Dispensational Thinkers, God Shows No Partiality

Dispensational theology makes Israel and the church into two distinct peoples of God. This is one of the stark differences between Dispensational theology and Reformed/Covenant theology. As Heidelberg 54 explains, Reformed thinkers believe that “the Son of God, out of the whole human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, defends, and preserves for Himself . . . a Church chosen to everlasting life.” The church began in the Garden of Eden, not at Pentecost. This idea is strengthened by how Paul describes Abraham’s justification by faith. Christ has always been graciously gathering one people to himself; they all belong to him.

Dispensational theology seems to me to be inadequate in addressing important truths like Romans 9:6-8. The true “Israel” are those who trust in Christ, those who are united to Christ by faith. Children of Abraham are not physical descendants of Abraham (though physical Jews can believe), they are people who believe in Christ like Abraham. I think Romans 9:6-8 alone makes Dispensational theology unacceptable.

But then there’s Ephesians 2:11-22. Paul was direct: the dividing line has been abolished. Gentiles who believe in Christ and Jews who believe in Christ are now one. One body of Christ. One church. One household of God. The Gentiles have been grafted into what has existed from the beginning, the church of Christ. This is how the church has thought about church throughout the ages; Dispensational theology originated in the 19th century.

Could Paul have been any clearer in Galatians 3:28 when he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” He was not wiping away physical descent. He was acknowledging that the distinction between nations is no longer significant. What is significant is being in Christ or outside of Christ. The people of God are those who are united to Christ; it has always been that way. Even many in historical Israel were not actually Israel.

And in Philippians 3:3, how is it that Paul could tell Gentiles, really the church, “we are the circumcision” and follow that up with “and put no confidence in the flesh”? I’m not sure how we can preserve these truths by maintaining there are two peoples of God, the Jews (earthly people) and the church (heavenly people). It simply is not what Scripture says.

In my preparation for my sermon on Christ’s return to judge the living and the dead, I found Acts 10:34–43 which says, “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.'” This is interesting. God shows no partiality. God is not inclined to favor one nation over another. God no longer favors Israel, He doesn’t favor the United States (as if the United States is God’s chosen nation), and he doesn’t favor any nation above another as if he has a chosen nation. God favors those who are in Christ, His Son. God favors Christ’s church (which is composed of Jews and Gentiles!).

I find Dispensational theology to be untenable because it makes a big deal of ethnic divisions where the Scriptures simply wipe them away. Christ is the true and faithful Israel, the better Israel, and if anyone is to be accepted by God, it matters not where they were born; rather, it matters whether they are united to Christ by faith. May the Jews of today place their faith in Jesus Christ to be united to the Vine and to join the true and one people of God, the church of the ages.

Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021).

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one-half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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