Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 27, 2018.
Let us begin this morning by reciting our May memory verse, Romans 9:15-16, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
Today marks our 4th Sunday in Romans 9. Next week will be our last, God willing. Then on June 10th, Pastor Jim Edgell will be with us canidating for the position of preaching and teaching pastor and it is our intent that he would preach the beginning of Romans 10. It will be a good opportunity to see how he handles the living Word of God in the flow of our study of Romans.
However, let us now turn our attention back to Romans 9. Let us first do a brief review. As I have said dozens of times, the book of Romans is about the Gospel. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. The reason that the Gospel is the power of salvation is because the Gospel is the testimony that we are sinners void of righteousness, and because we are sinners the wrath of God looms over us, and our only hope is to cry out for God’s mercy. God's mercy comes in the form of his Son, Jesus Christ. It is only through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven of our sins and receive eternal life. It is Jesus or hell. Those are the two options.
In Romans 9-11, Paul is addressing the Israel problem, which is not really a problem, but God’s plan. It is only seen as a problem because people don’t know God’s sovereign plan. Israel has rejected their own Messiah. They have, generally speaking, rejected Jesus, therefore they will not be forgiven, they will not receive eternal life, and they will spend eternity in Hell. This leads some people to the question, does this mean that God has been unfaithful to the promises he once made to Israel to never forsake them? Two weeks ago we saw that the answer to that question is no because not all Israel is Israel. True Israel is spiritual Israel, those whom God foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and gloried. Just because you are a biological descendent of Abraham means nothing for salvation purposes. What matters is that God’s purpose of election might continue.
This led to the question of “Is there injustice on God’s part?” Last week we unpacked that question and saw that this answer is an emphatic no, because God will have mercy on whomever he wills and he will harden whomever he wills. That God is free to make an independent sovereign decision about the display of his mercy and the display of his wrath, or power. And we recognized that this sovereign display of his wrath and his mercy is the pinnacle of God’s glory. To know the one true God is to know God this way, as Sovereign over all humanity. If this is not your idea of God, then your idea of God is not a Biblical God, and your idea is a false God. One that you have created to make you feel more comfortable. And let us not forget that God does not eternally exist to make sinners feel comfortable. God is a God who makes sinners tremble. So with that summary, let us now turn out attention to the next portion of Romans 9. Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s inspired and inerrant Word.
Why Does He Still Find Fault?
The question, “Why does he still find fault?” Points back to Paul’s statement in verse 18, “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” The question in verse 19 is in response to this statement by the Apostle Paul. If God is the one who is ultimately sovereign over men. And it is God who ultimately causes men to repent and believe in Christ or reject the call of God, then why are men accountable? Why are men blamed if God is ultimately the one who does these things?
It is believed that when Paul writes this question, he is picturing a person who is antagonistic against God; that this hypothetical questioner is not humbly pursuing a deeper knowledge of the glory of God, but is instead asking a judgmental question, indicting the fairness, the justice of God’s action. It is believed that Paul is picturing a person whose heart is not submitted before God, but instead has been hardened towards this truth that is being unpacked in Romans 9.
My guess is that we may have some of those hearts among us today. Perhaps you have sat through our teaching of Romans 9 and you have bristled at the Words of the Apostle Paul; that you have mulled over in your mind “trap-like” questions hoping that it will unravel the whole tapestry of God’s Sovereignty in election. If so, let us carefully listen to Paul’s response to this question about finding fault in man, when it is ultimately God’s will.
Look at verse 20, ”But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” First, let us notice what Paul does not say. He does not say, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You must have misunderstood what I am saying. Each of you have thing called Free Will. And God punishes people based upon their free will decisions.” Paul said nothing like that, did he? One would think that if there was such a thing as a person having ultimate free will over their hearts and their actions, that this would be the ideal point in Scripture to say so, but we see nothing of the sort.
What do we see instead? “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” What an interesting section of scripture. Paul says,” Who do you think you are?” The purpose of this response is to put the antagonistic questioner in their proper place. To humble them to the appropriate position of their standing.
And Paul uses the phrase, “O man.” In Greek this word is Anthropos, this is where we get the words like anthropology. The Hebrew equivalent of the word anthropos is word is adam. Which makes us think of Adam in the Garden of Eden, which is why I think Paul says this phrase, “O man”. Because if you go back to Genesis 2:7 what do we see? It says “then the LORD God formed the man (adam) of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man (adam) became a living creature.”
You and I are dust. It is God who formed us. He made us. He made us in accordance to His will. He created us in accordance to His purposes. Paul continues with this line of thought by saying, ” Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Adam, as the representative of the Human race, did not sit down with God and go over the blue prints before he was formed. Nor did any of you. We are who we are because God decided who we would be.
