And those who will walk by this
rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. - Galatians 6:16
while back I was talking to a friend of mine about the modern state of Israel.
This friend, born and raise in Damascus, Syria, is a Muslim. He is a
well-educated man, who has lived in our country for about 40 years. As our
conversation developed, I was taken back when he told me that the Jewish people
of today had no claim to the land of Israel because the church has replaced
Israel. He then cited Galatians 6:16. I was amazed that a Muslim has such a
grasp of the Christian false teaching called replacement theology. It is not
surprising to hear this from certain segments of Christendom, but to realize
that this errant viewpoint had penetrated into the American Muslim community
was amazing to me.
What is Replacement
and covenant theologian, Kenneth Gentry defines replacement theology- to which
he holds- as follows: " We believe that the international Church has superseded
for all times national Israel
as the institution for the
administration of divine blessing to the world."  Gentry uses supersession as a synonym for replacement. I could almost agree with his definition if he
would remove the phrase " all times." We dispensationalists believe that the
church has superseded Israel during the current church age, but God has a
future time in which He will restore national Israel " as the institution for
the administration of divine blessing to the world.
adds to his initial statement the following embellishment:
is, we believe that in the unfolding of the plan of God in history, the
Christian Church is the very fruition of the redemptive purpose of God. As such, the multi-racial, international
Church of Jesus Christ supersedes
racial, national Israel as the focus of the kingdom of God. Indeed, we believe
that the Church becomes " the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16), the " seed of Abraham"
(Gal. 3:29), " the circumcision" (Phil. 3:3), the " temple of God" (Eph.
2:19-22), and so forth. We believe that Jew and Gentile are eternally merged
into a " new man" in the Church of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:12- 18). What God hath
joined together let no man put asunder!
Price provides an excellent and comprehensive definition:
Theology: a theological
perspective that teaches that the Jews have been rejected by God and are no
longer God' s Chosen People. Those who hold to this view disavow any ethnic
future for the Jewish people in connection with the biblical covenants,
believing that their spiritual destiny is either to perish or become a part of
the new religion that superseded Judaism (whether Christianity or Islam).
the last definition provides some insight into what an American Muslim and
American Christian have in common. They both believe that Israel is
permanently replaced by the church and that the church is the Israel of God
from Galatians 6:16.
believes that Galatians 6:16 teaches that the church has replaced or superseded
Abraham can have Gentiles as his " spiritual seed," why cannot there be a spiritual
Israel? In fact, Christians are
called by the name " Israel" : " And as many as walk according to this rule,
peace and mercy by upon them, and upon the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16).
is such a thing as " spiritual Israel." Spiritual Israel would refer to Jewish
people who have trusted Jesus as their Messiah; but the church is never called
" spiritual Israel," as Gentry claims. Let' s look at Galatians 6:16 and see
what it actually says.
passage is simple and clear. The first part of verse 16, which says, " those
who walk by this rule;" refers to the rule Paul had just stated in verse 15. " For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision,
but a new creation." This is a spiritual category referring to all believers,
to which Paul pronounces a blessing: " peace and mercy be upon them." This is
followed by his copulative comment " and upon the Israel of God."
S. Lewis Johnson surveys the
different suggestions in Galatians 6:16 for translating the Greek word kai, which is normally translated " and."
Johnson says, " in absence of compelling exegetical and theological
considerations, we should avoid the rarer grammatical usages when the common
ones make good sense."  He demonstrates that they is no
exegetical or theological reason to not take " and" in its normal sense in this
passage. Johnson concludes,
if it were Paul' s intention
to identify the " them" of the text as " the Israel of God," then why not simply
eliminate the kai after
" mercy?" The result would be far more to the point, if Paul were identifying
the " them," that is, the church, with the term " Israel." The verse would be
rendered then, " And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them and
mercy, upon the Israel of God." A case could be solidly made for the
apposition of " the Israel of God" with " them," and the rendering of the NIV
could stand. Paul, however, did not eliminate the kai.
Johnson is saying that there
is no textual or exegetical basis for Gentry' s belief that Galatians 6:16
teaches that the " Israel of God" includes the church or Gentiles. Gentry' s
replacement theology or supersesionism- as he likes to call it- has no basis in
the biblical text. It must be that he is so blinded by the demands of his
false theology that he continues to insist upon such an interpretation of the
Bible and his resulting errant theology. I wonder, along with Lewis Johnson,
why " In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there remains
persistent support for the contention that the term Israel may refer properly to Gentile
believers in the present age." 
