The Mystery of Israel and the Church - Chapter 16
The Mystery of Israel and the Church
by Art Katz
Chapter 16 - Israel's Salvation Waits on a Word
In the wisdom of God, the Jews, who have been historically opposed to the gospel, are to be brought into its benefit and blessing by the spoken word.
But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"-that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whosoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for "whosoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved." How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!" However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, "LORD, who has believed our report?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:8-17).
There is a logical order here, namely, that hearing must precede believing, and believing must precede calling upon Him. Believing unto salvation, however, can be reduced to a mere mental exercise, or formula, by putting before the consideration of Jews, or anyone, an 'easy-believism,' a recitation after the speaker of a 'decision,' only to, for many, miss the whole profound point. This, in fact, characterizes much of modern day evangelism, and leaves many outside the kingdom.
God, in His genius for the Church's necessary maturity, has so calculated things that the Jews are "the enemies of the gospel for your sake" (Rom. 11:28). We need that slap in the face, or we will further degenerate into a shallow spirituality that affects neither the Jew, nor anyone else for that matter. Israel's salvation will not be obtained by presenting before them a step-by-step formula on 'how to' get saved. There is a certain kind of hearing that is required for a certain kind of believing, and that requires a certain kind of preaching and a certain kind of word, which we would call, for the lack of any better definition, apostolic proclamation.
In the quote from Romans, Paul is citing from the Book of Isaiah, where the prophet writes,
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Isaiah 52:7).
And it is preceded by something remarkable in verse 6,
Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, "Here I am" (Isaiah 52:6).
The word 'announce' in verse 7 would convey better the true meaning of the scripture if it were translated as 'pronounce' or 'proclaim.' An announcement is a mere vocalizing and conveying of facts, but a proclamation is a word from the heart of God, which constitutes an 'event' when it is sounded, and this is the distinctive of true and authentic preaching. The proclaimed word is more than informative, and even beyond the inspirational; it is the word as a creative 'rhema' and breath of God, in the hearing of which an event occurs so that, where there was no faith, precisely there, faith is established.
As intellectual as Jews are, God does not say a word to us about propounding the faith to them in some systematic way by which their sense of logic can be satisfied, or by some kind of invincible sequence of argumentation. Instead, God insists that the key to their believing, and subsequently, their calling on the name of the Lord, is the hearing of a particular word, namely, the "word of Christ," not the word about Christ, though necessarily that will be the subject, but the "word of Christ," Himself. The feet of those who are to bear good tidings are called "lovely" or "blessed" because it is God who is speaking through those whose feet bear the good tidings: "I am the one who is speaking. Here I am." It is Christ who is speaking through the earthen vessel on the mountains, because it is He who possesses that life. They will actually hear Christ's uniquely inspired, own word, the voice of their own Messiah, their own God.
Even as we read this, our faith staggers, especially as we are called to be the bearers of that kind of proclamation. It is still our feet, the lowliest part on the body, but the voice, the speaking, the content and the words that constitute the creative event that establishes faith to believe is actually His voice, His speaking and His words, so that those who had up to that point been hostile and resistant can call upon Him. We might believe that the phenomenon can take place through some giant of the faith like Paul, but can we believe it of ourselves? Can God have full possession of us that we might say with absolute certainty, "It is not we that speak"? However great individual salvation is, the context of these scriptures has to do with the consummation of the age, which waits upon the restoration of a remnant from the people Israel. How shall they believe in what they have so long rejected?
Unless they hear Him, Christ's message and voice, they will not believe the truths of His death and resurrection, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved." Do we realize that the most staggering and impossible doctrine for people to believe is the resurrection, that God can raise the dead? Tell that to a secular Jew if you want to have him laugh in your face. Jews, as a whole, are rational, logical and secular-minded. In fact, the Jew is the very embodiment of an entire mind-set that is arrayed against the foolishness of God in the gospel. This is the final Last Days' encounter between the Church and that people, and if something does not come out of that confrontation by which they will be provoked to call upon the name of the Lord, there will be no consummation of this present age; the Lord will remain contained and bound up in the heavens (Acts 3:21); there will be no kingdom come, nor will Israel be able, finally, to say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:39).