Paul goes on with this thought by saying, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” Obviously the Potter is God and the lump is all of humanity. This biblical concept of the Potter and the clay finds it roots back in Isaiah 45:9, which is a very interesting passage. Let me read it to you quickly, “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’”
In the passage of Isaiah God is pronouncing woes against those who question God’s will for Israel. It is a dangerous business to stand in judgment of your Maker. But that is exactly what so many of us do on a regular basis. We read things like Romans 8 or Romans 9 or Ephesians 1 question God’s wisdom. I hope we feel the weight of this rebuke, not only in regards to God’s sovereignty over the salvation of mankind, but in all things we read in Scriputre that leaves a bad taste is our wretched mouths. The wisdom of this world is just a bunch of dumb pots clanging together making a bunch of noise.
The bottom line is found in Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” God can do whatever he wants whenever he wants because He is the Creator of it all.
Make Known the Riches of His Glory
Which leads to verse 22 and 23, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— “
In this section of Scripture we see the doctrine of Reprobation. It is the opposite of the doctrine of election. In election people are destined for glory. In reprobation people are destined for damnation. We see this doctrine in verse 22, “has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.”
This doctrine should not surprise you, for we have already seen it previously in Romans 9 with the mention of Esau and Pharaoh. In verse 22, Paul merely expresses it. This is not the only place we see reprobation expressed directly in Scripture.
On top of the expressed teaching of reprobation, I would argue that everywhere we see God's soverign act of grace, we are implicitly seeing the doctrine of reprobation, in that God selected who would receive grace and therefore did not select others.
As we think about this doctrine of reprobation, we should not forget a few things. First, God is not required to save anyone. We have already studied Romans 3:10-12, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” And Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” We as sinful man, deserve damnation, for we have sin against the most High and Holy God.
Second, God chose to save some people through his Son. This choice to save is not like the choice not to save. The choice to save is an action. The choice not to save is the lack of action. By God allowing people to be vessels of wrath, he is merely allowing what naturally is expected. As I have said before the story that makes the most sense in the Bible is the flood. Because the world deserved judgment. Justice required punishment.
Third, those who are saved, the elect, are saved through the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God. God did not save from afar. God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived in this fallen world, was tempted in every way, yet he did not sin. Then, at Calvary, God poured out his wrath upon his one and only Son. This wrath of God poured out on Christ was the equivalent of Hell, nothing less. Therefore, those who are vessels of wrath, reprobates, share something in common with Christ. Christ took upon himself the wrath of God, and so will they.
To Make Known the Riches of His Glory
However, Paul does not say any of those things in this paragraph. Instead he says in verse 23, “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy,” The word “in order” is a word that points to God's purpose. The reason why the Potter made people who would be destined for Hell is so that the elect would eternally know the infinite sweetness of God's mercy. Without actual wrath, there is no mercy. Hell must exist, for us to feel the significance, the weight, of being rescued from it.
In the plan and the purposes of God, it is not an accident that the last thing we will experience before we begin eternity with Christ is the Great Day of Judgment. Many people wonder why there is a judgment day, for Christians who die are already with the Lord. So why have Christians stand before God in judgment if we already know the outcome? Verse 23, “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy,” God desires to display the riches of his glory that is displayed in his wrath and his mercy.
On the great day of Judgment all those whose names were not written in the Lamb's Book of Life before the foundation of the earth will be cast into the lake of Fire, which is the second death. At that moment, the riches of God's glory will be on full display, for we deserve the lake of Fire, but because of Christ, we will enter into God's presence for all eternity.
We will never forget that moment, and for all eternity we will sing the praises of the Lamb that was slain; not from our heads, but from our grateful hearts.
In closing, I fully acknowledge that there are still unanswered questions. How does this all work? How is God sovereign and we are accountable. How does God remain righteous and without sin, yet prepare some for vessels of wrath. How does this all work?
I don't know completely. God does not tell us all the detains. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, ““The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The details of God's sovereignty in election and reprobation is a secret thing, and it is God's and not ours. And we should not grumble, complain, call God unjust, or unfair. We should rejoice that God has graciously revealed what he has, for he didn't have to, but he did. He is a good father, and we are called to be like children.
Matthew 18:4, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 20, 2018
Let us begin this morning by reciting our May memory verse, Romans 9:15-16, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
This morning we will be unpacking our memory verse, which I hope will assist in internalizing these Words of God. The one thing we must guard against when it comes to memorizing Scripture is that it does not become robotic and therefore vanity. We want to know in a personal and intimate way, the truth and the substance about these verses. Just as Moses said to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 32:47, “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life.”
As I mentioned last week, Romans 9 is a difficult chapter in the Bible. In fact, it might be the most difficult. And the reason it is so difficult is two fold: 1) we are finite and God is infinite and 2) We are sinners. The things in Romans 9 are the deeps things of God and these deep things of God are at times difficult for us to wrap our puny little minds around. As God says in Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We have a tendency to reject what we don’t understand. And this is partially why so many people reject the explicit and obvious truths we find in Romans 9.
Second, as I said, we are sinners. The essence of sin is to fall short of God’s glory. We saw this in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” To be a sinner means to not obtain the glorious realities of God. We also saw this in Romans 1:22,” Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” This sin causes us to miss God’s glory. It causes us to turn away from God’s glory. It causes us to twist God’s glory.
