A modest attitude

editor - 24 November 2016

In many churches, there is a certain awareness that Israel is a special people and a special land. It is almost inevitable when you are familiar with the Bible! But the only conclusion drawn from this fact is, that we therefore should commit ourselves fully to bring the Gospel to the Jews. As if the Church, the Body of Christ, is the only channel through which God’s blessing flows into the world. But having a vision for Israel goes much further than only the conviction that Israel should come to faith in Jesus. In fact, by saying so, you are telling the Jews that they have to join us. And does that also not imply, that we, who believe in Jesus Christ, are the only people of God in this world? Isn’t that actually the same as what replacement theology tells?

The root
In Romans 11:17-18, Paul says very specifically to gentiles who believe in Jesus, that they should not boast over Israel. “If … you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” As believers from the gentiles, we are supported by a root. Life in the olive tree comes in essence from the root. Even we, as wild shoots that against nature are grafted in this olive tree, thank our lives to that root.

What is the root? That has everything to do with what Jesus said: “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). The root and the noble olive tree itself stand for the promises, the blessings and the life which God has bestowed upon Israel, and through Israel desires to bestow upon the whole world. Salvation is in essence not from the worldwide Church, but from Israel. The worldwide Church is the receiver, and not the source. Israel has always been the channel par excellence through which this redemption has come into the world. Through Israel we have received the Law, the Gospel, the Bible, the promises, the life and our Redeemer.

If you would consider the deeper meaning of the metaphor that the root supports us and not vice versa, then it would appear short-sighted to have an attitude like ‘they had better come over to us, and that is their only possible redemption’. Rather, we would get a sense of the fact that it is a great privilege to us that we are allowed to share in the many things they have received from the Lord God. After all, He is the God of Israel! We are grafted in their olive tree, we have received access to the new covenant that God has made with Israel. They don’t come to us, but we to them.

Therefore, an attitude of modesty with respect to the Jewish people befits us. Besides, such an attitude is inevitable in light of the horrible history of the relation between Christians and Jews. If the church fathers, and the popes, and the reformers, and all sorts of other theologians and Christian leaders would have better studied Romans 11, the way of Israel and the Church would have gone totally different.

Promises for Israel
We should gain a deeper insight in the fact that God not only has got a plan with the worldwide church, but also with Israel, and even with the nations. Salvation was from the Jews, salvation is from the Jews, and salvation will be from the Jews. There still remain many promises for the people of Israel that are to be fulfilled in order that the whole world will be blessed. Some of these promises are realised before our eyes. Not the least this has all to do with the promises of the coming again of the Messiah and the coming of the Kingdom of God. The fulfilment of those promises will not take place without Israel.

In respect of the Biblical testimony and of history, it befits us first and foremost to learn to bless Israel. God says that Israel is the apple of His eye, that He protects, for it is His channel of blessing for the world. Let us therefore support, help and pray for Israel, contrary to what the rest of the world is doing. In that way, we are better witnesses than when we would like to convert Israel to the Church.

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