The Great Commission is a global mission. It is clear from the Bible that God wants everyone to be saved (I Timothy 2:4, Ezekiel 33:11). John 3:16 tells us God loves the world so much that He sent His Son to die for everyone, and whoever receives this Gift and believes in God’s Son (Yeshua) will have everlasting life. However, the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, claimed that the Gospel is to the Jew first.
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” – Romans 1:16
What exactly is the Apostle inferring here? Is he saying the Jewish people are God’s favorites? Definitely, that cannot be. The Bible tells us God does not show favoritism (Romans 2:11, NIV). And we know that God will never change. If His Word says He doesn’t show favoritism, that means He never will, not for any reason!
“God doesn’t show favoritism, and the Gospel is to the Jew first….”
Isn’t this contradictory? Well, don’t be quick to take such a stand.
In our last article, To the Jew First, we explained that Paul’s words in Romans 1:16 do not imply that God somehow plays favoritism between Jews and Gentiles. The Apostle was only affirming that according to the historical facts recorded in the Old Testament, the Jewish people are originally God’s chosen people.
In this post, I will explain further why the Gospel is to the Jew first.
5 Reasons Why the Gospel is to the Jew First
After examining God’s Word carefully, below are some of my discoveries on why the Gospel is to the Jew first:
1. God Chose Israel
God chose Israel to receive His law first. Because of this, His Son came to the Jewish people first, to overcome their human inability to live perfectly according to the requirements of the law.
God planned for the Gospel to come out of Jerusalem. In Acts 1:8, Yeshua said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Here, Yeshua commands His disciples to witness Him to the world, the first place to witness being Jerusalem.
2. Jerusalem Is His Delight
The Prophet Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 62:1-4 seem to give us a clue.
For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns. (Isaiah 62:1)
In this passage, God pledged His commitment to bringing salvation to Jerusalem. Later in verse four, God called Jerusalem “Hephzibah,” which literally means “my delight is in her.”
You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. (Isaiah 62:4)
Yeshua’s commandment that the Great Commission should begin in Jerusalem fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy that the city Jerusalem is God’s delight.
Also, Isaiah 49:6 speaks of the Jewish people being made a light unto the nations so that salvation reaches the end of the earth. Now, here’s the link between this passage and Romans 1:16.
“…To the Jew first… and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).”
In Romans 1:16, “and also” is not an afterthought. Think of it more like a “so that.” Salvation is to the Jew first so that the Jewish people can fulfill their original destiny of bringing the Gospel of the Messiah to the nations.
God thought about the multiplication of the Gospel across the earth and, in His wisdom, chose that through the Jewish people and their key city, Jerusalem, all the nations of the world would be reached.
3. The Jews Are People of the Covenant
Besides God choosing Israel, God’s covenant to redeem humanity was with Abraham, the one from whom all Jewish people are descended (Genesis 12:3). Some years after the Genesis 12 encounter with Abraham, God reaffirmed the same promise with Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 21:12; 26:3-4; 28:14-15).
God said to Abraham, “In you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” In the New Testament, Paul would interpret this as God preaching the Gospel to Abraham (Galatians 3:8). Therefore, God’s proclamation in Genesis 12:3 was about His plan to save or justify the world, to Abraham, a patriarch of the Jewish nation.
4.God Considers Israel to be His “Firstborn Son”
And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn.”’” (Exodus 4:21-22)
The passage above gives us another reason to consider as to why the Gospel is to the Jew first. Here, God called Israel His firstborn. So, the Gospel reaching them first is just one of the benefits of being the firstborn.
5. God Commanded It
One more reason as to why the Gospel is to the Jew first is that God stated so in the Great Commission. While God’s plan of redemption is not limited to the Jews or Israel, it starts in Jerusalem and expands outwards.
At Yeshua’s ascension, His disciples were eager to know whether He would return to restore the Davidic Kingdom. Yeshua replied:
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)
The Great Commission begins first with Jerusalem and Judea, extending from there outward to every other nation of the world. This is God’s master plan for reaching the unsaved in Israel and other nations. The Gospel will go “…to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.” So, by saying the Gospel is “to the Jew first,” Paul is honoring God’s design.
Many people know James Hudson Taylor for the profound and lasting impact he had on the spread of the Gospel in China. But not many know that on January 1st of each year, Taylor wrote a check to a group dedicated to blessing the Jews of Europe. On that check, he always wrote four simple words: “To the Jew first.”
He understood there is spiritual power in prioritizing what God said to put first. He believed what the Apostle Paul had grasped thousands of years before, that the Word of God links the awakening of the Jewish people to the successful spread of the Good News to the rest of the world.
The Gospel is for all. However, it is to the Jew first.
If you’ve wondered why the Gospel is to the Jew first, we hope the five possibilities we’ve given you to consider above give you a different perspective. The first reason we discussed was that God chose Israel to receive His law first. Secondly, God named Jerusalem His delight. After that we also discussed how God’s covenant to redeem humanity was with Abraham, the one from whom all Jewish people are descended, that God considers Israel to be His firstborn, and because preaching to the Jew first is God’s command to us in the Great Commission.
For further study, we recommend you read our article, To the Jew First.