The Learning & Turning Corner

Spiritual Instruction for Those Called to Restore Israel

 

Proclaiming the Kingdom in Judea:
Restoring Jewish Evangelism

Arye Powlison & Hannah Weiss (revised 6/11)

 

Introductory Notes
-or-
What more can be said about Jewish evangelism that hasn't been said?

This is not a guide to improving your technique for sharing the gospel with Jewish people. It is a call to followers of Messiah everywhere, and especially to those involved in Jewish evangelism, to repent. 

Repent from what?  From priorities, agendas, attitudes and methods of bringing the gospel to the house of Israel, which stand in opposition to those set by Scripture.  In this article, we will examine the following Christian behaviors and trends in the light of the original gospel:

1. The popular "dialog" approach, which drops evangelism in order to avoid trespassing on Jewish sensitivities, and the less popular "missionary" approach, which denies that Jewish identity is distinct from that of the nations, are both guilty of distorting the example of Yeshua and His apostles. We are willing to tolerate such distortions because we have come to believe that we should modify our obedience to the Word in order to preserve unity among brethren.

2. The Messianic Jewish community tries to find a middle ground between these two poles, but often displays a schizophrenic swinging between them instead.  This is usually because of financial dependence which creates a loyalty dilemma, particularly in Israeli believers.  The Messianic attempt to avoid conflict with Christian sponsors on the one hand, and Jewish audiences on the other, tends to produce a "gospel" containing mixed messages on Jewish and Gentile identities, inconsistency in relating to the Torah Covenant, and/or a blockage of full access to the Holy Spirit.

3. Our denial of the real status of Jewish evangelism has distorted both our community's testimony to Israel and our expectations of G-d's saving power. The estimated 15,000 Messianic believers in Israel today, after decades of labor, are not "a mighty end-time harvest" of Jewish people turning to Yeshua; they are a mere trickle compared to the myriads who responded to the apostles, which they regarded as only the "remnant" in their day.

4. Faced with the gap between prophecy and reality, we have taken liberties in down-scaling prophetic predictions of Israel's national repentance to fit our experience. This has led us to exaggerate our successes and rationalize our failures, rather than to ask why the real fulfillment is being delayed.

It is our understanding that when the Body of Messiah repents in these areas, G-d in His compassion will restore "the gospel to the Jews" to its original impact, or even greater — for "if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?"  (Rom. 11:15)


Where is the Prophesied Harvest?

As more years pass since the advent of the Messianic movement, and the anticipated mass Jewish repentance still fails to materialize, some are coming to the conclusion that the national salvation of Israel will take place only when Yeshua returns, or when G-d chooses to reveal Him directly to the Jewish people.  As a result, efforts at Jewish evangelism are being labeled by some as premature, and its tiny harvest as a kind of early firstfruits.

However, if a significant Jewish response to the gospel should be expected only at the end of the age (or some other future time), we have no explanation for the many thousands of Jews who accepted the apostles' witness in the first few years after Yeshua's resurrection.  Yeshua's own assessment of the spiritual harvest in the Jewish cities of His day was not "unripe" but "plentiful" (Luke 10:2).  His disciples were not instructed to wait for a more favorable season, but to pray for more laborers.

Even in Paul's explanation of Israel being hardened by G-d until all the Gentiles are saved (Rom. 11:25), he emphasized that the hardening was partial, and that the sizable remnant chosen then (Acts 21:20 counts them in "tens of thousands") was typical of G-d's dealings with Israel in her hardness (Rom. 11:1-7).  Moreover, the same mercy that Paul said G-d was ready to "now" show the Gentiles, He was also ready to "now" show the Jews (verses 30-31).  Paul clearly saw these ten-thousands of Jewish disciples as only a foretaste of a future harvest of far greater magnitude.

So then, if the problem is not a poor harvest, or the wrong season, it may be with the laborers and/or with the message they bring. 

There may be problem areas in Jewish evangelism which are not generally recognized as such by the Body of Messiah, but which come to light when we compare our evangelism with that of the apostles.  These could affect not only the gospel message itself, but also the results in the lives of those who listen.

Is Our Gospel the New Testament Gospel?

This question is so basic that most evangelicals don't even bother to ask it.  However, all those who are mature in the Lord can remember times of discovering a spiritual truth so basic that we were amazed at our ignorance.  Such experiences have hopefully prepared us to look more closely at this question before we give the "obvious" answer.

