Concerning Christians and Jews
April 16th, 1967 @ 10:50 AM
CONCERNING CHRISTIANS AND JEWS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
4-16-67 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television 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. Nor has there ever been a message that I have prepared over which I have prayed more earnestly or pondered more lengthily. It is a message that arises out of literally years of thought, consideration, meditation, searching God’s Word, prayer, and out of years of my own ministry, and especially the pastorate here in the city of Dallas.
Concerning Christians and Jews: the text is 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.” And the emphasis that you find here in the King James Version is even more emphatically seen in the original Greek text that Paul wrote, “to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile,” to the Jew first, and then to us [Romans 1:16].
There are in the United States of America something like six million Jews. There are in our city of Dallas several thousands of Jews. They are in the nation, in the state, in our city. They are our fellow citizens and our neighbors. They share with us the vicissitudes and the fortunes of our daily life. They are with us in our civic enterprises. Some of our finest civic-minded leaders are Jews. They are with us in our civic clubs as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions. They are with us in our fraternal organizations as the Masonic Lodge and our ministering groups as the P.T.A. They are with us in the athletic world, in the business world, and in the social world.
They are not tolerated, they are loved and appreciated. Some of the dearest friends I have in this earth are Jews. All of the churches that I have ever been pastor of, and all the people who have been good to me in them, all of them together, have not given me as much personally, bestowed upon me such lavish gifts, as a Jewish friend I had in the city of Dallas who does not live. He died, and it was an infinite loss to all of us in this city. There are in our midst, therefore, noble people, great people, worthy people, our friends, our neighbors, our loved daily companions, Jewish men and women.
There are also, in our relationship with Jewish people, not only economic and merchandising and political and neighborhood interest, a common denominator of life in our city, but we are also religionists; we are Christian and we are Jews. And in that world of religion, there are two responses on the part of the people. One: there is the religious liberal: to him there are no eternal repercussions as to what kind of a religion a man may choose for himself. There are no eternal consequences in that choice. To the liberal, a man can be a Christian, he can be a Jew, he can be a Muslim, a Muhammadan, he can be a Hindu, he can be a Universalist, he can be a Shintoist, he can be a Zoroastrian, he can be an atheist, he can be an agnostic, and it makes no eternal difference. To the liberal, a man can choose religion as optionally as he would choose a suit of clothes or a house in which to live. To the liberal, it is a matter of personal opinion, and it has no eternal consequences. A man can be just as much saved, have a destiny in the tomorrow and the world that is to come as nobly being an infidel, being a Muslim, being a Jew, being a Christian, being an anything or a nothing. That is the attitude of the liberal toward religion. And he implements that liberal attitude of “it makes no difference” by certain national organizations, some of which are nobly presented, emphatically presented in this city.
But there is another attitude on the part of some religionists, and this is the attitude on the part of a “particularist” Christian, and I’m using that word particularist out of the nomenclature of the liberal. Particularism is a belief that nobody can be saved except through Jesus Christ; that to come to God we must come through the atoning blood of our Savior [1 John 1:7]. It is the particularist religion that Simon Peter preached when he said, “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]. This particularism, this particularist Christian is the one who presents to the world the gospel of the Son of God as it is revealed in the sacred pages of the Holy Scriptures.
For the gospel message is this: that all of us have sinned, we have fallen short of the measure, the expectation of God [Romans 3:23]. Therefore in sin we are judged, condemned [Romans 6:23]. No man can see the face of God in unforgiven sin [Exodus 33:20]. And in mercy and in affection, in infinite eternal love, God saw the children of old man Adam, vile and wicked, and lost [John 3:16]. And God Himself came down, in human flesh, that He might bear our sin, that He might offer a body, a sacrifice for our sins [Philippians 2:7-8]. And that sacrifice is in the atoning blood of Christ [Romans 5:9]. He was delivered for our offenses [Romans 4:25]. He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He was crucified for our iniquities [Isaiah 53:6]. By His stripes we are healed [Isaiah 53:5], and He was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25]. He lives at the right hand of God to be our great High Priest, our Mediator and Advocate [Romans 8:34]. And to all who will come by faith in Him, He is able to save to the uttermost [Hebrews 7:25].
That is the message of the Christian preacher and evangel, and it is addressed to the children in our own homes. It is addressed to all men everywhere, for that all men have sinned and need a Savior [Romans 3:23]. In that address to our own families, to our own children, to the nations and peoples of the earth, in that address there is also included the invitation and the delivery of the gospel to the Jew, “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” [Romans 1:16]. The very heart of the Christian message is its missionary dynamic. To disassociate it from the Christian faith is to make a shambles of religion itself. Central in the message of Christ is its missionary, evangelistic mandate.
For example, “All authority,” said our Lord, “is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples,” make Christians, “of all of the peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:18-19]. God’s name, singular; God’s name, the great one God, His name is “Father, Son, Holy Spirit.” We know Him as Father, Savior, and the indwelling Presence in our hearts [John 14:17]. And we are to proclaim the saving revelation to the whole world [Matthew 28:18-19]. And when we cease to do that we cease to be Christians, for that is the Christian faith.
