Question: Why did Paul say about salvation to the Jew first and then the gentile?
Answer: Thank you for the question Don.
We are going to lay some groundwork, and bring it all together in the end.
When we read Romans 1:16, it sounds like we have special treatment taking place, but nothing could be further from the truth as we will document. In order to properly understand this Scripture, we need to know, who are the Jews, and who are the Gentiles.
Today, when we hear the word Jew, we think about Judaism and those living in Israel. We are also told those Jews are God's Chosen People, but that is not true as the linked study will document.
Please turn your Bible with me to Romans 1:16.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
Do not read over that, it is a beautiful thing. Salvation is for everyone that believes in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now Paul was speaking with respect to his people, in order of precedence. It was not a statement to make the Gentiles seem less important, and that point is greatly made by reading Romans 1-3.
We should understand Paul was an Israelite, a Hebrew from the Tribe of Benjamin which was of the House of Judah, (Philippians 3:4-5). The House of Judah consisted at one time of the Tribe of Judah and Benjamin which was located in the land of Judea, (around Jerusalem).
One became known as a Judean, translated Jew (Strong's: G2453) if they were from the Tribe of Judah, or if they lived in the land of Judea which identified their national identity, not necessarily their genealogy.
We have to remember what our Father said about the Israelites, all Twelve Tribes.
"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."
Naturally, the Israelites are the descendants of Adam, and we know the Bible is essentially about Adam and his family. God had chosen the Israelites to spread His Word to the world, and through this people would come the Redemer of the entire world, Jesus Christ, (Acts 10:36, Mark 16:15).
Due to this task, the Israelites are rewarded first for their efforts, however, they are also punished first (they know better) as we will learn, so it goes both ways.
We have to remember, salvation did not exist until Jesus Became Our Passover Lamb, until He made His redeeming sacrifice. The sacrifices the Israelites performed in the Old Testament were simply a way for them to have conscience of their sin, their sacrifices never made them perfect, only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us, only His Blood can wash away our sins, (Matthew 26:27-28, Revelation 1:5).
In Romans 2:25-27 Paul states if a Judean (Jew) is circumcised and breaks the law, his circumcision does not save him. He still broke the law, he is not above the law because his genealogy is traced to Judah.
Now if a Gentile who was uncircumcised "keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?"
This simply means, even though the Gentile was not circumcised, if the Gentile kept the law, the Gentile is marked as good in our Father's Book.
"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:"
The Gentile was not a Judean outwardly, meaning his genealogy, his family roots were not from the Tribe of Judah, but that did not matter as genealogies and circumcision are matters of the flesh.
"But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."
Notice, the Gentile is not a Judean "outwardly", meaning by ancestry, the Gentile is not an Israelite by genealogy, but he is inwardly (in the spirit) as the "outwardly" Gentile has now become a part of God's Family.
Let us continue,
"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?"
Very plainly we are being told there is no advantage to being a Judean (Jew) by ancestry, further, circumcision also profits nothing. Essentially, circumcision which was a blood ritual was done away with when our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shed His Blood for our sins, (Colossians 2:14).
9 "What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;"
10 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:"
Notice how Paul includes himself in with the Judeans (Jews), they were his audience.
Remember, Paul was from the Tribe of Benjamin, he was not from the Tribe of Judah. He was simply a Judean by national identity as the Tribe of Benjamin lived in the land of Judea, and the two Tribes made up the House of Judah. It was the Ten Northern Tribes that made up the House of Israel.
Understanding this, it is perfectly acceptable for Paul to include himself. After all, by genealogy, he was an Israelite, a Hebrew, and these verses truly apply to all Twelve Tribes, they simply were not a part of Paul's audience as they had been scattered.
Regardless, the main point here is the Judeans (Jews) are no better than the Gentiles.
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God". - Romans 3:23
That makes it pretty clear, no favor is made for Jew or Gentile.
Instead, listen and understand how God Judges.
"Who will render to every man according to his deeds:"
How are we all judged?
By our deeds, by our works, (Revelation 2:23).
It does not matter what race you are, and always remember, "the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart”, (1 Samual 16:7). This is why circumcision is now of the heart as we learned earlier.
"To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:"
If we, all of us, regardless of our race patiently and continually seek to do good, we will inherit Eternal Life.
8 "But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,"
9 "Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;"
10 "But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:"
Notice, the Judean (Jew) is punished first as they know better, they not only knew the Law, but they are supposed to share the Word with the world. This applies to all Israelites, remember, Paul was talking to an audience of Judeans, even more so, this applies to the Tribe of Levi (Levities) who always served as Priests.
"For there is no respect of persons with God."
God does not respect or love one soul more than another due to their "outward" appearance, their race or color.
Rather, our Heavenly Father looks "inwardly" on our heart, and respects and loves those who love Him, (Proverbs 8:17, Romans 8:28).