The gospel preached by Yeshua and His disciples began as a revival movement within Judaism.  Today it is presented as though Judaism were a pagan religion, from which true believers need to repent in order to stand in the Lord's grace.  This attitude is present even among those who approve of "Biblical Judaism" (obligation to the written Law, or commands found in the Bible, but not to the Oral Law, or commands of rabbinic origin).

This severing of the Jewish believers from full Jewish practice directly opposes the gospel which was preached by Paul to the Jewish people.  At the conclusion of Paul's recorded ministry among the Gentiles, the tens of thousands of Jewish believers in Jerusalem were all zealous for the Law of Moses (Acts 21:20).  As we see in the context (verse 21), they considered rabbinic laws and customs an indivisible part of that Law.

If the Scripture says "all" in Judea were zealous, then presumably there was consensus that this zeal was an integral part of the true gospel, the same one being taught by Paul.  Otherwise, we must claim that Paul's gospel was different and had no following in Judea.  But Scripture tells us plainly that Paul's gospel had been specifically validated, both by the three "pillars" of the Jerusalem church, (Peter, James and John - Gal. 2:7-10), and also by the general council of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem (Acts 15:6-30).  Paul himself, who was accused later of having abandoned Jewish tradition among the Jews in the Diaspora, confirmed the confidence which James and the elders expressed regarding his faithfulness to the Law, both in what he taught and in his own personal walk (Acts 21:19-26).

A Reality Check 

Which of the churches or fellowships operating in Jerusalem today produces Jewish believers who are zealous for the Law of Moses, written and oral?  If there were such a church, which visiting evangelist would show his solidarity with them by performing a voluntary rabbinic command at great expense?   Which missionary of today would have circumcised Timothy, obligating him to keep the whole Law (Gal. 5:3), just because the Jewish community considered that proper? 

Which Jewish evangelist can say to the leaders of the Jewish community that he has done nothing against "the customs" of their fathers?  Which church elders teach the Jews in their mixed congregation to remain faithful to their calling in the Law, while teaching the rest to follow another calling?  Which worker among those who evangelize the Jews knows how to, or cares to, participate in a synagogue service?

Paul did all of these things (Acts 21:23-36; 16:1-3; 28:17; I Cor. 7:17-20; Acts 13:14ff).  He also taught the Corinthian believers not to offend the Jews (I Cor. 10:32). He himself took a Nazirite vow while in Greece (Acts 18:18), a voluntary practice only justifiable if rabbinic authority could go beyond what was written in the Scriptures.

What is it that Paul knew, that we have forgotten? If we would not do what he did, then we are not grasping what he understood, and we are therefore not preaching the same gospel that he preached.

Let us stop for a moment to look at the gospel which the churches preach today.  What are we doing to the Jewish people with it? From a Jewish point of view, we are committing genocide against them! 

If every Jew were to come to the faith as it is preached, the Jewish people would very soon cease to exist, except as a historical curiosity.  When we cause a Jewish believer in our congregation to feel uncomfortable because he is trying to be faithful to his Covenant with G-d, we are helping to destroy that Covenant - and with it, the basis for his Jewish identity.

In Acts, the "Way" of the apostles was considered a sect within Judaism (Acts 24:14), like the Pharisees or the Sadducees.  The reason for this was that they were living in the Covenant of G-d with the Jewish people, as their Messiah Yeshua had done.  Their gospel to the Jewish nation was a gospel of repentance into a Jewish observance deeper than that of the Pharisees (Matt.5:20), a repentance made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.  At the time of his vision of the great sheet, Peter could still say to the Lord that he had never eaten non-kosher food  (Acts 10:14); even after the vision, he did not consider Jewish food laws to be cancelled (Acts 10:28).

Today we have lost this gospel.

It has been replaced by a gentilizing gospel which requires those who accept it to abandon the Law (either completely or selectively), a Covenant that was established with the Jewish people until the end of this creation, by a G-d who cannot lie or change His mind.  We have required that Yeshua not be imitated in His obedience to Moses and rabbinic tradition, by those of His followers who are Jewish.  We teach as the truth of G-d a false rumor about Paul (Acts 21:21-24), which greatly upset the Jewish believers in Jerusalem, even though both James and Paul testified that it was false.

"To the Jews I Became as a Jew"?

