tribulation and distress
for every soul of man who does evil,
Jew first and also to
Years ago I tried to convince a pastor of the importance of Jewish evangelism. He responded by citing and, in my opinion, misinterpreting a well-known verse: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Rom 1:16). In the pastor's understanding, "first" refers to chronological order. Historically, the gospel went first to the Jews. But since they rejected it 2000 years ago, it's now time to go to the Gentiles.
The best interpretation of Scripture,
however, is always Scripture, and fortunately,
"to the Jew first and also to the Greek"
doesn't only appear in Roman 1:16.
It appears twice
in the very next chapter (Rom 2:9, 10), and its meaning there
sheds much light
on the meaning in Romans 1:16.
In Romans 2:9-10,
Paul argues that eschatological
punishment and/or reward will
"to the Jew first."
Paul obviously cannot mean that one day the Jews will stand at the head of the long line of nations on judgement day to be punished first. Here the word "first" means "especially" (as in the case of Matt 6:33: "Seek first [especially] the kingdom of God...."). Since the Jewish people as a people group have received far more revelation than the Greeks (special revelation as opposed to general revelation) they will be held far more accountable than on other people group on the judgement day. And in this light, we are able to understand Paul's words in Romans 1:16.
Since Jesus and the patriarchs
are all Jewish,
and since the Scriptures, the promises,
the covenants, the gifts and
were all given to the Jewish people,
is most especially (but not exclusively)
Paul's point in Romans 1:16 to a church in Rome that had wrongly concluded that the Jews had their chance and blew it (i.e, the pastor's understanding of this verse) was this:
since God's gifts to and calling
of the Jewish people are irrevocable,
the gospel will always and forever
be most especially for them
no matter what their response!
"From the standpoint of
they are enemies for your sake,
but from the standpoint of
they are beloved for the sake
of the fathers; for the gifts and
calling of God