Does the Church Have a Responsibility toward Israel? - Part 4

Johannes Pflaum

There is an erroneous thought process that is widespread among Bible-believing Christians. It is the failure to differentiate between Israel’s election and its salvation. Some think that because of Israel’s election, every Jew will be saved.

They point to Romans 11:26a, “And so all Israel shall be saved.” Others are of the opinion that, since Jews are not automatically saved, modern Israel is also no longer God’s chosen nation, but a nation like all others.

But Israel does remain God’s chosen nation throughout all time. (Other nations’ attitude toward Israel and the Jewish people usually also reflects their attitude toward God.) However, this does not mean that each and every Jew will be saved. We read about this in Hebrews 4:2: “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”

Because Israel’s election does not impart automatic salvation, her people need to hear our witness concerning Jesus. Now the question is: how can this witness become effective? Certainly not if we accuse the Jews or try to enlighten them in a condescending manner. This is an arrogant mistake, which Christianity has been guilty of far too often in the past. The only way is by proving our love for Israel. As Paul confirms: “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy…For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Romans 11:11, 13-14).

We ought to provoke Israel to jealousy—meaning, we approach with love. We speak of what has been bestowed upon us by the Messiah Jesus and what He means to us personally. We give witness of the peace we have with God because of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. Thus, Israel should begin to ask: “Why are these people so different from all others? Why do they love us? Why do they have such inner peace, and for what reason do they have so much hope for Israel?”

This is the great responsibility and commission of the Church of Jesus Christ: to provoke the people of Israel to envy, in a positive sense, so that some of them will be saved. The question is never whether Israel needs to hear the gospel—rather, what is the best way for us to witness to them. But what about Romans 11:26? Paul tells us there that upon the Lord’s return, all Israel will be saved. Is our witness then really necessary? However, only two chapters earlier Paul emphasizes something different: “Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved” (Romans 9:27). How do we understand that, on the one hand, it is called a remnant, and two chapters later, we read that it is all of Israel? Romans 11:5 helps us by introducing the concept of a “remnant according to the election of grace.”

The remnant due to the election of grace are all those Israelites who acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah and put their faith in Him. And this clarifies that belonging to the people of Israel does not mean automatic salvation. It is always a matter of a relationship to Jesus. But when the Lord returns to earth, every Jew alive at that time will recognize Him and be saved. We read about that in Zechariah 12:10. At the second coming of Jesus Christ, all of Israel will turn to Him and be saved, every Jew alive on that day. Thus, at that point in time it will be all of Israel. But from a chronological point of view, it will also be a remnant; namely, the last generation alive at the Lord’s return.    

Therefore, it is our task, our responsibility, to lovingly bring the gospel message of the Messiah to Israel and, in Paul’s words, “provoke them to jealousy.”

News from Israel - 11/2019

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