Supersessionism

I have just read your very intelligent contribution to the series of articles at Theopolis on the relation of Israel to the Church. I would describe myself as supersessionist, but in the sense that Israel and the Church are one, because the Church, rather than a newly created covenant people in parallel with ethnic Israel, is the crucified and resurrected people of the covenant established in the calling of Abraham, which has been brought to a greater level of glory and maturity in Christ. In this way of thinking, the only supersession, or replacement, which has taken place, is the substitution of believing Gentiles for unbelieving Jews in the olive tree of Israel.

I nevertheless believe that Romans 8-11 speaks of a national conversion of the Jewish people at the end of this age. It is also quite apparent that in spite of their rejection of Christ, Paul believes that they are loved of God and retain their uniqueness as the appointed messengers of his salvation for the sake of the nations.

But insofar as they have rejected Christ, who is the yes of the Father unto all the promises made unto Israel, how are we to understand Paul’s assertion about the “gifts and callings of God” to them being “irrevocable”? It is difficult, for example, to comprehend how their “callings”, if we are to understand that as a reference to their priestly vocation as a light to the nations, is capable of being realized so long as they reject Christ.

Any light you can shed for me on this mystery would be greatly appreciated.

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What Makes Gathered Worship Different?

A brother challenged me after reading my book, where I talk about how sacred space and time are transformed through the Lord Jesus from being temple- and sabbath-oriented, to being person- and whole-life-oriented. He suggested that I am inconsistent to simultaneously hold that attending church is worship per se, and that we enter the heavenly court during this time (a view I briefly argue for here).

He linked me to the work of a brother of yours, Tony Payne of the Sidney Anglicans, who argues for a view in which attending church is not any more worship than any other part of life, but merely an embodiment and acting-out of the communion we have at all times in the Lord Jesus—a view he dubs the “gathered in heaven” model of church.

I’m sympathetic to Tony’s view, but I equally find it hard to abandon the idea that meeting on the Lord’s Day is especially worship in some sense (perhaps something like ritual worship as opposed to mundane worship). Similarly, although I agree that we are, at all times, in the presence of God through his Spirit, there does nonetheless seem something significant about the symbolic representation of drawing near to his throne, which actually does draw heaven and earth together in a way that isn’t true during the ordinary course of life. One possible avenue of relieving this tension that has occurred to me is in the threefold intensification of sacred space in the temple itself; can we perhaps correlate the “mundane” worship of Rom. 12:1 to service in the courtyard, while the “ritual” worship I see hinted at in Acts 13:2; 1 Cor. 14:25 is service in the Holy Place, with Jesus’ everlasting service being in the Holy of Holies?

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What Should We Make of Jeremiah’s Prophecy of a New Covenant?

As a paedobaptist, I am curious how would you respond to the credobaptist argument from the nature of the new covenant as described in Jer 31:31–34. They argue that Jeremiah pictures the newness of the new covenant consisting in its being made with an entirely regenerate/forgiven/saved community. Credobaptists then would argue that this change in the nature of the covenant people implies a change in the administration of the covenant sign as well, such that it should now only be applied to those who evidence themselves to be regenerate by means of a credible profession of faith. In addressing this question, I would love to hear your basic view of how the various covenants in Scripture relate to one another and develop over time.

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