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ROMANS 9 - 11

CHRISTIANITY IN THE COURTROOM

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
ROMANS

 

Introduction and theme: The gospel of God (1:1-17)

The need for the gospel: Man's sin deserves God's righteous wrath (1:18-3:20)

The need met by the gospel of God (3:21-8:39)

A problem caused by the gospel of God (9-11)

Practical responses to the gospel of God (12-16)

Conclusion (15:14-16:27)

 

Introductory Information about the Book of
Romans

1. The book of Romans:  In Paul's time, Rome was the central city of the world and of the Roman Empire.  Nevertheless, Paul, who was God's chosen Apostle to the Gentiles (nations other than Israel), had not yet gone to and personally ministered to this most important of Gentile cities.  See Romans 1:5-13, 15:22-24  In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul provides a summary of Christianity to the Christians of the key city in his world.  In Paul's letter to the Romans we find him dealing with the most crucial of issues -- that all men, Gentiles and Jews alike, can be saved from God's wrath by faith in the Gospel of God.  Then, Paul explains to the early Christians of Rome (and to us) how belief in the Gospel of God will lead, by the power of God, to transformed lives.

2. The church at Rome:  Though Paul had not been to Rome, the church there was thriving.  "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world." (1:8)  Though the church at Rome was strong, there were also strong attacks on the basic message of the Gospel.  Paul wrote this letter to them to strengthen them, so that they could resist the attacks that they were facing and would face.  See 15:14,15, 16:17-20

 

THE MESSAGE OF ROMANS

     How do you stand before the righteous and almighty God?  Is He upset with you and condemning you?  Does He accept you?  How can we know the answers to these questions?  The book of Romans, probably more than any other book in the Bible, gives us the facts on how we each stand before God.  The facts presented to us in this book determine our righteous and legal standing before the holiness of God.  In a court of law, it makes no difference whether we feel that we are innocent or guilty.  What is important is, are we actually innocent or guilty?  Also, it makes no difference whether or not we feel innocent or guilty before God; what is of supreme importance is whether or not we are innocent or guilty.  In the book of Romans, Paul clearly presents to us the facts about our standing before God and how that should affect our lives.
     In Romans there is a legal battle between Paul, who represents the Christian position that we can only get right with God by faith through grace, and an imaginary Jewish religious legalist, who argues against the Christian position and says we must earn our standing before God as he believes he has.  Paul handles each charge with the same type of skill that Perry Mason handled a court case in his famous television series.  Paul successfully argues that the Jewish religious legalist needs God's grace as much as the lowliest pagan!
     In Romans one through four, Paul establishes that we are all sinners who stand condemned before a holy God.  Both the pagan or non-religious person and the religious person are sinners and incapable of meeting God's holy standards.  There is only one way we can be saved from God's judgment and that is "apart from the law," "freely by his grace," and "through faith" in Jesus Christ's "sacrifice of atonement".  What we could not do, Jesus did by giving Himself as a sacrificial and just payment for the sins of mankind.
     In Romans five through eight, Paul explains how our new standing before God affects the way we who have believed in Christ are now to live.  We are no longer in a law and punishment relationship with God.  Before, we were under law, but now we are under grace.  How will our brand new relationship with God affect our new lives?  There is no better place to receive the answer to this question than in Romans five through eight!
     In Romans nine through eleven Paul focuses on an issue that has been caused by the gospel of grace: Why has God turned from Israel as the centerpiece of His plan and is now focusing on the church that is made up mostly of Gentiles?  The Jewish religious person understandably believed that Israel alone continued to be God's chosen people and that the church and Paul had started a heretical group that was something like one of our modern-day cults.  How does Paul answer them?  In his answer he deals with some subjects that continue to be controversial issues today-subjects like "election," predestination," "God's sovereignty and man's responsibility," and "God's future plans for Israel – Has God completely and forever eliminated Israel from His plans?" These are just a few of the subjects that will be dealt with in this critical study on Romans nine through eleven.

THE PROBLEM CAUSED BY THE GOSPEL OF GOD (9-11)
1. The problem:  God's rejection of Israel? (9:1-5)

How can a loving God allow this rejection of Israel to happen?  How could Paul support this rejection of Israel and genuinely love his fellow Jews?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains the grand subjects of these verses and the overall theme of Romans 9-11 in the following way:  "What then are chapters 9-11?  They are what must be called a theodicy, a justification of the ways of God with respect to man.  It is a bigger subject than predestination.  It is a bigger subject, even, than the calling of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews.  It is an attempt at harmonizing the ways of God and we must not allow it to be reduced to any smaller dimensions than that."  Taken from Romans – Expostion of Chapter 9.  Copyright 1991."  In short, Paul answers the charge brought against God:  Has He failed to keep His promises to Israel?  Did God eliminate all He said and did in the Old Testament when He chose to begin the church; the church which is primarily made up of Gentiles?

a. Paul does care for Israel (9:1-4a)

"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you think that Paul wrote these words?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some reasons why you believe that Paul was sincere when he says that he "could wish" (himself) "cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers…the people of Israel"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  In what ways do the Apostle's Paul's words reflect your concern for those in your family who do not know the Lord?

 

 

It certainly appeared to the Jews that Paul was a Benedict Arnold to the Jewish race.  He was Jewish in race and had even been a Pharisee, a religious leader in Israel; but, he had become a leader of the Christians who were drawing Jews and Gentiles away from Judaism.  Their conclusion: Paul was a traitor who now despised the Jewish religion and the Jewish race.  Paul answers these charges in these three verses.

Paul writes these three verses with blood and tears.  Paul had continued to reach out to his countrymen though they hated him, had stoned him, imprisoned him, beaten him, and sought after his death. See Acts 13:45, 14:2,15,19, 17:5,13; II Corinthians 11:23-26  Here in these verses we learn that Paul cared about his Jewish countrymen so much that, if it were possible, he would have taken their hell so they could receive God's gift of heaven.  Moses, one of the historic heroes of the Jewish people, had this same type of concern for Israel when they rebelled against God and worshiped a golden calf. See Numbers 32:11-14,31,32

Paul is not actually asking God to take away his salvation, for as he stated in Romans 8:28-35, nothing could prevent God's purposes from being fulfilled and nothing could separate him from God's love.  But, he is expressing how much he cares about his Jewish countrymen.

Paul begins by emphasizing that his words are not light words; for what he is saying, he is saying while recognizing that his motivations are being examined by the Holy Spirit who is in him. See I Timothy 6:13  Paul could not have made it more clear that what he was saying was genuinely from his heart.

Now, let us look at Paul's exact words.  "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart."  It is easy to think of someone having anguish over their own situation.  It is not unusual for us to have this kind of concern for ourselves when we find ourselves in a very difficult situation for a period of time.  But, Paul has this continual anguish for his fellow Jews who have been persecuting him.  This type of concern comes from one whose heart is filled with the very concern of God.  Listen to Jesus' concern for Israel:  "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:27)

Now, let us look at the exact words of the most amazing part of his statement:  "For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel."  The Greek word for "cursed" is anethama.  He is willing to be cursed by or be an anathema to God if it would lead to the salvation of his people the Jews.  Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, but it is obvious that his particular missionary focus did not cause him to lose concern for his own race, the Jews.

What is Paul saying in this statement?  The words "could wish" is in the imperfect tense.  This tense describes something that started in the past, continued for a while, and then ended in the past.  It implies that Paul thought seriously about being willing to be cursed for the sake of his countrymen, but then he stopped thinking about it.  Why did he stop considering it?  It could be that he realized that it was not a real option for him, for God would not allow him to lose his salvation.  He undoubtedly also realized that this decision by him would not result in the salvation of the nation of Israel.  But, nevertheless, we get the impression from what he says here, that he was so concerned for his fellow Jews that he did genuinely consider trading his salvation for the salvation of his lost countrymen.

What Paul is saying here is similar to what happens when we consider doing something, like going to visit someone at a certain time, and then we realize that we already have a commitment at that time that we must keep.  We seriously considered making the visit, but realized that it was not possible to do it.  Paul seriously considered giving up his salvation for the Jews, but then realized that it was not really an option for him.

Can you understand more fully now why Paul was such an effective evangelist?  He was not one who wanted to add spiritual scalps to his belt to increase his prestige before men.  No, he cared for those whom he was seeking to reach more than he cared for himself.  Do you and I care more for the lost than we care about ourselves?  We see here what is required for us to be effective at reaching the lost.

One more reason that Paul was so concerned for his lost Jewish countrymen was that he knew the horror of their fate if they did not believe in Jesus and receive His salvation.  A few years ago I read the book, Whatever Happened to Hell by John Blanchard.  It intensified my concern for those who are headed toward hell.  Paul, without a doubt, knew of the horrible destiny of the lost.  This understanding certainly was the reason for his great concern for his fellow Jews.  Do you and I have Paul's type of concern for the lost, particularly for our family, friends, and neighbors?  In these verses we see the heart of the Apostle.  May we seek to have his heart for those who are lost and heading for God's judgment.

b. God does care for Israel (9:4b-5)

"Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen."

Thought Question:  We can do what the nation of Israel of Paul's time did: we also can forget the privileges God has made available to us.  What are some privileges that God has made available to you?

 

 

It is not unusual for even us who are Christians to allow ourselves to slip and sink into a "poor me" state.  When we do this we have forgotten what an infinitely great privilege it is to be one of God's chosen people.  Paul, here, reminds his fellow Israelites of what a great privilege it was to be God's chosen nation.  Besides, God had not rejected the nation of Israel; they who are His own nation had rejected Him.

Consider how privileged Israel is as a nation:  "Theirs is the adoption as sons."  Here, Paul summarizes Israel's great distinction.  God adopted them as His nation.  God said to Moses:  "Israel is my first born son." (Exodus 4:22) See also Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 31:9; Hosea 11:1

Israelites were not born God's children; they were adopted as His children.  An adopted child is someone who has been chosen by his new parents to be a child in their family.  So, Israel had been chosen by God to be in His family.  Later, though, we will learn that not every member of the nation of Israel is a true and spiritual Israelite. 

"theirs the divine glory":  Though, God is omnipresent---present everywhere-He has chosen to manifest His glory in particular locations.  He chose to manifest His glory at His Tabernacle that traveled with the Jewish nation and later at His Temple that was located at Jerusalem.  God has not manifested His glory to any other nation, but only to Israel.

Next, Paul reminds his readers of "the covenants; God's unique "covenants" with Israel.  First of all, what is a "covenant"?  It can be defined as an agreement made between people or between nations – a treaty.  But, a "covenant" that God makes with man is much different than an agreement made between equals.  Here is Martyn Lloyd-Jones' definition of God's "covenants":  "What, then, is a covenant?  Well, a covenant in the Bible is a sovereign act of God's grace in which He pledges himself to do something…  Covenant in the Bible is always something that is entirely and solely and only from God's side.  God, moved by nothing in us at all, but entirely by His own grace and His own eternal love comes to the people and He says, 'I am going to do so and so and I pledge myself that I will do it." "Taken from Romans – Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright by Banner of Truth Trust." See Hebrews 6:13-20

God came to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and promised them they would become a nation, would receive a land and that through them the world would be blessed. See Genesis 12:1-3, 15:18, 17:1-14, 22;15-18; Exodus 2:24, 6:2-7  God also came to David and made a covenant with him. See II Samuel 7:8-16  Furthermore, God promised a new covenant to Israel. See Jeremiah 31:31-37

Israel was given these unique "covenants," but we who have trusted in Christ have joined into these "covenants" with Israel.  We, as Gentiles, were once "excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:12,13)  Jesus said at the last supper, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood…" (I Corinthians 11:25)

Next, Paul says, "the receiving of the law."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that Paul is not talking about Israel having the "law," but about the unique way in which they received the "law."  In Deuteronomy 4:33, Moses asks Israel: "Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived?" See Hebrews 12:18-21  These words in Exodus describe what it was like when God gave the nation of Israel the Ten Commandments: "When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke they trembled with fear.  They stayed at a distance and said to Moses.  'Speak to us yourself and we will listen.  But do not have God speak to us or we will die.'" (Exodus 20:18-19)  No other nation has had an experience like Israel did, when they received the law from God!