And I would argue this morning that Romans 9 is the pinnacle of God’s glory, and because of sin that still clings to Christians, many of us ignore it, argue with it, or all out reject it. This morning, I hope that all of us would cast off that sin and embrace the marvelous truth found in the depths of Romans 9.
In fact, I want us to think about Romans 9 as if it is the Arkenstone. In JRR Tolkien’s book the Hobbit, there is a place called the Lonely Mountain, and this Mountain was the home of the Dwarf-Kingdom. And the dwarfs loved to mine the depths of this mountain. Day after day, week after week, year after year, the dwarfs would labor endless hours chipping away at the Mountain and then one day they discovered deep inside the Mountain the Arkenstone. The Arkenstone was a beautiful and glorious jewel with no equal. It was considered the very heart of the mountain and it was the dwarves greatest treasure.
Our Lonely Mountain today is Romans 9, and our Arkenstone is the glory of God found in this verses. So let us mine God’s Word this morning and behold God’s glory. Let us stand in honor of the reading of the perfect Word of God.
Now in Romans 9 the questions switches to, what about the Jews? Generally speaking, most of the Jews had rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Yes, some believed, but not a majority. Where they Jews no longer God’s chosen? Have the promises that were given to Israel now void? Has God pulled a bait and switch? Is the OT just a bunch of half-truths that cannot be trusted? Last week, we unpacked these questions in verses 6-13 and we saw the simple answer that not all of Israel are Israel. Meaning salvation is not based on biology, salvation is based on the purpose of God’s election. Therefore the promises to Israel found in the Old Testament were for spiritual Israel, not Physical Israel. God is the one who chooses who will receive his covenant blessings, not man. Salvation is ultimately based upon the will of God, not the will of man.
What Shall We Say?
This then leads us to verse 14, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?” This is a natural response to what Paul has just taught. What injustice is Paul talking about? He is talking about what we commonly call fairness. It is something parents deal with all the time with your children. One child receives something, the other child wants it and when you say no, they respond with “That is not fair!” This is the accusation that is being made against God in verse 14. God's gift of election of one person over another person for salvation causes people to say, “That is not fair!”
To that question of God’s potential injustice, Paul responds emphatically with “By no means.” Other translations of that Greek phrase say, “Not at all”, “May it never be”, and “God forbid”. With this phrase, Paul is emphasizing that accusing God of being unfair, or unjust, is incomprehensible.
I Will Have Mercy on Whom I Have Mercy
However Paul does not just denounce such nonsense, he explains why it is nonsense. And here is when we start digging for the Arkenstone. Look at Verse 15, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Notice how verse 15 begin with the word “for”. This is the foundation, or the why, that holds up God’s justice in determining whom he saves and who he does not save.
As you can tell, verse 15 is a quote from the Old Testament, specifically Exodus 33:19. I want all of us to look at this passage together, so please turn with me to Exodus 33. As you are turning their, let me tell you the context of Exodus 33. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. God commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that Pharaoh let the Jews go out in the wilderness and worship God. Pharaoh refused and God brought ten distinct plagues on the people of Egypt. The last one was to kill the firstborn son of every family, except those who put the blood of a lamb on their door-frame. After that event, Pharaoh released the Jews and Israel for the first time became an independent nation State, with God as their King.
Now the problem is that Israel was as sinful as the Egyptians. They continuously rebelled against their God. We can actually see this in Exodus 33:3 when God tells Moses, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
Now to this statement, Israel and Moses were deeply concerned to the point that Moses said in Exodus 33:15, ““If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” Moses position was that if you don’t come with us, then we will not go; for to be your people is to have you with us. If you are not with us, then we will be no different the rest of the world.
God accepted this argument from Moses and agreed to go with Israel. Now, we must realize that this was always the plan of God, but as he interacts with man, he must engage as if it is a give and take, for the purposes of revealing himself to His people, including us.
Show Me Your Glory
With that background, let us turn our attention to Exodus 33:18, “Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” Remember the presence of God is the issue at hand, and Moses, in response to this discussion says, I want to see you. I want to see your presence, I want to see your glory, the weight of who you are. Moses did not realize how dangerous of a request this is, for God says that you can’t see my face and live. Why? Because that is how Holy God is and how sinful man is, Moses included.
Having said that, God is still willing to entertain Moses’s request to see God’s glory, so what does God do? Verse 19, “And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”
So God in responding to Moses request to see his glory, says I will have all my goodness pass before you. Therefore God’s glory is God’s goodness. Having said this, while his goodness is passing, Moses is not allowed to see it, so instead of seeing it, God is going to speak it. First he is going to proclaim His name and second he proclaims “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” So God’s glory is wrapped up in his name, and having mercy upon whom he chooses.
I Am Who I Am
So let’s start with his name. What is God’s name? Here it is translated to “the Lord” In the ESV it is all caps, which means that it is the word Yah-weh. This name of the Lord Yah-Weh originates in Exodus 3 when God speaks to Moses at the Burning bush. Exodus 3:13 says, “Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”
This name of God, this summary of God, ““I AM WHO I AM” is a statement of God’s Sovereignty. It is a statement that describes God as ultimately free. There is no power or force or being or purpose that is higher than God. He is self-determining. In fact, God is the only being that exists that is self-determining. All other creation is who it is because of an external power.
