by Dr. Mitch Glaser, President of Chosen People Ministries
Some years ago, Dr. Mohler gave one of the best messages on Romans 1:16 I ever heard at the First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach. We adapted this sermon into an inspiring booklet, a portion of which you will read below. Bear in mind, the whole booklet is worth reading so you can get the big picture!
The Importance of Jewish Evangelism By Dr. Albert Mohler
I believe in the importance of the issue that has brought us all here tonight, and the urgency of this mission should be a sobering reality to us. I want to suggest to you that I believe Jewish evangelism is the clearest test case for faithfulness to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in this generation. It is very much the case now that we are going to find out just what confidence the Church has in the gospel when it comes to preaching the gospel to the Jewish people. Controversy, we know, is inevitable, and that is true in the twenty-first century, but brothers and sisters, as we all well know, it was true in the first century, and we should not expect it to be less so now.
The gospel is explosive. It is flammable, and it explodes in the midst of a secular society that wants nothing of it. The Apostle Paul told us already that, to those who are perishing, the gospel is foolishness, a stumbling block and an offence; but, to those who are being saved it is the power of God. It is our responsibility to preach the gospel, and judgment will be upon us if we do not preach the gospel. As the Apostle Paul said, “…woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” What an amazing thing for Paul to say. He did not say, “I am proud of the gospel.” He did not say, “I am downright excited about the gospel.” What did he say? He said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Let me ask you. In your ears, does that sound weaker or does that sound stronger? I want to suggest to you it is stronger. Paul says there is no shame in the gospel.
The only shame is in resistance to the gospel. The only shame comes to the one who hears the gospel and rejects it, and the only shame comes to the one who knows the gospel and does not preach it, and does not teach it, and does not share it. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation.” It is the only gospel that saves, and it is the gospel that always saves those who believe. It is the power of God unto salvation, but, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
The Foundation for Jewish Evangelism
I want to speak first of the foundation for Jewish evangelism. We need to know why it is so urgent and nonnegotiable that we preach the gospel to the Jews. Here, we confront face-to-face the great truth claim of the gospel—that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One of Israel.
The great dividing line running throughout humanity is not between Jew and Gentile, or between cultures, or between those of one socioeconomic status or another. It is not geopolitical, educational, cultural, but it is theological. The great dividing line that separates all humanity, one from the other, comes down to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul understood this. The great truth claim of the gospel is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. It is an audacious claim. It was established by Jesus Himself. It was authenticated by His words. It was demonstrated in His deeds. It was the foundation of His substitutionary death. I got involved in an interesting theological dispute a few years ago. It was in Washington, D.C., and was at a conference on the theological integrity of Baptist life. A man on the far-left fringe who had long ago left the Southern Baptist Convention said to me, “I don’t want any theology, I don’t want any doctrine, all I want is Jesus Christ.” And I said, “Well that’s fine, and that’s a doctrine.” Did he think Christ was a name stencilled on some Palestinian mailbox in Galilee? No, that is to say Jesus the Messiah.
When you say Jesus Christ, you are not just speaking a first and a last name, as if this is a European construct. That is saying, Jesus the Messiah. Yeshua HaMashiach. Jesus the Messiah; it is all there in the land of Israel. There among His own people, Jesus declared Himself to be the Messiah. He showed Himself to be the Messiah. When we look at the boldness of Peter in Acts 2, we are reminded he was speaking to a Jewish audience. He was speaking to all of those who were gathered there on the great feast day of Pentecost. You notice, he did not come and say, “I hope to gain some kind of a hearing that you might give me your ears to hear something you might find interesting, upon which later you may reflect and contemplate.” He did not say, “I want to suggest to you a reenvisioning of Judaism.” He says, “I declare unto you that Jesus is the Messiah.” It is not the repudiation of Judaism; it is the fulfillment of Judaism. Peter had the boldness to declare it to his own people.
