Comfort, Comfort My People, Says the Lord...Isaiah 40:1

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Jewish Evangelism

Ron Elkin
Ammi Ministry

I. Why Evangelize the Jewish People?

A. Because Jesus is the Only Way

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

B. Because Jesus Fulfills the Mosaic Law

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17)

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are Yes in Christ..." (2 Corinthians 1:20)

C. Because Christianity is True Judaism in that Jesus Fulfills the Sacrificial System

The Temple mount in Jerusalem was the only place in the world where God authorized His sacrificial system to be practiced:

"Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name--there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD." (Deuteronomy 12:11)

It was considered a great sin to sacrifice anywhere else:

"You must not sacrifice the Passover in any town the LORD your God gives you except in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name." (Deut. 16:5,6a)

God allowed the Temple to be destroyed only three decades after the death of Jesus. Since the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, there has been no place for a Jewish person to practice the sacrificial system. Jesus is the final sacrifice of the Levitical Law.

II. Branches and Doctrines of Judaism

A. Orthodox and Conservative Judaism--Its Beliefs and Doctrines

  1. Orthodox and Conservative Jews believe that the Oral Law, as well as the Bible, is God's Word. They believe the Oral Law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
  2. Although there is no creed in Judaism like the Westminster Confession of Faith, Orthodox and Conservative Jews consider their creed to be the S'hema (Heb. for "hear") found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5:"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."
  3. Judaism believes in the same attributes of God that Christians do; however, they do not believe in the Trinity.
  4. The Mosaic Law, as taught by the rabbis in the Talmud, is to be obeyed. The Talmud contains the Oral Law and rabbinical traditions written down and commented on between A.D.200 and A.D. 500. Part of the Talmud is binding and instructs Jews how they are to apply the 613 commandments of God found in the written Torah.
  5. Conservative Jews hold basically the same beliefs as the Orthodox with two exceptions: they adapt the Law to modern culture, and their rabbis have less authority than Orthodox rabbis.
  6. The world is God's creation and is to be enjoyed within the limits of God's Law.
  7. Human beings are essentially good because they are created in God's image. People are capable of sinning but can become righteous through doing good deeds (Mitzvot). Man's soul is eternal, and righteous men will spend eternity in Paradise, that is, "the world to come."
  8. God allows evil in the world to test man's character.
  9. Israel is elected by God for the purpose of establishing God's rule over the earth and glorifying God.
  10. God will fulfill His promise to establish Israel in peace in the Promised Land of Israel.
  11. There will be a Messiah who is an anointed leader, but this anointed leader is not God. The Messiah will usher in an earthly period of peace and joy, and he will establish Israel as the head of the nations (Isaiah 11).
  12. There will be a resurrection of the dead and an eternal state (Daniel 12:1-2).

B. Reform Judaism--Its Beliefs and Doctrines

  1. Reform Judaism maintains a Jewish identity, but it is theologically very liberal.
  2. Reform Jews do not feel obligated to obey the Bible or traditions, and some do not even believe in a personal God.
  3. The Messiah is not a person, but an era of peace when mankind has overcome hatred.
  4. Reform Jews generally do not believe in an afterlife. A person lives on through his children and the reputation he leaves behind.

III. Major Obstacles in Witnessing to Jewish People

A. Historical Relationship Between the Church and Jewish People

  1. The early church was predominantly Jewish. Church historians believe there were between 250,000 to 1,000,000 Jews who believed in Jesus by the end of the first century.
  2. As the church expanded around the world, it became predominantly Gentile.
  3. By the fourth century, false doctrines developed in the church regarding the Jewish people.
    1. Jews were considered guilty of the death of Jesus. They were evil, rejected by God, and unable to repent. Consider this quote from John Chrysostom (c. 347-407):
      • "It is the duty of Christians to hate Jews. Why are the Jews degenerate? Because of their odious assassination of Christ, there is no forgiveness possible. The synagogue is a house of prostitution and an assembly of criminals."
    2. These false doctrines led to the following results:
      1. Christians together with the church began to oppress and persecute the Jews (for example, the ghettos).
      2. Millions of Jews were killed in the name of Jesus.
      3. A deep mistrust of Christianity developed among the Jews. Christianity was seen as a political enemy.
      4. Psychological reactions to their persecution followed, because the Jews saw themselves as an abused race.
        1. They became fearful, angry, evidencing a mistrust of the world.
        2. Pride, a sense of superiority, and a desire to control their environment became more pronounced.
        3. Belief in God began to fail: "Where was God when six million Jews were killed?"
        4. The Jew became withdrawn and defensive, trying to prove himself by over-achievement.
        5. He felt shame, self-rejection, and assimilation.
        6. A pluralistic society became the desire of the Jew. He became vigilant in separating religion from government.
      5. It became increasingly more difficult for Jews to believe in Jesus or to even consider the Gospel.
  4. A Biblical Response to Christian Anti-Semitism
    1. Love your neighbor: "You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD. You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin...You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:15-18).
    2. Who killed Jesus? Jesus said, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again" (Mark 10:33-34).
    3. Has God rejected the Jewish people? "I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1). Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious (Romans 11:11, NIV).

