Q. What is Christian Witness to Israel?


A. Christian Witness to Israel is an international, non-denominational, evangelical missionary society reaching Jewish people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Q. When did Christian Witness to Israel begin?


A. As an organisation we go back to 1842 when the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews was founded through the influence of men like Robert Murray M'Cheyne and Andrew Bonar. As its ministry broadened the British Society became known as the International Society for the Evangelisation of the Jews. In 1976 the IJS amalgamated with the Barbican Mission to the Jews (itself having a history dating back to 1879 when "an agency for gospel work among the Jews conducted by Hebrew Christians" commenced in the Barbican district of London) to form Christian Witness to Israel.


Q. Do you only have missionaries in Israel?


A. "Israel" in our title refers primarily to the people descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob rather than the State of Israel. Therefore ours is an international ministry, reaching Jews in, France, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Israel, Australia New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. We also have links with other evangelical societies committed to the same task.


Q. Do you only evangelise Jewish people?


A. The Lord's command is to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), and for the Church to take the gospel only to the Jews would be disobedience. The biblical mandate, however, gives a special place to Jewish evangelism: "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation... for the Jew first" (Romans 1:16). Whilst we are committed to world mission, Jewish evangelism is our particular responsibility.


Q. How are you funded?


A. Most of our income is in the form of voluntary donations large and small from Christians who share our burden for the salvation of Israel. An increasing commitment to regular giving by congregations and Christian fellowships has been a great encouragement. Through our staff support scheme, individuals or groups may "adopt" CWI missionaries and designate their gifts to the support of particular members of staff.


Q. Are all your workers Jewish?


A. CWI employs both Jewish and Gentile believers who work together as a testimony to the truth that the Lord Jesus Christ has broken down the "middle wall of division [between Jew and Gentile] to make in himself one new man" (Ephesians 2:14-18).


Q. How are you able to distinguish Jewish people in today's cosmopolitan society?


A. Towns and cities with a sizeable Jewish population often have certain areas that are predominantly Jewish. In these areas Jewish homes generally display a mezuzah (a box containing a scroll of the Law) on the doorposts. Chassidic, or ultra-orthodox, Jews are very conspicuous by their dress.


Q. How do you go about witnessing to Jewish people?


A. We produce tracts for distribution in the street and for use in conversations. Several of our missionaries spend a large part of their time providing friendship and support as they visit Jewish homes, hospitals and institutions. Others use their natural gifts, for example in art and music, to meet Jewish people. In addition to this a number of missionaries conduct home Bible studies specially designed for Jewish people. We also employ the traditional evangelistic methods of public meetings, open-air preaching and door-to-door visiting. We have also conducted media advertising campaigns, and by stimulating public debate in the newspapers and on radio and television we have been able to create in the Jewish community a nation-wide awareness of the basic elements of the gospel.


Q. Isn't it a difficult work?


A. Yes. From the very beginning many Jewish people were not ready to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Since then their suffering at the hands of so-called Christians has understandably created a great barrier of prejudice against the gospel. Nevertheless with the promises of God, the presence of the risen Christ and the prayers of Christians there is every reason for optimism. It has been estimated that since the foundation of Jewish missions in the last century more Jews have come to faith in Jesus than at any time since the days of the apostles. In Israel thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus are making an impact on Israeli society.


Q. Do you think it is right to evangelise the Jewish people after all they have suffered, often in the name of Christ? Isn't this the time to repent of anti-Semitism and "comfort" Israel (Isaiah 40:1)?


A. Two wrongs never made a right. Though it is true that the Jewish people have suffered horrible atrocities at the hands of those who claimed to be Christians, our greatest act of love must be to share the Good News of eternal life with them. Social concern, support for Israel and combating anti-Semitism are all legitimate expressions of Christian love but must never be allowed to exclude clear verbal communication of the gospel. After all, Isaiah's call (40:1) is to "comfort" Israel with the news that her sins are pardoned. What can give greater comfort? To preach this gospel to all peoples and withhold it from the Jew would be the most pernicious act of anti-Semitism.


Q. But can the Jews not come to God through their own traditions based on the Old Testament? Isn't the New Testament for Gentiles?


A. If that is so, Jesus is not for the Jews! But the gospel was first preached to Jewish people and the vast majority of the first Christians were Jewish. Recognising that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, the question faced by the early Church was: is Jesus for the Gentiles? And if he is, ought they not first to become Jews by keeping the Law of Moses (Acts 15). Jesus stated, "No-one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Peter boldly declared that "there is no other name... by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). As far as salvation is concerned Paul insisted that "there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek for ... everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans. 10:12-13).


Q. Why do you emphasise the need to preach the gospel "to the Jew first"? There are four billion people in the world without Christ, why pay so much attention to the fifteen million of one particular ethnic group?


A. In God's strategy for world missions Jewish evangelism is given a central place. This idea finds clearest expression in Romans 1:16. It is as though Paul were saying that as long as the gospel continues to be "the power of God unto salvation" it continues to have a special relevance to the Jewish people. In his missionary strategy Paul always went first to the Jews in whatever towns or cities he visited, despite the fact that he was the apostle to the Gentiles! But why was this so? In Romans 11:15 the conversion of Israel is said to be "life from the dead" for the world. His argument is this: if Gentiles have benefited so much from Israel's stumbling, how much more will they benefit by the spiritual restoration of the Jews.


It seems, therefore that the success of world evangelism is tied up with the salvation of Israel. In some way the salvation of the fifteen million will be the means of life for the four billion. We must evangelise the world and cannot postpone this task until Israel is saved, but we must work in God's way. Lying at the heart of our concern for world mission must be concern for the salvation of the Jews. The great Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, maintained that "God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's blessing" and in symbolic commitment to this principle his first financial contribution to missionary work each year was a cheque sent to a Jewish mission inscribed, "To the Jew first".

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