Keyword:

What about the Jews?

C H Spurgeon, reviewing a very small book on a very big subject, compared it to ‘an ox in a gallipot’ (a small pot used to hold medicines). His words are an apt description for this article! However, if I can arouse your interest and your prayers, it will have served its purpose.

Evangelism

The matter of Jewish evangelism is beset by controversy. All are agreed that the Jews need the gospel. By and large Jews are still waiting for the Messiah to come, whereas Christians believe that the Messiah has come in the person of Jesus Christ. As Peter proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost, ‘Jesus … delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up … Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (Acts 2:22-24, 36). All Jews need to hear this proclaimed with love and compassion and ‘with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven’ (1 Peter 1:12). Thus far there is full agreement amongst evangelical believers.

Prophecy

Difficulties arise over prophecy and the future of Israel. At the risk of over-simplification, there are two prevailing views amongst Reformed Christians and these focus on Paul’s teaching in Romans 11, and particularly on the first part of verse 26, ‘And in this way all Israel shall be saved’. How are we to understand the phrase, ‘All Israel’? Some Christians see this as the promise of a future ingathering of Jews into the kingdom by the gospel. Professor John Murray held this view, as did John Stott. Other Christians understand ‘Israel’ as representing the whole elect of God gathered in through the ages by the evangelistic labours of the church. This view is strongly and clearly advocated by Stuart Olyott in his Welwyn Commentary on Romans, The Gospel As It Really Is.

The greater issue

No doubt the issues raised here are worthy of serious thought and study but the danger is that we miss the greater issue: the Jews need the gospel preached to them. Whatever we think about the future of the Jews, we must not let these debates hinder us from the duty to evangelise them. The fact is that Jewish communities have long been – always been? – a hard people to reach with the gospel.

For centuries the Jews have been a persecuted people – the horror of the Holocaust is one example of this in which some six million Jews were killed. The chief perpetrators of monstrous  violence, through the years, have been professing Christians. It is not hard to understand why Jewish evangelism is beset by peculiar resistance and hardness. Those who engage in it deserve our love and support, whatever we think about prophecy and the future of the Jews. Much of Jewish evangelism is done through the agency of societies but it is difficult to see how else they can be reached at the present time.

We must bring this brief reflection to a close with a question: what place do this ancient people have on the horizon of your missionary interest, hopes and prayers – are the Jews there at all?

Neil C Richards is a retired pastor living in Flintshire, North Wales. This article was originally published in Grace Magazine November 2011.

This article first appeared in the Summer Herald 2013

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