GOD'S COMMAND TO HIS CHURCH
I. ACCORDING TO ISAIAH
IN THE present chapter, God's Command to His Churchthe believers in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and Saviour of the worldto proclaim the gospel to Israel is presented. Whenever anyone attempts to proclaim the gospel in any way to the Jews, they immediately resent the thought, often saying that they do not wish to be "missionized." Being missionized, to the Jews, therefore, is synonymous with preaching the gospel to them.
The principal reason which the Jews present in support of their contention is that they are not heathen. Moreover, they say that, when the Gentiles were bowing down to stocks and stones in worship, their ancestors had the revelation of God and were custodians of the true worship and service of the Almighty. They therefore, tell the missionaries that they had better convert their own people and teach them to practice the morals and ethics of Jesus, and let the Jews alone.
No right-thinking and unbiased person who knows the facts in the case would ever think or state that the Jews are an ignorant, heathen people. The Jewish race as an ethnic group stands, figuratively speaking, head and shoulders above all other peoples. This position is proved by the fact that the Jews have made a contribution to the civilization of the world far in excess of their numbers. All well-informed people know that the Jews stand foremost in the ranks of the sciences, professions, educational world, philanthropy, and general culture.
Why then go to the expense and trouble of presenting the gospel to a people, highly educated and cultured, when they do not want itand even thrust it from them? Is it kind to disturb a people by telling them what they do not want to hearespecially so since they have been taught that Jesus was not their Messiah and that the New Testament is a collection of forged documents written, as is often asserted, to bolster up the false claims of Christianity?
Three courses of reasoning answer this question. In the first place, all the Scripturesboth the Old and the New Testamentstestify that man is in a lost spiritual condition. For a classic passage dealing with this subject, see Romans 1:1-3:20. Romans, chapter 1, shows that all the Gentiles are lost; Romans, chapter 2, shows the lost condition of the Jews. Romans 3:1-20 summarizes the evidence which proves that both Jews and Gentiles are lost and alienated from God. The conscience of every man confirms the scriptural testimony that all are lost. In the second place, the gospel message is the revelation of God's scheme of redemption which meets man's spiritual condition and prepares him spiritually for time and for eternity. In the third place, God commands His people who know Him through the Lord Jesus Christ to give the message of redemption to all menespecially to His ancient people Israel. (Isa. 40:1,2; 52:7-10; 57:14; 62:1-12; Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 1:16, 17).
A. Isaiah 40:1,2
"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of Jehovah's hand double for all her sins." In verse 1 of this quotation the Prophet, speaking to a certain group, declares that their God commands them to comfort His people. In this passage two groups are presented concerning both of which God states that they are His people: those who have a message of comfort, and those who need this message. Those standing in need of comfort are undoubtedly the Jewish people, for in the next sentence the Prophet urges, "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem ..." By the term Jerusalem Isaiah means both the literal inhabitants of the city and the Jewish people who think of Jerusalem as their mother city. As proof of this interpretation examine carefully Isaiah 49:14-21:B. Isaiah 52:7-10
14 But Zion said, Jehovah hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me. 15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, these may forget, yet will not I forget thee. 16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. 17 Thy children make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth from thee. 18 Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith Jehovah, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all as with an ornament, and gird thyself with them, like a bride. 19 For, as for thy waste and thy desolate places, and thy land that hath been destroyed, surely now shalt thou be too strait for the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away. 20 The children of thy bereavement shall yet say in thine ears, The place is too strait for me; give place to me that I may dwell. 21 Then shalt thou say in thy heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have been bereaved of my children, and am solitary, an exile, and wandering to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where were they?
In verse 14 of this quotation the Prophet mentions Zion and her thinking that God had forsaken her. Then he proceeds to speak of Zion's future restoration and of there not being enough room in the land for all her children, spiritually speaking. In Isaiah 49:14ff, therefore, the word Zion, a poetical name for Jerusalem, embraces all the Jewish people. This same fundamental idea is found in Isaiah 40:2.
An examination of Isaiah, chapter 40, confirms this position. After urging the people of God who have the message of comfort to speak comfortably to Jerusalem, Isaiah foresees and announces the glorious coming of Messiah, heralded by a forerunner, Elijah the Prophet (vv 3-5).
All of God's people are not fully surrendered to do the will of God. When He, therefore, issues the proclamation to His people to comfort the people of Jerusalem, some of them in substance reply "What is the use?" implying that it is futile to do so, for they will not listen. "6 The voice of one saying, Cry. And one said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the breath of Jehovah bloweth upon it; surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever" (Isa. 40:6-8).
