The Willowbank Declaration
"The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who
believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16)
my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be
saved." (Romans 10:1)
THE WILLOWBANK DECLARATION ON THE CHRISTIAN GOSPEL AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE
Every Christian must acknowledge an immense debt of gratitude to the Jewish people. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus is the Christ, the long-promised Jewish Messiah, who by his life, death and resurrection saves from sin and all its consequences. Those who worship Jesus as their Divine Lord and Saviour have thus received God's most precious gift through the Jewish people. Therefore they have compelling reason to show love to that people in every possible way.
Concerned about humanity everywhere, we are resolved to uphold the right of Jewish people to a just and peaceful existence everywhere, both in the land of Israel and in their communities throughout the world. We repudiate past persecutions of Jews by those identified as Christians, and we pledge ourselves to resist every form of anti-Semitism. As the supreme way of demonstrating love, we seek to encourage the Jewish people, along with all other peoples, to receive God's gift of life through Jesus the Messiah, and accordingly the growing number of Jewish Christians brings us great joy.
In making this Declaration we stand in a long and revered Christian tradition, which in 1980 was highlighted by a landmark statement, "Christian Witness to the Jewish People," issued by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. Now, at this Willowbank Consultation on the Gospel and the Jewish People, sponsored by the World Evangelical Fellowship and supported by the Lausanne Committee, we reaffirm our commitment to the Jewish people and our desire to share the Gospel with them.
This Declaration is made in response to growing doubts and widespread
confusion among Christians about the need for, and the propriety of,
endeavours to share faith in Jesus Christ with Jewish people. Several
factors unite to produce the un-certain state of mind that the Declaration
seeks to resolve.
The holocaust, perpetrated as it was by leaders and citizens of a
supposedly Christian nation, has led to a sense in some quarters that
Christian credibility among Jews has been totally destroyed. Accordingly,
some have shrunk back from addressing the Jewish people with the Gospel.
Some who see the creation of the state of Israel as a direct fulfillment
of biblical prophecy have concluded that the Christian task at this
time is to "comfort Israel" by supporting this new political entity,
rather than to challenge Jews by direct evangelism.
Some church leaders have retreated from embracing the task of evangelising
Jews as a responsibility of Christian mission. Rather, a new theology
is being embraced which holds that God's covenant with Israel through
Abraham establishes all Jews in God's favor for all times, and so
makes faith in Jesus Christ for salvation needless so far as they
On this basis, it is argued that dialogue with Jews in order to understand
each other better, and cooperation in the quest for socio-economic
shalom, is all that Christian mission requires in relation to the
Jewish people. Continued attempts to do what the Church has done from
the first, in seeking to win Jews to Jesus as Messiah, are widely
opposed and decried, by Christian as well as Jewish leaders.
Attempts to bring Jews to faith in Jesus are frequently denounced
as proselytizing. This term is often used to imply dishonest and coercive
modes of inducement, appeal to unworthy motives, and disregard of
the question of truth even though it is truth that is being disseminated.
In recent years, "messianic" Jewish believers in Jesus, who as Christians
celebrate and maximize their Jewish identity, have emerged as active
evangelists to the Jewish community. Jewish leaders often accused
them of deception on the grounds that one cannot be both a Jew and
a Christian. While these criticisms may reflect Judaism's current effort to define itself as a distinct religion in opposition to Christianity, they have led to much bewilderment and some misunderstanding and mistrust.
The Declaration responds to this complex situation and seeks to set
directions for the future according to the Scriptures.
I. THE DEMAND OF THE GOSPEL
WE AFFIRM THAT the redeeming love of God has been fully and finally re-vealed in Jesus Christ.
WE DENY THAT those without faith in Christ know the full reality of God's love and of the gift that he gives.
WE AFFIRM THAT the God-given types, prophecies and visions of salvation and shalom in the Hebrew Scriptures find their present and future fulfillment in and through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who by incarnation became a Jew and was shown to be the Son of God and Messiah by his resurrection.
WE DENY THAT it is right to look for a Messiah who has not yet appeared in world history.
WE AFFIRM THAT Jesus Christ is the second person of the one God, who became a man, lived a perfect life, shed his blood on the cross as an aton-ing sacrifice for human sins, rose bodily from the dead, now reigns as Lord, and will return visibly to this earth, all to fulfill the purpose of bringing sinners to share eternally in his fellowship and glory.
WE DENY THAT those who think of Jesus Christ in lesser terms than these have faith in him in any adequate sense.
WE AFFIRM THAT all human beings are sinful by nature and practice, and stand condemned, helpless and hopeless, before God, until the grace of Christ touches their lives and brings them to God's pardon and peace.
