“For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” (Romans 15:26-27)
God, in his sovereign providence ordained that I should be born into a Jewish family, and then be called to faith in Jesus Christ. It was not my own doing. I probably delayed my inevitable conversion to Christianity as long as possible, desiring instead to be many other things, including a student of New Age when it first emerged as a thing in the 1980’s. One who is born of a Jewish father is automatically a Jew, unlike Christianity where every individual must come to faith through the calling and work of the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit. I thank God for my rich background of worship as a Jew, in the temple and at all of the feasts in our home. However, thirty-three years after becoming a Christian I am still working out how my Judaism and Christianity intersect. Paul’s letter to the Romans is my go-to resource when I seek to understand the great privilege of being in God’s remnant of saved Jews.
I will not attempt to explain the tenants of Judaism, since it may include religious beliefs, national identity, birthrights, and cultural lifestyle for different individuals. However, one fact is sure: the Jews preserved the Old Testament for the good of God’s people. So all believers are in debt to them for this reason alone, but not only for it. Jesus, God himself, was born of a Jewish mother, from a long line of faithful Jews, starting with Abraham (Matthew 1:2). All of the apostles were Jews and gave us the New Testament. These are only three reasons why non-Jewish believers owe debt of gratitude to the Jewish people in general, through the generosity of our prayers, financial contributions, and gospel witness.
In the fifteenth chapter of Romans, Paul refers to the Jews in Jerusalem who were suffering from their poverty, either because of oppression by Rome or voluntarily, as a result of sharing their resources. He has called on the mainly Gentile churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth to help their fellow believers with a financial contribution. (See 2 Corinthians 8:1-15.) In Romans 15, Paul emphasizes that fact that these churches were “pleased” to make the donation, implying that they were not coerced or cajoled, but gave willingly and voluntarily. They realized how much they owed to those in Jerusalem who believed in Christ in opposition to their religion of birth, family’s expectations, and the community’s persecution. Today, while most Jewish congregations charge annual dues and other fees in order to sustain their worship and ministry, Gentile believers give to the Lord through the collection on Sunday morning, for the ordinary support of the church staff and ministry expenses. Here is one example of being moved by the grace of God rather than by compulsion.
But the most important reason why they, and we should support and pray for the Jews is that all believers share in the provision of God of his Jewish Son, the Promised Messiah, to be our Redeemer. “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Unlike the Jews, who practiced their works for recognition by God and men, these Christians were compelled by the love of Christ to help their brethren in Jerusalem, as a matter of conscience. By making their contribution, the Gentile believers demonstrated the grace of God through their generosity.
Do you support Jewish ministries such as Christian Witness to Israel, Jews for Jesus, or Chosen People Ministries (just to name a few)? Do you know the difference between supporting the Jewish nation politically or nationally and contributing to the gospel ministry to the Jews? How will you respond to the debt we owe to the Jews?