The following question was given to us by a Pastor. I felt it might be one on many believers’ minds. Following are responses to address it.
The question is, “How do we today make practical application “to the Jew first?”
What does “to the Jew first” look like?
Why should we care about “to the Jew first”?
“To the Jew first” can take many forms. On a very basic level God created the Jewish people first. He also sent His Son to the Jewish people first. As for today there is a problem that for the most part, the approach of the Church has been “to the Jew not at all!”
Why should we care about bringing the gospel to the Jew? God elected the Jewish people to reveal salvation to the world and they hold a special place in His heart. As His gift to the world He wants us to love them with His love.
Romans tells us the following and gives us an important question to consider in verse 15
 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.  Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!  But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,  if somehow, I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.  For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
However here is another verse to consider.
John3  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal. NASB
God had a plan before the foundation of the earth that Jesus would be crucified for the sins of mankind. How was He going to reveal that plan to mankind? He created a people group out of existing humanity we now call the Jewish people. Through them He would reveal His heart His way and eventually His son. He gave them His word to preserve for the world to understand how much He loves us, and how to love Him back. He gave us instructions how He wanted us to love each other. The word He entrusted to the Jewish people to preserve was also how He planned and to reveal that His only Son as a Jew was coming to redeem the world from sin, make a way to have relationship with the Father and live eternally.
Rev.13:  And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
You see God created the Jewish people as gift to the world because He loved the whole world.
Let’s see what the Word says about God’s feeling for the Jews:
For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. When you understand God gave Israel and the Jewish people as a model or prototype for what would be one day the One New Man in Eph.2 you will see the importance of His inheritance. In Ephesians 2 you will read God a second time through the cross made another people group out of the existing humanity to create a dwelling place for Himself based on Apostles and Prophets with Jesus the chief corner stone so Jesus prayer in John 17 would be full filled and we would be one people in Yeshua.
Up, Zion! Escape, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon. For thus says the LORD of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you (Israel) touches the apple of His eye.
Consider that the apple of the eye is the pupil, the lens from which you see. Then understand that God intends for us to see things through the lens of Israel. Which is why He created them as that people group.
I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.
Let me be clear Israel which is now no larger than New Jersey is the place God intends His Son to rule the earth from. Any question why Satan has stirred so much strive over this piece of real estate?.
God call the Jews the “apple of His eye”, “My people”, and “My heritage Israel”. God also set up something in Genesis 12:
I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
So blessing the Jews brings with it a blessing. What greater blessing could we give to them than the understanding of Yeshua as their Messiah? Plus, God gave Gentile believers a mandate in Romans:
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
The Gentiles were to provoke the Jew to jealousy, make the Jew want something that they had. Instead, the Gentile church has become a symbol of hostility to the Jew. Nearly every atrocity committed against the Jewish people in the last 2000 years has been done in the name of Jesus Christ. That brings us to how to share that love with them.
When talking to Jewish people, refrain from using the names “Jesus” and “Christ”. Jews who survived the Nazi concentration camps tell stories of the soldiers beating them and saying, “We’re beating you because Jesus told us to! He hates you!” and similar messages. These stories have been passed down for generations along with the label of “Christ-killers” which has followed Jews for centuries. Instead use “Yeshua” and “Messiah”, or “Mashiach” (Hebrew for Messiah).
If you have Jewish neighbors, invite them over for coffee or something. Get to know them. Go visit a temple on a Friday night. Show an interest in their way of life. Your first mission is to make a friend. Don’t hit them over the head with the gospel. They’re expecting it and on guard for it.
Today more than ever I believe it is the Holy Spirit in us that will draw them. When they see our relationship with the living God it will draw them to Him. If we pray for them as the opportunities arise and they get healed or they have peace. It is said that the Jews need a sign the sign is love. So never compromise your testimony and don’t be afraid to pray in the name of Yeshua. With that in mind here are other things to consider.
Before you run right out and invite your Jewish neighbor or co-worker over, take some time to learn more about their culture, like diet and social customs. They will vary depending on whether they are liberal, conservative, orthodox, or something in between. Just as there are many denominations within Christianity, the same can be said for Judaism. Customs will also vary depending on whether their roots are Ashkenazi (Eastern European/Russian), or Sephardic (Middle Eastern). If you’re inviting them over for a meal and you’re not sure what to prepare, ask them. There’s no harm in admitting you don’t know. They may even be impressed that you cared enough to be sensitive to their lifestyle. Of course, there are some obvious things like, no baked goods made with lard, no pork chops, etc., but again, when in doubt, ask!
Take some time and research Jewish social customs. If you come in contact with orthodox or ultra-orthodox Jews like the Chasids, there are strict social rules about male and female interaction. It is better to be aware of these rather than offend them, or be offended by their behavior. Offense can put up a tremendous wall that is hard to overcome, no matter how loving you are. Let’s not make it easy for the enemy to interfere with reaching God’s people.
It says in Romans that the Gentiles were to “provoke them (the Jews) to jealousy”. When you’re jealous, you want something the other person has. First thing I need to make clear if they see a relationship with God that brings us peace and hope that will make them jealous. Also consider for the most part, the “Christ” of Christianity bears little resemblance to the Messiah prophesied about in the Tanakh. We, as believers, need to get a handle on our roots. The early Church was Jewish. The authors of the New Testament were almost entirely Jews, Luke notwithstanding. When you begin to look at the text of the New Testament with a Jewish mindset, it takes on new light.
For centuries, Jewish people have been looking for their Messiah to come. If you’re going to show them that He is already here, and when next He walks the earth it’s over, then you are going to have to understand the Messianic prophesies of the Old Testament.
