The "Olive Tree"
Gary DeMar writes: "The Church is as old as covenantal believers. This is why Stephen could describe Israel as the 'church in the wilderness' (Acts 7:38)" (Answering the 'Replacement Theology' Critics, Part 3; http://www.americanvision.org/articlearchive/10-11-05.asp).
How could the "church in the wilderness" be the same body as the "Church, which is His Body" (Eph.1:23,24)?
The Apostle Paul makes it plain that the Body of Christ is the "New Man":
"For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of two one New Man, so making peace; And that He might reconcile both unto God in one Body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Eph.2:14-16).
At the time when Paul wrote those words the "church in the wilderness" would have been in existence for hundreds and hundreds of years. Therefore, Gary DeMar's assertion that Paul would describe that "church" as a "New Man" defies common sense.
Gary DeMar's idea that the Church existed in the wilderness and is old as covental believers is even more astonishing since he himself describes the Church as being a "new spiritual edifice": "While the stones of the temple were cast down, a new temple would be raised...This new spiritual edifice would consist of Jews and Gentiles 'brought near through the blood of Christ' (Eph.2:13)" and "are fellow citizens with the saints, and are God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone... " (DeMar," Last Days Madness, 173).
Despite these verses which say that the Lord Jesus is the corner stone of the Church, which is His Body, Gary DeMar turns reason on its head and insists that the "church in the wilderness" is the same church as His Body.
Gary DeMar writes: "Paul makes the same point in Romans 11 when he describes that the Gentiles were grafted into an existing Jewish body of believers that Acts describes as 'the church' (Rom. 11: 12-21)" (Answering the 'Replacement Theology' Critics, Part 4; http://www.americanvision.org/articlearchive/10-11-05.asp).
Gary DeMar is referring to the Olive Tree in Romans 11:
"And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree" (Ro.11: 17).
The "Olive Tree" does not represent the Church, which is His Body. Instead, it represents the "service" of believers under the Abrahamic Covenant. The Olive Tree analogy is in regard to "bearing fruit", or "service". At the time when the nation of Israel was bearing fruit the Lord called them an Olive Tree:
"The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, [and] of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken" (Jer.11:16).
The Olive Tree was an important tree for the Israelites because it was a source of food and light for them. For hundreds of years the olive was eaten as a staple food and olive oil has been used for cooking and in lamps for light. The oil of the olive was also used for anointing in religious ceremonies.
Israel remained an Olive Tree as long as that nation continued under the Abrahamic covenant in her duty to serve the Lord:
"The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life" (Lk.1:73-75).
By serving Him the nation was to be the "light of the world". The Lord Jesus told that nation:
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid....Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mt.5:14,16).
Since that nation crucified the Lord Jesus and later persecuted His disciples most of the Jews were "broken off" from serving Him. The Jews were the "natural" branches of the Olive Tree since they were the natural descendants of Abraham:
"Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee" (Ro.11:20,21).
The Gentile believers are described as branches from the "wild Olive Tree":
"For if thou were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree" (Ro.11:24).
The Gentile believers are described in this way because Abraham is not their "natural" father but instead he is their father because they "walk in the steps of that faith" of Abraham:
"And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised" (Ro.4:12).
So now both the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers are the branches of the Olive Tree:
"And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree" (Ro.11:17).
If we examine the context of Paul's use of the analogy of the Olive Tree we can see that the subject is indeed "service". In the previous chapter Paul asks,"how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" (Ro.10:14,15).
Then he refers to Israel, saying, "Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you" (Ro.10:19).
In the next chapter Paul announces that he is the "apostle to the Gentiles":
"For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to jealousy them which are my flesh, and might save some of them" (Ro.11:13,14).
The nation of Israel was to be the "light of the world" but because of unbelief Paul was doing what they were supposed to be doing. Because of this he says that he might "provoke to jealousy" some of the Jews and therefore bring them to the light of the gospel so that they too might be saved.
Then two verses later he begins his Olive Tree analogy. So by the very nature of the Olive Tree we can know that the reference is to a believer's "service" or "fruit bearing" for the Lord, and this idea is reinforced by the context.
If we are to believe Mr. DeMar that when he says that Gentiles are being grafted into the Church then we must believe that the same Gentiles can be cast out of the Church:
"Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off" (Ro.11:22).
If Mr. DeMar is correct then a believer can be "cut off" from the Body of Christ. That idea is directly contradicted in the following verse:
"Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ" (Jude 1).