If there is a cardinal principle in the more "enlightened" circles of Jewish evangelism, it is Paul's declaration (I Cor. 9:20) quoted above.  But while there is widespread agreement on the theory of becoming a Jew to the Jews in order to win them, its application has produced results that are a far cry from the life of Paul.  Nowhere is this more painfully apparent than in Israel.

Evangelism in Israel suffers from a severe contradiction in terms.  Organizations hire workers and instruct them to imitate Paul and "become as a Jew to the Jews... for the sake of the gospel."  As part of their preparation for Jewish evangelism, these workers often study Hebrew, Jewish history, the Jewish holidays, and Jewish prophecies that can be used to share the gospel.  They also learn how to disciple new believers:  Religious Jews who believe the gospel are to abandon their Jewish ways; secular Jews who come to the Lord should not be taught to live any more Jewishly than before.

If we want our workers to be more sensitive about the genocide accusation from the Jewish community, we allow a few recognizable Jewish props to remain.  In that case, we teach observant Jews to give up only practices considered "divisive" by the church:  refusing to eat non-kosher fellowship meals, refusing to come to church activities in violation of a Sabbath, or refusing to consider marrying a Gentile believer (even though these restrictions were supported by Paul).  We encourage the secular believers, if they are so inclined, to acquaint themselves with some basic holiday traditions, so as to reassure onlookers that they are still Jews (and to be able to use the holidays for witnessing).

If we are Gentiles who envy the calling of the Jews, we go to the other extreme and teach everyone in our fellowship to "become as a Jew" for their own benefit: adopt Jewish practices, wear Jewish headcoverings, use rabbinic terms, study Jewish texts, and count all these activities as signs of a deeper spiritual walk. When confronted by the Jews themselves, we make it clear that they have nothing to fear from us when it comes to evangelism... and in return, we expect to be received as "Israel".

Taking both stands to their logical conclusion, then, we have "become as a Jew" in order to erase the G-d-given distinction between the Jews and other nations, or at least to produce "Jews" whose practices and motives bear little resemblance to Paul's own example and teaching.

Ghetto Gospels

Another problem is the Jewish evangelist's separation of himself and those he is discipling from the Jewish community.  Ignoring the fact that life as a Jew can be properly lived only among the Jewish people, we have encouraged ghetto-like communities of believers which are almost totally Western and Protestant in culture and orientation — even if Hebrew is the dominant language. We are not very interested in Jewish ways of doing things, except as a means to make ourselves and our gospel message more digestible for (unbelieving) Jewish visitors.

In short, our attitude in Israel tends to be the attitude of many missionaries in third-world pagan cultures to which they have been called.  We pay little attention to important issues in the Jewish community, unless they touch us also.  We are comfortably insulated, and "becoming as a Jew to the Jews" is viewed as something we put on like an exotic native costume, to relate better to the locals, or to give the folks back home a glimpse of our mission field.

Our gospel to the house of Israel, therefore, often has a subliminal message added to it:

If any of you Israelis are wise enough to want to be saved, you will see the advantages of our subculture and join it, leaving any abrasive or irrelevant Jewish habits in the past, and putting on a nice set of Western manners.  You could also improve yourself by learning better English and our rules of Biblical interpretation, so as to follow our theological discussions.  If you are a young man really prospering in the faith, we might even sponsor you at a good Gentile Bible school in the West, where you can undergo the 'finishing process' and emerge a bilingual Protestant of Israeli origin: in short, someone G-d can now really use to bring the gospel to your unenlightened brethren. 

If, as often happens to such disciples, you return from overseas with a sweet Gentile Christian wife, it can only enhance the potential of your ministry in the eyes of your sponsors.  Your non-Jewish children will manage okay in Israel, as long as they stay safely within the Western, Protestant ghetto we provide for you.  Failing that, we can always use you in other evangelistic campaigns abroad....

If we are Gentile believers wanting to be "Israel", any Jewish practices we adopt are for our own promotion, to divorce ourselves from our church background and become more like what we imagine the Israelites of Old Testament days were like.  We likewise encourage ghettoized communities which are a patchwork of Anglo and Jewish culture. Refusing to associate with the Christian community, yet unable to associate with the Jewish community, we justify our isolation by claiming we will eventually convert both groups to our superior way of approaching G-d. In this case, our gospel message to the Jewish people is:

We can keep your Covenant better than you can, because the Messiah has made us both spiritual and physical Israel. So move aside, Israelis, let us live in the Land with you, learn Hebrew from you, pick up some Torah phrases to replace our church terminology, and we will then be able to lead you back to your Israelite roots so that you can find G-d... Oh yes, eventually you'll find your Messiah too. But we don't need to bring him into the picture just yet; for now, let's just agree that he was a good Jew.

