December 15, 2011

Whose Mail Are You Reading?


The scriptures were given for the benefit of the reader, but not all scripture is written to every believer. One of the cardinal rules of interpretation is to discover to whom any given Bible text was written; you just may be reading some other person’s mail! To take for yourself the promises or judgments that were actually written to another is a serious mistake. It is a major flaw in the Reformed hermeneutic.

As children in Sunday school, we were taught a number of “praise choruses” that are examples of this error. For instance, the one that says “every promise in the book is mine, every chapter every verse, every line”. Innocent on the surface, but we don’t have the prerogative to claim promises that were made to someone else. In fact, that cute little chorus is a lie and a sneaky way to rewrite the Bible. If we want to know what the scripture says, we need to ask the text what it means, not tell it what we think it means.

The Reformed hermeneutic actually steals promises from other people. This is clearly represented in the textual twisting behind the Replacement Theory. The result of this man-made hermeneutical process says that the church replaces Israel, or that the two have become one. This teaching is blatantly dishonest in that it makes no apology for stealing someone else’s mail. It is the result of false conclusions having been drawn from part of the scripture rather than the whole. The full scriptures teach that there is a great divide between Israel and the church, and there always will be.


No matter how popular such theories may become, they are erroneous and based on a misguided hermeneutic. There is another problem, which is even more serious. I speak of the theft of small ideas that appears to be the road to a major appropriation of larger issues. Early in my training, I was left with the impression that we could go to the book of Matthew and remove from it anything we wanted and give it to the church, or that we could put the church in Matthew anywhere we might choose. Such error failed to ask to whom the book was written.

This practice has resulted in Kingdom Confusion and the adding of law to the church. The whole book of Galatians refutes such a concept. The text shouts that the book of Matthew is about Israel, and we must be careful about what we claim ownership of.

The lesson here is that taking small things from Israel for the church, or taking small things from the church and adding them to Israel, is serious. At Pentecost, God chose to do many things with the church that had never been a part of Israel. At best it is unwise to take any of those things and add them back into Israel. The Reformed hermeneutic centers on the doctrine of salvation, that which is stereological. The danger is that it makes theology man-centered. All arguments for such a practice are philosophical and use the same methodology as is found in the replacement theory.

The one biblical hermeneutic is doxological and will always see God at the center. In this mode the questions are asked about God, not about man. The Reformed process relies upon human intellectualism and reason; it suffers from the Lucifer Syndrome with a desire to know the answer to everything. It is far better to accept what the text itself says than what we say about the text.


There is no need to rehash the philosophical debate on this subject, but the New Covenant is a perfect example of hijacking small things. The New Covenant was made with Israel, not with the church. The heart of the New Covenant will be fulfilled prior to the Millennium; it is not fulfilled in the church. The church obviously benefits through the blood of Christ, but it is not a partner in the covenant.

Here we find another example of the Reformed hermeneutic with the failure to let the whole text speak for itself. It may be a small matter to mingle Israel and the church, but it identifies the subtle attempt to close the gap between the two. Any large or small decision to narrow the gap that is clearly described in scripture is dangerous, if not downright disastrous.

During the distinct church age, any Jew who is born again is part of the body of Christ. An individual Jew is not Israel. He will always be a part of the Bride of Christ, not the wife of God. The part does not equal the whole. A Reformed hermeneutic puts these two groups together, which is done through the system used by the Replacement theory. This is one reason the term “the people of God” is used. It views the two as one.


The one way to solve this dilemma is to utilize the one biblical hermeneutic given to us through the text of scripture. There is one correct system, but many philosophical theories. The system known as the “normal, plain, consistent, literal” use of language will always produce a theology that is biblical. It cannot, and will not, produce a multitude of theories. The wide use of various theological views is the result of rejecting that one biblical system. For that reason, any idea that makes Israel and the church one, or even chips away at that distinction, is the result of one of the humanly developed hermeneutical theories.

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care
For those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible
Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address,
Shepherd's Staff is prepared by
Clay Nuttall, D.Min
(Reprinted by Permission, bold added)


  1. Eighteen months ago as part of the reformed community, I would have railed against the content of this article. Today, as a result of the Lord's gracious dealings with my wife and myself, he has enlightened our eyes to see the truth of scripture through the lens of a consistently literal hermeneutic. (We have since abandoned reformed thinking and rid ourselves of nearly all the books representative of this theology.) We now hold tighter to literal interpretation than a man clinging to a flotation device after the ship or plane has gone down. This same hermeneutic has enabled us to see the error of Lordship Salvation and truth of God's grace in its place. We couldn't be more grateful to the Lord for where he has brought us thus far and for how he intends to use us in the future.