Next, Paul says, "the temple worship."  There was the tabernacle when they were on the move and the "temple" in Jerusalem when they settled down in the Promised Land.  God had given Israel a very elaborate form of worship with the Priests and the High Priests dressed in glorious and symbolic garments.  There was also the offerings and the altar.  The "temple" and the tabernacle pictured God's throne in heaven. See Hebrews 9:1-12

"What he meant is that one of the peculiar and special privileges of these people was that God Himself had taught them how to worship Him, how to approach Him, and how to enter His presence."  "Taken from Romans Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth Trust."  As the book of Hebrews explains, the worship system that was given to Israel by God is a picture of how we today are able to approach God and to enter His presence. See Hebrews 8-10

Next, Paul says, "the promises."  The "covenants" and the "promises" appear to be different words for the same thing.  Since, Paul sees them as two different entities, what then is the difference between "the covenants" and "the promises""The promises" to Israel are many and are found throughout the Old Testament.  Above all, they are "promises" that point to a future Messiah and to His Kingdom.  ". . . promises of a time when the Jews would lead the nations of the world.  From the Jews would come a universal reign, a world King, and Jerusalem would be the center.  "Taken from From Guilt to Glory Volume II by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1973 by Multnomah Press us."  No other nation is promised a Messiah and a future Kingdom that will be ruled by a Messiah who is a member of their own nation.

Next, Paul says, "Theirs are the patriarchs" or "the fathers."  He is speaking of the fathers of the Jewish race; the fathers of God's nation Israel.  Who specifically are these fathers or "patriarchs"?  Certainly, they are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (whose name became "Israel").  But, it may also include Joseph, Joshua, Moses, and David.  Because God had revealed Himself to each of them in unique ways, these men were the fathers of God's nation Israel.   Again, no other nation has had fathers of their nation who have had such a unique relationship with God as the fathers of Israel. See Genesis 15, 28:1-17

Next, Paul says "…from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen."  It is something that no one who understands and believes the Bible can question; the nation of Israel had the very greatest privilege of all, for Jesus Christ the God/man was a Jew, a member of the Jewish race.

The charge that Paul is addressing in these verses is the charge that God had abandoned Israel and that he no longer cares for this Jewish nation.  The very opposite is true.  No other nation has been treated by God in the special way that Israel has been treated. 

The last part of verse five is very interesting if it refers to Jesus Christ "who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen."  Is Paul clearly saying here that Jesus is "God over all"?  These words are either referring to God the Father or to Jesus Christ.  If it is referring to Jesus Christ, it is a very clear statement by Paul that Jesus Christ is God.  Some translations are worded so that it is clear that it is Jesus Christ that Paul is referring to here.  Other translations, however, are worded so that it comes out that it is God the Father that Paul is referring to in this verse.  For example, the New English Bible, much different than the New International Version quoted above, translates these words so that the "God" who is being referred to is God the Father:  "From them, in natural descent, sprang the Messiah.  May God, supreme above all, be blessed forever."

So, once again, is Paul saying here that Jesus is "God over all, forever praised!"?  The natural translation of these words indicates Paul is saying exactly that---Jesus Christ is God---for the following reasons (I will be summarizing the arguments presented by Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his commentary on this section in Romans nine):  (1) Paul has been speaking of Jesus Christ.  It would be an unnatural break in Paul's reasoning for him to suddenly refer to the Father, whom he had not been speaking about.  (2) The "who" most naturally refers back to Jesus Christ.  (3) Paul appears to be presenting the uniqueness of the God-man Jesus Christ: "his human ancestry" – He is man; and He is "God over all" – He is God. See Colossians 1:15, 2:9; Hebrews 1:3; Titus 2:13; II Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:10,11 for other places where Paul states that Jesus is God.  Other doxologies to Jesus Christ are found in II Timothy 4:18 and II Peter 3:18

2. God has not failed to keep His promises to Israel (9:6-29) (God's Word

has not failed)
So, far, Paul has argued very effectively (1) that he cares for Israel: He was willing to be cursed so that Israel would not be cursed and (2) that God cares for Israel: God has made them the most privileged nation on earth.  Now, he will argue that God has been faithful to His promises to Israel even though He has turned from Israel as a nation to reach out to the Gentiles.   Paul immediately points out that Israel's place with God has never been based on the people of Israel merely being born into the Jewish race, for God's promises were not made to every single person who descended from Abraham.

a. God did not promise that all the children of Abraham would be inheritors of

His promises. (9:6-13)
"It is not as though God's word had failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel."

Thought Question:  What do you believe Paul means by these words?

 

 

In Romans 2:28-29, Paul said something similar: "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code…"  In these three verses (9:6 and 2:28,29), Paul clearly states that to be those whom God promised to be His children, it requires more than just to be a member of a certain nation, like being born into the Jewish nation of Israel or being born into the United States.  To be a member of God's chosen people, one must be a from-the-heart believer in God.  Those who belong to the true Israel are those who are spiritually united with Him in heart.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains that Jesus pointed out to the Jewish leaders of His time that they were not the true children of Abraham unless their hearts were united with God's heart:  "I know you are Abraham's descendents.  Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word . . . If you were Abraham's children…then you would do the things Abraham did . . . If God were your father, you would love me, for I come from God…He who belongs to God hears what God says.  The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." (John 8:37-47)  As Paul said in the verse that we are covering, Romans 9:6: "not all who are descended from Israel are Israel."

God's promises and purposes are directed toward those who become his true nation and true people.  Paul begins this verse: "It is not as though God's word had failed."  God has not failed in His promises to the true Israel of the heart.  For those who are the true Israel will receive the full benefits of His promises to them.

"Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, 'It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.'  In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring.  For this was how the promise was stated: 'At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.'  Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac."

Thought Question:  In what way(s) are you as a Christian like Isaac?

 

 

From the beginning, God's promises were not for everyone who is a child of Abraham.  For even in the immediate family of Abraham, one of his sons, Ishmael, was not included in the promise.  The promise was made to Isaac and not to Ishmael.

Now, we must remember at this point that Paul is answering the Jews' argument that God had failed to keep His promise to the Jews.  Paul's answer to this charge is that God has not failed Israel, but He has instead been faithfully fulfilling His promise to call out a people for Himself.  God never promised to call every single descendent of Abraham to Himself.  At the beginning, He called only one of Abraham's two children to Himself.

Now, let's look at verse nine: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."  God is speaking these words to Abraham.  Isaac was a child born supernaturally as a result of this promise to Abraham.  He was not born as a result of fallen man's imperfect plan or of man's efforts.  If it was not for God, there would not have been an Isaac, a chosen race, or the God/man Jesus Christ.  Isaac was a supernaturally-born child of promise; he was a child of grace!  Like Isaac, we who are Christians are also supernaturally-born children of God's promise and children of grace.

Remember that Abraham had a child by a maidservant because he and Sarah grew impatient waiting for the child that God had promised to them.  As a result of their impatience, Abraham had a child that came not from God's plan, but from their own human planning.  But, God's plan was not thwarted by Abraham and Sarah's failed attempt to provide the child of promise.  God supernaturally provided the child of promise through both Abraham and Sarah.  In the same way all we who are Christians are God's elect children, and we also, like Isaac, are born supernaturally of God's Spirit. See Galatians 4:22-23  Again, not everyone who is descended from Abraham is God's promised and supernaturally-born child.

If the Jewish race of Paul's time understood what he was saying in these verses, it would have completely changed the way that they looked at themselves.  How did they see themselves?  Paul described their attitude toward themselves earlier in this letter:  "Now you, if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth…" (Romans 2:17-20)  Then, later in the book of Romans, Paul says these words about the Jews:  "Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness." (Romans 10:3)

They should have been grateful and humbled because of their privileged and undeserved place of favor with God; but, instead, they were proud and felt that they were superior to those who were not chosen by God.  There is an obvious application to us today.  We can also feel that we are somehow superior to other people.  But, again, God has blessed us for his own gracious reasons, and according to His all-wise plan.  As Israel needed to humble themselves and acknowledge that they did not deserve to be blessed by God, so we are to continually acknowledge that we do not deserve to be blessed by God.

Paul gives a specific example of how the blessing came to Israel in verse nine: "For this was how the promise was stated: 'At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.'"  Notice that this promise to Abraham and Sarah had nothing to do with any merit that these two had accrued with God, nor did it have anything to do with any plans made by Abraham and Sarah.  God told them what he was going to do and when He was going to do it.  God did not even let them in on why He was going to do it or the way He was going to do it.

We now know much more than Abraham and Sarah knew.  We know that Jesus Christ would be born from Abraham's lineage, for He was born as a member of Abraham's family.

"Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac.  Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, 'The older will serve the younger.'  Just as it is written: 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.' "

Thought Question #1:  Why do you think that Paul goes on to Jacob and Esau?  Has he not already made his point using Isaac and Ishmael?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do these words mean that God divides up people into those He hates and those He loves before we are born, and damns those He hates and saves those He loves?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Because I believe that these verses and most of the remaining verses in Romans 9 have been used by some, out of their context, to say something that I do not believe that Paul was saying, I will contrast what I do not believe Paul was saying with what I believe he was saying.  I will use bold italics to introduce the contrast between what I do not believe Paul was saying with what I believe he was saying.  It is essential not to take these verses out of the context of the whole Bible nor out of context of the whole book of Romans.

Why does Paul go on to Jacob and Esau?  Has he not already made his point using Isaac and Ishmael?  Has he not shown clearly that it is not the descendents of Israel who are God's people, but it is God's chosen ones who are His people?  Why does he go on and appear to make the same point again using Jacob and Esau?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that the selection of Jacob over Esau is an even stronger argument that God's people come through God's promise rather than through being the natural descendents of Abraham:  (1) Abraham and Ishmael had different mothers.  One of the mothers, Hagar, was a pagan.  Jacob and Esau had the same mother.  (2) Another fact is that Jacob and Esau were twins, yet God chose one and not the other.  The Edomites that Israel hated were also descendents of Isaac and Rachel; they were descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother.  King Herod, who killed the baby sons in Jesus' time in an attempt to kill the Messiah, was an Edomite (an Idumean). See Genesis 25:33  The point here is that God chose Jacob and not Esau to fulfill His purpose and plan.  At this point Paul is stating as a fact that God selects some people and He does not select other people.  He also tells Israel and us why God selects some people and does not select other people:  (1) They are chosen so that His purposes will be accomplished.  (2) He does not choose some people and not choose other people based on their good works or lack of good works.  The question that is not answered in these verses is how God works it out to bring His chosen ones to Himself.  This question is answered in Romans 8:28-30.  There we are told that God uses everything – "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  God uses all that takes place in life, including suffering (Romans 8:18-21), to accomplish His ultimate purpose – that His chosen people will reach His ultimate goal for them – be conformed to the image of His Son.

What Paul is not saying:

Let us begin by focusing on the last of these verses:  "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."  Some would interpret these words to mean that God never loved Esau; in fact, he hated Esau before he was even born.  How can this be true for the God who is love? (I John 4:8,16)

Listen to John Stott's words:  "This bold statement sounds shocking in Christian ears and cannot possibly be taken literally.  Although there is such an emotion as 'holy hatred', it is directed only to evildoers and would be inappropriate here.  So, several suggestions for softening the statement have been proposed.  Some suggest that the reference is less to the individuals Jacob and Esau than to the peoples they have fathered, the Israelites and the Edomites, and to their historical destinies.  Others interpret the sentence as meaning; 'I chose Jacob and rejected Esau.'  But the third option seems best, which is to understand the antithesis as a Hebrew idiom for preference.  Jesus himself gives us this interpretative clue, since according to Luke he told us that we cannot be his disciples unless we hate our family [Luke 14:26], whereas according to Matthew [Matthew 10:37] we are forbidden rather to love them more than him.  Although this makes the wording more acceptable, the reality behind it stands, namely that God puts Jacob above Esau – as individuals too, not just in the sense that the Israelites were God's people, not the Edomites." "Taken from Romans by John Stott.  Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

Some would say that these verses teach that God has the sovereign right to hate some and to love others.  After all, both Jacob and Esau are sinners, condemned to eternal hell for their sinful rejection of God.  God would be just if He condemned both Jacob and Esau to hell.  He, therefore, has every right to choose one for heaven and leave the other to face his just destiny in hell.  But, hold it!  In these verses it says the God chose Jacob over Esau before they were even born and before they "had done anything good or bad."  Is Paul, then, teaching that God has the right to condemn and predestine someone to hell before He is even born?  That would mean that Esau was hopelessly condemned to hell before he came out of the womb and before he had even committed one sin.  That would mean that you may have family members, friends, or neighbors that were hated by God and condemned to hell before they were even born.  They, then, are born into an eternally condemned caste.  Is that what Paul is saying?

