Romans

Romans 9:1-33 (Part 2) – “Religious Pedigree is not enough”

Religious Pedigree is not enough”

 

Romans 9:1-33 (Part 2)

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

ILLUS.: Introduce two people – Erica and Megan – Erica is a good person – she is involved in the community – good citizen – went to Sunday School – now goes to church not every week but fairly regularly – not fanatically religious but would call herself a Christian and would be highly indignant if anyone suggested that she was not a Christian.

Megan – is a different story – never been to Church – heavily into the Hippie movement of the 1960’s – free love, sex and stuff – been through various relationships – now has a reasonable job – not to fussed about community involvement – has a reasonably stable relationship with her boyfriend – she has a child for the 1960’s (father unknown) now she and her partner have a child together – into New Age beliefs.

Megan and partner – through a neighbour and an Alpha course – become Christians.

 

Here comes the Apostle Paul and says Megan is one of God’s children but not Erica, she is excluded. Erica is highly indignant and offended and Paul does not even feature on her Christmas card list as a result!

 

This in microcosm is an illustration of what Paul is talking about in Romans 9-11 in regard to Israel (The Jews) and the Gentiles.

 

The Jews with the OT, the sacrifices, the Temple, the promises, the human ancestry of Christ …. [9:4-5] – they have been rejected by God in the main and the Gentiles who were pagan, pork-eating idolators have been accepted. If you were a Jews wouldn’t you be steamed up and object to Paul’s message that there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles but all come to Christ by faith alone apart from the Jewish Law.

 

In 9 – 11 Paul is dealing with the issue of God’s plans for Israel – Why have the Jews for the most part reject their Messiah, Jesus? Are they not God’s chosen people? How is it that the Gentiles have believed in Jesus and not the majority of the Israelites? This was an issue of great concern in the early Church and indeed it is a concern today. What about Israel as a nation?

 

This was a great concern to the Apostle Paul – indeed this is probably one of the reasons, if not the main reason, why he wrote this letter to the Romans in the first place.

 

Up to this point in the letter Paul has been explaining that we come into a right relationship with God, NOT by good works, or by obeying the Jewish law BUT by faith in what Christ has done.

 

1:18 – 3:20 – God’s anger against sin – Jew and Gentile – God has no favourites

3:21 – 8:39 – God’s grace to all who believe – justification (Salvation) is by faith

 

What of the Jews – the majority of whom have rejected the Messiah?

This is the subject of  9-11.

In Chapter 9 Paul will argue that God is sovereign but that Israel were by no means innocent but stubborn and unbelieving (Chapter 10) However God has not rejected Israel because unlike them, He is faithful (ch.11) and in the end he will have mercy on them ALL  [not universalism with everyone being saved] – but all meaning both Jews and Gentiles

“God will have mercy on them all (11:32), meaning not everyone without exception, but both Jews and Gentiles without distinction.” [Stott]

 

Overview of Chapter 9.

1 – 5            Paul’s anguish over Israel and his love for her

6 – 13          Has God abandoned Israel?

  • No says Paul – but you must understand that not all Israel are     Israel and never have been!! Right from the beginning God has chosen – Isaac over Ishmael – Jacob over Esau.

14 – 18        Isn’t God unfair in his distribution of mercy? Who can resist..

  • No says Paul – far from being unfair – God would be perfectly fair and justified in destroying and punishing all human beings because of their hardness of heart towards God [Romans 2:5 5 But because of your stubbornness [hardness]and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, …]
  • God’s mercy is seen in his delay of judgement       —      e.g. Pharaoh.

15 – 29        How can God blame us when he is in control?

30 – 33        Where does all this lead to? The Church comprises Jews and                              Gentiles – Gentiles in the majority, are there because of God’s                            mercy and the Jews are few because of their rebellion.

Christ – the foundation stone and the stumbling stone.

 

Having heard Paul so far we are still left with the situation that God is sovereign and he chooses. And so the objection comes from Paul’s critics and from some today – “How can God blame us when he is in ultimate control?”

 

This is precisely the question Paul tackles in v,19.

