Pastor Dan Delzell’s thoughtful article has so much in it to commend that I almost hesitate to attempt to add to it. He strikes the right chords, particularly regarding the necessity of saving faith in Jesus the Messiah.
I especially commend him for stressing Jesus’ Jewish identity because, as a Jewish believer in Jesus and the president of Chosen People Ministries, a worldwide evangelistic mission to Jewish people, I live with these issues day in and day out.
I would like to make a couple of comments. Pastor Dan’s “Three Level” model of the unfolding will of God in creation could easily be misinterpreted to mean that because we’ve reached “Level 2” – the New Covenant, the Gospel and Christianity – that somehow the Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish people represented by “Level 1” are now in God’s rear-view mirror.
While of course I would agree with Pastor Dan that the New Covenant brings believing Jews and Gentiles together in a new relationship with God as a body that acknowledges Jesus as Head, I would like to add that this new relationship does not by any means mean the clear break from “Level 1” that Pastor Dan’s article may be taken to mean.
I prefer to think that the New Covenant fulfills, but does not replace, what has come before it, any more that the Davidic Covenant somehow replaces the covenant God made with Abraham.
In a related vein, Pastor Dan’s reference to Paul’s words in Romans 2:28-29, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God” must be carefully read in the entire context of Romans, particularly Romans 9-11.
Does Paul really mean in this passage that the only true Jews are Gentiles or Jewish people who believe in Jesus? If so, then why does Paul preserve the distinction, “To the Jew first and to the Gentile” in Romans 1:16? Who – if not the children of Israel – are the “beloved kinsmen” that Paul is willing to barter his own salvation for (Romans 10:1-5)? Who, if not the Jews, are those for whose sake salvation has come to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11) and whose final restoration in Christ must occur (Romans 11:27-27) to usher in Pastor Dan’s “Level 3?”
Both Pastor Dan and I certainly believe in the centrality of Yeshua – but I simply want to suggest that far from having become an irrelevant presence in the plan of God, the Jewish people have a key role to play even now in the events that will bring about the glorious moment of Messiah’s return.
Moreover, I am sure Paul would agree that the non-Jewish Christians of our day are a key element in bringing Paul’s beloved kinsmen the Good News that secures both Jews and non-Jews a place in God’s kingdom. (Romans 11:11)
May I add one final word as to why the continuation of God’s covenant with the Jewish people is so critical for Jewish evangelism? As Jewish believers, we know that the major roadblocks to faith in Yeshua are not theological, but historical – and even sociological.
Jewish people have generally not been treated well by the “Church,” and have therefore come to the reasonable conclusion that if one believes in Jesus – that person is no longer Jewish. This is not the teaching of the New Testament.
This message of God’s continuing plan for the Jewish people needs to be proclaimed in order to help Jewish people understand that receiving Yeshua is not the end of their Jewish identity or of the Jewish people, but a new beginning.
This does not take away from the message that personal salvation for Jew or Gentile is only found through the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah; I am simply reminding Pastor Dan and others that God still has a plan and purpose for the nation of Israel.
In closing – one more word from Rabbi Saul,
From the standpoint of the Gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29)
Visit www.chosenpeople.com for resources that will help you in sharing the Gospel with your Jewish friends!