Israel and the Gospel
A heresy as old as the Church is the teaching that Israel is the Church. With the setting aside of the nation of Israel, this teaching says that all the promises to Israel have passed to the Church and that we cannot expect the fulfillment of any of the promises or the keeping of any of the covenants which God has made to and with the nation of Israel. All of this, in spite of the direct teaching of the Word of God to the contrary. For instance we read in Romans 11:29 that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance “; that is, every gift, every promise, and every covenant which God has made with Israel shall yet be fulfilled.
Our purpose, D. V., in the next few articles of this chapter is to give an exposition of Romans IX, X and XI, which gives God’s teaching, plans, and purposes concerning Israel and her relationship to the Gentiles and the Church. We will do well at the very outset to keep in mind the three divisions of mankind as given by God in the New Testament. In I Cor. 10:32 we read of Jews, Gentiles, and the Church of God. We will have a fuller exposition of that a little later in our studies. We also want to get this truth over that at no place and at no time does Israel ever mean anything but the lineal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In Romans 9:1-5 we read: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites: to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises,’ whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. ”
As the Apostle Paul calls upon his conscience to bear him witness in the Holy Spirit that he is telling the truth in Christ, we call to mind that there are three realms in which man stands: (1) He could have said the truth “in Adam.” All mankind is in Adam, and the pride of the flesh and of life if reared in an environment where truth is honored could cause an unregenerate man to have regard for the truth. (2) Paul could have spoken the truth “in Moses.” Under the law Moses had commanded, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Paul’s regard for the law and the covenants of Sinai would have impelled him to tell the truth. (3) Paul speaks the truth “in Christ.” Regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and having genuine love for the Lord who is Truth, Paul as a man in Christ and as a member of His Body, the Church, was speaking the truth in the element in which he lived: that is, in Christ. It is not just pride of the flesh, it is not just obedience to the law of Moses, but it is in Christ that Paul speaks concerning his love for his kinsmen Israel.
When Paul speaks of his kinsmen he refers to the relationship of the flesh (Phil. 3:4-6). Paul remembers that according to the flesh Christ was of the seed of David and of Abraham; consequently, a Jew Himself. This is a most refreshing statement to read in this day in which we find so few people who have a love for the Jews. Here is a reference to a very common experience: A lady was visiting in an evangelical church pastored by a nationally famous individual, and when she asked the pastor about work in that city among the Jews, he replied, “Thank God, we have practically run them all out of here.”
The tragedy of such misconception pertaining to Israel is to be seen when a Jew makes a confession of faith in Christ. He becomes literally “a man without a country.” His own people, the Jews, care nothing for him; and Gentile Christians will not welcome him into their fellowship except in a few isolated instances where the Word of God has been taught and the people have been instructed pertaining to Israel’s place in God’s plans and purposes.
Personally, I cannot help but love the Jews for several reasons: Our Bible came through them; the Saviour came from Israel; Jesus loved them; Paul loved them; and we are commanded to love them.
Who are Israelites? In Rom. 9:4, 5 we have the Holy Spirit’s definition and the characteristics of the people called Israel. If you approach these two verses with an open mind and with the desire to know the will and Word of God, you will never again confuse the words Israel Gentile, and Church.
1. The first thing we notice about the children of Israel is that they are an adopted nation. God adopted them as a nation, and He has never at anytime nor will He ever at anytime adopt a Gentile nation. We read in Exodus 4:22 that Israel is His son, even His first-born. You will notice here that He does not say first begotten. Jesus is the first begotten, but Israel is the firstborn; so you see, God has these two Sons, Jesus and Israel. Now there is a sense in which there is the adoption of individuals into the family of God (Rom. 8:23), but this adoption is not consummated until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the resurrection and redemption of our physical bodies. The church is not adopted but rather is begotten and is a new creation in Christ Jesus. Israel today, the adopted son of God, is temporarily set aside because of unbelief, but the promise of God is that this adopted son is to be put back in his rightful place as head over all the peoples of the world.
2. Who are Israelites? They are the only nation to whom God revealed His glory. The glory of the Lord was manifested to Israel in the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. God’s revelation of Himself to the nation of Israel in the glory of consuming fire has never been manifest to a Gentile nation, neither to the Church of the living God-only to Israel.
3. Who are Israelites? They are the only nation in the world with whom God ever made a covenant. God has covenanted with individuals of the human race, but never with a Gentile nation. The first covenant was made with Abraham, confirmed to Isaac and again to Jacob pertaining to the land. God covenanted with Israel to give them the land from the River of Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the Euphrates river on the east. This land was to be an eternal portion for the nation of Israel. As of today, Israel has possessed only a fragmentary portion of that area, and the covenant of God with Israel is that she shall yet possess it in its entirety. No such covenant has been made with any Gentile nation.
Another covenant God made with the nation of Israel, which has no counterpart with Gentiles or the Church, is that of the Seed of David. God said He would raise up the Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh to sit upon the literal Throne of David and that He would rule over the house of Israel as a nation forever (Luke 1:32, 33; II Sam. 7:11-17). No such dealings does God have with the Church or the Gentiles.
4. Who are Israelites? To them God gave the Law. Here is a truth unrealized and unappreciated by the majority of Christians. God did not give the Law to the Church nor to the Gentiles but only to the nation of Israel. If anyone truth is set forth in the New Testament it is the blessed fact that we of the Church are not under the Law but under grace. The only Gentile upon whom the Law had any bearing was anyone who became a proselyte of the Gate; that is, he took upon himself the vows and ordinances of the Jews, associated and affiliated himself with them and thus by choice was recognized as a Jew, though a Gentile.
5. Who are Israelites? They are the nation to whom was given the service of God. The service of God pertained to the tabernacle, the temple, the priesthood, the altars, the sacrifices, various garments of different materials and hues, different articles of furniture with all the ritual, as well as special seasons and days which were involved. God has never given such to a Gentile nation, nor to the Church. And all of these Protestant and Catholic churches with their rituals, robes, candles, altars, holy days and seasons, and weeks of prayer, are nothing but a conglomerated union of paganism and Judaism with an affected Christian atmosphere. Study the Acts of the Apostles to see the simplicity of Christian worship and possibly you will appreciate the fact that the service of God as such was given only to the nation of Israel.
6. Who are Israelites? To them God made certain promises, and there is not a promise in the Word of God to another nation. These promises are many and they relate to individuals of Israel as well as to the whole nation. Some of them were spiritual and some temporal. Many were pertaining to the land, the city, the temple, and they also spoke of the superiority of the nation of Israel to the other nations. There are also spiritual promises made to the nation of Israel which relate principally to the happy days to come during the millennium.
7. Who are Israelites? It is of them that the “fathers” came. We read of father Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but there is no father from among the Gentiles. In fact, when we come to the days of our Lord we have His specific command to call no man father (Matt. 23:9).
And last of all, the Israelites are the people from whom as concerning the flesh, Christ came. If the Church is Israel, then we would read that Christ came from the Church; whereas, the Scripture tells us that Christ Himself established the Church.
A careful study of the above facts in the light of the Scripture should be sufficient to convince any open-minded individual that the children of Israel are separate and distinct from the Gentiles and the Church, and are not to be confused with either.
“Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Rom. 9:6, 7).
When one begins a discussion of Israel he soon hears it said that Gentiles who believe on the Lord are spiritual Israel. In this regard we want to make a statement to be noted well and kept always in mind: Every time the word Israel is used in the word of God, it is used to designate the lineal descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Gentiles who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are called “of the seed of Abraham” but are never called Israelites. In the sixth verse quoted above we read, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” Weymouth’s translation gives it in these words: “For not all who have sprung from Israel count as Israel. (Here Israel means Jacob whose name has been changed to Israel.) The truth is that not all of the lineal descendants of Israel are called the children of Israel; neither are all the descendants of Abraham called Israel. The children of promise came through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Neither the descendants of Ishmael, the sons of Abraham by Keturah, nor Esau are called Israel because they are not the children of promise. I am a Gentile believer, but that does not make me an Israelite, because I am not a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Much trouble exists today in the land of Palestine between the descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael. Not only do the Arabs, but also many Gentile Christians, refuse to accept the Word of God in Gen. 21:10 which tells us concerning Ishmael: “The son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.” Therefore, the son of the bondwoman is not to inherit any of the promises made to Abraham which were also confirmed to Isaac and Jacob. Paul quoted that passage of Scripture in Gal. 4:30, calling attention in this particular instance to the fact that the promises of God are to the son of Sarah and not to the son of Hagar.
In order that we may know that the distinction between Isaac and Ishmael is because of God’s election and not because they had different mothers, we have the experience of Jacob and Esau given in Rom. 9:8-13. These two sons had the same father and the same mother, and were twins. God chose Jacob and rejected Esau. This reveals to us, as stated so clearly in the Word of God (Rom. 9:11), that election is of God and not of the person elected. Permit just a word or two pertaining to the doctrine of election. Do not ever be guilty of saying that you do not believe in election, predestination and foreordination, but say rather that you do not understand these things though you do believe them. These doctrines are clearly taught in the Word of God.