The best place to start your repentance is by renouncing your silly prohibition against pronouncing G-d's Holy Name (YHVH), your fixation on one Israelite tribe (Judah), and all your practices that are not explicitly written in the Old Testament. Your insistence on clinging to your Jewish customs is divisive; it will only prevent our 'two kingdoms' of Israel and Judah from becoming one nation again.

Every believer with a heart for Israel's salvation resents the accusation from the Jewish community that we are trying to finish what Hitler began, that our evangelistic goal is to wipe out the Jewish people.  But can we brush off that accusation as groundless when we see the end results of our gospel?

We may believe that what we are doing is in the best interests of the Jewish people, but do we have a Scriptural mandate to erase the Jewish people in order to rescue the souls of their children?  More to the point, where does Scripture even imply that this is necessary?

If saving a Jewish soul necessitates stripping it of its Jewishness, why were the apostles so careful to teach and to do the opposite?  If we protest that our disciples are "more Jewish than before" when they bear so little resemblance to New Testament Jewish believers, what authority did we have to change the New Testament definition of "Jewish"?  If indeed "G-d's gifts and calling are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:29), why has the church cancelled His calling for Israel to receive His Spirit and keep His statutes (Ezek. 36:27)?

Can we really expect G-d to bless efforts to proclaim a gospel contrary to the one which Paul preached (Gal. 1:8)?

Do We Really Love the Jewish People?

The churches have today been blinded by a hatred of the Jewish people which has worked its way into our hearts. If we don't hate them, then why do we want them to cease to exist?  If we don't want them to cease to exist, then why do we try to remove from them the foundation on which their unique identity rests, the Covenant of the Law of Moses? 

Jews who receive salvation without that Law do become saved, but they are transformed into believers without a unique calling, another nation of Gentiles. And perhaps that is what we in the church really want to happen: "Different culture - maybe.  Exclusive covenant - never."

Alternately, Gentile believers who are not content with inheriting Israel's spiritual blessings, but feel that they must share Israel's earthly inheritance as well, are erasing Israel's unique identity from the other end. How? By making the believers "from all nations and tribes" (Rev. 7:9) into Israel, or by teaching Gentile believers to keep the commands that separate Israel from all those "nations and tribes".

If either of the above practices describes our discipleship, are we not guilty of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, of blessing and cursing Israel with the same mouth (James 3:10-16)?  For what we are really saying is this: 

Yes, we Gentile believers have been grafted into the rich root of Israel, and we now partake of some of the blessings which were once exclusively hers.  But we see in the Law of Moses that G-d has reserved certain laws, responsibilities, and promises that are still only for Israel — if we can’t have those too, then we'll see to it that no one does.

We may protest that we are not acting against the Law of Moses out of jealousy, but out of the conviction that it is impossible for Jewish believers to live with it anyway.  But then we have become enemies of the Law - that good, holy and righteous commandment (Rom. 7:12ff) which Paul served.  Moreover, we have created a gospel that calls G-d a liar, since it denies the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the inability of the flesh to keep the Law of Moses. 

On the opposite side, we may protest that we are upholding the Law by encouraging everyone who loves the Lord to keep it "the Jewish way". But Gentile believers who embrace the obligations of the Law meant for Israel are opposing the gospel of Paul, who confirmed two separate "walks" for the "circumcised" and for the "uncircumcised", which became the rule "in all the churches" (I Cor. 7:17-18). Paul brought Timothy into the Covenant of the Law (Acts 16:3) but refused to do the same with Titus (Gal. 2:3). Anyone who removes that distinction is placing unnecessary burdens on Gentile believers (Acts 15:28-29; 21:24-25), and is causing offense to the people of Israel (similar to the reaction in Acts 21:28-29, when it was rumored that Paul had brought a Gentile believer into the temple).

How can G-d bring a nationwide revival to the Jewish people, if that revival would be harnessed by His redeemed to destroy or distort the Covenant of the Law, which the prophets and Yeshua promised would be fulfilled to the last letter?

Restoring the "Gospel to the Jews"

Before we can preach the gospel to the Jewish people and expect to get the same results that came from the preaching of the apostles, we have to go back to the gospel that was preached by the apostles to the Jewish people.

