Thursday, August 23, 2012

‘…What distinguishes
what is apostolic’
Although I’m in my third decade as a believer – over twenty years in fulltime service and beginning as a missionary to the Jews – up till now I’ve never had a message on Israel and prophecy.
I have to confess that, in fact, I’ve been chafed by these conferences on prophecy.
I don’t know how to explain, but something wasn’t quite right, almost like an illicit interest, a kind of misplaced preoccupation, especially on the part of Gentile Christians, prevailing about the future of Israel. And then, I’ve watched a more recent development with those who have this fixation on Israel, oftentimes as only an attraction to the Jewish mystique. There’s something about Israel and Jews that seems to touch non-Jewish believers that equally offends me. And, for that reason I have shied away from things pertaining to Israel. And, while my whole focus and interest have been with the church, I need to say that although that’s been true, I can say modestly that I have affected as many Jewish lives as anyone who has made that their primary calling and activity.
But, I have to say the Lord has now opened my understanding, and that I have a perspective about the mystery of Israel and the church which really speaks to my heart as it encompasses the word ‘apostolic’ which has always intrigued me. The apostolic perspective is rooted beyond the Jew himself and even the church itself. It’s rooted in the glory of God. And that’s what distinguishes what is apostolic.
The essence of this matter has been lost to the church till now, and it’s lost even to us who claim to have an affection and concern for the Jews. But, we have not been celebrating them in the apostolic context – chiefly that God in his wisdom has locked the church and the Jew into a relationship of such a kind that the one without the other can never enter in or obtain its eternal purpose in God. It’s a remarkable paradox. It’s God choosing that which is so opposite and contrary right in the face of everything that would rationally be opposed to connecting these two peoples, amidst the whole historic presumption of the church and the Jew, the whole painfulness of forced conversions and anti-Semitic savagery, pogroms and inquisitions, and crusades.
We need to be reminded of how colossal is God’s intention despite the wretched history of relationship between the church and the Jew, and the long-standing enmity between the Gentile and the Jew, between the church and the synagogue. And, we also need to recognize that the church itself has been adversely affected by the Jew. The Jewish community has not just been indifferent to the gospel. It has essentially and actively opposed it. Even the great apostolic church fathers, such as Luther himself, who naively expected that Jews, with the Reformation, would see the true evangelical messianic faith, were astonished at the Jewish response, and how they took advantage of the uproar during the Reformation to seek converts to Judaism!
It’s the ignorance of this mystery that accounts for the arrogance and conceit of the church, historically and presently. There’s a way in which God has established this mystery of the Jew and Gentile being locked historically, that if the church is ignorant of it, usually willfully so, then the result is going to be a conceit and an arrogance – not just about Jewish things but about all things.
There’s nothing more calculated to bring the church to a place of proper humility and fear before God than the acknowledgement of the mystery of the Jew and God’s dealings with that people.