WE DENY THAT any Jew or Gentile finds true peace with God through performing works of law.
WE AFFIRM THAT God's forgiveness of the penitent rests on the satisfac-tion rendered to his justice by the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
WE DENY THAT any person can enjoy God's favor apart from the mediation of Jesus Christ, the sin-bearer.
WE AFFIRM THAT those who turn to Jesus Christ find him to be a sufficient Saviour and Deliverer from all the evil of sin: from its guilt, shame, power, and perversity; from blind defiance of God, debasement of moral character, and the dehumanising and destructive self-assertion that sin breeds.
WE DENY THAT the salvation found in Christ may be supplemented in any way.
WE AFFIRM THAT faith in Jesus Christ is humanity's only way to come to know the Creator as Father, according to Christ's own Word: "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
WE DENY THAT any non-Christian faith, as such, will mediate eternal life with God.
II. THE CHURCH OF JEWS AND GENTILES
WE AFFIRM THAT through the mediation of Jesus Christ, God has made a new covenant with Jewish and Gentile believers, pardoning their sins, writing his law on their hearts by his Spirit, so that they obey him, giving the Holy Spirit to indwell them, and bringing each one to know him by faith in a relationship of trustful gratitude for salvation.
WE DENY THAT the blessings of the New Covenant belong to any except believers in Jesus Christ.
WE AFFIRM THAT the profession of continuing Jewish identity, for which Hebrew Christians have in the past suffered at the hands of both their fellow-Jews and Gentile church leaders, was consistent with the Christian Scriptures and with the nature of the church as one body in Jesus Christ in which Jews and non-Jews are united.
WE DENY THAT it is necessary for Jewish Christians to repudiate their Jewish heritage.
WE AFFIRM THAT Gentile believers, who at present constitute the great bulk of the Christian church, are included in the historically continuous community of believing people on earth which Paul pictures as God's olive tree (Romans 11:13-24).
WE DENY THAT Christian faith is necessarily non-Jewish, and that Gentiles who believe in Christ may ignore their solidarity with believing Jews, or for-mulate their new identity in Christ without reference to Jewishness, or decline to receive the Hebrew Scriptures as part of their own instruction from God, or refuse to see themselves as having their roots in Jewish history.
WE AFFIRM THAT Jewish people who come to faith in Messiah have liberty before God to observe or not observe traditional Jewish customs and cere-monies that are consistent with the Christian Scriptures and do not hinder fel-lowship with the rest of the Body of Christ.
WE DENY THAT any inconsistency or deception is involved by Jewish Christians representing themselves as "Messianic" or "completed" or "ful-filled" Jews.
III. GOD'S PLAN FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE
WE AFFIRM THAT Jewish people have an ongoing part in God's plan.
WE DENY THAT indifference to the future of the Jewish people on the part of Christians can ever be justified.
WE AFFIRM THAT prior to the coming of Christ it was Israel's unique privilege to enjoy a corporate covenantal relationship with God, following upon the national redemption from slavery, and involving God's gift of the law and of a theocratic culture; God's promise of blessing to faithful obedience; and God's provision of atonement for transgression.
WE AFFIRM THAT within this covenant relationship, God's pardon and acceptance of the penitent which was linked to the offering of prescribed sacrifices rested upon the fore-ordained sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
WE DENY THAT covenantal privilege alone can ever bring salvation to impenitent unbelievers.
WE AFFIRM THAT much of Judaism, in its various forms, throughout contemporary Israel and today's Diaspora, is a development out of, rather than as an authentic embodiment of, the faith, Iove and hope, that the Hebrew Scriptures teach.
WE DENY THAT modern Judaism with its explicit negation of the divine person, work, and Messiah-ship of Jesus Christ contains within itself true knowledge of God's salvation.
WE AFFIRM THAT the biblical hope for Jewish people centers on their being restored through faith in Christ to their proper place as branches of God's olive tree from which they are at present broken off.
WE DENY THAT the historical status of the Jews as God's people brings salvation to any Jew who does not accept the claims of Jesus Christ.
WE AFFIRM THAT the Bible promises that large numbers of Jews will turn to Christ through God's sovereign grace.
WE DENY THAT this prospect renders needless the active proclamation of the gospel to Jewish people in this and every age.
WE AFFIRM THAT anti-Semitism on the part of professed Christians has al-ways been wicked and shameful and that the church has in the past been much to blame for tolerating and encouraging it and for condoning anti-Jewish actions on the part of individuals and governments.
