A song of Asaph; God, God the Lord, spoke and called to the earth, from the rising of the sun until its setting. From Zion, the finery of beauty, God appeared. Our God shall come and not be silent; fire shall devour before Him, and around Him it storms furiously. He shall call to the heavens above and to the earth to avenge His people. Gather to Me My devoted ones, who made a covenant with Me over a sacrifice. And the heavens will tell His righteousness, for He is a God Who judges forever.
Hearken, My people, and I will speak, Israel, and I will admonish you; God, even your God am I. I will not reprove you concerning your sacrifices, neither are your burnt offerings before Me constantly. I will not take from your household a bull, from your pens any goats. For all the beasts of the forest are Mine, the behemoth of the thousand mountains. I know all the fowl of the mountains, and the creeping things of the field are with Me. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are Mine. Will I eat the flesh of bulls or do I drink the blood of he-goats? Slaughter for God a confession and pay the Most High your vows. And call to Me on a day of distress; I will rescue you and you will honor Me…One who slaughters a confession sacrifice honors Me, and [I will] prepare the way; I will show him the salvation of God.
–Psalm 50:1-15,23 (JPS Tanakh)
This is a continuation on the topic I started discussing in Lancaster’s Galatians: Introduction, Audience, and What Happened to the Torah? and continued in Broad Strokes. These blogs were created as a reflection of my conversation with Pastor Randy in his church office on the evening of Wednesday, March 13th as we discussed the Introduction and Sermon One of D. Thomas Lancaster’s book The Holy Epistle to the Galatians: Sermons on a Messianic Jewish Approach (First Fruits of Zion, 2011).
I mentioned in Broad Strokes that it was impossible to include the entire content of Pastor Randy’s and my conversation in a single blog post, and now I find that it has been impossible to include it in only two. However, this third “meditation” (and what has developed into a series) is also an extension of topics Pastor and I have talked about during previous Wednesday night visits, and I find that the questions and comments continue to circulate through my thoughts as I read the Bible, ponder the Acts of the Apostles, and consider the past, present, and future of Jews and Judaism in the plan of the Kingdom of God, including the nature and continuation of Torah, and the future Temple and the sacrifices.
Four questions have come up (no, not those four questions, although Passover is rapidly approaching) that encapsulate what I’ve been thinking about and hopefully and prayerfully, I think I’ve come up with four satisfactory answers. Question one:
Did All Jews Reject Paul’s Message of the Gospel and Jesus Christ?
One of the issues that has come up more than once in my conversations with Pastor Randy is how quickly and thoroughly the Jewish people rejected Jesus as the Messiah during Paul’s “missionary journeys.” It is completely true that Paul received a “mixed response” from both the Jews and Gentiles he encountered, but I sometimes get the impression that Pastor believes the Jews almost universally rejected the teachings of the risen Messiah simply because they spoke of the risen Messiah (and Easter is fast approaching, too), and that almost no Jewish people anywhere actually embraced the knowledge of and teachings of Christ and became devoted disciples of the Master.
In an effort to counterbalance this opinion, I’m going to provide a series of quotes from scripture, exclusively from Acts, that indicates how many Jewish people did indeed accept the words of hope and salvation about the Messiah who came and died, who rose, and who will one day return as King. Note that this list is not comprehensive and yes, I acknowledge that I am deliberately not including an equal number of quotes regarding how many Jewish people and synagogues also rejected Paul and faith in Messiah. All quotes, unless otherwise stated, are from the ESV Bible.
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.
Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.
As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.
As I mentioned, this is only a partial list. You can also consider Acts 17:1-4, 18:7-8, 19:17, and 21:20. I only read up through Acts 21 in my inventory, so I imagine there are more examples of Jewish people enthusiastically accepting Paul and his message. D.Thomas Lancaster in his commentary on Acts 19:8 from Torah Club Volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles for Torah Portion Vayikra (pp 619-20) says this:
He (Paul) spent three months in the synagogue, every Sabbath arguing persuasively about the kingdom. When Luke says Paul was “reasoning and persuading,” he refers to the standard rabbinic mode of teaching. The rabbis framed their discourses as arguments. Rabbinic argumentation does not imply acrimony or hostility toward opponents. It employs a legal discussion of proof-texts with back-and-forth dialogue, questions, counter-arguments, and logical deductions driving toward a conclusion. The mere fact that an Ephesian synagogue gave Paul a platform for his teaching for three months implies tht the congregation received his message and respected his opinions.
So did virtually all Jews everywhere who Paul came in contact with dismiss him and the Gospel message of Jesus Christ out of hand; the Jews rejecting their own Messiah so that Paul had no choice but to cut loose his own people from the words of salvation and give them only to the Gentiles? No. Of course not. A more complete reading of Acts reveals that Paul’s message almost always received a “mixed response” from both Jews and Gentiles, with some accepting it and some violently opposing it. I’ll address some of the reasons why Jewish populations may have experienced “the offense of the cross” in my next question, but I think we see that “the Jews” did not universally reject Moshiach and in fact, many came to accept and love the Messiah to the point of great suffering and death.
I foolishly thought I could “shoehorn” two questions into a single blog post but that would have made this missive well over 3,000 words long. To make these questions and answers more digestible, I’m creating this as yet another series. Thus Part 2 of this meditation will address the second question that came up as a result of my “Pastor Randy conversations,” and I encourage you to return here and read the continuation of this series in tomorrow’s “morning meditation.”