Ministry

More Reasons to Tell your Jewish Friends about Jesus

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I’m a Jewish follower of Jesus, and I came to faith one day when my uncle plainly set forth the gospel (using Two Ways To Live) as we sat at the table in his kitchen.[1]  My testimony may give people encouragement to proclaim the good news to their Jewish friends and neighbours, but the Scriptures give far more. The Apostle Paul writes: …

Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious… I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. (Romans 11:11…13-14)

The way God will save Jews is an issue for all bible-believing Christians. The logic is simple: as Christians we dearly want the gospel message to spread amongst people from all nations (Gentiles) until Jesus’ return. Paul teaches us that one reason God is spreading the gospel amongst Gentiles is so that the elect members of Israel will be ‘aroused to envy’, and through this process God is upholding his promise to save ‘all Israel’.[2] By the time the ‘full number of Gentiles has come in’ (i.e. when Christ returns), there will be a whole nation of elect Israelites who are saved.

This means one of the measures by which we can assess the effectiveness of the spread of the gospel is by how aroused to envy our Jewish neighbours are. We are right to expect some kind of proportionality between Gentile conversion and Jewish salvation.[3] Every Gentile who is converted provides unsaved Jews with yet another reason to become jealous, and, in accordance with God’s mercy in election, perhaps become part of the ‘all Israel’ that we’ll see on the last day.

The Bible gives Gentile Christians reason to have high hopes and expectations in their Jewish evangelism. The Gentile is a ‘wild olive shoot’ who, by the sheer grace and mercy of God, miraculously and unnaturally has been ‘grafted in’ to God’s gathered people.[4] The Jew is a ‘natural branch’, who, although cut-off due to disobedience,[5] much more naturally can be grafted in again. In other words, if you’re a Gentile who has become a Christian, your conversion was far more unnatural than a Jew getting saved, so you should have great expectations in sharing the gospel with Jews. ‘If their transgression means riches for the world, […] how much greater riches will their fullness bring!’[6] It’s in this sense that the gospel message can be said to be ‘first for the Jew’; first, that is, in terms of its applicability.[7]

But how often do we hear Gentile Christians speaking of their salvation as God’s way of upholding his promise to Israel? How often do we pray for the salvation of Jews in our country through the spread of the gospel? How often do we long to give our testimony to Jews in the hope of seeing some come to faith out of an appropriate jealousy?

There are a number of reasons why Jewish evangelism is not often on the radar amongst evangelicals.[8] Ostensibly at least, they boil down to either a reluctance to engage with a what has become a theological ‘hot potato’, or to pragmatic considerations which get in the way (e.g., ‘there aren’t many Jews in our area, so it doesn’t cross our minds’).

Yet in Romans 9-11 Paul suggests that interest in the numbers of Jews who turn in repentance and faith to their true Messiah ought to be a natural bi-product of an interest in the spread of the gospel among the nations. This provides impetus for churches with little connection to Jews to support Jewish mission, since increased awareness in this area can only be beneficial to evangelical mission more broadly. It so happens that Christian Witness to Israel (CWI – an evangelical Jewish mission organisation) are currently revising their aims and operations in Australia. God-willing, they’ll soon be in a position to equip evangelicals to love our Jewish neighbours by sharing the gospel with them, or by prayerfully and financially supporting those who do.

[1] Two Ways to Live is a gospel tract developed by Phillip Jensen, see an online version at http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/

[2] Rom 11:14, 25-26. From the context, we deduce that ‘all Israel’ cannot refer to every single Jew who has ever lived, but rather refers to what eventually will be recognised as an entire nation of elect Israelites.

[3] Not necessarily a quantitative or numerical proportionality, but a proportionality nonetheless.

[4] Rom 11:17-24.

[5] Which also, in God’s sovereign plan, played a big part in the gospel going out to the Gentile world.

[6] Rom 11:12.

[7] Rom 1:16.

[8] It’s beyond the scope of this article to detail such reasons. For an excellent treatment of this subject, see Rowland S. Ward ‘Christian Mission to the Jews’, and Martin Pakula ‘The Israel/Palestine Conflict’ in The Gospel and Israel – The Edersheim Lectures (Ed. Paul Morris, WIPF & Stock, Eguene, Oregon, 2014).

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