Israel and the Church
By Art Katz
FOREWORD: Art Katz, like myself is a Messianic Jew. In fact, in 1977 we traveled across Germany and Israel together preaching the Word of God, with our wives, Inger and Connie. We have been guest in each others homes several times. Art and I disagree on many things concerning the Church and Israel. But he has hit upon a truth that is so needed in the Body of Messiah that I feel compelled to share it with those God has given me favor with. I would suggest that you pray before reading the following, be ready to chew up the meat and spit out the bones. If you don't know Art, you are about to find out that he has a command of the English language second to none. Art if you by chance read this, just know I do love you brother. -- Shalom, Jerry Golden, The Golden "Report".
This cosmic drama is the setting for the church of the Last Days, and the powers of darkness will not regard as serious threat the church in any locality that does not see this cosmic setting. The powers of darkness are the epitome of deception, but they have a faculty to recognize authenticity. They tremble and fear wherever they see apostolic authenticity in God's people. Wherever they see a congregation of the casual and a conglomerate of individualities going about their own business and their own self-will, whose government is not upon His shoulder, who do not take His Word seriously, who do not see themselves as participants in the eschatological future and are just wanting to "get by" in a succession of services-these same powers yawn and are unmoved.
Israel is for the church God's designated litmus test as to our authenticity and the degree of the truth of our sanctification. Greater saints than we have failed the test historically. Luther, the giant of the Reformation, collapsed at this test. He spent some time with three prominent Rabbis thinking naively that he could persuade them about the truth of the Reformation, and that they would recognize in the Reformation church the revelation of the faith of the God of Israel-but the Rabbis failed to agree. They were no more impressed with Reformed Protestantism than they were with Catholicism.
In fact, their refutation of Luther's biblical arguments for Jesus as the Messiah according to the fulfillment of scripture were of such a horrendous kind that they were regarded as blasphemous. And by that, Luther saw that the very presence of a Jewish or a Judaistic-rejecting body in Reformed Europe constituted a threat to the young Reformation itself. He then lapsed into a kind of foaming at the mouth, by which he produced a book called The Lies of the Jews which fueled the Nazi German persecution of Jews four centuries later. The Jew has ever and always been the severest test for the church. They are a goad and a thorn in our side. There is something about them that is so mockingly intimidating and repugnant.
One of the first significant martyrs of the early church was a man by the name of Polycarp, who according to Foxe's Book of Martyrs, was brought to the stake to be burned to death, and the Jews were among the first to find the combustible materials. It says in the account that they did this always. They seem to have taken a malicious delight in aiding in the martyrdom of God's choicest saints, revealing the depth of the hatred against Christianity on the part of Jews who were strung out in all of the Mediterranean communities where the church itself was being established.
Moving the Jew to Jealousy
When Paul said that "...salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them (Israel) jealous" (Romans 11:11 - parenthesis mine), we need to know, as the church, that there is something that will be required of us because of Israel's fall. From God's side, the purpose of our salvation is to move Jews to jealousy. If we are not occupied with God's side and His purpose for our salvation, then we are not apostolic; we cannot say that we are authentically under His Lordship. We can have our services, our outreaches, our programs and we can bless the people-and the Lord will let us, but we are not to think that we will have any part with Him in the things that pertain to His eternal purposes.
The first and foremost thing that distinguishes church as church is not its preoccupation with its benefits, but its preoccupation with His benefits. Making a demonstration to the principalities and powers of the air of the manifold wisdom of God is not for our benefit, but for His. We are still centered in ourselves: Our blessing. Our benefit. What accrues to us by believing. We are saved from tribulation. We are going to heaven. Was the service good? How did you like the preaching? What did you get out of it?
