Who is More Important - Jews or Gentiles?
Many people struggle to understand God's priority for Israel balanced with God's desire to see all nations saved. Today we dive deep into God's plan for both Jews and Gentiles and what that means for us today.
In a former article we discussed the distinction between Jew and Gentile.
Many people quote Galatians 3:28 to point out that there is “no longer Jew or Gentile.” Yet, when you read the rest of the verse, it also says there is “no longer Male or Female.” Faith in Jesus does not erase God’s creative distinctions (Jew/ Gentile, Male/Female). Instead, faith in Jesus provides an opportunity for a deeper relationship to form between the two.
When Male and Female enter into marriage, they become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5 ), and when Jew and Gentile put their faith in Yeshua, they become “one new man.” (Ephesians 2:14)
You can read the entirety of that article here.
The Attack on God’s Distinctions
If there is one thing we know from the biblical story, it’s that when God chooses something, or sets something apart, His adversary opposes and jumps to attack (Ephesians 6:12). In recent years, we have seen a strong opposition rising to erase God’s distinction between Male and Female.
The Bible makes clear that God has created Men and Women different. His motive is not to suppress or destroy the differences, but to celebrate them. When Male and Female unite together in a biblical marriage, they learn from one another, grow with one another, and occasionally have to eat humble pie — and all the married people say “amen!”
Just as God made a distinction between Male and Female for a higher, more beautiful purpose, Dr. David Rudolph at The King’s University teaches that God has done something similar with the Jew/Gentile distinction in creation.
Why, then, does God maintain this specific distinction, even after faith in Jesus?
- Mutual Humbling
- Mutual Dependency
- Mutual Blessing
Today, let’s first dive into Mutual Humbling
Since the fall of mankind in Genesis 3, God’s plan was to reconcile all people back to Himself. His plan to redeem the entire world was to start with one man, Abraham. God made a specific, everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants (the Jewish people.)
“This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”
When reading the covenant God made with Abraham and the Jewish people, it is tempting to think of God as highly exclusive, only caring about Israel. I mean, He even calls them His special treasure in comparison to other nations (Deuteronomy 7:6).
Are Jewish people more important than Gentiles?
We believe God’s ultimate redemptive plan is to bring all the nations into His Kingdom through faith in Jesus. In light of God’s specific covenant with the Jewish people, it could be easy for Gentiles to feel like second-class citizens. If the Jewish people are truly God’s “special treasure,” wouldn’t the Gentiles begin feeling like second-class citizens in this Kingdom? Are the nations a mere afterthought in God’s redemption story? Of course not!
Remember, in Genesis 12, God makes a covenant with Abraham and his descendants. But what is the purpose of this covenant?
“My heart’s desire is to make you into a great nation, to bless you,
to make your name great so that you may be a blessing.
My desire is to bless those who bless you,
but whoever curses you, I will curse,
and in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
It was always in God’s fatherly heart to bring salvation to the Gentiles (nations), but His plan had an order – through the Jewish people first! Even Jesus Himself says in John 4:22, “Salvation is from the Jews…” When you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, Galatians 3:28 says: “For in Messiah Jesus, you are all (Jew/Gentile) sons of God, through faith… And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s offspring.”
After Jesus ascends to heaven, God opens the Apostle Peter’s eyes so that he declares in Acts 10:34, “I see now that God shows no partiality.” When we realize we are equal in God’s eyes, we should now be able to unite as Jew and Gentile, honoring the others’ distinctions and celebrating our equality in God’s eyes.
It seems to me that it’s in our human nature to constantly contend over who is more valuable (just like the disciples in Luke 22). Today, it seems many are tempted to believe the exact opposite of God’s “special treasure” status for the Jewish people; that the Gentiles are more important.
Are Gentiles more important than Jewish people?