You probably won’t be able to share the Gospel of the New Testament with your Jewish friends right away. You more than likely will be able to discuss the Old Testament with them. Ask them questions. Their insight and perspective may surprise you and show you something you didn’t see before. Plus, asking them questions shows them that you are teachable, that you don’t claim to know everything. It shows your humility. Humility opens many doors that would otherwise be closed.
You must be ready when an opportunity presents itself to show them the scriptures pointing to Yeshua in the Old Testament, prophesies that were fulfilled in the New Testament. Yeshua said in Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” We need to stop looking at the Old and New Testaments as two separate stories, but rather see the New Testament as the continuation of the foundation laid in the Old Testament.
I have a close Jewish friend who is a believer and she told me that the book of Matthew was the book that showed her the Jewishness of her Messiah. She also shared with me it was the relationship that her college roommate had with Jesus that made her jealous.
We also need to see the Bible though the lens of its Jewish authors. To that end, let me recommend “The Complete Jewish Bible”, or a similar text. Get to know the Bible from the original Jewish perspective.
So, how do we practice “to the Jew first”? The first step is simple. Go make a friend.
Romans 1:16 (AMP)
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel (good news) of Christ, for it is God’s power working unto salvation (for deliverance from eternal death) to everyone who believes with a personal trust and a confident surrender and firm reliance, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
First, let me point out that salvation was offered to the Jew first — in the first covenant through temple sacrifice, and in the new covenant through Messiah’s sacrifice. The history of God’s election of the Jews is related to us in the Tanakh, or Old Testament. There we read He gave them His Presence, His prophets and His law. In the New Testament, Jesus stated He was sent only to “the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matt.15:24). He sent the twelve out only to that House (Matt. 10:6). After His resurrection, Peter was the first one sent to the Gentiles (Acts 10:9). We can therefore look at “to the Jew first” as a statement of fact. However, we must also see it as, what Sid Roth calls, “The Law of Evangelism”. God set the pattern, to the Jew first. So how do we now continue that pattern in a practical way? How do we, the 21st century Church, respond to what Paul says in Romans 11:11
“So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall (to their utter spiritual ruin irrevocably)? By no means! But through their false step and transgression salvation (has come) to the Gentiles, so as to arouse Israel (to see and feel what they forfeited) and so to make them jealous.” (AMP)
Well, if in the beginning Jesus was only sent to the Jews, how did they know who He was? They recognized Him because He fulfilled the prophecies of the Torah and the Haftarah (law and prophets). So, it seems to me, if we are going to reach Jews today, that is where we must start. We have to understand the Tanakh. We need to know Jesus in the context of His Jewishness, for he presented himself as a Jew to His people. He presented himself as a Jew to the world. He kept the feasts. He taught in the temple. He thought with a Jewish mindset.
I believe if we are going “to the Jew first”, we need to see the Word of God through the biblical Jewish understanding. For example, when Jesus had a problem with the Jewish leaders, it was because of their interpretation of oral law, or Mishnah, not the observance of Torah, or the written law. It was an “in-house” argument. Jesus never told the religious leaders to stop observing the Teachings of Moses. His concern was with their persistence that everyone adheres to the latest rabbinical “flavor of the day”, not a requirement of the original 613 commandments.
If we are going to open the eyes of the Jew to see Yeshua as Messiah, we need to show them He is their Jewish Messiah. If we are going to draw them back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we need to demonstrate His love for them by how we interact with them. Let the Holy Spirit shed abroad His love in our hearts. We need to walk beside them in humility and respect of their call as the ancient covenant people of God!
Let me share a little about my friends in Tulsa. On Friday night, a group of Gentile Believers gather for a traditional Shabbat. They light the candles, recite all the blessings and sing songs of celebration. They have a meal to which each family contributes. They rotate homes each week. The group can be as large as 28 people, including the children. After dinner, there is a lively discussion of the Torah portion for the week (parshah) through the eyes of Yeshua.
My eyes were opened to so much during these discussions. I guess I never really thought about where Jesus got his message. My thought was that He is God’s son and the truth He taught was from His divine understanding. I learned that He quoted the Torah and Haftarah. Much of the Sermon on the Mount is from the Torah. The Torah, of course, is divine understanding right from the Fathers heart, and Yeshua only did what He saw his Father doing. I just never made the connection before. To show you my ignorance, the other day I was reading in Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man does not live by bread alone.” A light went on. I knew Jesus said, “It is written” to Satan in the wilderness (Matt. 4:4), but I did not really make the connection that it was written in the Torah. Jesus, our Jewish Messiah, taught the words the Jews would know.
Here’s an interesting fact I learned at a Shabbat study. Did you know it was widely believed in the Jewish community that the spittle of a first borne son had healing in it? Perhaps when Jesus spit on the blind man’s eyes and the man was healed (Mark 8:23), He was announcing to the crowd, “I am first borne of my Father, my Heavenly Father.” There is such a richness of understanding we are missing because we have cut ourselves off from our heritage.
This group of individuals has become a respected part of the Jewish community in Tulsa. Some attend Hebrew lessons at the Jewish community center and attend services at Temple. One member sings in one of the Temple choirs. The relationships that have been born have produced much fruit. One family now has a surrogate Jewish Grandpa to their children. Their Jewish friends attend the Shabbat service in their home. There is no deception. The after-dinner discussions clearly lift up the name of Yeshua, but as the Jewish Messiah that they love. One member of the group, who has for years nurtured many relationships with Jewish families and individuals God brings in her path, told me that one friend commented, “I am so touched watching all these years, receiving love, and seeing the respect of my Jewishness.”
Let me leave you with this. Stay prayerful and alert for the timing of the Lord to share the salvation message I believe that is why God put you together as friends to bring them to the Father through the Son.