June 21, 2010

A Remnant

I do not pretend to know all that the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote about the great, future ingathering of ethnic Jews in Romans 11. The theories are quite varied – some of them plausible; some of them, it seems to me, so far out in left field as to undermine the gospel of Jesus. But there are a few things, from this chapter, of which I am fairly certain …

1. We should be thankful for the remnant of Jewish believers that still exist … and have existed in every age. What Paul said of his day is true of our own. “There has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Romans 11.5). Thank God for that! Though God’s people are now made up of the multi-ethnic, multi-national body of Christ (and not simply of a single geo-political nation) … it is not as though Jewish people have been rejected (11.2). No! Many of them are still coming into God’s kingdom, by faith in Jesus … just like we are. That should thrill us … and should make way for my second assertion:

2. Jews are saved in precisely the same way as Gentiles. Paul has already said that Jews and Gentiles alike are saved by calling upon the name of the Lord (10.12-13); by “grace” and “not on the basis of works” (11.6); by confessing that Jesus is Lord (10.9). So any of our Jewish friends who are saved are saved just like we are … by calling on Jesus in faith, and trusting in His grace; trusting that He has kept the Law of God for us … and died because we have not. I repeat: Jews are saved by faith in Jesus, just like everyone else! That was true in Paul’s day. It is true today. And it will be true when, as Paul says, “all Israel will be saved” (11.26). Does “all Israel” mean every single Jew alive at the time the prophecy is fulfilled; or maybe the majority of world Jews at that time; or simply a very large number of them? I am not sure. But one thing I know: Romans 11.26 will be fulfilled, not because the Temple may or may not be rebuilt; not because national Israel may or may not experience political peace; not because of any other reason but that “all Israel” (whatever large number that represents) will come to faith in the Messiah, Jesus! That is what Paul was prophesying … and that is the only way men can be saved. A fact which brings me to my next statement:

3. Any preacher who asserts that ‘we do not need to evangelize the Jewish people’ is extremely wrong-headed. There are popular TV preachers, as well as regular Joe’s who make just such an assertion. The logic is that: ‘Well, the Jews were God’s chosen people. And God would not abandon them. So they must be OK. God must have a different plan for Jews than He does for Gentiles. We Gentiles need to believe in Christ in order to become God’s people. But the Jews already are. So they are OK so long as they remain faithful Jews!’ NOOOOOO!!! If that were the case, Romans 9-11 would never have been written! Paul’s whole point, in these three chapters is that He longs to see His Jewish brethren come to Jesus! “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” Why write that if Paul thought that just being a good Jew was enough? Why pray like that if they were already saved simply because of their ethnicity? The fact is that Paul prayed like that because he knew that salvation is not based on one’s ethnicity, but on Christ! And therefore we must pray for and share Jesus with our Jewish neighbors and co-workers all across this city … and nation. And that brings me to my last point:

4. We should be thankful for those who do make every effort to reach Jewish people with the good news of Jesus. We should thank God for organizations like Jews for Jesus who seek “to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to … Jewish people worldwide” (JfJ’s mission statement). We should pray for them. And, as I said, we should join them. Jesus is infinitely worthy of the praise of the Jewish people – and the Chinese, and the Germans, and the Kyrgyz, and the Turks, and the Brazilians, and the Navajo, and the Ethiopians, and the run-of-the-mill Gentiles who live all along our streets. Let’s make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to all of these men, women, boys, and girls.

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