What Paul is saying:

Paul's purpose in these verses is not to convince his readers that God had the right to condemn Esau to hell before he was born.  His purpose is to show that God is working out His plan for mankind; even when it does not make sense to us.  In that plan, God chose Jacob rather than Esau, before they were even born.  Listen to the verse that Paul quotes in these verses:  "The Lord said to her, 'Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.'" (Genesis 25:23)  God is making a prediction about Rebekah.  He says that two nations will come from the two boys in her womb, and the younger boy's nation would be supreme in His plans.  Paul is speaking primarily of God's choosing one nation over another nation.  His quote, "Jacob I love, but Esau I hated," comes from Malachi 1:2-3.  Malachi is not speaking of the man Jacob and the man Esau, but he is speaking of the nations that came from Esau and Jacob.

What is Paul's point in these verses?  First of all, Israel felt that God had not been fair to them by choosing to switch from them as a nation to choosing the church made up primarily of the Gentiles.  Paul's point is that they did not complain when God chose Jacob and the Israelites over Esau and the Edomites.  God loving Jacob and hating Edom is a quote from Malachi 1:2-3 where God is clearly referring to the nation of Jacob---the Israelites---and the nation of Esau---the Edomites: "but Esau I hated and I have turned his mountains into wasteland and left  his inheritance  to the desert jackals." (Malachi 1:3)  Israel did not complain when God chose them over Esau and the Edomites.  So, why are they complaining now that God has chosen the church over them?  God has the right to choose them over Esau and the Edomites, and He has the right to choose the church over them.  This is Paul's point.

Another point that Paul is making here is that God's election of Israel and rejection of Edom were not made because they deserved to be elected and Edom deserved to be rejected.  They both were elected and rejected before either of them was born:  "Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad" they were chosen. (Romans 9:11)

In short, God chose Jacob and the nation that would come from him over Esau and the nation that would come from him.  Does that sound fair?  Is it fair that God would choose the church over Israel later on?  The Jew would say "No" to the last question.  How do the Edomites who came from Esau feel about God choosing Israel and not them?  This is Paul's point; Israel cries out, "Unfair!" when the church was chosen over them in God's plan; but, they did not cry out, "Unfair!" when they were chosen over Edom.

Something needs to be pointed out at this time: the nation of Edom that came from Esau was a God-hating nation and was judged accordingly by God:  "This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.  Because he pursued his brother [Esau's nation Edom pursued Jacob's nation Israel] with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked," (Amos 1:11)  We can understand this type of anger toward Israel, for we see this type of anger toward Israel in the Arab world today.  Did God predetermine that Edom would have this cold-hearted attitude toward Israel?  Of course not, that would make God responsible for their sin.  But, He did use their sinful choices as He worked at fulfilling His ultimate purposes.

Why did God choose one over the other?  It was done because God has an ultimate purpose that He is working to accomplish.  And to accomplish that purpose and for His own all-wise reasons, He chose Jacob and not Esau.  He did not choose Esau for hell and Israel for salvation before they were born; He chose Israel as the nation through whom the Messiah would come according to His great wisdom.  Then, He chose the church for the same reason.  Israel did not like the second of His choices, but did like the first of His choices, for obvious reasons.  That is what Paul meant by, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."  It has nothing to do with God choosing Esau for hell and Jacob to go to heaven!

Now, God's purpose does not absolve Esau and the Edomites from their godless choices and their rebellion against God:  "See that no one is immoral or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son." (Hebrews 12:16)

In case the John Stott quote did not make it clear, here is a quote from Ray Stedman:  "We must not read this word 'hated' as though God actively detested Edom and treats him with contempt."  Ray Stedman also refers to Luke 14:26 where Jesus said that we cannot be His disciples unless we hate our fathers and mothers.  "Clearly he is not saying we have to treat our mothers and fathers and wives and children and our lives with contempt and disrespect.  He means we are to give him preeminence over all others.  Hatred in this sense, means to love less."  "Taken From Guilt to Glory Volume II by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."  So, God favored Jacob over Esau by selecting him and his family to be the line through whom the Messiah would come.  The result is that it appears that God "hated" Esau by not choosing him as the father of the chosen nation, for Jacob and Israel were supremely blessed over Esau and Edom because the Messiah came from them.

There are those who would say, from what Paul says of God hating Edom that God not only loves the elect, but He also hates the non-elect before they are even born.  But, Paul is not saying that every member of Esau's race would be damned, nor is he saying that every member of the Jewish race would be saved.  Paul is saying that God showed preference for one man and the nation that would come from him over another man and the nation that would come from him.  God did this to fulfill His ultimate and loving purposes for mankind, not because He is a capricious and cold-hearted God who shows He is in charge by doing whatever He wants to do to whomever He wants to do it.  But, the God who is love was completely loving when He chose Jacob over Esau.  How?  The selection of Jacob was in line with His loving purposes for all of us.

We can see a parallel in the choosing of the twelve disciples.  Why did Jesus choose those whom He chose?  They clearly were shown preference over other men of their time.  Even among the twelve, Jesus chose three.  Jesus is God and He, of course, had the right to choose twelve and three to fulfill His ultimate purposes.

Listen to Martyn Lloyd-Jones words:  "God's electing and selecting is not a matter of an arbitrary selection out of a mass of humanity. Yet I am sure many have always thought of it like that---that God is confronted by the whole of humanity and that what the Apostle is teaching here is that God looks at those people and says, 'I am going to choose some of them; I am going to forgive them and give them salvation; and I am going to reject the others.'  Now I assert that it is not what the Apostle says; It is in fact, to misunderstand what he is saying……It was not a case of Isaac and Ishmael being born and God looking at the two and saying, 'I am going to take this and not that one.'  That is quite wrong!  God produced Isaac because he had already decided that it was through this man whom He was going to bring into being that the seed was to be carried on.  So we must get rid of this notion of God looking at a humanity or a collection of people who have already arrived, in an utterly arbitrary and unfair way, taking out one and leaving another, though they are both equally sinners and equally hopeless.  It is not that."  "Taken from Romans Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth."

Some believe that God can only be sovereign if he can arbitrarily choose to damn whomever He chooses to damn and save whomever He chooses to save.  But, God is not just sovereign, He is also love; and He is gracious, merciful, and wise.  He does not just love; but He is love!  What Romans 9 is saying is that God sovereignly chose certain people.  We can also conclude that all that God did, does, and will do are also completely in line with His loving, gracious, merciful, and wise character.  We cannot divorce Paul's teaching in Romans 9 about God's sovereignty from the teachings in the Bible about His other attributes.  He is the Potter and we are the clay.  He has the right to fulfill His purposes in the way that He chooses to do it, even if we think that it does not make sense to us, does not appear to be fair, and does not appear to be loving.  Even it if does not makes sense to us, appear to be fair, and does not appear to be loving; it does make sense to God, it is fair, and it is loving!

b. God is not unjust.  He is not a heartless tyrant when He chooses one over

another (9:14-18)

(1) God is fair when He chooses to be merciful to one and not to another

(9:14-16)
"What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!  For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'  It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy."

Thought Question:  Do these verses mean that God has chosen whom He is going to save and chooses not to have compassion on the rest of humanity-that He will be merciless to them?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy….." is quoted from Exodus 33:19.  Moses was pleading with God to be merciful to Israel, after they had broken the Ten Commandments that had just been given to them by God, by worshiping a golden calf. See Exodus 32:25-33:23  God responds to Moses' plea with these words recorded in Exodus 33:19.  Why did God choose Moses?  Why, as we see in Exodus 33:18-23, did God choose to reveal Himself to Moses in a very unique way?  The answer is-He chose to have mercy on Moses.  Moses did not deserve it.  In fact, Moses was a murderer.  He had murdered an Egyptian. See Exodus 2:11-12  He murdered this Egyptian to rescue a fellow Israelite who was a slave who was being beaten by an Egyptian; but, it was vigilante justice and therefore murder.  Yet, God chose Moses to rescue His people from the Egyptians.  Why Moses?  God chose to be merciful to him; and because God is sovereign, He can choose to be merciful to whomever He wishes to be merciful to.

What Paul is not saying:

There is something that needs to be said at this point.  Does this mean that God is a capricious tyrant who can choose to do whatever He wants to do to whomever He wants to do it and whenever He wants to do it?  There are some factors that need to be clarified at this time.  First of all, when God chose Moses it was not a capricious choice, but God chose Moses to accomplish His all-loving and all-wise purpose of ultimately providing man with a Redeemer.  God's choice was the very opposite of a heartless dictator like Saddam Hussein who on many occasions chose to be cruel to someone just because he could do it and because he was in a foul mood at the time.  The God that the Bible reveals to us is love and is working out His loving purposes in an infinitely wise way.

What Paul is saying:

The Jews were questioning God's decisions.  Particularly, they were questioning His decision to reject them as a nation in favor of the church.  By questioning God in this way they are telling God what He can do and what He cannot do.  Paul does not try to explain that God's decisions are always loving, wise, and in man's ultimate best interests.  Instead, Paul deals with their insubordination to the Sovereign Ruler and Creator of the universe.  Who were they and who are we to talk back to God?  At the end of chapter 9, and in chapters 10 and 11, Paul, though, does explain God's plan and the wisdom of God's plan.  Ultimately, God's plan is beyond what we can understand, as Paul states in 11:33-36.

But, in these early verses of chapter 9, Paul deals with the religious Jew's insubordinate challenge that God has no right to work out His plan in the way He chooses to do it.  God told Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy."  Next, Paul points out in these verses that they did not deserve to have God choose them.  God's choice of Moses was an act of mercy.  God's choice of them was an act of mercy.  Demanding their rights is totally out of place!  Their nation, who deserved hell, had been chosen by God.  God was under no obligation to choose them.  His choice of them was an act of mercy alone.  In short, Israel is like a rebellious and spoiled child who needs to be put in his place.  That is what Paul is doing at this point in Romans 9; putting Israel in their proper place: "God was merciful to you; you are in no place to be making demands!"  "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy."

It sounds like Paul is saying in these verses that salvation is completely an act of God and that man has nothing to do with it whatsoever; that God chooses to be merciful to whom He chooses to be merciful and we have no choice in the process at all.  This, of course, would contradict the many invitations in the Bible where, for example, Paul says to a Philippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31)  Should Paul have said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and if God chooses to be merciful to you, you will be saved"?  Should our invitations to salvation be like this?  Could it be true that God chooses to be merciful to those who choose to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?  It is this same Paul who wrote the book of Romans who says to this jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." (Acts 16:31)

It is true that there is nothing that we can do to gain God's mercy.  Mercy comes completely from God and not at all from us.  But, we can reject God's mercy (See Acts 7:51; Hebrews 10:26) and we can choose to receive God's mercy (See John 1:12).  These verses are saying that if God had not chosen to be merciful to us, we would be without hope.  But, God did choose to be merciful to Moses, He did choose to be merciful to Israel, and He does choose to be merciful to all who cry out for His mercy. See Psalm 107  May this Psalm forever still those who say that God places some in a condemned caste before they are born and says that they can never be saved no matter what they do.  God will respond to anyone who cries out to Him for mercy.  He even creates the circumstances that lead us to cry out for mercy.

In these verses, Paul is also not talking about God's right to be merciless to some and merciful to others.  Notice that Paul does not say: "I will be merciless to whom I want to be merciless," but he says:  'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy."  Paul is talking in these verses about God's choice to be merciful to some.  God is not obligated to be merciful to anyone, and no one can demand of God that He be merciful to them.  It would not be mercy if we could demand it.  It would be what we deserve.  The nation of Israel in Paul's time needed to realize that God's favored treatment of them was due to God's mercy and not because they had in any way deserved it or because they were any way superior to the Gentiles.

Paul is answering the question found at the beginning of verse 14:  "Is God unjust?"  The answer is that God has the sovereign right to be merciful to those He chooses to be merciful to.  If He chooses to be merciful to some and not to others, He is just.  For, He would be just if He allowed all mankind to be condemned to hell. 

Remember, though, that Paul is responding to an irreverent charge against God in these verses, and not to the legitimate question of someone seeking to know God.  The appropriate response to defiance is much different than the appropriate response to honest inquiry.  For example, Jesus response to the Pharisees' charges was much different than his response to His disciples' questions.  And so, in these verses, Paul is responding to someone like the Pharisees and not to the seeking heart of a disciple.

A disciple might ask another question, like the following:  "Why does God ever choose not to be merciful to anyone?"   In Hebrews 2:10 it says: "It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering."  That God who is loving and merciful would provide mankind with a way of salvation is just what we would expect of Him.  We cannot divorce any of His attributes from any of the rest of His attributes.  God is sovereign, but it is equally true that He is loving and merciful.  When a person takes one Biblical truth and divorces it from all other Biblical truths, he ends up with error.  If a person emphasizes God's love without also emphasizing God's justice, that person ends up with error.  If a person emphasizes God sovereignty without also emphasizing God's love, that person ends up with error.  These verses are found in the book of Romans which also emphasizes God's justice, love, mercy as well as His sovereignty.  Therefore, we should not take these verses in chapter nine and separate them from their context within the book of Romans.  Some will argue that God must be just, but He does not need to be loving and merciful.  But, how can a God who is love, do that which is not done out of love?

