TAKE THE GOSPEL TO THE JEWS

 

         "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth glad tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth glad tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth " Isaiah 52:7

     This Scripture verse has often been quoted when messengers of the gospel were sent into foreign countries. But who ever considered that it speaks before everything else of the glorious ministry of those who bring peace and salvation to the Jewish people? The apostle Paul used this verse in its correct application. Referring to the Jews he asks: "How shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring the gospel of peace. . ." (Romans 10:14,15).

     Unfortunately, for centuries the Jewish people have been neglected by most ministers of the gospel. Scattered among the nations they experienced indescribable trouble and suffering. This was the result of unbelief and disobedience to God, as it is written: "The Lord shall scatter you among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other. And among these nations shall you find no ease, neither shall the sole of your foot have rest. You shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all the nations whither the Lord shall lead you away." (Deuteronomy 28:64,65,37).

     Many Jews had early in life bitter experiences of persecution. Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein wrote in "Der Judenspiegel" (The Jewish Mirror): "Often have they oppressed me from my youth, may Israel say' (Psalm 129: 1). Mockery, scorn, blows, and all manner of humiliation, have been our portion even at the hands of Christian children. I still remember the stones which were thrown at us as we left the synagogue, and how, when bathing in the river, and powerless to prevent it, we saw them cast our clothes, with laughter and insult, into the water ... It is no wonder that I came to think that Christ Himself was the plague and curse of the Jews - the origin and promoter of our sorrows and persecutions. In this conviction I grew to years of manhood, and still thinking so I became old. I knew no difference between true and merely nominal Christianity".

     How tragic that throughout these years Rabbi Lichtenstein had not heard the gospel of peace. Even believers showed little sympathy and understanding. Where was the Christian witness? where the messengers of salvation? Why did they not obey God's injunction: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people! Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem!" (Isaiah 40:1,2)?

     Some Christians think: "God has cast away His people!" But the apostle Paul objects: "God forbid. For I am also an Israelite... God hath not cast away his people.." (Romans 11:1,2). On the contrary: Not God but the Christians have cast them away! Some argue: "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them"0- (Luke 16'29). But how can they know that Messianic prophecy has been fulfilled, if they never see it in the New Testament? - others say: "Leave them alone! They are God's people and now back in the land!" Yet, according to the Bible it is not enough to be in the land. They must return to God. If they want to be called God's people, they have to come into a personal relationship with Him! Peter, the apostle to the circumcision, writes to Jewish believers in the Lord Jesus: "In time past ye were not a people, but now ye are the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. For ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (I Peter 2:10,25; cf. Hosea 1:6-10; 2:23; Isaiah 53:6). Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews: "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:26,27).

     Every Christian knows that the great commission of our Lord to make disciples of all nations begins with the Jewish people (Luke 24:47). He said: "Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

     How can we fulfill our Lord's command to bring salvation to the Jewish people? To answer this question let us consider four guiding principles from the letter to the Romans.

1. LOVE THE JEWISH PEOPLE

     If we want to help people we must first of all love them and be concerned about their salvation. Maybe you find it difficult to love a person because of one reason or another. Then remember: God hates and abhors sin, but He loves the sinner. You must also distinguish between the person and his attitude, not condoning the evil, though loving the person. God desires that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4).

     The apostle Paul had a great love for his own people. He writes:

"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites..." Romans 9:1-4

     Paul wished to be cut off and banished from Christ for the sake and instead of his fellow-countrymen. How did he come to such a love? He was set aflame by Calvary: God's love was shed abroad in his heart because Messiah died for sinners (Romans 5:5,6,8). The love of Christ constrained him (2 Corinthians 5:14).

     We see this love for Israel also in the Old Testament: MOSES, the servant of God, was willing to sacrifice himself for his people so that they might be saved. He pleaded with God: "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them Gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written" (Exodus 32:31,32). DAVID, the man after God's own heart, said a similar prayer: "Let thine hand, I pray thee, 0 Lord my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued" (I Chronicles 21:17).

     If Paul, Moses and David loved the Jews, how much more does JESUS love them. The prophet Isaiah speaks of this love, saying: "He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people (the Jews) was he stricken" (Isaiah 53:8). When Jesus saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed, and scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd (Matthew 9:36). He said: "I lay down my life for the sheep (the Jews). And other sheep I have (the gentiles), which are not of this fold: them also I must bring" (John 10:15b,16a).

     Do you love the Jews? God loves them with an everlasting love! (Deuteronomy 7:7,8; Jeremiah 31:3). Should we not also love them? It is amazing how many Christians will tolerate the Jews but do not really love them.

     A certain Christian who did not love the Jews once dreamed that he had died and was carried into heaven. It was glorious beyond expression. Angels led him into a wonderful mansion prepared for him. But after some days he felt uncomfortable for he asked himself: "Where is Joseph whose story in the Bible I liked so much? Where is David the sweet psalmist of Israel? Where is my beloved apostle Paul? And above all, where is our blessed Lord and Saviour?" He asked one of the angels for an explanation. And the angel said: "O my dear, we thought you did not like the Jews. Therefore we placed you in a part of heaven, where you would never see them."-This gave him such a shock that he woke up. Suddenly he realized that these men and most writers of the Bible and the Lord Jesus Himself were Jews. He was pleased that he could still change his attitude toward the Jewish people.

