Romans Chapters 9-11.
Claudius and Nero
During the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius (AD 41 to 54) all of the Jews were expelled from Rome including the believers in the Lord Jesus. In the book of Acts we find that Paul came to Corinth and met with a prominent Messianic believer and his wife. They too had been expelled from Rome. We read about this; “After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.” (Acts 18:1-2) After Claudius was gone the Roman Emperor Nero came to power. (AD 54-68) When he realised that the Jews were good for the economy of Rome he brought them back to the city.
A schism in the making
When Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome he had in mind this situation. After the Jewish believers had been expelled from Rome the Gentile believers started to become exclusive in their thinking and many looked down on their Jewish brothers and sisters. This was a very early form of replacement theology although it was not defined as such at that time. Paul had not started the Church in Rome but had apostolic authority from the Lord Jesus over the wider Body of the Messiah. Paul’s letter was timely as there was a clear and present danger of a schism in the making. Satan was trying to destroy the unity of the believers in Rome because their testimony and witness to the Lord Jesus was known throughout the empire. (Romans 1:8) In his letter to the Jewish and Gentile believers at Rome Paul devoted a sizable part of his letter to the relationship that should exist between Israel and the Church Biblically.
When the Roman Emperor Constantine (AD 272-227) came to power he supposedly became a Christian and made Christianity the state religion of Rome. Very quickly Greco-Roman thought came into play where scripture was concerned and the Patristic Fathers of the Church started to interpret scripture through those lenses. Very quickly the Institutionalized Church became detached from its Hebraic roots and started to interpret the scriptures as a western book and not as a Jewish one. Instead of the Church being led by apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and evangelists with elders ordained in every church they started a clergy class separate and distinct from the common people.
Christianity became an institution rather than a living and vital fellowships of believers moving in the gifts of the Spirit and guided by the supreme authority of scripture alone. The man who really kick started the idea that the Church had replaced Israel was Augustine of Hippo. He came up with the idea that the Millennium was spiritual and not a literal 1,000 years. Those who followed him sought to make the promises made to Israel somehow apply to the Church and furthermore decided that God had finished with Israel as a people. Anti-Semitism started to read its ugly head.
Following the reign of Constantine over the centuries Institutional Christendom lost its spiritual connection with its Hebraic roots and for the most part it is still the same today. From the time of Constantine many pagan ideas and ceremonies were ‘repackaged’ with Christian wrapping. Christmas and Easter, both pagan festivals, were ‘Christianised.’ During the Mediaeval Ages the Jews were terribly persecuted by Christendom and more so when the Roman Catholic Church came into being. What both Protestants and Catholics have forgotten by enlarge is their Jewish roots. The reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and other luminaries went back to the writings of Augustine and not to the apostles. Reformed theology at its core is replacement theology.
As replacement theology starts to once again inundate the Body of the Messiah what Paul writes is very relevant to the trends we see concerning Israel and the Church today. Even within the faithful Body of the Messiah there is a fissure between those who support Israel’s national and spiritual restoration and those who don’t. Many today claim to be evangelical yet somehow cannot see or do not want to see God’s plans for Israel especially in these last days. Before the Lord Jesus comes back this ‘fissure’ will become ‘a chasm’ and even many evangelicals will go against Israel in the end. As we now look at Romans chapters 9-11 we will see the relationship between Israel and the Church from God’s perspective. While this is an exhaustive subject in scripture we can see how Israel and the Church are connected.