This question can be asked at this point:  Why is God not merciful to everyone?  There are some that would simply say, He just chooses some and does not choose others.  He has that right.  That is a simple answer.  But, is God understood in such simple terms?  We might watch someone at a rescue mission.  He seems to be treating some of those at the mission in a warm and kindly way, but he also seems to be hard and cold toward one man.  Is he being capricious?  Has he chosen to love some and to hate others?  It may be that there are many reasons for the way he is treating this man differently than he treats the others at the mission that we do not immediately understand.  It could be that this thoroughly Christian worker loves both those he treats warmly and the man he treats sternly.  This person he treats coldly may be trying to sell drugs to the people at the mission.  He needs to be stern with this man.  He may still care a great deal for him.  He may have been part of the mission for some time, but has fallen back to his drug-using patterns.  For the sake of the others at the mission and in the long-term best interests of this man, the loving response to this person is now for the mission worker to be stern with him.  Without our knowing the full story, we may feel that this mission worker is unloving, partial, and capricious.  But, we just do not know the full story.

In short, is God not infinitely more complex in His reasons for the way He treats people than this Christian worker?  "Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out!  Who has known the mind of the Lord?" (Romans 11:33,34a)  God, because He is good and love, can only choose to do that which is good.  That He is sovereign does not mean that he can do that which is bad.  Whatever He does, it is always good and done from love.

(2) God is also fair when He chooses to harden someone. (9:17-18)

"For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.'  Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden."

Thought Question:  Does Paul mean here that God arbitrarily chooses to harden someone who has no choice in the matter at all? (For example, He could have chosen to harden or soften you.  You believe in Christ simply because He chose to soften you rather than to harden you.)  Please explain your answer.

 

 

 

What Paul is not saying:

There are those who teach that this verse is saying that all men are justly condemned and God chooses to harden some people, and He chooses to soften and regenerate others.  It is true that apart from any other verses in Scripture one could interpret these verses in this way.  But,
Scripture must be interpreted by Scripture.  Here are some verses that need to be considered as we interpret these two verses.  The Bible also says that this Pharaoh hardened his own heart.  Compare Exodus 7:13,14,22, 8:15,19,32, 9:7,34,35 with Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:1,20,27, 14:4,17

The question then becomes, who is most responsible for Pharaoh's heart becoming hardened?  It seems clear that God used the Pharaoh's own stubbornness to accomplish His purposes.  He knew that the Pharaoh would resist Moses' pleas to release the people of Israel, even when God inflicted the plagues on Egypt.  God knew that the Pharaoh's heart would get harder and harder with everything God did and Moses said.  Yet, He chose to harden the Pharaoh's heart to show Israel and us that His purposes would be accomplished in spite of the resistance to Him by the most powerful ruler of men at that time.  It happened in exactly the way that God predicted it would happen.  "The Lord said to Moses, 'When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do.  But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.'" (Exodus 4:21)

John 12:37-40 explains how the hardening process took place and takes place today:  "Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him…For this reason they could not believe . . . He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts so they can neither see with their eyes nor understand with their hearts . . . "  It is a judicial hardening by God.  They would not believe until they could not believe.  God then ordained that they be hardened in the blindness that they had chosen for themselves. 

II Thessalonians 2:9-11 is another example of God judicially blinding those who refuse to believe the truth:  "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.  They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe a lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness."  The refusal to love the truth comes first and then the judicial hardening from God follows. See also Romans 1:18-25,32, 2:5 where it is clear that men first harden their hearts and then God gives them over to their choice to reject Him so that they will become more and more hardened in their rejection of Him.

John Stott quotes from Morris on these verses:  "Neither here nor anywhere else is God said to harden anyone who had not first hardened himself."  John Stott then says: "God's hardening of him was a judicial act, abandoning him to his own stubbornness, much as God's wrath against the ungodly is expressed by giving them over their own depravity [Romans 1:24,26,28].  "Taken from Romans by John Stott.  Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press." 

Paul is not saying in these verses that God coldly damns some and not others.  God is not cold, for example, with Israel.  He is longsuffering toward them and perseveres in reaching out to an obstinate people.  It is true that God is just if no one is saved; for, we all deserve to be damned.  But, God is not only just; He is also love.  And He is also gracious and merciful.  He does not need to explain to us why He is merciful to some and not to others, but we can be confident that He is not capricious in His choices.  We can be confident that all His choices come from a heart of love and that He is wise in the reasons for His choices.

In Acts 2:22-23 we have another example of God doing something and men doing something at the same time:  "Men of Israel listen to this: Jesus was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.  This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; you, with help of wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross."  God did it and men did it.  Who is responsible for the evil act?  There is no question; it is the wicked men who were responsible for the wicked act.  Who is responsible for the loving act?  God is responsible for the loving act of giving His Son to die for us.

Who is responsible for the wicked act of the Pharaoh?  The Pharaoh wickedly hardened his own heart.  Who is responsible for the loving act?  God, in wisdom, to fulfill His purposes, directed the circumstances in such a way that the Pharaoh would harden his heart and God's own loving and wise purposes would be accomplished. See also Psalm 105:23-25; I Peter 2:8; Jude 4

What Paul is saying:

Finally, I quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones:  "God does not create evil or put it there, but he aggravates what is there for His own great purpose.  God never made Pharaoh an unbeliever, but because he was an unbeliever God aggravated his unbelief in order to bring to pass His own great purpose of showing His power and His glory.  He did not create the evil disposition in Pharaoh.  We are not told that.  All we are told is that Pharaoh being the man he was, God used him for His own purpose.  And not only that; God saw to it that he was there at that particular point and junction in order that He might do this through him." "Taken from Romans Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth."

Paul's obvious point is that God, as the Sovereign over all, does what He chooses to do to accomplish His purposes.  For example, He chose to harden the heart of the mighty Egyptian Pharaoh in the time of Moses.  The Pharaoh was not in charge; God was in charge.  "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' " The main point of this whole section is that God is not accountable to us at all for what He does. 

How does all of this work out today?  Here is how it might happen right now in our country.  God restrains evil up to a point.  We are told that there is one who is restraining evil whose restraint will be removed in the last days. See II Thessalonians 2:5-8  God brings about the hardening of people when He removes His restraint and turns men over to their sin and to their deliberate choice of evil. See Romans 1:24,26,28  This could be taking place in our country right now.  God certainly has restrained evil from becoming its evilest; but at some time in the future He will choose to stop restraining evil.  At that time, our country will become hardened by its own choice of sin.  God will have chosen to harden our country. See also Genesis 50:19,20; I Kings 22:19-23  God, then, will have hardened our country by removing His restraints and by giving us over to Satan, so that we will experience the full consequences of our own sinfulness.

In the same way, God hardened the Pharaoh's heart.  Lloyd-Jones states:  "It is not that He merely allowed Pharaoh to harden his own heart; nor is Paul saying that God made Pharaoh a sinner.  God took Pharaoh as he was, and aggravated and accentuated what he was; He hardened his heart, in order serve His own purpose." "Taken from Romans Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth."

Lloyd-Jones goes on after what I have quoted and points out that because the Pharaoh hardened his heart over and over again, we see how much greater God is than any earthly ruler.  This Pharaoh was totally humbled and God was totally glorified.  God brought this powerful man to his knees.  There was no question whatsoever as to who was in charge.  In the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is also completely humbled before God's power and sovereignty. See Daniel 4  In the last days, man's pride will be broken. See Isaiah 2:9-21

c. We have no more right to question God's plans than a pot has the right to

question a potter's plans. (9:19-29)

(1) A pot does not have the right to "talk back" to the Potter. (9:19-21)

"One of you will say to me: 'Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?'  But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? 'Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'  Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?"

Thought Question:  Do these verses state that the God of the Bible is like the Moslem god in that man's choices play no role in God's plans? (We are like machines heading toward our predetermined fate?)  Please explain your answer.

 

 

What Paul is not saying:

Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks a very pertinent question.  "Does not this teaching of the Apostle seem to be doing away with man's responsibility?...[Is Paul] saying that people are just machines, as it were, or that they are so bound by some rigid deterministic fate…[Here is his answer to that question]…"I think that I shall be able to show you that it teaches us the relationship of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.  But here in this section, the great emphasis is on God's sovereignty.  Paul emphasizes both."  "Taken from Romans Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth."

What Paul is saying:

The imaginary Jewish opponent to Paul's message of grace seeks to create a dilemma for Paul:  According to him – No one can resist God's will, so man's situation is hopeless.  "It is not our fault, God controls everything."  And, yet, in this person's opinion, God still blames us for what we have no control over.  Remember that this question is an argument raised by someone who is opposed to Paul's message of God's grace to the Gentiles.  This person is saying: "God chose Israel and you say that He has now chosen the Gentiles.  We had nothing to say about this at all and we can do nothing to change it either.  So, as John Stott words it: How can God blame us, 'when he makes the decisions?'"  "Taken from Romans by John Stott.  Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."  So, according to this imaginary person who challenges Paul, "It is not our fault; it is God's fault."

Paul gets right to the key issue: this opponent of Paul is questioning God and challenging God's chosen way of doing things.  As Paul says, he is "talking back to God"!  In a classroom, if a student is clearly being defiant toward a teacher, should that teacher seek to reason with that student?  No, the student is not asking a sincere question.  The defiance is what needs to be dealt with first.  That is exactly what Paul is doing here.  He is confronting the insubordination first.  Then, beginning in 9:30, he will answer the question of those who sincerely are seeking to understand why God has chosen the church over Israel.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones agrees that this is the issue in the passage:  "What the Apostle is rebuking is that spirit of contention.  He is not rebuking a man who is in genuine difficulty and who really wants light and help and understanding.  The Bible never rebukes that."   "Taken from Romans Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth."  See Job 3:11-21 for an example of someone who is "in genuine difficulty."

Ray Stedman observes that found in this insubordination, this questioning of God, "are hidden all the accusations and bitter charges men bring against God:  God is responsible for all human evil!  God ultimately is to blame, not us!  What does man do with the truth of God's sovereignty, this essential truth about God's nature?  He uses it to blame God for all evil."  "Taken from From Guilt to Glory Volume II by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

How does Paul answer this challenge to his teaching?  Paul points out that we need to remember that we are in no position to judge God any more than a pot has the right to question the potter:  "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'  Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?"

Remember once again, that Paul is not dealing with someone's genuine questions; he is dealing with someone's brash and defiant questioning of God.  Paul is probably referring to some verses in Isaiah that also deal with this type of defiance toward God.  "You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!  Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'He did not make me'?  Can the pot say of the potter, 'He knows nothing'?" (Isaiah 29:16)  "Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground.  Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' . . . ." (Isaiah 45:9) Also see Jeremiah 18:1-10

In Jeremiah 18, Jeremiah talks about the Potter and the clay also, but listen to what Jeremiah says:  "Then the word of the Lord came to me:  'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?' declares the Lord.  'Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.  If at anytime I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.' " (Jeremiah18:5-8)  God has the right to determine our fate, but He will change his plans if we repent. 

Here in Romans 9:21, Paul asks, "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?"  The answer, of course, is "Yes!"  Remember once again that Paul is responding to those who are defiantly challenging God's selection of the church and the rejection of Israel as the prominent part of His plan.  Does He have the right to do it?  Yes!  Is that all there is to it?  No!  He will explain later some of His reasons for what He has chosen to do.  Also, we learn at the end of Romans 11 that God has not revealed to us all of His reasons:  "How unsearchable his judgments." (11:33)

(2) God the Potter has the right to use vessels of His wrath to reveal His

glory to vessels of His mercy. (9:22-24)
"What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?"