 

 [Continued from previous message Romans 9:1-33 Part A]

 

3. HOW CAN GOD BLAME US WHEN HE IS IN CONTROL? [V.19-29]

 

In other words – God holds all the cards so how can it be our fault?

Romans 9:20-21 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? – [Job]    ——-    “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? [Isaiah]

 

Paul quotes Isaiah – who is accusing Israel of trying to assert their autonomy over God.

Isaiah 29:16

16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!

Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”?

Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”? (NIV)

 

– they thought they could fashion a God to suit themselves –

No says Paul you can’t say that God isn’t the Potter – he determines what kind of pots he will make. To want anything else is to want God not to be God.

God has the right to determine how he deals with fallen humanity – with our sinfulness – according to both his wrath and his mercy.

 

Remember that God NEVER created people sinful in order to have someone to punish — rather people became sinful through disobedience to God and so on, and God has the right to deal with us as he sees fit – just as the potter has the right to deal with the clay as he sees fit [that is the point of the illustration of the potter and the pot].

 

Paul is also quoting from the Book of Job  But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? – [Job]  — Job was overwhelmed with the sheer greatness of God and what can a mere mortal do when God by definition has all the answers and controls everything??

 

Paul’s objectors have the same problem  Romans 9:19 ……For who resists his will?” (NIV)

As far as Job was concerned God hadn’t governed very wisely – maybe you feel the same!!

But the end of the Book of Job God parades before him the power and wisdom and majesty with which he made and now governs the world. And Job is silenced not because he is crushed by God’s greatness as he feared BUT he realises that if we submit to this God, a God who manages creation with such wisdom, THEN our rights are absolutely safe with Him!! God will not violate our rights!!

 

So says Job —

Job 42:5-6

5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (NIV)

He regrets talking back to God Because it came from ignorance of the true dimensions of God’s greatness.

 

Paul goes on in the next verses [22-24] to show how God in delaying his judgement on the one hand and revealing his mercy on the other is demonstrating his great plan of Salvation.

 

We find it nice and comfortable to see God as a kind, loving, benevolent Being – he is that but there is also another side to God, his justice and his immense anger against sin.

God “wants to”  v.22 wanting NOT choosing – show his mercy and his wrath – BUT he is patient with those who deserve destruction {He is not responsible for them meriting destruction}  – on the other hand to show his glory [v.23] he will be merciful to those HE prepares for glory – both Jews and Gentiles.

It is this that Paul’s objectors find so difficult to accept – that Gentiles have been included while the majority of Jews are excluded.

 

Does God’s choosing – his sovereignty – that fact that he is in control of all things – does all this make us less responsible.

Can I say “I will live as I please as nothing I do is going to influence my salvation one way or the other!”

 

or “Should I keep on praying for and witnessing to my non-Christian friend/relative – if God wants to save them he is going to do it irrespective of what I do?”

 

These are valid questions in the face of this teaching.

While it is true that God is sovereign – it is equally true that humans are responsible – If you get to heaven it is because God in merciful – if you end up in hell it is because you are stubborn and sinful and rejected God’s salvation.

 

ILLUS.: As I look back to the time when I became a Christian I remember that I wanted to follow Christ – now in hindsight I realise that all the credit goes to him for reaching out to me in mercy and love – at the time I was unaware of his hand upon me – they were conscious steps of my own will.

 

This is difficult to understand – but we must keep these two in tension – Salvation belongs to God, he is sovereign BUT I am responsible to willing accept and follow him.

ILLUS. These two thoughts are like the two track of a train line – they are both necessary!!

 

 

Going back to Paul – he has just said that Israel – at least in part – are in fact objects of God’s anger – in reality he equates them to Pharaoh of Egypt.

 

To back up what he has said – that this is not his wild idea he goes back to the OT – Jewish scriptures to show that God had foretold this!

 

Hosea – a prophecy about restoration and Love.

Hosea’s wife was unfaithful – this relationship mirrored the relationship between Israel and God. Two Children were born to Gomer, Hosea’s wife — their names were Lo-Ruhamah [not-loved] and Lo-Ammi [not-mine – lit not-my-people] – imagine the stigma of such names – thus God considered Israel because she had been like and unfaithful wife.

