Archive for August, 2019

Romans 10:14-17

In Romans 10:14-17 Paul addresses some of the questions around this gift of grace. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?” Those of us who know Jesus are to be messengers of that truth. We need to share our story and make everyone in our patch aware of the gift of salvation Jesus offers to all. “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” If not you, then who? If not now, then when? We need to take up the effort to share the greatest gift we have as Christ followers – the answer to world’s sin problem that will lead to eternal death and separation from God. We have the cure and need to share it.

God could have chosen any means for the message of salvation to come, such as angelic messengers or directly working without a human preacher. Nevertheless God’s “normal” way of bringing people to Jesus Christ is through the preaching of the gospel. “And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” We need to be sending people to share the gospel, not only on the other side of the globe, but right down the street. “ As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  It is God’s way to sharing the truth – through those appointed and anointed to carry His Word.

Paul answers a tough question. If salvation is so simple, available to all who trust in the person and work of Jesus, then why does Israel seem to be cast off from God? Because many among them had not believed his report – because they did not trust in God’s word through Isaiah and other messengers of the gospel. Therefore they are not saved. “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” Those chosen by God still have the same sin problem to deal with. They didn’t keep the law and thus need a Savior, but they have refused to believe in Christ.

The formula is quite simple. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Though Israel heard, they did not exercise saving faith in Christ – making them (and us) all the more responsible. Remember that in the first century Paul’s audience only really had hearing as the means to learn about and know Jesus. There were few written items, and certainly no media or Internet to spread the word. While there were people who could read, the ordinary first-century citizen depended rather on being able to hear something. We have far less excuse for not clearly knowing Jesus. There is opportunity to learn about and know Him everywhere we turn, if we only open our eyes, ears and heart to meet Him.

Romans 10:10-13

In Romans 10:10-13 Paul builds on the fact that mere intellectual agreement with the facts of the cross and the resurrection is not enough. You must believe in your heart; and even that belief is not enough without accompanying action: confess with your mouth. “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Faith happens in the heart. It’s not a head thing, it’s a heart thing. These two together (belief and confession) result in righteousness and salvation. While it seems to simple to be true, that’s exactly what is required. But it has to be real faith and true confession, not merely going through the motions.

Paul continues to call out the personal responsibility that is part of the salvation experience. “For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Note the emphasis on human responsibility. From Romans 9 alone we might think that salvation is God’s doing alone, but from Romans 10 we might think that salvation is man’s doing alone – together we see the matter from each perspective. God did what was required to pay the price for sin on the cross and prepared a perfect gift of grace for us. But we must receive and believe and confess that gift and make it our own.

As humans, we often want to make claim to salvation by some other means. Heritage, parents, siblings, or any other number of other things we claim make us special and worthy of God’s salvation. But God offered the same grace to one and all. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”  It doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from, of what we do or know. There is only one Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ – and his grace is sufficient for one and all. He alone is the way to salvation. We can gain it in no other way.

And offer it freely He does. To everyone, no matter the situation or status, Jesus saves. “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” We need to make it our own. We have to call on His name and lay claim to the gift of grace – the salvation He earned for us on the Cross. Sometimes we are tempted to lay claim to Jesus’ salvation for a subset of the human population. Some are guilty of sin that means they aren’t eligible for grace and salvation – that’s what we want to believe. But God offers it to all equally with the same requirements – we have to receive the gift, believe in Christ as Savior, and confess that through calling on Him as Lord. Everyone can freely receive it, no matter the past.

Romans 10:5-9

Paul continues in Romans 10:5-9 to clarify the difference between the law and faith in Christ. “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.” Spurgeon had this to say: “Christ did not come to make the law milder, or to render it possible for our cracked and battered obedience to be accepted as a sort of compromise. The law is not compelled to lower its terms, as though it had originally asked too much; it is holy and just and good, and ought not to be altered in one jot or tittle, nor can it be. Our Lord gives the law all it requires, not a part, for that would be an admission that it might justly have been content with less at first.”

The Law of Moses makes the path to righteousness through the law plain. If you want to live by the law (find life through the law), you must do the law – and do it completely and perfectly. We can’t, so the only way it can work is if we can somehow get it changed. That won’t happen. “But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”  Salvation is based on Jesus, and we don’t have to “work” to get Jesus. It is not as if we have to ascend into heaven or descend into the abyss to gain Jesus. We merely must believe and receive.