Everything is predicated on us-our likes and our satisfactions. We have brought into the church the egocentrisms that occupied us in the world and now have another face-religious or spiritual-but equally egocentric. Can you see that even unconsciously and inadvertently we are so self-centered, and that the very air that we breathe, the egocentric wisdom of the world, has permeated even the church? Every decision we make is predicated, in the lastanalysis, on the benefit we receive. We need something to break the power of hat self-centered orbit, and God has given us a mandate and a call for something outside of our self-orbit, namely, that the purpose for our being and salvation, from God's perspective, is that we might move Israel to jealousy.
A necessary suffering must always precede anything that has to do with the glory of God. How many will hold steady and bear that suffering in the church before it becomes a glory? Inevitably, if we are together long enough and intensely enough, conditions will arise that will make us to spit our guts out in the betrayal and disappointments that come, not only in others but more painfully in ourselves.
The only reason that we have not tasted that suffering is because we are not together long enough and intensely enough to experience it. Just when it begins to get a bit sticky, we go and find another alternative down the street. We would rather be in a church setting that pleases us; not understanding that church is a place of suffering before it is a place of glory. We will not be an authentic body unless our sole purpose for being is the glory of God-whatever that takes.
If the church is going to move Jews to jealousy, it is not going to be because our amplifiers are louder than the church down the street, or we have a talented musical group. It has got to be a demonstration of another kind, a heavenly kind in which abides righteousness, truth and reality.
As we have said, the key to Israel is the Gentile church. And the key to the church is this dynamic of obligation that it would never have chosen for itself, yet is alone calculated to save the church from its religious self-centeredness and spiritual egocentricity that would have been its apostolic ruin. We would otherwise be inextricably and unavoidably self-centered, as is true of most individuals, fellowships and movements.
Even the consciousness of what is required is more or less absent from the church's consideration. What kind of demonstration can the church make that will provoke a people who have been the historical enemies of the gospel to the jealousy of the thing that they have despised and resisted till now? Do we have to become more charismatic? What does 'true church' mean? What must they see? What will do it?
The remarkable thing is that Paul lets that statement stand. He gives no explanation as to what he means by that or how it is to be done. As we have said, the church that can move Israel to jealousy is the church that can defeat the powers of the air. Whatever is required for the one, serves also for the other. We know that there are two mysteries to be fulfilled. One is the mystery of Israel and the other is the eternal purpose of God, through the church, of manifesting the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers of the air. These are two mysteries that are waiting to be fulfilled for which purpose God has created all things.
Truth would be one thing that would impress a people who have been the church's toughest critics and who have seen our defects and failures. The love of God would be another. More than we know, we have allowed shabby sentimentality or our natural temperament and disposition to serve in place of the love of God. But God's love is the love of the unlovely, the love of the enemy, the love of the Jew by Gentiles. It is a love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We are presently embarrassingly deficient, and so we are not going to be the church that moves them to jealousy until these are obtained.
Back to Beginnings
Whatever these things are that we are groping for and touching, they cannot be obtained on the basis of Sunday morning services and a mid-week Bible study. It is clear that requirements of this kind demand a totality toward God and to those with whom we are joined. Sunday church is a convenience, but what I am suggesting is profoundly inconvenient. This is the going from house to house once again, breaking bread daily. This is working through issues, tensions, difficulties and misunderstandings, and it is amazing how easily they pop up and how quickly they can bring to nothing a relationship that has been years in the making. It requires and compels us toward a daily vigilance and dependency upon God.
We cannot from our own humanity produce the unmistakable sincerity and authenticity that is required of us. We cannot stamp it out on the production line. We do not get it by going to a three-month discipleship school. It is rather a labor of love, of sacrifice and of suffering under the hand of God, and you will only get it in a church that itself is a place of suffering. Church is a suffering before it is a glory. It is not the attack that comes from without, but the suffering that comes from within in the misunderstandings, the confusions and the accusations. You cannot believe the way people can sometimes be pressed because of the intensity of issues that arise! You wonder how they could say such things to you! And often there can be no explaining and no arbitrating. It is just something that needs to be borne because we have to bear each other. We are in different places of maturity, self-control and understanding.