     Yes, when we think of-the Jewish writers of the Bible and the blessings which they brought to us (2 Peter 1:21; Jeremiah 15:16; Psalm 119:72,97,127); when we consider that salvation was given to us through the blood of the King of the Jews (John 4:22; 19:19); when we realize that we gentiles became partakers of the wonderful blessings in the New Covenant which God had made with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31; Romans 9:4; 11:17-20; 15:27a; Ephesians 2:11-13; 3:6), then we shall show true gratitude to the Jewish people: We will love them as Paul did.

2. PRAY FOR THEIR SALVATION

     Paul loved his kinsmen not only in words. He was concerned about their eternal well-being. Therefore he gave himself to fervent intercession. He says:
"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved." Romans 10:1.

     He knew that the majority of his people were lost and in need of salvation (Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 7:13,14). "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." (Ecclesiastes 7:20). "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Nobody can save himself by his own efforts and good works. How often have Jews (and also gentiles) tried to outweigh their sins with deeds of kindness, being zealous to establish their own righteousness before God and not willing to submit themselves to God's righteousness? (Romans 10:3). However, we receive forgiveness and justification as a gift from God, and that only through Messiah Jesus (Isaiah 45:25; 53:1 1). He is our salvation and righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6; Isaiah 49:6). "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10: 13; cf.Joel 2:32).

     Christians are known as those who call on the name of the Lord (I Corinthians 1:2; Acts 9:14,21). Paul speaks from personal experience. But how did this violent opponent become ready to call upon the name of Jesus? He had thought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus (Acts 26:9) This furious persecutor of the Church could never have changed except the believers had loved him and pleaded for his forgiveness.

     Fervent prayer is needed! Many Jews are still opposed to the gospel as Paul was in his ignorance and unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13).The apostle says: "As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes" (Romans 11:28). What an astonishing statement: Enemies of God and at the same time beloved of God. Yes, God loves His enemies! He loved us while we were yet enemies (Romans 5:8,10). Do you love those who try your patience and oppose the gospel? Paul experienced most persecutions from his own people and yet he loved them (Acts 9:23,24,29; 13:45,50; 14:2,19; 17:5,13; 18:12; 20:3,19; 21:1 1; 23:12-14). For Jesus says: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). Jesus practiced what He taught. On the cross, mocked and insulted, He prayed: "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!" (Luke 23:34). Paul had seen this Divine love which forgives and prays for the persecutors (Acts 22:20). When Stephen was stoned Paul watched over the clothes of the witnesses. And then he saw the love of this wonderful disciple of Jesus who knelt down, and cried with a loud voice: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!" (Acts 7:58-60). Surely Paul could not have been saved if the disciples had not obeyed the Lord's command: "Love your enemies, bless them, pray for them!"

     Are you praying for the Jews? Even for those who are not interested in the gospel: your neighbour, the grocer, the chemist and doctor? Would you not share with them the blessings which are yours in the Messiah? God promised to bless them that bless the descendants of Abraham, the Jews! (Genesis 12:3). Pray for their salvation! "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee" (Psalm 122:6).

3. TELL THEM OF THE SAVIOUR

     Because we received salvation through the Jews and because the first pioneers, who brought the glad tidings to the gentiles, were Hebrew Christians, many of us realize that we are deeply indebted to the Jewish people. While some of us pray daily for them to call on the name of Jesus for their salvation, this is not enough! Paul says:

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Romans 10:14

     We must introduce our blessed Lord and Saviour to them. How? Through the Word of God! Jesus says "Search the Scriptures for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me!" (John 5:39). No one can be born again and receive eternal life without the living and abiding Word of God (I Peter 1:23-25; John 1:12-14; 1 John 5:11,12).

     You may know noble and charitable Jews of whom you think they have no need of being born again. But is it not significant that the Lord Jesus spoke of the necessity of the new birth to a high-ranking theologian, a pious rabbi and member of the ecclesiastical court: "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." (John 3:7). Did you ever consider that the well-known verse John 3:16, the gospel in a nutshell, was first spoken to this rabbi: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life"? The apostle Peter said to the Jewish leaders: "Be it known unto you all, and to all people of Israel ... Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:10,12). Yes, they must be born again! If any Jew believes in Jesus, he shall not perish but have everlasting life. But Jesus said: "If you believe not that I am He (the Messiah and Saviour), ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24).

