If you’re ever seen Fiddler on the Roof, you might remember Tevye saying to God, “I know, I know. We are the chosen people. But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?” This line expresses a general frustration that at least some Jews feel regarding the challenges, trials, and tribulations that seem to go along with being God’s chosen people—everything from misunderstandings to dispersions and even persecution.
Today, the Jewish people and the role of Israel itself are often misunderstood, even in the evangelical church. While some scholars say the church has replaced Israel, others say that God will continue to have a place for Israel in His program.
In a Table Podcast series on Judaism and Anti-Semitism, Dr. Darrell Bock, David Brickner, President of Jews for Jesus; and Dr. Mitch Glaser, President of Chosen People Ministries discuss the question, “Has the church replaced Israel?” People who hold to a view sometimes labelled as Replacement Theology would say, “Yes.” How does this perspective influence the way one approaches the Bible? In this video clip, Bock, Brickner, and Glaser consider the implications of this perspective.
“God made a promise to Abraham…God has fulfilled that promise to the Jewish people, first of all, in bringing Jesus the Messiah and then, secondly, in bringing the Jewish people back to the land and then, finally, in bringing Jewish people in the land back to the Messiah and then Messiah returning and reigning as king.”
God is faithful in what he has done in Jesus, what he is doing now in returning Israel to the land while many Jews are also coming to Jesus, and what he will do when Messiah returns. As Bock Notes:
“There are commitments and promises that God has made to Israel through the Hebrew Scriptures that he keeps forever. It's a reflection of His faithfulness.”
Bock also cautions the diminishing of God’s accomplishments, especially when it comes to thinking about the Abrahamic covenant:
“We need to be careful not to shortchange all it is that God has done. God has definitely centered salvation in Israel's Messiah, in Jesus who is the Christ…(He) has committed himself to …show God's faithfulness to the original commitments that God made back in the Abrahamic covenant to redeem the people to whom he made the original promise; and the inclusion of others is not to their exclusion.”
Texts like Romans 9–11 hold out hope for a turning back to Messiah for Israel and a return to blessing for Israel. As that text says , “And in this way, all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:26). At the time Paul writes, Israel is mostly rejecting Jesus. That is the Israel he has in mind in this text. Paul is discussing a future grafting back in of the nation. Anything Jesus has done to include Gentiles does not mean Israel has been excluded or displaced as being part of God’s program and people in the present through a remnant and in the future through a mass embrace of faith in Messiah Jesus.
Today, many Jews living in Israel are responding to Jesus the Messiah. In fact, Brickner says that, right now, the nation of Israel represents the greatest amount of Jewish openness to the Gospel. He says the challenge for the church is “to see the signs of the times and get excited and reinvest our faith and confidence in the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.”
The church hasn’t replaced Israel. God continues to be faithful to His covenant promises to Israel. But beyond this, he graciously extends forgiveness and salvation to everyone who repents, in a way that includes Gentiles without excluding the Jewish people. God shows he is faithful, even as he works to bring reconciliation through the work of Messiah so both Jew and Gentile can be blessed. Gentile inclusion does not mean Israelite exclusion. The tribulation of Israel may have made Tevye nervous, but in the end one can trust the word of God and his faithfulness for his chosen people
Watch the entire episode here: Has the Church replaced Israel?