Church, of necessity, if it is true church, if it is intensive, if the relationships are true, if it is face-to-face, if we are speaking of real things, if we are speaking the truth in love, if we are correcting, reproving and exhorting, is going to be a place of being misunderstood. We are going to have tensions. There will be times when the tensions will be so thick that you almost stop breathing, where you thought, "This is it. There is no way out. There is no way that there could be understanding and reconciliation." We find that we are utterly cast upon God and His mercy.
There is not only a warp that comes when powers of darkness can intervene, but also in our own awkwardness and inability, especially with words and the way we are heard subjectively. We meant one thing, but it was heard in another way. To untangle that and to come finally to an understanding and agreement requires a tolerance and patience beyond one's capabilities. The time that it takes, the anguish and all of that, is a suffering. But we will not be able to move Israel to jealousy except we have passed through that and have found the reality of God in the midst of it.
It is easier to send Jewish evangelism organizations a monthly contribution and let them do the work of evangelism than that the church in every locality takes up this mandate and obligation to the Jews of its own area. God's criterion of success as church is not whether we are pleased with the services or what we enjoy, but that whatever has been established and created is able to touch Jews. That is why Paul cried, "Who is adequate for these things?" We need to know our inadequacy and insufficiency. It will compel us toward God. It forces us to the issue of the love of God, which is no abstraction, but which grows out of the gratitude for His faithfulness, when we have cast ourselves upon Him again and again out of crisis situations. If it were not for the issue of Israel, then we would never have had the urgency to become this. We would have satisfied ourselves with a much lesser church than that which would have glorified God, because the church that can move Jews to jealousy is the church that will be unto Him a glory. We would not have been that glory if we had not had this requirement.
For Your Sake
There is hardly a church in a thousand that has so much as considered that the criterion of its success is not what it enjoys, but its ability to move the Jews of their locality to jealousy. That criterion is not even so much as considered because we instinctively know that it is an ultimate requirement. Jews are the enemies of the gospel. It is not just that they resist the gospel or are indifferent to it, they actively oppose it. Yet Paul says that they are the enemies of the gospel and then he tacks on, "for your sake" (Romans 11:28a). Can you understand why this page has been ripped out of the Bible in modern times? It is as if the church and its teachers have passed over and omitted it because it is radical in its requirement, and both Jew and Gentile have suffered unspeakably for that omission.
What does Paul mean, "for your sake"? Do we need enemies, particularly enemies like that? We are not talking about a bunch of amateurs. Jews are powerful; they are brilliant; they are intellectual; they are authoritative. Have you ever had a confrontation with a Rabbi or a Jewish intellectual and radical? As a former missionary to the Jews and having been an unbelieving one myself for a long time, there is no more formidable enemy of the gospel than the Jewish people.
The only reason we do not know that is because we have never faced them nose-to-nose. We have never had a door slammed in our face. We have never seen the bristling anger and indignation. We have never been cut to shreds by the cruelest words that human ingenuity can conceive. They make you to feel like a fool, "How dare you present this message to us who have been on the receiving end of two thousand years of Christian persecution culminating in the Holocaust! Are you going to tell me that I need your Christ?" You do not know what confrontation is until you meet the Jew head-on. All of a sudden you feel like a weak little nothing; your gospel is so utterly Foolish; you just want to shrivel up and blow away.
But God is not taken by surprise by these factors, for He knows them well. In fact, He has been the Author of the factors that would make the Jew in the Last Days the most conspicuous and powerful enemy of Jesus Christ. That is why Paul says,
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, (foolish though it is, intellectually speaking) for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, (and here he comes again) to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16 - parentheses mine).
If only we could try the gospel out on the Greeks first, and if it is successful there, then we will try it on the Jew, because they are the toughest! But no, in the wisdom of God, it is, "To the Jew first." We are not to begin where it is easiest, but where it is hardest. "Go into all the world, but begin at Jerusalem where I was crucified and where the prophets were stoned to death. Then you can go on to Samaria and all these other places, but begin with the Jew first" (paraphrased).
