“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as an unashamed labourer, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
One of the significant failures of the Church over the centuries has been that of inaccurate teaching of the Word of God.
Doctrines have evolved that are based on misinterpretation of scripture and, being handed down from generation to generation means that they have become entrenched in orthodox Christianity. The consequence of this failure to “rightly divide”, or teach accurately, the Word of truth, is widespread lawlessness in scriptural interpretation.
One example of this lawlessness is the doctrine, “once saved always saved”, which can perhaps be justified by a narrow circumscribed reading of scripture, but which must surely be rejected when the whole body of scripture is consulted.
Another example is “replacement theology”; that is, the doctrine that the Church has replaced Israel and thus, the promises to Israel are now applicable to the Church. There are many more examples that could be given, but the error in rightly dividing the word of truth that is under consideration here is “replacement theology”.
The fact is that there is a distinct division in the scriptures between those that apply to Israel and those that apply to the Church (which includes Jews). Anyone reading the Bible with any ordinary concentration, let alone assistance of the Holy Spirit, cannot fail to see that one nation, Israel, is at the centre of much of what God has done and is doing. One nation alone, Israel, is the subject of God’s blessings; one nation alone, Israel, has been singled out by God for a covenant relationship with Him. While individuals of any race or nation may enter into the covenant that God has made with Israel, the only nation given that privilege, as a nation, is Israel.
The error that is “replacement theology” gives the Church a role to which it is not entitled and steals the covenant promises of God that are meant for Israel; it teaches that the Church has taken the place of Israel in the scriptures and must establish the kingdom of God on earth before Jesus will return.
But the scripture clearly shows that there are striking contrasts in God’s relationship with Israel and His relationship with the Church and these contrasts impact upon their relative roles, purposes and practices. For example, whereas the relationship of Israel to God is established by covenant, that of the Church is established by a “new birth”; moreover it shows that the scriptures dealing with Israel are focused principally on temporal and earthly matters, whereas those of the Church are connected almost exclusively with spiritual and heavenly matters.
Israel began with Abraham and the promises to him were reaffirmed to Isaac and Jacob, who God renamed Israel. The Church, on the other hand, began with the ascension of Christ Jesus and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Church was unknown before Christ, being “hid in Christ”, as Paul told the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:3-6).