Election is primarily for service. God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob out of multitudinous thousands, that through them, an elect group, He might bless all the rest of mankind. Today we have the Church who are the elect of God. God is calling out of the multitudes today a people for His name (Acts 15:14), that through this minority group of the elect, He might bless all the rest of mankind. The election of God does not mean that the others are predestined to be damned. All were born under the curse and none had any claim on God. If God chooses to elect certain ones, then the others have not a word to say except in the light of the fact that God has manifested His grace by saying, “Whosoever believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life.” Election, predestination and foreordination are of God. Man’s part is to recognize the scope of God’s grace and know that he can qualify under the designation “whosoever,” and by believing, be saved. Election is a family expression, and after one comes into the family of God, he appreciates the fact that he was elected of God.
Charles H. Spurgeon’s illustration of election is very clear. He said that it was as if he approached a door over which was inscribed the words, “Whosoever will may come.” Realizing that whosoever included him, he entered the door. Upon entering he looked back at the door and saw inscribed these words, “Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.” God does the electing-man does the believing. A man goes to hell not because he was predestined to but because he refused to believe on the Lord! Jesus Christ.
Now the election of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob manifests God’s Love in setting aside the posterity of these men and designating them as the children of Israel. Their election was not to damn the rest of the world but that through them all men might be blessed (Gen. 12:3). God’s election of Israel was for the following purposes: (1) To establish a people through whom Christ should come in the flesh (Rom. 9:5; Acts 2:30). (2) That through them His revelation (the Holy Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments) might be given to mankind (Rom. 3:1, 2; Psa. 147: 19,20). (3) That the testimony of the one true and living God might be preserved and propagated through them. (4) That they might be Jehovah’s witnesses to all the nations of the world.
Though Israel is set aside today as a nation and enjoys no national privileges, neither assumes any national responsibilities, we will learn in Romans XI that during this period of national rejection, opportunity has been extended to the Gentiles to be Jehovah’s witnesses. But because of the Gentile’s unbelief they shall surrender that privilege and it will be again given to the nation of Israel.
ISRAEL STUMBLES: The Stone of Stumbling
“As it is written, Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed”(Rom. 9:33).
The closing portion of the ninth chapter of Romans tells of Israel’s unbelief and their failure to attain unto righteousness because they sought it not by faith, and they subsequently stumbled at the stumbling stone. The stone of stumbling is also the rock of offense, and in this discussion of Israel’s blindness we want to set forth some of the teachings of the Word of God on Christ as the Rock as well as the Stumbling Stone.
Some say they do not believe in types, but such an attitude can only be manifest because of failure to understand the whole of the Word of God. In I Cor. 10:4, we have the Holy Spirit’s teaching that the Rock is a type of Christ. In the eleventh verse of the same chapter we read, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples. ” The preferred translation is, “These things happened as types.” These statements should be sufficient for any open-minded person to appreciate the fact that all of Israel and her experiences and appointments of worship, places of worship, and order of worship are types. And they are all written for our admonition.
Accepting the Word of God that the Rock is a type of Christ, we turn to Exodus 17:1-7. The children of Israel were camped in Rephidim where there was no water. They began to chide Moses crying, “Give us water that we may drink.” He rebuked them, and as their thirst increased so did their murmuring. Moses cried out to the Lord concerning his duty to the people, and the Lord told him to go on before them and take with him the elders of Israel and his rod. God promised that He would stand before Moses on the rock at Horeb. He was told to smite the rock and from it would flow water for the people to drink. The smitten rock is a beautiful type of the Lord Jesus Christ who on Calvary’s cross was smitten. From His riven side flowed blood and water (John 19:34). The rock being smitten provided water for the children of Israel. Christ being crucified provided life for all who would believe.
We want to say in this connection that the crucifixion and death of Christ was an absolute necessity in God’s plan of redemption (John 3:14). In this verse we read, “Even so MUST the Son of man be lifted up, ” showing the necessity of the crucifixion of Christ. Likewise we read in John 12:24 that “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone. “This is Christ’s answer to the Greeks that they could have no part in Him until after His death. The beginning of one’s spiritual life is by coming to the smitten Rock, that is, the crucified Christ.
As the children of Israel continued their journey toward the promised land, we read in Numbers 20:1-13 that they thirsted again and began to chide Moses because there was no water. On this occasion the Lord told him to take the rod, gather the assembly together with Aaron his brother, and to speak to the rock and it would give forth water so that the congregation and their beasts could have drink. Moses disobeyed the Lord, and in a spirit of rebellion smote the rock twice. It was because of this sin that he was forbidden to enter into the promised land. (Here is something for earnest reflection: Moses, because of disobedience, was prohibited from entering the land of Canaan, which is a type of the Millennial reign of Christ. Moses, however, was saved. Scripture teaches that one may be saved and still not reign with Christ in the Millennium.)
We used to wonder how the Lord could bar Moses from entering the promised land just because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it, but when we came to understand the typical teaching of striking the rock the second time we realized the enormity of Moses’ sin. When he struck the rock the second time he was teaching, in type, that Christ could be smitten, or crucified, the second time; and no where do we find such a teaching in the Word of God. In Hebrews 6:6 we read of Christians crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh. We say Christians because an unsaved person cannot crucify to himself the Son of God the second time. Christ died once to put away sin (Heb. 9:26).
These two experiences of the children of Israel with the rock, and the teaching of the Lord is evident. The rock was smitten once. Christ died once to put away sin. After that, sin in the life of a Christian is dealt with on the basis of speaking to the rock rather than smiting it. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful andjust to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” We trust Christ only once for salvation. Our relationship is then established. We have become a child of God. Sin cannot affect this relationship once it is established; however, sin in the life of a Christian breaks the fellowship with God and this fellowship is restored by speaking to the Rock.
Also in John 13:10 we learn that after one has been washed and then becomes defiled, he does not have to be washed all over again-only his feet which have been soiled by travel. We also learn in the teaching of the Tabernacle that after the sacrifice has been offered on the brazen altar for sin, the priest does not return to the altar and offer another sacrifice to cleanse himself of defilement, but he goes on to the laver of brass where only his hands and feet are washed.
One should be able to see now that Moses’ great sin which kept him out of the promised land was the destruction of a type relative to the speaking to the rock.
In Matthew 16:18 the Lord says that He is going to build His church upon this Rock. In the seventeenth verse is the revelation that Peter’s confession was a God-given one rather than one of his own initiative. The Rock upon which God is building His church is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11); “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (Psa. 118:22); “Jesus said unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?” (Matt. 21:42). Jesus Christ Himself is the chief Cornerstone, the Foundation, the Head of the church.
There is a reference in Daniel 2:34, 35, 44, 45 relative to the future manifestation of this rock, or stone, in its relation to the Gentiles. After the four world empires described in this chapter (Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome) have run their course, a Stone cut out of the mountain without hands is seen smashing the great image on the feet and grinding it to powder. The powder then is blown away as chaff from the summer threshing floor, and the Stone grows until it fills the whole earth. This is God’s description of the smiting of the Gentiles by the Stone, the Lord Jesus Christ, and described in our text as the Rock of Offense. With the smiting of the Gentiles, Christ establishes His Kingdom which fills the whole earth (Isa. 11:9). Some erroneously believe that this refers to Christ’s first advent, but a casual glance at contemporary events will establish the fact that the Gentiles are still in power and that Christ’s kingdom does not fill the earth. The smiting of the Gentiles by the Rock of Offense will not take place until Christ’s second coming. “. . . and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.”
THE BUDDING OF THE FIG TREE
With the many things which are transpiring in the land of Israel and among its people, the question most recurring is this, “Is the fig tree budding?” There are some interpreters today who go to great lengths and pains trying to prove that our Lord did not use the fig tree to symbolize the nation of Israel. I want first of all to establish from the Word of God that the fig tree is a symbol of Israel, and in the second place to establish the fact that the fig tree is budding.
The import of all this is to be found in the statement of our Lord that when the fig tree begins to bud, His coming draws nigh. In Matthew 24:32 the Lord says, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree. . .” The ASV gives it as “Now from the fig tree learn her parable. . .” None other that the Lord Himself said that the fig tree is a parable; that is, the fig tree is used by Him to symbolize or portray something besides the tree.
