This is part six in a series we are doing on Replacement Theology. We are going through a lecture from Dr. Gary Burge, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. I want reiterate what we said in part one—that we are not seeking to insult Dr. Burge. In fact, I found his demeanor honoring and humble. We are seeking to simply answer the question: Are the promises of Abraham to natural Israel of the Land of Israel still valid under the New Testament or, as Dr. Burge maintains, have these promises been fulfilled in Yeshua and therefore are no longer binding.
In blogs six and seven I want to examine several statements and questions that Dr. Burge made and hold them up against the Bible. Some of the passages we have used before… but that’s a good thing, because repetition of key passages will help you remember them and thus you will be able to give an answer when challenged.
Dr. Burge: “If someone has a Jewish linage and does not share the faith of Abraham, much less faith in Christ, are they entitled to benefits [from the Abrahamic covenant]?”
The answer is yes, as Paul makes this clear in Romans three:
What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. (Rom. 3:1-4a)
The covenants and promises of God are still in affect, despite Israel’s unbelief. This passage comes right after Paul tells the Romans that circumcision is of no value; but he is speaking in regards to salvation. The cutting of one’s flesh cannot save one’s soul. But then, to be clear, he says that there is much advantage in being a Jew and that there is ‘profit [in] circumcision’ to the Jew in connection with God’s covenant with Abraham—not a salvific covenant (a covenant that promises eternal life), but a covenant connected to the Land of Israel and favor in this life.
Burge uses the word entitled. He seems to be saying, Can these Jews make a demand on God, despite their rejection of His Messiah? I would not use the word entitled. Rather, I would say, The grace of God is still upon the Jewish people because of God’s faithfulness to His promises, His plan for world redemption, and for the sake of the patriarchs.
Indeed, the founders of the state of Israel were not seeking to make a claim on God—many were atheists coming out of the Holocaust and others were socialists. Still, God raised up Israel despite their lack of faith, without them even knowing, that it was He who was backing them.
But even if Burge were correct—that Jews who do not believe are not entitled to the Land of Israel—that would only mean that we who do believe, Messianic Jews, are entitled to the Land. In this argument he has not maintained that the covenant is broken, only the Jews are because of unbelief—but what of Jewish believers (Although he does make his position clearer later: all Land Promises have been fulfilled in Messiah.)
Dr. Burge: [Are] the Land Promises given to Abraham and his descendants still enforced today?
It all depends on how you interpret the word everlasting. Traditionally, it means, forever. God tells Abraham it is a Brit Olam—an everlasting covenant.
And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Gen. 17:7-8)
The real question is, can God lie? And we know the answer to that.
…in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began… (Titus 1:2)
If we cannot trust God that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, then how can we know that we are truly going to heaven? Or to put it another way—is it possible that God remains faithful to unbelieving Israel as a sign to those of us who believe that He will be faithful to us as well? If God can hold up His promise to those who have rejected Him, how much more will He make good on His promise of eternal life to us who believe?
And beyond that, how do we know we are saved? Is it by our great amount of good deeds or is it through faith in Yeshua—despite our utter failure to keep God’s law? God gave us eternal life as a free gift—surely He can give a temporal land to a people group for His own purposes.
You cannot interpret the New Covenant without the Old Covenant
Dan Juster, in his sharing in response to Dr. Burge, wisely points out that you cannot interpret the New Covenant apart from the Old Covenant. So much of Paul’s teaching is an explanation of the Old Covenant. If you are to say that the Land Promises have been fulfilled in Messiah or that they are cancelled out by the New Covenant, then you have to cut out large sections of the Scriptures… and to be clear, the early believers only had the Old Covenant Scriptures for several decades as spiritual food, until the New Covenant was written. There isn’t even a hint in the New Covenant that the apostles felt that the Land Promises were fulfilled and thus, not longer valid. This is a conjecture theology—guesswork at best.