JERUSALEM, Israel – Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney has joined the attack against Pastor Robert Jeffress for praying at Monday’s ceremony moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Romney faults the longtime supporter of the Jewish state for what many regard as Jeffress’ mainstream Evangelical Christian beliefs about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Jeffress is the pastor of First Baptist Dallas, a frequent expert who explains Christian beliefs on national television, and a spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump. He offered the invocation during the ceremony in Jerusalem inaugurating America’s new embassy, which is now located in the city that King David first established as the capital of Israel and the Jewish world 3,000 years ago. Jeffress concluded his prayer in the name of Jesus, who was a descendant of King David. Two other religious leaders in the ceremony – one Jewish and one Christian – likewise each gave a prayer in the language of his own personal faith.
“Heavenly Father, we come before you as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” Jeffress began in an ecumenical tone. “Four thousand years ago you said to your servant Abraham that you would make him the father of a great nation, a nation through which the whole world would be blessed.”
“Most of all, Israel has blessed the world through pointing us to you, the one true God, through the message of her prophets, the Scriptures, and the Messiah,” he continued.
Jeffress prayed to God for “the nation of Israel, which you have called the apple of your eye,” thanking God that he had “regathered your people in this Promised Land.” He prayed for peace for Jerusalem and Israel and closed his prayer in the name of Jesus, “the Prince of Peace.”
Romney – the former Massachusetts governor, who is now running for the U.S. Senate in Utah – said in a tweet, “Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”
Jeffress was stung by the attacks from Romney and leftist critics, telling Breitbart News that he emphatically rejects these accusations, which are based on “quotes from years ago taken completely out of context.”
“For 2,000 years, historical Christianity has taught that salvation is available only through faith in Christ,” Jeffress continued, repeating a statement he also shared with other media outlets. “The fact that I, along with tens of millions of Evangelical Christians around the world, continue to embrace that belief is neither bigoted nor newsworthy.”
Jeffress is referring to the Christian beliefs held by Evangelicals that every person has sinned by breaking the law of a holy God, and, therefore, must be redeemed by a savior. They believe that Jesus is the long-promised Messiah (or “Christ” in Greek), that he was the divine Son of God, that he lived a holy and sinless life, died on a wooden cross on a hill outside Jerusalem, was buried, on the third day was bodily resurrected from the dead, and weeks later, physically rose into heaven. Evangelical Christians like Jeffress believe that everyone who repents of their sins and places their faith in Jesus, his death, and his resurrection, receive forgiveness from God and are brought into a right relationship with him.
Evangelicals believe in the “Great Commission” from Matthew 28 in the Bible, that Christians are to share this gospel of salvation with everyone, including members of all religions – which necessarily includes Jewish people – as well as people who might call themselves by the label “Christian” but who do not personally believe those core Christian doctrines.
Jeffress’ First Baptist Dallas is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Fulfilling the “Great Commission” by sharing the gospel is an essential part of a Baptist pastor’s job description.
Shortly before giving the prayer, Jeffress spoke further with Breitbart News in an exclusive interview, saying, “We share so much in common. Jews and Christians pray to the same God, read the same Scriptures, and share a belief in a Messiah.”
“The Jewish community in Israel and in America knows that millions of Evangelical Christians are the most ardent supporters of Jerusalem and love the Jewish people,” he declared, adding that “God has a special plan for his people, the Israelites” and that “in my prayer today, I will speak about the special love we have for the Jewish people.”
Jeffress participates in interfaith dialogue with people of the Jewish faith, including talk show host Dennis Prager, who is an observant Jewish American.
In a joint interview with Fox News, Jeffress and Prager recounted various ways in which their faiths agree. “Where we differ is how we approach God and secure His approval,” Jeffress said.
They had an honest and friendly exchange with each other and with the Fox hosts in which Prager explains his religious belief that because God is fair, a person can earn his way to Heaven through living a good life. By contrast, Jeffress explains his religious belief that a person’s good deeds cannot be good enough or erase previous bad deeds, and, therefore, that everyone needs a savior:
“I have been blessed,” Prager said of the support he and his faith community receive from Evangelicals in general and Jeffress in particular. “They are the biggest supporters of Jews in the world.”
“You cannot find a major Evangelical Christian leader who does not believe that Jesus Christ is the way to be reconciled to God,” Jeffress continued in his exclusive interview with Breitbart News. “I share this gospel of God’s free gift of salvation with everyone of all faiths out of love for them. If you truly love someone and you believe that Jesus can meet their greatest need, then you tell them about Jesus, whom Christians believe to be the promised Messiah.”
“This belief in Jesus – in the gospel – is not unusual,” he added. “This is mainstream historical Christianity, which faithful Christians have believed and shared for 2,000 years.”
“Christians believe it is the greatest news for everyone in the world,” Jeffress concluded. “I have tremendous love for Israel, for the Jewish people, as I do for people all over the world, and I am called to share that gospel with everyone.”