A tree in Scripture is used by the Lord to symbolize a national power (see Judges 9:8-15; Daniel 4:10-16, 19-27; Matthew 13:31,32). In Judges the nations symbolized by the trees seek to elect a king over them. In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire are symbolized by the great tree which is cut down for seven years. In Matthew 13, the mustard bush, a vegetable, becomes a tree, or a world power. We find two trees and a vine being used to symbolize Israel. In Isaiah 5:1-7, the Lord tells us that the grapevine symbolizes Israel. In Romans 11:17ff, the Lord tells us that the olive tree symbolizes Israel, and in Matthew 21:19; 24:21; Mark 11:12-14, 20 and 21; Luke 13:6-9, the fig tree symbolizes Israel. In Judges 9:8 the trees of the forest sought the olive tree to reign over them. She refused. In the tenth verse they sought the fig tree to reign over them. She refused. In the twelfth verse they sought the grapevine to reign over them. She refused. The olive tree symbolizes Israel in her covenant relationship to the Lord. The grapevine symbolizes the spiritual blessing Israel is to be to the whole world. The fig tree symbolizes Israel as God’s national witness to all the world. The vineyard was allowed to go to waste. Some of the branches of the olive tree have been cut off, but the fig tree itself was cut down. Our Lord spoke three parables concerning the fig tree. Matthew 21:18-20 says, “Now in the morning as he returned into the city he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!” Herein the Lord turned aside to obtain some fruit to satisfy his hunger when He saw the fig tree in full leaf by the wayside. Finding no fruit upon the tree He said, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever.” The word translated “forever” has disturbed many Bible students by causing them to believe that the nation of Israel would never again bear fruit; but the Greek word is aion which simply means “the age.” When the Greek wishes to express “eternity” it uses the words which are translated “the age of the ages.” When this present age comes to a close and Israel is restored and recommissioned, she will bear fruit in the age which is to follow.
In Luke 13:6-9 we read, “He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard,’ and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down,’ why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well,’ and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” When the Lord turns aside to the fig tree in full leaf to obtain fruit and finds none, He says, “Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none.” That experience took place after three years of our Lord’s earthly ministry and sets forth the fact that during these three years He had sought some spiritual fruit from His own people in Israel and had found none. With the command to cut down the tree the vineyard keeper says to let it alone for another year, or give it another chance this year, and then if it does not bear fruit we will cut it down. The Lord agreed to so do, and we find in reality that He gave Israel another chance. In answer to the prayer of our Lord from Calvary’s Cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” God gave Israel another chance on the Day of Pentecost. God gave them another chance when Peter preached his second sermon; and He gave them yet another chance by the preaching of Stephen. When Israel steadfastly refused to obey the Lord she was set aside and God allowed her to be scattered to the four points of the compass. In Acts 1:8 we find that He chose another group to be His witnesses. In Romans 11:25 we find that the setting aside of Israel as expressed by her blindness is only in part and that it is temporary and not permanent. Romans 11:17 states conclusively that just SOME of the branches were cut off and not all. The Gentiles being grafted in AMONG the olive branches bear fruit only as the sap from the Jewish roots flows through the Jewish trunk out through them.
Back to Matthew 24:32, 33, our Lord says that one of the signs of His coming is the budding of the fig tree, and while her branch is yet tender and is just beginning to put forth leaves, you may know that He is near, even at the door. The fig tree budded May 14, 1948, when Israel became a nation. Israel was the 59th nation admitted to the United Nations and has been recognized by some 67 or 68 nations up to the present time (1953). In keeping with the symbolism of the budding of the fig tree we feel that the coming of the Lord is to be soon after Israel becomes a nation.
But one says, “In Luke 21:29-31 it speaks of the parable of the fig tree and ALL the trees.” Yes, that statement but enforces that which we have been explaining: When Israel becomes a nation and when all the other nations symbolized by trees become very conscious of their national existence, then you know that the Kingdom draweth nigh. This simply means that when Israel becomes a nation all the other nations will begin to draw back from the desire to be one world and will want to be separate and din tinct nations in the world. And that is exactly what is happening in the world today. Yes, the fig tree has budded and the coming of the Lord doth draw nigh. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus. ”
Isaiah 5:1-7 “Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and also looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, 0 inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to,’ I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up,’ and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste,’ it shall not be pruned, nor digged,’ but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant,’ and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression,’ for righteousness, but behold a cry. ”
Having described the Lord’s use of the fig tree to symbolize Israel nationally, we now turn to the Lord’s use of the grapevine to symbolize Israel spiritually. In the above Scriptures the Lord described how He planted a vineyard in a fruitful hill, protected it, cultivated it, planted the choicest vine, made preparation for the harvest, but it brought forth only wild grapes. This is a picture of the Lord’s call to Abraham when He made these seven promises to him: (1) I will make of thee a great nation; (2) I will bless thee; (3) I will make thy name great; (4) thou shalt be a blessing; (5) I will bless them that bless thee; (6) I will curse him that curseth thee; (7) in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
The Lord’s choicest protection rested upon Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In Egypt under Jehovah’s watchful care Israel grew to be a powerful nation. After the exodus under the Lord’s personal supervision, direction, and leadership, He gave them laws to govern every human relationship. He gave them the tabernacle and temple services with every detail described for their worship of Him. Unto them the Lord gave the tabernacle and temple for the place of worship. He adopted them as His own, and called Israel His firstborn son. The Lord blessed them with His personal presence in the Shekinah glory; all the promises of earthly glory and blessing He gave to them. He gave unto Israel the oracles of God, and He chose Israel after the flesh to be the people from whom Christ should come. “WHAT MORE COULD I HAVE DONE?” said the Lord. Then when He looked for grapes Israel brought forth wild grapes.
Because of Israel’s failure to be a spiritual blessing to the people of the world God said He would withdraw His protective care from her. He said He would scatter her to the ends of the earth and let her lie waste. Through the centuries the fulfillment of the prophecies relative to Israel’s scattering and suffering have been fulfilled in the minutest detail. In Isaiah 5:8-30, God pronounced six woes upon Israel because of six very manifest sins: (1) Because of her selfish covetousness, desolation throughout the land would prevail, vv. 8-10; (2) because of her joyous revelry and consequent disregard for the service of the Lord they would go into captivity in deepest humiliation, vv. 11-17; (3) because of her servitude to iniquity, vv. 18-19, and (4) because they called evil good and good evil, v. 20, and (5) because of self-complacent conceit, v. 21, and (6) because of drunken exhilaration and merriment, vv. 22, 23, the Lord’s anger would be kindled; His hand would be stretched out against them; the nations from afar would dispossess them and give them captivity and suffering unparalleled.
However, we have a prophecy in John 2:1-10 which promises that the wine at the end of the wedding feast will be better than that which was served at the beginning; or, that in the days of Israel’s restoration her joy and blessing will be greater than ever in days gone by. Now here is one lesson for us Gentiles: In Romans 11:21 we learn that the Gentiles will fare no better than Israel, and we will do well to mark the six sins designated above lest we ourselves should fall short in exactly the same way.
ISRAEL-THE OLIVE TREE
“The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken” (Jeremiah 11:16).
You will notice in the above Scripture that God calls Israel a green olive tree. As stated in previous articles, the olive tree symbolizes Israel in her covenant relationship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The “green” has a definite meaning of “evergreen,” setting forth the truth that it is an everlasting covenant. In Romans 11:16-24 we have the parable of the olive tree. (Please get your Bible and read this passage of Scripture now.) The first fruit is holy, the lump is holy, the root is holy, and so are the branches. God chose and separated unto Himself a nation. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the roots; the twelve sons of Jacob, the trunk, and the branches are their descendants. The covenant which God made with Abraham was the covenant of salvation by grace (Romans 4:1-4). Because of unbelief SOME of the branches were broken off and the wild olive branches grafted in.
Right here I want to correct a common error in the thinking of the majority of Christians. In verse seventeen we have the expression “some of the branches.” God did not cut off ALL the branches, neither did He cut down the tree. The Jewish roots, the Jewish trunk, the Jewish branches still exist; and the Gentiles, symbolized by the wild olive tree, were grafted in among the natural branches instead of some of the branches which were cut off. Key words in this whole discussion are the words “some” and “among” in Romans 11: 17. The wild olive tree is not the church, neither is it a particular group of Christians. It simply refers to the Gentile nations that are now privileged to receive spiritual blessings via the covenant which God made with Abraham through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
GOD IS NOT THROUGH WITH THE JEW: HAS NEVER BEEN THROUGH WITH THE JEW, AND WILL NEVER BE THROUGH WITH THE JEW.
In Ephesians 2:11-13 we see the relationship of Gentiles to God and that their salvation has come through the covenant which God made with Abraham-salvation through faith in the shed blood of the Lamb of God. In Romans 11:29 we read that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance; so God’s purpose concerning Israel will yet be fulfilled. The Gentile Christians today-with but few exceptions-are doing exactly what God told them not to do in Romans 11:18-20. They are boasting and bragging against Israel. God’s warning is found in verses 21 through 24. Some of Israel was cut off because of unbelief; the Gentiles shall be cut off for the same reason, and Israel put back in her place. In the twenty-fifth verse of this chapter we have the specific statement of God Almighty that the blindness of Israel is partial and temporary. In Romans 9:4 we see that Israel is the only people with whom God has made a covenant-no covenant with the Gentiles-only Israel.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF ALL THIS? Though hated for the gospel’s sake, they are still beloved for the fathers’ sakes (Romans 11:28). Israel is still God’s firstborn son. Israel will yet be God’s witness to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 43:9-11).
