Based on Rom. 9:4-5
David Lefkowitz in explaining why he is a Jew tells the story of Nathan the Wise. A Sulton had just heard a Christian and a Mohammedan give their testimony as to the excellencies of their respected beliefs. It was Nathan's turn to tell why he was a Jew. Instead, he asked the Sulton's permission to tell a story of three rings. It went like this: In a certain family there had been handed down from time immemorial a ring which tradition said possessed the power of bringing happiness and righteousness, honor, reverence and truth to the one who wore it. Each father in his dying hour handed it to the son he loved the best.
There came a time when a father had three sons which he loved equally. To whom should he give the ring? He called a goldsmith and had him make two others exactly like the true ring. In his dying hour he called each of his sons to his bedside separately and gave them each a ring. After the days of mourning had passed the sons noted they each had a ring, and they began to quarrel, each insisting that his was the genuine ring. They finally took the matter to a wise judge. He heard their story and asked, "Is it not true that your father told you that the genuine ring had the magic virtue of beautifying and ennobling the life of the one who possessed it?" They all agreed it was so. The judge said, "Then only time can tell who has the genuine ring."
This story is saying what Jesus said when He stated, "By their fruits you shall know them." The Jews believe that time is on their side, and that Judaism will eventually be recognized as the best and most fruitful religion. They say that all the values in Christianity and Islam are borrowed from Judaism. They believe these two religions are being used of their God among the Gentiles, but the Judaism is never the less the root and the final religion. The Jew is the son with the original and genuine ring.
As Christians we tend to think of Judaism as an incomplete Christianity. They, however, think of Christianity as a degraded Judaism. They feel that their purpose in God's plan is to maintain a pure monotheism. Christianity has departed from this they say, and it has gone back to the pagan concept of incarnation, which reduces God to man's level. It also introduces the concept of the trinity, which is contrary to their understanding to monotheism. The Jews say they can match any claim of the Christian to superiority. They have survived through great persecutions. They have a written revelation and a covenant with God. All of the humanistic values of Christianity are a part of Judaism. No one has a greater past or hope for a greater destiny. Lefkowitz ends his testimony:
"I am a Jew because God choose Israel to reveal Himself and His truth of righteousness. I am a Jew because I glory in the thought that it was the Jew who gave mankind the Bible, the seers and psalmists and sages, the eternal providence of a people martyred yet steadfast in the faith, patiently suffering and patiently blessing those who tortured them. I am a Jew because I am proud of Israel's past and sure of its destiny as the witness of God in the earth, in the ages yet to be."
What is a Christian to say to all this? Can we say that Judaism is a false religion? Not hardly-since it is based on that which we too call the Word of God. We have to admit that Judaism is not only a good religion, but is God ordained, and was at one time the best that could be. However, all the positive things we can say for it does not change the fact that since the coming of Christ it is an incomplete, inadequate and inferior religion in comparison with Christianity. The whole purpose of Christian work among the Jews is to lift them to a higher level through conversion by their acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah. The Jews find this very offensive. They are aggravated by the Christian claim to superiority. From their perspective evangelistic efforts are anti-Semitic.
Dr. Claude G. Montefiore declared, "Over and above all anti-Semitism there is nothing which militates against good and friendly relations between Jews and Christians as the efforts of conversionists... If these stopped everywhere tomorrow, these relations would very soon be improved. The missionaries and their efforts are a perpetual irritant, a constantly running sore." Here we see a great paradox. The New Testament says we are to love Jews and be anti anti-Semitic by seeking to bring the Gospel to them. The Jew, however, looks at these efforts of great love as being anti-Semitic. The paradoxical conclusion is that we are to be anti anti-Semitic in the eyes of God and everyone else except the Jews themselves. In their eyes we are to be anti-Semitic because we refuse to let them be lost without some effort to persuade them to receive Christ.
Christians must believe that the Jews need a Savior just as all other people do, and that a part from Christ they cannot be saved. On the other hand, we cannot escape the fact that they are unique, and that even in a lost condition they have a religion of high quality. Paul implies this by the listing of all the advantages they have, and the greatness of their heritage. They are Israelites, which is a name a Jew uses with the same pride we have when we say we are Americans. Israelite was the name they used for themselves while the Gentiles tend to call them Jews. They are called Hebrews in relation to their language; Jews in relation to their nationality, but Israelites in relation to their covenant relationship with God. They were the first to have such a relationship.