Paul now quotes from this prophet:-

Romans 9:25-26 25 As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;

and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”

26 and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,

‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God’.” (NIV)

 

Undoubtedly Paul sees in the Gentiles coming into the Church the fulfilment of the prophecy.

 

You are “not-my-people” and “not-loved” are harsh words of judgement borne out of Israel’s willful disobedience and rebellion.

Remember that the Jews, even if only in part, are included in the Church – “objects/vessels of mercy” [v.24] — Within the message of Judgement and wrath, mercy is still extended – a summons for the people to return to God.

 

That same message is still extended – when God warns of impending judgement he always offers  mercy if there is repentance.

 

Isaiah – a prophecy about judgement and hope.

Turning to Isaiah v.27 should begin “BUT” – Paul is making the point that God is not finished with Israel.

Romans 9:27-28   27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, [only] the remnant will be saved.  28 For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” (NIV)

 

God has not finished with Israel – says Paul – he will keep his promises to Israel – he will keep his promise of judgement on sin and his promise of salvation.

Israel will not be delivered from judgement BUT rather through judgement.

In the process of judging Israel God will bring salvation.

 

Israel will be punished BUT a remnant will be saved –

Israel in the OT thought they were safe because they were God’s special people – Paul lists the blessing in v.4-5 – Paul reminds them that God’s word to Israel was more than just a promise to bless come what may! God’s promises laid great emphasis on Israel’s responsibility to obey and warned of terrible judgement if obedience was not forthcoming – this side of God’s word need to be taken just as seriously as the promise of blessing!

 

We too, should be warned that God is not to be trifled with – Israel’s sin was not that they were irreligious – but they thought they could use God – if we think we can have a nodding acquaintance with God – doff our caps on a Sunday morning – thinking God will be happy with What we can spare – of our time, money, etc. –

If we think as a nation we can continue to condone and to practice immorality, injustice, selfishness, exploitation of poorer nations, sidelining God – God’s judgement may be delayed but it will surely come as it came on Israel.

 

Instead of Jerusalem being like a “city set on a hill” to be a beacon of light shining for all the nations – rather they were a ramshackle shed in a desolate wasteland. Can you see why Paul’s heart was breaking!!

 

Yes! the majority of the Israelites have rejected the Messiah BUT the Remnant will be saved [v.27 remove ‘only’]

 

If the Lord had been rigidly just he would have destroyed Israel like he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah BUT the fact that Israel survived and a remnant believed show the immense kindness and mercy of God. If God is serious about his words of judgement  – he is also serious about his words of salvation! Therefore there is much hope!

 

 

4. WHERE DOES ALL THIS LEAD TO?

 

Romans 9:30-33  30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling-stone”. 33 As it is written:

“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble

and a rock that makes them fall,

and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (NIV)

 

These verses close chapter 9 and lead in chapter 10.

The Gentiles were godless, unrighteous yet obtain salvation.

The Jews pursued legal righteousness with great zeal yet didn’t obtain salvation – Why?  In a chapter all about election and God’s sovereignty one would think because God didn’t choose then BUT NO!! – because they stumbled over Jesus!

 

The cross of Christ is an offence to people – esp. self-righteous ones!

rock that makes them fall [or rock of offence – gk. scandalon] a scandal –

1 Corinthians 1:23 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block [scandal] to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, (NIV)

 

If it was possible to gain favour with God by keeping religious rules and rituals then the death of Jesus on the cross would be redundant – useless!

 

But human pride and arrogance says – God must accept me on my terms – BUT God won’t – he will only accept us at the cross – at that point we either accept and stand firm on Christ the Rock or we reject and stumble over him and fall flat on our self-righteous faces!

 

It all comes down to how we relate to Christ – only two possibilities

  • OR we can skin our shins against the rock and stumble and fall in the path of his wrath.
  • we put our trust in him take him as the foundation of our lives and build on him.

 

 

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