     Therefore the gospel must be preached to them. Scripture says: It should be brought to the Jews first (Romans 1:16): "it is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (i.e. the gentile). Did we bring it first to the Jews? We cannot reverse God's sequence: To the Jew first! This is taught in God's Word:
1) God loved them first of all (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 7:7,8).
2) To them He entrusted His oracles (Romans 3:2).
3) His judgments come first upon them (Romans 2:9).
4) First to them His grace is revealed (Romans 2: 10).
5) The Saviour was sent first to the Jews (Matthew 15:24).
6) Jesus came to bless them first (Acts 3:26).
7) He sent His disciples first to them (Matthew 10:6).
8) The great commission begins with the Jews (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).
9) The gospel is to the Jews first (Romans 1: 16).
10) Paul went always first to the Jews (Acts 26:20; 13:46; 14:1).
Take your Bible and read to them the gospel in the Old Testament: That Messiah is born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14); the Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15); coming out of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); the suffering Servant of God (Isaiah 52:13-53:12); the crucified One (Psalm 22:14-18). Show them the types which speak of the Messiah: Isaac carrying the wood and being laid on the altar (Genesis 22:6-9); the Paschal lamb dying that the first-born might live (Exodus 12:21-30); the sign of the uplifted serpent which saved everyone that looked up in faith (Numbers 21:6-9). Point out to them how clearly it is fulfilled in the New Testament. Give them the testimony of a Jewish person and tell them how you found the Saviour. And while you give to them the Word pray for them that their blind eyes may be opened to see that God's Word is fulfilled: Salvation has come! "Arise from the dust! Put on your beautiful garments, my people. Through the Son of Jesse from Bethlehem comes salvation to your soul!" (From the Jewish prayer book: Inauguration of the Shabbat).

4. SHOW THEM THE LIFE

     After having spoken about these three vital steps - to love, to pray and to witness, the apostle stresses the importance of Christian living. Many will agree wholeheartedly and say: "Yes, this is most important! Israel suffered much. We must show them sympathy, kindness and friendliness!" Some have gone so far as over-emphasizing the works of love but leaving out the Christian witness. They put all their efforts into material and physical help and neglect the spiritual blessings, not showing them the way to eternal salvation. This is not sufficient!

     When Paul speaks about Christian living he means our life must confirm our words of testimony, the glad tidings of peace, the report about Jesus Who took our sins upon Himself that we might have peace (Romans 10:15,16; cf. Isaiah 40:9; 52:7; 53:1; 61:1). He who found righteousness, justification and new life through faith in the Messiah cannot keep quiet about it. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10; Psalm 40:9,10; 2 Corinthians 4:13). Through this glorious message comes faith also to those who hear it (Romans 10:17).

     But they shall not only hear! Lip-service is not enough! (Isaiah 29:13,14). They must see in us the new life showing that we are redeemed and obey the gospel (Romans 10:16). Otherwise they may say: "What you are, speaks so loud that I do not hear what you are saying!" 0, that we would understand what a great responsibility we have toward the Jewish people! Paul asks: "...Did not Israel know?..." And he refers to the Word of God through Moses: "I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people: and by a foolish nation I will anger you." Romans IO:19; Deut. 32:21.

     Unfortunately, more have been angered than provoked to jealousy. How angered? Through anti-Semitism, crusades and inquisitions, blood accusations and pogroms, and other persecutions. There are many who lost all relatives through the holocaust in Europe.

     Words are not sufficient to convince them. They must see the changed life of those who profess to know the Saviour. "The fruit of God's Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22). Jesus says: "By their fruits ye shall know them!" (Matthew 7:16). "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). Yes, a life that shows the fruit of God's Spirit, the character and attitude of Jesus, will make a deep impression on the Jewish people. I know a Jewish doctor who was provoked to jealousy by a nurse who reflected the life of Jesus. One day he asked her: "Tell me, why are you so different?" She gave no long explanation but said: "It is through Jesus, doctor!" This made him inquisitive. He wanted to know more about Jesus. So he got a New Testament and discovered how wonderfully prophecy has been fulfilled. He became a sincere believer in his Messiah and Saviour Jesus.

     God says: "I WILL PROVOKE THEM TO JEALOUSY!" For that very purpose we received Jesus into our lives. The name Jesus means "Saviour" "Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Paul says that salvation has come to the gentiles to provoke the Jews to jealousy! (Romans 11:11)

     They will say: "What happened to them? How could their life be so changed? This could not happen by their own will-power. There is a new Spirit within them. Indeed, they have found the answer in Jesus! I wish to find Him too!"

     Yes, God has given a great responsibility and vocation to all gentiles who know the Saviour. He will work through them to provoke the Jews to jealousy. Like Paul let us say, "Lord, if you will provoke them to jealousy, then I will too. Please do it through me!"

     "I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them." Romans 11:13,14

     Paul wished to save them by all means. Love is inventive. It will find a way, some new method to bring salvation to the Jews (I Corinthians 9:20-22). Today we have more possibilities than Paul ever had: think of the many tracts, Christian books, tapes, radio programs, films. The question is: Are we willing to use these means? Or rather, are we willing to be used by God to fit into His program to provoke the Jews to jealousy?

     Dear friend in the Lord, God says: "I WILL PROVOKE THE JEWS TO JEALOUSY!" How can the Lord do this? The apostle Paul says: "Lord, use me! that by any means I may provoke them to jealousy!" May I ask you: "Are you also prepared to make God's will your own?" Then pray: "Lord, take my life and make of me a Christian who will provoke the Jews to jealousy!"

     God expects our help in His great plan to bring salvation (Jesus) to the Jewish people, and He beseeches us to be equipped for the task. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul says:

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1,2.

 
     
 
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