The details of the gospel that was preached by Paul were for the Gentiles.  He was even recognized by the other apostles as having a special gifting and assignment from the Lord to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  If we ignore this specialization, take the customized gospel he preached to the Gentiles and try to apply it to the Jews, we are guilty of trying to make believing Gentiles out of Jews.

But the "gospel to the Jews" is not, as some theologians claim, a "different gospel", for Paul clearly taught that his is the only valid gospel (Gal. 1:8).  The  "gospel to the uncircumcised" and the "gospel to the circumcised" (Gal. 2:7) are the same gospel addressed to different peoples. On the other hand, if we try to erase the difference between the two peoples, we will have a "different gospel" and come under a curse (Gal. 1:8-9).

The recognition by the apostles that the gospel was to be preached to the Jews in a unique way has been abandoned.

The gospel as it is presented today, whether by Catholics or by other churches, is tainted with the rejection of the Jewish people by those who built the Roman Catholic tradition.  This rejection betrays itself whenever we teach Jewish disciples of Yeshua to set aside commands of the Law which G-d ordained to distinguish Israel from the other nations - or, whenever we teach the church to pick up commands which G-d ordained to distinguish Israel. 

To the degree that we are helping to erase or downplay this distinction, we are in fact denying the Jewish people their identity in the way we preach the gospel.

Restoring the Jewish People with the Gospel

Although Jewish believers are singularly equipped to carry the gospel to their own people, and it is reasonable to expect them to do so, Scripture says that it is also the privilege of the Gentile believers to be the bearers of the good news to the Jewish people.  In another article, we describe in detail the role that G-d has ordained for the Gentiles in bringing the gospel to Zion, and the context in which they are to bring it to her.  However, speaking the word of salvation must be in the context of service, and of the restoration of Israel and the Jewish people, in physical as well as in spiritual terms.

The New Testament gives us clear instructions concerning the deeds that are to accompany the words of the gospel. What did Paul command the Gentile churches to do for their observant Jewish brothers in Jerusalem?  To return their debt for the spiritual things which they had received, by sending material gifts to support the poor among them (Rom. 15:25-26).  Paul was putting into motion what Isaiah said would be the response of the Gentiles to Israel's Redeemer: they would restore Zion's children to her, serve them, and bring their wealth to her (Isa. 49:19-23; 60:1-10).

Isaiah says of Zion, that it is after being served to this degree by the believing Gentiles that she will know who the Lord is (Isa. 49:23; 60:16).  On the basis of this prophecy, we can assume that the success of the gospel in Israel will be due in part to the eager involvement of Gentile disciples from the Diaspora, identifying themselves as G-d's people from the nations, and fulfilling G-d's will toward Israel in that role. 

And can we not assume that such involvement, together with a restored "gospel to the Jews" in Israel, would bring the same fruit as it did for the apostles?

There is a main difference between Paul's time and today, however, which is significant for us. Paul only instructed the Gentiles to carry out the prophecy with regard to serving and financial help to Zion, whereas Isaiah speaks also of Gentiles bringing Zion's lost children back to her.  In Paul's day, Zion's children needed to be restored to their Jewish "mother" only occasionally.  Today, Zion's children, whom the Gentiles have birthed and raised, are estranged from Zion as a rule rather than as an exception.

While this implies that more preparatory work must be done before Israel can be fully restored, it also implies that Isaiah was really speaking of our day, and that the complete fulfillment of Zion coming to know the Lord will take place when we today perform all of which Isaiah spoke: serving, bringing our wealth, and restoring Zion's children to her.

Life from the Dead

Paul wrote that the acceptance of the Jewish people after their period of hardening would not be just reconciliation, but resurrection (Rom. 11:15).  What can we learn from this?

The resurrection of the Lord resulted in His receiving a different kind of body from the one that had been crucified.  There was a certain amount of continuity, but there was also change.  The disciples themselves only recognized Him by having their spiritual eyes opened.  Yet He could still eat, and He still bore the physical scars of His crucifixion.

This is symbolic of the kind of transformation that is to take place in us as part of the new birth.  It is also symbolic of the renewal of the Jewish people as a result of their restoration to G-d.

The continuity of the resurrected Jewish nation is spiritual in nature, so that it will take spiritually open eyes to know that these are the same people.  Yet physically, they will still bear the scars of their rejection and suffering; and they will still be able to "eat" (partake in Jewish customs) like their natural brethren.

