There is a line of thought that is pervasive in the tradition that I was raised – that Israel and the Church are two separate entities with two separate purposes and sets of promises. The more I studied Scripture and examined the things I was taught in childhood, the more I have concluded that this dichotomy between Israel and the church is a false one. The common misconception held by those who oppose the view that the Church is Israel that includes Gentiles (one might even say Jew and Gentile have been made into ‘one fold’… wait… Someone did say that – John 10:16), and not a separate group from Israel, is that they try to say that it teaches the church has replaced Israel. Due to this, some call it “replacement theology”. This is definitely a false accusation, but nothing a little geography lesson by N.T. Wright can’t help clear up.
“We lived for four years by the banks of the Ottawa river, north-west of Montreal. It is a great river, already over 400 miles long by the time it passed our village. By the time it reached us it was over a mile wide. Not far downstream, however, this great river flows into the St. Lawrence, which makes even the Ottawa river look small. It carries the water from the Great Lakes, and not only the water; ocean-going boats sail to an fro up its seaway. The two rivers have quote different characters. The Ottawa rises in the cold, northern reaches of Quebec and Ontario. The St. Lawrence runs along the twisting border between Canada and the United States.
Once the two rivers have joined together, just upstream from Montreal, they are simply known as the St. Lawrence. They do not become the St. Lawrence/Ottawa river. The noble river from the north is subsumed into the larger one from the west. If someone were to paddle a canoe downstream along the Ottawa river, once it had joined the St. Lawrence they wouldn’t be able to say that they were still really on the Ottawa. They would have joined the mainstream.” [N.T. Wright, “Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters”, WJK, 2004, pg. 25.]
So you see? Jesus is the true Israelite, the promised seed of Abraham through Whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. To be grafted into this Vine is to be joined to the mainstream. The church is like the St. Lawrence/Ottawa river. God has not set Israel aside for a while and opted for another people group, but rather subsumed the Gentiles into it. God is righteous – Covenant-keeping. He hasn’t varied from His “through-Israel-for-the-world” plan, and He never will.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”