The Prophet urges those who are willing to carry out the divine injunction saying, "Lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold, your God!" (v. 9b). From this verse, therefore, it is clear that the cities of Judah are included under the term Jerusalem. In the light of all the facts it is certain that God commands one group of His people to proclaim a message of good tidings to another group of His people.
Who constitutes the group commanded to comfort Israel? Obviously, those who have a message of real comfort. Those constituting this group are the ones who know God in Christ, who have been born again (regenerated people), and who have an intimate knowledge of God's scheme of redemption and the prophetic Word. Those qualifying on these points constitute what is known in the New Testament as the body of Christ, the Church of Christ.
The gist of the message of comfort which the people of God are to give to the Jewish people is found in Isaiah 40:2: "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of Jehovah's hand double for all her sins." They are urged to speak comfortably to Jerusalem, or to speak to the heart of Jerusalem. One must be kind and considerate of those to whom he speaks.
The messengers are to cry to Jerusalem "that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she hath received of Jehovah's hand double for all her sins." Jerusalem's warfare which has extended over many centuriesthroughout the Christian Dispensationwill come to a close when Messiah at the end of the Tribulation suddenly returns, wins the war of the great day of God the Almighty, and establishes a reign of righteousness throughout the earth. So long as warfare continues, Israel will need the message of comfort; when it ceases, there will be no need for such a message. The Prophet, therefore, envisages the time when Israel will be enduring the sufferings and persecutions brought on by their enemies. In what sense then can the messengers declare that the warfare is over while war is still being waged? The true explanation is to be found in the fact that there are two uses of languagethe relative and the absolute. A scriptural illustration of the relative use is found in Matthew 3:5,6. "Then went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about the Jordan; 6 and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." That all the people did not accept John's baptism is proved by Luke 7:29,30: "And all the people when they heard, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him." The harmony between these two seemingly contradictory passages is that the bulk of the people accepted John's baptism, whereas the minority did notto their detriment. A person can have $4.93, for instance, and yet say that he has $5the relative use of languagemeaning that he has approximately $5. But if he says he has $4.93, he means that he has exactly that amount.
Since the messengers are to bring comfort by saying that Israel's warfare is accomplished, there is but one way to interpret this language: namely, that the time yet to endure the ravages of war is very short compared to the sufferings of the past centuries.
In order to take this message to Israel, one must have a thorough knowledge of prophecyboth of the Old and the New Testaments. The thinking Hebrew will demand logical proof of the message before he will receive it. In doing so, he is correct.
The second item of the message to be proclaimed to Jerusalem is that her iniquity is pardoned. Note the word iniquityin the singular number. This statement undoubtedly refers to the iniquitous act of the nation of Israel discussed on pages 31-34, in Chapter II of this volume. As has already been seen, Israel as a nation will be forgiven at the Second Coming of Messiah, at the end of the Tribulation.
The third and last item mentioned in this prophecy is that Jerusalem receives double for all her sins. Increased light and advantages bring added responsibilities. No nation has enjoyed the advantages and opportunities that the people of Israel have received at Jehovah's hand. Since they have sinned against greater light, the punishment to be meted out to them is correspondingly increased. They, therefore, receive double for their sins at the hand of Jehovah.
7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! 8 The voice of thy watchmen! they lift up the voice, together do they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when Jehovah returneth to Zion. 9 Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for Jehovah hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. 10 Jehovah hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
It is most highly probable that Isaiah the Prophet borrowed the imagery set forth in this passage from the local situation. Speaking in modern terms, one would call him the court preacher at Jerusalem. His ministry fell in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiahkings of Judah. Jerusalem is located in the mountains of the State of Israel. It, of course, was a walled fortified city. On its walls and in its towers were watchmen who sounded an alarm at the approach of an enemy. These watchmen were part of the king's intelligence service. They, therefore, passed on any information which they considered of vital importance to the welfare of the kingdom.
In this vision the Prophet sees a messenger approaching the city and exclaims, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" One has tersely said, "The beauty seen is partly in him who sees it." Being especially interested in everything that pertains to Jerusalem and the Jewish people and seeing the messenger who proclaims deliverance and salvation for the Chosen People, Isaiah, in his thinking, clothes the approaching herald of good news with the garments of beauty.
Isaiah pictures himself as being on the scene and hearing the good tidings delivered by the messenger. In a state of ecstasy he calls upon the waste places of Jerusalem to burst forth into singing and praise. Having seen the over-all picture of this prophecy, one should examine the message more minutely.
