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The Church and Israel: Many Perspectives
The questions, "Is the Church the New Israel?" and "Has national Israel been replaced or set aside by the Church?" are not the same.


There is no consensus among Evangelicals on the question of whether national Israel has been set aside or replaced by the Church. This letter is a response to the article, The Church and Israel: Many Perspectives by Mal Couch.

I must confess that I hate polls, for the options are regularly too limited. "Is the Church the New Israel?" and "Has national Israel been replaced or set aside by the Church?" are not the same question.

Mal Couch … fails to address the full significance of the Olive Tree …

Some would argue that, since Jesus came to fulfil—not to destroy nor to do away with—the Law and the Prophets, that He is the New Israel, and therefore His body, the Church, is, under His Headship, the New Israel.

Further, the Bible uses the image of matrimony to describe God's relation to His people: for example Hosea in the Old Testament, Ephesians 5 in the New. The final image in Scripture is of the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven as a bride prepared for her husband. Yet surely Jerusalem represents God's people, both Israel of the Old Testament and the Church of the New: the redeemed and purified People of God.

Mal Couch, in his article, refers to Romans, but fails to address the full significance of the Olive Tree, the grafting in of the wild branches and the lopping off of the unfruitful old branches. The Church has always seen itself as the new Creation under the New Covenant which has inherited the promises of the Old. The idea that the Old Testament is to be thrown out or cast aside has always been considered heresy. No, the Church needs both the Old and the New. Traditionally, Christians have read the Old as anticipating the New—i.e. we are to lay hold of the O.T. promises as being ours as well as ancient Israel's, because we have been rooted in that Olive Tree which has been rooted and cultivated in those promises. However, the practice of grafting in the wild branches was not first for the benefit of the wild, but of the cultivated tree, that it might be rejuvenated and rendered more fruitful. That said, Paul reminds the Gentiles that they are dependent upon the life within the old tree; and that, if old, unfruitful branches had been lopped off before them, so could they be removed if they took for granted their status (i.e. they are there to bear fruit, cf John 15).

The old tree has not been destroyed to make room for the new, rather it has been re-born. I don't think that Romans 11 is to be understood apart from Isaiah 6 (the tree, albeit not pictured here as an olive, yet still representing the people of God, which has been cut down, yet still possesses life in the stump: the "Holy Seed") and Isaiah 11 (the Rod/Shoot/Branch out of the stem/trunk/roots of Jesse: i.e. the promises of God, here related to David, referred to by his father).

One last note (this was not intended to be an extensive response, just an explanation for why I couldn't respond to the poll as it stands): I would be interested in what Dr. Couch does with Ephesians 3. Does St. Paul not see here a new entity, Jew and Gentile in Christ, which is the fulfilment of God's plan from the beginning? Is this not the New Israel? Is this not what he had in mind when he wrote, "And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16)?

I do consider the Jewish people to be especially loved of God, and I do not see them as rejected and cast away. However, I understand that the Christian revelation presents us with the fulfilment of all things in Jesus Christ; that the New Testament completes the Old, and that those who are in Christ are rooted in God's promises from the beginning (i.e. from the opening chapters of Genesis), and will be raised up into the full life of the New Creation, the Resurrection of the Dead, the kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem.

Just a few thoughts …

Rev. Fr. Doug Hayman, parish priest of St. Barnabas Apostle & Martyr Traditional Anglican Church, Spencerville, Ontario, (Anglican Catholic Church of Canada), www.saintbaranabas.ca; Chaplain and faculty, Augustine College, Ottawa.

 

 
 
 
 

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