I find this verse confusing. Is it saying that God prioritises Jews over Gentiles?
NIV - 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
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"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;" (Deuteronomy 7:6-9) The passage above was stated after the LORD commanded the Israelites to separate themselves from heathen occupying the land he had given them. The Israelites were to have no mercy but to destroy, make no agreements with and not intermarry. God's purpose in separation was to prevent His people from turning away from Him and becoming idolators as those whom they were to displace. (Deuteronomy 7:1-5). I believe it was a priority. During Christ's earthly ministry when he appointed the disciples Matthew 10:5-6 states: "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The above passage shows an obvious choice of preference. "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Galatians 4:4-5) When did this change, what made the difference? Ephesians 2:11-14 tells us: "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;" "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) I thank God for the blood of Christ, His death, burial and resurrection! Because of this: "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:6)
I don't think that Paul is using "first" here in a sense of priority, but with respect to chronology as far as the preaching of the gospel, which was the means that God provided to grant salvation. Jesus was the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies that God had made since the beginning of the Old Testament, starting with Genesis 3:15. Over time, God chose a specific group of people (the Jews, who were the descendants of Abraham through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, to whom God gave the name Israel), and a particular lineage within that group (the tribe of Judah and then the house of David), through whom that Messiah was to come. Jesus was born a Jew, and was a fully-observant Jew throughout His earthly life. However, he also gave indications during His time on earth (in passages such as Matthew 8:10-12) that non-Jews (Gentiles) who had the same type of faith that Abraham had had in God's promises would be accepted by God on the basis of that faith. After Jesus' resurrection and ascension, He was first preached as being the promised Messiah to Jews living both in Israel and in other countries (Acts 2:5-11). However, God then made clear that Gentiles who believed the gospel message were also to be accepted as Christ's followers on an equal footing with Jews on the basis of their faith, rather than on the basis of obedience to the Mosaic Law (Acts 10-11; Acts 15). (As Paul noted in Romans 10:25-26, this inclusion of the Gentiles was also foretold in Old Testament prophecy.) Paul, however, also made clear that, even though the majority of Jews rejected Christ as the Messiah during His time on earth, and largely still do not recognize Him as such, they are still a chosen people of God, and they, too, will someday come to Christ (Romans 11:11-12, 25-32).
The gospel reached “to the Jew first” in the ministry of Jesus Christ (Matt. 10:5-7) and the apostles (Acts 3:26). How wonderful it is to have a message of power that can be taken to all people! The whole point is that God is the One who has mercy. Ethnicity is not decisive here. There is no merit with him. We are all sinners. So the real emphasis falls back on that wonderful word “everyone” that we started with: “The gospel is the power of God to everyone who believes.” So, whether Jew or Gentile, believe! And receive the power of God to save you from your sins and guilt and death and judgment and hell, and bring you home to ever-increasing joy in his presence forever and ever.
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