Life + Culture

If We Love Jesus, We Will Love the Jews: Twelve Biblical Reasons Not to Be Anti-Semitic

If We Love Jesus, We Will Love the Jews

The standard dictionary definition of anti-Semitism is “hostility to, or prejudice against, Jews.” There is a long history of such mistreatment of Jews (some horrific) by professing Christians. The aim of this article is to show that those Christians were acting contrary to the Bible — the very Scripture they claimed to believe. The cumulative effect of these twelve observations is to show that the Christian Scriptures do not support anti-Semitism, but forbid it.

1. God freely and graciously chose the Jewish people from all the peoples of the world to be recipients of a covenant with him that would bestow unique blessings on Israel, and would be the means through which all the families of the earth would be blessed.

The Lord said to Abram . . . “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3)

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. (Romans 9:4)

2. Jesus, who the Scriptures teach is the incarnation of the eternal, divine Son of God, was Jewish. This incarnation was the means of God’s fulfilling his covenant with Abraham — Jesus is the offspring through which all the families of the earth are blessed.

It is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah. (Hebrews 7:14)

To [the Israelites] belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:5)

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)

3. All of the twelve apostles chosen by the Lord Jesus were Jews.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5–6)

4. The fact that the Jewish people rejected (and, as a whole, still reject) Jesus as their Messiah, and were instrumental, along with Pilate and other Gentiles, in his crucifixion, was not a warrant for their persecution. Jesus himself, as he died, set the example for his followers by praying that the Jews and Gentiles responsible for his death would be forgiven, which many of them were when the apostles offered them gospel grace, not retribution.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Peter . . . lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea, . . . this Jesus . . . you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up. . . .” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart. . . . Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” . . . So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:14, 22–24, 37–41)

5. Paul spelled out the short-term sorrowful, and long-term hopeful, implications of the Jewish rejection of the gospel, explaining that Jewish enmity toward Jesus as the Messiah was for the sake of the salvation of Gentiles, which in turn would be for the sake of the salvation of Jews. In other words, God’s design in the temporary disobedience of both Gentile and Jew was finally for the good of both.

As regards the gospel, they [the Jews] are enemies for your [the Gentiles’] sake. But as regards election, they [the Jews] are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you [Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their [the Jews] disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles] they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. (Romans 11:28–32)

6. God has chosen to save Jews and Gentiles in a way that severs the root of pride in both. He especially warns Gentiles not to boast over Jews just because some of them did not believe while Gentiles did believe.

If some of the [Jewish] branches were broken off, and you, although a wild [Gentile] olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the [Jewish] branches. (Romans 11:17–18)

7. To support Paul’s rejection of Gentile boasting over Jews (with the kind of derision and persecution that may go with it), he reminded Gentiles that to this very day Gentile salvation depends on God’s faithfulness to his covenant to the Jewish forefather Abraham.

If you are [arrogant], remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. (Romans 11:18)

[Jesus said,] “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (John 4:22)

8. Another argument from Paul that the Gentiles must not boast over Jews is that God not only can, but will, someday draw Israel as a whole to Jesus as the Messiah so that all Israel will be saved.

If you [Gentiles] were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree [the Abrahamic covenant], how much more will these [Jews], the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. Lest you [Gentiles] be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved. (Romans 11:24–26)

9. The almost exclusive priority that Jesus gave to Jews in his ministry (Matthew 10:6; 15:24) was changed so as to include all the nations in the offer of salvation (Matthew 21:43; 28:19–20), but it was not entirely abandoned, as we can see from the fact that the apostles, even on their Gentile mission, considered it fitting that God’s first covenant people receive the gospel first.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16; see also Acts 3:26; 18:5–6)

10. Paul set the example for how Christians should relate to Jews until the final day of salvation for all God’s elect from Israel and the Gentiles: he did everything he could to bring Jews to salvation, even being willing to suffer on their behalf rather than bringing suffering on them.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them [the Jews] is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)

I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. (Romans 11:13–14)

I am speaking the truth in Christ — I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit — that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my [Jewish] kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:1–3)

11. Paul also set the example for us (Philippians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 4:16–17) when he was persecuted by Jews, in that that he did not respond in kind. To our knowledge, Paul and the other apostles of Jesus, who spread the gospel after Jesus’s resurrection, never lifted a finger of hostility against Jewish people.

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. (2 Corinthians 11:24)

When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:12–13)

12. Jesus taught his followers to treat their neighbors the way they would like to be treated, and to respond to mistreatment from their enemies with mercy; and his apostles continued that teaching after him.

Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. . . . Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27–29, 35–36; see also Matthew 5:44–48)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. . . . Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8, 10)

If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:20–23)

Therefore, the entire scope of Scripture, the Spirit of Jesus, the example of the apostles, the explicit commands of love, and the future destiny of the nations, including Israel, show that hostility toward Jews, in thought and act, is forbidden by Scripture.

Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. One day Israel will see this with joy. In the meantime, the Christian followers of the Messiah are called to commend Jesus as the only Savior from sin for all the peoples of the world. We do this by speaking and showing the word of God, with the good news of Jesus at the center: “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

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