We’re exploring the meaning of “to the Jew first,” found in Romans 1:16. During parts 1 and 2 we considered two inaccurate fallacies associated with that phrase:
To have an inflated or deflated view of our standing is sinful and we illuminated that truth in the first two days of our study. If you missed them, click the links above to catch up.
Today, let’s consider what the phrase “to the Jew first” actually means. The Greek word for “first” is proton, which could mean first sequentially or first in prominence. While it may be simple to consider that the Gospel went to the Jewish people first chronologically, it might mistakenly lead people to think the Jews had their chance, missed it, and now are paying the price.
However, even a cursory look at Romans 11 tells us that God has NOT forgotten about or given up on His people! After all, the first two sentences of Romans 11 say: I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! So, let’s just get that idea straight right now! God says He has not given up on His people. I believe Him!
So perhaps in this context “first” means in prominence. It is clear God’s Word was written to both Jews and Gentiles, but might there be an order to it? A strong argument can be made for that position if we understand that God doesn’t view Jew or Gentile as more important than the other (click on links above for that discussion), He simply has a specific order to things. Jew first…then Gentile.
That goes, not just for salvation, but for other things as well. In fact, while Romans 1:16 tells us salvation is to the Jew first, the very next chapter (Romans 2:9-10) tells us judgment also comes first to the Jews! Jewish people are first accountable to God for both salvation and judgment. God entrusted the oracles of God to the Jews (Romans 3:2) and He expects them to be responsible.
Yet, the book of Romans contains strong warning to Gentiles not to usurp or take over. The very root of the Gospel is Jewish and we enter in only by invitation! We are unnatural, wild branches grafted into a cultured olive tree!
God has given special revelation to the Jewish people and they will be held accountable for it. Likewise, the Gospel is most especially for the Jews, though He offers it to us by His grace. The pattern is established, and God will act upon His promises to both Jews and Gentiles!
That has bearing on us in our day and age, and tomorrow we’ll take a look at what our response as Gentiles should be. Join us tomorrow as we close out this 4-part series. See you then!