Paul says that to them pertain the adoption-that is, they were adopted as sons of God. God told Moses in Ex. 4:22-23 to say to Pharaoh, "Thus says the Lord, Israel is my first-born son, and I say to you, let my son go that he may serve me. If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay your first-born son." In Jer. 31:9 God says, "I am a Father to Israel." In Hosea 11:1 God says, "When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." The relation of son and father was a basic part of Old Testament faith, and this led to deep conviction of eternal security among the Jews. The Shemot Robbah says, "Even were all the nations of the earth to join together to put an end to God's love for Israel, they could not do so."
Paul says that they also had the glory-that is the presence of God in their midst made known by a visible luminous appearance in the cloud, on Sinai, and in the temple. Rabbis invented a word for this and called it the Shekinah, which comes from schakam, which means to dwell. The glory of God's dwelling with Israel was the Shekinah glory.
The other blessings are obvious, for you have the covenants with Abraham and David. The law was given to the Jews, and the fact that Paul lists this among their great blessings shows that he was not opposed to the law as such, but only as an adequate means of salvation. It was the Jews who had a God ordained form of worship. They had all the purposes of God, which included that of a Messiah. They are descendants of the great patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This may not seem to be such a great thing to us, but even Jesus made something of it when He said in Luke 13:16, "And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for 18 years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" Jesus considered it no small matter to be a daughter of Abraham, but considered it a heritage of great honor.
Finally, Paul says that of the Jewish race according to the flesh was Christ. The Savior of all men was a Jew, and this alone exalts the name of Jew to the highest degree. No other race can boast of a greater honor. In the flesh Jesus was a Jew, but in contrast Paul says that in the Spirit Jesus was God, who is over all blessed forever. Here is the only place where Paul directly calls Jesus God. He is the Jewish Messiah, but he is the God of all people. The Gentiles had no hope for a Messiah, so Jesus is not the Messiah of Gentiles. He is their God.
No one can look at all these blessings of the Jews and doubt their advantage. It is true that they can have all this and still be lost without Christ, but the fact remains, these values can never be taken from them. Paul says in 11:23-24, "And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again." The Jew grows easier on the tree of God than the Gentile, for his heritage prepares him to grow so much faster and better in the knowledge of God. The non-Christian Jew has an advantage over the non-Christian Gentile, even though both are lost and both can only be saved in the same way by faith in Christ. One of the reasons we should be concerned about winning Jews is because, as a rule, they will make more mature servants of Christ. When God wanted a man to be an Apostle to the Gentiles He chose a Jew who was well grounded in the faith of the Old Testament. A good Jew like Saul of Tarsus made the best Christian.
Paul goes on to make it clear that the remnant of Israel alone has carried on with the full advantage of all these blessings. Christians have become children of Abraham, and the church has become the new people of God. Israel of the flesh, however, even though cut off still remained a branch intact. It has not withered and died, but has survived. This is a mystery that has puzzled Christians for centuries, and it still does today. What is God doing through the Jews today? They are divided into three camps. You have the Orthodox, the Conservative, and the Liberal. Their views differ as much as the difference says between a fundamentalist and a modernist. Many Jews in America have no interest in going back to Israel. There are many questions that the Jews are asking about themselves.
Jacob Jocz in "A Picture Of Contemporary Judaism" has this paragraph on the crisis that the establishment of the state of Israel has brought to Judaism: "On a memorial Sabbath in 1948, in the great synagogue of Tel Aviv, the ram's horn was sounded to mark the end of the Exile. .....no Jew need live in Exile anymore. He needs no visa, only a ticket and a Jewish nose. What is the effect upon Judaism now that a religious hope has been realized?" He goes on to list 4 aspects of the crisis.
1. The new state is not a Torah-centered, but a nation centered state.
2. Two-thirds of the population is either anti-religious or indifferent.
3. Rebbinic Judaism is unable to adjust to the requirements of modern life.
4. A religious hope, which finds fulfillment in history is of necessity a disappointment.
And so he writes, "We thus face an unusual situation. In the land of the Bible, the historic people of the Bible, without a religious faith, in search of an answer to the question of destiny: What is the Jewish purpose in history?" It is in pursuit of the answer to this question that we are studying this part of the letter to the Romans. The conclusion we come to will determine much concerning our view of history and the whole question of the relationship of Jews and Christians.
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