By Charles Gardner, UK Correspondent
As we mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on Monday, it’s a good time to ponder the spiritual liberation that will truly set God’s chosen people free.
The merciless slaughter of six million Jews by one of the most advanced, ‘civilised’ nations on earth, should remind us of the depth of depravity of which man is capable. Any thoughts of his inherent goodness are surely shattered by the Nazis’ ethnic cleansing that wiped out a third of Europe’s Jews.
The truth is that man is born with a corrupt, sinful nature which can only be rectified by the Gospel: the sacrifice for sin of the Jewish Messiah that restores our relationship with the living God.
With this in mind, the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust is exacerbated by the negative effect it has had on Jewish evangelism. Christians, for the most part, have put Jewish mission on the back-burner, or ditched it altogether.
Because the common perception among many Jews today is still that they were sent to the gas chambers by “Christian’ nations”, this has understandably hardened their hearts against the message of hope they so desperately need. At the same time, the Church at large has backed off, regarding Jewish mission as a no-go area – whether out of guilt, wrong theology or a misunderstanding of history.
Some believe Jews forfeited their right as God’s chosen people by their national rejection of Jesus and have thus been replaced by the church. Others believe Jews have their own covenant through which a right standing with God can be obtained. But the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” — Rom 1.16.
It is for everyone; but “to the Jew first”! Denying the Gospel to the Jews is an abrogation of our priority in evangelism and the height of antisemitism because we are thus withholding the liberating message of their own Messiah from the very people for whom he came (John 1.11).
Ensuring that the Shoah is never repeated is a noble pursuit, but our desire for the salvation of the Jews should be paramount, as it was for the Apostle Paul. (Rom 10.1) The salvation that cost our Lord so much was, first and foremost, for those of his own flesh. Yet in many churches, it is hard to find any evidence for such mission.
A lesson from history: Christian mission to the Jew was hugely successful in both the 19th and early 20th centuries. Records show that over 200 000 Jews became believers in Yeshua during the 19th century1 while the Church’s Ministry among Jewish people (CMJ), through their extensive missions all over Europe, reported that as many as 100 000 Jews had become followers of Jesus by the outbreak of World War II in 1939.2
Many of the latter would have perished in the concentration camps, though surely not without sharing the comfort of Messiah with their fellow sufferers.
Such a spiritual harvest was a direct result of the great evangelical awakening heralded by John Wesley and carried into the 19th century by the likes of Charles Spurgeon, Bishop J C Ryle and Charles Simeon, all of whom made much of the vital need for Jewish evangelism in particular and for blessing the Jews in general.
This in turn had the world-changing knock-on effect of supporting Zionist aspirations which led to the British government’s Balfour Declaration of 1917 and ultimately to the re-birth of Israel as a nation in their ancient land.
Yet despite the slackening of evangelical focus on God’s chosen people along with the emotional obstacles of antiSemitism and the Holocaust to which I have referred, we are now witnessing a Messianic movement (Jewish disciples of Jesus) making an impact out of all proportion to its still relatively low numbers.
As one of them told our 2017 tour group in Galilee, 90% of Jewish believers come to faith through the witness of Gentiles. So imagine what a harvest we could reap if we were all pulling our weight!
Writing of the reasons why big corporations are so keen to invest in the Jewish state, Israel Today editor-in-chief Aviel Schneider says: “Due to the long history of exile and dispersion, the Jew in general, and the Israeli in particular, often has close ties to family and friends all over the globe. This makes Israelis some of the best advocates in the world, if you can convince them of the merits of your product.” And he adds: “Two thousand years ago, the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, similarly spread from Israel.”3
It seems that the best way of spreading the Gospel around the world is to make the Jews our priority. That’s certainly how it all began, with Jesus teaching the first believers – virtually all of whom were Jews – with such dramatic results.
Rev Charles Simeon, while preaching passionately of the Jews’ future spiritual restoration ushering in a worldwide revival, was passed a note by a friend, stating: “Six million Jews and 600 million Gentiles – which is more important?”4 (A reference to Jews representing 1% of the world’s population at the time. The figure today is 0.1%)
Simeon scribbled back, “If the conversion of the six is to be life from the dead of the 600, what then?” (He was referring to Roman 11.15). The Jews were the key, he was saying. The Gospel is for the Jew first!
Such was also the conviction of the late Rev Jos Drummond, whose thanksgiving service at Christ Church, St Alban’s, is being held on Monday, appropriately on Holocaust Memorial Day. As general director of CMJ for many years, Jos dedicated his life to Israel’s spiritual restoration, his pastoral and leadership skills being greatly appreciated both in Israel and the UK. I too was personally touched by his kindness and encouragement.
If you wish to make an impact on our troubled world, bless a Jew with the Gospel!
2Peace in Jerusalem, Charles Gardner, olivepresspublisher.com, p28
3Israel Today, November 2019
4A Nation Reborn, Charles Gardner, Christian Publications International, p32