In verse 7 the Prophet sees and hears the herald of good tidings proclaiming his message to Jerusalem. This herald announces a message of salvation and assures Zion that "Thy God reigneth!" The term salvation means deliverance. The thing from which or the person from whom the deliverance is made must be determined by the context, or from the knowledge of the general situation as gleaned from parallel and related passages. Israel was delivered from Egyptian bondage. Many a person has been delivered from physical dangers in which he has become involved. This messenger publishes salvation in that he says to Zion, "Thy God reigneth!" Since the Prophet is talking about the time when Jehovah returns to Zion, it is clear that he is speaking of the end of the present age.
The walled city which the Prophet sees in this vision is Jerusalem. The watchmen on the walls are the leaders of the nation. The herald bringing glad tidings represents the people of God who bring the gospel message of redemption to the Jewish people.
The watchmen on the wallsthe leaders of the Jewish peoplebelieve and receive the message; then they burst forth in song, "for they shall see eye to eye, when Jehovah returneth to Zion." What is the significance of the expression, "returneth?" As mentioned in a previous chapter, a person can return to the places only where he has been before. Since Jehovah is going to return to Zion, the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from the facts is that he has already been to Zion, and that he has gone away from it. But, according to this prophecy, He will yet return to Zion. This interpretation is in perfect alignment with other passages pertaining to this subject. Jehovah the Son came to Zion in the person of Jesus of Nazareth over nineteen hundred years ago. Being rejected, He departed and went back to glory. When the message of redemption through His shed blood is given to the people of Israel and is received by them, He will returnin fulfillment of this prophecy.
Having learned about His returning to Zion, they rejoice in the fact that they "shall see eye to eye" when Jehovah Jesus returns. Moreover, they will be convinced by the heralds of the gospel that Jehovah's return will occur in their day, "for they shall see eye to eye when Jehovah returneth to Zion." "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, ... Even so, Amen" (Rev. 1:7).
Who sends this herald of good tidings to proclaim the message of redemption to Israel? There can be but one answer: Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel.
C. Isaiah 57:14
"And he will say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people." As may be seen by examining Isaiah, chapters 56 and 57, the Prophet is discussing events of the end time. In this connection, speaking for God, he issues a command, "Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people." To whom is this command given? When this passage is studied in the light of Isaiah 40:1,2, it immediately becomes evident that the Prophet is addressing the same group of God's people in both chaptersbelievers in Jesus the Messiah. This interpretation is also confirmed by the facts presented in Isaiah, chapter 62, which will be presently examined. The command, "Cast ye up ... prepare the way ... take up the stumbling-block," is an echo of an old custom. In ancient times when one monarch announced that he would visit another ruler, the host monarch would construct a highway through his territory, from the border to his capital, in order that his royal visitor might come with all the pomp and pageantry of state.
In Isaiah 57:14 the way to be constructed is not for some royal personage, as in Isaiah 40:3-5 and 62:10-12, but for the people of Israel in their returning to God"take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my [Jehovah's] people."
The command to remove the stumbling-block assumes that there is something in the way of Israel's return to God over which the nation stumblesnot a literal stumbling-block, of course, but some doctrinal teaching which they do not understand, and which, therefore, they do not accept. This stumbling-block may be a single doctrine, or it may refer to the system of teaching which is thought of as a whole.
How can the stumbling-block of error and misunderstandings be removed? There is but one wayby presenting the truth and exposing the error. The command to remove the stumbling-block, therefore, is a figurative way of commanding those who have the truth to proclaim it to God's Ancient People.
D. Isaiah 62:1-12
The sixty-second chapter of Isaiah is of paramount importance in presenting the truth of God's Word to the nation of Israel.II. ACCORDING TO MATTHEW 28:18-20
62 For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake will not rest, until her righteousness go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth. 2 And the nations shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name. 3 Thou shalt also be a crown of beauty in the hand of Jehovah, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. 4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah, and thy land Beulah; for Jehovah delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee; and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.
6 I have set watchmen upon thy walls, 0 Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that are Jehovah's remembrancers, take ye no rest, 7 and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. 8 Jehovah hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength, Surely I will no more give thy grain to be food for thine enemies; and foreigners shall not drink thy new wine, for which thou hast labored: 9 but they that have garnered it shall eat it, and praise Jehovah; and they that have gathered it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.
