Text Romans 9-11
Our Salvation is not based on our performance, or our pedigree, but on God's promise.
It’s not based on performance, so we put no confidence in the flesh.
It’s not based on our pedigree, so we glory not in our roots.
It's solely based on God's promise, to be accepted by faith.
Romans 8:31-39 brings us to the climax of the book thus far. After having explained the gospel clearly and thoroughly over the first 8 chapters, Paul pauses and asks, “What do you think about that!”
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who 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.
God is on our side. Here is the bottom-line truth about God and us. He’s on our side. He’s fighting for us. Sometimes we preachers mess it up and we sound like or insinuate that God doesn’t like you all that much unless you act in a certain way. Or maybe you think that God only loves you because he has to – he is after all God – but he doesn’t really like you and doesn’t really care if you experience all of the blessings he has for you. But the gospel reveals this simple truth – God is for you, He’s on your side, and if He’s on your side, you win. Who indeed can stand against you? He’s for us so much that he traded his own son for us to be on his team, and now has treated us like one of his own, allowing us to experience all of his blessings as we receive them from his hand. If God is for us, there is nothing that man or devil can do to condemn us. The only one who has the right to bring a charge against us is God, for it is his law that we broke, and he’s the one who gave us the passing mark by justifying us. The one who could have condemned us by leaving us to die in our sins, actually died in our place to pay for them, and then was raised and is still praying for us. If God is for me, and he has indeed demonstrated that he is – who else do I fear? Can anything or anyone get between me and God’s good graces? Good question! Paul asks it and answers it in verses 35-39:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
"For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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.
Nothing can come between the believer and God’s love. His love is set on you like a seal over his heart. And through that love comes ultimate victory. We are called more than conquerors, because we haven’t merely demonstrated mastery over the physical, but have overcome all spiritual obstacles in Christ. What can you do to me, o man? Death, where is your sting? Satan, throw your darts for they are extinguished with the shield of faith. You may harm me, but you’ll never break me for God is for me!
The 5th Century martyr John Chrystostom declared when he was threatened with banishment by the Roman Emperor because of his faith:
"Thou canst not banish me, for this world is my Father’s house." "But I will slay thee," said the Emperor. "Nay, thou canst not," said the noble champion of the faith, "for my life is hid with Christ in God." To this the Emperor replied, "I will take away thy treasures." "Nay thou canst not, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there." Finally the Emperor said, "But I will drive thee away from man and thou shalt have no friend left." "Nay thou canst not, for I have a friend in heaven from whom thou canst not separate me! I defy thee; for there is nothing that thou canst do to hurt me!"
Our faith rests not on our performance or pedigree, not on our circumstance or cunning, not in our benefits and blessings or trials and tribulations, but in God alone and in his promise that HE IS FOR US. Do you believe that God is for you? Take out your card that you wrote on a cross out what you’ve written on it and after you cross it out, turn it over and simply write, “God is For Me.”
Devil: Lies! God is not really for you! He’s just flirting with you because you because you look good to him now. As long as you do everything he tells you to, he loves you, but he’s ready to cast you away the minute things go sour. You fools believe Him? Just look what happened to the last group of people to whom he made promises. He made the Jews all sorts of promises and where are they now? As soon as they did something he didn’t like he sold them, rejected them and turned them away. He’ll do the same to you!
I guess we’re not quite done here this morning. It seems someone has brought a charge, not against God’s elect, but against God himself. How do we know we can trust God, if he made all sorts of promises to the Jewish people that don’t seem to have been kept? I liken it to how Solomon’s wives must have felt. After a while, doesn’t the promise you make to me become meaningless if you’ve already made it to so many others?
That is in a nutshell what Romans 9-11 is all about. It is an explanation of God’s workings with the Jewish people, so that we can be even more assured that God is for us, because he has never broken a promise that he has made. Never.
The emotional tome between chapters 8 and 9 could not be more jarring. Here is Paul exalting in the love and promises of God one minute, and the next expressing his great sorrow and anguish in his heart that his brothers, his people, his kinsmen according to the flesh have en masse rejected the promises of God in Christ. In verse 3 Paul even goes so far as to wish that he could exchange his own salvation for the sake of his people. Who are they? Romans 9:4-5
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.
How could God be just in cutting off from the blessings of Christ the race to whom he was promised, the race to whom was given the law which was to lead them to him, the race from which he himself was related according to his humanity?