E. D. Burton says, " In view
of the apostle' s previous strong anti-judaistic expressions, he feels impelled,
by the insertion of and, to emphasize this expression of his true attitude
towards his people."  Hebrew Christian scholar, Arnold
Fruchtenbaum summaries the passage as follows:
is concerned with Gentiles who were attempting to attain salvation through the
Law. The ones deceiving them were the Judaizers, who were Jews demanding
adherence to the Law of Moses. To them, a Gentile first had to convert to
Judaism before he was qualified for salvation through Christ. In verse fifteen
Paul states that the important thing for salvation is faith, resulting in the
new man. He then pronounces a blessing on two groups who would follow this
rule of salvation by faith alone. The first group is the them, the Gentile Christians to and of whom he had
devoted most of the epistle. The second group is the Israel of God. These are
Hebrew Christians who, in contrast with the Judaizers, followed the rule of
salvation by faith alone. Again a distinction between the two groups is seen,
for the Hebrew Christians alone are the Israel of God. It is a matter of
position which here acts out a definite function.
Always Means Israel
A number of years ago, I was
discussing biblical prophecy with a person who was writing articles in a
magazine from a replacement theology perspective. I kept hammering away at him
with the slogan " Israel always means Israel," as he would replace Israel with
the church in Old Testament passage after passage. Finally he complained to me
something along the lines of " You keep bringing in your theological
presupposition that ' Israel always means Israel.' " I replied that this was not
a theological a priori, instead it was an exegetical conclusion; and so it is.
fact, there is not a single instance in the entire Bible where Israel refers to
anything other than the Jewish people. Burton declares,
is, in fact, no instance of his [Paul] using Israel except of the Jewish nation
or a part thereof. These facts favour the interpretation of the expression as
applying not to the Christian community, but to Jews; yet, in view of " of God,"
not to the whole Jewish nation, but to the pious Israel, the remnant according
to the election of grace (Rom. 11:5).
Lewis Johnson is equally insistent when he says,
is no instance in biblical literature of the term Israel being used in the sense of the church, or the
people of God composed of both believing ethnic Jews and Gentiles. Nor, on the
other hand, as one might expect if there were such usage, does the phrase ta
ethnÉ (KJV, " the Gentiles" ) ever
mean the non-Christian world specifically, but only the non-Jewish peoples,
although such are generally non-Christians.
summaries the distinction between Israel and the church as follows:
first evidence is the fact that the church was born at Pentecost, whereas
Israel had existed for many centuries. . . .
second evidence is that certain events in the ministry of the Messiah were
essential to the establishment of the church- the church does not come into
being until certain events have taken place. . . .
third evidence is the mystery character of the church. . . .
fourth evidence that the church is distinct from Israel is the unique
relationship between Jews and the Gentiles, called one new man in Ephesians
2:15. . . .
fifth evidence for the distinction between Israel and the church is found in
Galatians 6:16. . . .
one more observation can be made. In the book of Acts, both Israel and the
church exist simultaneously. The term Israel is used twenty times and ekklesia (church) nineteen times, yet the two groups are
always kept distinct.
is not just a theological belief that " Israel always means Israel," and that
Israel and the church are distinct peoples of God. These things are
specifically taught in the Bible. We are currently living in the church age,
which will end with the any-moment rapture when the last person is saved into
the body of Christ. Then, the history will complete the final week of Daniel' s
seventy-week prophecy, which will end with Israel' s conversion to Jesus as
their Messiah. This will lead to the thousand-year kingdom in which Israel
will be the head over all the nations. Not only does the Bible distinguish
between God' s plan for Israel and His plan for the church, but it also teaches
a distinction between saved and lost Jewish people in Galatians 6:16. This is
one of the things denied by replacement theology. C. E. B. Canfield has said
the following concerning this matter.
is only where the Church persists in refusing to learn this message, where it
secretly- perhaps quite unconsciously!- believes that its own existence is based
on human achievement, and so fails to understand God' s mercy to itself, that it
is unable to believe in God' s mercy for still unbelieving Israel, and so
entertains the ugly and unscriptural notion that God has cast off His people
Israel and simply replaced it by the Christian Church. These three chapters
[Romans 9- 11] emphatically forbid us to speak of the Church as having once and
for all taken the place of the Jewish people. . . . But the assumption that
the Church has simply replaced Israel as the people of God is extremely common.
. . . And I confess with shame to having also myself used in print on more
than one occasion this language of the replacement of Israel by the Church.