Baptist statesman preaches at Jewish synagogue
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southern Baptist statesman Paige Patterson preached at a Jewish synagogue in Fort Worth, Texas, one day before Yom Hashoah, when Jews around the world commemorated those who suffered and died during the holocaust.
“We are your partners at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Patterson, president of the seminary and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said to those assembled at the Ahavat Ammi Messianic Jewish Synagogue, April 30.
In an interview with Rabbi Tzahi Shapira of the Ahavat Ammi synagogue, Patterson described the common Baptist attitude toward Messianic Judaism, expressing sympathy for the painful memory of the holocaust.
“Most Baptist people recognize a large indebtedness to the Jewish people, and they feel close to them by nature,” Patterson said. “Baptist evangelicals have a history dipped in blood,” he added, referring to the suffering and martyrdom of early Baptists for their beliefs and for the cause of religious liberty. Partly for this reason, Baptists “have a great sympathy for Jews” who suffered to a far greater degree in the holocaust, under Stalin and throughout history.
Southwestern Seminary, Patterson told Shapira, is devoted to teaching the Hebrew language and studying the Hebrew Bible, a commitment exemplified by the seminary’s acquisition of Dead Sea Scroll fragments that will be put on display for the public in the summer of 2012. The seminary also has a deep concern for taking the Gospel, as the apostle Paul writes in Romans 1, “to the Jew first.”
“We keep Jewish evangelism,” Patterson said, “within the heart and eyes of our young people.”
Introducing Patterson to those assembled for worship at the synagogue, Shapira marveled that Patterson had shared the Gospel with men and women throughout the world.
“You are the only living person I know who has shared the Good News with both Menachem Begin and Yasser Arafat,” Rabbi Shapira said. “I feel so blessed for you to be here today. … This is a hero of the faith.”
“Look and cleave to this which God is doing,” he added, “bringing Jews and Gentiles together for His kingdom.”
Shapira invited Patterson to carry the synagogue’s Torah scroll in a processional. They obtained the scroll with the help of Gary Zimmerman, another special guest at the synagogue who also donated a framed portion of a Hebrew scroll containing the 10 Commandments to Southwestern Seminary in 2010. Patterson carried the synagogue’s scroll while wearing a tallit (a Jewish prayer shawl) presented to him as a gift from the synagogue by Shapira.
In an exposition of Ezekiel 37, Patterson looked forward to the day when God would reunite the twelve tribes of Israel under Jesus, their Messiah. Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians, he added, owe much to the Jewish people and to their forefather, Abraham.
“My life changed in Abraham,” Patterson said. “If it had not been for God’s promise to Abraham that ‘in you shall all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’—that promise fulfilled through his Son Yeshua (Jesus)—then I would not be one of God’s people today. So I owe everything to Abraham and his people.”
God’s promises to Abraham and to the Jewish people still hold true, Patterson said. Although many ancient people groups, like the Moabites and the Hittites, have long disappeared, “God’s people, the Jewish people, remain because God is not through with them and his promises are good.”
During previous synagogue services, the Ahavat Ammi synagogue has also welcomed guest preacher Rudy Gonzalez, dean of Southwestern Seminary’s William R. Marshall Center for Theological Studies in San Antonio, Texas.
Patterson’s message and interview may be accessed on the Ahavat Ammi website at www.ahavatammi.org.