Let me be clear that my message here is that you should consider becoming a Presbyterian for all the reasons I laid out in my last post, but decide to be a Baptist for all the reasons I will lay out in the next few posts. And my reason for taking this time is twofold: to honor Presbyterians and the great Reformed tradition, and to show how this is an important issue with implications for the mission of the church.
Continuity vs Discontinuity
Is there a connection between OT Israel and the NT Church? Yes. Peter says the church is a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2.9). OT Israel is a type of the Church, meaning the church fulfills the pattern that God set with the nation of Israel in the OT (for full disclosure: Jesus is the True Israel, and the Church, by virtue of our union with Him, is also the True Israel). He even applies the language straight from Exodus 19 to the Church. Clearly there is continuity. But to say there is no discontinuity between Israel and the Church does not do justice to typology. Something is different about the church compared to Israel, in the same way something is different about a butterfly compared to a caterpillar.
HOWEVER, I do think the word “discontinuity” is a bit of a misnomer. It smacks of God stopping one thing and starting another. I believe the word “discontinuity” leads to confusion in many conversations. This is why the language of “progression” or “unfolding plan” becomes more helpful. God only has one continuous plan that He purposely unfolds throughout the Scriptures.
I am happy to call God’s elect people “the Church” in the OT. But it is God’s elect that are the Church in the OT. It is confusing to Christians to call Israel “the Church” in the OT without qualification. On the other hand, it is not helpful to accuse anyone of saying God replaces Israel with the Church. There is one continuous, unfolding plan for one people in the Scriptures. It is the nature of the unfolding that makes the New Covenant new, and that has persuaded me more than anything to be Baptist. It is to covenant structures we will turn next.
But for this post, to be clear: it is the nature of typology that has caused me to say “continuity, amen!, but with unfolding revelations along the way.”