FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – God is working to bring Jews and Arabs throughout the world to faith in Jesus Christ, and Christians should pray that more and more will believe, experts said during a conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, April 9-11.
The conference, called “Israel, the Church and the Middle East Crisis,” emphasized the proclamation of the Gospel among both Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. During the conference, speakers from Chosen People Ministries presented messages during chapel at Southwestern Seminary. On Thursday, April 11, Chosen People Ministries president Mitch Glaser joined Darrell Bock, senior research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Tony Maalouf, associate professor of Missions at Southwestern Seminary, and others for a Grindstone panel discussion.
The Grindstone speakers testified that God has begun to work in significant ways among both Jews and Arabs throughout the Middle East. Speakers noted that God is not only working among Jews in the nation of Israel, but many Muslims throughout North Africa and the Middle East have also begun to accept the Gospel. Some converts to Christianity live in Iran, Syria, and even at the heart of the Islamic world in the city of Mecca. One speaker said that experts have estimated, unofficially, that 3.5 million converts to Christianity from Islam live in the Arab world.
Despite the clear work of God in bringing people to the Gospel, however, Grindstone speakers emphasized the need for prayer. During the panel discussion, Glaser turned to Bock with a question about Scripture’s call for prayer on Israel’s behalf.
“In Psalm 122, verse 6, we’re exhorted to pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” Glaser said. “How would you make the application to believers today? What does that mean?”
Bock responded by noting two passages, one in Luke and the other in Matthew, where “Jesus declares Israel’s house to be desolate because they have rejected the Messiah, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
“And so, when you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, one of the things you are actually praying for is that you are praying for Jewish people to realize the hope of Jesus Christ,” Bock said. “When you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, you are not merely praying for peace—as we think about it—in political and social terms. You are actually praying for a peace that is rooted in the very heart of the Gospel and tied to the hope of the Messiah, which of course is why it is so important to appreciate who Jesus is and how he relates to Jews, how he connects to Jews—not just how he connects to anyone, but particularly to Jewish people.”
Maalouf also emphasized the need for prayer.
“I believe that it is really essential to have the spirit of supplication and grace poured on the people in the Middle East, especially on the Jews. But I see that there is a big need for all of us to be engaged in prayer, because this is a spiritual battle. … We have to start praying for the Spirit of supplication and grace to be poured on the Jewish people, and on the whole Middle East, because that will impact the rest of the world.”
Speakers at the Grindstone also urged their audience to pray for Christians throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Many of these Christians commit themselves to Christ with the knowledge that they will face persecution, and maybe even death, because of their faith. One speaker told the story of a Syrian pastor who had been missing for several weeks. He had previously faced death threats, as well as attempts to end his life. Another speaker asked that Christians in the United States pray especially for their Jewish and Arab brothers and sisters in Christ, who live as a minority in Palestine.
Despite the hardship for many Christians in North Africa and the Middle East, another speaker added, they can take hope in the fact that the gates of hell cannot prevail against Christ’s church, and that nothing can separate Christians from God’s love.