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Your Day in Romans 10:16-11:10

Started by Al Moak, December 13, 2004, 10:52:36 AM

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Al Moak

December 13, 2004, 10:52:36 AM Last Edit: September 27, 2008, 02:13:04 PM by Al Moak
The fourteenth Sermon
Romans 10:16-11:10
The Marks of True Grace

We all know that we should always be suspicious of anyone who tells us he has a simple answer to all our problems - unless of course it is God Who is telling you!  Thanks be to God, I believe the passage before us today really does contain THE answer to life's greatest and most fundamental problem.  Not only so, but since it's God's inspired answer, we can accept it as absolute fact, and we can rely on it for our very lives!

Before we can deal with that great answer, though, we need to deal with a couple of slightly lesser questions.  The first one is the question of what happened to the Jews.  If they're really God's chosen people, why aren't more of them Christians? And another question, one that hits even closer to home is, what about the Church - why doesn't it act more like the people of God should act? If we can answer those two questions, I believe we can use our answers to solve a much more personal one.  The very personal one is, how can I be sure I belong to God, that I'm really one of Christ's chosen people.  Life eternal depends on the answer to that one!

I should warn you ahead of time that a first quick reading of this passage in Romans seems only to be making things more difficult instead of supplying answers.  The reason is that Paul needs to help us to fully understand the question before he proceeds to the answers. So, as you read this chapter, I urge you just to try to clearly understand the question and nothing else.  The answers will come a little later.

Many times throughout his letter Paul expressed his concern for his fellow countrymen the Jews.  There were so many of them who rejected the Gospel, who rejected Jesus as Messiah.  Paul expressed the greatness of his concern for them in chapter nine.  There he even said he could be willing that he himself might be cut off from Christ if that would make it possible for them to believe.  He knew it couldn't really happen, but it expressed the greatness of his concern.

He again expresses it in the present chapter. This time he expresses it prayerfully.  He says, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved!"

It's evident in the first part of the chapter that the problem  wasn't that these countrymen of his didn't know anything about God.  They were God's covenant people and the custodians of holy Scripture.  And they were even very zealous about it - they made sure that everything in their religious conduct was done "by the book."  They had lots of knowledge. 

The problem was that though they knew about God, yet they didn't know Him at all in a personal way.  They thought their zeal would make them pleasing to Him – so they went about to "establish their own righteousness."  But they wouldn't and didn't "submit to the righteousness supplied by God."  In their view their own righteousness was good enough. 

But they had a problem.   Their understanding was only of law righteousness and they didn't at all understand a righteousness that is received through faith. They were convinced that their way to earn God's favor was adequate, and  they couldn't understand receiving it as a simple gift (How about you?)

One of the problems was that they hadn't really understood Moses.  If they had, they wouldn't have tried to please God by means of law righteousness.  Moses had said, "The man who does those things shall live by them."  The keyword is "does."  As  summarized by our Lord, real obedience to the Law requires loving the Lord with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength.  In other words, true law righteousness must come from love to God - and it has to be perfect!  No one but Christ has ever successfully accomplished that feat.

So we see that the result of Jew's attempt at law righteousness was that they weren't at all willing to hear the Good news about a freely given righteousness.  Their minds were already made up. They didn't want further facts! 

So Paul, speaking of Israel, had to say, "But they have not all obeyed the Gospel.  For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our report?'"  The implication was that very, very few believed (or obeyed) it.  As he says, " . . . faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God," but though they heard - with their ears - yet Paul, writing about what God saw in their hearts, had to say that they didn't really hear it at all.  He tells us about what God had to say through His prophet Isaiah.  He said, "All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people." 

Over and over God had sent them prophets.  Over and over He had chastised them by bringing them into judgement and by sending powerful nations against them.  But none of it did any good.

So what would you expect God to do?  I don't think we'd be surprised if He finally discarded them as His covenant nation.  But He didn't.  Paul says, "I say then, has God cast away His people?  Certainly not!"  He then proceeds to explain that such a thing couldn't possibly have happened, since Paul himself was an Israelite through and through – and hadn't been discarded!  He further explains that the reason it seemed as though God had discarded them is the same reason he gave in chapter 9, where he said, " . . . they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham."  The point he's making is that there was indeed an Israel that was forsaken and discarded, but it wasn't and never had been the real Israel.  As he said in 11:2, "God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew."

We need to understand what that word "foreknew" means.  In the original language of the New Testament, the word "foreknew" means "loved beforehand," and to be loved that way by God means to be changed: it means to have a heart that has been softened. 

It's further explained in 9:15-18.  There he says, "For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.'  So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God Who shows mercy.  For the Scripture says of Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My Name may be declared in all the earth.'  Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens." What he's saying is simply that some are cast away and some are not - entirely on the basis of God's sovereign choice.  In looking over all that is called "Israel," He has chosen to love and save only a smaller number, a "true Israel."  The rest, by their own choice, reject the Gospel.  (by the way - left to our own choice, would not the same be true of us?)

In answer to our original question, then, as to what happened to God's chosen people the Jews, we can say that God has not cast off any of His chosen, any of the Israel within Israel, any whom He foreknew.  That's exactly what Paul meant when he said in the fifth verse, "Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace."

But let's back up to the beginning of this discussion.  At that point I mentioned another question.  I asked, "what about the Church - why doesn't the church act more like the people of God should act?"  We can even ask it another way.  We can ask, "Has God cast away His Church?"  The answer is the same as it was when the question was asked about Israel. The answer is, "Certainly not!"  And that answer has to be explained in the same way as the answer to the previous question.  In that case He said, "God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew."  God has foreknown (foreloved) a people, but the larger body that we observe in the world, the one that is called the Church - is not that people.  We need to see that there is, however, a "remnant according to the election of grace."  We can answer our question about the Church, then, by saying that sometimes the Church doesn't seem like the people of God because the people we're observing aren't the people of God! 

A caution here: We cannot - we must not - attempt to identify all those "who have not bowed the knee to Baal," (the true Church).  It's enough, as Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy, that "The Lord (Himself) knows those who are His."

But there is something we can and should do.  Peter tells us about it.  He says, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble."  I hope you will see that all who truly belong to Jesus Christ bear certain identifying marks, marks by which they themselves, at least, may know whether they truly belong to their Savior and are the "remnant" that shall be saved.

I hope and pray that, as you consider this, you are saying in your heart, "What are those marks of the true Christian?  I want to be certain!"  In answer, there's at least one thing of which we can be absolutely sure: one mark of every one of Christ's "remnant" people is just the very concern they have to know their status - the Holy Spirit moves only the chosen people, the "people within a people" to that concern. 

But there are also other marks, other ways by which you can be certain of your relationship to Christ.  One of them – a very important one - is found in the revelation made to John, Chapter 3.  John tells us that Christ Himself spoke to one group of people and said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." He's speaking to the entire membership of that church, but it's very important to notice that only a few people actually paid attention to Him and opened the door of their hearts.  With those who did He began and continued an intimate (saving) relationship.

The application is so very simple.  It's also eternally important.  Do you hear His voice as He calls?  Do you care?  Better yet, do you eagerly call upon Him for grace and mercy?  Do you eagerly and urgently read His Word to hear Him speak to you?  He says, "the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out!"  If you come to Him, and continue with Him, that's the sure mark that you are His!

Chris & Margit Saunders

Better chosen and marked out by Christ, than to end up with the mark of the beast, choose whom you will follow.