Israel AND THE Church
The Olive Tree
The enigma of the Olive Tree
The Olive Tree is not the Church
The Olive Tree in not Israel
The meaning of the Olive Tree
God’s covenant with mankind
God’s people by faith
God’s identification with His people
God’s people in the New Testament
Similarity of the church and spiritual Israel
A true Jew
The presence of God
Faith not Law
Gentiles provoke Jews
Difference between Israel and the Church
Empirical and Spiritual Israel
The Country of Israel
The relationship of Israel to the New Testament Church has always been a great theological battleground, and a challenging topic among Christians since the early days of the church. On the one hand some reformed Theologians see literal Israel as virtually swallowed up or displaced by the church or spiritual Israel. On the other hand, dispensationalists regard Israel and the Church as two eternally separate entities with which God deals in different ways. This papers aim is to present an ecclesiological argument regarding the topic of the “Church and Israel.” The eschatological significance of Israel is not taken into consideration.
Firstly, we will see what the Olive Tree in Romans 11 could mean. Secondly, we will see the covenant of God with mankind. Thirdly, we will discover the similarity, and fourthly the difference between Israel and the Church.
The Olive Tree in Romans 11
The Olive Tree in Romans 11 has been an enigma to many Bible interpreters throughout the centuries of the Church age. Most amillennial commentaries have jumped to the conclusion that the Olive Tree is the Church, beginning in Old Testament times and continuing on to the present in its current form. According to this view the Church becomes the new improved Israel, and the Jewish people are relegated to the dustbin of history as an irrelevant part of God’s plan, sort of like an appendix – a vestigial organ. With this kind of thinking the replacement theology was born and continues as the view of the vast majority of church scholars.
At the other extreme, some more recent interpreters have suggested that the Olive Tree is Israel, the Jewish people, and the Gentile believers, through their being grafted in, have become Israelites, now have a “Jewish heart,” and have considered themselves as Jews.
According to the writers understanding, the Olive Tree is the not the Church. Some people are born naturally into the Olive Tree, but no one is born physically into the Church, the Body of Christ. There is only one way to enter into the body of Christ. It is by being born again by personal faith in the Lord Jesus (John 3:16). Furthermore, it is clear from the New Testament that the Church began at Pentecost. The Olive Tree, which began with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob cannot be identical to the Church.
Also, the Olive Tree cannot be Israel. Some natural branches are broken off the Olive Tree, representing the Jews who do not believe in Jesus the Messiah, even though they are physically still alive. They are physically alive but are spiritually dead, broken off branches. However, no one can be broken off from Israel, as long as he is physically alive. Once a person is born into the covenant nation of Israel, he remains with in it until physically dead.
With regard to Ephesians 3:15 the writer agrees with the suggestion of Thomas S. McCall that the Olive Tree represents one people of God, the spiritual Commonwealth of Israel. It is spiritual, because only righteous, born-again, blood-bought believers are in the Olive Tree, whether Jews or Gentiles. It pertains to Israel, because the roots are the fathers of Israel – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and the natural branches are Messianic Jews, who remain in the Olive Tree by virtue of their faith in Yeshua, the Christ.
God’s covenant with mankind
The covenant began with God’s creation of a paradise in the garden (Genesis 2). This was the place were people could receive all of God’s blessings, and commune in fellowship with Him. Later on, after the tragic fall of man, God made a covenant with Abraham. Genesis 15:5 tells us: “Abraham believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” On this basis we read later in Genesis 17:7, that God made an everlasting covenant with him and his desendants through the sign of circumcision for all male people.
 Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 570.
 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology , vol. 4 (Dallas: Dallas Seminary, 1948), 29.
 Thomas S. McCall, “What is the Olive Free?” in Levit Letter , March 2001, http://www.levitt.com/essays/olivetree-church.html (24 November 2007).
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid., 3.
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