Genesis 12 provides the bridge between the story of all mankind, his fall and judgement, and the beginning of the story of redemption. It focuses upon one man, and his experience with God – Abraham.
Abraham, and the covenant promise that God the Father makes with him, become the avenue for the promised seed of Genesis 3:15 to be manifest. The covenant not only involved Abraham himself, but also his seed, national Israel, and believers of all nations. It is the most comprehensive of all Old Testament covenants:
“Now the LORD had said to Abram:Genesis 12:1-3 NKJV
“Get out of your country, From your family
And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation; I will bless you
And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.””
The covenant with Abraham was a covenant of Promise. God required nothing of Abraham other than that he believe and receive what He, God Almighty, was offering. Faith alone was the requirement, and because Abraham chose to believe, it was accounted to Him as righteousness.
“And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Gen 15:6 NKJV)
Paul picks up on this truth throughout the book of Romans, where he stresses that such promise was not for father Abraham alone, but also for you and I:
“Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Rom 4:23-25)
In the same way we, as believers in the New Covenant, come into right relationship with father God through faith in His promise of eternal life through Christ. In this we become children of like faith with Abraham:
“Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Rom 4:16 NKJV)
In this respect, all nations partake of God’s promise through His covenant with faithful Abraham. This is the international outworking of Genesis 12, and indeed, it is through Abraham’s descendent, Jesus Christ, and through faith in Him, that we become one with all other believers. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, but a new creation – one new man.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”(Gal 3:28)
The Promise of a nation
The Abrahamic Covenant affects us all, and contains within itself all subsequent covenants, finding its ultimate fulfilment through Christ and His church.
An important truth to realise however, is that the promise was also to Abraham’s natural descendents – the Jewish people. The covenant, given to Abraham, and afterward confirmed to his son Isaac, and grandson Jacob (Israel) includes the promise of personal and national blessing, multiplicity of seed, and of land, as well as messianic blessing. The land that is here promised to Abraham, is specified in the Palestinian Covenant, given to the generation that entered the promised land under Joshua.
The Covenant as given to the three fathers and to Israel is stated in the following major passages:
Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:1-21; 17:1-27; 18:17-19; 21:12; 22:1-18
Genesis 24:60; 26:1-5,24
Genesis 27:28-29; 28:1-4,13-22; 32:12,28; 35:10-12; 48:3-4
Deuteronomy 7:6-16; 1 Chronicles 16:15-22; Psalm 105:8-15; Micah 7:20; Exodus 3:15; 32:13; Hebrews 6:13-14
What did God promise? To whom were the promises made? What conditions were attached, if any? Are the promises still valid today, and if so, what implication does that have?
God is not a covenant breaker
The roots of Replacement Theology go back to the early Church and became the seed bed of ‘Christian anti-Semitism.’
What Is Replacement Theology?
Replacement theology is simply the belief is that Israel has been replaced by the Christian Church in the purposes of God. It states that the Church is now the continuation of Israel and the latter is excluded, and that after Pentecost ‘Israel’, in the Bible, refers only to the Church.
Furthermore, replacement theology holds that the Jewish people are no longer God’s chosen people, and that the promises, covenants and blessings ascribed to Israel in the Bible have been taken away from the Jews and given to the Church. The Jews are subject however to the curses found in the Bible.
This heresy also says that the Jewish people as a whole have no specific future or hope, nor calling in God’s economy, although individual Jews can be saved.
Development of Replacement Theology in the Early Church
Clearly Jesus is Jewish, and taught that He was not abolishing the things of the past.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18
The New Testament shows us that separation between Judaism and Christianity began partly as a result of the widespread acceptance of Christianity by the Gentiles. At the same time, the destruction of the Temple and the move away from Jerusalem, being the centre of the Christian faith, contributed much to the development of replacement theology.
Clarence H. Wagner, Jr. in ‘The Error of Replacement Theology’ informs us that;
“The antagonism of the early Christians towards the Jews was reflected in the writings of the early Church Fathers. For example, Justin Martyr (c. AD 160) in speaking to a Jew said: ‘The Scriptures are not yours, but ours.’ Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon (c. AD 177) declared: ‘Jews are disinherited from the grace of God.’ Tertullian (AD 160-230), in his treatise, ‘Against the Jews,’ announced that God had rejected the Jews in favour of the Christians.” In the early 4th century, Eusebius wrote that the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures were for Christians and not the Jews, and the curses were for the Jews. He argued that the Church was the continuation of the Old Testament and thus superseded Judaism. The young Church declared itself to be the true Israel, or “Israel according to the Spirit,” heir to the divine promises. They found it essential to discredit the “Israel according to the flesh” to prove that God had cast away His people and transferred His love to the Christians.”
With Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine, laws began to be passed against the Jews and their buildings. Over the next 1,000 years, Church Councils confirmed and added to these restrictions…
“The result of these anti-Jewish teachings continued onwards throughout Church history, manifesting itself in such events and actions as the Crusades, the accusation of communion host desecration and blood libel by the Jews, the forced wearing of distinguishing marks to ostracize them, the Inquisition, the displacement of whole Jewish communities by exile or separate ghettoes, the destruction of synagogues and Jewish books, physical persecution and execution, the Pogroms. Ultimately, the seeds of destruction grew to epic proportions, culminating in the Holocaust, which occurred in ‘Christian’ Europe.
“Had the Church understood the clear message of being grafted into the Olive Tree from the beginning, then the sad legacy of anti-Semitic hatred from the Church may have been avoided. The error of Replacement Theology is like a cancer in the Church that has not only caused it to violate God’s Word concerning the Jewish people and Israel, but it made us into instruments of hate, not love, in God’s Name.”
Students are encouraged to read the moving account, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the Church and the Jewish People
by Michael L. Brown
Bible nowhere relegates the Jewish nation to a place where they no longer have a place in God’s great plan and purpose. In Scripture, three distinct groups are mentioned as recipients of God’s specific dealings:
“Give no offense, either to _________or to _____________ or to _________,” (1Cor 10:32 NKJV)
If we are gentile believers, saved by grace, we are encouraged by the New Testament Scriptures to humbly realize that it is through grace that we have become partakers of covenants made, not with us, but with the nation of Israel.
“Therefore, remember that at one time you were Gentiles (heathens) in the flesh, called Uncircumcision by those who called themselves Circumcision, [itself a mere mark] in the flesh made by human hands. [Remember] that you were at that time separated (living apart) from Christ [excluded from all part in Him], utterly estranged and outlawed from the rights of Israel as a nation, and strangers with no share in the sacred compacts of the [Messianic] promise [with no knowledge of or right in God’s agreements, His covenants]. And you had no hope (no promise); you were in the world without God. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were [so] far away, through (by, in) the blood of Christ have been brought near. For He is [Himself] our peace (our bond of unity and harmony). He has made us both [Jew and Gentile] one [body], and has broken down (destroyed, abolished) the hostile dividing wall between us, By abolishing in His [own crucified] flesh the enmity [caused by] the Law with its decrees and ordinances [which He annulled]; that He from the two might create in Himself one new man [one new quality of humanity out of the two], so making peace. And [He designed] to reconcile to God both [Jew and Gentile, united] in a single body by means of His cross, thereby killing the mutual enmity and bringing the feud to an end. And He came and preached the glad tidings of peace to you who were afar off and [peace] to those who were near. For it is through Him that we both [whether far off or near] now have an introduction (access) by one [Holy] Spirit to the Father [so that we are able to approach Him]. Therefore you are no longer outsiders (exiles, migrants, and aliens, excluded from the rights of citizens), but you now share citizenship with the saints (God’s own people, consecrated and set apart for Himself); and you belong to God’s [own] household. You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief Cornerstone.” (Eph 2:11-20 AMP)
Romans 11 equally stresses that God’s dealings with the Jewish people are not over, His love and promise and calling remain. If it did not, our covenant would be equally, indeed, even more, tenuous than theirs. As Christian believers we must understand and humbly accept that salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22). As partakers of their covenant our lives should display humility and thankfulness to a people who have paid a huge price in order to preserve the revelation of God to mankind, despite the ferocious attacks of satan throughout the ages.
As God said to Abraham, “those who bless you, I will bless”. Now, as ever, the necessity to stand with the Jewish people, and uphold the Biblical standard and promise given to their father Abraham, is essential. What is often reported as a political battle is actually a spiritual issue, and one, which we as Christians, should take a clear Biblical stand upon.
Zechariah 12:2-3 makes it clear that Jerusalem and Israel will become a stumblingblock for all nations:
““Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.” (Zech 12:2-3 NKJV)
Our decisions must be formed now, and must be based not on political persuasion, but Biblical revelation. God gave the land of Israel to the descendents of Abraham, the Jews. We are to uphold this at all costs, and to honour the heritage of faith we, as gentiles, have inherited though this great nation, praying, as Zechariah promises:
““And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” (Zech 12:10 NKJV)
As Israel embraces their Messiah, the blessing to the nations cannot be overemphasised. As Paul pointed out rather emphatically:
“I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Rom 11:11-15 NKJV)
The regathering of Israel to their promised land is a clear indication of God’s faithfulness, and of the vital time in which we live.
““Therefore, behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, “As the LORD lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land.”” (Jer 23:7-8 NKJV)
We now live in those days!