The Israel of God

Catholics Will No Longer Seek to Convert Jews

The United States Conference of Bishops, a Catholic organization, has issued a statement, saying, "A deepening Catholic appreciation of the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, together with a recognition of a divinely-given mission to Jews to witness to God’s faithful love, lead to the conclusion that campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church." This statement, found in the document Reflections on Covenant and Mission, was negotiated between a group of Conservative and Reformed rabbis. (One can only wonder if the rabbis passed a resolution stating that it is acceptable to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.)

One reason for this statement, according to one spokesman, is that, historically, the belief that Jews must accept Jesus to have salvation has led to persecution. Thus, to distance the Catholic Church from that history, the view is taken that Jews remain as God’s covenant people, with a continuing, valid, divine mission to the world.

Man is not at liberty to change the doctrines of inspired Scripture, to placate emotions, or to correct wrongs committed in the past. It is true that pogroms against the Jews have resulted in horrific suffering on their part, due to their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah — and those persecutions were wrong. There is no justification for persecuting anyone because they do not believe in Jesus, just as there is no divine sanction for killing Christians who reject Mohammed as prophet. Persecution in the name of God is wrong — period.

There is no question that Israel was specially chosen by God. However, Israel was only the shadow of better things to come (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10), and it was God’s divine purpose that when the better things arrived, Israel’s special place in the sun would cease. Then, she would have to take her place in the Son to find her blessings. National, ethnic Israel was never intended by Jehovah to retain or to hold a position higher, or distinctive from the body of Christ. The body of Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

Paul was a faithful Jew that proclaimed the hope of Israel (Acts 24-28), and yet, he said that circumcision is now of the heart, and to practice circumcision as a religious practice, as done under Abraham and Moses, meant forfeiture of the blessings of the Messiah (Galatians 5:1-6). He said Israel, the natural seed, was to be cast out, for persecuting the seed of promise, i.e. the church, which he said now comprise the seed of Abraham by faith, not flesh (Galatians 3:6-14; Galatians 4:22f).

Paul believed that his Jewish brethren did need to come to Christ (Romans 9:1f), and he feared for them if they did not come to Jesus as Messiah. While he loved Israel’s history, reveled in the promises made to her, and stood on those promises, he stated in the most emphatic way that "salvation is in Christ" (2 Timothy 2:12).

Was Paul mistaken? He saw Israel’s national history coming to a close in his generation (1 Corinthians 7:26-30; 10:11), but he saw the close of that Old Covenant history as the beginning of the eternal kingdom promised by the prophets of Israel. He saw the shadow world giving way to the reality of the Messiah, and he knew there was no salvation in that Old World (Philippians 3:8-9; Hebrews 9:6-10). To proclaim salvation in Christ is not anti-Semitic — it is the proclamation of the fulfillment of the hope of Israel.

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