In the last post, I summarized Robert Reymond’s Covenant Theology viewpoint in B&H’s Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views. This post presents the there responses to his chapter.
Since Thomas has the sharpest disagreement with Reymond, I will summarize his response in more detail and give a few comments of my own.
1. The dependability of God’s promises
Thomas criticizes Reymond’s use of Genesis 3:15, asserting that it “was a direct promise to the serpent and Satan, not to humans” (p69). I find this a little odd; Adam and Eve were present to hear this pronouncement, so surely they would treasure it as a promise for themselves. Thomas’ point here is that if we can trust that “God’s promise to the serpent was bound to be fulfilled, so are his unconditional promises to Abraham and his descendants” (p69).
2. The Abrahamic covenant
Thomas finds fault in Reymond’s view that the promises and blessings in Abraham’s covenant referred to both physical and spiritual descendants and differing fulfillments. By asserting this, Reymond “violates the traditional principle of single meaning” (p71). What’s more, Reymond’s arguments are drawn from the New Testament, and not “the historical context of the Genesis statements” (p70). The New Testament has its own context and cannot change the original OT context. For example, “one cannot learn…God’s intention in Genesis by resorting to Paul’s words in Eph 2:11-13” (p70).
In response to Thomas, however, Paul in Romans 9 is actually commenting on Genesis and claiming that from Genesis itself one can see that not all Abraham’s descendants received the promise. Thomas said that the covenant is for “Abraham and his descendants” (p71), but Ishmael did not receive the promises, nor did Esau, the firstborn of Isaac the son of promise. One need not read Romans to come to this conclusion that not all sons of Abraham are in fact sons of Abraham (Rom 9:6). I’m not defending Reymond’s view, just challenging Thomas’ response.
3. The distinction of Israel and the church.
Thomas responds to the “replacement theology” understanding of Matthew 21:33-45. He holds that nation elsewhere in the NT “usually” and “frequently” (which is it?) refers to Israel; therefore, “quite obviously, Israel is the nation in view in Matt 21:43” (p72). This means that Jesus is not predicting any kind of replacement of Israel by the church, but rather that while generation rejects Christ, “the future generation of Israel […] will gladly trust Jesus as their Messiah and Savior” (p73).
Though I reject Reymond’s view and agree with Thomas on a future repentance of Israel, I find Thomas’ reading of Matt 21:33-45 unconvincing. Like Reymond, Thomas doesn’t distinguish between the vineyard and the tenants. I don’t see how a parable of a vineyard being taken away from its tenants and given to other tenants can be interpreted as Israel rejecting Jesus, but repenting later.
For Reymond, if OT saints had conscious faith in the Messiah, then there cannot be multiple ways of salvation. Saucy denies both the assertion that dispensationalism teaches multiple ways of salvation and that OT saints were saved through conscious faith in the coming Messiah, the latter being “impossible to demonstrate” (p77).
Saucy has two major points of disagreement: 1) the nature of Israel and 2) the millennial reign.
Reymond misses that Israel’s calling is not only to salvation but to mission. This means that holding to a unique identity for Israel does not automatically make them greater than other nations. He gives a different reading of Matt 21:33-45, where he recognises (correctly, in my opinion) that the rejection is not aimed at the nation as a whole, but the tenants; the “spiritual and political leaders” (p79). I’m surprised that both Reymond and Thomas seem to miss this point, as it is used by both to undergird their views.
Chad Brand and Tom Pratt
Brand and Pratt reject Reymond’s view of baptism replacing circumcision as the sign of the covenant for believers’ children. In their eyes, Reymond’s view has the covenants “flatten out and remain intact across all time”. Instead, they see that “successive covenants incorporate some of the material from previous covenants, but they generally discard material as well” (p84). So the infant circumcision of the Abrahamic covenant does not carry over into the New Covenant.
Second, Brand and Pratt “do not affirm replacement theology in its entirety” and they are not “sympathetic with the term in the way that Reymond uses it” (p85). I expected more disagreement with Reymond and articulation of where they differ.
Many thanks to B&H for a review copy. Check back soon for the traditional dispensational view of Israel and the church.