Politically Correct Or Biblically Accurate
It has been said, "Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it". One of the things that the Feinberg program allowed was the opportunity for Jewish missionaries to meet other Jewish missionaries from fields all over the world. So one could get a feel for how Jewish missions work all over the world was going without leaving the United States. One gentleman which I've had the honor of getting to know with a gentleman named Mark Surey. He's from Great Britain in our final integration class which I just completed you relate some facts that are both shocking and part of the reason for this very message this morning.
Britain was once a bastion for Jewish missions probably having over 20 different Jewish missions boards. In fact some of the oldest Jewish mission boards that exist were started in Great Britain. At present, as Mark Surey relayed, there are approximately 3 Jewish missions boards in Great Britain. Only one of these Jewish missions boards is completely solvent. He sees her theology took hold in Britain and now it's coming over here. We have the opportunity to learn from recent history or be doomed to see it repeated. They may be asking what this particular theology has to do with political correctness.
Well interestingly enough the spread of this theology in Great Britain and Europe has been fueled by political correctness and lends itself easily to a liberal agenda and political correctness. That's probably one of the very reasons that this theology is taking hold and spread so rapidly in Europe. This morning were going to be faced with the challenge of whether we want to be biblically accurate or politically correct in relation to this theology,since political correctness forms one of the main reasons for its spread. In the process you will learn something about church history and the view of the Jewish people during the period of the church fathers. It's my hope that you will come away with a better understanding of one of the new spiritual fights that is facing us.
Before we go any further on the demonstrate the link between this particular theology, the way it's creeping in to the churches, and political correctness. 90 to give a disclaimer before I even begin I want you to understand I was thrilled that we have had the opportunities to visit the creation Museum and the example that I'm going to give is no reflection on them as a worthwhile ministry. On the contrary is because of the work that they're doing and the positive impact that they're having on the church that I found this particular incident most disturbing. At our last visit to the creation Museum I was looking at the various signs I've been there before, and some of you been to national conference had been there also, however let's look at the signs that he persisted and various exhibits. Just as I'd been a little uncomfortable with our last visit that on comfortability began to grow is a look at certain exhibits and the signs that they had put up informationally to go along with those exhibits.
What began to register in my mind more and more, and only began to just dawned on me with our last visit, was it all the signs referred to the Jewish people as the Israelites and not one single sign use the term "Jew" or "Jewish people". In fact, no sign ever contained the term Israelite in juxtaposition to Jewish people. But why not are the Jewish people the descendents of the Israelite's of old and part of the very same people. This bothered me more and more and with this visit I decided to question one of the staff guidance about this peculiarity in the exhibit informational signs. What is sad solidified what is going on with this theology in the churches. He told me that it was not politically correct to enact the biblical Israelites with the Jewish people today. Imagine that, not politically correct! I politely pointed out to him that creationism is really not all that politically correct either. Our final integration course touched on the very theology that on the touch on today and the fact that is beginning to have.
I need to begin by introducing a term to you. It's a term supersessionism. In the past it's been known as replacement theology. However, in this politically correct day and age those who would dabble in this theology have been unhappy with the term replacement theology and so it goes by the name of supersessionism today. They are probably thinking no problem where Grace brother and we do not follow replacement theology. But supersessionism really has many forms I want to talk to about the different forms that it's taken and some of the most insidious ways it is creeping into theology today. This theology is so insidious and is taken very subtle forms like the flu that creeps upon you sometimes you don't even recognize it. And as permitted see this morning some of the forms of this particular theology are more subtle than others.
