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28 January 2008

Jews for Jesus

Stephen Pacht, UK Director of Jews for Jesus, on the origins of an evangelising organisation.

By Stephen Pacht

“Jews for Jesus” was the slogan given to a group of Jews who came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, back in the early 1970s.

It is now an international organisation with 20 offices in 11 countries. But the origins of our movement go back to Jerusalem, 2000 years ago. Some of our offices around the world bear a plaque stating “Jews for Jesus, founded AD 30, give or take a year”, a humorous reminder that the first believers – the apostles – were Jews, and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ began in Israel, only later spreading to the gentile world.

In fact, in one of the episodes found in the New Testament, Jesus declares: “I have come only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel”. Only later did he tell his (Jewish) disciples to go out to all the nations of the world. Later, the Apostle Peter, a Jewish fisherman from Galilee in Northern Israel, tells a group of fellow Jews in Jerusalem during “Shavuos” (the Festival of Pentecost) that: “there is no other name (other than Jesus) given amongst men by which we must be saved.”

Our belief is that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world; that God sent him to willingly sacrifice his life so that we could know God in a personal way. Christianity is essentially about a relationship with a loving God and not about religion.

In the UK we are part of the Evangelical Alliance; the evangelical wing of the church. We will often be giving conferences at churches of various denominations, Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal to name but a few.

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Many people confuse the word “Jew” with “Judaism”, or associate all Jewish people with rabbinic Judaism, ignoring the well known Jewish adage, “two Jews, three opinions”. Some regard Christianity as a religious label rather than a commitment to Christ. Others view Christianity as a western religion rather than a religion born in the Middle East and arising out of first century Judaism. The rabbis declare that the “Prophets speak only of the days of the Messiah.” These same prophets point to Jesus, whose Hebrew name, Y’shua, means “God’s salvation”. Jesus himself declared “I have not come to abolish Torah (the law) but to fulfill it”. This Torah, teaches that we should love God with all of our heart, soul and strength, and adds that we should love our neighbour as ourselves.

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This is what Jesus often repeated and this is what he enables us to do.