Q I have heard Romans 2:28-29 used to state the Body of Christ is spiritual Israel. And, of course, this opens the door to spiritualize all the promises for Israel in the Old Testament and the Gospels. Can you please help me with this?
by Pastor Matt Ritchey, Managing Editor
Estimated Time to Read: 5 Minutes
ANSWER: First, we must establish who is being directly addressed in Romans 2:28-29. When we back up a few verses (vs. 17), we read, “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God.” The statement in Romans 2:28-29 was specifically for the one who was physically born a child of Abraham and, yet, had rejected the righteousness of God proclaimed through Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 10:2-4).
It was not enough for a person to simply be born a descendant of Abraham for, even as Jesus told Nicodemus, “ye must be born again.” The physical Israelite had to undergo a spiritual change to be prepared for the kingdom to come (John 3:3-7). If this truth means Israel is replaced by the Body of Christ, then it started back in Jesus’ day. Jesus declared, “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matt. 3:9). Jesus is stating that it was not enough just to have Abraham in their physical lineage.
The next verse tells them that they needed to bring forth fruit or be cut down and cast into the fire. John 8:31-41 is important to this topic as well. In a nutshell, Jesus tells them that if they were truly Abraham’s seed, they would keep His word and do the works of the Father. Since these Jews were not keeping His word and doing the works of God, their father was the Devil. This is not replacement. Like Paul says in Romans 2:28-29, it is a call to the need for a deeper, spiritual change to take place through Christ.
The Promise Remains
God did not replace Israel when he told Hosea to label them “Not My People” (Hos. 1:9), for He tells them that one day they would be “My people” once again (Hos. 2:23). If God does not keep this specific promise to the nation of Israel, He is a liar.
All the covenants were made WITH ISRAEL. The Abrahamic Covenant declared that he would give to Abraham and HIS SEED (a.k.a. Israel) the land for an EVERLASTING POSSESSION (Gen. 17:8). If God decides to give the land to someone else, He can not keep His word.
The Mosaic covenant was given when God told Moses, “Thus shalt thou say to the HOUSE OF JACOB and tell the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL” (Ex. 19:3). The Palestinian covenant was made WITH THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL when Moses “called unto ALL ISRAEL” (Deut. 29:1-2). The Davidic Covenant includes a place for “my people ISRAEL” (II Sam. 7:10). The New Covenant was made “with the HOUSE OF ISRAEL and with the HOUSE OF JUDAH” (Heb. 8:8). How could God be a God of His word and not keep His contracts with Israel? He cannot.
Not Replacement, but Interruption
Replacement theology (God has replaced physical Israel with a mystical Israel made up of many physical nations) is one of many attempts to explain why the kingdom has not arrived like Jesus said it was going to in the Gospels (Mt. 4:23). We know the answer is not replacement, but interruption. God interrupted His program with Israel to give all nations a chance for salvation under the current Dispensation of Grace, hidden in the mind of God until revealed to and through the Apostle Paul.
It is the Apostle Paul who gives the most concise answer to replacement theology when he asked and answered: “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” (Rom. 11:1-2). So, has God cast Israel eternally aside and replaced them with someone else? Absolutely not! Paul explains what has happened is that God has turned to the Gentiles for a time, but Israel will receive the promises and salvation promised. “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:25-26).
The Need for a Spiritual Birth
In conclusion, Romans 2:28-29 is talking about the need for the physical descendants of Abraham to have a spiritual birth. This was true in the Kingdom program and it remains true under Grace. To use these verses, or any other verse, to show that Israel has been replaced by someone else for eternity is wrong. And, it makes God a liar. I am so thankful I can trust in a righteous, faithful God who also extended His Grace toward me.
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