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.”