A LIVE JEW
After the failure of Adam and Eve to obey the Lord, resulting in their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, God dealt with the human race as a whole. Their failure was manifested and resulted in their destruction by means of the flood – Noah and his family excepted. Starting again with the human race, failure again was manifested at the Tower of Babel.
After that God chose to bless mankind through a chosen family, that of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Genesis 12:3 states very explicitly, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” That simple statement means that all the families of the earth are to be blessed spiritually and physically through the nation of Israel.
One way of bestowing these blessings on the human race has been to have a live Jew appear and be used of God to resolve a crisis when it appeared. For instance, Joseph, a live Jew, was sent by God into Egypt to be the means of blessing not only Egypt and the children of Israel but the whole world. Moses, a live Jew, was brought onto the scene to resolve a crisis when it developed between Pharaoh and the several million children of Israel. Joshua, a live Jew, appeared and stepped into the breach when Moses was removed from his place of leadership. When an edict was issued, ordering the extermination of all the Jews in the world at the suggestion of Haman, Mordecai, a live Jew, was present to resolve that crisis under the leadership of the Lord.
Only God knows the tragedy that would befall the world and its inhabitants if the nation of Israel, God’s means and channel of blessing to the world, were exterminated. When God took the reins of government out of the hands of the nation of Israel and gave it unto the Gentiles, Daniel, a live Jew, appeared on the scene, and for about seventy-five years directed the affairs of state according to the will of God. Other live Jews such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, also appeared at times of crises.
Then in the fullness of time when a real crisis had arisen, a live Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, appeared with the answer to every question and solution to every problem. But He was rejected, crucified and then He returned to heaven until Israel shall acknowledge her offense. Before He returned to heaven He promised that when there arose a crisis of such proportion that Israel would call upon Him, He would return.
In the meantime, other live Jews have appeared on the scene in times of crises and through them God has blessed the world. For instance, when natural resources for production of TNT were exhausted during World War One, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, a live Jew, appeared on the scene with a formula for synthetic acetone. This made possible the manufacture of gunpowder and ammunition which turned the tide of battle in favor of the Allies. Again, in World War Two when it seemed that all was going against the Allies, Dr. Albert Einstein, a live Jew, Otto Hahn, a live Jew, and Lise Meitner, a live Jewess, appeared on the scene. Through the combined efforts of these three of the house of Israel, the atom bomb was produced and the victory given to the Allies. When polio was spreading over the world in epidemic propor- tions, Dr. Salk, a live Jew, appeared on the scene with vaccine which has almost eliminated polio from the ranks of mankind.
We look for the present crisis to wax worse and worse until the LIVE Jew, Jesus Christ, returns. When He returns all problems will be resolved and peace and prosperity, bringing joy and happiness, shall be the portion of those who will live on the earth during the thousand years that follow. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
WHY I LOVE THE JEW
My attitude toward and regard for the Jew is a matter of recognition and appreciation-a recognition of my indebtedness to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and my appreciation for their many blessings. These have created within me a love for them. I will classify the blessings under two heads: First, material, and second, spiritual. I will not at this time attempt to enumerate Israel’s blessings to the Gentiles in the fields of music, art science, medicine, finance and literature, but choose to speak only of Israel’s contribution to World War I and World War II.
In World War I when the tide of battle was going against the Allies because of an ammunition shortage, it was a young Jewish scientist who came to the rescue. Natural resources which produce acetone, used in the manufacture of TNT, became exhausted. David Lloyd George, who was the prime minister of England at the time, advertised extensively for someone to produce a formula for synthetic acetone, and within a short time such a formula was on his desk. It had been developed by Dr. Chaim Weizmann. With a mass production of this product, gunpowder was available in great abundance. And with the resumption of the attack by the Allies, armed with sufficient ammunition, the tide of battle turned in favor of the Western Allies. This event, incidentally, was an occasion for the issuance of the Balfour Declaration which was to open Palestine as a national homeland for the Jews. For political reasons this Declaration was repudiated by the issuance of the White Paper, and the doors of the homeland were virtually closed to Israel. The present and continued state of the suffering of England can be attributed to her breaking faith with her Jewish benefactors.
Not only did World War I come to a close because of the blessings of Israel, but the same is true of World War II. As the Jews fled persecution in Germany, three individuals, namely, Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner, and Albert Einstein, left at various times and by different routes. Soon after coming to America they were brought together manifestly by the Lord God Almighty, and pooling their separate findings in the realm of atomic research were able to produce a formula for the splitting of the atom. All of us remember the dropping of the atom bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima which brought the activities of World War II to a sudden cessation. Again, the promise of God made to Abraham, “Thou shalt be a blessing, ” was fulfilled.
The material blessings we have received from the nation of Israel are innumerable, and I speak now of three spiritual blessings for which not only I but all the redeemed will be forever indebted to the Jews. First of all, Israel gave us our God. God, the true and living God, is Jehovah, and we read in Genesis 9:26 that He is the God of Shem. The Jehovah of the Old Testament, who is Jesus Christ of the New Testament, is the descendant of David and of Abraham. He was called the King of the Jews at His birth and again at His death. John the revelator designated Him as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
I have eternal life because of my personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. According to the Word of God, He alone can save: and Israel was the channel through which God determined that He should come into the world. In the second place, not only did I get my God from Israel, but the revelation which has been given by God, called the Holy Bible, was given to me by the nation of Israel. According to Romans 3:1-2, the oracles of God were committed unto the Hebrew people; therefore, if it is an oracle of God it must of necessity have been given through a Jew, and if it was not given by a Jew, then it was not an oracle of God. In the light of Scripture every book in the Bible was written by a Jew, including the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles, for Luke himself was a Grecian Jew.
The third great blessing of Israel to all people is yet to be manifested. The Jews are to be Jehovah’s witnesses to the four points of the compass. They are the ones who will fulfill the prophecy of Matthew 24:14. They are the ones who will evangelize the world by the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom during the tribulation and the millennial reign of Christ.
Because of these things, how can I do other than love the Jew? I am supremely conscious of two expressions from the Word of God “, , . and I will bless them that bless thee” (Genesis 12:3), and “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,’ they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 112:6). Now you know why I love the Jew!
TO THE JEW FIRST
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth,’ to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
It has not been so long since I heard a discussion between two servants of the Lord, relative to the Jew in God’s purpose. One contended that God was through with the Jew, that he was cast off and that any effort to evangelize him would be futile. The other contended that not only was the Jew still very much in God’s program, but that also in this present dispensation the gospel was to be preached to the Jew FIRST. This discussion sent me back to my Bible to see “What saith the Lord.” In the next few articles in this chapter I hope, D. V., to give you the result of my study in the word of God, pertaining to the Jew and his place in God’s plan of the ages.
Since the Apostle Paul was the one used by the Holy Spirit to give us God’s order as pronounced in Romans 1:16, I began a study of the life and ministry of Paul as set forth in the Acts of the Apostles. Three days after Paul’s conversion as recorded in the 9th chapter of Acts, the Lord commanded Ananias to go to Paul and minister unto him. Ananias remonstrated with the Lord hoping to be spared this meeting with the archpersecutor of the Christians. But the Lord insisted that he go, and in Acts 9:15 we read, “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” You will note that when Paul was set aside to be an apostle to the Gentiles, he was also set aside to go to the children of Israel. This is important because Paul was not an apostle to the Gentiles alone, as so many think, but also to the Jews. Not only was Paul also an apostle to the Jews, but as we follow his missionary journey, we will find he went to the Jews FIRST.
In Acts 9:20 it says, “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” This tells us that the first preaching that Paul did was in the synagogues where the Jews were assembled. Again in Acts 9:22 we read, “But Paul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus proving that this is very Christ.” We have the second reference to Paul’s preaching, and it is to the Jews; and again in Acts 9:28, 29. “And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.” This third reference to his preaching shows him disputing with the Grecians, who were Helenists or Grecian Jews.
“And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they had also John to their minister” (Acts 13:5). Here we find Paul and Barnabas beginning their first missionary journey, and on the Island of Cypress in the city of Salamis, they were preaching to the Jews in the synagogues. After some unpleasant expperiences with false prophets in Paphos and the sorcerer Elymas, we find Paul and Barnabas at Antioch. “But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down” (Acts 13:14). Here Paul preached to the men of Israel.
