Sunday, July 26, 2009

Are We to Evangelize Jewish People?

Following is an article that appeared this morning (July 26, 2009) in the newsletter of Ohr Torah Stone's Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation, written by its Executive Director, David Nekrutman:

Without a shadow of a doubt, Christians are commanded to evangelize, as stated in Matthew 28:19-20. The Great Commission is nonnegotiable. This mission represents the spiritual identity of a Christian.

However, the proselytizing of Jews often becomes an issue in Jewish-Christian relations, especially when this evangelizing takes place in Israel. There are some who come in "support for Israel" ostensibly to set up a soup kitchen, only to lure members of the Jewish faith to Christianity. One can make the argument that there is a difference between witnessing (emulating the life of Jesus) and proselytizing. A discussion of the matter is warranted, for there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the theological significance of Jews.
When people hear the phrase "the chosen people" in reference to the Jews, they should ask: "Chosen for what?" The Jewish nation has a three-fold mission rooted in Scripture; covenant, witness and humanity. When God entered a relationship with Abraham (Genesis 17), the covenant was described as everlasting. This covenant has two physical embodiments; the Promised Land and circumcision. It also requires that we walk humbly in His ways, carrying out the Sinaitic revelation.
We are required to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. This relationship offers rewards for observance and punishes for its abandonment. Practically speaking, we are to ensure the continuing existence of the Jewish people as part of our mission of covenant. Our emphasis is on Jewish education, community ties and avoiding intermarriage.

The Jewish people are not concerned only with members of their own faith, but are required to testify about the power of repentance and love as manifested in the redemption of Israel (Isaiah 49:6). It is through the narrative of the Jews that people see God¹s hand in history. This is part and parcel of our witness mission to the world.

The message of the Bible is for all people, as stated in Micah 4:2. The Jewish people have a mission to extend God's love to all. We are called by God to set up society in a way that maximizes the practice of justice and mercy; we are to engage in an unending quest to heal a broken world. A central prayer in Judaism sums it up: to transform the world into the Kingdom of the Almighty, where all flesh will call upon Your name, where all the wicked of the earth will be turned to You.

Doesn't Christian evangelizing of Jews come in direct conflict with the Jews three-fold mission? Christians see Jews as either people of very special salvific significance, or as people included in the one mission to all those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior. There is a minority within Christianity that believe missionizing the Jews is not part of an authentic Christian witness, since the Jewish people has its own fulfillment in faithfulness to the divine covenant mentioned in Genesis.
When the Church concluded that all one needs to attain salvation is Jesus, without adherence to Torah, it should not be surprising that the Jewish people simply could not go along with that. The Jewish understanding of "salvation" is simply different from that of Christianity.

If Jews and Christians worship the same God, should Christians then try to convince Jews to worship Him in the Christian way? It seems that many within the Church have forgotten the essential Jewishness of their own faith; they tend to place the attempt to evangelize Jews in the same category as missionary efforts among people of other religions or of no religion. To such people, Jews are simply people who cannot be saved unless they come to know Jesus.

As an orthodox Jew who does not believe in the divinity of Jesus, I wish Christians could understand what it means to be obedient members of God's chosen people. This should not detract from the notion that Jesus' life and death is central to the salvation of the Church and their mission to the world. It is my hope that Christians would recognize that their mission of preparing for the coming of the Kingdom of God is shared with the Jewish people, even if Jews do not conceive of this task as the Church does.

Shalom, David Nekrutman, Executive Director

(Response by Joe Ortiz)
Based on David Nekrutman’s statement, it is obvious (as he speaks for the Jewish family) they do not believe in Christ as savior nor redeemer. And, like so many Jews throughout the world, they most certainly do not appreciate Christian zealots who constantly harangued them to convert to their religion. I don’t blame them for feeling irritated by this practice.

This phenomenon is found mostly among right wing evangelical Christians, who overtly attempt to proselytize Jews into becoming Christians. They (Christian Zionists) are the ones who support the Pre-Tribulation Rapture and sincerely believe in the myth that a new Temple has to be built in Jerusalem in order for the Antichrist to come and establish his one world order, then persecute Christians for three and a half years, culminating in the return of Jesus Christ to establish a 1000 year millennial reign in the state of Israel. These right-wing zealots don’t really care about the welfare of the Jews in the Middle East (or elsewhere) they just want the Temple built so they can usher the return of Christ that much sooner. The biggest proponents of this movement include the most well known and popular self-proclaimed church leaders such as John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, Mike Evans and a slew of other premillennial dispensationalists, way too many to mention.