B. Theological Difficulties for Jews to Overcome

  1. The sin nature. Jews do not believe that man is born with a sinful nature, but that he was created in the image of God.
  2. The substitutionary atonement. Jews reject the substitutionary atonement of Christ, believing that a person need only do good works in order to be saved.
  3. The Godhead. For the Jew, there is no Trinity because God cannot be divided.
  4. The person of Jesus. Judaism does not believe that Jesus is the Messiah or that he will have a future Messianic Kingdom to rule. Neither do Jews believe that God can be a man. Finally, since the rabbis do not believe in Jesus either, Jews find it very difficult to do so themselves.
  5. Righteousness by faith. Judaism believes that righteousness comes by good deeds, prayer, repentance, and charity.

C. Social and Legal Difficulties and Pressures

  1. If a Jew believes in Jesus, he faces rejection by peers, family, and community.
  2. A Jew is no longer considered Jewish if he believes in Jesus.
  3. A Jew who believes in Jesus does not have a right to immigrate to Israel under its Law of Return, according to a recent Israeli Supreme Court ruling.

IV. Overcoming Obstacles

A. Response to Doctrinal Differences

  1. Persecution and the sin nature
    • Be ready to admit the church's previous errors. Express sorrow and regret. Explain that the sin nature of man is the source of prejudice. Use this as a way to show that all men sin and fall short of God's glory (Ps. 14:2; 51:5,9; Jer. 17:9; Isa. 6:5).
  2. Salvation by works
    • There was no Levitical sacrifice for willful sins. David cried out to God for mercy (Psalm 51). Abraham was made righteous by faith alone (Gen. 15:6). Isaiah was saved by God's mercy (Isa. 6:7). Yet sins are forgiven by a blood sacrifice (Lev. 17:11). Where is our atonement today? Does God accept a bloodless atonement? Why did God allow the Temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed only 35 years after Jesus' death?
  3. The Trinity
    • Deut 6:4, "Hear O Israel, the LORD is God, the LORD is ONE" (Heb. echad). This word means a plural unity; see Gen 2:24; Gen. 11:6. There is another Hebrew word that means totally singular: yachid; see Gen. 22:2
  4. There is no peace in the world
    • Jesus came to bring peace to those who trust in Him. When He returns, He will bring everlasting peace to this world. The rabbis teach there will be two Messiahs: Messiah ben Joseph (the Suffering Messiah) and Messiah ben David (King Messiah). Jesus is both of them.
  5. God cannot be a man
    • Is anything impossible for God? See Isa. 7:14; and also Exod. 24:9-11; Gen. 18:22; 32:24-30; Jud. 13.
  6. The rabbis don't accept Jesus
    • Some rabbis have accepted Jesus. Ask those who use this objection whether they would be willing to believe in Jesus if you showed them rabbis who believed in Jesus. For testimonies see http://www.shalom.org.uk. Click "Library" and then "Rabbis Who Believed."

B. Be Prepared to Answer Theologocial Arguments

Following are some books that will be helpful:

  1. Our Jewish Friends by Louis Goldberg (Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune, NJ, 1983): a good general overview of Judaism, Jewish holidays, doctrines, Messianic prophecy, together with testimonies.
  2. The Prophets Still Speak by Fred John Meldau (The Christian Victory Publishing Co., Denver): a comparison of O.T. prophecies and their N.T. fulfillment.
  3. The Messianic Hope by Arthur Kac (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1975): a detailed review of Messianic verses and their fulfillment in Jesus Christ and the N.T.
  4. Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, volumes 1-4, by Michael Brown (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI): a didactic, authoritative discussion from a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Aramaic Languages.

