One of the objectives of this website is to refute what is commonly known as replacement theology or supercessionism. Our message is, simply said: the church has not replaced Israel in God’s redemptive plan. Clinging to replacement theology in fact means theological suicide! If God has annulled his covenant with Israel, who will tell us that He will not cancel his covenant with the church (if there is a covenant with the church)? But is the alternative then that we believe in two ways to salvation, one for Israel and another for the church? Or do we believe in a dual covenant with Israel and the church?
Are there two covenants?
I think it was the famous Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig who in his book ‘The Star of Redemption’ spoke of the idea of two ways, or a dual covenant. Jews should live by the observance of the Torah, the commandments God gave through Moses on Sinai. The Torah was given as an ‘eternal covenant’. The church, on the other hand, is the way for the gentiles, i.e. non-Jews, to come to salvation.
Of course, Rosenzweig could draw on Jewish tradition, which discerns a covenant with the people of Israel (Exodus 24) and a covenant with the ‘sons of Noah’ (the gentiles; see Genesis 9). Whereas Israel should keep all the commandments of the Torah, the ‘sons of Noah’ are obliged only to the seven ‘Noahide laws’.
The idea of a dual covenant thus seems to have a scriptural basis. But does this permit the conclusion that there are two (or more) ways to redemption? After all, aren’t Jesus’ words clear enough: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’? Are there two (or more) ways to salvation, or only one?
God coming to man
Let me get down to business at once: I increasingly believe that we should not speak of ways to salvation, but of the way of salvation. What do I mean? It is God who chooses to save mankind from sin and to redeem the world. From the very beginning His turning towards the world is redemptive. By separating light from darkness, water from water, dry grounds from water, He shows already what redemption will be. By creating man in His own image He shows what it is meant for. God does not want to stay outside. He longs to be with man and with creation. This He reveals in other words in His choice for Israel: I will dwell among you, He says. God chooses Israel as His address. The book of Deuteronomy is full of the phrase: the place which I have chosen to dwell among you.
Is this a primitive idea of the godhead in his temple as the centre of the nation? No, it is the gospel! It is expressed in the gospel of John: ‘The word became flesh and made his dwelling amongst us,’ and reiterated in the teaching of the apostle Paul. It is reflected in the magnificent vision of John in Revelation 21: ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.’
Israel is the centre
Israel is the centre of God’s dwelling with men. Israel remains the centre of God’s dwelling with men. ‘In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 2:1-3).
The Hebrew reads: Torah will go out from Zion. Torah is the Word of the Lord He gave to Israel as a way of life when He made His covenant with Israel. Torah is the instruction the nations are coming to seek and live by.
Here is perhaps the secret of answering both replacement and dual covenant theology. It is not about man coming to God – it is about God seeking man! Torah is God’s instrument of preparing man to receive Him. Torah is God’s way to Israel, and so to mankind as a whole.
The word becomes flesh
God gave his Torah to sanctify Israel. Israel is called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. So Israel will be a light to the nations. And nations will walk by her light.
How can Israel be a holy and priestly kingdom? By fulfilling the Torah. The Torah is not meant to ‘earn heaven’, but to serve God and live before Him. And as a priestly kingdom, Israel does this also on behalf of the nations. The Torah provides the possibility of living before God, and returning to Him when the relation is disturbed.
So the word becomes flesh in Israel. In the heart of Israel, as her nucleus, the word becomes flesh and dwells among her. The only begotten Son of the Father comes as the essence of the Firstborn son Israel, to bear all our iniquities. He is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; the great High Priest who has gone through the heavens. In Him, God dwells among us.
To make a long story short: there is only one way: that of God coming to man. And this coming of God is through Israel. Israel’s essence is an ellipse with the Torah and the Word become flesh as its focal points. In fact, the two are one: it is the eternal Torah becoming flesh.
Now God’s coming to man calls for an answer. God calls on Israel to love and serve Him. He calls on each and everyone of us to love Him and to walk in His ways. Everything that would be an impediment to this relationship was taken away by Jesus on the cross. As such, He fulfils Israel’s calling of full obedience to God.
Should a Jew become a Christian or a Christian a Jew?
Jesus did not cancel or deny Judaism. A Jew who walks in the way of the covenant and obeys the commandments of the Torah (not just the Ten Commandments, but all of the Torah) out of love of God walks in the same faith as Jesus*, even if he does not recognize Him as the Messiah (yet). He obeys the Word that became flesh. In His word, the Messiah is present with His people. The inner side of this intimacy of God’s relation with Israel is hidden from our eyes.
On the other hand, a non-Jew who comes to faith through Jesus does not have to take all the Torah commandments upon him (only those assigned to him through the teachings of the apostles). “Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him” (1Cor. 7:18). But in Christ, Jews and Gentiles are no longer antagonists, but reconciled into a new relationship.
*Initially, I wrote here: “A Jew who walks in the way of the covenant and obeys the commandments of the Torah (…) walks in obedience to Jesus.” We should not, however, try to theologically annex the Jews.