Israel, the Church, and Replacement Theology

Numbers (PTW) I appreciate and agree with Iain Duguid’s discussion of “replacement theology” in his commentary on Numbers 24:

Some Christians believe that Old Testament promises that speak of “Israel” are only intended for ethnic Israel and not for the church. For them, Balaam’s prophecies speak of a glorious future for the physical descendants of Israel, but they would call any attempt to apply these promises to the church “replacement theology.” I would suggest that this is a misunderstanding of what the Scriptures teach about Israel. It is not that the church has replaced Israel in the New Testament so much as that Old Testament Israel—ethnic Israel—finds its true goal and fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is himself the star of Jacob, the Israel of God.

In the person of Jesus, therefore, the true Israel has arrived, and all those who come to God by faith in him—Jews and Gentiles alike—become God’s children and are thereby incorporated into this new people of God (John 1:11, 12). In Christ, Jews and Gentiles together become the true heirs of the promise given to Abraham, his spiritual descendants (Galatians 3:29). Outside of Christ, on the other hand, there is no longer any true Israel. It is those who are in Christ who are the true chosen people: a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9). We have been chosen by God for exactly the same special relationship that he had with his Old Testament people. In his incredible grace and mercy, God chose us before the foundation of the world, so that we might be blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3, 4). He has rescued us from the final judgment that awaits all those who remain outside his people and has given us the glorious inheritance of a relationship with himself. In Jesus, the star of Jacob has risen for us and for our salvation.

Iain M. Duguid and R. Kent Hughes, Numbers: God’s Presence in the Wilderness, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 287–288.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI


What Would Abraham Do?

This is a great resource on the life of Abraham: Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality: The Gospel According to Abraham by Iain Duguid.  In the book, Duguid does note how Abraham is, in a way, an example for us when it comes to trusting the Lord and obeying him.  But Duguid’s book isn’t a bunch of moralistic notes that talk about being like Abraham.  Here’s how he states it:

“…If Abraham is only an example for us to follow, we are of all men most to be pitied.  Who among us can live up to the standard of even a flawed hero such as Abraham?  Thankfully, our salvation as Christians rests not on our trying to do what Abraham did, but on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross in our place, whereby our sins were atoned for, the wrath of God was turned away from us, and we were reconciled to him.  To put it another way, the gospel is not ‘What would Abraham do?’ but ‘What has Jesus done?’  So, in our exposition of the life of Abraham, we will see not only how he provides positive and negative examples for us, but also how he acts as a forerunner and shadow, pointing forward to Christ.”

“This is, after all, the central thrust of the Emmaus road sermon.  Jesus recounted for his disciples what Moses and the prophets had written, not because they were full of good examples for them to follow, but because they spoke of him.  Specifically, they spoke of his sufferings and glory that would follow.  The whole Old Testament is thereby declared to be a thoroughly Christocentric book.  This is true, not because there are superficial parallels between certain Old Testament events and events in the life of Jesus, but more profoundly because the whole Old Testament was designed by God to provide a context within which to understand the sufferings and glorification of Christ.”

“Our greatest need, in order to live by faith, …is not to have a good example to follow.  Rather, we need a growing understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of his sufferings and the glory that followed, as the context for our present sufferings and certain hope for the glory to come.”

Iain Duguid, Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality, p. 4-5.

shane lems