So let’s recap. The first error we must avoid is believing that the Jewish people are more valued by God than the Gentiles. The Jewish people are his “Firstborn” (Exodus 4:22), “The Apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2), and “His special Treasure” (Deuteronomy 7:6). But the Bible teaches very clearly that Gentiles are equal in God’s sight. Ephesians 3:6 says, “Gentiles are fellow heirs.” Galatians 3:23 says that “Gentiles who believe are Abraham’s offspring.” (We’re adopted in!)
Yet sadly, many believers now think that since God used the Jewish people to bring salvation to the Gentiles, the Gentiles are now the real treasure. Many mistakenly believe that the Jewish people were just a spiritual “mailman” designed to bring the Good News to the Gentiles — and once “delivery” of the Messiah was complete, they lost their purpose in God’s redemptive plan. Unfortunately, the brilliant theologian NT Wright even uses this analogy to refute the on-going covenantal status of Israel:
“The covenant always envisioned a worldwide family; Israel, clinging to her own special status as covenant bearer, has betrayed the purpose for which that covenant was made. It is as though the postman were to imagine that all the letters in the bag were for him.”
This postman analogy falls short because the Jewish people were not simply carrying salvation to the Gentiles and then fading off into the background. To assume that God abandoned, or “superseded,” His covenant with the Jews in favor of the Gentiles is not an accurate portrait of God’s character.
Remember, God calls the Jewish people His bride and replacement theology (or supersession theology) relegates the Jewish people to the position of God’s ex-wife. We believe the proper theology is that through Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, Gentiles have been made fellow citizens and co-heirs in the Covenant God made with Israel.
“You (Gentiles)—being a wild olive—were grafted in among them (the Jews) and became a partaker of the root (The Covenant of Israel) of the olive tree…”
And the very next thing Paul states is….
“(Gentiles) do not boast against the branches (Jewish people)…”
“Do not be arrogant, but fear—for if God did not spare the natural branches (Jewish people), neither will He spare you (the Gentiles). Notice then the kindness and severity of God.”
Paul is warning the Gentiles not to be arrogant, not to fall into believing the Jewish people were only a means to an end. Paul refutes this way of thinking in Romans 11 by enlightening the Gentiles as to why they were added to the covenant.
“But by their false step, salvation has come to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy.”
In other words, God is saying, “You (Gentiles) were let into this covenant in hopes that the Jewish people would get jealous and come back to me!”
Now, STOP and think — just how beautiful is this idea? It may resemble a taste of humble pie, but it is God’s intention for all of us to walk in this humility. Remember what Scripture says awaits those who are humble…
“He adorns the humble with salvation.”
The Design of Mutual Humbling
We feel it’s safe to say that God intentionally designed this unique distinction to bring MUTUAL HUMBLING to both Jew and Gentile.
God chose the Jewish people because He loved the Gentiles and wanted them in His family.
And God adopts the Gentiles because He loves the Jewish people and wants them back in His family.
Have you ever noticed that making the Gospel about you is nearly impossible? We undoubtedly give it our best effort, but God’s redemptive plan has been designed to prevent pride and enable humility.
You may have never thought about this, but God designed the Male/Female distinction similarly. We all know that God created Adam first and then created Eve out of Adam. This could be a potential pitfall, as prideful men proclaim to women, “You came from man; therefore, you are not equal with man.” But God designed us so that only women can give birth. Women giving birth is the great equalizer.
Men cannot claim to be more important than women because “woman came from man,” for every man since Adam has come from a woman. Men and women were created to walk humbly and honorably with one another since they are equally dependent upon each other for their very existence.
Likewise, Jews and Gentiles are designed to live a mutually humble life, where the salvation we share in Messiah only comes into existence because of the other.
I have a humorous image in my head of a Jew and a Gentile in the family of God. They keep honoring each other by saying, “Well, I am only here because of you.” And the other replies, “No, I’m only here because of you!” And back and forth they go, honoring one another forever! This is how we should look at our fellow brothers and sisters in Messiah.
Whether you are Jewish or Gentile, we can honor the other as a special treasure to God and be eternally grateful for His grace that allows us to be in this family.
By David Blease
Gateway Center for Israel