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Romans (Series 2)

Israel, Part Two

Romans 10:16 - 11:36

Lesson audio

For reasons of copyright restrictions, we ask that you read Romans 10:16-11:24 without its being printed here.

Dealing with rejection – God’s way

Have you ever wondered how God deals with rejection? Perhaps the problem is different for him.

Excuses, excuses

One thing we may note quickly: God just doesn’t take our excuses for rejecting him with any seriousness. Paul gives us two examples here:

Ø  “I never heard it.” In this day and age? You’ve got to be kidding. Ask anyone who uses this one what they think of televangelists. If they have an opinion, they’ve heard.

Ø  “I didn’t understand it.” To the Jews Paul makes the point that even the troll-witted Gentiles got the Gospel – to the point the Jews should be envious about it. Can you possibly maintain that Christianity is so difficult that it’s the exclusive province of physics Ph.D.’s ?

To which I would add the common one of today: “Everybody knows it’s false.” First, that’s obviously not factually correct (“Everybody???”); it also means you haven’t bothered to examine the evidence for the existence of something that’s been around for two thousand years.

From evil, a greater good

God’s primary method of dealing with evil is simply this: he will permit no evil out of which he cannot bring a greater good. This, of course, means a very different attitude towards those who are evil. Think not?

Ø  What was Christ’s attitude towards those who were crucifying him?[1] Out of the evil of the Crucifixion came the greater good of salvation.

Ø  Indeed, we are instructed to have the same attitude ourselves – to love our enemies.[2] This is God’s method of bringing out the greater good, of overcoming evil with good.

The remnant

It would be wonderful to say that this method produces universally successful results. It wouldn’t make for much of a story, though – and it wouldn’t be the way things are in a universe full of creatures with free will. God also deals with rejection by reserving for himself a few, usually referred to as “the remnant”[3]. It is a characteristic of God that he allows evil to blossom (there’s that free will again) and ultimately destroys it – leaving behind a remnant of those loyal to him. This process is repeated again and again, and hence is often referred to as “refining.”

Is it just possible that God, who does not change, is still doing this? Consider the doings at our own church. Our leadership is now enthusiastically on board with the emergent church movement. “Sin” is a seldom-heard word now (not “seeker friendly”); we are told (for example) that adultery might be harmful to your marriage relationship.[4] What is the reaction? Most members think this a welcome change from the old ways; but there are a few (not all of them senior citizens) who cling to the teaching of the Scriptures. When trouble comes – and it will – those who joined the happy social club will flit away. Refining, made simple.

All Israel

Romans 11:25-32 NIV I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (26) And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

"The deliverer will come from Zion;

he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. (27) And this is[6] my covenant with them

when I take away their sins."[7] (28) As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, (29) for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. (30) Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, (31) so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[8] receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. (32) For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Conceit

Being conceited is often connected to being ignorant. Human beings, it seems, naturally move towards being proud of themselves – proud, without real reason. Many of us cherish our ignorance in this. (This is a major factor in racial prejudice.) But what does wisdom say about this?

Proverbs 3:5-7 NIV Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding; (6) in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight. [1] (7) Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the LORD and shun evil.

It may be a bit of a surprise, but we have an American historical example in black slavery. Southern whites (and many others) felt that one reason they could cite for their racial superiority is that by slavery they had brought the faith to many black slaves who otherwise would have remained in complete ignorance of it. (Out of evil comes a greater good!). This is true – but tell me how this gives you bragging rights. After all, the first message to be delivered is that we are all sinners – including the slave owner.

Irrevocable election

The reader will please note that there are a number of theories concerning the prophetic portions of this passage. A common interpretation is that the Jews will, at the time of the end, turn to Christ. This is said to be a sign of the end times. There is an ample body of prophecy on this subject (see, for example, Isaiah 60). For our purposes here it is sufficient to note that it is clear that God has not yet finished or discarded the nation of Israel. His promises to them are numerous; their end has not yet come, nor will it until our Lord returns.

Indeed, this is just the specific example of two important concepts:

Ø  God’s promises do not lapse with the passage of time, or the lack of cooperation on the part of man. If he said it will happen, it will.

Ø  In this instance, we see the reason for the prophecy: so that all men will know of the great mercy of God.

Bound all men to mercy

Human beings are curious: they will brag about their good fortune just as if they deserved it. It seems logically inconsistent to brag about being a Christian, for being a Christian means that you have accepted the mercy of God. And that means that you needed it.

It is also evident that God is not merciful to you because you are a nice guy, a white hat. No indeed; his mercy is available so that all might know the true character of God:

1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- (2) for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (3) This is good, and pleases God our Savior, (4) who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

You see Paul’s point here: the object is that all might be saved, and thus know the truth about God. The only thing which stands between anyone and salvation is this: man has been given free will. It’s either “thy will be done” or “my will be done.” You pick.

The Nature of God

Romans 11:33-36 NIV Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[9] knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,

and his paths beyond tracing out! (34) "Who has known the mind of the Lord?

Or who has been his counselor?"[10] (35) "Who has ever given to God,

that God should repay him?"[11] (36) For from him and through him and to him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.

If you are to know the mercy of God you must indeed know the nature of God himself. Central to the faith is the idea that Christians are to develop a personal relationship with God through Christ, by the Spirit. To do this, we must have the proper knowledge. It starts with this (speaking of Christ):

Colossians 1:15-17 NIV He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (16) For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (17) He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

All things – all things – are created for him; are created through him and for him. Herein is the basic knowledge of God that comes first.

We cannot repay

Once you see this, you can then reason forward to see the fallacy of two common theories about God:

Ø  One is the “cosmic bean counter” theory. God is some sort of celestial accountant whose purpose it is (for whom?) to track our sins and good deeds. Weighing us in the balance, we are sent to heaven or hell. May I point out just one argument against this? It makes God so small.

Ø  Another is this: by my good deeds (including, usually, the fact that I became a Christian) I have placed God deeply in my debt. God owes me! This is impossible; but it takes the majesty of God to see that.

Only one reaction to God’s mercy can be made a practical action of the Christian: to pass it along. If you are grateful for the mercy shown, imitate your heavenly father and pass that mercy along. Be merciful, as your father is merciful.

Unsearchable wisdom

We forget who the author and creator of wisdom is.[5] His wisdom is unsearchable by man; indeed, wisdom herself is his only counselor.[6] In short, “it’s not about you.” Bargain not with God. It wastes your time and annoys God.



[1] See Luke 23:34

[2] Matthew 5:44-48

[3] From 1st Kings 19:18, Elijah in the wilderness.

[4] My wife informs me that it will not be harmful to our marriage relationship. It will be fatal. To the relationship and to me. Murder yes, divorce, no.

[5] Did God create wisdom? See Proverbs 8:22

[6] Proverbs 8:30, and others

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