What Paul is doing in Romans 9-11 can be called a theodicy. A theodicy is an attempt to justify God’s existence or his workings to satisfy our limited human reasoning. It is a defense of God’s goodness. In this case it is a defense of the Gospel itself, for if God can not be trusted to keep his promises, then we have little reason to have faith in his promise to keep his promise made to us in Christ, that he will not hold our sins against us.
1) God’s Selection of Israel Was Not Based On Their Response To Him (Romans 9)
The word of God has not failed, Paul writes in verse 6, because God has always elected to bring his plan of salvation through certain people regardless of their responses to him. God selection of Isaac instead of Ishmael was based merely upon his word rather than any response on Isaac’s behalf. He selected Jacob over Esau before either of them had been born. He manifested his mercy by choosing who he deemed would be vessels through which he would bring salvation to the whole earth. So yes, He choose Israel as a nation through whom to reveal his grace to the world, but never was He universally accepted by Israel and that was never the basis of his selection of the nation. Indeed, while it is true that their has always been a remnant within Israel who received the promise by faith, even this is by the grace of God and was not a condition of God’s selection of the nation. As Paul concludes in verse 29, “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’s selection of Israel was never based on their response to Him.
2) God’s Selection of Israel Never Negated Their Need For Faith (Romans 10)
Put another way, His selection of them as a people never guaranteed their place as individuals in his family, because the only way to enter into his family is by faith, not by performance or pedigree. This is Paul’s main point in chapter 10 is that God never rejected Israel, but that they rejected God by not pursuing him by faith: 9:30-32:
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. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith; but if it were based on works.
They pursued God based on their pedigree (we’re Jews) and on their performance (we keep the law) but not by faith. That is not what God has ever spoken to man whereby he should live. Instead, Romans 10:8-13:
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); 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. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture [The Jewish Bible!] says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." 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. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." [Again, the Jewish Bible!]
Israel had every opportunity to come to God on the basis of faith. He sent his word to them, calling them to faith. He sent his prophets to them, calling them to faith. Finally he sent his Son to them, calling them to faith.
3) God’s Has Not Rejected Israel But Is Calling Them To Faith (Chapter 11)
Paul says very simply at the beginning of chapter 11, you think you can’t believe that God is for you because he once rejected his people – look at me! Romans 11:1,
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. Just as God has always kept for himself a remnant of the faithful among the Jews, so he still does today. In two weeks we are going to be holding our Good Friday service, partaking in a Passover Seder with Karl DeSouza of Jews for Jesus, a Messianic Jew. He’s a Jew who has accepted Jesus as Messiah. People such as Paul, and Karl and the millions of other Jewish believers in Jesus around the world testify that God has not rejected all of his people.
Verse 7 is a more difficult verse. Here Paul admits that there has been a partial hardening among the majority of the Jewish people (though not among the elect Jews who come to believe in Jesus). Verse 8 indicates that this has happened in part so that somehow salvation could come to the Gentiles. I am not 100% sure I understand how this happened, but it seems to indicate that God knows that if the Jews would have en masse received Jesus as their own Messiah, then the Gospel would have never overflowed to the Gentiles to the same extant. I think the book of Acts backs this up to a degree. Even though Jesus told the Jewish early church that they were to go to the ends of the earth with the Gospel, they remained centered in Jerusalem until a great persecution forced them out. Even after leaving Jerusalem they mostly concentrated their evangelistic endeavors to the Jews, until their rejection and persecution left them no choice but to go to the Gentiles. It was this hardening of the Jews that gave the Gentiles opportunity to enter into the promise, to be grafted into the vine of God’s salvation, but instead of being arrogant toward them, we ought to thank God for giving us that opportunity. Yet Paul also teaches in this chapter that the time of their hardening is only temporary. Verse 12 speaks of their full inclusion in the Gospel. Verse 15 speaks of their acceptance. And verse 25 states that this hardening will only last until the fullness of the Gentiles has been gathered and then God will reap a harvest of faith from all people, Jew and Gentile, and in this way all Israel, natural Israel and spiritual Israel will be saved! What a harvest that will be when it will be finally and fully clear that God is for us! He is for the Jew! He is for the Gentile! He has never made a promise he hasn’t kept and he has never made you a promise you can’t trust. He is for you!
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
"For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"
"Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.