Instead of having to go to great lengths to achieve righteousness by the law, we can immediately receive righteousness by faith, by trusting in the word of the gospel. “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);” It is really that simple. We have the offer of grace directly from God, extended to us without strings or works. We merely need to reach out in faith and receive that gift of grace and make it our own. It’s not something we have to earn or meet some stringent set of requirements to achieve. We just have to receive what He has given freely.

And what we do to receive God’s gift of grace – salvation through Jesus Christ – doesn’t need to be elegant or long or religious. “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” It merely needs to be true in our heart and expressed with our lips – that Jesus Christ is Lord. We do not gain God’s righteousness by works. Instead, we gain it by confessing and believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Confession is the idea of agreeing with what God said about Jesus, and with what Jesus said about Himself. It means we recognize that Jesus is God, that He is the Messiah, and that His work on the cross is the only way of salvation for mankind.

Romans 10:1-4

In Romans 10:1-4 Paul shares his heart about how he wants everyone to be saved. But he knows that isn’t the current situation, as many in that day had not received Christ as Savior. His heart compels him to pray. “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Paul does not rejoice that they have stumbled at that stumbling stone – faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s heart’s desire translated into concrete action: prayer to God for Israel. Paul didn’t just “care,” he prayed. Too often we have intention to pray, but don’t really do it. Paul, like Moses, wants to stand in the gap and pull God’s people across the line.

Paul recognizes that Israel has a zeal for God but he also sees that it is zeal not according to knowledge. “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” This is where so many religious people – even sincere Christians – go astray. They have plenty of zeal but little knowledge. This is a perfect description of Paul himself before his conversion. Saul of Tarsus was a notorious persecutor of Christians before Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus. Paul knew the law, but he didn’t know the Savior and the foundation of the law. He didn’t know what mattered.

Israel has a lack of knowledge and is ignorant of God’s righteousness. They think they know, but have no clue. They think they can earn righteousness but will fall far short. “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” Israel also had a moral problem: they have not submitted to the righteousness of God. People cannot come to Jesus without the right information about the gospel, but information alone is not enough to save anyone. There must be a radical submission to the righteousness of God, putting away our own righteousness. We have to take personal responsibility to submit and follow Jesus.

Guzik writes “Jesus is the end of the law for those who believe. The law ends for the believer in the sense that our obedience to the law is no longer the basis for our relationship with God. The law has not come to an end in the sense of no longer reflecting God’s standard or no longer showing us our need for a Savior.”For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”. Here is the problem with the law. If you want to live by the law (find life through the law), you must do the law – and do it completely and perfectly. We can’t and thus need Jesus. It’s that simple!

Romans 9:30-33

In Romans 9:30-33 Paul reminds us that by all appearances the Gentiles found righteousness even though it did not seem that they really looked for it. God reveals Himself to us and we can find Him merely through living in His creation. It’s not that we need some special anointing to find God. We merely need to be open as He shows us Himself. “What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.”

By all appearances Israel seemed to work for the righteousness of God with everything it had, but did not find it. Guzik explains “What was the difference? Why did the unlikely Gentiles find righteousness, when the likely Jews did not? Because the Gentiles pursued the righteousness of faith, and the Jews pursued the law of righteousness. The Gentiles who were saved came to God through faith, receiving His righteousness. The Jews who seem to be cast off from God tried to justify themselves before God by performing works according to the law of righteousness.” We find God when we pursue Him with faith.

We might expect Paul to answer the question “Why?” again from God’s perspective, and simply throw the matter back on God’s sovereign choice. Instead, he places the responsibility with Israel: Because they did not seek it by faith…they stumbled at that stumbling stone. “Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.” The reality is  that the only possible way to be saved is through faith, not the works of the law; and that salvation comes only through the work of a crucified Savior – which was a stumbling block to Israel. He was their own, but they did not believe in Him.

Paul shows that Israel is responsible for their present condition. “They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Has he contradicted everything he has previously said, which emphasized God’s sovereign plan? Of course not, he simply presents the problem from the other side of the coin – the side of human responsibility, instead of the side of God’s sovereign choice. God has made the offer of a free gift of grace through Christ. But we have to accept it through faith to make it our own!

