Concerning Christians and Jews
April 16th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
CONCERNING CHRISTIANS AND JEWS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
4-16-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Concerning Christians and Jews. I suppose in all of my life there has not been a message that I have thought over and pondered more at length, more earnestly, and prayerfully, and deeply, than the message this morning. And I pray that God will bless it. It is fraught with so many feelings and misunderstandings and antagonisms. But the spirit in which it is delivered, and the days and the months and the years of thought and prayer that lie back of it, I pray are pleasing to God.
The sermon title, Concerning Christians and Jews, and the reading of the text in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." To the Jew first, and when you read that text in the Greek New Testament, it is as emphatic in the original word that Paul wrote as it is here in the King James translation, "To the Jew first, and also to us who are Gentiles."
There are in America six million Jews. There are in the city of Dallas many, many, thousands of Jews. And in our nation, in our state, in our city, they are our fellow citizens, they are our neighbors, they are our friends. They are not "tolerated," they are appreciated and loved. They are with us in our civic clubs: Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions. They are with us in our fraternities, the Masonic Lodge. They are with us in all of our civic enterprises, and in many instances they take a worthy and a leading part.
They are sometimes our closest friends. All of the men of all of my life put together, every one who ever did a kindness to me in any church I ever pastored, and now here, all together never gave me so much as a leading Jew in the city of Dallas. He seems constantly to seek out ways to help me in this work and in my life. Most amazing friend I have ever known in all of my life, a Jew. Now, as a friend and as a neighbor and as a fellow-citizen, greatly loved and greatly appreciated, we live with them sharing our community life, our national life, our social life.
Then there is another relationship, over and beyond that which is social, or economic, or political, or athletic, or mercantile. There is also a religious denominator in our lives. There are two ways that we can look at that religious denominator. One is that represented by the liberal. To the liberal, there are no eternal consequences regarding any religious affiliation. A man can be a Christian, or a Jew, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Universalist, and to the liberal it is altogether without eternal consequence. To the liberal, a man can choose his religion with no more eternal repercussion than in the choice of a suit to wear or a house in which to live. It is optional; it is a matter of personal affinity. This man is a Mohammedan, that is as fine for him as for this other man to be a Christian. This man is a Jew; that is as fine for him as for this man to be a Hindu or Universalist. To the liberal, it is a matter of optional choice as he chooses a thing to wear or a place to live. And in keeping with that liberal interpretation, there are national organizations that further that premise.
But there is another attitude, and this attitude is represented by the Christian "particularist." And I’m choosing the word now out of their vocabulary. The liberal will use the word particularist, referring to us, to mean this: particularism is a belief that there is no salvation outside of Christ; that to know God, we must know God through our Lord and Savior. You are a Christian particularist if you believe that to come to know God in saving grace, you must come to know Him through Christ. You are a Christian particularist if you say with the apostle Peter, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" [Acts 4:12].
In Christian particularism – using their nomenclature – in Christianity of the Bible, we are taught in the Word of God that all of us have sinned, and come short of God’s expectations [Romans 3:23]. No one of us measures up; no one. And in our condemnation, in our lostness, God was moved in mercy to send His Son, God incarnate, God made flesh, to bear our iniquities, in a body, to offer a sacrifice for our sins [Philippians 2:7-8]; as the song that we sang, the blood that washes our sins away" [Revelation 1:5]. And to those who find peace with God, we come to the Lord with an offering. It is the atoning blood, the sacrifice of Jesus our Lord [1 John 1:7].
As we present that gospel message – that Christ was crucified for our sins, died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25]; is our great mediator in heaven today [1 Timothy 2:5], interceding for us who come by faith to Him [Romans 8:34] – in the presentation of that gospel message, it is addressed to everyone. It is addressed to our children. Our children must be saved; they must be born again [John 3:3, 7]; they must be regenerated [Titus 3:5], our own children who live in our homes. And that message is addressed to all men everywhere, "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" [Romans 1:16], to the Muslim, to the Hindu, to the atheist, to the agnostic, to the Universalist, to all men everywhere, that message is addressed. We must confess our sins [1 John 1:9], we must ask God for Christ’s sake to forgive our sins [Ephesians 4:32], and we must open our hearts to the grace and mercy of our Lord [Ephesians 2:8]. That is what it is to be a Christian.
