Christian Zionist writers are apt (too apt, in my opinion) to brand those who disagree with them as peddlers of ‘replacement theology’, as teaching that the church replaces Israel in God’s purposes.
Now, I will not dispute that some non-Zionists do use the language of ‘replacement’ (or something similar), and are perhaps give the impression that, in their view, God has washed his hands of his historic chosen people. The gospel has been taken away from the Jews, and given instead to the Gentiles.
But, on the whole, the discussion about ‘replacement theology’ is a red herring. What most non-Zionists teach is what some call ‘fulfilment theology’, or what Sam Storms calls ‘inclusion theology’.
The church no more replaces Israel in God’s purposes than the butterfly replaces the caterpillar. The butterfly is the caterpillar in a more developed form.
Similarly, the church doesn’t replace Israel. The church is Israel as God intended Israel to be.
What we see in the New Testament, then, is an expanded definition of who Israel is. In Old Testament times, ethnicity was key. An Israelite was a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But now, with the coming of Christ and the expansion of the gospel into the whole world, the definition of Israel has been enlarged. It includes all those who belong to God through Christ, be they Jews or Gentiles.
When God gave promises in Genesis 12-17, he seemed to have in mind Abraham and all his physical progeny. But it was narrowed down to the progeny of Isaac (and not Ishmael), Jacob (and not Esau). And finally it is narrowed down to just one person – the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 3:16). All God’s promises find their ‘yes’ in Christ.
So, ‘in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. . . . And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:28–29).’
So the question is not whose blood you have in your veins, but whose faith you have in your heart; not a matter of physical descent, but of new birth.
According to Paul in Romans 2:28f the true Jew is one who is circumcised in heart, not in body.
Believing Gentiles are now included with believing Jews as ‘members of the commonwealth of Israel’ (Eph 2:12). They are ‘fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God’ (Eph 2:19). The dividing wall has been broken down, Eph 2:14; one man has been created in place of two, Eph 2:15.
The temporary nature of the Abrahamic covenant is the burden of the Letter to the Hebrews.
Sam Storms (on whose article the above notes are based), writes:
‘So I don’t believe God’s saving work among ethnic Jews means he will reconstitute the old covenant theocracy of Israel. I believe that all believing ethnic Jews, together with all believing ethnic Gentiles, will together constitute the elect, the church, “the one holy nation” in covenant with God (1 Pet. 2:9). And because they are all in Christ, the true seed of Abraham, they are all the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise.’
‘I don’t believe in replacement theology; I believe in inclusion theology: Gentiles have now been included in the commonwealth of Israel and are as much “true Jews” as are believing ethnic Jews. It isn’t replacement but fulfillment, just as the butterfly fulfills and completes what God intended when he first crafted a caterpillar.’