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Your Day in Romans - 9:1-33

Started by Al Moak, December 01, 2004, 09:35:14 AM

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Al Moak

December 01, 2004, 09:35:14 AM Last Edit: September 27, 2008, 02:03:23 PM by Al Moak
The Twelfth Sermon
Romans 9
Just One Reason

In writing to the church at Rome, Paul was writing to both Jews and Gentiles.  Each group had its own concerns.  Jewish Christians would be puzzled as to why more of their fellow Jews weren't following the Messiah in Whom they had believed.

Gentiles, on the other hand, would be thinking that, even if He   truly was the Gentile Messiah also, how could Gentiles like themselves  ever be included in the Jewish Messiah's kingdom?  Paul deals in this letter with both of these concerns.

By the inspiration of the Spirit of God, though, Paul actually answers what could very well be one of our own questions as well.  He answers the question, "why would I be included in Christ's kingdom?"  If in fact you are aware of your own previous relationship with God, then you've probably wondered about that.

Paul struggled with it too.  But, as a Jew, he struggled most deeply and emotionally with the question of why more Jews weren't believing in their Messiah.  It was a continual grief to him. 

After all, those descendants of Abraham had been chosen to be the people through whom Messiah would come.  They were the people who witnessed the glory of the Covenant God in the pillars of fire and cloud in the desert, they were the ones to whom were entrusted the gracious covenant and law of God, with the instructive and revealing ministries of the tabernacle and temple, and with all of the Messianic promises - they were the chosen nation! They were Paul's own beloved relatives!  If he had thought it would do any good (which he didn't), he says that he himself would even have been willing to be cut off from Christ if it meant that they could be brought to their Savior.

The question for Paul and for us is, why did this happen?  Why didn't more members of the covenant nation believe?  Paul had already said (1:16) that the Gospel, the Word of God, was God's powerful instrument of salvation - why didn't it have more effect among the Jews?

First and foremost, he says, it wasn't because that Word had no effect at all.  In fact, he says, it absolutely did have its intended effect.  The fact that needs to be understood is that it was never intended to be effective  for everyone, even if they were members of the covenant nation.  Its effect was only intended for a select few - an Israel within Israel.  See what he says: "But it is not that the Word of God has taken no effect.  For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham." 

He mentions some examples of what he meant.  He mentions Abraham's two children, Isaac and Ishmael.  Of those two, only Isaac was a son of promise.  In fact, he says, the promise was never intended to be extended to mere fleshly children, but it was specifically for the "children of promise," the people chosen  by God. 

In fact, he recites the example of Jacob and Esau.  Before either of them was even born, before they had done anything good or bad, he says, "the older shall serve the younger.  As it is written, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.

A statement like that sends up red signal flags for many of us.  We say, "Does God really 'hate' like that?  Is He like a man, then, who gets all 'hot and bothered?'"  The answer, of course, is that He is not at all like a man.  He NEVER gets "hot and bothered" about anything.  As Daniel put it, "He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.  No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'"  He's NEVER frustrated as we are.  But He "hates" nevertheless - in an awesome, perfect, unruffled, and holy way.

Besides, we need to realize that it wasn't just Esau He hated: it was the entire rebellious human race from Adam onward - including Jacob, Abraham, David, you, I - everyone.  But the Scripture says, "Jacob I have loved."  It's not a contradiction.  He starts out by hating the entire human race, including Jacob, but then, afterward, He "loved" some.  He has loved them as represented by His Son the Messiah. Christ our Lord has experienced the hate we all should have experienced - even to the point of utter abandonment.  He had to say, while on the Cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"  God hated both Jacob and Esau, but he loved Jacob for the sake of the Christ Who was to come.

But the thing of prime importance here in Romans is the illustration Paul uses.  He was illustrating the fact that, in God's economy, there have always been those who were hated but are now beloved in Christ – there have always been Israelites and true Israelites.

