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How can I use the Old Testament in sharing the Gospel with my Jewish friend?
The Hebrew Scriptures, referred to by many Christians as the “Old Testament,” is a great resource for sharing the Good News of the Messiah with anyone – Jewish or Gentile. The imagery of the Messiah – the types and shadows – are everywhere! And there are dozens of Messianic prophecies that allude to the suffering of One who would serve the people of Israel and restore them to the God of Israel.
Before discussing a few ways to share the Gospel from the Hebrew Scriptures, we thought it might be helpful to step back and consider the paradigm for sharing with Jewish people that we have found effective over time. In every case, we encourage you to pray for your friend by name prior to sharing the Gospel with them. And seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as to when you should share and how you should approach the conversation.
Prioritize Relationship and Demonstrate Care
If you have a Jewish friend that you are hoping to share the Gospel with, prioritize your relationship with them over the immediate need to present the Gospel. The Lord Himself said the greatest witness we will have to the world that He is the “Sent One” is our love for one another (John 17). Think about how you came to faith. Oftentimes the answer to that question is connected to the faithful witness over time of someone who demonstrated the love of the Messiah to us consistently even before we came to know Him. It takes time to demonstrate love to people, and we encourage you to invest the time needed to become a faithful witness.
Many Jewish Believers that we know came to faith not through theological argument and aggressive Gospel presentations, but rather through consistency of a faithful friend or acquaintance. Often, the moment for belief came as the result of steady friendship or prayer at a critical time of need. Demonstrating that you care can often serve to soften the heart of a Jewish friend to the message of the love of Jesus.
A Conversational Approach to Theological Issues
With a friendship, conversations will be a natural part of your relationship. We have found that subjects from the Bible can make engaging conversation. The following short list of subjects are ones that tend to be of interest to many people who do not know the Lord – Jewish and Gentile alike.
The Physical Appearances of God in the Hebrew Scriptures
There are over fifty appearances of the God of Israel in the form of a man in the Hebrew Scriptures. Sometimes, He appears in a normal, human form (Genesis 18). Sometimes, He appears in a glorified form (Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1). Sometimes, He is the Word (1 Samuel 3) or a Messenger (Exodus 3). The idea that the God of Israel appears in the form of a man in the Hebrew Scriptures is a wonderful way to introduce the idea of Jesus to a Jewish friend and makes a great conversation topic.
The Lord states in Leviticus 17:11 that blood makes atonement for the soul. In light of the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 A.D., this provides an interesting discussion point with Jewish people about how the Lord sees atonement without sacrifice. Prayer can serve to connect us to the Lord, and He will forgive those who ask for forgiveness. But the issue of blood atonement can serve to stimulate interesting conversation.
Isaiah gets a picture of a person that will come as a servant to the people of Israel at a future time. He says that this servant will bear our griefs and sorrows (v.4). He will be like a lamb led to slaughter (v.7). And that His soul will be an offering for sin (v.10). The imagery of Isaiah points to Yeshua (Jesus) in a way that is uniquely fulfilled by Him and might be worth discussing.
Jeremiah proclaims that the God of Israel will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and Judah (v.31). This covenant will be different than the one made with the forefathers at Sinai (v.32). The Torah (law) of the Lord will be written on the heart of the people rather than only on tablets of stone (v.33). This is the basis for Yeshua’s proclamation while lifting the cup of “The Last Supper” and could serve to initiate a meaningful conversation.
Commitment Over Time
There are two adages that drive us in our sharing of the Gospel with Jewish people around the world. Rabbi Jonathan Bernis often says the first: “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” We have found this to be true time after time as we go into new areas seeking the Lord for how we can share the Good News of Jesus with Jewish people. If you can find a way to demonstrate your care for people, over time they will start to ask you what motivates you to be so committed to caring for them, and it is an open door for you to share your trust in the Lord. We have also heard it said, “Preach the Gospel always. Use words when necessary.” This, too, serves to guide us in our work around the world. Our actions often speak louder than any words we can say or arguments we can make.
Both of these take time. Though sometimes the Lord may be prompting you by His Spirit with real urgency, we would encourage you to demonstrate your faith through your actions over time. The Lord Himself is the one who harvests, we are just those who sow seed and water, till the soil and care for the seedlings.