Bible Commentary: Be My witnesses!

The Church too has a call upon it: to witness to the nations that there is one Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, whom God raised from the dead.

Paul the Apostle 311 (photo credit:
Paul the Apostle 311
(photo credit:
The Apostle Paul emphatically reminds the Church that Israel remains “beloved” of God, and that “the gifts and the call” upon His elect are “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). The core of that call is to be witnesses to the nations that there is one God – the Holy One of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Isaiah 43:10; 44:8).
The Church too has a call upon it: to witness to the nations that there is one Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, whom God raised from the dead. “You shall be my witnesses!” was the final injunction of Jesus to his disciples (Acts 1:8). So both Jews and Christians carry a mandate to bear witness. The challenge for Christians has always been how that witness is rendered, and to whom.
This is a particularly sensitive issue in Israel. Evangelical Christians for decades have demonstrated unwavering support of the Jewish state – based on biblical principles, not on any hidden agenda to convert Jews – yet they are always suspected of being covert “missionaries” by the religious community.
This surely is a volatile issue that defies simplistic solutions. But may I suggest a few thoughts that are not always understood by Evangelicals.
1) When it comes to the Jewish people, Christians are both witnesses and debtors. To the other nations, our responsibility as witnesses is straightforward. But with respect to Israel, we also are scripturally exhorted to recognize that to them belong the promises, the covenants, the patriarchs, the giving of the Torah, and the worship of the true and living God (Romans 9:4-5). From the Jewish people comes the Messiah and salvation (John 4:22). In him, we have been brought near to Israel’s God, whereas apart from him we would have no share in the spiritual heritage of Abraham’s offspring. We would be “strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12).
2) So when we have the opportunity to interact with Jews, let us never be arrogant or exhibit the religious triumphalism that has characterized Christianity for 20 centuries. Rather, let us be humble and deeply appreciative. Jesus came to the Jewish people as a servant (Romans 15:6). Our attitude should match his; our love, like his, should be unconditional and not-self-serving.
3) Whether to bear witness to Jews or not is a “forced option” (in William James’ terminology). It is unavoidable. Christians are bearing witness whether they choose to or not. The real issue is: Is it a good and faithful witness or the opposite? All too often it has been the latter. In its missionary zeal, the Church has often dishonored Jesus of Nazareth, and demeaned and even demonized his brothers and sisters, the Jewish people – all in the name of Jesus’ love!
4) Authentic love is relational and respectful. It is never “IIt” but always “I-You” in its approach to the other. All deceptive, manipulative or coercive tactics must be rejected. To target Jews for proselytizing and treat them as any other nation is enormously disrespectful and ill-informed. The other nations do not worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They are not the recipients of the oracles of God, nor the preservers of His Holy Scripture. They are not in a continuing covenantal relationship with the Lord God. Israel is. As a nation (independent of the spiritual status of any particular individual) Israel’s election is irrevocable. There yet remain promises to the Jews that God will keep.
5) As appealing emotionally as “Dual-Covenant” theology may appear, it does not accord with the New Testament. On the other hand, Evangelicals are not empowered to judge who is saved and who is not; only God will be the Judge. We are called simply to be His witnesses. And the most transparent and enduring witness we can render is to lead a life that reflects a holy difference, and when asked, to be prepared to give an account of the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15) – thanks to God’s redemptive act through Jesus our Lord.
Dr. Pryor is founder and president of the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies;