Paul, a Jew himself, was not called to preach to the Jews (although he initially did until they proved themselves “unworthy of eternal life”) but to be an apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13) so that the “unsearchable riches of Christ” may be preached among them (Eph 3:8). It is interesting that God would choose and call a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee to bring the gospel to those considered “unclean” by him and his race. As we will learn, Paul was the best man for the job and he had help from above. It was the grace of God, Paul admits, that called him (Gal 1:16) and made him what he became (1 Cor 15:10). Immediately after his conversion, Paul spent three years in Arabia where he received fresh divine revelation and understanding through the Holy Spirit (he now writes about it to the faithful). The revelation he received is crucial to Paul, who was schooled in the Old Covenant, to make the transition into the New Covenant and help others do the same. With the newly acquired knowledge and understanding, Paul is now used by God to bridge the Old with the New, the Jews with the Greeks. This is the fulfillment of the “mystery which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God”.
In both his letters (to the Romans and the faithful), Paul speaks of “the mystery” that has been hidden but now is revealed, and we should not be ignorant of it. This mystery was in God, which means that this plan had been made from the beginning; it was not an after-thought, a Plan B that God had to hurriedly think of in response to Israel’s rejection of the Messiah.
The mystery was hidden not only from Man, but also from the “principalities and powers in the heavenly place”. It is the job of the church to make it known to them. The reason God had hidden the plan for so long was to focus the eyes of all (in heaven and on earth) on the nation of Israel. For this reason, throughout history, the Jews have been the most persecuted race on the earth – until recently. The 20th Century has seen a spike in persecution and murder of Christians. The International Journal of Missionary Research states that “More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined. 171,000 Christians were martyred in 2005 (alone)”.
Why is this so? Does this prove that the Church has indeed replaced Israel as the Chosen People? This would be an idea that the proponents of the Replacement Theology would agree to. But, no! There is another reason for this, quite to the contrary.
The “mystery,” as we have seen, is a plan that God had from the beginning. And the plan is that “the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Eph 3:6). This is made possible through “ingrafting” – a metaphor Paul used in his epistle to the Romans. In a nutshell, God grafted wild olive branches (representing Gentile believers) onto the natural olive tree (representing Israel). Having been grafted in, each branch becomes “a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree” (Rom 11:17). The promises (most of it, at least) that God made to Israel now also belong to the Gentiles.
With the Jews and the Gentiles now “organically” joined together, like a pair of Siamese twins, persecution that is aimed at one is at the same time aimed at the other. The joining of the Jews and the Gentiles has always been taking place, but more so in the last half century or so. This explains the spike in the persecution of Christians.
The One New Man is the True Body of Christ. What has been in existence for most of the 2,000 years since Acts 2 (fondly referred to as the Birth of the Church) has been an incomplete Body. No wonder it has not been able to do many things, such as completing the Great Commission. The Gentile Church cannot complete the Great Commission without its Jewish brethren. But in order for that to happen, the Gentile Church must engage in “Reverse Evangelism”, preaching the gospel back to the Jews.
The One New Man is a mystery not because it was hidden (though it had been hidden for centuries) but because few took note of it, much less understood it, when it was revealed.
Paul’s letter to the Romans, in which the mystery was first revealed to the Elect at large (through the well known eleventh chapter), was written around 56-57 AD. This was followed closely in 62 AD by his epistle to the faithful (commonly known as The Epistle to the Ephesians) in which the mystery was again spoken of. In spite of this, there were a few who were “wise in [their] own opinion”. They developed a different theology that was contrary to the revealed mystery known as The Replacement Theology.
Justin Marty was the first to view “the Christian church as ‘ the true spiritual Israel’ around A.D. 160. Justin’s views laid the groundwork for the growing belief that the church had superseded or replaced Israel. This later became known as the Replacement Theology. Replacement theology has been “the consensus of the church from the middle of the second century A. D. to the present day, with few exceptions.”
Walt Kaiser tells us that replacement theology, “declared that the Church, Abraham’s spiritual seed, had replaced national Israel in that it had transcended and fulfilled the terms of the covenant given to Israel, which covenant Israel had lost because of disobedience.”5 European scholar, Ronald Diprose, defines replacement theology as follows: “the Church completely and permanently replaced ethnic Israel in the working out of God’s plan and as recipient of Old Testament promises addressed to Israel.” It appears that supersessionists believe that Israel is a “has been” and has no future in the plan of God. The Church inherits all the blessings, while Israel is meant to endure only curses.
“The doctrine of replacement theology reflects a wide range of Christian thinking,” notes Menachem Benhayim. “From utterly malignant anti-Jewish hatred to simple misunderstanding and misapplication of biblical texts.”14 Since Israel is a subject found on just about every page of the Old and New Testaments, to get that subject wrong can only lead to a mega-distortion of Scripture. This has indeed been the case throughout the history of the church.
Replacement theology has been the fuel that has energized Medieval anti-Semitism, Eastern European pogroms, the Holocaust and contemporary disdain for the modern state of Israel. Wherever replacement theology has flourished, the Jews have had to run for cover.