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Mohler: Scripture mandates evangelism ‘to the Jew first’


PHOENIX (BP)–Despite the controversial nature of Jewish evangelism, Scripture rings clear that Christians are under a mandate to proclaim the Gospel to Jewish persons, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a group of Messianic Jews.

While the notion of Jewish people being saved by faith in Christ is scandalous in contemporary society, the issue of preaching the Gospel to the Jews was not controversial during biblical times, said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, during a June 16 meeting of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship in Phoenix.

The critical question in the debate is whether Scripture is seen as the absolute standard of truth and authority, he said.

Drawing on Romans 1:16 and several passages in Acts, Mohler said Jewish evangelism is not only commanded but is a priority because the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation for the Jew first and then the Greek.”

“In the Book of Acts and in the apostolic age and in the opening chapter of Romans, you see there is no question about the necessity of Jewish evangelism,” Mohler said. “Not only that, but there is even a priority that is indicated in the text.”

If the authority of God’s Word is rejected in regard to Jewish evangelism, it also is no longer binding on issues such as homosexuality, Mohler said. In fact, Jewish evangelism, homosexuality and the authority of Scripture are the three “trip wires” facing the evangelical church, he said.

This is particularly true because the first two hinge upon acceptance or rejection of the third — the authority of Scripture, he said, noting, “The bottom-line question is this: Will we obey or disobey the Word of God?”

The foundation of Jewish evangelism is the claim of Jesus Christ to be the Messiah in fulfillment of Israel’s expectation and the Old Testament prophets, Mohler said.

“It is clear from the biblical text, in the Gospels, that Jesus is claiming to be none other than the Messiah, the promised one of Israel,” he said. “[Christ’s messiahship was] established by Himself and authenticated by His words and His deeds. It is centered in His substitutionary death and was vindicated by His Father in the resurrection.”

Evangelicals have failed the Jews by failing to faithfully proclaim the Gospel to them, Mohler said. Part of the problem is a related failure by Christians to understand what is fully meant by the name “Christ,” he said, pointing out that the name is a title and an absolute claim to be the Messiah.

The current debate over Jewish evangelism is framed by a postmodern rejection of absolute truth and also a false understanding of what it means to be a Jew, said Mohler, who has debated the issue numerous times on national radio and television.

Once, a person who claimed to be a Jew was establishing himself as an adherent to Judaism. Today, Mohler said, “Jewishness” is seen merely as an ethnic designation, and evangelism of Jews is viewed as aggressive imperialism or even “ethnic genocide.”

“Judaism has been turned into a folkway, a way of life, an ethnic identity, and it is now considered impossible in a postmodern society to address Jewish people theologically,” Mohler said.

Secularists now base their distaste for Jewish evangelism on political correctness and emotional arguments, not on claims of truth, he said. Still, the Scriptures are clear in places such as Acts 2 that the Gospel is for Jews as well as all persons, he said; in Acts 2, for example, Peter preached to scores of Jews and many were saved through faith in Christ.

Even some segments of the church reject Jewish evangelism because of a false interpretation of Scripture that argues for two covenants: one for Jews and another for other persons, Mohler said, describing it as merely a fanciful interpretational device to try and skirt the issue.

Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism teaches the two-covenant view and Pope John Paul II has declared that all monotheists — including Muslims, Christians and all monotheistic religions — who are sincere about their faith are saved, Mohler said.

“Sincerity is now seen as the entire ground of salvation,” he said.

The Christian tradition is also beset with a legacy of anti-semitism, Mohler acknowledged. By faithfully proclaiming the Gospel to Jews, he said, Christianity can overcome this ignoble aspect of its history.

One action Christians must avoid, Mohler said, is a decision not to preach the Gospel to Jews aimed at overcoming anti-semitism. Scripture promises that Jews will respond to the Gospel and that there will be a great ingathering of Jews into the Christian faith in the future, he said.

“The great remarkable, magnificent conversion of Israel to the Gospel is going to be that inexplicable sign in history that the world cannot possibly explain other than by the sovereignty of God,” Mohler said.

He illustrated Jewish evangelism by comparing it to a medical doctor. A person with a potentially deadly tumor would want a doctor who would give them a truthful diagnosis, not one who would, in an effort to avoid offending them, tell them that all is well.

In the same way, Christians must tell unsaved Jews and all non-Christians the truth of the eternal danger they face and steer them to salvation in Christ, Mohler said, and thus proclaiming the Gospel is a genuine display of Christian love.

“The act of Christian truth-telling, telling the truth of the Gospel to an unbeliever, Jew or gentile, is the ultimate act of Christian love,” Mohler said.

“Evangelism is not driven by imperialism. It is not driven by nationalistic objectives. It is not driven by materialistic concerns,” he said.

Rather, evangelism is “the love of one sinner saved by grace to another sinner that is compelled by a greater love — and that is the love of that sinner for his Lord,” Mohler said. “We love our Lord and thus we obey His commandments.”
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  • Jeff Robinson
    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.Read All by Jeff Robinson ›