In an earlier post, here, I linked to a sermon about Romans 9-11. That sermon helped me to understand why replacement theology gained such a strong foothold in the church.
For most of the church’s history Israel as a distinct and recognisable nation had been erased from the world map. So what understanding could be brought to the NT references to Israel, and in particular Paul’s strong statements that God had not and would not forsake Israel?
Israel was no more – so was Paul mistaken? Was scripture wrong?
It’s not surprising that a different approach to understanding scripture was seen as necessary. Ambiguous hints could be found that might suggest that the position of Israel had been taken over by the church. So references to Israel were seen as being symbolic instead of literal and the church was seen as the NEW or SPIRITUAL Israel.
That was perhaps the most logical position to take…
…until 1948, when Israel again appeared on the map.
Not everyone had accepted the idea of the church replacing Israel. Some remained faithful to a literal reading of scripture and expected Jews to return to the land of their ancestors. They trusted the word of biblical prophecy instead of geographical and political appearances.
Why is it that today, over 60 years after the return of Israel, the majority of the church still rejects the literal word of scripture regarding Israel? That literal word prophesied both the exile of Israel to all the nations, and also the return of Israel to the land of their ancestors.
They still reject it because they prefer the theology and reasoning of men above the clear word of scripture. Loved traditions are hard to abandon. This example also shows how much man prefers to base his beliefs on his own observations and his own reasoning rather than on the revelation of the word of God.
A similar thing can be seen with regard to Spiritual gifts, in particular those mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians. Wide sections of the church deny the relevance of those gifts. They say the gifts were made redundant by the compiling of the scriptures. They even quote Paul:
“But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
Their explanation is based on the assumption that “when perfection comes” refers to the coming of the scriptures – and therefore scripture has replaced Spiritual gifts within the church.
How can such a leap of logic take place and be so widely accepted?
The foundation of this assumption comes from a very tenuous inference projected into the phrase “when perfection comes”. It is a case of looking for something that can be MADE to support the already held conclusion that Spiritual gifts no longer exist.
Again it’s a matter of looking at the world around us and basing theology upon what is seen and interpreting scripture to support that view, instead of accepting scripture as written and seeking answers about why our experience doesn’t match scripture’s clearest meaning.
The process goes like this:
Example 1: The bible speaks about Israel and God’s continued faithfulness to Israel – but Israel no longer existed, so the church must have replaced Israel.
Example 2: Spiritual gifts are missing from the church, so they obvious no longer exist.
The final step in both of these examples is to find parts of scripture that can be interpreted in a way that supports the favoured conclusions.
The question arising out of all of this is: Do we REALLY rely on the revelation given in scripture and interpret our world and experience according to what God has revealed?
Or do we insist on interpreting the world and scripture according to our experience and what we can see?