We signal something to the principalities and the powers of the air when we do not take this requirement seriously. They see that we do not take the Lord seriously. They take note of our failure to obey His word as the Lord who commanded us to go into all the world and to preach this gospel to every creature, beginning in Jerusalem and to the Jew first. They regard us, therefore, as lightly as we regard Him by our refusal to acknowledge the Lordship of His Word in the priority that He has given us to Israel. They see how neatly we circumvent the most difficult requirement of all through our cowardice and lack of confidence in our own spirituality. They see how we have taken the easy way and allowed the Jews to have their own existence because their synagogues are to be found in the same communities with our churches. To the powers, it is the statement that we accord to the synagogue a certain validity of an equal kind with Christianity as being tenable, authoritative and valid.
To validate Judaism by honoring and respecting the synagogue and having dialogues with them, as if they represent an equally valid faith position, would have made Paul to vomit. How could he have done that and begin Romans chapter 9 by saying,"For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (verse 3)?
If Judaism were valid, then why would he wish himself accursed? We have allowed Judaism to have a valid existence, as if it represents a faith posture that has its own validity.
To confront the Jew is to confront the world at its most prestigious and powerful. Jews have won more Nobel Prizes, more distinctions and awards in the fields of medicine, literature, culture and science out of any proportion to their number in the population. They are a gifted people, but misusing their gifts in the spirit of the world against God rather than for Him, and that makes them powerfully intimidating.
That is why, when God says, "To the Jew first", He knows what He is talking about. When you touch Jewish life you are touching a whole world system, a whole humanistic, moral, ethical, religious and secular system opposed to God in every point and particular. Although it is a false light, it has the most compelling reasoning and enticements. If there is a God, however, it makes that very same body of humanism absolutely an abomination and vile.
The Fullness of the Gentiles
"For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel, until..."(Rom. 11:25a).
That word "until" is critical. There is a condition that only the church can meet.
"...until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in" (v.25b).
When God says "fulness," it is the completion of all that He has intended. There is a fulness for which God waits, of a people for His name, from among every nation (Acts 15:14), and herein lies the mission mandate of the church. According to the text in Romans, the greatest incentive that God gives the church to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel is that,
"...the Deliverer will come from Zion" (v26a).
When that mission is completed, something will happen, independent of Israel 's condition. The Deliverer is released in the moment that the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. Israel is delivered and the Deliverer takes His throne on the holy hill of Zion, and rules over the nations.
It is clear that we oppose the 'pre-tribulation' rapture mentality, a mentality that sees the church as being removed before the tribulation. Though this theory is widely accepted, it is not a doctrine of the faith at all. Nothing has more disarmed the church for the necessity for preparation, discipleship, maturity and of being the church that can stand in the Last Days and overcome tribulation, than the confidence that they will not have to face it.
It is also partly because of this 'pre-tribulation' rapture expectation that the church is presently operating now toward Israel from the place of guilt. Anything that issues from the church that has an ulterior motive, that relieves our conscience, where we operate out of guilt or obligation rather than from a priestly place, is not a valid place of ministry. Only priestly ministry is valid. The heart of priestly ministry is that the priest gains no advantage or benefit for himself in his priestly ministration. If you are, however, operating out of guilt and out of bad conscience, then you are alleviating something for yourself by being condescending to Jews. Most believers have the attitude toward present Israel that is of this condescending kind.
If we elevate and exalt ourselves, as the church, as something separate, independent or superior to the Jew, by that one thing, we are no longer the church. The church loses its character and it loses its humility. We need to be reminded that we were grafted into their root and that we are made, by the gospel, partakers with them. The church is not some phenomenon independent of Israel, but the graciousness of God to allow Gentiles to come into Israel's promise, into their hope and into their expectation, which they themselves have lost and no longer know. Part of our task is to remind Israel, not verbally, but by exhibiting what it means to have been invited into the commonwealth of Israel.
The above was borrowed from the Golden Report, P.O. Box 10268, Jerusalem 91102 Israel.