And in the heart of that Christian message, there is that missionary mandate. It is repeated again and again. "All authority" said our Lord, "is given unto Me in heaven and earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples, make Christians," make converts, "of all the peoples," all of them, "baptizing them in the name of" the triune God; God’s name is "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" [Matthew 28:18-19]. We know God as Father, Savior and Intercessor, Mediator, Advocate living in our hearts [Ephesians 3:17]. The great assignment of God to us is in Acts 1:8, "Ye shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, to the ends of the earth," to everyone, "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" [Romans 1:16].
Now, the Jew recognizes that in the Christian. For example, in a recent issue of The Saturday Evening Post, a famous rabbi, Rabbi Howard Singer, and I quote from his article:
And make no mistake, the Christian duty to convert the non-Christian is not a quaint or minor obligation; it is central to Christianity. The last two verses of the Gospel according to Matthew urge the faithful to go forth and teach all the nations and baptizing them. This is still regarded by the major Christian churches as a basic tenet; this is not merely a theoretical position. There are, at this moment, more than a thousand Christian missionaries of all denominations hard at work in, of all places, Israel.
And if we are not that, we are not Christians. As the rabbi said, and as he understands, at the heart of the Christian faith is this evangelistic, missionary mandate. Now this is the basis for the antagonism that arises. May I continue with Rabbi Howard Singer as he writes recently in The Saturday Evening Post? These "thousand missionaries at work in Israel," now to continue:
Alas, they are not doing too well. For some reason, a nation populated by so many Jewish survivors of extermination camps built by European Christians is death to missionary talk of the Christian God of love.
Which is the same thing as they say to us, "We did not kill Christ. Why would a Christian lay upon us and our children the execution, the murder, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? We are not guilty, our children are not guilty!" And to that, any earnest devout Christian would say, correctly said, all of us are guilty, our sins nailed Him to the tree, our sins crucified the Prince of Life, we all had a part. But when the Jew says, "I am not guilty; we did not nail Christ to the tree," then in the same breath, he will turn around and say to us, "You built those exterminating camps in Europe, and you burned in those furnaces those millions of Jews."
Ah, Hitler is no emissary of heaven, Hitler is not a Christian, Hitler does not represent the gospel of the Son of God. And to charge us who are Christians with the fascism and the racism that exterminated the millions of Jews in Germany, or to identify us with the bitter anti-Semitism that is a part of the communistic extermination of the Jew in Russia, is unthinkable! Yet he will say it, and it is said a thousand times a thousand times. There are Jewish men in the city of Dallas who will plainly explain to me, "I have no lot or sympathy with Christians, because I myself am a refugee, and now a citizen in America, out of the bitter Fascist Hitler and persecution in Austria or in Germany."
This antagonism that arises from the mandate that is at the very heart of the Christian faith; may I read the concluding portion of Rabbi Howard Singer’s article in The Saturday Evening Post? He was a chaplain in the war:
When I was about to return home, one of my fellow chaplains accompanying me to the aircraft pulled me aside and told me how wonderful it was that we were now friends. I was touched. I expressed similar sentiments with the utmost sincerity. Then he pressed something into my hand and said "Howard, listen. Read this on the plane, and try prayerfully to find your way to Jesus." I looked at what I was holding; it was the New Testament. I did a terrible thing then: I laughed. I was sorry immediately, for he was stricken at my response. But for a moment I had honestly thought he was kidding. And then I understood: for centuries good Christians just couldn’t believe that Jews really accepted Judaism in good faith. It seemed so obvious to Christians that Christianity was superior. Those who resisted conversion had to be in league with the devil. Now my friend, to be sure, this chaplain, was a child of the twentieth century. He didn’t believe I was a devil’s disciple, but he was also a good Christian. It didn’t matter that every evening for a full year I had demonstrated a reasonable knowledge of the New Testament as well as my own Scriptures. It didn’t matter that I had made my wholehearted loyalty to Judaism clear in a hundred different ways, he was still going to save my soul. And because he insisted on trying, I hurt his feelings. Ever since, when a Christian clergyman invites me to talk about religion, I make some careful comment about the weather.