Romans 9:22-29

In Romans 9:22-29 Paul poses some tough questions for us to ponder. If God chooses to glorify Himself through letting people go their own way and letting them righteously receive His wrath so as to make His power known, who can oppose Him? “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, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” Paul does not say that God has prepared them for destruction. Those vessels do an adequate job on their own.

Paul returns to his history lesson as he describes God’s ultimate ability to do as He wishes. God told the prophet Hosea to name one of his children Lo-Ammi, meaning “Not My People.” Yet God also promised that this judgment would not last forever. One day Israel will be restored and once again be called sons of the living God. “As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'” God will call His people back someday. “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.‘”

And then Paul moves on to Isaiah who speaks first to God’s work in saving a remnant from the coming Assyrian destruction. The suffering of God’s people at the hands of the Assyrians and others would make them feel as if they would certainly be destroyed. God assures them that this is not the case. He will always preserve His remnant. “And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” God again shows His faithfulness.

Paul continues and describes how  Sodom and Gomorrah were completely destroyed in judgment. This quotation from Isaiah shows that as bad as Judah’s state was because of their sin, it could have been worse. It was only by the mercy of God that they survived at all. Sodom and Gomorrah were both totally destroyed, with not even a very small remnant to carry on. Even in the midst of judgment, God showed His mercy to Judah. “And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” God is faithful, that’s the message Paul continues to drive home as he gives us lesson and lesson from history.

Romans 9:15-21

In Romans 9:15-21 Paul continues his history lesson. He reminds the people of God’s words to Moses: “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” God doesn’t have to explain Himself to us. He is fully able to make choices and decisions as He wishes without explanation to any man. We must remember what mercy is. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve. God is never less than fair with anyone, but fully reserves the right to be more than fair with individuals as He chooses. Grace is one way God shows that compassion as He gives us what we don’t deserve without regard to who we are or what we have done.

The bottom line is the world happens as God desires without need for anything from mankind. God doesn’t need our opinions, or help, to keep the world going round and round. He alone is in control and does as He wishes. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” God’s mercy is not given to us because of what we wish to do, or because of what we actually do, but simply out of His desire to show mercy. We serve a gracious and loving God who chooses to show mercy and provide a path to becoming righteous through grace that He offered us through Christ.

Paul continues by reminding us of how God used Pharaoh in Egypt to proclaim His name. “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “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.” God allowed Pharaoh in the days of Moses to rise to power so that God could show the strength of His judgment against Pharaoh, and thereby glorify Himself. “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”  Sometimes God will glorify Himself through showing mercy; sometimes God will glorify Himself through a man’s hardness. God is in control and determines that on His own.

Paul imagines someone asking, “If it is all a matter of God’s choice, then how can God find fault with me? How can anyone go against God’s choice?” “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” God is God and doesn’t have to answer to or even make sense to what we think. “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?” God’s God. We’re not. We need to remember that. “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?” God as Creator has the ultimate right to determine what happens in life and His world.

Romans 9:8-14

In Romans 9:8-14 Paul reminds the people of their history. God has been faithful to Israel – not some of the time – but all of the time. He provided a lineage that was blessed by God. “For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” This seemed to be an impossible feat – after all Abraham and Sarah were both well beyond the age to bear a child. But God spoke, and what He said happened just like it has throughout history. That’s the message here – God is faithful in all ways for always.

Paul continues to educate and remind us of history. “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad–in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls–she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Paul points out that God’s choice was not based on the performance of Jacob or Esau. The choice was made before they were born. God is God and can decide what He wants. This wasn’t based on what they did, but who He is.

So we do not think that God chose Jacob over Esau because He knew their works in advance, Paul points out that it was not of works. Instead, the reason for choosing was found in Him who calls. “As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” It sounds harsh, but how we connect with God is binary. We are either with Him, or against Him. There is no middle ground. We should regard the love and the hate as regarding His purpose in choosing one to become the heir of the covenant of Abraham. In that regard, God’s preference could rightly be regarded as a display of love towards Jacob and hate towards Esau.