Thought Question:  Is Paul saying here that God predestines some for heaven and some for hell before they were born (also, called double predestination)?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

What Paul is not saying:

Is Paul saying here that God predestined some for heaven and predestined others for hell?  Some would say that all men are born into this world completely incapable of making any response toward God.  They are damned from the beginning.  God then chooses some of these spiritually dead people and makes them alive.  Why does He choose some and not others?  "We do not know," they say; "He just does."  Is that what these verses are saying?  First of all, consider what Paul says earlier in this letter of Romans:  "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath." (Romans 2:5)  In Romans chapter 1 we learn that all men know the truth, but "suppress" it (Romans 1:18-20), and exchange "the truth of God" for a lie (Romans 1:25).  As a result of their deliberate choice, their hearts become "darkened." (Romans 1:21).  They (all mankind) "did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of the truth." (Romans 1:28).  God, in response to their rejection of Him gives them over "to a depraved mind." (Romans 1:28)  These are "the objects of his wrath" that God "bore with great patience."  "The objects of his wrath" are those who have purposely and willingly chosen to harden themselves to Him over a period of time.  They are those whom Paul has already clearly described in detail earlier in this book of Romans.  Paul is not saying that they were born into a state of hardness, but that a person becomes hardened through a continued choosing of sin over God.  See Romans 1:18-3:20   

What Paul does say:

It is important to realize that the word "prepared" in verse 22 tells us who "prepared" these people for "destruction."  Warren Wiersbe has the following to say about these words:  "The word "fitted" ["prepared" in the New International Version] in verse 22 does not suggest that God made Pharaoh a 'vessel of wrath.'  The verb is in what the Greek grammarians call the middle voice, making it a reflexive action verb.  So, it should read" 'fitted himself for destruction.'  God prepares men for glory (v. 23), but sinners prepare themselves for judgment."  "Taken from Be Right by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1977 by SP Publications, Inc."  God prepares Christians for glory; those who will never believe prepare themselves for destruction.

God uses those who harden their own hearts toward Him for His own purposes.  He has the right to use even those who hate Him for His pure and glorious purposes.  He has the right to forego punishment on those who will never repent and use them to fulfill His purposes.  God uses those who defiantly refuse to give glory to Him.  He uses them to accomplish His purposes for those He has destined for mercy; those He has destined to experience His glory.

First of all, He uses these "objects of his wrath" to show us who are His chosen ones His holy hatred of sin.  We see His hatred of sin in His response to the Pharaoh's hardened rejection of Him.  God's judgment of the Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea shows us both God's power and His hatred of sin.  God will one day fully show His power and complete hatred of sin on the Day of the Lord, as described in the book of Revelation. See also II Thessalonians 1:6-10, 2:8  Secondly, He uses these "objects of his wrath" to lead His chosen ones to Himself.

Today, God could immediately and justly step in and take to heaven all those who have believed on Him and send to hell all those who have not believed on Him.  Why does He not do this immediately?  Why does He allow those who hate Him to continue to defiantly rebel against Him?  The Bible clearly answers these questions: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4)  "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (II Peter 3:9)  Why does God bear "with great patience the objects of his wrath"?  He does it to provide the opportunity for more of His chosen ones to repent and turn to Him.

There are those who treat verses like II Peter 3:9 quoted above with contempt.  It is a verse speaking of man's ability to repent.  It is a verse quoted by the Arminian point of view that emphasizes man's freedom of choice.  So, it is almost a hated verse by some.  How could a verse in the Bible be a hated verse?  It is hated because some resent those who disagree with their viewpoint and resent the verse they use when they show why they disagree.  But, both Romans 9:22-24 that we are considering at this time and II Peter 3:9 are equally God's word, and should be treated with the same reverence.  They are both true.  Any viewpoint that does not give equal weight to the entire Bible is not truly a Biblical viewpoint.

These verses in Romans 9, when considered by themselves, do not give equal weight to these two great truths because this section's main emphasis is on God's sovereignty.  Early in Romans and later on in Romans, however, he does emphasize man's responsibility.

What Paul is saying:

Even if we do not understand everything about why God does what He does, He still has the right to do it.  For, we can always be confident that all that God does is consistent with all of His attributes and is perfectly directed toward His glorious purposes.  The Jewish people that Paul is dealing with here were thinking in a completely selfish way.  They resented God's plan to include the Gentiles in His great purposes.  Their attitude shows a total lack of reverence for all that God is.  Paul deals with this irreverence in most of Romans nine.

Wiersbe observes that Paul tells us here that God never "enjoyed watching a tyrant like this Pharaoh.  He endured it ["bore it"]."  "Taken from Be Right by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1977 by SP Publications, Inc." See Ezekiel 18:23,32, 33:11

In Verse 24 we learn why God is enduring the "objects of his wrath": His purpose is to bring His elect to Himself from the Jews and the Gentiles.  His purpose is to call His people to Himself: "Even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentles."

Paul began this section with "What if God….."  What if God chooses to turn from the Jews to the church---the church which includes both Jews and Gentiles?  Simply put; "He is God and He can do whatever He chooses to do!"  Paul has, though, explained earlier in Romans nine, and will explain more fully later in Romans nine and in chapters ten and eleven, that what God has chosen to do is consistent with His promises and His character.  But, Paul wants the readers of this letter to know the same thing that God wanted Job to know:  We are not God's judges; He is our Judge! See Job 38:4  He knows what He is doing, even if we do not know or understand what He is doing.

Today, we see that there are those who are rejecting God and those who are choosing God.  Even now we see that those who are rejecting God are experiencing God's wrath:  "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godliness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness." (Romans 1:18)  Those who believe, see God's grace now being expressed toward them.  This is in clear contrast to those who are right now receiving God's wrath! See Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:1-5

God, has chosen to make us who are the Gentiles the objects of His mercy, "whom he prepared in advance for glory" (9:22)  The religious Jews of Paul's time did not see this as glorious, but as a mistake by God.

How are we who have believed in Christ "prepared in advance for glory"?  We find that the answer to this question has already been given in Romans 8:28:  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  God uses everything, including the "objects of his wrath" to prepare His people for glory. See also 8:18-22  God works in all of our circumstances to draw us to Himself; ultimately opening up our hearts to His gospel message. See Acts 16:14  And He who began this "good work in [us] will carry it on to completion" (Philippians 1:6) until we are "conformed to the likeness of his Son." (Romans 8:29)

In verse 24 we learn why God bears "with great patience the objects of his wrath."  His purpose is to bring His elect to Himself from the Jews and the Gentiles (non-Jews, the nations).  His purpose is to call His people to Himself: "even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?"  Next, Paul will show us that it was always God's plan to choose the Gentiles to be part of His people.

The Jews felt that they enjoyed the sole privilege of being "God's chosen nation."  They were, in fact, quite proud of it: "if you…brag about your relationship with God."  We need to be careful that we do not fall into the same type of attitude and become proud that we are the "chosen" and the rest are the "unchosen."  Paul certainly was not seeking to create this type of attitude in this chapter.  In fact, he seeking to do the very opposite; he was seeking to show that God's plan to reach the world is a result of His mercy and not anything for us to get puffed up about.

(3) It has always been God's plan to call Gentiles to be His people.

(9:25-29)
Paul is about to quote a number of verses from what to the Jews was the only Bible; he is going to quote from the Old Testament.  His purpose in quoting from the Old Testament is to prove that God's selection of the Gentiles was always God's plan, for it was predicted in the Old Testament.  "As he says in Hosea: 'I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one,' and, 'It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God,'  and, it will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'  Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.  For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.  It is just as Isaiah said previously:  'Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendents, we would have become like Gomorrah."

Thought Question #1:  This question will take a lot of thought.  The Old Testament verses Paul quotes speak of those who were not God's people becoming God's people.  Those who are not God's people that are referred to were the ancient northern kingdom of Israel that separated themselves from Jerusalem and ceased to follow God.  What, then, do you believe these verses have to do with the church?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do these verses predict about the Jewish people?

 

 

The verses from the Old Testament book of Hosea, that Paul quotes first, predict God's selection of the Gentiles.  Then, in verses 27-29, Paul will quote from Isaiah to prove that it always was God's plan to choose a remnant from Israel to be His people, rather than every single Jewish person. 

First of all, Paul quotes from Hosea 2:23.  Paul uses this verse from Hosea to show that it is predicted in their Bible---the Old Testament---that God was going to one day choose those who were not His people to be His people. See also I Peter 2:10

The people that were "not" His people who would become God's people were the northern kingdom of Israel.  Ten tribes had rebelled against God's commandments shortly after King Solomon's death. See I Kings 12  The northern kingdom set up worship at their cities of Dan and Bethel where they worshiped two golden calves, one at each city.  They had chosen to no longer be God's people.  Hosea predicts that they who were in this northern kingdom who were no longer God's people would one day be God's people.

If this is the literal meaning of Hosea's words, how can Paul in these verses and Peter in I Peter 2:10 say that Hosea's words of prophesy about the rebellious northern kingdom apply to the Gentile nations?  It is simply God's plan to make those who are not His people into His people.  This pattern of God applies to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel and to the pagan nations (us!) who also were very much not his people.

Now, let us look at 9:26: "and, it will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.' "  In Hosea 1:10, Hosea also predicts that those who were not God's people would become His people.  And, as Paul points out, they will not need to leave their land for it to take place.  They will be converted right where they are living.  This is also very true of the church.  We of the Gentile nations and of the church became God's people right where we were living.  We did not need to go to Jerusalem to become God's children. See Ephesians 2:11-22

Next, Paul quotes from Isaiah: "Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:  "Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. . . ."  Here, in Isaiah 10:22,23, Isaiah predicts the state of Israel in Paul's time.  There were many Israelites, but only a few believed in Jesus Christ their Messiah.  Again, Isaiah's prophesy initially applied to the people of his time.  As Hosea was speaking to the northern kingdom, Isaiah was speaking to the southern kingdom.  The southern kingdom of Judah was to be judged by Assyria. See Isaiah 10:24  Isaiah is predicting that though the southern king of Judah had rejected God, there would still be a remnant who would believe.  In Paul's time, this is actually what was taking place; only a remnant had believed on Jesus Christ and were part of His church.  Notice that Isaiah "cries" out concerning Israel.  The fact that only a remnant would believe, grieved Isaiah greatly.  Isaiah's very strong, painful, and clear words are that only a few would believe. 

What Paul says to these Jews is stated irrefutably in their own Bible: "For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality."  Isaiah speaks here of how Israel in Isaiah's time was judged for their sinful hardness toward God.  God judged the southern kingdom through Assyria's attack on them and Babylon's complete conquest of them.  Isaiah, a highly respected prophet of God in Israel, spoke not of their favored state before God, but of God's rejection of them.  As Martyn Lloyd Jones points out:  Israel was able to see the promises to Israel in the Bible, but was blind to the threats and the warnings God made to them because of their sin.

"It is just as Isaiah said previously:  'Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Gomorrah.' "  "Anybody who knows anything about farming will know that a man grows potatoes and he either sells them or eats them himself with his family, but he keeps back a few as 'seed' to ensure that he will have a crop next year."   "Taken from Romans Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth."  God, also, throughout the history of Israel always maintained a seed or a remnant from the people of Israel.  They were and are the true Israel.

3. But, it is not God who has failed Israel, but Israel who has failed God; for

Israel pursued righteousness by works and not by faith. (9:30-10:21)
Beginning in these verses, Paul shifts his focus from God's sovereignty to man's responsibility.  The Bible teaches both God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.  To keep the balance we need to include both of these two truths.  Neither should be emphasized at the expense of the other truth.  Here in Romans chapter nine, the chapter that is known for its emphasis on God's sovereignty; Paul also emphasizes man's responsibility.  Why did Israel go from being the center of God's plans to watching from the outside while the church, which was made up mostly of Gentiles, became the center of God's plans?  Certainly, it was because God in His sovereignty chose to do it.  But, it also happened as a result of the people of Israel's personal choices.  We will learn about this other side in these verses.

Listen to Warren Wiersbe's words on this subject:  "No one will deny that there are many mysteries connected with divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  Nowhere does God ask us to choose between these truths, because they both come from God and are a part of God's plan.  They do not compete; they cooperate.  The fact that we cannot fully understand how they work together does not deny the fact that they do.  When a man asked Charles Spurgeon how he reconciled divine sovereignty and human responsibility, Spurgeon replied:  'I never reconcile friends.' "  "Taken from Be Right by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1977 by SP Publications, Inc."

a. Israel chose to seek to obtain righteousness through their works rather

than to seek to receive Christ's righteousness by faith. (9:30-10:4)
"What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the 'stumbling stone.'  As it is written:  'See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' "

Thought Question:  How can people do today what the Jews of Paul's time did, as explained in these verses?

