Why Romans 1:16?
The Chosen People | JANUARY 2020 3
Yet, along with all the dynamism of change, the biblical
essentials of the Mission remain the same as in the days
of Rabbi Cohn! The board, leadership, and staff remain
committed to the unchanging gospel best expressed in
1 Corinthians 15:3-4, where the Apostle Paul wrote:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I
also received, that Christ died for our sins according to
the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was
raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….”
Our strategies, methods, and tactics are changing in order
to reach a new generation of Jewish people with the gospel, but
the message remains the same. The writer of Hebrews declared:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and
forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
My dear friends, we need your prayers more than ever to
help us, support us, and love our people and ministry. Your
partnership enables us to accomplish our calling. We are
serving the Lord among Jewish people in more than
twenty-five cities in North America and nineteen
countries around the world. As we step into our
126th year of ministry, we are ready to serve Jesus
the Messiah by initiating a Romans 1:16 “To the Jew
First” campaign in 2020.
Jewish people, like all people, are saved by grace
“For by grace you have been saved through
faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift
of God; not as a result of works, so that no
one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
The Present Tense
The Romans passage makes it clear that
Jewish evangelism is to be a priority even today, although
some Christians have a difficult time applying its teaching
to their lives and outreach. Romans 1:16 is written in the
present tense. Follow the logic of the text: If the gospel is still
the power of God for “salvation” and is still for “everyone who
believes,” then the gospel is still “to the Jew first.”
The gospel is God’s power (, dunamis) unleashed,
for the Jewish people and all peoples, as the Apostle wrote, “to
everyone who believes.”
The Greek word used by Paul and translated as “first” is
proton (). The term implies a priority rather than a
sequential order of events.
So, what did the Apostle have in mind in suggesting that
the gospel is for the Jewish people first?
Paul was certainly not suggesting that the Roman
believers withhold the gospel from the Gentiles until
every Jewish person in the world is reached. Neither was
he implying that since the gospel had already gone to the
Jewish people that it was therefore unnecessary to continue
preaching the gospel to the Jewish people—as if this task had
been accomplished and the Jewish people had their chance
to respond and they rejected it. It is quite the opposite. Paul
made this clear by teaching that the gospel is still for the
Jewish people and theirs is a key role in God’s ultimate plan of
redemption. In fact, Jewish evangelism must be a priority.
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Franz Delitzsch, the well-known nineteenth-century Old
Testament scholar wrote: “For the church to evangelize
the world without thinking of the Jews, is like a bird
trying to fly with one broken wing.” As the leader of an
historic mission to the Jewish people, I believe that Jewish
people must accept Jesus in order to have a place in the age to
come (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, John 3:16–17).
It might sound simplistic, but this is my clear understanding
of Scripture. It is the very basis for missions and our
specific mission to the Jewish people. This has not changed
in 125 years!
The Great Commission applies to both Jewish and Gentile
believers; however, it is important to note that the Scriptures do
not present Jewish evangelism as simply one aspect of the Great
Commission among many. It is a unique venture that Paul, the
Jewish Apostle to the Gentiles, eloquently defended. The special
mandate for Jewish evangelism presented by Paul was a Godgiven
revelation based upon several passages throughout the
New Testament. Romans 1:16 concisely sums it up.
Exposition of the Text
In Romans 1:16 we see God’s plan for world evangelism.
The Gentile world should not be ignored, but to reach Jewish
people with the gospel is to reach the world.
Paul wrote in Romans 1:16:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power
of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew
first and also to the Greek.”
The Apostle added in verse 17: “For in it the righteousness
of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the
righteous man shall live by faith.’”
I do not believe that a Jewish person or anyone else is
capable of satisfying God’s demands for perfect righteousness
by human effort, enabling a person to enter heaven on their
own merit (Galatians. 2:15–16, 3:23–25, Romans 10:2–4 ff.).
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