The opposition in Antioch became so furious that Paul announced his intention of turning to the Gentiles. “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, 10, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). Mark this verse of Scripture well, for many superficial readers of the Word reason that here is the time and place that Paul turns his back upon the Jews. In this brief study you will see that Paul says this very thing THREE TIMES. Now back to verse 46 quoted above. WHY did Paul say it was necessary that the word of God should FIRST have been spoken to the Jew? I will tell you why-it is because during Paul’s entire ministry the gospel was to be preached to the Jews first. You will notice that whereas Paul says in verse 46, “. . . 10, we turn to the Gentiles,” that in the very next city to which he went, which was Iconium (Acts 14:1), he and Barnabas went immediately to the synagogue of the Jews and preached to the Jews, and also the Greeks, and a great multitude of both Jews and Greeks believed. Here is what Paul did. When the Jews in Antioch refused to receive the gospel, Paul then turned to the Gentiles of THAT SAME CITY. His turning from the Jews to the Gentiles was strictly a local experience and NOT national; nor was it world-wide, for you see in Acts 14:1, that he went to the Jew FIRST in the very next city.
“And on the sabbath day we went out of the city by a riverside, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither” (Acts 16:13). When Paul reached Philippi, in answer to the Macedonian call, he goes on the sabbath (the day on which Jews worshipped-not Christians) down along the riverside where the Jews worshipped for reason of ablution if they were not in the synagogue, and there he found a number of women. (Had there been ten Jewish men, they would have had the worship in the synagogue.) Here we see in Macedonia, Paul is still going to the Jew FIRST.
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead, and that Jesus whom I preach unto you, is Christ” (Acts 17:1-3). In Thessalonica, Paul goes to the Jews FIRST. Why does the Scripture say in the second verse quoted above, “”. . . as his manner was. . .”? I will tell you why-because Paul was not disobedient to the heavenly vision but preached the gospel according to God’s command, “”. . . to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews” (Acts 17:10). Paul and Silas in Berea go to the Jew FIRST.
“Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him” (Acts 17:17). While Paul is waiting at Athens, he goes to the synagogue and preaches the gospel there in Athens to the Jew FIRST.
“After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth. .. ” and he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:1 and 4). Paul in Corinth is found preaching the gospel to the Jews first and also to the Greeks, but we find in the 6th verse of the same chapter, “And when they opposed themselves and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” Because of the opposition, Paul says, “”. . . henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”
Here again we have the same experience of Paul in Antioch-turning from the Jews to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). This is the second of the three times Paul says, “I am going to the Gentiles”; and here, as the first (Acts 13:46), we find it is local, not national nor world-wide. Look-in the very next city into which Paul goes from Corinth, which is Ephesus: “And he came to Ephesus and left them there; but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews (Acts 18:19). He went immediately into the synagogue of the Jews, and preached the gospel to the Jew FIRST.
Acts 19:8 reveals to us that three months of Paul’s preaching in Ephesus was in the synagogue, to the Jew FIRST, and also to the Greek: “And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.”
“Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Here where Paul is speaking to the elders of the Ephesian church he tells them that his witness was “to the Jew first, and also to the Greeks.” Notice, however, that the Jew is still mentioned FIRST.
In Paul’s defense before Agrippa (Acts 26:19, 20, 23) he says, “Whereupon, 0 king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision; but showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. That Christ should suffer and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” Paul tells us that he preached first unto the Jews of Damascus and Jerusalem, and then to the Gentiles. In verse 23, he speaks of the light unto the people (Jews) and to the Gentiles.
In Acts 28: 1 7 we read, “And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together.” Paul is a prisoner in Rome calling for the Jews, but in Acts 28:28 he says, “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” Paul for the third time says that he is turning to the Gentiles.
This closes the missionary journeys of Paul, and we have no record of any further ministry. We can only judge his turning to the Gentiles in the light of the two previous times which are found in Acts 13:46 and Acts 18:6 where he went to the Jews FIRST in the very next city.
Really, there is just one thing for us to settle for ourselves, and that is the question-Are we living in the same dispensation in which the Apostle Paul lived and ministered? I am answering that for you: WE ARE, and if the gospel is still the power of God unto salvation, as Romans 1:16 says, it is still TO THE JEW FIRST. The giving the gospel to the Jew first is as binding on us as it was on the Apostle Paul.
The experience of two great missionary statesmen and founders of missionary organizations, should be very informing and helpful to us. I refer to J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, and John Wilkinson, founder of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews-two great men of God and their pre-eminently successful Missions. On the first day of every year, J. Hudson Taylor would make out his personal check to the Mildmay Mission to the Jews, and send it to his friend John Wilkinson, with this notation-“To the Jew first.” John Wilkinson received this check with a grateful heart, and in turn made out his check to the China Inland Mission, mailing it to his beloved friend, J. Hudson Taylor, with the notation-“and also to the Greek.”
Can it be possible that the gospel is still the power of God unto salvation but not still to the Jew first? I don’t think so. In Deut. 32:8, 9 we learn that the Lord established the nations of the world in time and place according to the number of the children of Israel. Jacob (the children of Israel) is the lot (measuring rod) of His inheritance. Acts 17:26, 27 reveals unto us that the times appointed and the boundaries of national habitation-which were determined according to the location and number of the children of Israel-are for the specific purpose of enabling mankind to find God. Since Israel was chosen and designated to be Jehovah’s witnesses to the ends of the earth (Gen. 12:1-3; Isa. 43:9-12), all the rest of mankind appears in time and place in relationship to the Jew. That is the reason the gospel is to the Jew first.
A brief summary of the Apostle Paul’s ministry, as recorded in Acts, is our criterion for accepting his statement that it is to the Jew first. In Acts 9:15 we see that Paul was a chosen vessel to the Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel. He began his ministry (9:20) going into the synagogues of the Jews first to preach Christ. In 9:22, arriving in Damascus he preached to the Jews. In 9:29, back in Jerusalem he preached first to the Grecian Jews. In 13:2-5, at Salamis he preached to the Jews first. In 13:14-16, at Antioch he preached to the Jews first. In 13:46 Paul spoke of turning to the Gentiles, but in 14:1, when he came to Iconium he went to the Jews first. These two experiences show us that when he had gone first to the Jews in a certain city and they refused to hear him, he then turned to the Gentiles in that city, but going into another city he went to the Jews first. In 16:12, 13 he went on the sabbath (Jewish day of worship) to the riverside where prayer was made (plenty of water for Jewish ablutions), where a group of women had gathered (it takes ten men for a synagogue). The above experiences make it very plain that this was a group of Jewish ladies meeting for worship, and here Paul again went to the Jews first.
In 17:1-3, at Thessalonica Paul went to the Jews first AS HIS MANNER W AS. This explicitly states that it was Paul’s practice and procedure to go always to the Jew first. In 17:10, in Berea Paul went to the Jews first. In 17:17, in Athens Paul went to the Jews first. In 18:1-4, at Corinth Paul went to the Jews first. In 18:19, at Ephesus Paul went to the Jews first. In 19:8, again in Ephesus Paul went to the Jews first. In 20:21, visiting the Ephesian elders on his way to Jerusalem, Paul called attention to the fact that he gave his witness to the Jews first and also to the Greeks. In 26:20, in his defense before Agrippa, Paul explained that he went to the Jews first at Damascus, Jerusalem, and all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles. In 28:17, arriving in Rome and being imprisoned, Paul first of all called the chief Jews together. This brief summary of Paul’s missionary journey shows unmistakably and irrevocably that Paul went AL WAYS TO THE JEW FIRST.
The missionary plan and program as unfolded by our Lord’s ministry and teaching was after this order. At His first advent He went ONLY to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He sent His disciples ONLY to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Not until after His death, burial, resurrection and ascension was the way opened for the Gentiles. The tenth chapter of Acts, recounting Peter’s experience in the household of Cornelius, manifests the door be- ing opened to the Gentiles. In 10:45 we learn that when the door was opened to the Gentiles, it was to the Jews and ALSO to the Gentiles, rather than to the Gentiles INSTEAD OF to the Jews. This marks a new departure in the preaching of the gospel, one that is seldom recognized by Bible students today.
I want to repeat that when the Lord opened the way for the Gentiles, it was on the basis of preaching the gospel to the Jews first and also to the Gentiles, rather than of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles instead of to the Jews. In Acts 11:18 we read again that God ALSO granted repentance unto the Gentiles. Israel isn’t completely cast off; Israel isn’t completely set apart; Israel today still figures foremost in God’s plans and purposes. “And if SOME of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in AMONG them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree” (Rom. 11:17). This verse of Scripture and its context give the truth of God concerning Israel, to the effect that the Gentiles are grafted in among the Jews; and if any Gentile bears any fruit at all to the honor and glory of the Lord, it is because of the sap which flows from the Jewish roots, up through the Jewish trunk, out through the Gentile branch.
In Rom. 11:25 God tells us that not all Israel is blinded but just part of them, so that today there are many in Israel who see the truth. Neither is this blindness permanent. Israel’s blindness will be lifted when God completes His work of taking out of the Gentiles a people for His Name, to be united with that remnant of the election according to grace from Israel, to comprise the body of Christ in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile. God’s unlimited and unqualified blessing upon any missionary endeavor demands that such endeavor be in accordance with His eternal purpose which is stated in Rom. 1:16 as to the Jew FIRST, and ALSO to the Greek.