Does that mean God is not just? “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” Paul is clear that God is always just, and it is the choices we make as people that cause us to be at odds with Him. Sin gets in the way of relationship with Him. Our greatest error in considering the choices of God is to think that God chooses for arbitrary reasons, as if He chooses in an “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” way. We may not be able to understand God’s reasons for choosing as He does, and they are reasons He alone knows and answers to, but God’s choices are not random or accidental. He has a plan and a reason for everything that happens in His Creation.

Romans 9:4-7

In Romans 9:4-7 Paul reminds us of all that the Israelites have as part of their heritage, and it is an amazing list of attributes. “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” This is an amazing list of things that God entrusted to the Israelites as His chosen people. The pain Paul feels for his lost brethren is all the more severe when he considers how God has blessed them with all the privileges of being His own special people.

Check out this impressive list of what God has given His people:

  • the adoption
  • the glory
  • the covenants
  • the giving of the law
  • the worship
  • the promises
  • the patriarchs
  • the Christ who is God over all

Paul also considers the human legacy of being God’s chosen people along with the gift of being His chosen ones. Israel not only gave us the great fathers of the Old Testament, but Jesus Himself came from Israel. This entire spiritual legacy makes Israel’s unbelief more amazing and problematic.

So how could the nation of Israel go so far off the tracks in their relationship and walk with God? How is it possible given all that God bestowed on them? Did God fail? Paul makes it clear that it wasn’t God’s fault at all. “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” One meaning of the name Israel is “governed by God.” Paul says here that not all Israel is really “governed by God.” Did God’s word fail? No; instead, the Israelites are not all governed by God. They are doing their own thing their own way.

Smith writes “Paul tells us that no one is truly Israel unless he is governed by God. We have a parallel situation with the word ‘Christian.’ Not everyone who is called a Christian is truly a follower of Christ.” “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.” Paul shows that merely being the descendant of Abraham saves no one. For example, Ishmael was just as much a son of Abraham as Isaac was; but Ishmael was a son according to the flesh, and Isaac was a son according to the promise. One was the heir of God’s covenant of salvation, and one was not. Salvation comes through a relationship with God through Christ. That is the only path to becoming a child of God.

Romans 9:1-3

In Romans 9:1-3 Paul opens up and shares his heart – he is making a slight shift in his conversation with us. In Romans chapters one through eight, Paul thoroughly convinced us about man’s need and God’s glorious provision in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. There is no doubt that Paul knows we are all in need of a Savior, and that Jesus is the answer to our sin problem. But now, in chapter 9 and following, his focus changes to the situation Israel is in and how desperately things have become for that people. “I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit–that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.”

Now, in Romans 9 through 11, Paul deals with the problem associated with the condition of Israel. What does it mean that Israel has missed its Messiah? What does this say about God? What does it say about Israel? What does it say about our present position in God? Is our assurance secure? How can I be secure in God’s love and salvation to me when it seems that Israel was once loved and saved, but now seems to be rejected and cursed? Will God also reject and curse me one day?  Morris, in his commentary, asks these questions: “If God cannot bring his ancient people into salvation, how do Christians know that he can save them? Paul is not here proceeding to a new and unrelated subject. These three chapters are part of the way he makes plain how God in fact saves people.”

Paul feels this burden because he considers a people who seem to be separated from God’s love – unbelieving Israel, who rejected God’s Messiah. The fact that God’s chosen people have basically rejected the solution to their sin problem is troubling. It’s no different than the world we live in today, since God has in fact opened the gift of salvation to all mankind, and yet many choose to continue to wallow in their sin and face a very unpleasant eternity apart from God. This is something that really bothered Paul and was on his heart.  Does the state of mankind today bother you in the same way?

Paul makes a dramatic declaration of Paul’s great love and sorrow for his brethren. Paul says he himself is willing to be separated from Jesus if that could somehow accomplish the salvation of Israel. “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.” This great passion for souls gave Paul perspective. Lesser things did not trouble him because he was troubled by a great thing – the souls of men. Spurgeon wrote “Get love for the souls of men – then you will not be whining about a dead dog, or a sick cat, or about the crotchets of a family, and the little disturbances that John and Mary may make by their idle talk. You will be delivered from petty worries (I need not further describe them) if you are concerned about the souls of men… Get your soul full of a great grief, and your little griefs will be driven out.” That’s what Paul is demonstrating here – his deep love for the souls of mankind – particularly the people of Israel in his day.

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