And when God is going to display his glory to Moses, he is going to declare his Sovereign name as he passes by Moses. Therefore, God's sovereignty is one fundamental component to seeing God's glory.
Mercy Upon Whom I Have Mercy
But that is not all that God is going to proclaim. In addition to his name, he is going to declare, “And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” What does God mean by this statement?
This statement is in the context of God's decision of not consuming, or destroying the people of Israel. God is declaring that if he wants to show mercy upon Israel he will do so. On what basis? On no basis other than his Sovereign will. God's grace and God's mercy towards the stiff necked people of Israel is not dependent upon Israel in any way shape or form. His grace is sovereign grace. It is given freely to whomever God chooses to give it. And this is what God is declaring as he passes by Moses. This is God's answer to Moses' request to see God's glory.
Which means that the glory of God, is best displayed and seen in a Sovereign God freely giving sovereign grace towards towards wretched sinners whom he chooses solely based upon His independent Sovereign will. This is the core of God's glory, the pinnacle of God's glory is his ultimately free decision to save sinners from his righteous wrath. Romans 9:16, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. “
This reality, this truth, that God's glory is best displayed by his sovereign grace is like a key that unlocks the answers to the deepest questions. Remember that God created for one purpose and one purpose only, to display his glory. How is his glory best displayed? By applying his sovereign grace to sinners. So why did God allow the fall of man? Why did he allow sin to come into the world and make a mess out of everything? So that he could display his glorious grace through the salvation of his elect through his Son. Without sin, there is no wrath. Without wrath there is no need for mercy. Without mercy we cannot behold God's glory.
The ultimate purpose of your salvation is not to bring you eternal happiness. The ultimate purpose of your salvation is to display the glory of God through the abundance of mercy that was freely given to you by a Sovereign God. So is this decision of God to create a Universe whereby his Glory can best be displayed an injustice? IS it unfair? God forbid! Without the truth in Roman's 9 we would never gaze upon the Arkenstone of God. We would never see His glory. And I do not want to live in a Universe void of God's glory.
God Hardens Who He Wills
However that is not the only way God displays glory. There is another necessary side of God's sovereignty. Verse 18 says, “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” Therefore, not only does God choose whom will receive his mercy, he also chooses whom he will harden. What does this mean to harden a person?
In our text Paul gives us an example of Pharaoh. The story involving Pharaoh is also found in the book of Exodus. In the Exodus story of Moses going to Pharaoh to demand that he lets God's people go, three times God declares that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 14:4); Six times God actually hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 9:12; 10:1; 10:20; 10:27; 11:10; 14:8); Seven times the hardening of Pharaoh's heart by God is implied. (Ex. 7:13; 7:14; 7:22; 8:19; 9:7; 9:35; 14:5).
Why would God do this? Why would God harden Pharaoh's heart? What is God's purpose? God's purpose is always the same, for his glory. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart for his glory. Look at Verse 17 in Romans 9, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” The hardening was to show, or display, God's power.
We know how the story of Pharaoh ends. His kingdom, Egypt, was utterly decimated, destroyed in almost every way possible: Water into blood, frogs, gnats, flies, death of livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, the death of every firstborn, the plundering of their wealth, and the army of Egypt completely annihilated by the rushing of the Red Sea. Pharaoh himself being one of the thousands who was crushed by the weight of the water.
God's glory was displayed through his powerful acts of judgment directed at Pharaoh and at Egypt. This glory was so great that 40 years later when Israel finally crossed the Jordan River to invade Jericho, the prostitute Rahab said in Joshua 2:9, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt,” It was the glory of God on display through his wrath that swept across the world.
Therefore the glory of God is displayed through his powerful judgment upon sinners and his sovereign grace. If you want to behold the glory of God you must gaze upon his sovereign wrath and his sovereign mercy. If you refuse to accept these doctrines than you are turning from seeing the one true God in all his splendor. IN fact, if you refuse to accept these fundamental attributes of God you have created a false God, and idol, and you should repent and worship the one true God is all of his glory.
It is not an accident that Satan attempts to undermine these doctrines within the Church. It si not an accident that Romans 9 has become the Church's Lonely Mountain. The great Dragon of Satan is guarding the treasure that can be found inside. Satan hates God's glory. He wants anyone but God to receive the praise that is due his name. This is why the Church is full of people who refuse to accept a God who hardens for the purpose of destroying and refuse to accept that it is God who elects who shall receive his grace. Verse 16, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. “ Praise be to God!
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 13, 2018
Let us begin this morning by reciting our May memory verse, Romans 9:15-16, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
In your bulletin, there should be an updated list of all of our memory verses. As I have stated before, put this on your fridge or your bulletin board and review it with your family. A Christian home should be a home that is saturated with the Word of God. As it says in Deuteronomy 6, You should have these words on your heart, you should teach them diligently to your children, you should talk about them when you sit down, when you walk along the way, when you lie down and when you rise. The Word of God is not to be reserved for Sunday morning; it is to be your compass for every step you take in every moment of your life.
