“Look, Jesus is not for Jews” Hylan said.
Having grown up in a strong Jewish home in upstate New York, Hylan was sure he could not believe in Jesus.
As a young adult, however, he embarked on a quest for truth. His search led him to someone who showed him what the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) say about the Messiah and atonement for sin. Hylan later put his trust in Jesus, and today, he says, “My Jewishness is now more meaningful than ever before.”
Many gospel presentations make frequent references to verses from the New Testament, especially Romans. If you have gone to a training on evangelism, you may have learned about the “Romans road.” This approach refers to different parts of Romans to explain key truths, such as sin and grace.
A strategy like this can be quite effective, but it is not always the most helpful for Jewish people. The Hebrew Scriptures contain these same truths. Knowing how to share the gospel using the Old Testament is incredibly powerful, especially when talking with Jewish people.
Why Use the Old Testament to Share the Gospel?
Many Jewish people are wary of the New Testament. It seems foreign, and some think it is antisemitic. What you say about Jesus will often be more credible if you can show how the Hebrew Bible backs it up. At the same time, it is important not to assume that your Jewish friend knows the Bible well, even the Old Testament. Many Jewish Americans are not religious and do not know much more about the Bible than other secular Americans.
Nevertheless, using the Hebrew Scriptures is still a wise move. Even if the person you are talking with has not read the Bible before, the names and concepts will often be more familiar if you rely on the Old Testament. For instance, your friend may have never read First or Second Samuel, but they will likely recognize King David.
Using the Old Testament is also good because it shows that believers in Jesus take this huge part of Scripture seriously. If all our knowledge of the gospel comes from Romans, then we have quite a low view of the Bible. All Scripture is God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16–17). So, even if you do not have the opportunity to share the gospel using the Old Testament, knowing how to is still useful because it shows how God’s message is consistent through both testaments.
In this guide, we will look at four main points of the gospel through the lens of the Hebrew Bible.
We All Do Wrong Things
The Old Testament confirms that all people sin. When Solomon dedicated the Temple, he took for granted the belief that “there is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). The prophet Isaiah articulated this strongly as well: “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isa 64:6).
Not only have we all turned away from God—any good works we do cannot help us. No number of kind acts can patch over sin. Just as one drop of poison can spoil an entire glass of water, any sin leads to death.
Many people find it difficult to believe that sin is such a big deal. Part of the problem is that our view of sin is often too narrow. Sin violates shalom—the wellbeing God intended for the world. Moreover, sin is not only about what we do but also what we fail to do. God calls us to love Him with everything we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). We have all fallen short of these commands.
When sharing the gospel from the Old Testament, you could use verses like Isaiah 64:6 and 1 Kings 8:46 to explain that everyone sins. Then, you might point to Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. These verses can convict someone who considers himself a good person. No one, however kind, has perfectly fulfilled God’s charge to love Him wholeheartedly and love people as ourselves without fault or failure.
The Penalty for Our Sins Is Death
In Scripture, sin and death go together. God warned Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He said, “in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17b). The Bible speaks of two kinds of death:physical death and spiritual death. The latter is total and eternal separation from God, though both are associated with sin.
Sin keeps us from having the relationship with God for which we were made. God is holy (Exodus 15:11). That is, He is perfect in all His ways. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isa 59:2).
This verse is one you can share with a Jewish friend to show what the Hebrew Bible says about sin. It is not enough to simply try our best to make sure our good deeds outweigh the bad. Our wrongdoing alienates us from our Creator, which results in death.
This problem is so serious that blood is required to atone for sin. Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason the life that makes atonement.” In ancient Israel, priests offered animal sacrifices to deal with sin temporarily. These sacrifices could not solve the issue of sin at the heart level (Isaiah 1:11–14). The perspective of the Hebrew Scriptures is that something more was still needed that could deal with the sin problem permanently.
The Messiah Died in Our Place and Rose Again
The prophet Isaiah pointed to the greatest sacrifice—that of the Messiah. In Isaiah 53, he wrote of a Servant of the Lord who would carry Israel’s griefs and sin. The Servant would be rejected. Though He came to save His people, they would not recognize Him (Isa 53:2–3). Eventually, He would suffer silently and die (Isa 53:7–9).
Then, He would be raised to life and be exalted by God (Isa 53:10). Isaiah makes it clear that the Servant’s suffering was to atone for sin—the sins of others. Verse 5 says, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-bring fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”
His death did what animal sacrifices could never do—justify us once and for all. The Jewish prophet Isaiah was looking forward to a specific person who would heal Israel by atoning for sin. Through the Servant’s suffering, He would justify many people and intercede for them (Isa 53:11–12). Isaiah 53 describes the many aspects of the Messiah:
- His appearance was plain.
- He was rejected.
- The Messiah was beaten and killed.
- He did not protest.
- The Messiah died innocently.
- He came to life again.
- His wounds heal people. 
Many Jewish people are surprised that this passage is not in the New Testament. After all, the Servant sounds so much like Jesus. Someone dying to save people from sin is so clearly associated with Christian belief that many do not realize this concept first appears in the Hebrew Bible, hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Showing Isaiah 53 to a Jewish friend is one way to demonstrate that the gospel message is consistent in the Old Testament.
Trust in the Messiah to Atone for Your Sin
Finally, the Hebrew Scriptures invite us to trust in the Messiah. For instance, Psalm 2 is a great messianic prophecy that looks forward to His global reign. The last verse says to “do homage to the Son.” We are to worship Him, for “blessed are all who take refuge in Him” (Ps 2:12). These words direct us to accept what God has provided through the Messiah. More than that, we should love and honor Him as we do the Lord.
Many other parts of Scripture also assure us that God saves those who call on Him. Isaiah wrote, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool” (Isa 1:18b). Likewise, the prophet Joel said, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered” (Joel 2:32a).
Verses like these are a call to believe and an encouragement that God delights to forgive. Though we have all sinned, He loves us and desires a relationship with us. Reading a verse like Psalm 2:12 is a good segue to invite your Jewish friend to believe in Jesus.
Chosen People Ministries is also here to help. If you would like to request prayer or know someone who is open to meeting with one of our staff, please contact us!
Here is a summary of the main points we covered in this article and a key verse for each.
- We All Do Wrong Things
- Isaiah 64:6: “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment, and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
- The Penalty for Our Sins is Death
- Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”
- The Messiah Died in Our Place and Rose Again
- Isaiah 53:5: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”
- Isaiah 53:10: “If He would render Himself as a guilt offering . . . He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.”
- Trust in the Messiah to Atone for Your Sin
- Isaiah 1:18b: “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”
Here are some more resources we offer which can equip you to share the gospel with Jewish people.
 In this article, “Old Testament”, “Hebrew Scriptures”, and “Hebrew Bible” are used interchangeably.
 For an in-depth discussion on sin, see Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996), 7–27.
 To learn more about Isaiah 53, see Mitch Glaser, Isaiah 53 Explained (New York: Chosen People Productions, 2010) and Michael Brown, “Isaiah 52:13–53:12: The Substitution of the Servant of the Lord,” in The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy, eds. Michael Rydelnik and Edwin Blum (Chicago: Moody, 2019), 961–974.