A friend wanted help answering her son, who says that Jesus died for everyone, so all will be saved whether or not they receive Him in this life. He points out that some people have never heard about Jesus and asks, Are they going to hell because they didn’t hear? What kind of a God would do that?” According to the mother, her son is very hostile to the gospel. Here is my response to her:

Dear Margaret:

When people have an honest desire for an answer to the question he posed, I take them straight to the Scriptures. But from what you say, at this point your son expects just that, and will not receive what the Scriptures say. So I’m suggesting that you use an old Jewish device, and that is: Answer a question with a question. But the question has to be asked at the right time, and in the right way.

Here is the question:

“If there is a God who has a purpose in creating the human race, how can His purposes be fulfilled if He does not have the right to set the standards?” Then I would follow that up with the statement: “Fair and foul are determined by the person who sets the standards.”

Nevertheless, let me say that the subject has to be brought up at the right time. Very often timing is the most important ingredient in truthtelling. When I refer to timing, I’m talking about something other than the leading of the Holy Spirit. Some people wait until they have a personal revelation from the Lord before they speak the truth that needs to be told.

When it comes to witnessing, the Holy Spirit has already led us to obey Acts 1:8 where it says, “You shall be witnesses to Me.” Beside that, we have the Great Commission. God does not usually give special revelation to lead us to do what He already commanded in the Scripture.

Unfortunately, sometimes we put ourselves in a place of inactivity and fail to be alert to the most opportune moment. It’s important to know that when you give a spiritual answer, the person might not accept it, no matter how right the timing. Very often, when you answer a question about the uniqueness of trusting Jesus Christ for salvation, the person will say, “I don’t understand…” At that point, I might ask another question, and that is, “Are you trying to understand?”

Thanks for knowing that I would want to give an answer.

Sincerely, Moishe Rosen

On another note,

Many people ask what we think of formal dialogue between Jews and Christians who hope to reach some common understanding.

One of the snares that trips Christians who try to enter into dialogue is the difference in basic assumptions. Any Christian who knows the New Testament knows that it is an extension of the Old Testament and that Christianity is an extension of what some call “biblical Judaism.” The informed Christian knows that the first Church was quite Jewish, not only in its worship, but in its outlook. Even the most liberal Christians must admit that Christianity is derived from Judaism, or at least from the same source as Judaism.

But the Jewish partner in dialogue chooses to operate from a different assumption: that Jewishness and Christianity are completely divorced. The rabbis treat Christianity as a paganized distortion of the Jewish religion. Most rabbis are willing to consider having proselytes, but few overtly seek converts. Hence their side of the dialogue, their purpose in being there, is to convince Christians to avoid evangelizing Jews. Whether it’s in dialogue or debate, they want the Jewish religion to be separate and divorced from the Christian religion. Hence, if a Jew accepts Christ, according to the rabbis, he loses the right to call himself a Jew. So far as the Jewish community is concerned, the Jew who believes in Jesus is an apostate and an outcast.

Real dialogue requires true Christians to take a stand on the New Testament and the apostolic view of what it means to be a Jew and what it means to be a Christian. We need to have respect for one another, but we can’t allow ourselves to be pressured into accepting positions and presuppositions that invalidate the gospel. That means that you listen to the other person’s assumptions, you respect their position but you do not agree with those things that contradict Scripture, or refrain from saying what Scripture teaches because it might offend.

If the gospel is not for Jews, then for whom? Jesus did not come to Stockholm or Damascus. He came to Judea for a reason. He didn’t claim to start a new religion; He said that Moses and the prophets told of Him. The Messiah of Israel and the telling of His mission was to be a light to the Gentiles. The problem is, during Jewish-Christian dialogues, typically the telling comes mainly from the Jews and the chief role of the Christians has been to listen. Listening is important, but in order to practice the Christian religion, we have to do our share of the telling as well, because proclamation is an obedience issue.