Last week, Jeff began us down a journey through a very controversial path that is found in Romans 9. And this controversial path is directly related to what Paul said in Romans 8. In Romans 8:33 Paul says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
As we have already discussed the word elect means to choose. And as we saw in Romans 8 the person doing the choosing is God. And how do we know whom God has chosen? According to Paul, the answers lies in Jesus Christ. Those who repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ are the ones that God has chosen. They are the ones whom God foreknew, predestined, called and justified.
However, this word election or chosen is an explosive word, not only for us today, but also for the Jews during Paul’s day and also in this day. And this is because in the Old Testament, those who are considered chosen by God are those who are descendants of Abraham, those who are Jewish. Listen to a few Old Testament verses that speak to this:
So what is at stake in this dilemma? What is at stake is the Word of God. The Bible is being called into question because of this tension. For if the Bible is truly the word of God, then it must be inerrant and infallible. It cannot have errors, or inconsistencies, or conflicts, or paradoxes. The Bible must be cohesive and consistent and trustworthy if it is to truly be the Word of God. Why? Because God is cohesive and consistent and trustworthy.
And what are the implications for us? If we can’t trust the Bible, then we can’t trust that we are saved. If we can’t trust the Bible, then all of the beautiful realities and assurances of Romans 8 become meaningless and powerless in our lives. If the Bible fails, everything fails. So this is a substantially important chapter. So with that said, let us stand in honor of God’s Word as we read Romans 9:6-13,
Not All Israel is Israel
So right out of the gate we can see Paul address the issue. Verse 6, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed.” Once again what Paul is saying is the general unbelief of the Jews regarding Jesus is not evidence that the Bible is not true. And why is this? Paul tells us in the second half of verse 6, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” Remember, when reading the Bible conjunctions like “for” are fundamentally important. The word “For” is just another way to say because. The word of God has failed because not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.
So what does Paul mean when he says “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” In this sentence we see two trains that can easily pass each other in the night. The trains are both named Israel, but they are not the same Israel. One Israel is the Israel from the human perspective. The other Israel is the Israel from God’s perspective. If you recall from last month’s study on Romans 8 we discussed that Romans 8:29 was from God's perspective: those he foreknew he predestine, called, justified, and glorified.
Now just to make it easier, we call Israel from the human perspective, Physical Israel, and we will call the Israel from God’s perspective as Spiritual Israel.
So let us look at Physical Israel. As we can see in verse 7, Physical Israel had their beginning in Abraham. Most of us know the story or Abraham. In fact, we unpacked Abraham in Romans 4. The story of Abraham begins in Genesis 12 with his calling.
Now if you recall, when God called Abraham and told him that he was going to have offspring and they would become a great nation, Abraham was not a Spring chicken. Abraham was 75 years old. So in the mind of Abraham and his wife Sarah, who was 65, time was of the essence. But in classic God fashion, he did not get into a rush. He waited. Months, years, a decade passed with no children, and Abraham and Sara decided to take matters into their own hands and they purposed a plan that Abraham would conceive a child with Sarah’s servant whose name was Hagar.
We see this in our text for this morning Romans 9:8, “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.“ Isaac was of the promise and Ishmael was of the flesh.
Jacob I Loved and Esau I Hated
Paul then moves into his second argument to prove that man's Israel is not God's Israel. And in doing so he moves to the next generation after Abraham. He draws our attention to the children of Isaac. Look at verse 10, “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,”
This story is found in Genesis 25. Isaac, the son of Abraham, married Rebekah. They also had some difficulty becoming pregnant, but in God's timing they conceived. But there conception was slightly different, in that Rebekah was pregnant with twins. And her pregnancy with twins was not an easy one.
Fortunately, Rebekah didn't have to write this diagnosis in her baby book for God wrote it down in His book. Why? So that we would know what God had a predetermined plan, and the plan was that the second child that came out of the womb would be the ruler over the first born. This was already determined by God.
Now what is important to realize about this plan of God's is is that it was counter cultural. It was not according to the tradition of man. It was traditional that the first born son would become the patriarch of the family and that all other siblings would take second chair to him. But according to God's plan, this was not going to be the case for the twins of Isaac. And as we know these twins were Jacob and Esau.
And once again, we know how the story goes. Jacob later had his name changed to Israel in Genesis 32 and he became the father of twelve sons who later became the twelve tribes who became the nation of Israel. Esau, on the other hand, was not a part of the twelve tribes, instead he married two Canaanite women and lived outside the promise land and became the father of the nation of Edom. And eventually, during the reign of King David, Israel ruled, and Edom served them. And all of this was predetermined by God before either one of them was born.
And Paul emphasizes this in Romans 9 by quoting Malachi 1:2 by saying, “As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” By this God is saying that he loved Jacob by choosing to set his covenant mercy upon him, and he hated Esau by choosing not to set his covenant mercy upon him.
