. The Bible says that’s a good thing, the Holy Spirit is tugging at your heart. That’s His ministry, to convict. My best advice to you would be to believe; believe on the Son, Jesus Christ, right where you’re sitting. God’s promise is sure; it’s just as sure as His promise is to the nation of Israel. Amen. And if Scroll to top you’re unsure and you need to talk I’ll be here after the service.
Can we pray? Father, thank You for the promises that You have made in Your Holy Word concerning the church, concerning Israel. Thank You for Your faithfulness and keeping Your promises. May we be diligent to walk in that light and forever give you the glory and the praise. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray. And God’s people said…. Amen.