So let's look at the different forms of this particular theology that if existed throughout church history going from the most obvious forms to the most subtle forms and then look at the Scriptures and see what this theology does to the word of God. The first for this particular theology is called punitive Supersessionism. This is the oldest form of this particular theology and began actually with the church fathers. Sometimes people will not understand why Jewish people are not so interested in the gospel, when you hear some of the quotes from the church fathers which demonstrate this theology, you'll see why church history has often been a reason that Jewish people do not like to consider Jesus. A writing which is dated approximately 150AD. Called the epistle of Barnabas states, “Ye ought therefore to understand. Moreover I ask you this one thing besides, as being one of yourselves and loving you all in particular more than my own soul, to give heed to yourselves now, and not to liken yourselves to certain persons who pile up sin upon sin, saying that our covenant remains to them also” the writer of the epistle of Barnabas is written the Jewish people often stated that the covenants of God belong to the church only in this very quote. Michael Vlach in his article: for Masters seminary states, "When the writings of the church theologians of the patristic period are compiled, a consensus on five issues emerges… 3. The church is the new Israel… 4. As the new Israel, the church assumes the Jewish scriptures and covenant blessings that were given first to the nation Israel." both of the quotes above are based on the fact that the church fathers regarded Israel's sin as disqualifying her displacing her from the blessings of God. Thus what we have here is punitive supersessionism at its very best.
Economic supersessionism is more subtle, “This view is not as harsh as punitive Supersessionism since it does not emphasize Israel’s disobedience and punishment as the primary reason for its displacement as the people of God. Instead, it focuses on God’s plan for the people of God to transfer from an ethnic group (Israel) to a universal group not based on ethnicity (church).  According to this form of supersessionism Israel sort of like God's baby teeth, you all remember baby teeth. They were the teeth that you had when you were a child and in due time you received your adult teeth and your baby teeth fell out. In some families, the loss of these teeth resulted in the certain economic benefit for the child involved. So according to economic supersessionism in due time when God's plan matured or God matured Israel was replaced by the church are the adult teeth. Now while this sounds a lot more pleasant than the punitive form I want you to notice the incredible triumphalism that involve with this form of supersessionism. Triumphalism is really involved in both forms of supersessionism but this one appears slightly more benign. Unfortunately this one is also far more subtle.
This last form of supersessionism is even more subtle. In this form of supersessionism can actually slip very easily to dispensational circles. This form of supersessionism teachers that Israel's place in the plan of God was sort of a convenient relic, it allows for Israel's salvation but not any sort of meaningful restoration within the plan of God. This sort of like God could've chosen the Polish people if he wanted to in order to work his plan of salvation but he just happened to choose the Jewish people. Here is a question that might help you with this particular form of supersessionism do you believe that Israel will maintain ethnic identity in the eternal state, if not why not. It is important to note the book of Revelation, that the names of the 12 tribes are inscribed on the new Jerusalem. In a series of lectures given to us by Arnold Fruchtenbaum he pointed out that this is evidence of continuing ethnic identity. What could those names of those 12 tribes mean if there was no ethnic identity for them to refer toward?
Now that we've looked at the politically correct theology of supersessionism and spent a little bit of time looking these forms of supersessionism, we can move towards our final goal. We can begin to look it being biblically accurate. To do this on That look at Paul's olive tree analogy. Turn with me to Romans chapter 1, you were all thinking I was going to say turn to Romans Chapter 11. However, as we look at Paul's analogy it is important that we understand a little bit about the background. In Romans chapter 1 verse seven we read the parties to the Romans was written, "To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:". Nepal tells us very little of it composition of the church that was in Rome at the time he was writing. And really this salutation gives us little information about any relationship between Jewish and Gentile believers in the church at Rome. So when Paul wrote this letter the composition of the Roman church was clearly known to those who were members, as well as the history of what was going on at the time this letter was written. However, to understand Paul's analogy we have to understand that background and history.
History notes that there was a large population of Jewish people in the wrong prior to the period of time in which the epistle to the Romans was most likely written. We know from the book of Acts that could choose where cast out of Rome by Emperor Claudius. Romans chaprer 18 verse 2 states, "after these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Tukwila, born in Pontiacs, who'd recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome);". Josephus the Jewish historian goes into more detail, but I don’t want to get too far into a history lesson. What is important is that you understand that while the church at Rome had a high Jewish population that is there were Jewish believers within it and probably a good percentage. When the Jews were cast out of Rome the Jewish population were contingent of that church was removed. In other words the Roman church started out with quite a few Jewish believers in all once they were gone and the Roman church became a Gentile church. Claudius's order was originally rescinded if so Jewish Christians began to filter back into the Roman church.
