What was God's purpose in choosing Israel? God chose Israel to be holy (set apart) and to be a peculiar treasure unto the LORD (Deut. 14:2).(1)
Israel is not a holy nation because of their actions although some of their actions can be viewed as holy and righteous. (Some of their actions can also be viewed as Disobedient and Adulterous). Israel is a holy nation because God Himself made them holy. Holy can mean "set apart" and Israel has been set apart by God from the other nations of the world.
There was nothing Israel had done or continues to do to qualify of disqualify herself from holding this title as the Chosen Nation. Israel holds a unique place as the "apple of Gods eye" (Zechariah 2:8). God Himself made the choice, through grace, to set Israel apart for His purpose.
The nation of Israel has served many purposes since Jacob's name was changed to Israel. The two most important purposes are connected. They are to keep God's word, sharing it with the rest of the world to enjoy (the Torah i.e. 10 commandments and writings of the prophets i.e. Isaiah 53), and to maintain their existence to keep the bloodline of King David going so that God could send the world their redeemer, through that bloodline, knows as the Messiah. Of course, ultimately, it was not Israel who maintained their existence but God who did it for them.
Israel was the pathway God used to bring the world these two things.
Throughout the Old Testament God referred to the Jewish people as "my people" (e.g., Ex. 3:7, 10:6:7; Lev. 26:12; 1 Sam. 2:29; 2 Sam. 3:18; 1 Kings 6:13; 2 Kings 20:5; 1 Chron. 11:2; 2 Chron. 1:11; Ps. 50:7; Isa. 1:3; Jer. 2:11; Ezek. 11:20; Hos. 4:6; Joel 3:2; Amos 7:15; Obad. 1:13; Micah 6:3; Zeph. 2:8; Zech. 8:7-8), despite their frequent rebellion against Him.(2)
In Romans 11 Paul likened Israel to the root of a cultivated olive tree whose branches were broken off due to unbelief. Then branches from a wild olive tree (Gentiles) were grafted in. However, a day is coming, Paul wrote, when the natural branches will be grafted back into its root. "Do not boast against the branches," he told the Gentile believers in Rome. "Remember that you do not support the root but the root support you" (Rom 11:18). "Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:25-26).(3)
Paul taught that the kingdom will come to the nation of Israel. The Jews are still God's Chosen People. There is still a future for them, Israel is still the "apple of His eye" (Zechariah 2:8). Gentiles have been grafted in through the church. But one day the church program will end, and God will work with the nation of Israel again.(3)
Does it really matter if the Jews hear the Gospel first? It seems many churches and ministries that support missionaries all over the world do not follow this practice even though the Bible teaches it.
The importance that we attach "to the Jew first" in Romans 1:16 is based upon the simple fact that it is part of God's word. It has nothing to do with preeminence, or privilege to any particular people. It is a matter of God's way of order. Israel may find it can apply to judgment as well as to giving the gospel. (see Romans 2: 9-11).(4)
Israel's first place has nothing to do with her worthiness. God chose Israel simply because of His love - not because of Israel's merit. (see Deuteronomy 7: 6-8).(4)
When some are tempted to conclude that Israel has already had her chance to believe, Scripture reminds us that God has not cast off His people whom He foreknew. (see Romans 11: 1-2).(4)
God is sovereign. His ways and purposes are beyond our understanding (see Romans 11:33). Israel is God's firstborn (see Exodus 4:22). He has given special "rights" to the firstborn throughout Scripture. It is not our place to argue with His will for Israel and the Jewish people (see Romans 9).(4)
Ultimately, when it comes to the need for the Gospel, there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile - for all have sinned (see Romans 3:22-23). We need to proclaim God's love and mercy to all!(4)
And there is no distinction regarding those who accept Him: "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved (Romans 10:12-13). (4)
For more on this subject please check out "our debt to the Jewish People" by Gary Hedrick - available on CD or tape through Christian Jew Foundation Ministries. (1-800-926-5397)
God's ability to chose someone or something for His purpose is sometimes referred to as election. To read how election is an important part of Biblical truth please read The Doctrine Of Election.
1). Midnight Call, September 2008.
2). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary - John 1-11 p.33.
3). Israel my Glory Sept/Oct 2008 p.13, (A Friends of Israel Ministries publication). Written by Richard D. Emmons, senior professor of Bible doctrine at Philadelphia Biblical University and senior pastor of Bible Church Hamilton Township, New Jersey.
4). CJF Ministries August 2009 Newsletter - Gary Hedrick.