Once again, remember that both of these men are descendants of Abraham. Abraham is their grandfather, but God did not choose them both. He chose Jacob, and He did not choose Esau. And his choice of Jacob was not according to the traditions of men, but based upon God's sovereign will. And not only that, this choice was not based upon anything that Jacob or Esau did in their life. This choice was made before they were born. Paul emphasizes this in verse 11, “ not because of works but because of him who calls.” God did not look forward into their life and see what would happen and then act accordingly. God's choice is not based upon their works, but only upon God's prerogative alone.
God's Purpose of Election Might Continue
But let us ask why? Why does God reject Ishmael and choose Isaac? Why does God reject Esau and choose Jacob? Paul tells us once again in verse 11, “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue.” What does this mean? It means that God, wants to make it abundantly clear to his covenant people, that he is the one who determines who receives the gift of his mercy. He desires His people to know that God is the one who is ultimately in control of who is brought into covenant relationship with him. God wants to know that he does not submit to the works of man. The covenant is not held by the hands of Abraham. Nor is it held in the hands of Isaac. The covenant is held by the hands of God himself. Therefore, God gets all the glory and praise for choosing who is and who is not Spiritual Israel.
And we must not forget where we started this morning in Romans 9. What was the purpose of Paul bringing up the election of Abraham over Ishmael and Jacob of Esau. The purpose was to demonstrate that not all Israel is Israel. And why is that important to understand? Because many Jews were claiming that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because a majority of Jews had rejected Jesus. But Paul is saying that not all Israel is true Israel. Only those who repent and put their faith in Jesus are true Israel. And who determines who is true Israel? God. God is the one who chooses who believes in Jesus and who does not. He is the one who predetermines who will be called and who will not be. He is the one who gets all the credit for our salvation. Therefore, he gets all the glory.
Salvation is ultimately about the purpose of God's election moving forward from generation to generation. God, who is unchanging, has been operating the same way since the beginning of time. He does not submit to the actions, purposes, traditions, and choice of man. God is sovereign in his dispensation of his grace. If you are saved today, and covered with the covenant blood of Jesus Christ, it is entirely based upon God's sovereign purpose of his election.
You cannot take credit for your salvation, it is God alone from beginning to end, which leads us to do one and only on thing, praise God for his glorious grace.
Preached by Pastor Jeff Owen at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 6, 2018
Today we begin another new chapter in Romans. Romans chapter 9. It is the half way point in the chapters. We have 8 more chapters to go and I know Pastor Phil would like to complete the book of Romans before he leaves in January, God willing. We started the book of Romans in September of last year, about 9 months ago. That is a little more than 1 month per chapter, subtracting out Christmas and Easter sermons. If you do the math, and I have, we have 8 months left in the year, so it is possible to finish Romans this year, again God willing.
I preach about once every couple of months. My last sermon was on April 29th and it was on Romans 8:1-4. It actually took us 2 months to work our way through the great chapter 8 - and we could have spent much longer mining the depths and heights of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. When I preached on Romans 8 and gave a brief overview of the chapter, I said if I could sum up Romans 8 in one word, I would use the word assurance.
That assurance started in Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
We (those who are in Christ Jesus) have the assurance that the sentence we deserve has been paid, not because of anything we do, but because of what Jesus did on the cross.
Last week we ended chapter 8 with another wonderful assurance. Romans 8:36-37 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul states with certainty that this assurance is an eternal security - that nothing in creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing means nothing. It can’t be lost and found, because it is a gift of grace, received by faith in Jesus. It is not dependent on what we do, but what God has done, praise God!
Now let us stand in honor of God’s word today, please turn to our text.
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
As we begin chapter 9 you may be wondering what happened to Paul since the end of chapter 8, where he left us on such a high note. We must remember that Paul’s letter to the Romans is one letter, to believers in Rome, both Jewish and Gentile believers. It was meant to be read in its entirety. For our edification, we take it in bite sized chunks to search the depths of God’s word.
Many theologians struggle with why the drastic shift from the end of chapter 8. To chapter 9, where Paul seems to take such a drastic turn. In most of Paul’s letters, he usually goes from theology at the beginning to application at the end. Paul will eventually come to application after he finishes chapters 9-11. What is the reason for chapters 9-11?
It might be helpful here to have some historical context and be reminded of things Paul has been dealing with in the context of this letter to the church in Rome.
Paul probably wrote this letter to the Romans about 57 AD while in Corinth. Roman Emperor Claudius reigned just prior to that from 41-54 AD and he had expelled the Jews from Rome about 49 AD. One historian seems to indicate the issue was over Christus, which is Latin for Christ. It seems that the struggle with Jews over Christ had already reached Rome. This is recorded in Acts 18:2 speaking of Aquilla and Priscilla, they had left Rome because Claudius commanded all Jews to leave Rome.