    Thanks for posting this article Lou. As you can tell, it was a real encouragement to me. The Lord bless you and your family during this Christmas season.

  2. You said,
    "There is no need to rehash the philosophical debate on this subject, but the New Covenant is a perfect example of hijacking small things. The New Covenant was made with Israel, not with the church."

    I had never seen it that way before. Just like the Law and the Sabbath were not given to anyone but Israel right? I've so long thought of the church as being a part of the new covenant even though I am a dipensationalist. Perhaps because of how the term "new covenant" is tossed around in the church. Is there a verse/verses that says this to Israel? Thank you.

  3. Brother Jerry:

    What you have just shared here is one of the exact reasons why I persevere in what I am doing through this blog and my book on LS. There are people who are either on the way to or had fallen into certain theological ditches who can be kept from and/or have been recovered.

    Thanks for sharing your story.


  4. To All:

    Since Dr. Nuttall is not available to engage any questions or debate the issue I will not be allowing for comments that seek to debate the subject matter here. You might simply consider his polemic and consider whether or not you have come under the influence of a, Reformed hermeneutic with the failure to let the whole text speak for itself."


  5. Jerry, thanks for sharing your journey. What a blessing. Lou, thanks for getting permission for posting Dr. Nuttall's article. Time restraints prevent me from posting my thoughts but Dr. Nuttall has hit on several points that I trust people will examine and see the truth of a literal, historical, grammatical hermeneutic rather than the reformed approach.

  6. Michele,
    You wrote:

    Perhaps because of how the term "new covenant" is tossed around in the church. Is there a verse/verses that says this to Israel?

    The following passage comes to mind:
    Jeremiah 31:31-34 - Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

    Hope this helps.

  7. Brian:

    This article is a particular blessing. I can well imagine which group really doesn't like this one. The academic elites (and those who think they're scholarly) who are pushing the Holy Spirit's indwelling into the Old Testament. They won't like the identification with Replacement Theology, but that IS their problem.

    The Reformed approach has whipped up a series of chilling winds in the NT church through "textual twisting."

    I can begin with the subject matter Dr. Nuttall has addressed here. Furthermore, Reformed theology has given the church the circle logic of five point Calvinism, the extra-biblical dangers of regeneration before faith and that faith is the gift of God and the works based, man-centered false interpretation of the gospel known as Lordship Salvation.

    I am grateful for men like Dr. Nuttall who teach truth apart from the trappings of logic and a man made hermeneutical process.


  8. Paul said that he was a minister of the New Covenant.

    Jesus established the Lord's supper by tying it to the New Covenant.

    Isaiah 42 says that the Messiah would be given as a covenant to the peoples.

    The reformed community eres in thinking there is nothing left of the NC. The church though is absolutely part of the NC.

    I hope that helps Michelle.

    Jerry Wallace

  9. One more thing: this is not a settled matter for dispensationalists who all hold to the literal hermeneutic. Chafer and Scofield held to a view similar to this author. Walvoord, pentecost, Ryrie, and McClain had a much more modified view of the New Covenant.

    Jerry Wallace

  10. Enjoyed this one Lou!


  11. Michelle:

    I asked Dr. Nuttall to consider the question you asked. Following his reply.

    Lou: You are right, this is a good question. For time sake here is the first step in such a study but it answers the question “what does the text say about who the Lord made the New Covenant with.”

    The New Covenant Made with Israel

    “Behold the days will come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” Jer. 31:31

    “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;” Jer. 31:33

    “…Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” Heb. 8:8

    “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of the Israel…” Heb 8:10

    NOTE: There is no text stating that this covenant was made with the church. One must use the Reformed hermeneutic to make the church a legal partner in the New Covenant.

    Now this does not settle the whole matter and we should keep asking questions.

    1. What are the terms of the New Covenant? (Unconditional)

    2. What will God do because of the New Covenant? (See texts)

    3. What is the basis (foundation) of the New Covenant? (the sacrifice, blood of Christ)

    4. What is the relationship of the church to the New Covenant? (it benefits through the blood of Christ)

    5. What about the references to the New Covenant in the Epistles?

  12. Very interesting Lou. I just opened my copy of "Things to Come" by Pentecost and he lists three views of dispensationalists:

    1. Darby - NC is only for Israel and no relation to the church

    2. Scofield - NC is for Israel with blessings for the church

    3. No name - 1 NC for Israel and 1 for the church

    He didn't give a name for the third view, but at least at one point Ryrie held to that. I am thinking Chafer did too, but I might be wrong about him.

    I would agree about the reformed hermeneutic to a point. If the church completes the NC, then there are all kinds of problems. However, there is no settled dispensationalist position on the church and the NC even as far back as Pentecosts book.

    Jerry Wallace