What is Replacement Theology?
Having studied church history both in college and seminary, I am quick to point out to people that I am not a protestant. I do so to point out the key issues that separates the Baptists from the Protestant and Catholic denominations.
The Baptists, as a whole, are not Protestants because they do not trace their origins to the Protestant Reformation. The Baptist along with a few other denominations trace their roots back to the First Century Church through small remnant groups that were never a part of the Roman Catholic Church. Groups such as the Anabaptists, who held to key doctrinal truths that were taught in the Early Church and recorded in the New Testament. These key doctrines were lost when the 2nd and 3rd century Church began to believe that the Church had replaced Israel in God’s program. This one doctrinal error lead to the development of the Catholic Church and in some extent shaped the Protestant Reformation movement as well.
Because we, the remnant groups, seek to pattern ourselves after the First Century Church, we hold to certain doctrines that are often missing in Protestant and Catholic churches. Let me list these doctrines to illustrate my point.
1) The pastor of the local congregation is the highest ranking human leader of the local congregation – there are no priests, bishops, cardinals or popes – there was never any hierarchical rule over the first Century Church nor was there ever one commanded (Eph. 4:11-16). The only ones who might have fallen into this category were the Apostles, but their work was completed with their death, John being the last.
2) The priesthood of believers – there is no human priest that we must go through to enter into the presence of God as was necessary in the OT. Instead, Christ today is our High Priest and the only intercessor between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). Therefore, every believer has direct access to the Father through our Savior Jesus Christ. Take note of just a few of the references that openly declare this. (Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Peter 2:4-5. 9-10)
3) Autonomy of the Local Church – each individual local church is to govern itself rather than be answerable to a higher order of leadership which governs all the churches of a given denomination. Such hierarchical governments often owns the property of the local church, dictates to it who will pastor it, what it will believe and teach, and the amount and direction of its giving. An examination of 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; Eph. 4:11-16) shows that the leadership of the local church was given the authority to govern the affairs of congregation in which it serves. It has no jurisdiction over other churches.
4) Christ died Once for all – Christ’s death on the cross was a one time event and paid for all the sins ever committed by mankind. No more atonement is necessary to pay for sin for Christ has paid it all. (Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10). The Roman Church departed from this truth and began to re-offer Christ in the form of the Mass and Last Rights in order to atone for additional sins committed since the last Mass. In doing so they put our Lord to an open shame for they are declaring that Christ, as God, was incapable of dying once for all and that He lied when He said on the cross, “It is finished.” Take a good look at Heb. 6:4-6)
5) No altar – since Christ died once for all, then the altar is no longer needed. An altar is only needed when there is still sin present that needs to be removed, but since Christ’s death removed all sin, therefore the altar is a thing of the past. This the reason why in Catholic and Protestant churches you will usually find the pulpit at the side of the platform so that an altar can be placed in the center of the platform. The reason they continue to have an altar is their belief that the taking of communion in some part plays a roll in the removal of believer’s sin. However, in Non-Protestant/ Catholic churches, there is not an altar but in its place is a pulpit from which to proclaim the Word of God. The old “altar” calls” which have been practiced in churches for years is a mistaken term in Non-Protestant churches. They have no altar and so to call some to an altar is to call them to an non-existent place. A better call would be a call to come forward or to the pulpit to make a decision for Christ. As a side note, no where in the New Testament is there ever mentioned an “altar call” or any call to come forward. This is a practice that was begun in many of the revivals that shaped this nation in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
6) Communion is a memorial – communion (Lord’s Supper) has no redeeming value with regards to salvation. It rather functions as a memorial whereby the work of Christ is continually kept before us to remember. In some Protestant Churches and in Catholic Churches, communion or the Mass has some form of redemptive qualities. Paul made it clear in 1 Cor. 11:23-26 that this is to be done “in remembrance of me”.