Now this shouldn’t be a surprise that Jews were getting upset and possibly even violent when the Gospel was proclaimed. We see this throughout the book of Acts almost everywhere Paul went and preached in Jewish synagogues throughout Gentile lands. Before Paul wrote this letter probably while in Corinth, The book of Acts tells us Paul had run into resistance from Jews in Damascus, Jerusalem, Paphos, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Thessalonica, in Berea by the those from Thessalonica again, before he came to Corinth where again he met resistance from the Jews.
In 57 AD when Paul is writing this letter, Roman Emperor, Claudius has now been gone for about three years and it is likely that Jews have been returning to Rome. Some of those returning Jews are Christians and have returned to a Gentile church and it may be causing issues within the church. Not to mention the Jews who are not Christian, who many of which are going to still be hostile towards the church in Rome.
With this background, we can see why Paul was eager to come to Rome. Paul says in Romans 1:12-13 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine and in Romans 1:16 I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul has come up against every argument that the Christians in Rome will hear from the Jews and it has not been easy. He tells us what he endured to share the Gospel in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
No one knows better than Paul, the kind of hardships that the church in Rome will face for the proclamation of the Gospel. We can also see why Paul has gone to great lengths to use language that includes the words Jew and Greek so frequently as he breaks down the Gospel in the first 8 chapters of this letter beginning in Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Then when Paul turns to God’s judgement and wrath in Romans chapter 2, he emphasizes again it is for both Jew and Greek.
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
But Paul makes clear, that for those whose works show their faith in Jesus is real Romans 2:10 says
10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
He then gives them the reason for this in Romans 2:11 For God shows no partiality.
Jews and Greeks in Rome need to know that God shows no partiality between Jew and Greek, in judgement and salvation.
In chapter 3 Paul has dealt with sin and made clear that no one is righteous, and all have sinned. He even asks and answers the question, regarding sin and the Jews specifically in Romans 3:9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
You would think Paul has not left any room for the Jews to argue these points, but Paul knows human nature is sinful - and Jews who have grown to love their heritage and traditions will continue to argue with many questions. Here in chapter 9 Paul will pose and any answer many of those questions for the church. Questions Paul has probably heard many times in his travels.
I think you will find throughout chapter 9 that these are very straightforward, obvious questions that both Jews and Gentiles might have when confronted with the Gospel. The answers are not complicated, but they may be some of the hardest answers for Jews and even Gentiles to accept.
If this assurance of salvation by faith in Jesus in chapter 8, is so secure that nothing can separate us from the love of God, what about God’s love for his people the Jews?
If the Jews were God’s chosen people, why have some many rejected Jesus?
Is God fair? Or is there injustice on God’s part?
Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?
These are all questions that will be posed and answered in chapter 9, questions that we all need to be prepared to answer. I encourage you to not miss out on equipping yourself as we move through chapter 9. But before we get to those questions, Paul gives us some insight to his heart. You see there were probably many people, both Jew and Greek who had questions about Paul. Remember these people, for the most part did, had only heard of Paul and did not know him personally.
Many of the devout Jews coming back to Rome would know of Paul and his former life as a devout Jew himself, and of his former zeal against Christians, and now they have heard his current testimony as a believer in Christ Jesus, that he is not ashamed of. One question that might come to mind, after hearing stories of Paul would be; if the Spirit of God resides in Paul, how does Paul feel about his family, the Jews, brothers and kinsmen according to the flesh?
As Paul has gone about preaching the Gospel, not only has the message been rejected by many Jews, so has the messenger. Paul himself, has been rejected by most of the Jews - beaten and stoned by his own people, his family.
Paul wants his audience in Rome to know, that through all the trials and tribulations with his family, the Jews, he still loves his Jewish family. Here we get a window into the heart of the Apostle Paul. In verse 1 we see an emphatic plea spoken in truth about Paul’s heart towards his family.
Verses 1-2 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. Here Paul says what amounts to an oath regarding what is in his heart towards the Jews. Here he speaks the truth in Christ - and calls on Paul’s own conscience and the Holy Spirit as witnesses to the fact that he is not lying.
This wording draws us back to what Paul said in Romans 8:27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And Romans 8:5-6 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Paul is always building his argument for the Gospel and he doesn’t miss the opportunity to remind them of what he has just taught them and apply to his own heart and mind.
Paul’s love goes deep for his brothers and kinsmen, but the wording of verse 3 is critical to our understanding of what Paul is saying here. Romans 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Paul knows he can’t save his family, that is why the wording says: For I could wish is important. Only belief in Jesus can save Paul’s brothers and kinsmen, but Paul stills wants his audience to truly know how much his heart aches for his Jewish family.
Paul has made clear back in chapter 3 of Romans that Christ Jesus is the propitiation, by his blood, to be received by faith. In other words, Christ Jesus, is the only payment that satisfies God’s eternal wrath and is received by faith.
Moses had a similar request of God when the people had built the golden calf and God said he would consume them, Moses replied in Exodus 32:31 “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” Moses interceded for the people and was a foreshadow of the eternal salvation to come through faith in Jesus.
Every believer here today, has unbelieving family members. The closer those unbelieving family members are to you the more you can relate to Paul and Moses’ sorrow and anguish. Perhaps you have even wished yourselves accursed or cutoff from Christ for your own unbelieving family. I have actually spoken something similar, not because I thought I could save family, but because the sorrow and anguish is so great sometimes.