Now in the last little while, these recent days, there has been published a tremendous book, a heavy tome entitled Christian Beliefs and Antisemitism. And from it, whereas only twelve percent, and he names a religious denomination, were convinced that being of the Jewish faith would keep the Jew from being saved, fifty-four percent of Southern Baptists were ready to place the Jew, by virtue of his non-acceptance of Christ, outside of salvation. And the author has the unstated thesis that because of our belief that the Jew is not saved, we are therefore anti-Semitic. Such a conclusion is preposterous and unthinkable!
A liberal is a liberal, as I described at the first of this message. He doesn’t believe in anything, and to him to be a Muslim or to be an atheist or to be a Jew or to be a Christian is a matter of optional choice, as you would choose a coat to wear. But to us, who are Christians who believe the Word of God, it does matter, eternally, whether a man accepts Christ or not. And at the heart of the Christian faith is that mandate to invite to the Lord. And if a man is not that, he is not a Christian. He may be a splendid metaphysician, he may be a fine philosopher, but he is not a Christian.
Therefore, prayerfully, earnestly, our gospel invitation is to all men everywhere, "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" [Romans 1:16]. We are not Christians if we are not that. And in contradistinction to the thesis that lies back of this book, that because we are particularist Christians, we are therefore anti-Semitic – ah, it is my judgment as I have looked at our people and others, that these who love the Jew most and best and sincerest are these who would invite them to accept their Messiah as Savior, our Savior; "to the Jew first, and to the Greek."
Now out of ten thousand things that I would like to say, may I continue? What response shall I expect when I present the gospel of the Son of God? I am taught, and this is my faith, this is my acceptance of the Bible, there are those, of course, who believe that the gospel message of Christ will someday win the whole world, just the preaching of the gospel. I believe the opposite of that, and the reason I believe the opposite of that is because of what I read in God’s Book and what I see in human history.
As we present the gospel of Christ, the Book says, I think, that there will be an election; there will be some who will turn and be saved [Acts 13:48]. I have seen Muslims who turned and were saved. I have seen Hindus who turned and were saved. I have seen atheists, we have some in this church, who turned and were saved. I have seen liberals, and there are a good many in our church, who turned and were saved. I have seen Jews who turned and were saved. But the gospel message says in the revelation of His Word, in this Book, that they will not all turn, they will not all be saved. Some of the seed fell by the wayside and the birds picked it up. Some of the seed fell on stony ground, some of the seed fell in briers and thistles, some of the seed fell on good ground, some [Matthew 13:3-8]. In the field of the world – and the field is the world – there are tares, there are grains of wheat that blossom and fruit unto God, and they are that way unto the end [Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43]. We will never win this world by the preaching of the gospel of Christ, never. But there will always be an election, there will be some who will turn and be saved.
In the city of Dallas, in Nigeria, in Algeria, in Afghanistan, in Hong Kong, in Russia, in China, there will always be an election who are saved. And that also applies particularly to the Jew as a race, as a family, as a people. He will not turn in this day, in this age, in this dispensation, under our preaching of the Son of God; the Bible says so. For example, in Matthew 24:34 the Lord says, "Verily I say unto you, This genea, this race, this generation, this kind, this genea will be here when I come again." He will not pass away until all of these things be fulfilled. The Lord said that "When I come back, the Jew will be here in this earth." To me, that is one of the certain, established, and plainly stated, and verifiable, and historical principles that lie back of how I know the Bible is the Word of God. The Hittite is gone, the Jebusite is gone, the Hivite is gone, the Moabite is gone, the Amorite is gone, a thousand others are gone, but Jesus said "He will be here till I come again," and the Jew is still here, and will be until the Lord comes again.
Is there to be a time when the whole race and family of Israel will be saved? I wish we had hours; I’d just speak a few words. Israel is going back to Palestine in unbelief; it is plainly written in the thirty-sixth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, Israel is going back in unbelief [Ezekiel 36:24-28]. Is that true? To my amazement the Jews mostly in Israel today are atheist; the most unbelievable development to me in human history – in unbelief! Out of the hundreds of thousands of Jews in New York City, not a handful of them are related to a synagogue. The motto of the Hebrew University, as I looked at it in Jerusalem. "And the earth shall be filled with knowledge." And they purposely leave off the meaning of that verse out of Isaiah, "And the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord" [Isaiah 11:9], but they cut it off, they are atheistic. Albert Einstein, the great Jewish scientist said, "I want it understood that I am an atheist, and there is to be no service when I die."
Our communist Intourist guide in Odessa was a Jew, and she and her husband explained to me a dozen times "We are atheists, we are communists, and my grandfather and grandmother," said Svetlana – the same name as the daughter of Stalin that has defected to the West, we called her "Sweet Lana," Svetlana – she said, "My grandparents go to the synagogue, but when they die the synagogue will be closed and turned into a museum. And good," she said, "for there is nothing to religion."
Israel today is in unbelief and most of them are atheist or practical atheist, they do not share in the services in the synagogue. Will they remain that way forever? No! As the Lord appeared to His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon – as the Lord appeared to His brethren and won them to Himself personally; as Paul said, "And He appeared unto me ektrōma, as one in abortion," born before the time" [1 Corinthians 15:8], so the Lord shall someday, when He comes again, appear to His people. They shall look to the prophet Zechariah, in chapter 12:
They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, they shall mourn as one mourneth for his only son.
And in that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
And in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel there is depicted that final judgment of the Jew. Those who accept the Lord enter in to the glory of His messianic kingdom; those who refuse are judged and cast away [Ezekiel 20:33-38].
I must hasten to close. In this age and in this dispensation and in this hour of grace, when we preach the gospel of the Son of God, there is a refusal, there is a rejection on the part of the great masses of the world. I have preached in oh, so many of the countries of this world, and the great mass, the great mass – Russian, Hindu, Chinese, Amazonian – they refuse. But there is always an election, a remnant. I have seen men from these nations, and women, and families, and young people come to Jesus. And I have seen an election among our Jewish neighbors.
Some of the great Christian scholars of all time are Hebrew Christians. Johann Neander, the greatest church historian who ever lived, was a Jew who found Christ as his Savior. Alfred Edersheim, whose textbook today, written generations ago, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, was a converted Jew, a Hebrew Christian. And look around you, look on the platform – here and here, and look in the leadership of our church, some of the finest Christian leaders we have in this church are Jewish, and you do not even know it. And some of the most remarkable converts I have ever known in my life are like Lily Wolfe, who came out of the bitter persecution under Hitler in Vienna, Austria, and found refuge in America, and found Christ and a home for her soul in the love of Jesus here in this dear congregation.
Our invitation is addressed to all men everywhere: come, come, come.
The Spirit and the bride say, Come.
Let him that heareth say, Come.
Let him that is athirst come.
And whosoever will – to the Jew first, and also to the Greek –
Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
And to be less than to offer that invitation is to be less than a Christian. God bless our appeal. God bless our extended hands. God bless our word of loving care and invitation. God save the lost, the Jew first, and also us, who are Gentile [Romans 1:16].
Now we must sing our hymn of invitation. To give your heart to Jesus, to put your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church, to ask God’s blessings upon us as we love and worship the Lord Jesus, come today. "I accept the Lord as my Savior. Today I give my heart to Him." Or, "Today I put my life in the fellowship of this dear church." While we sing the song, while we make the appeal, come now, do it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come this morning, come now, while we stand and while we sing.