 

 

There is a tremendous irony in these words.  God gave His law to Israel to show them their sinfulness and their need for a Savior.  In the ceremonial part of their law system were the sacrifices and the symbolic layout of the Tabernacle/Temple.  The purpose of the ceremonies was to point them to the One who would one day be a sacrifice for their sins.  But, they turned the system of law that was given to them by God to point them to Jesus Christ into a system of works.  God's message in the law was that they needed a Savior.  They concluded from the Old Testament teachings that they could earn their own righteousness.  It was also their immediate conclusion when they first heard the law that they could perfectly obey the law:  "…We will do everything the Lord has said." (Exodus 19:8)  God's response is as follows:  "…I have heard what this people said to you [to Moses].  Everything they said was good.  Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me, and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!' " (Deuteronomy 5:28-29)  So, Jesus came as their Savior; He was not received as a Savior but as a stumbling block ("stumbling stone" in the NIV).

If you are driving down the road and suddenly see that something that was being hauled to the dump had fallen off of a truck and is right in the middle of the road, it immediately becomes an obstacle to you.  You are driving toward your goal with nothing in the way of your journey, and suddenly there is trash right in the middle of your path.  The Jews were vigorously pursuing their goal of works-righteousness and suddenly, right in their path, is Jesus Christ.  He was an obstacle or stumbling block in their path toward earning their place with God.  And so, tragically, the Messiah promised to them was not joyfully received, but stumbled over as they continued on their goal of self-achievement.  What is the problem?  It is simply this-they did not want to admit that they needed a Savior.  What is most necessary to come to Jesus as Savior?  We will never come to Jesus as Savior unless we acknowledge our need for a Savior!

Now, let's look at Paul's exact words:  "What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith;"  Paul described the Gentiles in detail in Romans 1:18-32.  They are described as knowing God, but choosing to reject Him.  God, then, turns them over to their immorality and depravity.  So, the Gentiles that Paul described in Romans clearly did not pursue righteousness.  Yet, these Gentiles, according to Paul in these verses, obtained… righteousness."  How did they get what they did not pursue?  Paul, interestingly, does not answer this question in these verses.  Instead, he goes on to explain why the Jews did not receive the righteousness they pursued so fervently.  "But Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works."  When we believe in God, God gets the credit.  When one does not believe in God, it is our fault.  Israel is totally responsible for their rejection of the Savior.  They chose pride and self-righteousness over God's plain words given to them that clearly described their sinfulness and emphasized their need for a Savior.  The Old Testament certainly had a primary goal: to reveal man's sin and his need for a Savior.  Israel had chosen in pride to blind themselves to the message that was clearly written to them in the book given to them by God.

In the earlier part of Romans nine, Paul emphasizes God's sovereign election and, in these verses, Paul emphasizes Israel's responsibility for their rejection of Jesus Christ.  Once again, which is true, God's sovereignty or man's responsibility?  Listen now to Martyn Lloyd-Jones' words on this subject:  "And my answer is that the doctrine of the sovereignty of God and the doctrine of human responsibility are both true and that the Apostle is stating the two doctrines here in Romans 9.  Indeed he has already stated the doctrine of human responsibility in chapter 1 verse 20 where he says, 'For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.'…Now it is because these two things are true that the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be offered to all…'but now commandeth all men every where to repent' [Acts 17:30]  God commands it.  That is an assertion of man's responsibility.  The gospel is to be offered to all.  That is where what is called 'hypercalvinism' is so terribly wrong and unscriptural.  Human responsibility is something that is asserted everywhere in Scripture, and it is asserted side-by-side with the doctrine of the absolute free sovereignty of God, and that salvation is entirely the result of His election….these two must be considered – divine sovereignty and human responsibility and he states both…There is no contradiction at all."   "Taken from  Romans Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth."

Returning to these verses---Romans 9:30-33---we find a tremendous irony.  The Jews who were zealously pursuing God did not attain to a righteous stand before God; but the Gentiles who were rejecting God and choosing a godless lifestyle became righteous before God.  The Gentiles have faith because God sovereignly chose them (and the Jewish Christians); God's chosen people did not have faith because they chose to reject the chosen One. 

This all may seem like God is making decisions in a helter-skelter way.  But, Israel's rejection of the Messiah was predicted by Isaiah the Prophet 700 years before Jesus, Israel's Messiah, was born and then rejected.  "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Paul quotes Isaiah 28:16  See also Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42-44; Acts 4:11,12; I Corinthians 1:22,23, 3:10,11; I Peter 2:18

Israel did not receive their Messiah because they were looking for a Messiah who would be exalted and who would exalt their nation above all nations.  They were not looking for a Messiah who would be born in a manger, be a carpenter's son, be an itinerant preacher, and die as a criminal on a torture stake.  In short, they were unprepared as a nation to humbly acknowledge their great sinfulness and their need for a Savior to die to pay the penalty for their sins.  There were some within Israel who did see their sinfulness and their need for a Savior.  They became Jesus' followers.  Because Israel as a nation rejected their Messiah, the message went out to the Gentiles. See Matthew 21:42-44, 22:1-14  Since that time, those in the Gentile world (you and I! unless your are Jewish) who have seen their need for a Savior have believed in Him and have been saved.  And all of this was predicted by Isaiah and was part of God's plan long before Jesus was even born.

Isaiah predicted that this stumbling block would be a "stumbling stone" in "Zion."  "Zion" is one of the mountains upon which Jerusalem is located.  "Zion" came to be a name for Jerusalem.  Jesus said that He came to His own people and His people would not receive Him. See John 1:12,13

"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.  For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.  Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about the difference between zeal that is good and zeal that is bad?

 

 

Paul continues to explain why the nation of Israel has temporarily lost their place as the center of God's plan and purposes.  Paul is revealing that God's sovereignty includes man's choices.  Israel is not in a place of blessing as a nation because they have chosen to not do things God's way!  Jesus said in John 7:17: "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own."  Israel has not recognized as a nation that Jesus Christ is their promised Messiah because they are not at this point willing to do God's will.  Instead of seeking the righteousness that God provides "apart from the law" (Romans 3:21), they are seeking to "establish their own."  They are seeking to "establish their own" righteousness even though the prophet Isaiah stated clearly that "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6)  From the time the nation of Israel received the law at Mount Sinai, they have in pride believed that they could obey God's law: "Tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you [Moses], we will listen and obey." (Deuteronomy 5:27).  After all their failures to obey God through the many years of her history, Israel has not yet learned what Jeremiah their prophet learned and proclaimed to them: "the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure…" (Jeremiah 17:9)

God sent the Savior to Israel, but Israel, God's nation, did not believe they needed a Savior.  Paul establishes in Romans 1:18-3:20 that not only the Gentiles need a Savior, but so does Israel!  He makes this point with regard to Israel in Romans 2:1-3:20.  In this section Paul powerfully describes their sinfulness and pride.  He was an expert on Israel's sinfulness, for he had done himself, as a Pharisee, everything that he describes in these verses.  For, he also had been zealous for God like them. "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers." (Galatians 1:14) See Philippians 3:4-6 and Acts 22:3  And his zeal had also not been "based on knowledge."  But, Paul had learned that there is a righteousness "apart from the law" (Romans 3:21) that comes through Jesus Christ for everyone who believes.

Israel should not have missed this message, for it is the message of the Old Testament, their Old Testament. See Proverbs 19:2   Israel's law pointed to the One who would provide a blood sacrifice for their sins.  The law's purpose was to lead Israel to their need for a Savior.  The law pointed to Jesus and His sacrifice for their sins. See Galatians 3:24

Why did Israel miss the central message of the Old Testament?  It is because they thought they had no need of it.  Then, when the gospel was received by the Gentiles, they felt that they were being treated unfairly.  They believed that God, was wrong, not them.  Paul deals with this totally inappropriate attitude in Roman's 9.

J. I. Packer has written a book titled, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.  I found this book helpful as I wrestled with the tension between the Bible's teaching about man's responsibility and God's sovereignty.  We find this tension throughout Romans 9-11.  Notice, Paul begins chapter ten with these words: "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved."  Yet, in Romans 9, there is an emphasis on God choosing Jacob and not Esau (9:13).  Why pray if God has already chosen who will be saved?  The answer is that our prayers, like Paul's prayers, are somehow a part of what God uses in the process of salvation of those who are the chosen ones; our choices and God's choices somehow work together to accomplish God's purposes. See I Timothy 2:1-4

Martyn Lloyd-Jones responds to the hyper-Calvinist who concludes that since God has already chosen who will and will not be saved, we should not be praying for all and seeking to reach all.  "There is a danger of being guided by our little reason, by what seems to be so clear and logically necessary.  That is what we do and it is the cause of most of our troubles.  'If God elects, then it does not matter what I do.  God will save whom He has decided to save, therefore I will sit down and do nothing.  I do not desire anybody's salvation; I do not pray for anybody's salvation; I do not preach the gospel, for what is to be will be.'  That is what our so-called logic tells us, that is what our small minds seem to indicate to be quite inevitable and unanswerable.  But the first part of the answer to that is that we are dealing here with the mystery of the mind of God, and that mystery is something that you and I cannot understand.  The fact that we think we can, proves how wrong and how foolish we are.  God's ways cannot be fully understood.  We want everything neat and tidy so that we can encompass it, and we say, 'if this—therefore that'!  But we must not do that with Scripture."  "Taken from Romans Exposition of Chapter 10 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth."

He goes on to say that we are to pray for the lost because the Bible tells us to do so. We are to pray for the lost as Paul prayed for the lost; we are to pray with all our hearts.

Another issue that is brought in these verses is as follows: When is zeal good and when is it false zeal or fanaticism?  "For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge."  Luis Palau contrasts the "fire of the flesh" with the "fire of the Spirit."  Jesus, in Revelation 3 says that He despises lukewarmness.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones quotes an English proverb: "Fire is a good servant, but a bad master."  When does zeal become false zeal and when is zeal appropriate in the Christian life?

People get zealous about many things – golf, gardening, politics, etc.  People can also get zealous about religion.  At the time that I am writing these words, religious zealots are killing themselves to kill other people in the name of Islam.  This type of zeal is obviously false zeal.  It is also possible to have false zeal about the God of the Bible; for the Jews that Paul describes in these verses had this type of false zeal; and Paul himself had once had this false type of zeal.  First of all, we must be zealous about the right things.  Being zealous about error will lead us into greater error. See Matthew 23:15; Galatians 4:17,18; Philippians 3:6; II Timothy 3:6  We need a zeal that is truly based "knowledge."  Most importantly, our zeal needs to be based on a true knowledge of our sinfulness and God's grace through Jesus Christ.  A true understanding of God's type of righteousness reveals to us that we are completely unable to develop it and that it only can come from God as a gift.  Our only hope for God's type of righteousness is that He give it to us as a wonderful gift from a Holy and gracious God. See Matthew 5:21; Romans 1:17  The book of Romans has been revealing to us this "knowledge" about God's type of righteousness.

Secondly, we must be zealous about receiving and enjoying God's grace, rather than seeking to "establish" our own righteousness.  True zeal will lead to greater humility; false zeal will lead to arrogance.  Thirdly, true zeal will lead us toward Christ, who "is the end of the law."  False zeal will lead to some type of perversion of who Christ is; true zeal leads us toward Christ and toward genuine Christlikeness.

We can get hard on the Jews for seeking to "establish" their own righteousness and for not understanding that righteousness can only come to us from God as a gracious gift; but we are just as human as the Jews and just as prone to do what they have done.  Whenever we begin to feel that we deserve some type of prominence for our Christian activities, we are showing by this type of desire that we are also seeking to establish our own righteousness.  Again,  "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags" to God (Isaiah 64:6).

b. Israel is fully responsible for rejecting the righteousness that comes

through faith, for it has always been available to them! (10:5-10)
"Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law:  'The man who does these things will live by them.'  But the righteousness that is by 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 deep?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say? 'The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,' that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:  That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

Thought Question:  What is there in these verses that eliminates everyone's excuses for rejecting the gospel message?

 

 

In these verses, Paul uses a number of quotes from the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible, to establish that what he was teaching was not some strange teaching, but it is what was taught in the Old Testament by Moses and the Prophets.

First of all, Paul quotes Moses in Leviticus 18:5: "Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law:  'The man who does these things will live by them.' "  What is meant by, "The man who does these things will live by them."?  In Leviticus 18:1-5, Moses was making it clear to the people of Israel that when they did enter into the Promised Land; they were not to live like the people of Canaan---the pagan people who had been occupying the Promised Land.  Instead, they were to "live" by God's law.  It is true that salvation from sin (like the sin of Canaan), will come only as one obeys God's moral law or lives by God's moral law.  The problem is that we are unable to live by God's moral law.