As we have said, at that time, the Church will not have been conveniently raptured out of the earth. But being present in the earth, and in the midst of affliction and seeming hopelessness, it will say to the Jew with an absolute certitude and conviction, "Your God reigns." And because He reigns, their affliction will eventuate in "everlasting joy" upon their heads. But if we are not the bearers of that life-giving word, which they will not hear from another, they would have certainly perished.
The God who judges is the God who redeems. Are we so well-grounded in the knowledge of a God who reigns, who is a Savior in the midst of distress, that we can also appreciate Him as Judge? Have we flinched from that, or have we welcomed His judgments and loved them because we know Him and trust that they are righteous altogether? Do we really know our God, and can we make Him known to this people, so that, in the midst of their despair, and even before the Messiah comes, they will say when they encounter us, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord"?
In one sense, nothing has changed; the Church which shook the world at its inception, will likely shake it again at the end. The enormous collision over the radical question of whether the gospel is, in fact, true will again be tested and contested by those who are constitutionally disposed to resist it: the cerebral, intellectual, secular, rationalistic and empirically-minded Jew!
There needs to be, therefore, a people who are commissioned for this task. The root meaning of the word 'apostolic' is 'sent one.' There are many that 'went,' but few that are sent. Men are sent by the laying on of hands in a commissioning that recognizes and authenticates the call in God. If that laying on of hands is mere ceremony, if it is only a little gesture of a conventional kind, then we might as well stay home. A true sending body is the rarest of all phenomena. Those who authentically express God do not grow on trees; they are formed, shaped, and conditioned by the intensity of a daily life with the saints, with all the accompanying issues that arise in such a setting. It is in this kind of matrix of life that God fashions apostolic character, apostolic men, and apostolic sending bodies.
The Challenge of the Jew
The Church's mandate towards the Jew during their final extremity is to call them back to a seriousness towards God. Unless they show a repentance toward God first, there is little prospect of a faith in their Messiah. We are barking up the wrong tree when we seek to promote the issue of Jesus to those who have not yet rightly considered the issues of sin and of God. After more than two thousand years of not considering God, and being satisfied with political Zionism, liberalism or rabbinical Judaism, we Jews may find ourselves required to acknowledge that those '-isms,' those man-made systems of thought, are the substitute wisdom of man, and have deterred us from really considering God seriously. Jews remain unsaved because, generally speaking, they have not heard a compelling word which would cause them to believe, releasing them to "call upon Him who is rich in mercy, both to Gentile and Jew, to all who call upon His name."
How shall they believe on Him unless they believe that He was raised from the dead? How shall they believe that He was raised from the dead except that the evidence of the resurrection is in the very words, the demeanor, the voice, the tenor, the gait, the disposition and the constitution of the one who stands before them, whose feet are blessed on the holy mountain of God, and who shows forth, in himself, as a son of the resurrection, the truth of the resurrection, and whose very words are resurrection words of creative power enabling the hearer to believe? That is the issue of the salvation of the Jew in the Last Days; it is what we authentically are ourselves, and what we present to them that will bring them to salvation. Their calling on His name is vitally interwoven with the Lord's coming as King, by which His kingdom is established, His millennial rule begun, so concluding the whole climax of the age!
In hearing the words of the one who is sent, they hear Him, the Lord, who was raised from the dead. Those who "believe that Jesus is Lord" and that "God has raised Him from the dead shall be saved" are the two inseparable requisites. Why should any Jew call a man 'Lord'? Indeed, something is required that goes far beyond correct biblical instruction for the Jew to call any man Lord. But the remarkable truth is that resurrection is inextricably tied to the authenticity of Jesus' Lordship. No resurrection, no Lordship (Rom. 1:4).
In encountering the resurrection of Christ, in hearing the voice of the resurrected Christ in the messenger, the unbelieving Jew encounters his God. The Jew has every historical disposition to resist this encounter, but more so, it means also the end of his lordship over his own life, the end of his bank account, his film studios, his business mergers, of what he is going to do, his philanthropies by which his self-justification is established. All of that is finished when Jesus becomes Lord and says, "Now you will do My bidding." The reason that people baulk at God, who would otherwise enjoy God as God, is that they are not willing for the Lordship part. It is the issue of His Lordship that compels those to baulk who desperately clutch their own autonomy.
