WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (BP)–The Christian church’s faithfulness to the gospel can be tested by its commitment to Jewish evangelism in the face of opposition and criticism, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told nearly 1,000 Jewish and gentile believers at a “To the Jew First in the New Millennium” conference Feb. 10.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president was the closing speaker at the Feb. 8-10 conference held at First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach and Christ Fellowship of Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. Sponsored by the New York-based Chosen People Ministries, the conference had two main purposes: to encourage evangelism among the Jewish people and to pray for peace in Jerusalem.
“I believe that Jewish evangelism is the clearest test case for faithfulness to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in this generation,” Mohler said. “It is very much the case now that we’re going to find out just what confidence the church has in the gospel when it comes to preaching the gospel to the Jewish people. Controversy, we know, is inevitable … but [that] was true in the first century and we should not expect it to be less so now.”
As Mohler spoke, approximately 50 protestors from Torah Life and Living marched outside, protesting Jewish evangelism.
Conference attendees participated in a prayer vigil Saturday night and prayed for peace in the Middle East. William Andrews, an Arabic pastor at First Baptist of West Palm Beach, prayed in Arabic for the Jewish people in the Middle East while Joy Garmaise of Chosen People Ministries prayed in Hebrew for the Palestinians. Another representative of CPM, Ben Alpert, prayed for all Christian believers in the region.
Paige Patterson, the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., also addressed the conference.
“The conference was designed to encourage and exhort the church to become a more active participant in the mandate of Romans 1:16, which states that the gospel message is ‘to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile,'” CPM President Mitch Glaser said following the conference. “To conclude the conference with a prayer vigil was the perfect culmination to three days of equipping Christians to reach out to their Jewish friends and family with the message that Jesus is the true and only ‘Prince of Peace’ for their lives and the Middle East.”
Beeson Divinity School professor Calvin Miller, one of the guest speakers, also underscored the imperative that churches make an asserted effort to reach out to the Jewish community.
“Most evangelical churches do not have a concept of Jewish evangelism because they have never taken the time to get to know the Jewish people in their community,” Miller said. “Evangelicals owe a tremendous spiritual and cultural debt to the Jewish people.”
Mohler said Christians must witness to the Jewish people with confidence and a sense of urgency.
“This is a remarkable time,” he said. “God in his sovereignty is using the opportunities that seem so daunting in the present to prove his name powerful. There’s something that’s very much missing in so much of evangelical Christianity, and that is the note of triumph. We have been chased through the catacombs before. … This sense that evangelical Christianity ought to be cowering in some kind of cultural corner is pernicious, it’s deadly and it’s unfaithful.”
Opposition to Jewish evangelism must be met with a sense of love, even as Christians acknowledge that the church has often committed the sin of anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, the worst form of anti-Semitism is revealed in failure to share the gospel with Jewish persons, Mohler said.
“There is opposition to Jewish evangelism, and about this we ought to be honest,” Mohler said. “We live in a day when it is politically incorrect to say that anyone is rightly destined for hell and the judgment of God but for salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. … But it’s the gospel, and it’s the only gospel we have. Even more importantly, it’s the only gospel that saves. The true act of love is sharing the good news of the gospel.”
Mohler, preaching in part from Acts 13, said that evangelicals must guard against false teachers who say that Jews need not hear the gospel message in order to be saved, or who say that the gospel is no longer addressed to the Jews.
“I believe there has been a misreading of Christian history that has been foisted upon most evangelical Christians, and that is that Jewish evangelism died in the Book of Acts,” Mohler said. “That is a slander against the gospel. … The promise of Jewish evangelism is that Jewish people now as then respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Such false teaching has already found its way into much of the church, he said, noting, “In our generation, the church has failed the Jews by the great sin of omission — the omission of Jewish evangelism.”
Mohler said that Jewish evangelism is “the most consummate act of love we can practice. … We love the Jews enough to tell them about Jesus the Christ, about the Jesus the Savior and to declare that salvation has come to the house of David, the sons and daughters of Abraham.”
Mohler said a great misunderstanding among evangelical Christians is that “the majority of Jews in secular America today are following biblical Judaism and yet rejecting Jesus the Messiah. The reality is that they are not practicing biblical Judaism. I want to say that’s why Acts 13 is so important as a methodology for Jewish evangelism. We have to go back and tell the Jews their own story, and remind them of their own history. Let them hear again the patriarchs, let them hear again the prophets, and then they will have a foundation for understanding.”
(BP) file photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net/. Photo title: R. ALBERT MOHLER JR.