For example, in recent days, there was published an article in the Saturday Evening Post by a famous Jewish rabbi named Howard Singer. And in that article he says about us:
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 baptize them.” This is still regarded in 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.
Which is true; the Christian mandate is to all peoples and to all nations, “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” [Romans 1:16]. And the evangelizing, inviting, converting, evangelistic appeal of the Christian religion is the religion itself.
That’s what it is, the announcement of the good news that God for Christ sake has forgiven us [Ephesians 4:32]. Now it is precisely here that antagonism and bitterness and misunderstanding arises. I continue with the article by this same rabbi. After he speaks, “At this moment, there are more than a thousand Christian missionaries hard at work in of all places, Israel.” Then he continues:
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 to me is an amazing reasoning; the Jew says to me, and he says to the whole Christian world—and especially does he feel it at Easter time, and I listen to them as they speak of these things—the Jew says, “Oh, oh, do not lay at my door the crucifixion of the Son of God. Do not call us Christ-killers. Do not lay upon us the blood of Jesus. Our children had nothing to do with it. We had nothing to do with it. And to charge us with the death of Christ is of all things unjust and unfair!” To which I would be the first to answer, and do preach from this pulpit, they are eminently right and correct. In the death of Christ, we all had a part. Our sins pressed on His brow the crown of thorns [Matthew 27:29]. Our sins drove through His hands and feet those rugged nails [Luke 24:36-40]. Our sins thrust that iron spear into His side [John 19:34]. In the death of Christ we all had a part. And the Jew is imminently correct when he says, “We are not to be blamed, I and my children, we are not to be blamed for the death of Christ”; correct. Then, my dear Jewish rabbi, why do you lay at our doors the Hitlerite’s fascist persecution of the Jew? Hitler was no Christian! Stalin was no Christian! And that vicious and inhuman persecution of the Jew in the Nazi concentration camps and in those exterminating ovens is not a reflection of the heart of God or of the Christian faith or of the Christian religion.
My Jewish friend, many of you are listening to the sermon this morning. We do not blame you for the death of Christ; we all had a part. Our sins did it. You do not blame us for Hitler; Hitler is not a Christian, was not. Stalin is not a Christian. And those cruel and merciless and ruthless men who destroyed so many millions of the Jewish people do not reflect in any wise, in any part, the loving heart and prayerful intercession of Christ’s disciples in the earth. It is the opposite. If ever I saw men who loved Jewish people, it is these who pray for the salvation of Israel. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” [Romans 10:1].
And oh, it continues. He closes the article, this world-famed rabbi, with these words; going to speak now about the Christian mandate to convert, to evangelize. The rabbi was a chaplain in the war, and he closes:
When I was about to return home, one of my fellow chaplains accompanied 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 would accept 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, this chaplain friend, now my friend, to be sure, was a child of the twentieth century. He didn’t believe that I was a child of the devil, but he was also a good Christian. It didn’t matter that every evening for a full year I 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.
What he reveals there, in the invitation of that chaplain friend, is a laying bare of the very soul of the Christian. And if he were not that way, he would not be a Christian. He might be a fine metaphysician, a splendid ethical scholar, or philosopher. But if he were to deny the great mandate of the Christian faith to evangelize, to invite to Christ, he would deny the faith and be no longer a Christian.
Now this again has given rise to some tremendous overtones and repercussions. There has just been published a very thick and ponderous tome concerning Christian beliefs and anti-Semitism, Jewish hatred. And in that book it is stated that whereas only about twelve percent of a liberal denomination are convinced that being a Jew means that the man is not saved, fifty-four percent of Southern Baptists, fifty-four percent of Southern Baptists believe that you have to believe in Jesus in order to be saved, and the Jew not believing in Christ is therefore lost.
But the tragedy of the volume of the book is this: he equates that belief, which the liberal calls “particularism,” he equates that belief that you have to trust in Jesus to be saved, he equates it with anti-Semitism. Because we believe that a man must trust in Christ to be saved and the Jew, not trusting Christ therefore, is not saved; we are therefore anti-Semitic and Jew-haters.
Such a repercussion, such a conclusion is as wide the mark as God is higher above than this earth. Our “particularism,” our preaching of the gospel of the Son of God, does not carry with it a hatred or a dourness toward any soul. Rather it is the opposite. It carries with it a tremendous love, and concern, and devotion that all men everywhere might be saved, “the Jew first, and also the Greek” [Romans 1:16]. And in my own ministry here, and with regard to our Christian-Jewish Passover banquet, I have received sharp and critical letters. It is nothing but an expression, an outreach of the faith itself. What we pray for our own children, what we pray for our Gentile world, what we pray for all of the peoples of the earth, we pray also for Israel, “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” [Romans 1:16]
Now I must hasten; ten thousand things flood my soul. I speak of just one, briefly. What shall we expect when we present the Lord Christ to the world, and invite all men everywhere, the Jew and the Gentile—invite all men everywhere to turn and trust in Jesus? What shall we expect? According to the Word of God and according to a verification and a confirmation in human history, we can expect most men to turn aside. Used to be, men preached and believed that by evangelization we would convert the whole world to Christ. That is not borne out by human history, and it is certainly not reflected in the Word of God.