Paul at Mars Hill
The messenger or 'sent one' is, in himself, the evidence of that resurrection, and there is no more beautiful a demonstration of that than the apostle Paul at Mars Hill. He was brought by the circumstance of God to the most adverse audience with which a man could be faced, namely, Greek philosophers, the Stoics, the Epicureans, as well as unbelieving Jews. In them he had the opposition of people who had been honed to the finest degree in the things that constitute both philosophical and religious antagonism to Christ, and yet, he was brought to Mars Hill so they could hear what the 'babbler' would say. Paul's message was:
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
Of all of the foolish things to say! How does he expect those Greeks, who believed in reincarnation, to know anything about resurrection, or the Jews for whom such a doctrine would be equally as offensive? Paul, however, puts all his eggs in that one basket, and makes everything the issue of the resurrection of that Man who will judge all men, whom God has raised from the dead. "Oh," some said, "we will hear you again concerning this matter," but likely never did, and will spend their eternity in Hell. Others turned in disdain, but some "joined themselves to Paul and believed." How do we understand that? How can they believe in a doctrine that is calculated to contradict their upbringing and their intellectuality? The only explanation is that the proof of the resurrection was Paul in himself, and they joined themselves, or as some translations say, "cleaved" to Paul, and believed.
To believe the resurrection is to believe that Jesus is Lord. To believe that Jesus is Lord is to believe the resurrection. To believe at all is a miracle that takes place by the operation of God through the speaking and the hearing of one who is sent, who brings the glad tidings that those who hear it might believe and call upon the name of the Lord. This is more than just giving Him a little honorific acknowledgment; it means the surrender of the independent life to the totality of God's authority, once-and-for-all. This is salvation, and anything less and other than that falls short. It is a powerful phenomenon, but it is not reserved for Jews alone. The whole world needs to hear, and indeed must hear, that kind of word.
The Powers of darkness oppose Israel's return to their God. That is why the smallest attempt to reach a Jew with any kind of message evokes such a powerful reaction. The most beatific, reserved, intellectually modest and ethical men become savage when you bring the gospel to them in a challenging way. Something deeper in their own life, which has been their life more than they know, is being threatened, namely, the Powers of darkness that have operated upon and through them, that power which is at the heart of the world's values, the world's mind-set, the world's wealth, the world's commerce, the world's culture, the world's sensuality and ambition. Jews epitomize the world in its wisdom, power, lust, ambition and wealth. When you touch a Jew, you are not just touching a little piece of another ethnic people; you are touching a world system at the heart of its power and animosity against God.
God forbid that these considerations should encourage the reader toward anti-Semitism. It is just that these are the realities we need to know, because we are called to face this people in a final confrontation. If they will not call upon the name of the Lord, and remain fixed in their stubborn obstinacy and resistance to Him and to His gospel, then the whole consummation of all things remains in abeyance. This is the issue; it requires an apostolic authority by those who are sent out from apostolic bodies, not just to places of their own choosing, but into the fiercest configurations of iniquity and resistance to God. Can we believe that there is innate power in the gospel sufficient to reveal Jesus as resurrected Lord?
God blesses the feet of those who bring good news, who pronounce peace, whose word actually constitutes peace, and who say to Zion, "Your God reigns," because the one who is saying it is the one in whom God, in fact, reigns. He is on Mars Hill because God reigns, and not some other place where he would rather be. When he says "God reigns," the truth of the Lordship of Christ is evident in the man who is speaking. There is a God who reigns, and the truth of His reigning as Lord is demonstrated in the posture, the voice, the face, the demeanor and the character of the one who brings the glad tidings and says "Your God reigns." The messenger is everything; he is a 'sent' one. That is why Jesus says, "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me" (Matt. 10:40). We, sent ones, are the vital linkages with the living God, requiring to be something more than well-meaning Christians; we have to be the evidence of the resurrection itself!