WE DENY THAT these past failures, for which offending Gentile believers must ask forgiveness from both God and the Jewish community, rob Christians of the right or lessen their responsibility to share the Gospel with Jews today and for the future.
WE AFFIRM THAT it was the sins of the whole human race that sent Christ to the cross.
WE DENY THAT it is right to single out the Jewish people for putting Jesus to death.
IV. EVANGELISM AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE
WE AFFIRM THAT sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with lost humanity is a matter of prime obligation for Christian people, both because the Messiah commands the making of disciples and because love of neighbor re-quires effort to meet our neighbor's deepest need.
WE DENY THAT any other form of witness and service to others can excuse Christians from laboring to bring them to faith in Christ.
WE AFFIRM THAT the church's obligation to share saving knowledge of Christ with the whole human race includes the evangelising of Jewish people as a priority: "To the Jew first" (Romans 1:16).
WE DENY THAT dialogue with Jewish people that aims at nothing more than mutual understanding constitutes fulfillment of this obligation.
WE AFFIRM THAT the concern to point Jewish people to faith in Jesus Christ which the Christian church has historically felt and shown was right.
WE DENY THAT there is any truth in the widespread notion that evangelising Jews is need!ess because they are a!ready in covenant with God through Abraham and Moses and so are already saved despite their rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
WE AFFIRM THAT all endeavours to persuade others to become Christians should express love to them by respecting their dignity and integrity at every point, including parents' responsibility in the case of their children.
WE DENY THAT coercive or deceptive proselytising, which violates dignity and integrity on both sides, can ever be justified.
WE AFFIRM THAT it is unchristian, unloving, and discriminatory, to propose a moratorium on the evangelising of any part of the human race, and that failure to preach the gospel to the Jewish people would be a form of anti-Semitism, depriving this particular community of its right to hear the gospel.
WE DENY THAT we have sufficient warrant to assume or anticipate the salvation of anyone, who is not a believer in Jesus Christ.
WE AFFIRM THAT the existence of separate churchly organisations for evangelising Jews, as for evangelising any other particular human group, can be justified pragmatically, as an appropriate means of fulfilling the church's mandate to take the Gospel to the whole human race.
WE DENY THAT the depth of human spiritual need varies from group to group so that Jewish people may be thought to need Christ either more or less than others.
V. JEWISH-CHRISTIAN RELATIONS
WE AFFIRM THAT dialogue with other faiths that seeks to transcend stereo-types of them based on ignorance, and to find common ground and to share common concerns, is an expression of Christian love that should be encouraged.
WE DENY THAT dialogue that explains the Christian faith without seeking to persuade the dialogue partners of its truth and claims is a sufficient expres-sion of Christian love.
WE AFFIRM THAT for Christians and non-Christian Jews to make common cause in social witness and action, contending together for freedom of speech and religion, the value of the individual, and the moral standards of God's law is right and good.
WE DENY THAT such limited cooperation involves any compromise of the distinctive views of either community or imposes any restraint upon Chris-tians in seeking to share the Gospel with the Jews with whom they cooperate.
WE AFFIRM THAT the Jewish quest for a homeland with secure borders and a just peace has our support.
WE DENY THAT any biblical link between the Jewish people and the land of Israel justifies actions that contradict biblical ethics and constitute oppression of people-groups or individuals.
SPONSOR: WORLD EVANGELICAL FELLOWSHIP INTERNATIONAL HEADQUARTERS
1, Sophia Road #07-09
WEF North American Headquarters
P. O. Box WEF
This Declaration was developed and adopted on April 29, 1989 by all those present at the Consultation on the Gospel and the Jewish People after several days of lntense consultation, undergirded by prayer. Together the participants commend this document to the churches with a call to prayerfully consider and act upon these very serious matters as touching the Christian Gospel and the Jewish People.
Dr. Vernon Grounds (Chairman) U.S.A.; Dr.Tokunboh Adeyemo, KENYA; Dr. Henri Blocher, FRANCE; Dr. Tormod Engelsvlken, NORWAY; Dr. Arthur Glasser, U.S.A.; Dr. Robert Godfrey, U.S.A.; Mrs. Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, U.S.A.; Dr. Kenneth Kantzer, U.S.A.; Rev. Ole Chr. Kvarme, NORWAY; Dr. David Lim, PHILLIPINES; Rev. Murdo MacLeod, ENGLAND; Dr. J. I. Packer, CANADA; Dr. Bong Ro R.O.C.; Dr. Sunand Sumithra, INDIA; Dr. David Wells, U.S.A.; Tuvya Zaretsky, U.S.A.