Should Christians Evangelize Non-Christian Jews?
In 2015 the Roman Catholic pope made a proclamation telling Catholics not to actively seek to evangelize non-Christian Jews. Many Jews are becoming increasingly upset by the growing numbers of Jews who are turning to Christ, and this has led to hostility towards Christians. Apparently in an effort to reduce this hostility, the pope told Catholics not to evangelize Jews. And we can be sure that he would like all Christians to avoid doing this.
So did the pope get this right? Should Christians today avoid proclaiming the gospel to non-Christian Jews?
In a word, no. Non-Christian Jews today need to hear the good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ as much as anyone else. The fact that the pope could even say such a thing is a strong indicator – one among many – that he is in no way fit to be a Christian leader. What he said on this issue sharply contradicts the teaching of the New Testament.
Leaving aside the exceptional cases of those who die at a very young age or who suffer from severe mental disability, the NT knows nothing of people living in the Christian era who are saved from their sins without faith in Christ. Importantly too, the NT is full of clear indications that Jews need to believe in Jesus to be saved. Jews don’t cease to be Jews when they believe in Jesus and become Christians. But they do need to believe in Him if they are to be saved from sin and hell.
Any attempt to deal with all the relevant NT material on this topic would make this article far too long. In what follows I will therefore concentrate on two parts of the NT which show that only through faith in Christ will Jews receive salvation. These are the Gospel of John and Paul’s letter to the Romans.
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
Let’s begin, then, with John’s Gospel. There are so many passages that are relevant for our purposes that I will cite just a few of them:
In John 1:11-12 John tells us:
“11 He [Jesus] came to what was His own, but His own did not accept Him. 12 But as many as did accept Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, that is, to those who believed in His name.”
In v. 11 “what was His own” refers to the Jewish people as a whole, who, generally speaking, didn’t accept Jesus as Messiah. Then v. 12 qualifies v. 11 by focussing on the minority of Jews who did accept Him (as well as Gentiles who accepted Him).
The passage implies that Jews who didn’t accept Jesus and believe in His name were not given the right to become God’s children, which surely means that they were not granted salvation.
In John 3:18 John writes:
“He who believes in Him [Jesus] is not judged. But he who does not believe has already been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
This is clear that failing to believe in Jesus involves judgment, and this judgment surely involves missing out on salvation.
In John 8:24 Jesus, speaking to Jews, says:
“For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
This verse strongly implies that Jews who don’t believe in Christ will not be saved.
In John 12:46 Jesus teaches:
“I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”
This implies that those who don’t believe in Jesus will remain in darkness, which surely means that they will not be saved from their sins.
In John 14:6 Jesus states:
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
If someone doesn’t come to the Father, that implies that they are not in relationship with the Father, which in turn implies that they will not be saved.
In John 15:6 Jesus says:
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown out like a branch and dries up, and they gather them and throw them into the fire and they are burned.”
Being burned here is a reference to judgment in hell. So this verse implies that abiding in Christ by faith in Him is necessary for salvation.
In John 20:31 we are told that John’s Gospel was written for this reason:
“. . . so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that, believing, you may have life in His name.”
The first thing to note here is that this verse clearly implies that without believing that Jesus is the Messiah, people will not have life.
Secondly, other passages in John’s Gospel make it clear that those without life will not be saved from their sins.
For example, in John 3:36 we read:
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life. But he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the anger of God remains on him.”
Note here how a person who doesn’t have life also has God’s anger remaining on them. This certainly implies that they are not saved from their sins.
So a person is not saved without life, and a person doesn’t have life without believing in Christ.
In addition to the passages I have cited, others in John’s Gospel also point in the same direction. If we take what this Gospel teaches seriously, we are compelled to conclude that Jews who don’t believe in Jesus will not be saved from sin and hell.
Either the pope’s ability to interpret what John teaches is extremely poor or he thinks that he knows better. Either way, Christians today should reject his anti-biblical teaching and follow holy Scripture.
This is a love griping story that shows the foolishness…