Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Jews Started the Christian Faith
Gentiles Were Not Initially Invited

Summary: Today, when a Jew accepts Jesus as His Savior, Gentile Christians are blessed, thrilled, and sometimes surprised. However, most believers today don’t know that the early Church was thoroughly Jewish. The Jews were the first to accept the Gospel. In the Church’s early years, Christian evangelism was a ministry by Jews to Jews, until God stirred those Christian Jews to begin sharing its liberating truth among the Gentiles. Come with me and take a brief look at the distinctly Jewish roots of our Christian faith.

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Jesus was a Jew, of the tribe of Judah — “…our Lord sprang from the tribe of Judah” (Hebrews 7:14, Amplified).

The 12 apostles that Jesus chose were all Jews. For example, they celebrated the distinctly Jewish feast of Passover — “And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:14-15, KJV).

The first Christian church was in Jerusalem, the central city of first-century Judaism (Acts 1:4,8,12; 5:16,28; 6:7; 8:1; 15:2,4; et al.).

On the first New Testament Pentecost — generally considered the “birthday” of the Christian Church — the 120 who received the very first outpouring of the baptism with the Holy Spirit were all Jews, and seemingly all from Galilee (vs. 7) — “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place… [4] All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them… [6] …a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?” (Acts 2:1,4,6-7).

Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior continued to grow among the Jews in Jerusalem, and even large numbers of the Jewish priests turned to the Lord Jesus Christ — “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).

Early evangelizing efforts beyond Jerusalem continued to seek out Jews to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The newly converted Saul of Tarsus immediately “began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). And persecution against the Jerusalem church dispersed many Jewish Christians, who continued to reach out to unconverted Jews elsewhere with the Gospel — “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews (Acts 11:19).

It seems that the first deliberate preaching to entirely Gentile listeners was recorded in Acts 10. God used a remarkable vision to convince the apostle Peter that it was permissible for Peter to go and preach the Gospel to Gentiles. He did so (see Acts 10:34-36, 44-48). And even then the Jewish Christian leaders at Jerusalem still had a hard time with the thought of Gentiles being actively sought out and preached to, but Peter told them how God Himself had sent him to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-18). Finally convinced, the Jewish leaders of the Jerusalem church opened their hearts to the fact that God wanted to save Gentiles, too“When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life” (vs. 18).

Not long after this the apostle Paul (Acts 13:6-12, 46-48; et al.) began focusing on evangelizing the Gentiles, which he reported to the Church Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15 — “The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them” (15:12). By then the Jewish Christians were beginning to widely embrace the concept of Gentiles being Christians.

Eventually the Christian faith began to spread to both Jews and Gentiles in all the world”, as Jesus had commanded — “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15) … “Go and make disciples of all nations(Matthew 28:19) … “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth(Acts 1:8).

Conclusion: As a Gentile believer in the 21st century, I am profoundly thankful that 45 years ago I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and was saved through repentance and faith in Him. I hold great respect for the thoroughly Jewish origins of our Christian faith. My desire in this short article has been to draw our attention and our gratitude to the often-forgotten Jewish roots of Christianity:

• Our Savior Jesus Christ, in His human birth from Mary, was a Jew of the tribe of Judah.
 
• The twelve apostles that Jesus chose were all Jews.
 
• The first Christian church was founded in Jerusalem.
 
• The 120 recipients of the initial New Testament outpouring of the Holy Spirit were all Jews.
 
• The Christian church grew rapidly among Jerusalem’s Jews, including the conversion to Christianity of a great number of the priests of Judaism.
 
• Early evangelism efforts beyond Jerusalem were primarily focused upon the Jews.
 
• Finally the apostles Peter and Paul and other Jewish Christians began to preach the Gospel to Gentiles, and the doors of faith remain equally open to Gentiles and Jews right up to the present day.
 
• From its entirely Jewish origins in the first century A.D., Christianity has spread across the globe, bringing the saving message of Jesus Christ in “all the world … to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Thank you, Lord!

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Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.