7) Water Baptism of believers only – also called “believer’s baptism”, it speaks of the fact that those who are water baptized must first be saved. This was the practice of the First Century Church as well as the remnant churches. Never is there ever a call or mention in the NT of infants being baptized. Rather the Bible makes it clear that baptism always follows salvation through faith in Christ alone. Let me give a few examples of how faith always preceded water baptism. (Acts 2:41; 8:12-13; 36-39)
8) Water Baptism does not save – water baptism is not necessary to salvation but only repentant faith in Christ is necessary. This is supported by the fact that the one thief on the cross was not baptized yet Jesus told him He would see him in paradise or heaven.” Likewise, in probably 95% of all verses that address the way of salvation water baptism is never mentioned. If it is necessary for salvation than one would expect to find it mentioned everywhere the gospel is recorded. Take for example John 3:16 and Eph. 2:8-10. Repentant faith in Christ as Savior and God is the required for salvation
9) Water Baptism is by immersion only – the term “baptism” or “baptized” is not a translation of the Greek word but rather an alteration of the Greek to make it sound English. The reason this was done was because the term literally means to “fully or completely immerse in water.” When the translators of the KJV came to this term they had a dilemma since many of them were from Protestant Churches that practiced pouring and sprinkling. If they translated the term “immersed” they would be going contrary to their church doctrine so they side step the issue by not translating it. However, John practiced water baptism by immersion (doing so in the Jordon because “there was much water there” which would only be needed for immersion) and so did the disciples of Jesus. (John 3:23-24)
10) Christ is the Head of the Church – not the Pope or any other religious leaders. The following passages bear this out clearly. (1 Cor 11:2-4; Eph 1:22-23; 4:15-16; Col 1:15-18;
11) Israel is still God’s chosen people – God has not rejected Israel and His promises to her because of role in the death of the Messiah. God still has Israel in His program as witnessed in the unconditional promises He made to Israel which have yet to be fulfilled. Please indicates that these promises were still in effect in the NT times as did Peter (Acts 3:12-26; Rom. 9:1-5),
Likewise, we see Israel’s roll in the future with the selection of the 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev. 7, 11) and the conflict that will surround Israel during the later part of the coming Tribulation as foretold by our Lord in Matt. 24-25 and Rev. 12.
It is the departure from this truth that lead to the development of the Roman Catholic Church and later the Protestant Reformation. Their belief that the Church had replaced Israel in God’s program started them down a slippery slope doctrinally that eventually resulted in their adopting and adapting the OT worship system for use in the church. Thus the pastor became a priest. The high priest of the OT became the Pope of the NT. The Day of Atonement in the OT became the mass in the NT. Though the Protestant churches threw off much of the false doctrines of the Catholic Church, they continued to share with them the belief that Israel has been rejected by God and replaced by the Church.
12) Literal understanding of Future events – the prophecies of the Second Coming of Christ are to be understood as literally as the prophecies given for the First Coming. The Catholic and Protestant Churches have had to “allegorize” or use a non-literal interpretation of Second Coming Prophecy because much of it relates to Israel which they believe has been rejected. Therefore to apply these “Israelite prophecies” to the Church, they can not apply them literally so they “spiritualize” them away. One of their leading writers once said that if the Second Coming prophecies were to be understood literally as the First Coming prophecies were, one would have to believe that Israel was still in God’s program.
Replacement theology, that of the Catholic and Protestant Churches has been the cause of much hatred and persecution of the Jewish people over the centuries. In fact, Martin Luther so loathed the Jews because of their role in the crucifixion of Christ, he stopped just short of calling for the complete annihilation of all Jews. His views were quoted years later by a German dictator (Hitler) to justify the holocaust.
God still has the Jewish people in His program and we should therefore support them as a people and as a nation. I believe God has blessed America because America has blessed Israel and I believe we have an obligation to pray for them and if possible reach them for Christ. As one Jewish missionary put it, “the most Jewish thing a Jew can do is to accept Jesus as their Messiah.”
Therefore, there are certain doctrinal truths that we hold too that you will not find in the Catholic Church or in most of the Protestant Churches as wellThey usually look puzzled since they know that I am a Baptist pastor and they usually respond by saying they thought Baptist were protestants.