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JEWISH EVANGELISM AND DISCIPLESHIP
Article 7 of 13:
THE GENTILE GREAT COMMISSION
by Sam Nadler
I say then, they [Israel] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them [Israel] jealous. - Romans 11:11
When Yeshua* presented Himself to Israel as the promised Messiah, He was rejected by the Jewish leadership, just as the Prophets had said. However, then as now, there was a remnant who believed in Him. But, what about the nation as a whole? Has God rejected Israel? No. God is still at work in the midst of His Chosen People, and Gentile believers play an important part in Israel's restoration!
In Romans 11, Paul explains God’s plan for the guaranteed spiritual restoration of Israel: I say then, they [Israel] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them [Israel] jealous (v.11).
A Certain Guarantee
From Paul’s explanation we find that there are three aspects of Israel’s restoration to God:
1) Israel’s national unbelief is only partial, not total (11:1-10).
2) Israel’s national unbelief is only temporary, not final (11:11-24).
3) Israel’s national spiritual restoration is unquestionable because God’s call is irrevocable (11:25-32). God is still faithful to His promises and has not, and will not forsake the Jewish people (11:1-2; Jer. 31:35-37). There is today, and always has been, a remnant of Jewish believers in Messiah (11:3-6) who are saved by grace. This remnant represents the ‘election of Israel’ (11:5-7). It was only those who refused to believe whose hearts were hardened by their sins (11:7-11). But, even those who are evidently hardened in their unbelief can still be saved if they will not continue in their unbelief (11:23). Therefore, the fact that there is a remnant waiting to hear Good News should affect not only your attitude as a believer in Yeshua (11:16-25), but also your activities (11:11-15).
The Silence That Kills
“My activities?” Yes. Paul taught these Roman believers, and us, to be actively concerned for Israel’s salvation. God’s faithfulness to Israel is evidenced by you as His representative reaching out to them, not by neglecting them, and certainly not by hating them. For example, if you saw a man running toward a cliff unaware that he was headed for a fall, and you hated him, you might be tempted to do nothing and let him go right over the edge. But if you loved that person, you would do all you could to warn him of his imminent danger. Does our silence declare that God does not want Jewish people to hear the Good News? If Gentile believers do not witness to Jewish people, it implies that either salvation through faith in Yeshua isn’t necessary for them, or that God has rejected Israel. Both ideas are false.
A Light for the Gentiles
As believers in Yeshua, we know that we are obligated to share the Good News with lost people (Rom. 1:14,15). But Paul goes further than that. Romans 11:11 assures us that Israel’s stumbling over the stumbling stone of Yeshua (see Rom. 9:32,33, Is. 28:16), does not mean Israel’s demise, but rather by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous (see Deut. 32:21, Rom. 10:19). This word jealous refers to a “zeal” for God's righteousness in Messiah (Rom. 10:1-4). Israel’s rejection of Messiah didn’t cause God to turn away and go to the Gentiles, nor was it predetermined that Israel must fail in order to provide the opportunity to bring salvation to the rest of the world. God always desired to bring salvation to all people as prophesied in Isaiah 49:6: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. So, Romans 11:11 is not saying that it was Israel’s rejection that caused salvation to come to the Gentiles. If every Jew in Israel had believed on Yeshua, salvation would have still come to the Gentiles.
What Romans 11:11 is saying is that Israel’s transgression brought salvation to the Gentiles, so that Gentiles would then provoke them [Israel] to jealousy. By having the evidence of Israel’s Messiah in your life, Jewish people will desire what you have. So, God’s purpose for your life is to make other people jealous for the Lord.
But more specifically, God has now purposed that the Gentiles who believe on Yeshua are to be a witness to Israel to make them jealous for Messiah.
A Ministry of Jealousy
This wasn’t just the calling of Paul or Peter, or certain selected Gentiles, but all Gentiles are called to make Israel jealous for Yeshua. Why? As Jews, we had assumed a higher standing than the Gentiles, ‘after all, they are pagans and we have Torah, the true way to God’ (see John 4:22; Rom. 3:1). So as Jews having Torah, we didn’t realize our need for salvation by grace! Concerning Gentiles, we thought that before a Gentile could ever be saved, they at least would have to become a Jew first.