C. Be Ready to Present the Gospel from the Old Testament

  1. We are all sinners (Ps.14:2-3; Jer. 17:9; Ps. 51:5,9).
  2. Our sins separate us from God (Isa. 59:1-2).
  3. Our good deeds are not sufficient to please God (Isa. 64:6).
  4. God gave a blood atonement sacrifice to cleanse us from sin (Lev. 17:11).
  5. God promised a suffering Messiah and a reigning King Messiah.
    1. The rabbis recognized two Messiahs: Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David.
    2. Suffering Messiah Scriptures: Psalm 22, 69, and Isaiah 53.
  6. Identify the Suffering Messiah: he was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) of the tribe of Judah.
  7. Explain that God requires us to acknowledge and repent of our sins (Isa. 55:7; Acts 17:30) and to believe in His provision for our sins (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 10:9-11).

D. Be Sensitive to Social Issues

Jewish people may be afraid of being rejected by their family or losing their family's help (an example would be help for tuition). Other Jewish people believe in Jesus. Be ready to provide names of believers or missionaries. Encourage those who are seeking to trust in God to provide their needs. Be prepared to provide practical help.

V. Messianic Prophecy

A. Major Messianic Verses

B. Summary of Messianic Prophecy

This summary of Messianic prophecy is an adaptation of the class notes from "Messiah in the Old Testament" taught by Professor W. Varner.

The evidence from the Hebrew Scriptures describes an individual from the Seed of the Woman (Gen. 3:15) who will someday defeat Satan in his conflict with God's creation, man. The genealogy of that Deliverer is through Abraham (Gen. 12:3), and then his descendants, Isaac and Jacob. He will be a Royal descendant of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10).

From the earliest days it was revealed that He also would gather a following from the non-Jewish nations as well as Israel (Isa 42:6, 49:6). In addition to His Kingly role, He will also be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:18-20) and a Priest like Melchizedek (Ps. 110; Zech. 6:11-13). He is called the Messiah (Ps. 2:2; Dan 9:25,26), the Branch (Isa. 11:1), the Son of Man (Dan. 7:13,14), the Son (Ps.2:7), Eternal Father and Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6), and Immanuel (God with Us, Isa. 7:14). Prophecy also states:

  • He would appear on earth during the first century before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (Dan 9:25,26).
  • He would be divine as well as human (Isa. 9:6; Dan. 7:13,14).
  • He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) by a virgin (Isa. 7:14).
  • He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zech. 9:9) and be rejected by the majority of the Jewish people (Isa. 53:3).
  • He would suffer an agonizing death (Ps. 22).
  • His suffering and death would atone for sin (Isa. 53:4-6,8,10-12), but He would be raised from the dead (Isa. 53:10; Ps. 16:10,11) and gather a following from Israel and the Gentiles (Gen 49:10).

While there are other indications that He will experience a glorious reign (Isa. 9:7) accompanied by worldwide peace for Israel (Jer. 31:17) and for the nations (Ps. 72), there is reason to conclude that He will suffer before these worldwide peaceful events take place.

Only one individual fits the above description, and that is Jesus of Nazareth.

According to Paton Gloag, The Messianic Prophecies, p.109, while one prophecy may not be sufficient to prove the Messiahship of Jesus, the union of hundreds of prophecies are impossible to explain away. Jesus fulfilled 333 prophecies at His first coming.

Note: Some rabbis teach that the above verses are not Messianic or that Jesus did not fulfill them. Ancient and later rabbis at one time recognized all of the listed Old Testament verses as Messianic. Proofs can be provided for those who are interested.

VI. Conclusion

A. PATIENCE -- Patience is Needed when Witnessing to Jews

A Jewish person has centuries of wrong teaching and social pressure to overcome. Be patient but persistent in presenting the Biblical claims of Jesus. Share your own testimony.

B. FAITH -- Go Out in Faith

Trust that God's power to redeem is greater than your Jewish friend's resistance. Remember, God is saving Jewish people from all walks of life. He is greater than the obstacles.

C. PRAYER -- Prayer is Essential

Satan tries to keep everyone from believing in Jesus, but he puts forth special effort when it comes to Jewish people. He can even blind some Christians to the need of Jewish people to accept Jesus as their Messiah for salvation. Pray sincerely and regularly for the salvation of your Jewish friends and also for the work of AMMI Ministry.

D. ACTION -- Be a "Doer" and not a "Hearer" Only

Share the Gospel. Become a volunteer with AMMI or another Jewish mission group.

AMMI Ministry, P.O. Box 481, Willow Grove, PA 19090, 215-843-1764


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