The Jews and Israel; September 13, 2018

Romans 11:20-21 Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

In light of this chapter, I don’t see how anyone can defend either antisemitism or replacement theology. Replacement theology is the idea that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plans, so the Jews and their nation are no longer relevant. That is precisely the arrogance Paul is warning against here. Using Paul’s word picture, every Christian should be deeply grateful for the Jewish nation, for they are the root stock onto which we have been grafted. Too many churches use the New Testament exclusively, when the New Testament would not exist without the Old. We are prone to forget that the early Church didn’t have the New Testament; they were in the middle of writing it! Even in this chapter Paul quotes the Old Testament several times. It is certainly true that there is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Some Israel-backers act as though physical descent from Abraham is enough, but the Bible is clear that everyone needs a personal commitment to Jesus as Lord. However, everyone with a real grasp of the Bible will have a deep respect and gratitude for the Jews, and for the nation of Israel even today.

Thinking about it, my father’s academic credentials are an illustration of this. His PhD was in Biblical Greek, but his master’s degree was in Hebrew, and that preceded and underlaid his PhD. It is telling that I hadn’t even heard of replacement theology until several years ago when I first had the privilege of interpreting for Benjamin Berger, who was one of the pastors, with his brother, of the only Messianic congregation in the Old City part of Jerusalem. He wanted to make sure I didn’t hold to replacement theology before he’d let me interpret for him! Actually, I grew up taking pride in the fact that I was born the same year as the modern state of Israel, 1948, and even learned some Hebrew folk songs as a child. In seminary, by God’s amazing plan we were adopted into the Messianic fellowship and met with them every month for a pot luck dinner. They were amazed that I knew Hava Nagila better than they did! I am delighted to have brothers and sisters in Christ who are also physical descendants of Abraham. Ministering to the Japanese, I find many parallels between them and the Jews, particularly their extreme sense of racial identity. However, the Japanese and I are on the same footing as Gentiles, and we all need to be firmly grafted into Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah who died and rose again for all mankind.

Father, thank You for this reminder, and thank You for the rich heritage of faith we have through the Jews. I pray that all of Your children would recognize that heritage and rejoice in it with deep gratitude, so that nothing will stand in the way of the rest of the Jews being gathered into the Body of Christ, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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