10 Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up an ensign for the peoples. 11 Behold, Jehovah hath proclaimed unto the end of the earth, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, His reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 12 And they shall call them The holy people, The redeemed of Jehovah: and thou shalt be called Sought out, A city not forsaken (Isa. 62:1-12).
This chapter falls into three divisions:
God's great concern for Israel's salvation (vv. 1-5).
The command to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (vv. 6-9).
Jehovah's command to present-day believers to proclaim the truth to Israel (vv. 10-12).
God's great concern for Israel's salvation is most powerfully expressed in verse 1: "For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her righteousness go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth." According to this revelation, the Lord will not hold His peace until Zion is saved. Moreover, He will not take any rest until Jerusalem's righteousness goes forth as brightness and as a lamp that burneth. The Lord, in expressing himself thus, is speaking anthropomorphically, but His statements must be taken at face value. From Genesis, chapter 12, throughout the entire Old Testament, God, speaking through the prophets, continually discusses Israel's salvation and restoration to His favor. In the New Testament the same subject is discussed, especially in the Jewish section of the Epistle to the Romans, chapters 9-11. In view of these facts, one sees that God talks about Israel's salvation, as He has stated He would do, in Isaiah 62:1. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."
When Israel is thus saved, he will become as a crown of beauty in the hand of his God. Then he will become a channel of world blessing.
According to verse 6, God has set watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem who "shall never hold their peace day nor night." These watchmen are on the walls of Jerusalem and are engaged in worship, prayer, and praise. Since no men are there, these watchmen evidently are celestial beings. They are continually praising God and are engaged in divine services. Since those who are addressed as "Jehovah's remembrancers" are urged to pray for the deliverance and prosperity of Jerusalem, and since they are mentioned in connection with the watchmen on the wall, one may safely conclude that all are engaged in prayer for the prosperity of Jerusalem.
Who are Jehovah's remembrancers? They are the people who know God's will as revealed in the Scriptures, and who are urged by the Lord continually to bring in faith before God the divine plan. Thus God's servants co-operate with Him in prayer. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes people. Prayer brings victory.
It behooves every true servant of the Lord to study the Scriptures faithfully in order that he might know God's will, as revealed in the Word, and in order that he might pray intelligently. God wants those who know Him and believe in prayer to "take ye no rest and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (v. 7). In other words, the Lord wants a volume of believing prayer regarding the future of Jerusalem and the Jewish people ascending to His throne day and night, for prayer changes things.
In verses 10-12, God commands His remembrancersprayer warriorsto proclaim the message of redemption to the Jewish people. He gives this command in terms of constructing a highway: "Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up an ensign for the peoples" (v. 10). This highway is to be made for the coming of Messiah. Those constructing the highway are to "gather out the stones"the stumbling-block, as seen in Isaiah 57:14. The figurative language of Isaiah 62:10 is interpreted literally in verse 11. According to this verse, God has sent forth a proclamation to His prayer warriors throughout the entire earth. This proclamation is the royal order of the day, commanding them, "Say ye to the daughter of Zion ..." In this verse are orders from the throne of God in heaven to His faithful people on earth to proclaim to the Jewish people the message regarding the coming of Messiah.
"Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him." The heralds are to announce to the Jewish people, the daughter of Zion, that their salvation cometh. To what does the expression "thy salvation" refer? The answer is found in the next sentence: "Behold his reward is with him, and his recompense before him." These statements show that the salvation mentioned is a person. Who is this one? Obviously He is the one who will deliver Jerusalem and Israel. He is the Messiah of Israel, of whom the prophets spoke so very glowingly.
But there are two comings of the one Messiah, which are separated by the period during which this Messiah is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, awaiting the time that Israel will pray for Him to return. The coming here referred to is the second advent; because, when He returns, He will bring rewards for His true servants. Confirmation of this interpretation is found in the fact that, when He came nineteen hundred years ago, He purchased redemption for all. When He comes in fulfillment of this prediction, He will bring rewards to His faithful servants and mete out punishment to His enemies.
All faithful believers in Jesus as the Messiah are ordered by heaven to proclaim the message of salvation to all Israel and to announce that the second and glorious coming of Messiah is close at hand.
