In short, replacement theology is the idea that the true people of God—the true Israel—are no longer one of flesh but one of faith. It teaches that the Christian Church has fully replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. It also teaches that all the promises and prophecies have been transferred from Israel to the Church, and therefore the state of Israel and the Jewish people become obsolete.
When Did Replacement Theology Start?
It is difficult to say exactly when replacement theology started. It seems that until the last book of the Bible (Revelation) and the death of the last Apostle (John) around 100 A.D., Christianity was still very much intertwined with its Jewish roots.
Because it was birthed out of the Jewish faith, the leaders were Jewish, and the principles taught were out of the Jewish culture.
Christianity had not yet organized an “orthodox” leadership, so it naturally followed Judaism. The two were intermingled for the first three centuries after Christ’s resurrection and ascension.
Is it not interesting that God gives us an image of the Gentile nations being “grafted in” to the Jewish culture and family? For some time, that is exactly how the Church operated. The two were one.
But even within that first century, the ideology of replacement theology was making its mark on the Church. It began to influence Believers everywhere, and over time the Church had became more Hellenized.
Early Church Leaders’ Views of Replacement Theology…
Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon (130-202 A.D.)
- “They [the Jews] indeed, had they cognizant of our future existence [that of Christians], and that we should use these proofs from Scriptures, would themselves never have hesitated to burn their own Scriptures, which do declare that all other nations partake of [eternal] life, and show that they who boast themselves as being the house of Jacob and the people of Israel, are disinherited from the grace of God.”
Tertullian, early Church author (160-220 A.D.)
- “God has rejected the Jews in favor of the Christians.”
Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (263-339 A.D.)
- “The promise of the Hebrew Scriptures are now for the Christian and not the Jews—but the curses are for the Jews.”
These are only a few of the accounts that early Church leaders held as truths.
But as Believers, how do we determine what is truth and what is oh so close, but still falls miserably short of the original intent?
We always take it back to the Bible. Does it align with the writings of the Bible that were God-breathed and Holy Spirit-inspired?
- “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”—Acts 17:10-11
The Bereans even took the teachings of Paul and Silas and lined them up with the Scriptures! So then, we need to ask ourselves, are we aligning what we hear and are taught with the Holy Scriptures?
What Does Replacement Theology Really Mean?
If we adopt these ideas of the early Church leaders, how does this change our view of God and the Jewish people? This is an important question we need to be willing to ask ourselves.
Is Replacement Theology Biblical?
If replacement theology is true, then there are some biblical foundations that are false.
1) Makes God a liar and unable to keep His promises
- “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”—Numbers 23:19
2) Makes the New Testament teaching false
- “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel…”—Romans 11:1-2
- “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’”—Romans 11:25-27
The Bible says…
1) God, by His very nature, cannot lie. He is truth.
- “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”—Hebrews 13:8
2) What He has spoken, He will do. And as mentioned earlier, He made unconditional covenant promises to Abraham about his descendants and the land of Israel.
- “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.”—Isaiah 46:9-11
In Romans 11, Paul explains that the Gentiles are “a wild olive tree… grafted in among them… and… became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree.” He also warns that Gentiles are not to “boast against the branches.”
Paul wrote this letter to the Romans around 57 AD as Roman influence starts pressing into the Church. The purpose of the letter was to communicate to the Gentile Believers how God’s promises to the people of Israel relate to the Believers in Rome.
Paul intended to help the Gentiles understand the role of the Jewish people and God's continuing work within Israel, as well as the Jewish roots of the gospel, and their inclusion into Abraham's family.
Because of the rising tension in Rome in Paul’s day, he had to address the misalignment of many Gentile Believers.
Are we heeding Paul’s teaching today? Take a moment to find a quiet place and pray. Read God’s Word through the lens of the Jewish culture at the time it was written. Ask the Lord to reveal to you His truth and how He has adopted YOU, a Gentile, into His family—with the patriarchs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Check back soon as we continue our journey to find the Jewish roots of the gospel. It is the ultimate Good News that enables us to walk in victory!