In verse 4 Paul begins to address his family differently from how he had previously in Romans - instead of Jews he starts verse 4 with - they are Israelites. What does it mean that Paul now switches from the word Jews to Israelites?
The name Jew was a more recent term applied to those from the southern kingdom of Judea that was primary made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, whereas previously they were called Israelites; referencing those who were descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel. Before they became a nation, Abraham and his family from Ur were called Hebrews, which Paul also referred to himself when wanting to emphasize his heritage even further back.
But here Paul switches from Jews to Israelites - to highlight the blessings that God has bestowed on his chosen people - Israel. Which makes it all the harder for Paul to see so many of God’s chosen people reject the Gospel.
In verses 4-5 Paul begins to give the reasons why this sorrow and anguish is especially difficult, pointing to all the blessing that Israel had been given. In the Old Testament, no other people had the living God bless them like Israel.
He starts with the adoption. When commanding Moses to go to Egypt and speak to Pharaoh, God calls Israel his first-born son. In Exodus 4:22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son. No other people in the Old Testament had been called sons by God, but the Israelites.
Next Paul says the glory. The Israelites had witnessed the glory of the Lord lead them out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They had witnessed God’s glory in victory over Pharaoh’s army. God’s glory was present in the tent of meeting in Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Later the glory of the Lord filled the temple in Jerusalem in 2 Chronicles 5:14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God. No other people in the Old Testament had witnessed God’s glory like the Israelites.
Next Paul says the covenants. In the Old Testament, people understood covenants between two parties, they would happen all the time. But no other people in the Old Testament covenanted with God - only the Israelites did. From the unconditional covenant God made with Abraham and then affirmed with Isaac and Jacob - to the conditional covenant with Moses on Mt. Sinai - to the unconditional covenant with David. The Israelites were a covenant people with God.
Next Paul says the giving of the law. While the Gentiles, who did not have the law, by nature do what the law requires - as Paul has covered in Romans chapter 3. Without the written law, even Gentiles, created in God’s image, understand that it is wrong to do things like murder, stealing and lying. But the Israelites, who were given the written law from the finger of God, how much more have they been given instruction by God?
Next Paul says the worship. God had given his people exact instructions on how he was to be worshiped while all other nations were worshiping images made with human hands by human invented practices of false worship to false idols.
Next Paul says the promises. Each of the covenants came with promises made by God to his people. Some were conditional like the Mosaic Covenant. Deut. 11:26-28 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known. But the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants were unconditional promises that God made to his people and God himself promised to fulfill. No other people received such promises as these.
Finally, Paul says in verse 5, to them belong the patriarchs – their heritage. Every Israelite did not just claim to know God. They spoke of God, as the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They took great pride in their heritage and their tribe of the people of Israel. They knew that the Messiah would come from their people, according to the flesh.
With all these things in Paul’s mind, he can not help but have great sorrow and anguish in his heart for his people. Paul knows personally how much Israel has been blessed. No people had been so blessed as the Jews.
Jesus tells the Jews in John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
Paul tells the church in Corinth in 2 Cor. 1:20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
Every blessing that the Israelites had been given in the scriptures, the law and the prophets, had pointed to the greatest blessing - Jesus, the Messiah. To cap his sorrow and anguish he ends verse 5 with – the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. The Jews, Paul’s family, for the most part had rejected their Messiah, who was a Jew according to the flesh, and he was God himself, Emmanuel - God with us.
What do we take away from this message? We live in a world and place where we still receive blessings from God every day. For those, who believe in who Jesus is - truly man and truly God; and what Jesus has done - that he lived the perfect life and became the only sacrifice that could pay satisfy God’s wrath; and that Jesus rose from the grave and is seated at the right hand of the father - those who believe have the blessing of assurance of our salvation that Paul spoke of in chapter 8.
For those who believe, it should cause our hearts to have great sorrow and unceasing anguish for the lost, not only for family but also for friends, neighbors and strangers. This love for the lost doesn’t come from our relationship to them, but from our love of Jesus and our desire to be obedient to our king.
There are many around us, in our families, communities and workplaces that claim Christ, but do not see his death as the sufficient payment for their sin and rebellion, they want to add their own works to the equation. There are those who say there is no God, but we know they are suppressing the truth that is obvious to all. There are those who claim to know God but never speak of Jesus.
Does your heart break for those people? Paul’s heart was breaking for his people because of the Spirit of God - of Jesus Christ, that was in him -breaking for the lost and commanding him to go and testify about Jesus to them.
But Jesus doesn’t promise that it will be easy, in fact, he says in John 10:34-39 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
We, like Paul and like Jesus, will run into family and others who love their heritage and traditions and will continue to argue with many questions. But we can equip ourselves with God’s complete, inerrant word - that is the power of God for salvation.
Love your lost family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers enough to tell them the good news, the Gospel. For we, who believe - like Paul – should not to be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Jesus tells us why he came in Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”