Let's take a closer look at each of these. 

The restored Jewish people will be unrecognizable, even to those who knew them best, except through spiritual perception.  They will be a different kind of people, a people that functions differently, a people without the kind of physical limitations that they had previously.  Something that would have been a wall to them before (such as the impossibility of keeping the Law) they will now be able to walk into and through as if it were not there.  Those who knew them as a people before will have no reason to identify this mode of functioning as "Judaism", unless they know how Judaism in the Spirit is meant to function.

However, the resurrected Jewish people will still carry the scars of their Holocaust, and they will still resist attempts by others to either steal or forcibly share their birthright as Jews (such as the Land of Israel).  That will be one of the proofs to those who knew them that they are the same people.  And for those who might think that they are seeing only a spirit, that the earthly body of the Jewish people has been entirely left behind, the renewed people will still be able to function as a natural part of their nation. 

This is to indicate to us that even though the life they have received may not be dependent on "eating" (that is, on their Jewish practice), they have not lost their physical place as Jews in this creation; rather the nature of their flesh will have been changed.  In order to eat, they will still bite, chew and swallow; in order to function as Jews, they will still do it according to Jewish law.

Will the resurrected Israel, while still on this earth, actually be subject to the Law of Moses?  Again, we must look to the Lord for our answer.  Was the resurrected Yeshua, when on earth, subject to the laws of Moses?  Indeed He was, as the writer of Hebrews tells us:  "Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law." (Heb. 8:4)  Therefore, the resurrected Israel will also be subject to the Law of Moses while they are on this earth. 

Accepting this conclusion implies a need for radical change in traditional evangelical doctrine with regard to the Law of Moses and Jewish tradition.

Just as Yeshua's appearance after His resurrection provoked mixed reactions among His disciples, the appearance of a resurrected Israel will produce the same: faith and doubt, fear and joy, depending on the spiritual state of the eyewitnesses.  Even those who most fervently long for the resurrection of Israel need to be prepared for the possibility that what we see in that day may be considerably different from what we expected to see, and our reactions may also be different from what we expected.

Needed: A Doctrinal Reformation

The Protestant Reformation, as much as it wished to correct the historical departure of the Catholic church from the Scriptures, never seriously addressed the removal of Jewish life from the church.  The transformation of the early church, in which the practice of the Law by Jewish believers was the norm, into a church that persecuted those who continued in Jewish practice after faith, was just as much a departure from Scripture as any of Luther's other theses.  The Reformation, then, is not yet complete.

The time has come to correct this error that Luther and his successors failed to address.  Jerusalem and the Temple court have been trampled by the Gentiles long enough. But having the Gentiles become co-owners of the Temple court is not appropriate either.  It must be restored to the redeemed Jews, to whom belong "the oracles of G-d" (Rom. 3:1-2) as an irrevocable gift (Rom. 11:29).

It is time for Jewish believers to return to the Jewishness of our Messiah, of His disciples, and of Paul.  This means that an essential doctrinal turnabout must take place, without which any change in our approach to Jewish evangelism will only be superficial window-dressing.  We need to go back to our sources: the Gospels, the Acts, and Paul's letters, and read them again through the Jewish eyes of those who wrote them.

The Protestant Reformation rectified many unscriptural teachings in the church, and transformed its presentation of the gospel, with countless believers benefiting from the results.  Similarly, this reformation will change the way we read our Bibles and the way we preach the gospel to everyone.  But most of all, it will transform the way we plan and carry out Jewish evangelism.  We will stop trying to give to the circumcised the "good news to the uncircumcised."

A Double Eye:  The Role of Money in Evangelism

Having dealt with doctrinal stumbling blocks to Jewish evangelism, we must now face a deeper (spiritual) problem that can cause Jewish people to reject the gospel as often as the doctrinal errors — and this is more deadly because it is so widely condoned.  We are speaking about evangelistic ministries whose message and conduct are dictated by financial considerations.

Yeshua's teaching about our capacity to serve only one master at a time (Matt. 6:24) can be likened to the ability of our eyes to focus on only one thing at a time: sooner or later, the dominant eye (or loyalty) takes over.  Yet many believers who would never try to function with double vision persist in trying to pursue G-d and financial comfort at the same time.

