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• Jewish Advantage To the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Everyone who believes is welcome to God, but the Gospel of the first century was offered initially to the physical descendants of Abraham. It was only fitting after all for those, “who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh…” (Rom 4:4-5) to have the first opportunity to obey the Gospel. Paul and Barnabas were guided by this principle as they went from city to city as messengers of that good news. Upon arriving in Pisidian Antioch, “on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.” (Ac 13:14) Though they would prove difficult, the Jews were prepared for the coming of the Christ, as they possessed the prerequisite knowledge to understand His significance. The Jew, for instance, could place Jesus’ death in the OT context of vicarious sacrifice, whereas the Gentile would be working with a flawed frame of religious reference or none at all. The “advantage” of the Jew in that sense is great indeed. (Rom 3:1-2) When Paul and his companions arrived in Antioch, they looked to gather the low-hanging fruit first and take the Gospel to those who should receive it.

• Everywhere a Synagogue The custom of the synagogue was an advantageous development for the Jewish faith and especially helpful for the early church. It seems the practice of assembling together each Sabbath sprang out of the necessity Babylonian captivity produced.
Weekly, the congregants would unite for the reading of the Law and the prophets and in time it became the hub of Jewish society including even charitable welfare. This served to keep the people from idol worship and retained their adhesion as a cultural and religious identity while deported. It also meant that in nearly every city the Gospel would reach, a synagogue was already there prepared to hear it. “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Ac 15:21)

• Modern Moses The weekly reading of Moses had substance, but the ministry of death is a tutor to lead us to Christ. The Law lacks life and power; the Gospel is the message of both. “for I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Rom 1:16) In similar fashion, modern day synagogues abound. A 2010 Gallup pole suggests that just over 43% of americans “frequently” attend a religious meeting of some kind. When we consider what fraction of that ≈ 120 million represent churches based on the Bible, who acknowledge Gospel obedience in baptism, and recognize the Holy Spirit’s power to change the inner man, we may say with Jesus that the fields are indeed white for harvest. “Brethren,” said the synagogue official, “if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it” (Ac 13:15)

Next Week: Line of Heroes
Mark Miller

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