Our text is from Romans chapter 1, verse 16. What is 'To the Jew first?' The Gospel, of course. Impossible! They rejected Christ! They've had their chance! Well, let's see. What does it say in Romans 3, verse 3?
'Some did not believe.'
Some? What about all the others? That's an interesting question. Early Church history tells us a bit about it. To start with,
'.... about five hundred believed.'
Corinthians 15, verse 6). On the day of Pentecost, one hundred and twenty of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and preached the Gospel to many thousands of Jewish people. About three thousand believed on the spot. Yes, that many. Then the LORD healed a lame man outside the Temple gate. Peter preached again and five thousand believed. That is, five thousand men; the women weren't even counted!
Next, they started sharing their Messiah with others. Jews only at first. They weren't quite sure about the others until GOD made it plain to them that you don't have to be Jewish to believe in the GOD of the Jews. Amazing! They became enthusiastic about it and preached, and preached, until they had turned the world upside down; until everyone had a chance to hear; even the Gentiles. And they kept on preaching. Many died because they wouldn't keep quiet about their Messiah, JESUS. So you, who are not Jewish, are a child of GOD today because two thousand years ago, some Jews believed in Christ and spread that faith all over the Roman world.
All right! So Jews were saved in the early days. But they don't believe now. Believing hasn't been made too easy for them. For example, when they hear about Christ, many think about the Crusades between the 11th and 13th centuries. Christians wanted the land that GOD promised to the Jews; and on the march through Europe to Palestine, it seemed quite natural to exterminate the Jewish communities along the way, since Jews were thought to be 'Christ killers'.
Then there was the Inquisition. True, many real Christians died in that too. But especially in Spain beginning in 1492, for centuries it was directed against Jews who had professed the Christian faith. Consider also the Cross. We wear it as a necklace, display it in our churches, and so on. To us the Cross is a symbol of salvation. We know that
'... the Cross is foolishness to all unbelievers.' (1st Corinthians 1, verse 18). But it often became a symbol of persecution to the Jewish people. Imagine cross-bearing priests at the head of a mob heading their way; inciting the crowd to burn, destroy, murder. These things happened.
More recently, six million Jews died in the Holocaust in the midst of Christian Europe. Now can you, Christian friend, begin to understand why it takes a little more love, patience, and prayer to win a Jew to Christ? Yet in spite of it all, GOD is faithful to them. True, some don't believe. But the same holds true of non-Jews. Among our Gentile friends, are many who are religious, but don't really believe in Christ alone for their salvation. Others aren't even religious. And some others think it's all a myth.
In the meantime, GOD does save a remnant, according to grace, from among the Jewish people. (Romans 11, verse 5-6). There was never a time when the Church was without Jewish Christians in her midst. As recently as a hundred years ago, there was so many of them that they even had their own churches. What about today? Chances are that sooner or later you will come across Jews who gladly bow the knee before the LORD JESUS CHRIST. Their numbers are growing. A good number of them have become well-known missionaries concerned to bring the Gospel of the LORD JESUS to Gentiles, as well as to their own Jewish people.
GOD promises to turn away ungodliness from Jacob (Isaiah 59, verses 20 and 21); and He is beginning to do it. No, GOD has not cast away His people. The Gospel is with the Jew today. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
'Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls; prosperity within your palaces.' (Psalm 122, verses 6 and 7).
What has all this to do with you? GOD has a three-part plan. Part 1:
'Through the fall of the Jews, salvation has come to the Gentiles.' (Romans 11:11). You benefit. Part 2:
'Through the mercy shown to you, they are also to obtain mercy.' (Romans 11:31). That is, your part. Part 3: The Jewish people will be received again by GOD, not just in ones or twos, but in multitudes! For GOD's beloved Gentile children, that will usher in such a time of tremendous blessing that it will seem like life from the dead! Will you help to bring it to pass? Will you include the Jewish people in your prayers, and as opportunity offers, show them love and share the Gospel with them, as their ancestors shared it with yours? We earnestly covet your prayers for them and for us, as we seek to present Messiah JESUS to them.
I pray that the LORD will lay upon your heart His love for the present-day children of Israel. And if you would like to serve in this area of evangelism, we look forward to hearing from you. Or come and visit us.