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Jesus Christ and the Jews

September 2013 | by Geoff Thomas

Ten principles continue to determine the relationship of Jesus Christ to the Jews.

1. The coming of Jesus was the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham

This promise is not postponed. That Christ will bless the nations of the world has been fulfilled in the worldwide spread of the gospel and in the conversion of the Gentiles over the last 2000 years.

2. The gospel church is central to God’s purposes today

We are not living in some parenthesis — heading for some extraordinary new time when God stops dealing with the gospel church, when he starts going back to Jerusalem, the Middle East and the state of Israel.

The centrifugal force of the Great Commission — going out from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth — is not going to end. The tape is not going to be run backwards.

Jesus sent his disciples out; he never brought them back. There will not be a centripetal force from heaven. From the ascension onwards, God is building his church in all nations.

3. God’s chosen people are Christians

They are no longer ‘the Jews’. Membership of the chosen people of God is open to both Jew and Gentile on the basis of God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.

That is to be found in the Old Testament (OT) Scriptures (Psalm 87:4-6; Isaiah 56). Even in those days, other races were welcomed into the true Israel of God: Rahab from Jericho; Ruth from Moab; and Naaman the Syrian. And Jonah was sent to preach in Nineveh.

In the New Testament, the word ‘chosen’ is only used of the Lord Jesus or of converted Jews and Gentiles. They alone are the chosen people of God under the new covenant.

4. The promised land belonged to God

God never gave away the freehold! And residence in it was always conditional on obedience to God: ‘the land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants’ (Leviticus 25:23).

Residence was open to all of God’s believing people, like Rahab of Jericho and Ruth of Moab. It was on the basis of faith in the Lord, not race.

OT Christians, like ourselves, were not looking forward to some real estate, hills and vineyards. We are told of Abraham, ‘He was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God’ (Hebrews 11:10). He was looking to New Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest.

In the OT, believers were all conscious that something better awaited them.

5. God does not have a separate plan for Israel apart from the church

In the last verses of Romans 2, Paul declares: ‘A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God’ (Romans 2:27-28).

Gentiles have been grafted into the true olive, and the true vine, Jesus Christ. Barren branches have been pruned or cut off and Gentiles have replaced them.

Gentile believers have received the Holy Spirit, which is the promise God made to Abraham, and they are the true circumcision. Both Gentiles and Jews who trust in the Lord Jesus are the true people of God.

6. God has not rejected the Jews

They are still pleaded with to put their trust in Christ and be saved; all day long we stretch forth our hands to a gainsaying and disobedient people. Whoever believes in Christ, Jew or Gentile, shall have everlasting life.

There is now one new humanity, one olive tree, one new people of God. There is no longer ‘Jew’ or ‘Gentile’, we are all one in Christ Jesus and heirs of the promise.

7. The Jews have experienced a partial hardening

Most of them identified with Caiaphas and their leaders, who judged Jesus to be a phony, a blasphemer and criminal who deserved the capital punishment he got. They judged Jews believing in Jesus as turncoats and wicked at worst, and gullible, misguided fools at best.

Unbelieving Jews experienced a hardening against Jesus Christ and his message. The sun of unbelief shone on the clay of their hearts so they became stony.

But it was not a total and comprehensive resistance. The apostles themselves were all converted Jews; and so were the 3000 on the day of Pentecost; and so were hundreds of priests who a little later believed in Christ.

It was only a partial hardening of the Jews. Lots of them became Christians, and become Christians still.

8. The full number of the Gentiles is continuing to be added to the people of God

How has this great fulness of the Gentiles come in? Today there are millions of Christians filling the continents of the world, as many Christians alive as the full total of them over the first nineteen centuries.

The first evangelists and apostles, all Jews, received the gospel message. Later the New Testament went out into all the world, resulting sometimes in great, irresistible surges of the Spirit, as during the Reformation, Great Awakening and missionary expansion of the church.

The effect of the Jewish written Scriptures read and preached was life from the dead for the idol worshipping Gentile world. It transformed Europe and the Americas, and nations like South Korea and China.

All these believers are amongst the elect men and women whom God the Father gave to God the Son before the foundation of the world. The Son willingly came into the world to live the life they should have lived in obedience to God, and die the death they would otherwise have suffered under the judgement of God.

9. All Israel will be saved

That is, all the chosen, called and elect Jews will one day irresistibly be saved. Not Judas and not Caiaphas, of course, and not any of those who refuse to repent and trust in Jesus, but all who believe upon the Lord Jesus will be saved.

Even though many of these Jews lived during the crucifying of the Son of God, still many ‘Jerusalem sinners’ were drawn into the family of God. Every Jew, like every Gentile, is saved by grace through faith in our Saviour alone.

10. All Israel with be saved, through personal faith in the Deliverer

Paul in Romans 11is thinking: ‘Let me show the Romans that this conversion of Jew and Gentile will certainly happen, because Scripture says it will happen. Let me quote a pot-pourri of prophecies from the Bible to demonstrate these promises:

‘As it is written, the deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins’ (Romans 11:26-27).

I would never have chosen those particular Bible verses to prove that God was going to save elect Jews through his Son Jesus Christ, but I don’t know my Bible as well as Paul did. He had probably memorised nearly the entire OT.

In Romans 11 he quotes from Isaiah 59:20-21, and then from Isaiah 27:9, and finally from Jeremiah 31:33-34. He slides from one quotation to another, running them into one another and modifying them as the context suits. He applies them to the congregation in Rome made up of Jewish and Gentile believers.

 

The deliverer

 

What did the prophets say? ‘The deliverer will come from Zion’.

Who is the deliverer? Jesus the Son of God, that Jewish man born in Bethlehem, who lived in Nazareth, preached in Galilee and died in Jerusalem.

But he didn’t start a Jewish cult like the Essene’s ‘Teacher of Righteousness’, withdrawing to a Dead Sea ravine to live in an isolated commune around its leader. No! Our great deliverer came right out of Zion.

He led his people from Jerusalem on to the ends of the earth. The deliverer came from Zion; he didn’t stay there and demand that every Christian go on a Mecca-like pilgrimage to Zion once in their lifetime for merit!

He has come to the ends of the world to his people, whom he has promised to be with always. And so he opened the heart of Lydia in Greece and planted his church in Rome and sent Philip to a desert place near Gaza to save a man from Africa.

But, while he was doing all this, the Lord Jesus never ignored the people of Israel. The first port of call for Paul was always the local synagogue.

The Lord has not rejected the Jews to this day, and never will. All the mass of elect Jews, until the end of the age, are going to be saved.

Geoff Thomas