Balaam (Num. 22-24) was a curious example of a prophet.  He spoke the Word of G-d as it was given to him, but he was in danger of being destroyed by G-d when he agreed to go and prophesy.  The reason was that his motives were not pure;  he was a man with a double eye.  He was trying simultaneously to obey G-d and to use the situation for financial self-advancement.  The apostles wrote that his love of wages led him into error and G-d's judgment (II Pet. 2:15; Jude 11).  Gehazi, Elisha's servant, had the same problem (II Kings 5).

Those who carry the gospel to the Jewish people too often exhibit a variation of the double-eye syndrome.  Like Balaam, they may be trying to obey G-d, and they set out to prophesy His Word.  But faithfulness to the commandments in that Word can take a back seat to advancement of the evangelistic organization or ministry.  If they know that the obligation of Jewish believers to their Covenant is not accepted by the ministry's sponsors, the need to receive financial support argues that any questions about this issue should be avoided.

The result is like the mixed signal of Balaam: agreement to be hired by those who want them to prophesy contrary to what the Lord has commanded concerning Israel, while thinking they can reserve the right to "not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord." (Num. 22:18)

The consequences for the double-eyed prophet were severe:  Balaam prophesied truly, but his dual loyalty did not satisfy either his sponsors or his Lord, and he received judgment from both.

In contrast, evangelists today proclaim falsely concerning Israel, pleasing their sponsors.  This is displeasing to the Lord, but as long as they are convinced in their conscience that they are speaking the Lord's truth, they are spared from the judgment visited on Balaam, since they are acting in ignorance. 

However, they may come to a growing realization that the Scriptures have spoken contrary to what they have been taught, and are teaching, about the Jewish people and their Covenant.  If they cope with the dilemma by trying to minister with a double eye, they become accountable as Balaam was.

There are other related problems that result from the double eye, particularly in evangelistic work in Israel.

Because so many evangelistic workers are paid a salary and/or living expenses to share the gospel as a full-time occupation, people who are dedicated to evangelism are suspected of monetary motives in Israel (that is, they are seen as evangelizing in order to be paid, not the other way around).  And because many such workers have a higher standard of living than is possible for most Israelis holding jobs, they often attract people who are more interested in comfort than in repentance; the latter see in the professional evangelist's lifestyle a promise of being able to serve both G-d and mammon, an advertisement that "godliness is a means of gain" (I Tim. 6:5-10).

On the other hand, a minister or evangelist who does not generate a stable financial income in his ministry or congregation is often seen by his colleagues as something of a failure.  Someone who has no financial ambition beyond securing food and clothing can be thought to have no "vision" for his ministry.  One who prefers to put in hours at a "secular" job to provide for his financial needs is often seen as not sufficiently dedicated ("full-time") to the Lord's work, or perhaps lacking the spiritual courage to "live by faith".  Yet all this describes the apostle Paul's attitude and example on his missionary journeys. 

We might well wonder how he and the other apostles would have responded to today's accepted priorities in raising up a gospel ministry to the Jewish people, and particularly to the prominent role that finances play in evangelism.

What We Must Do

The response of those who first heard Peter preach was, "Brothers, what shall we do?"  If this is your response now, then it is time to repent.

We need to return to the Jewishness of the gospel that was first delivered to the saints.  If we have Jews in our congregations, we need to help them to recover and maintain their Jewishness under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We also need to prevent Gentiles from trying to walk like their Jewish brethren, encouraging them also "to remain in their calling" as the physically uncircumcised (but spiritually circumcised) people of G-d (I Cor. 7:17-18). 

We need to help the Jewish disciples materially to return to Zion. At the same time, we need to encourage Gentile disciples to love and serve Zion, but not to confuse their spiritual inheritance with Israel's physical inheritance.  We need to again send our contributions to the poor among the believers in Zion.

In evangelism, we need to preach a gospel that supports the laws and promises given to Israel, recognizing that cancelling them does violence to the Scriptures, and appropriating them for the Gentiles does the same.  We need to transform our thinking about the truths and the priorities in the New Covenant, so that we can understand why Paul did what he did — until we reach the point where we ourselves would do what he did.

We need to see that, as Paul was gifted to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, so Peter was also given a gift to preach the gospel to the Jews.  We should find those around us who again have that special gift, and support their efforts in the Lord, just as we have supported those who go to the Gentiles.


Comments or questions relating to this teaching can be directed to: hannah [at] restorersofzion.org.
 

 

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