Paul explains Leviticus 18:5---that Paul quotes here in Romans---in Galatians 3:10-13.  His point in Galatians is that if you or I do not do all that the law says and do it perfectly, you and I will be under a curse:  "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'  Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, 'The righteous will live by faith.'  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, 'The man who does these things will live by them.'  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.' "

Someone has said that there are two ways that we can seek to be saved: Plan A is through the law where we are required to perfectly obey God's law and Plan B where we are saved by God's grace through Jesus Christ.  Since, no one can live perfectly by God's law, Plan A will always lead to failure and to us being cursed.  In Romans 2:13, Paul said:  "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous."  So first of all, Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5 and points out that if they choose Plan A – the law, they must do more than know the law, they must "live" it! See Romans 3:19,20; James 2:10,11; II Corinthians 3:6

Now, Paul begins to present to his readers Plan B, salvation by grace through Jesus Christ.  "But the righteousness that is by 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 deep?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say? 'The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,' that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming".  Paul apparently is quoting Deuteronomy 30:12-14.  Deuteronomy 30 follows the pronouncement of curses if Israel disobeys God in Deuteronomy 27 and the pronouncement of blessings if Israel obeys God given in Deuteronomy 28.

The problem, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, is that in Deuteronomy, Moses is still speaking of the law and getting right with God by the law.  Why, then, is Paul quoting Moses who is referring to the law to speak to his readers of salvation by faith through God's grace?  The answer appears to be that as Moses said that the law had been presented to Israel very clearly and was easily accessible to them, so now Paul presents the message of grace very clearly and points out that the message is also easily accessible to us.  The people of Israel did not have to climb into heaven or dive to the depth of the sea to find God's message about the law, the message was, after Moses spoke it and they heard it, right inside of them.  Paul says the same thing.  Paul's readers did not need to climb into heaven or dive into the depth of the sea to go searching for the message of God's grace; for after they received the book of Romans from Paul, it was now right in them: "that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming."  Paul is about to present one of the most concise messages about how one can be saved that is found anywhere in the Bible; Romans 10:9,10!

Paul adds some words to Moses' words in Deuteronomy 30.  We do not need "to bring Christ down" or "bring Christ up from the dead."  God has done these hard and impossible things for us – He brought Jesus down from heaven and Jesus up from the dead.  Jesus also fulfilled the law for us.  So, now we are left with only needing to believe in Him.  As Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains, Paul adds Christ to Moses' words so that it is clear to us that he is not talking about the law, but about God's grace through Jesus Christ.

Paul's simple point in verses 6-8 is that no one who listens to the simple gospel message in the book of Romans has any excuse for not believing it.  Martin Luther went on a quest as an Augustine Monk to practice all the rigors of this Monastic order to somehow attain to a relationship with God.  But, when he heard the message of the gospel through the book of Romans that "The righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:17), he fell back into the arms of God.  At that time he simply believed in Jesus Christ to save him.  When, previous to this time, all of his religious efforts had only led him to despair!

"Religion" chooses some strenuous way of working your way to God that is like climbing up to God or going into the depths of the sea to somehow attain to a deep relationship with God.  The gospel message is easily available even to a small child and to the very simplest of persons.  Roman Catholicism, as Martin Lloyd-Jones points out, is an example of this type of religion.  A good friend of ours comes from a Roman Catholic background.  He said that to him, Mary was easily accessible, but Jesus was remote and inaccessible.  "Not only that, Romans Catholics say the church alone can expound the Scriptures.  Nobody else can understand the teaching…They are so difficult that only the church can expound them—and you must take her tradition in addition to the Bible."  "Taken from Romans Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth."

"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that these verses contain a complete gospel message?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Ray Stedman said the following about these two verses:  "This is the clearest statement in God's Word on how to be saved."  "Taken from Guilt to Glory by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

Verses 9 and 10 are a Hebrew parallelism.  Paul states something in verse nine and then says the very same thing in verse ten in another way.  First of all in verse nine:  "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."  Paul is stating a reality.  If we believe that it is really true that Jesus Christ is who the Bible says He is – the God/man that God raised from the dead; we will not keep it to ourselves.  Someone has said that our tongue is like a pump which pumps out whatever is truly in our hearts.  If we truly believe that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead; we will very naturally, easily, and often express our belief with our tongue.

Verse ten reverses the order, and begins with heart and ends with the voice.  The reason for the reversal is that verse ten explains how the heart belief leads to the vocal expression:  "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."  "Justified" and "saved" are clearly two ways of saying the same thing. See Psalms 116:10; Matthew 12:34

We can see from verse nine that the central issue in Christianity is a person, who that person is, what that person did, and what God did with regard to that person.  If we take Jesus Christ out of Christianity, we have "ianity," which has no appeal to me whatsoever.  It is not something that I can get excited about sharing with others.  Jesus Christ is Christianity.
He is the One who became a man; he became the God-man.  He is the One who revealed to us what God is like.  He is the One who died for us.  And He is the One whom God raised from the dead.  The essential needed for you, me, and others to be saved is for us to believe that He is exactly and completely Who the Bible says He is.

One of the central truths of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.  Paul says the following about belief in Jesus' resurrection: "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins…If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."  (I Corinthians 15:17,19)  If God did not raise Jesus from the dead, we have no hope that God will raise those who have believed and have hoped in Jesus.  Saving faith is faith that God raised Jesus from the dead! See I Peter 1:21; Acts 26:23

Now, we will focus on what Paul mean by "the heart."  The "heart" is the very core of who we are.  What we believe in our heart is who we are.  It is what is central to us and it will affect what we say and how we live.  When we believe in this way in Jesus, our words and our lives will be changed by this belief. See Proverbs 4:23, 10;11, 2:2, 3:3, 15:13,15, 16;23, 22:11,17,18; Romans 6:17

When you "believe in your heart that God raised" Jesus from the dead, it is not just an intellectual agreement, it is a life-changing belief.  Saving faith, then, is not just an intellectual understanding nor is it just saying the right words, it is a from-the-heart belief that is life changing.  These few words in Romans 10:9-10 describe what Paul referred to earlier in Romans as "the power [dynamite] of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16)  It is "foolishness" to the world as a whole, but to those who believe it is "the power of God." (I Corinthians 1:23-25)

c. Anyone who believes in this way will not be disappointed or put to shame.

(10:11-13)
"As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' "

Thought Question:  If someone came to you and said that they were unsure that they were saved and going to heaven; how could you use these verses to help them?

 

 

Wiersbe observes that in Romans 3:19-23, Paul finishes up his argument found in Romans 1:18-3:23 that all, Jew and Gentile, stand condemned before God: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  Now, in these verses he affirms that faith in Jesus Christ provides salvation for all, whether Jew or Gentile.

Paul uses verses from the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible, to support his argument - Isaiah 28:16 in verse 11 and Joel 2:23 in verse 13.  The full verse of Isaiah 28:16 is as follows:  "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone [Jesus Christ – see Romans 9:33] for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed." See I Peter 2:6-8  Joel 2:32 is describing the Day of the Lord: "and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord has called."  Paul is establishing to his Jewish readers that his message is not different than the message of their Old Testament.  The Old Testament message was the same as Paul's message: salvation is available to all who call on the Lord and to all who believe. See Acts 2:21 Paul was making the gospel message of salvation by faith available to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  The Old Testament message of salvation was also available to the Jews and the Gentiles; for "everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved"!

There is also a message of assurance in these words from Paul.  Have you believed?  Have you called on the Lord?  If your answer is yes, you will never be put to shame and you "will be saved"! See John 6:37

Let's focus on the word, "call."  "Everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones has the following to say about this word, "calls":  "First of all, it means that they realize that they are in trouble.  They are like people drowning; they cannot swim any further and they know that they are going to sink.  They are desperately in need and they are aware of it.  Secondly, they realize they are absolutely hopeless.  As long as they feel they can still make the shore, they will not shout for help; they are too proud to do that…And, thirdly, they realize their complete helplessness; they have no reserves, nothing on which they can rely.  So, what do they do?  In their desperation they cry out for help.  It is the only thing they can do.  That is, exactly the meaning of this word 'call.' "  "Taken from ROMANS Exposition of Chapter 9 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1991 by Banner of Truth."

d. "But how can someone believe if they have never heard about it?"

(10:14-15)
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!' "

Thought Question:   Who do you believe is speaking here-Paul or his imaginary-legalistic-Jewish adversary?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Notice the progression in these verses:  They cannot call on Jesus if they have not believed in Him; they cannot believe if they have not first heard what they are to believe in; and they will have no one to give them the message to believe if someone is not first sent to them.  In these verses, Paul's imaginary adversary is developing a brilliant excuse.  We would gladly have believed your message, but no one has told us about Him.  This adversary is saying:  "You tell us that this message is close to us, but it is not close to us, for no one has ever preached it to us or declared it to us.  We would be excited about your message if someone would have just brought it to us, for 'beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!' "  These words are quoted from Isaiah 52:7.  The quote "refers to those who bring the exiles the good news of their imminent release from captivity in Babylon."  "Taken from the NIV Study Bible notes on Romans 10:15.  Copyright 1995 by Zondervan Publishing House." See also Nahum 1:15  It is interesting that the prediction of salvation in Isaiah 53 through the suffering Messiah Jesus Christ follows closely behind this verse that Paul quotes here---Isaiah 52:7, "beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Let's follow Paul's imaginary adversary's reasoning.  He says he cannot call out to someone in whom he does not believe.  In other words, do you expect me to call out for help to someone in whom I do not believe?  Next, he cannot believe in someone he has never heard about.  Further, how can he be expected to hear about Jesus if no one preaches about Him?  Still further, how can this preacher about Jesus even come to him if the preacher is not sent to speak to him?

e. Israel did have the gospel message preached to them, but they continually

resisted this good news of God's grace (10:16-21)
"But not all the Israelites accepted the good news.  For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our message?'  "

Thought Question:  What is there in this verse that helps you to understand Israel's rejection of the gospel message and the rejection of the gospel by so many today?

 

 

The problem is not that the message has not been preached, but that it was not accepted when it was preached.  For Isaiah said, "Lord, who has believed our message?" (Isaiah 53:1)  Faith does come through the hearing of God's message, "the word of Christ"; but Israel heard this message and did not receive it!

Ray Stedman shares the words of a Jewish Rabbi to a young Jewish boy about Christians and Christianity.  This letter clearly dramatizes the rejection of Jesus by the Jews:  "The Messiah question is central to Christianity.  This is the hub around which their whole theology rotates.  To make this your major concern is to play their game.  We have a belief in a messiah, but this is not too rigidly defined, nor of central concern.  According to our belief, the messiah is a man, descended from the house of David, since God had promised not to replace the line of David with another, who will defeat the enemies of the Jews, restore the people to the land of Israel, rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and reign there and introduce an era of peace.  The advent of the messiah has to do with God's plan for actualizing his plans in the world. . . . The situation is quite different for the Christian.  He believes that nothing that men do can help.  Man necessarily exists in a state of sin.  Ethical living, obedience to God, goodness, all are of no avail.  The only way that a man can get out of a state of damnation is to believe that Jesus is his Savior or Messiah.  Thus the whole purpose of religion is for man to be in Jesus i.e., to accept this belief in Jesus as his Savior." "Taken from Guilt to Glory by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

These words of this rabbi show that he understood the message of the New Testament about Jesus Christ, but chose to reject it.  This has been the pattern of the Jewish people, God's chosen people, down through the centuries.  The Jewish young man this rabbi was writing to, however, did become a Christian! 

The fact that the majority of Israel has rejected Jesus as their Messiah, as Paul says here, was predicted by Isaiah in Isaiah 53:1:  "Lord, who has believed our message?"  The rest of Isaiah 53 is the clearest prediction that Jesus is the Messiah promised to Israel found in the Old Testament.  And, just as Isaiah predicted, Israel chose not to believe in Jesus, the promised Messiah.  He predicted that the Jewish people's promised Messiah would come to them, and they would reject Him.

"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.  But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: 'Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.'  Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, 'I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.'  And Isaiah boldly says, 'I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.'  But concerning Israel he says, 'All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.' "

Thought Question:  Paul, a former Pharisee and expert on Israel, explains in these verses why Israel did not receive Jesus as their Messiah.  What is the reason?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Was there a time in your life when you were just like Israel (When you heard the message, but chose not to believe it)?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What is there in these verses that are an encouragement to you?

