Thursday, February 16, 2006

Why to the Jew First?

In the evangelical world, I have often observed that the average evangelical looks at Israel like some sort of mystical people. Every time some political thing happens in Israel, we have some end-time prognosticator telling us how this relates to the coming tribulation and thousand year reign. It is weird to say the least.

Here are some funny examples that I have heard:

1. Israel is looking for a perfect red heifer to start temple construction.

2. The entire temple has been rebuilt and is hid somewhere in Israel. They are just waiting for the Dome of the Rock to get blown up to assemble it.

3. If Saddam Hussein puts on a purple turban we will know for certain that he is the anti-christ.

Okay, so number three is not exactly related to Israel, but I heard something similar once and I thought it was funny.

I am all for a mature Christian faith, and I am also all for the average gentile not feeling like a step-child in God's kingdom. That is, I get the feeling sometimes that deep down, the average evangelical believes that if he had been born Jewish he'd now be an uber-Christian with special gifts and insights into Scripture and be owed 50 acres in Palestine.

My other pet peeve about this, and hang on to your evangelical wigs and scarfs, is that we always side with Israel over Palestinians. *Gasp!* No, I am not talking about the Jihadists in Palestines, I am talking about the Christian Palestinians who catch it from both the Jews and the Muslims. There are a good number of Christians in Palestine, my brothers and sisters, who have a better claim on Messiah through faith than the unbelieving descendants of Israel have. You can quote me on that.

So why does Paul say that the gospel, "Is to the Jew first"? (Rom. 1:16). I do not deny that Israel was specifically chosen by God to bring about the times of the Messiah. However, I also believe that it was always in God's plan to include us Gentiles as well. The Old Testament itself is filled with examples of believing Gentiles. Remember Jonah in Nineveh?

I will offer just a couple of reasons here why Paul went first to the Jew:

1. They already had the Scriptures and should have been anticipating Messiah.
2. Paul was Jewish.
3. Since the Jews were supposed to waiting for the Messiah, Paul should have found anxious people in the local synagogues, which was sometimes the case. These Jewish believers were Biblically grounded, mature, and would be able to help evangelize the Gentiles. This also was their God-given privilege.

When a Jewish person refuses Jesus Christ as Messiah of Israel, he is as guilty, or more guilty, than a rank pagan who clings to his idol. He will receive no favor in the coming judgment if he does not repent. As for modern day political Israel, may God open their eyes to the truth about Jesus Christ through the long-suffering of Palestinian Christians.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am no expert in Judaism, but there seem to be some pretty clear reasons why the U.S should grant Israel "favored" status.
Gen 12:3 to Abraham(and descendants?) - I will bless those who bless you and curse him who curses you."
Num. 24:9 - God's prophecy through Balaam to Israel -"Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you."
I believe that one reason that the US has enjoyed our status as a nation despite our wickedness(abortions, pornography, depravity in general) is because we have been pretty much the only nation that has sided with Israel consistently, and God has honored His word. Just my humble thoughts:) ------KA in LV

Sojourner said...

Man, I lost my first response to your comment, so I'll try, try again.

You believe that the United States has enjoyed favor because we have aligned ourselves with unbelieving Israel? This country did not even exist until the 1940's, that's 170 years after the founding of this country and a multitude of favorable blessings from God. This country is blessed, not because of the Christians who have lived and labored here, not because of political ties to a country adamantly anti-Messiah.

Do you not believe that those who believe in Jesus Christ are co-heirs with Abraham and are indeed his spiritual descendants? Do you not believe that Genesis 12:3 and Numbers 24 are written for the sakes of believing Israel? (Of which we are a part?) The blessings and favors of God come entirely through faith and not through mere physical parentage. I would say that our good ties to merry old England have been just as beneficial, if not more so, to our country as our ties to Israel.

If our ties to Israel are of any benefit, it is only insofar as God's mercy towards those in Israel who are His elect. You believe, I am certain, that there is a soteriological future for Israel. That future rests in their acceptance of Messiah. However, there is also the same future for the rest of the world as well. Israel's status, then, is the same as the rest of the world: believe the gospel or perish.

Anonymous said...

Mr Williams
I hope you recognize my identity....maybe Brewer Ave would ring a bell more???
We have here a divergent view based on the inherent differences on dispensational theology(which I hold more or less) vs covenant theology(which you hold more or less i.e. seemingly) I enjoy reading your thoughts though we diverge at times. Stay in touch....KA in LV

Sojourner said...

Of course I recognized you. Your accent gives it away every time.

Actually, I am not trying to approach this from covenant/dispy angle so much as the fact that physical lineage does not determine God's blessing. If we argue that it does, isn't that a very "covenantal" thing to say?

Jim said...

Brad,

I think Romans 11:25-33 aptly explains the reason for Israel's hostility towards the gospel. Yes they need Jesus just like the rest of us.

However, there is an inherent blessing that was given to Israel that does not apply to the church today. To become adversarial towards Israel is a bad move considering the historic agression the Jewish people have received. Obviously they are still God's people in name and promise. To say otherwise is to go against all sound reason, logic, and historical evidence. The fact that the most evil nations today are calling for Israel's destruction should be proof enough that they are still a symbol of God to His enemies.

However, we in the church can enjoy the same blessings since they are in Christ and Christ alone. He has and always will be the only sufficient one.

Good topic,
Jim

Sojourner said...

Jim,

Not being one to promote unsound reason, logic, and historical evidence, I would like to agree with you. You said that "there is an inherent blessing given to Israel that does not apply to the Church today." I'd love to hear you elaborate on this. Also, I would like to point out that I am not advocating making Israel our "adversary." What I am pointing out is the fact that just because they are "Jewish" does not mean that they are treating our brothers and sisters in Christ equitably. And no, I do not believe that they have endured anymore suffering than other peoples. Maybe more than some, but the wholesale massacres that have occured in other nations are at least comparable to the atrocities of World War II. That is not to lessen the horrors they suffered there, but it is interesting that we regard their suffering as worse than those of other peoples.

I am quite interested in pursuing this topic if we can keep it civil. This is a general observation and not just pointed at Jim. Maybe I should work up a post based on some things that I would like to explore. Stay tuned and feel free to offer your thoughts as well.

Sojourner said...

Let me clarify something that I said about Israel's suffering. It is true that other peoples have suffered horribly as Israel has in regards to loss of life, dispossesion, torture, and etc. However, if you mean that they have, as a people, suffered more for righteousness sake, I may grant you that. But even then, much of Israel's suffering has come from disobedience according to the OT.

étrangère said...

Amen, Brad, amen! You know, I don't think I've ever heard an American say this before... horrors. Does it not come from the dispy way of reading OT prophecy? I can't see any other way to it.

There's a book on it, Christian Zionism which I haven't yet read but mean to! I think it's singing from the same psalter ;-) as you, Brad, and I'm told it's good.