Getting our priorities right

I may be in danger of preaching to the converted, but there are times when it is good to remind ourselves of our basics. I was recently asked to contribute an article for a Church magazine to explain why Christians should be interested in reaching Jewish people with the gospel. I was, of course, more than happy to write the piece but my problem was limiting the article to 500 words. Anyway, this is what I wrote and I hope it’s helpful to you too.

There are almost seven billion people in the world, and less than one in five hundred of them is Jewish. Why should the Jewish people command our special attention in evangelism?

First of all, God has a special love for the Jewish people. The Hebrew Scriptures testify so clearly to the chosenness of the Jews but the New Testament is also clear on the subject: “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers” (Romans 11:28).

Speaking to a crowd of thousands in Jerusalem who he had earlier charged with the death of the Messiah, in Acts 3:25 Peter had no hesitation in declaring: “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers….”

Secondly, the Jewish people are in graver spiritual danger than others. In Amos 6:2 God declares: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Paul reminds his readers in Romans 2:9 that there will be “tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first…”

In an 1839 sermon, “Our Duty to Israel”, Robert Murray M’Cheyne reasoned: “The kind physician runs first to the bed where the sick man lies who is nearest to die. When a ship is sinking, [do not] the gallant sailors … stretch out the arm of help first to those that are readiest to perish beneath the waves? And shall we not do the same for Israel?”

Thirdly, a fundamental principle in New Testament missiology is that the gospel is “to the Jew first”. In Galatians 2, the Apostle Paul reveals that two decades after the great commission was issued by the Lord Jesus, he alone of the apostles was reaching out to the Gentiles: “James, Cephas, and John … gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” Even though Paul alone was entrusted with the mission to the “uncircumcised”, his invariable practice  was to preach the gospel “to the Jew first” (see Acts 13:5,14, 46; 14:1; 17:1, 10, 16f; 18:4, 19, etc).

Lastly, the world will benefit from Israel’s salvation. The great eighteenth century preacher Charles Simeon was so passionate about the salvation of the Jewish people that a friend pointed out to him that there were only six million of Jews in comparison with six hundred million Gentiles. Why were the Jews important?

Simeon responded immediately by an allusion to Romans 11:15: “If the conversion of the six is to be life from the dead to the six hundred what then?”

A few months ago, in a letter to the Evangelical Times, a lady drew attention to an article on the CWI website ( by D M Lloyd-Jones, in which the Doctor expresses the hope that “… there shall be a tremendous conversion of the mass of the nation of Israel and when it happens the church will be so amazed and astonished that it will veritably be like life from the dead!”

Why, she asked, do we not hear that preached from our pulpits more frequently?

Why indeed!

Yours for the salvation of Israel,

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