Part of Paul's concern was that how these Jewish believers would be received back into a predominantly Gentile church. So Romans nine for 11 is no accident but really connected to the historical situation which the Roman church found itself in. And the unique relationship that reabsorption of Jewish believers returning after Claudius's edict would have produced. Tensions began to be felt in that church that would not have been fell during the time that the Jews were exiled from the city of Rome. On that basis Paul constructs chapters 9 through 11 of Romans to deal with Israel's relationship to the church in view of the mostly Gentile church having to understand the doctrine of Israel, simply because, Jewish believers were filtering back into that particular church. You know the church Irasburg, pastor Scott himself shares, had to learn a whole lot more about the Jewish people and Jewish believers in Messiah when we joined. In fact he shares that one of the blessings of having us among them was how much they have learned about the Scriptures and how much they have learned about issues related to Israel, and Jewish believers in Jesus.
While now that we have a little bit of background under our belts time to look at the structure of Romans 9 through 11. How is it that God's beloved people Israel could end up in the state of unbelief what does this mean for their present standing with God in relation to the church, and what does this mean as far as their future restoration? Paul begins by discussing Israel's privileges on the national level, rather as a people. This cannot be overlooked. From the very onset the theology which Paul expresses in these chapters runs contrary to supersessionism. Paul clearly identifies physical Israel with the Jewish people with himself, (who are Israelites)οἵτινές εἰσιν Ἰσραηλῖται. He lists the privileges it still belonged Israel by using a present tense verb. What is important about this is that we understand Israel did not lose these privileges, the Jewish people still possess these privileges even though they cannot experience them because of unbelief. Paul goes on to make a point about an elect Israel experiencing the blessings of God through salvation within Israel the elect nation. In Romans chapter 10 Paul makes it clear that Israel's present condition is not the fault of God but that Israel is responsible for her present condition.
This brings us to chapter 11 of Romans. The first five verses of this chapter formed the introduction to the argument that Paul is going to make that Israel's hardening is both partial and temporary. He begins by dealing with the fact that it is indeed partial, offering evidence in verses 1-5. This is leading to the analogy of the olive tree were working to be spending our time this morning. Let's look at verses 15-24 of Romans Chapter 11. This particular analogy is tied to a previous analogy which has to do with the first fruits of an offering of dough or grain. And Paul jumps from one particular analogy to the other analogy. The first of all you need recognizes is very rabbinical way of teaching. In fact Paul is using a rabbinical style argument moving from light to heavy which is known as qal v'chomer. This argument was used all the time in Paul's day. In this analogy there is a root, and two types of branches. There is much discussion as to what the root of the olive tree is here. Let me give you a few options; Judaism or biblical Judaism, God's people, the Abrahamic covenant, Israel. Now the danger any analogy is taking analogy too far. However, we can't ignore what this root is. It would be faulty to argue that the root is the people of God for in what way does the root being the people of God support the people of God. It reduces the analogy to a weak circumlocution. One could argue that biblical Judaism is in mind, but biblical Judaism and even rabbinical Judaism recognizes that the Abrahamic covenant is the basis for God's relationship with Israel. Perhaps the best way to look at the root is the Abrahamic covenant especially in view of those portions of the book of Galatians that state that the Gentile believer in Messiah is a child of Abraham.
