Earlier this week, I started reading the book of Romans which is one of may favorites in all of scripture. As I read chapter one, I came up the most quoted verse in the entire chapter:
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 (Romans 1:16).
Noticed that salvation is to everyone who believes, then the Apostle Paul said, "to the Jew first and also to the Greek." I thought salvation is for everyone, and it is. So what is Paul talking about?
One note from the ESV Study Bible said this "indicates the priority of the Jews in salvation history and their election as God’s people." The Jews were the chosen people of God. Israel was the elect nation that was to proclaim His greatness and build a house for His name.
Does this mean that Jews get Salvation before anyone else? What does Paul mean, "to the Jew first?" John Piper preached a sermon in 1998 on Romans 1:16 and addresses that very question:
Paul has just used that wonderful word "everyone" in Romans 1:16, "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes." O, what an exhilarating word to those of us in this room who feel that there is something about us that rules us out! Wrong family, wrong background, wrong education, wrong language, wrong race, wrong culture, wrong sexual preference, wrong moral track record. Then to hear the word, "Everyone who believes." Everyone! One thing can rule you out: unbelief. Not trusting Jesus. But nothing else has to. The good news that Christ died for our sins, and that he rose from the dead to open eternal life, and that salvation is by grace through faith – all that is for everyone who believes. Not just Jews and not just Gentiles and no one race or social class or culture, but everyone who believes.
Then in What Ways Do the Jews Have Priority?
So why then does he follow this exhilarating word "everyone" with a word that seems to give priority to Jews? "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." How does he mean, "To the Jew first"? What kind of priority, what kind of "firstness" do they have? And why does he say this? What effect does he want this to have on us?
To answer this let me suggest six ways that the Jews are first in experiencing the salvation of God. And then we will look at a few ways that they are not first. Finally we will see what effect this should have on us today.
You can read or listen to the sermon in it's entirety here.