“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.” Romans 1:16
Our weekly Christian devotional
“What makes the Jews so special?” Sara’s blunt comment and angry demeanor shocks me a bit; she is half Jewish!
“That’s exactly why I became a Buddhist in the first place–because of literature like this.” Glancing disdainfully at the open Bible in my hand, she rolls her eyes.
“What do you mean?” I honestly thought Sara would be happy when I read her Romans 1:16.
“When I was a little, I actually believed my parents and rabbi when they said I was special.”
“So when did you stop believing that you were?” Respectfully closing my Bible, I listen with every fiber of my being.
“When I attended Brown University, I realized that my Judaism actually separated me from humanity. It’s a crazy concept to believe that one human being is more valuable than another.” In subtle irony, she looked at me as if I were an un-educated peasant.
Sara’s frustrations with Judaism were the same issues I struggled with before I understood why God did what He did and what the actual meaning of Romans 1:16 was.
If you don’t understand the context in which it is written, it’s easy to assume that this verse is implying that the Jewish bloodline might be considered more valuable than any other.
So, if that isn’t what this verse is implying, why is Paul making it very clear that the Jewish people should be the first ones to be presented with the gospel of Christ?
Well, you can’t really touch on this topic without delving into a little bit of history and theology.
In the Old Testament days, there were two groups of people: Those who worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and those who worshiped pagan gods (They were referred to as Gentiles in the Bible).
During those ancient days, the Jewish people were a nation that operated very differently from the pagans who surrounded them. How they worshiped and whom they worshiped made them a very unique nation.
If you study the Old Testament, you will notice that God not only blessed the Jewish people with some amazing instructions for a blessed life (the Ten Commandments), but He also provided for His people in many miraculous ways.
The Old Testament also foreshadowed God’s plan to redeem the world and His people. God said He would do this by sending the Messiah.
The Jews (even today) refer to Messiah’s reign and rule in countless customs and traditions that have been practiced since the Old Testament days.
Now, let’s get back to Romans 1:16, shall we? The reason Paul is urging all Believers to reach out to the Jewish people first is because this particular bloodline carried not only the salvation of the world, but also the keys to unlocking His identity.
In Old Testament custom, a blemish-free lamb was slain for the sins of a man. When Jesus (who was sin-free) willingly sacrificed Himself, He atoned for the sins of all who would accept His sacrifice. The salvation of the world came because God sacrificed His only son to atone for our sins.
Today, the Jewish people no longer practice sacrificing perfect lambs. There are two reasons for this: The first one is because there is no longer a temple standing in Jerusalem. And the second reason is because Jesus’s death is considered God’s New Covenant (hence the term: “New Testament) with man.
My friend Sara was very correct in her observation that there isn’t a higher inherent value for one human life over another.
God sent Jesus to die for the sins of all humanity, not just the Jewish nation. Jesus the Messiah was sent to set the whole world free.
There are many different reasons why many refuse to accept God’s gift to humanity. Some feel they should be the exclusive ones entitled to God’s blessings. Others cling to the opposite end of this spectrum by embracing some version of Universalism. This spiritual concept considers all human beings to be equal in value. But, Universalism also ignores the very real problem of sin and it’s consequences.
Perhaps that’s why many ‘Universal concepts’ have become so popular today; sin isn’t a very popular subject.
The thought of someone like Jesus acknowledging it to the point of actually dying a very brutal shameful death because of it; can make anyone squeamish. The wickedness of our sin is the very reason innocent blood was shed.
But, discomfort should never be a reason for avoiding the uncomfortable truth. We are all sinners. We are all in need of salvation. How bad do you want freedom?
True shalom will only come when you find it.
“Dear Heavenly Father,
I repent for being jealous. For years when I would read Romans 1:16, I felt as if you were saying that the Jewish people were more valuable to you.
I see now that the Jewish history was important for identifying Jesus as the Messiah. This was not meant for me to take as a personal offense against me, but as a logical order in which your Son could be explained and understood by all nations.
Oh, Lord, help me to share the good news of Messiah with my Jewish friends. They are a blessed people for so many reasons, but if they don’t have the kind of shalom that only Jesus’ sacrifice can provide, they haven’t got the true riches in life.
Lord, I am blessed to know you. Help me to show others that Jesus is the Messiah. If I get rejected, help me to not give up. Help me to remember to shake the dust off my feet and move onto one who will listen to the good news.
Those who reject your message are not really rejecting me personally. They are rejecting a personal relationship with you.
Bless me to reach those who are sick of avoiding the truth for fear it may be painful to hear. Give me wisdom and discernment on what to say and when to say it. In Jesus’ precious name, because I want everyone to enjoy the same kind of freedom Jesus gave me. Amen.”
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Author: Julia Shalom Jordan