To summarize God’s program for missions: At the time of our Lord’s first advent the gospel was to be preached only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. After Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit, it was to be preached also to the Greeks, but to the Jews first. After the rapture of the saints and the sealing of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (see Rev. 7) the gospel is to be preached only to the Gentiles. The Jews who are to be saved in, during, and out of the great tribulation will be saved as a unit-a nation shall be born in a day-by the visible appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ unto them as their Messiah, “and so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26).
In I Cor. 14:40 the Spirit of the Lord says, “Let all things be done decently and in order .” In a universe created and controlled by God Almighty who possesses omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, all things of necessity must be in order. In the beginning God dealt with the human race as a whole. They failed to obey Him and He called out Abraham, and from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came the Hebrew people to whom were committed the oracles (words) of God. From them came the Messiah, and they in turn were to be Jehovah’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. The Gentiles had no part at this time in God’s purposes (see Eph. 2:11-13). Because of Israel’s refusal to receive their Messiah and to carry the glad tidings concerning Him to the ends of the earth, God set the nation aside temporarily (Rom. 11:25), and placed Gentiles in among the remnant of Israel (Rom. 11:17). To this group were given the privileges of carrying the gospel to all. (This was done in the first century.) The commission as given by God was to be followed after this fashion: When the Lord Jesus Christ himself came He said, “. . . I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). When He sent out the twelve He said, “. . . Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5, 6). There was to be no witness to the Gentiles until after His blood was shed (Eph. 2:13). With His death, the commission concerning the preaching of the gospel was extended to take in all creatures (Mark 16:15). But with the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Great Commission we find a particular order being commanded by the Lord. In Luke 24:47, though it was to be among all nations, they were to begin at Jerusalem. In Acts 1:8, again it is stated that their witness begins in Jerusalem. In this connection we have the order as given through the Apostle Paul: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,’ to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Rom. 11:28 also calls attention to the fact that though the Jews are set aside as a nation they are still beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
These passages of Scripture give to us the progression or order in giving the gospel to the ends of the earth. It was preached until Pentecost to the Jews only. Afterward, it was preached to all nations, both Jew and Gentile; but because of Israel’s particular place in the favor of God, it was to be preached to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Regardless of what one’s interpretation or concept of this may be, history bears out the fact that wherever and whenever God’s order is carried out-to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile-the Lord’s blessings and provisions have proven that this is His divine order for missions. Let us sum it up in these words: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature-to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.”
WHY IS THE GOSPEL TO THE JEW FIRST. . . Because therein is the righteousness of God revealed. Please note Romans 1:16, 17a, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. . .” Paul’s discussion of the revelation of the righteousness of God is after this fashion:
1. Paul declared that he is a debtor both to the Greek and to the Barbarian; both to the wise and to the unwise. 2. He declared he is ready to preach the gospel to them that are at Rome, because he is not ashamed of the gospel. 3. He is not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. 4. The Divine order is TO THE JEW FIRST, and also to the Greek. 5. The above four declarations are made because therein is the righteousness of God revealed. The most common error in the interpretation of this portion of Romans is due to an oversight. I have found very few Bible students anywhere who realize that the righteousness of God is revealed in preaching the gospel to the Jew first, but after calling it to their attention, it is easy for them to see it. The question which now arises and which I propose to discuss is “wherein is the righteousness of God revealed by the preaching of the gospel to the Jew FIRST.”
In God’s plan of the redemption of the human race, He is using two instruments, or two servants, in carrying out His purpose. The first instrument, which is also the primary one, is “The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” He is the Seed of the woman which shall crush the serpent’s head; the Seed of Abraham in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed; the Lion of the tribe of Judah; the Son of David whose throne shall be established forever, and the Son of God who put away sin by sacrificing Himself, even Jesus the Christ.
The second instrument God is using in the redemption of the human race is the Nation of Israel. God called both Israel and Jesus His Son and His firstborn. God called both Israel and Jesus out of Egypt. God established Israel’s primogeniture, and it still prevails.
In Genesis 9:26-27 it says, “And He said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge J apheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” God’s blessings are upon Jehovah, the God of Shem. Japheth, the progenitor of the Gentiles, is promised enlargement. There are about 13,000,000 descendants of Shem in the world today, but Japheth has 1,800,000,000 descendants.) Yet Japheth has to dwell in the tents of Shem.
How can nearly two billion Gentiles dwell in the tents of only thirteen million Jews? The significance of that statement is to be found in the fact that all of Japheth’s blessings are to come from Shem; that is, today, the Gentiles are to receive their blessings from the Nation of Israel.
God gives expression to the same thought in Genesis 12:1-3, “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
The key expression of these verses is to be found in the latter part of the third verse, “. . . in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed,” that is, all the families of the earth, both Jew and Gentile, shall be blessed by Abraham and his posterity. Abraham’s posterity is referred to in the Scriptures as the seed of Abraham.
When the word seed is in the plural it means Israel collectively, and when the word seed is singular, it means Jesus Christ individually; so that the blessings of Abraham to all families of the earth are to be both from Israel and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now the blessings of Shem, Abraham, and Israel to all the families of the earth are threefold:
1. God made Israel a depository for His truth. The oracles of God were committed unto Israel. Every book in the Bible was written by a Jew. The Jews kept the Bible intact until the coming of Christ, the establishment of the Christian Church, and the closing of the Canon of the Scriptures. 2. God appointed Israel to be the channel through whom the personal Redeemer was to come. Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, was the descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 3. Israel was designated to be Jehovah’s witness to the whole world that all men might know of Jesus the Christ. Israel has fulfilled two of the purposes for which God brought her into being; namely, she has given us the Bible, and she has given us the Saviour of the world; but she has failed to be a witness to the nations. All the prophetic prophecies of God are in agreement that Israel will yet fulfill her third mission and preach the gospel to every creature in all the world.
In Romans 9:4, 5 we read, “Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” You will note the sevenfold difference between the Jews on one hand and the Gentiles on the other hand; namely, the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the law, the service, the promises, the fathers-and to these is added an eighth; namely, “. . . as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.”
The children of Israel are the only people with whom God has dealt nationally, with whom He made covenants, with whom His glory dwelt, to whom He gave the law, from whom He required a service, and to whom He made promises. These facts reveal the difference between the Israelites and the other peoples of the world. In Amos 3:2 God says, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.”
Though Israel refused to be God’s witness to the whole world, and even though from 70 A.D. to May 14, 1948, she was cut off nationally, she has never lost her primogeniture. God’s righteousness is revealed in giving her priority in point of order in the reception of the gospel. The very righteousness of God demands that the gospel be to the JEW FIRST, because salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22).
Leading missionary statesmen tell us that over two-thirds of the human race has never come in contact with the gospel, much less has even heard of it. After two thousand years of Christian missions two-thirds of the human race is still untouched. There must be a reason, and there is a reason. The world will never be evangelized until the nation of Israel is converted and becomes in reality, Jehovah’s witnesses. We read in Romans 11:13-15, “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. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” Note the following: Paul tells us that he magnifies his office as the apostle to the Gentiles in the hope that the Jews might be saved. Paul’s diligence and unceasing efforts to reach Gentiles with the gospel was to stir up the nation of Israel to jealousy that they might be saved. In verse 15 Paul tells us he wants to see Israel saved because it will be then and then only that the entire world will have the opportunity to hear the gospel. Many people tell me that there are so many Gentiles who have never heard the gospel of Christ in comparison to the number of Jews, that we should exert every effort to reach the Gentiles at this particular time. The Scriptural truth is that the Gentiles will never be reached in any appreciable numbers until Israel is converted.
It is because of God’s purpose in Israel; it is because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance; it is because the Gentiles shall dwell in the tents of the Jews; it is because Israel is to be a blessing to all families of the earth; it is because Israel is to be Jehovah’s witnesses; it is because of all these things that the righteousness of God is revealed in the preaching of the gospel to the JEW FIRST, and also to the Greek.
I WHY WE MUST GIVE THE GOSPEL TO THE JEW
“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus said unto him, They have no wine. Jesus said unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour has not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew,.) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine,. and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse,. but thou has kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory,’ and his disciples believed on him” (Jnhn 2:1-11).