Two types of branches are named, those branches which are branches out of a separate wild olive tree represent the Gentiles which have come into Christ by faith in the gospel. The natural branches represent Jews would been reconnected to the God of their fathers in the promises to their nation through faith in Jesus Christ. However what is terribly important to remember in this analogy, and is also often overlooked is that the olive tree is presented as belonging to the Jewish people. Let's look at it together, "for if you were cut out of an olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more these, who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
Don't pass over those words as I pointed out previously olive trees still their own. Israel's not been replaced by the church or the olive tree would no longer be their own olive tree but would've been transferred and become the church's own olive tree. In Paul's use of this analogy the olive tree still rightly belongs to Israel and the church does not gain ownership of that which Israel was given.
Under supersessionism the olive tree no longer remains Israel's. In the case of punitive supersessionism God transfers the ownership of the olive tree because of disobedience. In the case of economic supersessionism God transfers the olive tree because Israel no longer has any relevance in this plan. In structural supersessionism God transfers the olive tree because Israel has no relevant future. But in biblically accurate theology God never transfers the olive tree at all. So we see that Paul's analogy of the olive tree and his continuing to maintain that Israel still the possessor of that olive tree, and ultimately the blessings that she was given mentioned at the beginning of chapter 9 of Romans, does not allow for any supersessionism.
But is that bring us, the present sympathy for the Palestinian cause was the overwhelming economic dependence on oil as a fuel, has led to the spread of an insidious theology. Theology which replaces Israel with the church. I'm not beating on any particular school of eschatology but I am telling you that this particular theology has ramifications for the way the church looks at Jewish people. It also has ramifications for the way the church looks to Jewish evangelism, discipleship of Jewish believers, and the relationship between the great commission and the Jewish people. It is political correctness gone the theological seed.
So what can you do what your part to play in all of this? Well you must remain biblically accurate and avoiding this particular form of political correctness in several ways. Let me take you through them. First, you must be ready to insist on the historic connection between the Jewish people in the Bible and the Jewish people as a people today. It will not do to say that back then there were the Israelites and today there are distinct and different people called the Jews. This must be fought wherever it rears its ugly head.
Second, you must realize that the Christian faith is informed by its Jewish roots, remember you were grafted into an olive tree that previously existed the church. The Jewish backgrounds of the faith and Jewish studies help to inform Christian theology. That's one reason why some Jewish studies practorium courses would be useful not only for the preparing of Jewish missionaries but even the furthering of theology within our predatory aims! It is no small thing that God providentially placed me within this fellowship. In fact very few fellowships have actively train and call Jewish believers, at least fellowships are size. For many Jewish believers it is easier to become involved in the messianic movement to the exclusion of any involvement in an evangelical denomination. Think of the possibilities with me for just a moment. Have any of you ever wondered what a worship service would've looked like in Jesus's day? What theological themes in discussions were going on in Jesus's day and how do they inform the gospel accounts? How does the shape of Jewish theology today and back then differ from evangelical Christian theology and what does this tell us about the New Testament?
Third, there must be a continuing commitment to the great commission in relation to the Jewish people. Now one this one our fellowship is poised to do really well! But this too was a providential godsend. Again who arranged this fellowship should have a Jewish believer who himself is called to the Jewish people in its midst. And beyond that one raised up from among you. Surely this is the hand of God at work.
So you see we have the opportunity and resources available to create a lasting way to avoid being politically correct supersessionism and to live out a biblically accurate understanding of Israel's place in the plan of God, not merely in word but indeed. Beyond this there is a an opportunity to create a lasting understanding of that very connection between Israel and the plan of God theologically within our own practorium's to a degree that might never occur anywhere else. No my time in the Feinberg program was not wasted but actually an avenue to benefit our fellowship. In fact I hope this morning that you've been benefited by the material that I've been able to ponder fresh and in a deeper way. It is been great to be able to visit, it is been fun to travel with my friend Patrick Martel, and it is been a wonderful opportunity to lay vision before you for our fellowship!
 Michael J. Vlach, “Rejection Then Hope: The Church Doctrine of Iisrael in the Patristic Period,” The Masters Seminary Journal 19, no. 1 (2008): 52..
 (Michael J. Vlach, “Various Forms of Replacement Theology,” Master's Seminary Journal 20, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 57-69.