Many of us Christians have known for centuries the basic tenets of Judaism and recognize Jews do not believe in Jesus Christ as savior. For those Christians who are not aware of this fact (that Jews do not accept Christ as savior), allow me to present a simple reminder.

The apostle Paul spoke at great lengths about this issue in Romans, Chapter 11. Basically Paul said that the branches of Jews have been broken off the great Olive Tree (which consists of the children of God, Christ being the root thereof) in order for the gentiles to be grafted in, and that God definitely has the power to graft them back in again.

But the key issue (which so many Jews and Christians alike ignore) is that the re-grafting back into the fold is conditional! Many theologians claim that Jesus will come from heaven and restore the Jews back to their rightful place, as if by waving a magic wand to instantly remove or forgive all their sins, and consequently becoming an immediately restored nation. But the Scripturere state otherwise.

Immediately following a warning by Paul in Romans 11:22, that those newly grafted gentiles, by virtue of what Jesus Christ accomplished at the cross (Ephesians 2:15) should not become cocky about their new found salvation, he boldly states in the following verse (23): And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.This is the key to the Kingdom of God! Faith!

No one is exempt from this great principle of God. Faith has been the substance of all redemption throughout history, and it will continue so, even if God originally had ‘favored’ sons, those He specifically chose to lift up His banner and to follow His decrees and do righteousness and justice (Genesis 18:19).

What Paul is saying, in essence, is most certainly God has the power to turn people away from sin, and grace and mercy are the divine attributes that allows Him to implement them as He wills. But, yet, God Himself cannot go against his own principle and allow anyone to be grafted into His household if they do not believe.

Matthew Henry had this to say about the subject of grafting them back in Romans 11:23:

Because of the power of God (v. 23): God is able to graft them in again. The conversion of souls is a work of almighty power; and when they seem most hardened, and blinded, and obstinate, our comfort is that God is able to work a change, able to graft those in that have been long cast out and withered. When the house is kept by the strong man armed, with all his force, yet God is stronger than he, and is able to dispossess him. The condition of their restoration is faith: If they abide not still in unbelief. So that nothing is to be done but to remove that unbelief that is the great obstacle; and God is able to take that away, though nothing less than an almighty power will do it, the same power that raised up Christ from the dead, Eph. 1:19, 29. Otherwise, can these dry bones live?

While I (and many other Christians) believe that the persecution of Jews throughout history is true, that the Holocaust did occur (albeit the amount of Jews killed during World War Two is being questioned by many) is one the most odious atrocities ever committed against one group of people (annihilating the American Indian and stealing the southwest from Mexico rank 2nd and 3rd), and that Jews genuinely believe they have a right to exist in their own country, we also believe that peace can be obtained between Jews and Palestinians, that Christian Zionists should support efforts for reunification between the two groups (instead of promoting military solutions to the problem). However, the bottom line is that Jewish nation must (eventually) believe and have faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, especially in regards to salvation.

Yes! Those dry bones can live, but most certainly not without faith in the one who paid the price for their disobedience, regardless of how religious they may be.

To believe in Christ is not a religion but a relationship that means the fulfillment of the promises God made to His children (they are those who believe in Christ) and who will soon obtain the real Promised Land, which is the New Jerusalem, that comes down from heaven to rest upon the earth, when Jesus Christ returns (one last time) to rule and reign over this world, forever!
Joe Ortiz, journalist, talk show host and blogger, is the author of three books which challenge the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine. His books include The End Times Passover and Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation (Author House) and Saved? What Do You Mean Saved? (GBM Books). To access his web sites and blogs, and more information about his books, please click on Joe Ortiz

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent and to-the-point thoughts, dear Brother. Incidentally, I am fortunate in being the owner of your well-written and perceptive Bible prophecy books and I do not hesitate to recommend them to anyone coming across this valuable blog of yours! While there are many confusing voices on the prophetic scene these days, yours is one that makes sense because it truly is in line with what the Word of God actually teaches! Thank you, thank you, Brother.