A Significant FIRST
There is something very significant about the “first appearances” in the Bible, and this, the first miracle which our Lord performed is no exception. The fact that it is His first miracle, coupled also with the fact that it is symbolic, demands our closest attention. Get the whole picture of the miracle in your mind. On the third day, Christ and His mother attended a marriage. When they wanted wine, it was revealed that they had none. After Jesus’ remonstrance with His mother, He set things in motion to supply the wine. There were six empty waterpots of stone near by. Jesus commanded them to be filled to the brim with water. After the waterpots were filled with water, Jesus again commanded the servants to draw out and carry it to the governor of the feast. When the governor tasted the water which had been changed into wine, he observed that it was good. Calling the bridegroom to him, he complimented him upon having good wine at the last instead of the customary way of saving the bad wine for the last. This was the first miracle Jesus performed. It manifested His glory and caused His disciples to believe on Him. This is not just simply an account of the miracle which the Lord performed, for Christ did not perform miracles for the sake of miracles. His miracles were performed not only to minister to those present, but primarily to teach the fundamental lessons which would not be easily forgotten. The need ministered by the miracles of our Lord, though satisfied in each instance, continued to exist elsewhere. However, because the lesson involved had been taught, we do not find the miracle repeated, and we can very readily see that the primary purpose of the miracles was for instruction in the deep things of God for those who have ears to hear.
The Significant LESSON
Now let us consider the lesson which our Lord is teaching in this first miracle of His ministry. Our Lord’s ministry is spoken of as being for three days.
Hosea 5:15 says, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” Again in Hosea 6:2 we read, “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” We learn that the Lord is going to have two days between His two advents, and on the third day He is going to raise up Israel to live again in His sight. II Peter 3:8 tells us, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” We learn that one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day with the Lord. Interpreting Scripture in the light of Scripture, we know that all miracles and parables about marriage and marriage feasts are typical of the marriage of the Lamb and the marriage supper that follows.
Mary Typifies Israel
Mary, the mother of Jesus, typifies the nation of Israel because she is the one through whom the SEED had come. Mary attempts to dictate to Him what to do, even as the nation of Israel attempts to dictate to the Lord. She is rebuked for not having reverence for the Lord of Glory.
Nation of Israel Without Joy Now They were without wine at the feast; and Israel at the time of Christ’s return will be without that which alone brings joy to the heart of Israel: The Saviour- King.
Man’s Number for Six Thousand Years
Six is man’s number, and the empty waterpots of stone show us Israel’s condition at the time of our Lord’s return. Jesus now turns to the servants and commands them to fill the empty waterpots with water. You will notice that it was not until the waterpots were filled with water that the water became wine. Water is a symbol of the WORD of God. Christ could have filled the empty waterpots miraculously, but the main lesson of this miracle is that He commanded the servants to fill the six empty waterpots with water.
A Command to Christians
Prophetically, that is a commandment to us to give the gospel to the Jews, and until they have been given the WORD, the miracle transforming the water to wine cannot be effected, and they can know no joy. You will recall in the teaching of the “valley of dry bones” that no miracle took place until the Word of God was preached to the dry bones, and in this first miracle of the Lord, nothing supernatural happened until the WORD was given. God can save Jews without our help, but for reasons, good and sufficient to Him, it has pleased Him to bring about reconciliation between Himself and Israelites through the ministry of redeemed men and women. THE GOSPEL MUST BE PREACHED TO JEWS BEFORE THEY CAN BE SAVED.
THE NECESSITY OF WITNESSING TO THE JEW FIRST
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord I with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) There his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.
These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth,’ but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe,’ nevertheless let us go unto him.
Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go” (John 11:1-7,11,14,15,38-44).
It is apparent that our Lord is telling something far more important than a simple recitation of the facts concerning the death of Lazarus.
This raising of Lazarus is the seventh miracle, or “sign,” as John calls them, recorded in John’s Gospel. The whole experience of Lazarus’ death and resurrection is a sign given us by our Lord.
Now it is for us to learn the sign and its significance. When we remember that the Lord Jesus Christ was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, we know that this sign pertains to Israel. This incident in the life of Lazarus is a type of Israel’s rejection and restoration.
In verse 11, Jesus said, “Lazarus sleepeth”-meaning, his death is not eternal. He also tells us in the same verse that he is going to awaken Lazarus from his sleep.
Israel’s rejection is not permanent, only temporary, and she shall yet be restored in all fullness of glory. Romans 11:25 says, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits,’ that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” Now in this verse we note two things-the blindness is partial and it is temporary.
It is true, the two days that our Lord is absent from the land, Lazarus is in a state of sickness and death.
In II Peter 3:8, we read, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. ” Here we learn that one day is as a thousand years; and the significance of the two days teaches that our Lord is going to be out of the land for two days (two thousand years), then come back into the land, or return to the earth. Israel is in a state of rejection during His absence from the earth, and when He returns it will be for the the purpose of raising or restoring Israel to her place of spiritual leadership. (Israel’s restoration nationally speaking will take place prior to that time. In fact, Israel was restored to her place among the nations on May 14, 1948.)
Now let us observe how Jesus raised Lazarus. First of all, the fact is established that Lazarus is dead; and we know that Israel is actually cut off from the Lord spiritually. But in connection with this do not forget Romans 11:28, “As concerning the gospe~ they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. ”
The Lord could have removed the stone miraculously, or he could have called Lazarus to come through the stone, but He did not. The Lord could have by the exercise of His supernatural power removed the graveclothes Himself from Lazarus, but He did not. We learn from this that our Lord could save Israel by a miracle and without the help of any human being if He chose to do so; but it hath pleased God Almighty to save both Jew and Gentile through the instrumentality of the preached Word as given by redeemed men and women.
IN WITNESSING TO JEWS, THERE ARE STONES TO BE REMOVED.
First, there is the stone of GENTILE PREJUDICE. We never have a real Jewish problem until the Jews confess Christ as their Saviour. The problem is “What shall we do with these Hebrew Christians?” They are outcasts from their own people, and in too many of our Christian churches, they are not welcome. It has been stated that it is easier for a Jew to accept Christ than for a Gentile to accept a Jew. God forbid that any of my readers should ever lift a hand or utter a word against the lost sheep of the house of Israel, for God’s curse will rest upon such a one (Gen. 12:3). But that stone of prejudice must be removed.
Second, the stone of JEWISH HATRED OF CHRISTIANS AND OF CHRIST must be removed. Up until the time of Hitler’s purge of the Jews, practically all of the pogroms had been instigated by and in the name of the so-called Christian church. A brief survey of Jewish persecution will show you in a short time why the Jews have hated Christ and His followers. That stone can only be removed by Christians manifesting the love toward Israel that God required.
Third, the stone of IGNORANCE must be removed. Contrary to popular opinion, the Jew does not know even the Old Testament. The majority of them believe absolutely nothing. He must be taught the Scriptures, which is a task requiring great patience.
After the stone is removed and Israel comes forth, she is still bound by graveclothes. Her Judaistic and legalistic inheritance and training constitute her graveclothes. This can only be removed by leading her into the full light of the glorious freedom which we have in Christ Jesus.
Yes, Israel could be saved by supernatural power of the living Christ without the aid of any human witnessing, but God has not so pleased to work. His plan is for redeemed men and women to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, which surely includes the Jew. In fact, God’s order is “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Will you heed the words of the Saviour and help to “take away the stone” and “remove the graveclothes” from the lost sheep of the house of Israel?
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The creation of the universe and the revelation of God pertaining to man’s redemption set forth God’s work as being progressive and orderly. If our lives are conformed to His plan for us there must be order also in them. God has had a way of requiring certain things first of all at the hands of His creatures.
First, in the garden of Eden the Lord required that man recognize the sovereignty of God by abstaining from eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Second, it was not long until He required that the first-born of man and beast should be dedicated to Him. Third, He required a tenth of the increase of man’s possessions for His own. Fourth, He required the first fruits of the harvest to be publicly dedicated to Him as a part of worship. Fifth, in Matt. 6:33 He required that His disciples seek the kingdom of God first. Sixth, in Matt. 7:5 He required us to first cast the beam out of our own eyes. Seventh, in Matt. 5:24 He required us to first be reconciled to our brothers. Eighth, in Matt. 23:26 He says to cleanse first the inside of the cup. Ninth, in Matt. 10:6 He required His disciples to go first and only at that particular time to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Tenth, in Rom. 1:16 in the inauguration of His world-wide mission program, He required that the Jew should be first, that is, given priority.
It is my firm conviction that modern mission programs are floundering on the sea of despair and failure because such programs refuse to recognize Israel’s priority. The majority of Christians with whom I am acquainted are missing great blessings of the Lord, both spiritual and material, because they refuse to acknowledge that the gospel is to the Jew first in this present era. Our Lord’s mission program briefly is as follows. At His first advent the Lord Jesus Christ Himself with His disciples went only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. At His second advent, during the time of the Tribulation the Lord’s evangels (the hundred and forty-four thousand of Rev. 7) will go only to the Gentiles. In between these two specific missionary movements all believers in the Lord are commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel to EVERY creature, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
A careful study of the chronology of the New Testament will reveal that Rom. 1:16 was written some thirty years after the inauguration of the present Christian era and therefore, is in force today as much as it was in the day in which it was written. The Apostle Paul, who is the teacher and example for modern missions, always obeyed the instructions of Rom. 1:16 and went to the Jews first, regardless of the place in which he ministered. The manifold blessings of God upon groups and individuals are placed in line with God’s plan and purpose. The failure of the majority to put the Jew first results in their following the course that is at a tangent with God’s line of blessings.