Having examined the principal passages in the Old Testament in which God commands believers to proclaim the message of truth to Israel, we now turn to the New Testament and investigate Matthew 28:18-20: "And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
By appointment the risen, glorified Lord Jesus met the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some of them were in doubt. Events had taken a turn unexpected by the apostles. Some of them were, therefore, bewildered. Knowing that the misgivings of those who were in doubt would soon be dissipated, the Lord spoke to the group, saying, "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." Everything in heaven and on the earth was turned over to the Lord Jesus as the God-man, who had conquered Satan and all the forces of evil. As the Lord of all creation, therefore, He commanded the apostles, saying, "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." According to verse 19, Jesus instructed the apostles to make disciples of all nations. Israel, of course, is included in the expression "all the nations." They were, of course to teach those who accept Christ as Lord and to baptize them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
At the last appearance of Jesus to the apostles, He urged them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would bring new spiritual power to them, "But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
According to this verse, the twelve apostles were given instructions as to how they should proceed on their world-wide mission. They were to be witnesses of that which had occurred, and that which they had seen concerning Jesus, first in Jerusalem. Then they were to fan out into all Judaea. Next they were to go northward and preach the truth in Samaria. This work having been accomplished, they were to go forth into all the world. The apostles followed the Lord's instructions literally. In the Book of Acts, we have a very terse history of the beginnings of Christianity, as it spread from Jerusalem to the uttermost part of the earth. Echoes of this world-wide ministry are heard in Romans 10:18 and Colossians 1:6,23.
As soon as the Apostle Paul was convinced that Jesus was the Hebrew Messiah and Saviour of the world, he accepted Him, while he was still in Damascus. Immediately he proclaimed in the synagogues that Jesus was and is the Son of God (Acts 9:20). At Antioch in Pisidia Paul preached in the Jewish synagogue and gave his countrymen an opportunity to receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour (Acts 13:13-51). When the Jews of Antioch would not receive the message, the Apostle turned to the Gentiles of this community and preached Christ. From Antioch the apostolic band of which Paul was the leader went to Iconium and preached in the synagogue of that place (Acts 14:1-7). When the Apostle went into Macedonia, he preached the gospel first in the synagogue (Acts 17:1-3). Upon arriving at Corinth, Greece, he first went to the synagogue and proclaimed Christ. When the Jews violently rejected the message, he turned to the Gentiles (Acts 18:1-11). Upon reaching Ephesus, Paul went and preached in the Jewish synagogue. When the Jews of Ephesus rejected his teaching, he preached in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:8ff.). When the Apostle reached Rome, he preached to the Jews of the imperial city first. When they rejected the message, he turned to the Gentiles (Acts, chapter 28).
From the passages referred to above, it is clearly seen that the inspired Apostle put the Jew first on his program of preaching the gospel.
It is, therefore, by the authority of the glorified, risen Lord that the gospel should be proclaimed to all Israel.
III. ACCORDING TO ROMANS 1:16,17
In the letter to the church at Rome, the Apostle Paul declares that the gospel is "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." The expression "to the Jew first" is the occasion of much controversy. Because of this misunderstanding it becomes necessary to follow the facts very closely in order to ascertain what is meant by this expression. One group of expositors insists upon interpreting this phrase dispensationally, that is, that the gospel was to be given to the Jew first in this dispensation, and that since Israel as a nation rejected the message, the Church is to cease preaching to the Jew and is to devote all her energy and time in preaching to the Gentiles. Furthermore, these expositors insist that the Jew is not to be saved by the preaching of the gospel, but by literally looking upon the Lord Jesus at His Second Coming (Zech. 12:10ff.).
The second group of expositors believes that the expression "to the Jew first" is to be interpreted literally, that is, in every place and at all times the Jew is to be given the gospel first; then it is to be given to the Gentiles. According to these expositors, if there is a community to be evangelized in which both Jews and Gentiles reside, the gospel is to be given to the Jews of that community first; then it is to be preached to the Gentiles of the same locality.
The Apostle Paul wrote the Roman epistle in A.D. 58. At that time the gospel, which began to be proclaimed at Jerusalem, had reached out to the ends of the earth (Rom. 10:18). Although the gospel had been preached to all creation under heaven by A.D. 63, when the Colossian letter was written (Col. 1:23), the Apostle Paul felt an obligation to proclaim the gospel to all people; "For it [the gospel message] is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16). In view of these facts, one cannot interpret the controversial phrase "to the Jew first" dispensationally as the first group of expositors claim.
One must therefore take the expression at its face value. In every case and at all times, when there are Jews and Gentiles living together in the same community, God's order is to give the gospel to the Jews first. After this is done, it is to be given to the Gentiles.
The assumption of this passage is that God has commanded His people to give the gospel to all nations, as seen in Matthew 28:18-20, but the Jew is to have it first.
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