Scripture Reading: Acts 13:42-52
“And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you (the Jews). Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord commanded us, saying, I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:46,47)
Paul understood clearly that the gospel must go to the Jews first. He wrote in Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The early church began with Jewish converts and as we have seen in Acts, it later expanded to the Gentiles.
The problem was that most of the Jewish leaders rejected the gospel. This was the case in Antioch of Pisidia. When the whole city gathered to hear the word of God, the Jews were filled with jealousy and began to speak out against Paul and Barnabas (vs. 44,45). They even stirred up persecution against the missionaries (vs. 50,51).
When Paul made his defense before the Jews, he said, “It was necessary that the word of the Lord be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles” (v. 46). The Jews were filled with jealousy when they saw the Gentiles responding to the gospel and thus rejected it. When Paul and Barnabas were driven out of the district, they shook off the dust from their feet and moved on to Iconium (vs. 50,51).
However, Paul had deep regrets that the Jews rejected the gospel. He wrote, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flush. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises” (Romans 9:3,4). Paul never lost his love for the Jewish people. He actually wrote that if possible he himself would be condemned to hell so that they could be saved.
We too should have a special place in our hearts for Jewish people. We need to pray for their salvation and support ministries that reach out to them. Paul went on to write in Romans 11: “Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in…As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers” (Romans 11:25,28).
Lord Jesus, I pray for Jewish people to come to You. I pray that the partial hardening will end and that many will have their eyes opened so that they can see that You indeed are the Messiah and the only way to salvation.
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