Now of course an objection always arises, and some say, "God's being unfair!  He's being unrighteous!"  No, says Paul, "God isn't being unrighteous!"  God operates on the basis of a principle that makes His behavior absolutely righteous.  The principle is His absolute RIGHT to choose.  Paul says, "Is there unrighteousness with God?  Certainly not!  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."  Simply put, it's telling us that it's God's absolute right to save some but not others. 

His choice isn't based, he says, on something that people are or that people  do, but solely upon what He Himself does.  He says, "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God Who shows mercy."  Paul is simply stating the general principle that God doesn't save anyone on the basis of what he or she is or does - nor on the basis of status in life or society - but solely upon the basis of His own sovereign will and His own sovereign choice.  He is God.  He has that right.

It isn't a principle we easily accept.  Most of us were raised with the idea that we earn everything we get.  Humiliating as it may seem to us, though, God doesn't operate that way.  Paul gives us another illustration to make this point.  He says, "For the Scripture says to Pharoh, '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.'"  Then Paul draws a conclusion. He says, "Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens."  We all - the entire human race, deserve to be hardened.  But for reasons He doesn't need to explain to anyone, He is merciful to some while simply bypassing others.

Well ok, says Paul, so it's all a matter of God's will.  But if that's so, then why does God condemn anyone - after all, we can't resist God's will.  Paul knows, at this point, that if we've asked questions like that, the reason is that we've forgotten something we very much need to remember - we've forgotten proper reverence.

He asks, "But indeed, o man, who are you to reply against God?  Will the thing formed say to Him Who formed it, 'Why have You made me like this?'  Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?"  Paul wants to make sure we know who we are - "o man" - and Who He is - GOD.  And the conclusion is that we shouldn't be arguing with His decisions.  Salvation depends solely upon His will and His mercy, and He, as God, may extend it to whomever He wills, whether Jew or Gentile. 

But, you might very well ask, "what about this 'hardening' –what's that?"  In answering, we once again need to be very, very clear about just what ALL human beings deserve.  The ENTIRE human race is in rebellion.  The first chapter of this letter tells us about it.  It says, ". . . because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."  The result, again according to the apostle, of Christ, is that, ". . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  And finally, God's pronouncement is against all who remain in rebellion.  He can and does justly say, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides (simply remains) on him." (Jn. 3:36)

The point is that the entire human race is as it were a rebel army engaged in open hostilities against their rightful Lord.  Their rebellion has become total and habitual.  Everyone - all of us - deserve to be hardened in that rebellion.  We deserve to be absolutely unable to repent, unable to surrender, unable to experience the mercy of the Lord.  He rescues some from that hardened condition because it's His merciful right to do so.   The rest He justly leaves in their own chosen condition.

So - back to our original questions: why did so few Jews believe in their Messiah? And also the closely related question - why were ANY of us included in Christ's kingdom? Paul gives us the answer to these qustions in vs. 27.  He says, "Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: 'Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.  For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.'"  The answer is that only a remnant shall be saved - only those whom God has chosen.  God is perfectly just to do things that way.

The only possible reason we can give for being included in Christ's kingdom is explained in the simple statement: "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy."  You and I, if included in that glorious and eternal kingdom, are included, awakened, brought to surrender and trust - ONLY because of the mercy of God!  Thank Him.  Serve Him.

If you are considering these words today, and if you are wondering whether you can be included, I want to assure you that you can!  You would not be sincerely wondering about it if your heart were hardened.  He receives all who come to Him, all who say, "Lord, I've sinned!  I give up!  I surrender!  Oh be my Lord and Savior!"  He says, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!"

Chris & Margit Saunders

Al,  you may be amazed at how many Christians cannot take this teaching in and understand it!
God open the eyes of our understanding, for God is not like us!
Isaiah ch. 55 v 8-9.

Al Moak

Quote from: Chris & Margit Saunders on December 01, 2004, 03:42:55 PM
Al,  you may be amazed at how many Christians cannot take this teaching in and understand it!
God open the eyes of our understanding, for God is not like us!
Isaiah ch. 55 v 8-9.
Actually, I would not be in the least amazed!  We human rebels do NOT want to give up our self-sovereignty.