Is Supersessionism Biblical?

HomeChristianity and the BibleIs Supersessionism Biblical?

Supersessionism is the idea that the old covenant has been replaced – superseded – by the new covenant. By itself, this idea is entirely biblical. However: some other ideas are often lumped together with supersessionism, so we need to examine each idea separately.

Supersessionism

To supersede is to replace one thing with another thing. This idea, in context, is that the old covenant has been replaced by the new covenant. To be more specific, the Mosaic covenant – the agreement that God made with the ancient Israelites after rescuing them from slavery in Egypt – has been replaced by the new covenant that Jesus instituted by His death and resurrection. This idea is entirely biblical. Without question, the clear teaching of the New Testament is that the old covenant – which only applied to ancient Israel and foreigners who chose to live in the promised land – is no longer valid. It has been replaced by the new covenant. Moses, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel wrote about a new covenant, and observant Jews looked ahead to the time when God would make that change.

At the last supper, Jesus said, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Keep in mind that Jesus was talking to His disciples, all of whom were observant Jews living in the promised land.

In Hebrews 8:6-7 we see clearly the idea that the new covenant supersedes the old: …the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs [the Jewish high priests] as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.

The biblical idea that the new covenant has replaced the old is how we know the following:

… and more. The unique way that God interacted with ancient Israel no longer applies to Israel. The old covenant has been replaced by the new, and Gentiles have been included. That’s everybody.

Replacement Theology

An idea commonly associated with supersessionism is replacement theology. It’s the idea that the church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people… that we have ‘superseded’ them. This idea is entirely unbiblical. Christians have not replaced Israel. We have been grafted in. The image is of a fruit tree: a gardener can attach to a fruit tree the branch of another tree, and it can live and grow. It doesn’t replace the original tree, and it doesn’t become a different kind of branch. They have simply been joined together. Israel is the tree, and Christians have been joined with them in God’s plan of salvation. Jew and Gentile alike are both under the new covenant.

The apostle Paul explains this in Romans 11. You should read the whole chapter.

You might also read Ephesians 2:14-18. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Christians have not replaced Israel as God’s chosen people, nor has the church become ‘true Israel.’ We have joined them, but we have not become them… and we are all participants in the new covenant.


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