It was becoming increasingly obvious why we needed to understand the context of each passage we were reading. Specifically, we needed to know to whom it was addressed.
We needed to understand context because there were certain commands and promises for Israel, and there were commands and promises for the Church. We needed to rightly interpret which commands and promises applied to us personally.
There are generally two accepted views on making a distinction between Israel and the Church.
- Dispensational theologians, such as Scofield and Ryrie, teach that there are two peoples of God, and that these two people are distinct from each other.
- Covenant theologians, such as John Calvin and R.C. Sproul, teach that there is only one people of God, which was first Israel, but that Israel was replaced by the Church. The promises given to Israel are symbolically fulfilled in the Church.
We have never been fans of the covenant view because, if the Church has replaced Israel, then how could God keep his promises to the literal, physical nation of Israel, specifically regarding the land of Israel? I realize that some prophecies in Scripture are symbolic and allegorical — but the promises to Israel about inheriting the land of Israel look like they are literal, at least when I just open up my Bible and read it in ordinary words.
On the other hand, according to dispensationalism, commands given to Israel were given through Moses and applied to the nation of Israel until the formation of the Church. After Christ’s death and resurrection, we are in a new dispensation, one of grace and truth, rather than one of law.
The dispensationalist theologians propose that God works “in different ways at different times.” For instance,
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1-2).
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17).