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To the Jew first?

What was Jesus’ attitude towards his fellow Jews?

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We Jews are a proud people and are not exactly reticent when nudged onto a pedestal. Perhaps we see it as a recompense for two thousand years of persecution; it makes a welcome change being lifted up in honour rather than being struck down in hatred. The question we really need to address as Jewish believers in Jesus is, 'How does God see us? Does He see us any differently from other believers?' Of course not, as I said earlier. But I will repeat it anyway.

On an individual basis, in terms of our personal salvation, we are no different and no better than any other component of the 'Body of Messiah' ('There is neither Jew nor Greek' Galatians 3:28). Jews are not saved through Judaism, but through Jesus, like everyone else. ('Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. 'Acts 4:12.).

On a national level, as the 'remnant of Israel' (i.e. Jews who believe in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah), we have a different responsibility, towards our natural family (unsaved Jews) and spiritual family (fellow believers, Jew and Gentile). To our unsaved Jewish family our responsibility is to give a priority to their salvation ('… first for the Jew ' Romans 1:16). To our spiritual family our responsibility is to help to restore the balance that has been lost to the Church as a result of over 1500 years of Gentile domination. However little we can contribute to this, I am increasingly aware of the duty of Jewish believers to spend time studying our roots and culture, so that we can feed a Church that is becoming increasingly hungry for such nourishment.

The only covenant that is currently in operation for individual Jews is the New Covenant. It is clearly stated as a prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31:

"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

The covenant was kick-started through the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Just like the ones with Abraham, Moses and David, it was a covenant with the Jewish people. Jesus came, first, for his own people, the Jews. How do we know this? Well, he spoke of it, himself:

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5-6)

Paul, the dominant writer of the New Testament, also wrote of it:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16) (emphasis mine.)

It makes sense really. The Jews were God’s people, the keeper of His covenants and His Scriptures (i.e. the Bible). They may have wandered away from the centre of God’s will, but they were God’s best chance, at that time, for a people of His New Covenant. Just look at the alternatives – Greeks, Romans and others, thoroughly immersed in a thoroughly pagan culture and religious system. He could hardly use them to get things going. The Jews had a head start – 2000 years of it! It doesn’t need the mind of a genius to understand why God was going to get the new deal going with the Jews first (those who were willing to listen).

Paul sets the scene quite adequately in Romans 9:4-5, “Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, for ever praised!

The raw material had been nursed and developed over 2000 years of turbulent history. It was time for God to redeem His investment.

More next week …

For the next article in this series, click here.

For the previous article in this series, click here.

You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.

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