The foundation of Jewish evangelism is nothing less and nothing other than the gospel: the gospel of the Jewish Messiah who is also King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is more than Israel knew to expect, but He is nothing less than Israel was promised. That is a very critical truth. Jesus Christ was more than Israel knew to expect, but never less than Israel was promised. Without the gospel, there is no Jewish evangelism, but, brothers and sisters, without Jewish evangelism, there is no gospel; there is no authentic gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Promise of Jewish Evangelism
First, there is the foundation of Jewish evangelism, and second, the promise of Jewish evangelism. God was glorified in the ingathering of the Jews. Look at Acts 2:37. What was the response? “When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.’” In verse 47, we have this wonderful note of triumph: “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” The gospel was preached to the Jewish people, and what was the response? On the day of Pentecost and on the days thereafter, there was response to the gospel! I want to tell you, I believe there has been a misreading of Christian history that has been foisted upon most evangelical Christians, and that is that Jewish evangelism died in the Book of Acts.
That is a slander against the Church. God has always had a remnant, and that remnant has been growing, and that remnant has been faithful, even when that remnant has been persecuted. That remnant exists not to its own glory but to God’s own glory as His chosen and purchased possession. The promise of Jewish evangelism is that Jewish people now, as then, respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Opposition to Jewish Evangelism
Not only is there a foundation to Jewish evangelism, and not only is there great promise of Jewish evangelism, there is opposition to Jewish evangelism, and about this we ought to be honest. We live in a day when it is politically incorrect to say that anyone is rightly destined for hell in the judgment of God but for salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is a day when politeness and postmodern relativism have combined in such a way that it just isn’t polite, isn’t neighborly, isn’t tolerant and, we are told of all things, with this perversion of the word love in our modern culture, that it is not loving to tell persons that but for the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, but for the gospel of Jesus Christ who shed His blood as our substitute and was raised by God on the third day. Without the gospel fact that He was truly God and truly man, and the true unity of the incarnation, that persons are going to hell; and that they deserve to go to hell, because it would be the righteous verdict of God; that, these days, is simply out of bounds of polite discourse. It is just not accepted. It is rude. But, brothers and sisters, it is the gospel and it is the only gospel we have and, even more importantly, it is the only gospel that saves.
The true act of love is sharing the good news of the gospel. Brothers and sisters, the stakes are high. There is Jewish opposition now, and there was Jewish opposition then— the claim of imperialism, intolerance, and aggression—but evangelistic witness is the most consummate act of love we can practice, demonstrate, and share. The requirement of love is also the evidence of love. We love the Jews enough to tell them about Jesus the Christ, about Jesus the Savior, and to declare that salvation has come to the house of David, the sons and daughters of Abraham, the House of Israel. The claim is made that Jews who accept Jesus the Messiah are no longer Jews. The claim that Jesus is the Messiah is a stone of stumbling. The cross is itself an offence. Jesus is rejected as the Consolation of Israel, and Christians are said to be imperialists who will not leave Israel alone—but we cannot remain Christians and allow Israel to be without a witness.
The Priority of Jewish Evangelism
There is a foundation for Jewish evangelism. Thanks be to God, there is the promise of Jewish evangelism. We acknowledge there is opposition to Jewish evangelism, but we also need to see that there is the priority of Jewish evangelism. Now, you wouldn’t know the priority of Jewish evangelism from watching Christianity. You could never discern it by tracing the history of the Christian Church. That is judgment upon us, but it is clear in Scripture. Paul in Romans 1:16 said, “To the Jew first.” That wasn’t just a statement, I believe, of sequential historical progression. I believe it was a statement of priority. It is to be preached first to the Jews. We need to recognize there is such a reversal in our modern scandal. In the early Church, of course, the question was not should the gospel be preached to the Jews, but the great question was whether or not the gospel could be preached to the Gentiles. In the early Church there was no elaborate theological explanation for why the gospel should be preached to the Jews; it was understood that this was an essential component of the gospel. The controversial issue was God’s saving purpose beyond the Jews. Then came the understanding that Jesus is the Savior of all who believe in His name. And, indeed, through Jesus, Israel has blessed all the peoples of the earth. Will you pray with me? “Our Father, what a humbling honor it is to preach Your gospel and how inadequate is any human preacher, and yet Lord, you wield us by Your Spirit. Father, I pray that it is with boldness and clarity that I have declared the gospel. But in spite of the limitations of our words, despite the limitations of any preacher, I am confident that here tonight, the Holy Spirit is at work within hearts, sovereignly calling sinners unto a Savior.”
To the Jew First in the 21st Century booklet by Dr. Albert Mohler … what you should know about Israel, Jewish Evangelism and the Jewish People.