Letter from J. I. Packer
Jews for Jesus is a worldwide Christian mission that was born against the background of California’s Jesus movement and has grown steadily ever since. Holding that Jesus of Nazareth — God incarnate, crucified, risen, and now reigning — is the true Messiah foretold in the Old Testament and the true fulfillment of Jewish hopes, the mission exists to press his claims on Jewish people everywhere. It is based on two principles.
First, Jews who receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and who are completed” and “fulfilled” thereby do not need to leave behind their Jewish identity or break with Jewish ways. As Judaizing was not a theological requirement for the first gentile Christians, so gentilizing is not a cultural requirement for today’s Jewish believers. Though they belong in the Christian church, which has been mainly gentile — non-Jewish, that is — for most of its life, within the church they are free to be as Jewish as they like.
Second, up-front, in-your-face challenge, with as much humor, chutzpah, and goodwill as possible, is the way to approach Jews evangelistically.
Principle one has to be maintained against official Judaism, which (let us be clear) is a post and anti-Christian mutation of the Jewish religion that Christ knew. Official Judaism routinely denies that a Jew who becomes a Christian is still a Jew. Principle two means moving beyond the cool, low key evangelistic style that often sets Western Christians apart from, for instance, their more exuberant African and Latin American counterparts.
Paul’s “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16) remains a pointer to a permanent priority in Christian evangelism. For many centuries the church lost sight of it, and some moderns have argued that Jews need not be evangelized at all, but Jews for Jesus is what it sounds like — Jewish Christians sharing their faith with other Jews — and we should thank God that they are there doing that.
Moishe Rosen, the portly, near-genius who envisioned and shaped the mission from the start, would be the first to insist the story (of Jews for Jesus) is centrally about God’s grace, and God must have all the glory for it.
It is my prayer that God continues to use Jews for Jesus in the twenty-first century as he has done in the twentieth, and to him be all the praise, first to last.