As I think of the blessings of the Lord awaiting any who will claim them, I beg of you to consider God’s desires concerning His firstborn son Israel (Ex. 4:22). Notice just a few Scriptures. In Mark 16:15 the Lord says, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” In Luke 24:47 the Lord says, “”. . . should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” In Acts 1:8 the Lord says, “… ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” And in Rom. 1:16 the Spirit of the Lord says, “to the Jew first.”
These particular passages emphasize two things for certain. First, the gospel is to be preached in all the world to every creature. Second, it is to be to the Jew first. “Beginning at Jerusalem” means to the Jew first because Jerusalem was the capital of Jewry. Several questions may have arisen by now. First, you live in a community where there are no Jews and have no opportunity to witness personally to the Jews. You put the Jew first by praying for the peace of Jerusalem (Psa. 122:6). You give God no peace until He has restored Israel (Isa. 62:6, 7). In the next place, when you make distribution of your tithes and offerings you put the Jew first by giving to those who are witnessing among the Jews. You yourself individually are responsible to the Lord for the handling of your funds and you cannot rid yourself of that responsibility by giving them to a church and permitting it to distribute them as it sees fit.
For years we have tried to put the Jew first in our prayers, thoughts, giving and ministering and I want to give you this personal testimony that the blessings of the Lord have been too numerous to enumerate. Believe me, Gen. 12:3, “I will bless them that bless thee” is as true today as when the Lord uttered it hundreds of years before the birth of our Lord. Now is the time to put first things first.
HOME OR FOREIGN MISSIONS?
Recently several have asked questions wanting to know our evaluation of mission programs. Some are interested in what is called home missions while others are interested in foreign missions, and still others favor African missions and such like.
It is interesting to note in the Word of God that there is no such division of missions as listed above. We find two things pertaining to God’s plan of evangelizing the world, first as stated in Mark 16:15 where Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” According to this commission there is no such thing as home and foreign missions, but rather the gospel is to be preached to every creature in the world regardless of where he is.
After Christ’s ascension, and with the calling of Saul of Tarsus to be the great missionary apostle, God laid down His order of missions and it has not been changed unto this good day. With the setting aside of Israel as a nation, and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the door of the gospel was opened also to the Gentiles. God’s love for His people did not change, though they were set aside as a nation; and the divine order of missions, instead of being divided between home and foreign, is very simply expressed in Rom. 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
God divides missions into two orders: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (or Gentiles). He has never changed that order; and many mission programs suffer, and many missionary – minded Christians are robbed of blessings because they do not recognize and follow God’s appointed order. Franz Delitzsch, the great commentator of a century ago, said that any mission program which did not recognize Israel’s priority as stated in Rom. 1:16 was like a bird trying to fly with one wing.
Jesus has outlined it very easily and simply in His Word. For instance in Luke 24:47, He tells them: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” In Acts 1:8, He again tells them to begin in Jerusalem: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Then as stated in Rom. 1:16, He says “”. . . to the Jew first. . .”
Every city into which the Apostle Paul went he ministered to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles, even though he was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles. There is but one apparent reason for his phenomenal success as a witness to the Gentiles, and that is, he followed the divine order of going to the Jews first.
If one is the least bit interested in missions, it will repay a hundredfold to put Israel first on the mission list and then consider the Gentiles. This, from the Word of God.
FAiLURE OF MISSIONS
On every hand we hear much today of the failure of Christianity and Christian missions. The most common alibi that is being offered is segregation in the South. This seems strange to me in the light of the fact that the greatest period of missionary activity and out-reach of the gospel was in an era when there were more slaves in the world, possibly, than any other time, the heads of government were more corrupt than ever before, the people given over almost entirely to sports and amusements, the taxes were exorbitant, home life had broken down and the Bible was not taught in governmentsponsored institutions. I am speaking of the First Century, of which the Holy Spirit tells us in Col. 1:23 that the gospel had been preached to every creature under heaven, even before Paul was converted.
Before one says Christianity is a failure, the purpose of missions should be established. God’s purpose in missions is not to convert the world in this age of grace. According to Acts 15:14, He is taking out of the Gentiles a people for His name. His command was to “preach the gospel unto every creature under heaven,” with the promise that whosoever believed on the Lord Jesus Christ would be saved. Our Lord Himself came preaching only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Not until after His death, burial and resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit was the gospel sent ALSO to the Gentiles. In Acts 10:45; 11:1, 18; Rom. 1:16 we learn that it is also to the Gentiles, rather than instead of to the Jews. God’s plan of missions is set forth in Rom. 1:16: To the Jew first, and also to the Greek. In Luke 24:47 they were to begin with the Jews in Jerusalem. In Acts 1:8 they were to begin with the Jews in Jerusalem. In Rom. 1:16 they were to continue to give the gospel to the Jews first. Not only has the modern church refused to give the gospel to the Jew first, but for all practical purposes they refuse to give it to the Jew at all.
The failure of modern day missions can be attributed only to the failure to follow God’s order, to the Jew first. The power of the Lord placed at the disposal of the church is along the lines of the divine plan, and the blessings of the Lord are to be found along the line of obedience to His commands. The success or failure of missions is very simple. Does it follow God’s order?
Segregation has nothing to do with the success or failure of missions; Communism has nothing to do with the success or failure of missions; Godless rulers have nothing to do with the success or failure of missions; excessive sports and amusements have nothing to do with the success or failure of missions; exorbitant taxes have nothing to do with the success or failure of missions; putting the Bible and prayer out of the school has nothing to do with the success or failure of missions. Obedience to the command of our Lord has all to do with the success of missions. And the command of our Lord is like unto this: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15)-“to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).
MAN’S PART IN ISRAEL’S RESTORATION
Ezekiel 37: 1-14 “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley: and 10, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, 0 Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, 0 ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, 10, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, 0 breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, 0 my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, 0 my people, and brought you up out of your graves. And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.”
In the vision described in the above Scripture we find the Lord taking Ezekiel out into a valley full of dry bones. As they walked among them the Lord asked Ezekiel if he thought the dry bones could live, to which he replied, “0 Lord God, thou knowest.” God then commanded Ezekiel to prophesy unto the bones. As he prophesied we note three movements taking place among them. 1) The bones came together, every bone into his place, so that no longer was it a valley full of bones, but now a valley of skeletons. 2) The sinews and flesh and skin came upon the bones, and now it was no longer a valley full of skeletons, but of bodies complete in every detail except there was no life in them. 3) Breath came into them and they became human beings and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. (Please note that whereas it was the power of the living God that wrought this miracle, it took place only as Ezekiel prophesied to these bones.)
There have been various interpretations of this vision. A close friend and minister of the gospel came to help me in a series of meetings. His first message was from this text and he said that the people he was addressing constituted the valley of dry bones. Many denominations and sects have been called the valley of dry bones.
God has given His own interpretation. In verse 11 He says that these bones are the WHOLE HOUSE OF ISRAEL. Israel rejected, cast off, and buried in the nations of the world is likened to the valley of dry bones. Now the question is, can Israel live again-will Israel be restored-and what part will Christians play in Israel’s rebirth?
The dry bones received life in three movements. For about 1900 years Israel has had no king, prince, sacrifice, image, ephod, teraphim, or country.
I. National Consciousness-Bones Become Skeletons. The first notable movement among the Jews was the development of a national consciousness under the inspiration of the Zionist movement. So rapidly did this development take place that at the time of the drawing up of the Treaty at the close of World War I, Israel asked for representation at the peace table as a nation. Even though she was denied this privilege, her aspiration did not falter. It was about the same time that Dr. Chaim Weizmann asked the Prime Minister of England, David Lloyd George, that England establish Palestine as a national homeland for the Jews. With varying degrees of success and failure, the Jews began to return to Palestine. The dreadful persecution under Hitler which resulted in the death of about six million Jews caused the demand for a home on the part of Israel to increase all the more. So bitter grew the strife between the Jews and the Arabs that eventually Great Britain surrendered her Mandate to Palestine on May 14, 1948.
II. May 14, 1948-Flesh on Skeletons. Israel immediately proclaimed herself to be a nation, and as of May 14, 1948, the Nation of Israel was reborn.
Note the parallelism between the valley of dry bones and the Nation of Israel. 1) As Ezekiel prophesied the bones came together. Israel’s first move was the development of a national consciousness. 2) The bones received flesh, sinews, and skin, and became complete human beings without breath:
Israel became a nation acknowledged by and received into the United Nations. 3) The human beings received breath and lived-BUT-Israel has not yet received the breath of life which will cause her to live before God.
III. Yet to Become Alive. Even as Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy to the bones, so has redeemed mankind been commanded to prophesy to Israel. When the Lord commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, that included Israel. When the Lord said to make disciples of all nations, He included Israel. When He said “TO THE JEW FIRST,” He established the order in which the gospel was to be presented.