Now, God has so arranged it that Gentiles who believe on Yeshua in effect ‘leapfrog’ to God right past unbelieving Jews. Gentiles have attained what we, through Torah, can never attain by our works: salvation, by faith in Messiah (9:30-32)! The righteousness of God which is necessary for us to be found righteous before God is found in Messiah alone (10:1-4). So, God’s plan is to use these very Gentiles who are despised by traditional Judaism to make them jealous, thereby proving the sufficiency of God’s grace.
Hey, Gimme Back My Messiah!
Let’s understand what it means to make them jealous for Messiah. As God is jealous when something takes His people away from Him, so Israel is to be made jealous by Gentile believers enjoying Israel’s blessings. But we only get jealous about what is ours to begin with. If someone kisses his own wife, it doesn’t bother me one bit. But if someone tries that with my wife, look out, I get jealous! As Jewish people, we don’t get jealous over Easter eggs, Santa Claus, etc. But when we see Gentiles praying to the God of Israel, speaking personally of Messiah, enjoying the blessings of His promises, that which we once rejected... this gets us jealous!
Looks Good on You!
Sara and Millie never got along. Sara was always well dressed and thought Millie, her rather plainly dressed neighbor, was a schlump**. One day as Sara was shopping, Millie came in and tried on a coat that Sara had just put back. “I saw that first!” Sara panicked. Millie replied, “If you saw it first then why didn’t you keep it?” “I didn’t think much of it,” said Sara, “till I saw it on you! If it makes YOU look that good, then it'll look great on ME!” When Messiah looks good on Gentiles, then Jews will be jealous for Him. How? As Gentile believers love and care for Israel in a way that makes sense and communicates to Jews, then Jews will see God’s blessings in Yeshua and they’ll become jealous for Him!
Christian = Messianic
In Acts 11:26 when Gentiles were saved and were first called Christians, it was because the word Christian was based on the Greek word for Messiah. Thus Christian communicated “Messianic”, or the Messianic community which was not to separate them from Israel, but to identify them with Israel. The Messianic Gentiles were the living witness of Israel’s hope. So why aren’t Jews filling churches today? Sadly, Jews are not made jealous by what they see in the Christian community. In fact, Paul would look at most ‘Gentile cultured churches’ today and be quite upset. He might even ask, “Why are you trying to be so different from the Jewish community?” Our liberty in Yeshua is meant to help you identify with Jews, not be alienated from them. It’s the God of Israel and Jewish Messiah you have come to know. If God has called Gentiles to make Israel jealous, and He has, but you have used your liberty for a comfortable Gentile cultural setting, which alienates Jews from the Good News, you are failing. But, if you obey God and go to the Jew first as Paul, ‘the apostle of the Gentiles’ did, then you will be effective in seeing Jews, as well Gentiles, coming to faith in Messiah. For Paul, a to the Jew first ministry did not make him ineffective to the Gentiles, but fully faithful in the call of God upon his life.
If you know these things…
Christianity as expressed in most churches today is perceived by Jewish people as completely non-Jewish, and having nothing to do with the hopes and promises to Israel. But what can be done now? Well, it’s never too late to repent! First, ask the Lord to help you love the Jewish people, as He loves them. Then, just as He was willing to incarnate Himself to identify with a lost humanity, so He will help you to “incarnate” the message of Messiah to identify and communicate the truth so Jewish people can understand it. Remember, too, as Yeshua said, If you know these things, blessed are you that do them (Jn. 13:17). It’s not merely the knowing, but the doing that provides us with the power of His Spirit to walk by grace. Let Messiah’s love constrain your heart. After all, He is the very message we’re to bring to all people, and as faithful Messianic Gentiles, may God use you to reveal His faithfulness in Messiah, even to the Jew first.
* Yeshua. Jesus' original Hebrew name.
** Schlump. A person who is stupid, foolish, inept; person who is sloppily or poorly dressed, careless dresser, untidy person (American Jewish) (http://www.yiddishdictionaryonline.com).
Links to prior studies in the Jewish Evangelism
and Discipleship series may found in our Library
Sam Nadler is director of Word of Messiah Ministries in Charlotte, N.C. This article is reprinted
from Word of Messiah's website with permission, and may be viewed in its original
form at http://www.wordofmessiah.org/june_04_1.htm. Many other fine articles
and other features may be found at Word of Messiah. Thank you, Sam.
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