Does the Church Have a Responsibility toward Israel? - Part 1

Johannes Pflaum

What is the Church’s commission regarding the Jewish people? A biblical investigation.

A few years ago, I was present at a conversation between two pastors concerning the Lord’s commission to the body of Christ. They were talking about evangelization and the question of Israel. One of them said: “We must definitely pursue evangelism; that is extremely important. But as for Israel, no doubt God Himself will attend to carrying out His plan for its future, and thus our involvement is not so necessary.”

That sounds reasonable—doesn’t it? Yes, evangelism is extremely important. Hudson Taylor, when speaking of the command to evangelize as given in Matthew chapter 28, always referred to it as “the last commandment of the resurrected Jesus.” It is a matter of saving people and of bringing them to faith in Christ. But does that mean we have no responsibility, no mandate for Israel? Is it a mere peripheral subject, a concern only for some very unusually pious people?

Clearly, we believe that God will bring His plans for Israel to fruition. But may we, as Christ’s Church, therefore push that subject to the back of our mind? To illustrate: The Lord Jesus said that He would build His Church, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt 16:18). But this promise does not cause us to sit back, relax, and think that church ministries are not important, that God will take care of everything. It should be the same with Israel’s situation. We know without a shadow of a doubt that God’s will for this nation will be carried out. But that is no reason for us to downplay the importance of the process. In fact, because the Lord is approaching the end goal for His chosen people, His Church has a responsibility and a commission for Israel. Paul speaks eloquently about this subject in chapters 9—11 of his epistle to the Romans.

What a witness it would have been if, during the Third Reich, the Lord’s Church had fully assumed its responsibility and followed this command. As it was, only some of the believers in Germany recognized this and acted courageously. The greater part of church denominations and Christian associations caved under the pressure and influence of the national-socialist regime (Nazi) and retreated from the Jewish question. This is not to say that we point a self-righteous finger at those who lived under the regime. With today’s digital communication system, we could probably be even more easily manipulated. But this dark chapter in history should bring us to bow down in humility and acknowledge our obligation, as Christ’s Church, to Israel in the present age—especially when we think back to that horrible time. And for that reason, I want to talk about a few issues in this series which show that we do have an obligation for the people of Israel, and what our commission actually entails. In this first part the topic is “Israel and the honor of God.”

Here on earth, God has bound His honor irrevocably to the land and nation of Israel. It is not something that Israel either wanted or merited. Nor is it because of special qualities the Jewish people possess—it is the choice of God’s sovereign and merciful grace. Thus, the Lord speaks of “my people” and “my land” at various times; for example, in the book of the prophet Joel (chapter 3:1-3), in connection with the coming judgment of the nations. “For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity [restore the fortunes] of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.”

Of course, the living God owns the whole earth, as we read in Psalm 24. But He decided to select a particular people and country for implementing His plan of salvation. Concerning the future salvation of Israel, we read: “Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 34:30).

Only our new life in Christ enables us to live to the honor and glory of God, as has been His intention for man from the time of creation. We will also give God honor and glory in eternity to come. The salvation of every human being is a matter of God’s glory and honor. We see this in the fifth chapter of Revelation, and other places such as Ephesians 1:3-14. Thus, when God’s honor and glory are at stake, we cannot be indifferent to whatever may be involved. And that is why the Church has a responsibility, a commission for Israel.

We need to consider another issue. We are living within a society that rejects the living God and has a hostile attitude toward Him. The Gospel of John talks about this hate and hostility of the world. And the more intense man’s rejection of the Bible, the greater the hostility toward everything related to God and the Bible. This includes Israel, God’s chosen people, regardless of their spiritual condition. Also, the true Church of Christ, surrounded by the increasingly decadent and secularized West, is being more and more marginalized.

Since we know about God’s plan for His nation and land, the Church has the responsibility to take an unequivocal stand with Israel and all Jews. It is a matter of God’s honor and glory, which He has linked unalterably to His people and their country on this earth. Thus, in line with the promise to Israel and the honor of God, this famous verse (Zechariah 2:8) is still valid in our present time: “For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”

News from Israel - 08/2019

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