Romans 1:16: Ongoing Divine Priority Or Historical Irrelevancy?

One of the most important duties of the Church is to be engaged in evangelism – bringing the Good News about Messianic Salvation, declaring the Eternal-Life-Saving-Message to a lost and dying world.

For evangelism to be as God-honoring and as effective as possible, it is necessary to do things the Lord’s way. And the Lord has given us very specific instructions regarding the way we are to engage in evangelism, including the precise Message that is to be proclaimed.

Here is that Message: We are sinners and Messiah is the one and only Savior that the Father has sent to save us. The human need for salvation is very great. We are helpless and desperate and can’t save ourselves. Yeshua, the One who is rightly called Immanuel (God With Us), entered this world and lived a perfect, God-honoring life. He died, was buried and rose from the dead, thereby overcoming the very real and utterly destructive forces of Satan, Sin and Death. Salvation comes when we acknowledge this and become loyal to the Three-In-One God.

The Lord has also given us specific instructions as to how we are to engage in evangelism – boldly, courageously, honestly, unashamedly, shouting the Good News from the housetops!

The God of our salvation has made it clear as to who this Message of Good News is to go to. It is to go to everyone, to the whole world, to Jews and to Gentiles.

And, the Lord has made very clear the priority of the proclamation of this Message. It is to go to the Jewish people first. Paul, one of the greatest men of God who ever lived, one of the greatest leaders in the Church, one of the greatest evangelists of all time, writing to the Messianic Community in Rome specifically instructed them about this priority in evangelism: I am not ashamed of the Good News, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

We know that bringing the Good News to the Jewish people first is an ongoing divine priority and not a historic irrelevancy precisely because of Paul’s calling. The Rabbi from Tarsus was God’s Apostle to the Gentiles. That was his special calling. Gentile evangelism was the focus of his ministry. That was what the Lord asked him to do. One would think that the Apostle to the Gentiles would go to the Gentiles first! But that is not what he did. The Apostle to the Gentiles always went first to the Jewish people! Whenever he went to a new city, he first brought the Message of Salvation to the Jewish community in that city. If the authoritative Apostle to the Gentiles, and one of the greatest evangelists of all time, proclaimed the Good News about salvation through Messiah to the Jew first, shouldn’t we?

We know that “to the Jew first” is an ongoing, divine priority and not a historical irrelevancy that ended in the first century because Paul used that same word “first” twice in Romans 2:9-10, and that usage is not limited to history that ended in the first century. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

The Apostle to the Gentiles is giving us a divine principle as to how God deals with human beings: There is a divine priority regarding the way the Creator rewards and the way that He punishes us, and that priority is punishment comes first to the Jew and then to the Gentile; reward comes first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.

This “first to the Jew” principle didn’t begin with Paul and it didn’t end with his death. This divine priority is seen all the way back in the time of Genesis, with Abraham. In his day, the Gospel was already proclaimed – first to the one who was the first Jew, and then later to the other nations (Galatians 3:8).

This principle of to the Jew first is seen in Israel’s birthright. The Lord made the Jewish people His firstborn son-nation among the other son-nations when God told Moses to tell the king of Egypt: Thus says the Lord, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22). The birthright of the firstborn son gives the Jewish people the position of prominence and priority.

And, when the Savior came into this world, where did He go? To Rome, the capital city of the mighty Roman Empire? No, the Greatest Evangelist Of All went to the Jew first. He actually became a Jew. He was a child born to us, the nation of Israel, a son given to us, the Jewish people. His life, ministry and mission was prioritized to the lost sheep of the house of Israel – to the Jew first.

This same divine priority is revealed in Yeshua’s command to His representatives in Acts, Chapter 1. Before He ascended to Heaven, the Lord Messiah gave this instruction regarding their evangelistic priorities: You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth. Messiah’s emissaries were commanded to begin world evangelism with the Jewish people; and only after their “first to the Jew” evangelism was accomplished, then they were to bring the Eternal-Life-Saving-Message to the other nations. And this is what they did, and they turned their world upside down.

And, when the Son of God returns from Heaven to planet Earth, His feet will not first set down on Mount Fuji or on any of the seven hills of Rome, or on any other mountain of the nations, but on the Mount of Olives! His divine priority to bring salvation to the world will be to the nation of Israel first!

“To the Jew first” is not a historical irrelevancy that ended in the first century. It is an ongoing, divine priority. It started with Abraham; it was declared to Pharaoh. It was demonstrated by the first coming of the Son of God; it was engaged in by His representatives, even the Apostle to the Gentiles. “To the Jew first” will be the principle of Messiah’s second coming in the future.

This “to the Jew first” principle is an ongoing divine priority. Don’t you think that if we had the same “first to the Jew” priority for our evangelism, we would better honor God, and be more effective, and better able to turn our world upside down? That’s our intention. I hope it becomes yours, and that of many, many others as well!