Believable Unbelief

Have you ever asked yourself why do most Jewish people reject Jesus? How did something so precisely promised by Jewish prophets, so perfectly realized in a specific Jewish individual, and something so indisputably believed and spread by Jewish disciples, become so controversial and polarizing within the world-wide Jewish community for over 2,000 years?

I think there are essentially three reasons for this. In my view, at the top of the list, is the partial and temporary condition of Jewish spiritual blindness that Paul speaks of in Romans 11:25, “…until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” This is God’s business, because even though we don’t fully understand it, God is perfectly, consistently, and righteously merciful toward His covenant people. In fact, Paul says that one day, instead of just a small minority of Jewish people believing in Jesus, Israel in its surviving totality, at the end of the Tribulation period, will believe in Jesus (cf. Zech. 13:8, Rom. 11:26)!

Presently however, Romans 11:25 is saying that until all the non-Jewish people God has chosen to receive spiritual salvation receive that salvation, during this current time period within the overall framework of God’s plan for human history, there will only be a relatively small number or remnant of Jewish people in each and every generation who will recognize and trust Jesus as Messiah and receive spiritual salvation (cf. Ro. 11:4-5). And ultimately this phenomenon is regulated by God’s sovereignty. And when viewed from that perspective, this Jewish remnant concept is simply a spiritual microcosm of what’s taking place in the non-Jewish world on a much larger scale (cf. Matt. 7:13-14).

Also, regarding this issue of partial temporary Jewish spiritual blindness, we need to rest in the biblically based theological conviction that the three persons comprising the one true living God, salvifically interact with both Jewish and non-Jewish humanity in such a way that ultimately maximizes the display and recognition of divine glory. Yet on our side of the fence, as finite created beings with obvious inherent limitations, we just don’t have the stuff to really begin to know what actually brings an infinite being with no limitations the greatest amount of glory! However, for the time being, we can find great comfort in the fact that in our future glorified state we will be known as we are presently known (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12); and at that time, these mysteries will begin to be unraveled before our eyes.

Secondly, as a current cause of Jewish unbelief, we can’t ignore or minimize the historical and continuing experience of anti-Semitism; particularly as formulated, promoted, and implemented, by the overwhelmingly non-Jewish segment of the professing church. In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that this shameful legacy has left an indelible scar on the collective Jewish psyche because Jewish people have been told, and continue to be told, that they are singularly, totally, and perpetually responsible for the death of Christ. And this is our business in terms of a God-honoring awareness and response. And this kind of awareness and response means recognizing our own responsibility for the death of Jesus, recognizing and opposing anti-Semitism, engaging in intercessory repentance for past persecution of the Jewish people by the institutionalized church (cf. Daniel 9:1-19), and of course proclaiming the gospel.

I believe the third major reason for Jewish unbelief is the failure of most non-Jewish followers of the Jewish Messiah to communicate the gospel to Jewish people in an attitudinal manner that’s consistent with Romans 11:11. In other words instead of saying, “I got something you need to convert to,” we should say something along the lines of, “Solely by the grace of God I’ve been included in spiritual blessings associated with the unconditional biblical covenants of promise given to the Jewish people; and because of that I have a genuine love, appreciation, and connection with you; which is why I really care about you.” That kind of engagement reflects a proper contextual understanding of Romans 11:11; the recognition that Jewish unbelief is not permanent nor is it total. And based on that understanding, there’s the realization that in addition to God calling out a people for His name (cf. Acts 15:13-18), Gentiles are also currently being saved to make Jewish people literally spiritually jealous in the sense that they will actually desire Jesus and the salvation He freely offers. So then, what the proper application of Romans 11:11 looks like is an underlying recognition and respect for the Jewishness of faith in Jesus, correct self-identification as being a grafted-in partaker rather than taker-over of Jewish biblical covenant promise/blessing, and a sensitive but bold gospel witness.

In light of the above three factors, Jewish unbelief is believable in the sense of being partially understandable. I say partially because through the prophet Isaiah God says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts (Isa 55:8-9 NAU).” Yet nevertheless, when we get a godly attitude adjustment, get equipped for contextualized Jewish evangelism, and cooperate with the Spirit in responding to opportunities to take the gospel back to the people from whom it originally came, the results from that will not be believable, in a good way it will be truly unbelievable!

 

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