According to the Savior Himself, when the sower went forth to sow, some of the seed fell by the wayside, some of the seed fell on stony ground, some of the seed fell amid the thorns and thistles, and some of it fell on good ground; one out of four [Matthew 13:3-8]. According to the Word of God, and in the parabolic teaching of our Lord in Matthew 13, the tares and the wheat will be together until the great reaper, the consummation of the age shall come to separate the one from the other [Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43]. We will never have a converted world and a Christian world until Jesus comes again. And in that response is also the Jew, as a race, as a family, as a people, they will not respond. Jesus said in Matthew 24:34, “Verily I say unto you, This genea, this genus, this generation, this race, this kind will not pass away, until all of these things be fulfilled.”
“The Jew will be here,” said our Lord, “until I come again” [Matthew 24:34]. All these other ancient nations of the earth have disappeared from the face of the globe, but the Jew is still here. And he is here, according to the Word of God in the Book of Ezekiel, he is here in unbelief and will abide as a nation and as a people, in repudiation and in unbelief until Messiah comes [Ezekiel 36:24-28]. That is borne out by observation and by history.
To my amazement, to my amazement, most of the Jews in Israel, the Israeli state, are apparently atheists, and confess themselves so. In the great city of New York, where hundreds of thousands of Jews live, there is an infinitesimal small group of them that are associated with any synagogue, that attend the services of the synagogue. When I looked at the great seal of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the motto of the university is, “And the earth shall be filled with knowledge.” Cut it off, the great prophecy in Isaiah, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord” [Isaiah 11:9], but they cut it off! They are practical atheists, and they are so apparently in this whole world in unbelief.
Our Intourist guide in Odessa was a Jewess, a learned young woman. And her husband, a splendid young fellow, is a Jew. And I could not emphasize their emphasis to me as they said, “We are atheists, we are communists.” And I said, “But what of your father and your people?” And Svetlana, we called her “Sweet Lana,” she has the same name that Stalin’s daughter has, who has defected to the West, “Svetlana.” She said, “My grandparents attend the synagogue, but we do not. And when my grandparents die, the synagogue will be closed and we shall turn it into a museum. We are communist, we do not believe in God.”
Albert Einstein, the greatest Jewish scientist who ever lived, said before he died, “I want it clearly understood I am an atheist. And when I die, there is to be no memorial service over my remains, but my body is to be burned and the ashes scattered to the wind.” Israel in unbelief; this is according to the Word of God [Ezekiel 36:24-28].
I haven’t time to pursue this. Israel will be saved someday [Romans 11:25-29]; as the Lord appeared to His own brethren before He returned to glory [1 Corinthians 15:7]. As Paul said, he was one born before the time when the Lord appeared to him [1 Corinthians 15:8]. The Lord personally someday shall appear to His people and “they shall see Him whom they have pierced” [Zechariah 12:10], and they shall ask Him, “What are these wounds in Your hands and in Your feet? [Zechariah 13:6]. And they shall mourn for Him, as a mourning for an only son” [Zechariah 12:10]. And in that day, there shall be a fountain opened in Israel for cleansing, for the forgiveness of sins [Zechariah 13:1]. And so it shall come to pass, as Paul wrote in Romans 11, “all Israel shall be saved” [Romans 11:26]. There is a great destiny for God’s chosen people; they are loved of the Lord for the covenant’s sake, for Abraham’s sake, for Isaac’s sake, for Israel’s sake [Romans 11:28]. They are beloved. God has a great destiny for Israel.
Now in this day, and in this age, and in this dispensation, the gospel message includes all of us into one great fellowship, the “bride of Christ,” the church of our Lord [Revelation 19:7-8]. And to be saved we must turn in saving faith to our Lord [Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:9-10].
Does God call out that elect? Paul said, “For I am a Jew, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” [Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22]. And through the years there has been an election from God’s chosen families. Look, some of the greatest expositors of the Christian faith in the world have been Jews who have accepted Jesus as their Savior. Johann Neander is the greatest church historian who ever lived; he was a Jew who believed in Jesus. Alfred Edersheim wrote the greatest volumes on the life and times of Jesus that have ever been written. They are classical today after years and years. He was a Jew who believed in Jesus, a Christian. And on the platform today are learned theologians. I bow my head in their presence, learned men of God. They are Jews who, searching the Scriptures as the Jews did in Berea, found Him whom to know aright is life eternal [Acts 17:11].
And this is the invitation we extend 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 [Romans 1:16]—
And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
This is the very heart and substance of the Christian message: come, come, come to Jesus.
And as we sing our appeal this morning, somebody you, give himself to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13]. A family you, putting your life in the fellowship of this dear church, a couple, a youth, a child, you, as the Holy Spirit calls today answer with your life. “Pastor, today, I take the Lord as my Savior [Ephesians 2:8], today, I’m following Him in baptism” [Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22]. Or, “Today, we’re putting out lives in the church.” Or, “Today, I feel God’s call and I am answering.” Come, as the Spirit shall lead, as God shall speak; make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.