To the Jew First – Even to the Gentiles!
By Sam Nadler
“For I am not ashamed of the Good News of Messiah, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
There are several applications for the biblical mandate “to the Jew first.” For many it is an evangelistic principle that means the Gospel should be taken “to Jewish people first”, as we reach the whole world as well. There is more to this phrase than meets the eye.
“To the Jew first” not only means that we go to the Jewish people first, but that we recognize that the Gospel is “first” or primarily a message that is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy: Jewish promises about a Jewish Messiah with a salvation that is for all people, Jew and Gentile alike. It may surprise many to discover that even when writing the Good News, the apostles were communicating a “to the Jew first” message: therefore, communicating the Good News in a Jewish context is still essential!
John’s Jewish Gospel to Gentiles
In the first chapter of John we read of a “to the Jew first” presentation: “And Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What do you seek? They said to Him, ‘Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?’ “He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which translated means Christ). ‘He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter)” (John 1:38-42).
Notice that in each of these verses John writes the Hebrew words Rabbi, Messiah and Cephas followed by the Greek translation, Teacher, Christ and Peter. Why? Because even as Matthew was writing his ‘Good News’ of Jesus to a Jewish audience, so John was writing his account of Messiah to a Greek speaking audience. A Greek audience would not be expected to necessarily understand the Hebrew words, so John was careful to translate into Greek in order that Greek speakers could fully appreciate what was being taught.
Well enough, but if you’re just going to have to translate it anyway, why bother stating the Hebrew words to begin with? Since all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16) we know there must be a reason: a vital, redemptive reason.
Messiah of Israel, Savior of the World
Here’s the point: when John wrote to the Gentile world about the essential need for faith in Yeshua, John dared not separate Messiah from His biblical and Jewish roots. For even though this Gospel account would declare Yeshua to be the Savior of the world (John 4:42), Yeshua’s credentials to be Savior of the world depend upon whether He is truly Israel’s Messiah. If Yeshua is not the rightful Jewish Messiah He has no authority to be anyone’s savior, let alone Savior of the world. The only way Gentiles could hope in Jesus as their Savior is if they understood that He is the legitimate Jewish Messiah. If we separate Him from His Jewish roots, we separate Messiah from His legitimate and eternal authority and ministry. Gentiles must remain aware of these Jewish roots of the faith; otherwise Gentiles might become arrogant toward the Jewish people and the Old Covenant teaching and thus think ‘they support the root, when in fact the root supports them’ (Romans 11:18)!
John’s Good News: Model for Ministry
John, therefore, gives us Biblical instruction in how God wants Messiah communicated to the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike. When communicating the Good News, even to Gentiles, it is not optional, but incumbent to communicate it “to the Jew first” in a Jewish frame of reference so that the testimony of Messiah might rest on the solid rock of Scripture and grow out from the Biblical roots of Israel’s Messiah. You say, “My congregation does not teach Jesus that way.” Insist on it. There is no valid reason that ‘Bible believing” congregations should teach differently. To be true to Scripture, all born again Bible believing people should communicate the Good News in a “to the Jew first” context. So that only ‘the Messiah of Israel’ would be recognized as the rightful ‘Savior of the world.’
Get involved, You can do it!
What can you do? Ask your pastor to consider scheduling a Word of Messiah Ministries’ representative to speak at your church this year. Sign up your pastor for a FREE Word of Messiah Ministries newsletter, the Shmooze Letter. You can pick up some of our books, CDs or mp3s from our website (https://www.wordofmessiahbookstore.com/) so that your pastor will be better informed and grow in understanding the Good News in its Biblical and Jewish context. This way, you and your congregation can reach out to Jewish friends and neighbors and invite them to your services, where they will hear the Good News in a way that they can understand. They will be less confused and more open to considering Jesus as their Messiah, Savior and Lord. Thus, “to the Jew first” helps both Jew and Gentile appreciate the Biblical message in a more understandable and authentic way. As we start off this new year, let’s be encouraged that the Good News is still ‘the power of God’ that can change lives and destinies, to the Jew first and to the Gentile also!