 

 

What does Paul mean, then, by "consequently, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ"?  Paul has just said that Israel heard and rejected the message about Christ.  So, faith did not come by Israel hearing "the word of Christ."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that there is a difference between hearing and really hearing.  Most of us have had a time when something was very important to us and we shared it with someone, but we could tell that this person we were talking to did not really hear us.  They heard our words, but they missed what was on our heart.  Most of us have also heard a new Christian describe his first experience of coming to a church service.  They often say it was as if "the Pastor was speaking only to me."  That is real hearing!  Listen to what the travelers on the road to Emmaus said about the words that they heard from the risen Lord Jesus Christ as He spoke to them:  "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us." (Luke 24:32) See Luke 24:13-32
They were really hearing with understanding, and not just hearing the sounds of the words. See also Acts 16:14  Paul said the following about the Thessalonian believers:  "For we know, brothers, loved by God that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction." (I Thessalonians 1:4,5)  They really heard the message about Christ!

What, then, about Israel's response to Jesus and to the testimony about Him?  Paul sums up Israel's response to the message, which they heard with their ears but did not hear with their hearts in 10:21: "…all day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."  In the previous verses, Paul said:  "But not all the Israelites accepted the good news."  The Greek word translated "accepted" includes the Greek word for "hearing" and "heard" in verse 17, but, the Greek word for "under" has been added to it making it a compound word.  It means to "hear under."  They heard God's words, but they refused to put themselves under the authority of God's words.  The type of hearing that produces faith is the willingness to put ourselves under the authority of God's words.  As Martyn Lloyd-Jones pointed out, true faith is really hearing and really believing that what we are hearing is the true reality about our sin and God's love through Jesus Christ.  Once we really see it, it will change the way we look at our individual lives, and it will motivate us to live in obedience to the One who gave the ultimate sacrifice to save us from eternal damnation.

Why has Israel not believed?  One possibility is that they did not have an opportunity to believe because they did not hear God's message to them.  That was Israel's excuse.  Paul answers their excuse by quoting Psalm 19.  They heard, because everyone has heard God's message.  In Psalm 19, David makes it completely clear that God has spoken to everyone: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night, they display knowledge…Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world…" (Psalm 19:1-4) See also Act 14:15-17; Romans 1:19,20  Paul applies this universal proclamation about God made by the heavens to the universal preaching of the gospel message.  What is Paul's conclusion?  John Stott refers to F. F. Bruce who believed that wherever the Jews were at that time, the church was also there with the gospel message. See Colossians 1:5,6,23  God uses a figure of speech in these verses.  It is a purposeful exaggeration to get the point across that the gospel message had widely spread to the whole world of his time.  The gospel message is also being widely spread to the world of our time!

The problem, as in the past, is not that Israel had not heard the gospel message; it is, again, that they had chosen not to believe it.  It is not God who is at fault or some group of people's fault for not getting the message to Israel.  It is Israel's fault for rejecting the message that they have heard.  Israel did have ears, but they did not use their ears to hear (to really hear)!

The second question, or excuse, that Paul answers is found in verse 19:  "Did Israel not understand?"  Israel may have heard the gospel message, but maybe the problem is that it was not told to them clearly enough for them to understand it.  Israel is implying, then, that if the preachers of the gospel had done a better job of presenting the message, then they would have believed it.  Paul answers this excuse by quoting Deuteronomy 32:21:  "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding." See Romans 9:22-26, 11:11

Moses' point in Deuteronomy 32 is that God had treated Israel like His special people.  No nation was as blessed as Israel was. See Deuteronomy 32:8-15a  How did Israel respond to God's special treatment of them?  They turned from Him to idol worship and provoked His jealousy. See Deuteronomy 32:15b-18  What was God's response to them?  Moses predicts that God will turn from Israel and to another people who were not His people, to provoke Israel to jealousy as He had been jealous when they turned to idols. See Exodus 20:3-5

The irony that Paul brings out here is that Israel did understand God and what He had revealed to them through the Old Testament.  They understood it and they rejected God.  As a result, God has reached out to the nations who did not understand what Israel understood.  Do you see what has occurred?  God's people with all of their special privileges are no longer God's people; but God's people are those who had not previously had an inside track with God.  Israel who was on the inside looking out is now on the outside looking in.  Remember the Temple with its inner courts where the Gentiles could not enter, but only God's chosen people the Jews could enter.  Now, it is reversed!  The Gentiles crowd the inner courts, and it is Israel as a nation who is unable to enter these courts because of their unbelief as a nation! See Matthew 21:42-43; I Peter 2:9,10

"And Isaiah boldly says, 'I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.' "  Isaiah goes on in the part of Isaiah 65:1 that Paul did not quote and says:  "I[God] said, 'Here am I, here I am."  The Gentiles did not reach out to Him, but He reaches out to them.

What Paul is showing is that God is puncturing Israel's pride completely.  Israel thinks that they are the elite nation and the Gentiles are the scum of the earth.  So, who does God reach out to?  God reaches out to those that Israel sees as scum.  It shows that if Israel is to come to God, they must choose to come to Him.  Most importantly, they must leave their arrogance and pride behind.  They must admit that they are a foolish nation "that has no understanding." 

Israel initially did not reach out to God; God reached out to them.  They had forgotten this basic truth: God had at first reached out to them and made them a nation.  They forgot about their humble beginnings and began to think of themselves as the great God-seekers.  The same thing can occur to us who are Christians.  It was God who first reached out to us (See Romans 5:8); but we can come to see ourselves as the great God-seekers.  The same type of pride that crept into Israel's heart can easily creep into our hearts, until we have lost the core message of the gospel.  It is all about grace; God's grace.  It is all about God reaching out to unworthy people.  But, it is also true that when God reached out to Israel He was reaching out to an equally unworthy people!

"But concerning Israel he says, 'All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.'"  These words are a quote by Paul from Isaiah 65:2.  Since Isaiah has 66 chapters in it, these words are near the end of this prophet's appeal to the "obstinate" nation of Israel.  The book of Isaiah is a book of both predictions of judgment and of a future salvation, as well as God's and Isaiah's appeal to Israel to repent and humbly turn to God.  Nevertheless, Israel continued in their rejection of God.  This hardened rejection of God reached its climax when they rejected the Messiah promised to them by Isaiah. See Isaiah 7:14, 11:1-5, 42;1-4, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12, 61:1-3

In this final verse of Romans 10, we have a revelation of what God is like and what it is about Him that we all need: "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."  To whom does He continually hold out His hands?  He continually holds out His hands "to a disobedient and obstinate people."  We can feel at times like God has given up on us.  We have failed Him so many times.  How can He not give up on us?  Yet, God's infinite love and patience toward Israel, presented to us throughout the Old Testament, reveals that He is a God who is always waiting for us to repent so that He can receive us with open arms. See Isaiah 1:18,19, 55:6,7  The father who received back his prodigal son in Luke 15 is God waiting with open arms to receive us when we repent and turn to Him.  In Matthew 23, after Jesus had described the hardened hypocrisy of the Jewish Pharisees in some of His strongest words, but He also says these words at the end of this chapter: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your [Jerusalem's] children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37)

Ray Stedman points out that this picture is a different picture of God than is presented by those who picture God as only reaching out to those who are chosen and coldly rejecting the rest: "the most amazing thing from this account is to realize that in order to perish, to go to hell, you must resist the pleas of a loving God…God never damns anyone to hell without a chance, and don't let anyone tell you that he does.  The Bible does not teach any such thing.  Rather it teaches us that no one---not one person---will end up separated from God who has not personally resisted the claim and appeal of the loving God who sought to reach him.  Hell is arrived at only after long years of rejecting truth and turning one's back to the light."  "Taken from Guilt to Glory by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

So, God does elect some and reject others as taught in Romans 9.  But, also, the non-elect are those who have stubbornly resisted the pleas and open arms of an all-loving God throughout their lives.  They could have turned to Him at any time, but they chose not to. Is God's love less than the love of a Christian parent of a wayward child?  As the loving parent holds out loving arms in hope that the child will one day return, so God's love is the same type of love toward those who resist Him.  Only His love is infinitely greater.

The words used to describe Israel's ongoing rejection of God help us to understand how they were rejecting God: "a disobedient and obstinate people."  "Disobedient" translates the Greek word apeitheo.  This is the Greek word for persuade with an a before it.  An a before the Greek word for God, theos, equals an atheist.  An a before the Greek word for persuade equals one who is unwilling to be persuaded.  Wuest translates this Greek word as " 'not to allow one's self to be persuaded.'  It speaks of Israel as non-persuasible, a people stiff-necked, obstinate." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Company."

The second word "obstinate" translates the Greek word antilego.  The Greek word lego means "to speak."  Antilego means to speak against.  It describes someone who rather than listen to you, is waiting to speak against you or your point of view.  There are today, news shows on television where people are interviewed on two sides of an issue.  Both individuals do not appear to listen receptively to the person on the other side of this issue, but they only wait for the other person to stop talking so they can "speak against" what the other person has said.  Israel is pictured here as doing this with God!

Most of us know by experience those who are resistant to anything we might say about our relationship with God.  We find out in a short time that they are not listening receptively to what we are saying.  They not only do not want to listen to us, they hate listening to us.  God's people, Israel, have been like this to God.  Nevertheless, He continues to hold out open arms to them! See Zechariah 7:11,12; John 12:37-39; Acts 7:51-53; Hebrews 3:12-19

Martyn Lloyd-Jones concludes his book on Romans 10 by warning that we who are evangelical Christians need to realize that we also are capable of becoming traditional and self-satisfied like the nation of Israel.  We can become proud instead of humble.  Our churches and we can become dead instead of alive.  The pattern did not stop with Israel.  We only have to think of Roman Catholicism and the mainline denominations.  Israel's pattern is not the exception but the very human pattern and rule.  If we lose the humility that came when we first realized how unworthy we were of God's grace, we also will soon become self-righteous and our Christianity will become no more than another form of man-made religion.

4. Nevertheless, God continues to be gracious toward His people Israel.

(11:1-32)
We will see in this chapter that it is God's plan to use even Israel's unbelief and His turning from Israel to the Gentiles to bring Israelites to Himself!  John Stott points out that the theme of chapter 11 is that God's rejection of Israel is not total, for there has always been a remnant of Jews who have been chosen by God (11:1-10).  Secondly, God's rejection of Israel is not final, for there will be a national turning of Israel to God in the future (11:11-32).  Israel has not fallen "beyond recovery" (11:11).  Romans 11:33-36 is a tribute to God's wisdom, which guides all that He does though it is beyond our ability to comprehend!

a. For God had not rejected all of Israel even during Paul's lifetime (11:1-6)

"I ask then:  Did God reject his people?  By no means!  I am an Israelite myself, a descendent of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.  God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.  Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah---how he appealed to God against Israel:  'Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me'?  And what was God's answer to him?  'I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.  So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace."

Thought Question #1:  Paul's Jewish opponents are saying that God has rejected Israel and has, therefore, not kept His promise to them.  But, Paul says that God has not rejected Israel.  What are some of the reasons that Paul gives to show that God has not rejected Israel?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  If you are a Christian through faith in Jesus Christ, you also are "chosen by grace."  What does it mean to you to be "chosen by grace" rather than to have been chosen because you deserve it?

 

 

Paul himself was both a Jew and Christian.  Paul's point is this-if God was through with Israel, God would not have allowed Paul to become a Christian.  Ray Stedman says this about Paul:  "Paul refers to himself as one of those foreknown, of the elect, one whom God set aside to be his.  In the letter to the Galatians the apostle reminds us this was done from his mother's womb, so that all through those years of resistance and pharisaical anger at the claims of Jesus, when Paul was persecuting the church and 'breathing out threatenings and slaughters,' he was nevertheless one of the elect.  Though he was struggling, he was one whom God was inexorably drawing to himself. And Paul never forgot it.  In many of his letters he marvels at the grace of God that took him---a blasphemer and persecutor of the church---and changed his heart, making him into a new creature in Christ.  He is but one example of the many thousands of Jews through the centuries who have believed in Christ."  "Taken from Guilt to Glory by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

Paul showed in 9:30-10:21 that it was not God who rejected Israel, but Israel that had rejected God.  Does that mean that God has rejected this nation that has rejected Him?  Paul asks this question: "Did God reject his people?"  His answer? "By no means!"  Among Israel there has always been a "remnant"-a portion of Israel that has been open and responsive to God.  So, God's rejection of Israel who rejected Him is not total, for some are still turning to Him!  God had not rejected Paul, and Paul had not rejected God!  In Elijah's time there were "seven thousand who [did not]…bow their knee to Baal."  See I Kings 19:18  Paul, a Jewish Christian, was a member of this believing remnant in his day and the Jewish Christians of our day are today's Jewish "remnant."  Paul's argument in 11:1-6 is that God did not reject Israel, for Paul and others were still choosing not to bow their knee to Satan's kingdom.

Part of God's eternal plan included the believing remnant in Israel, seven thousand in Elijah's time, the Jewish Christians of Paul's time, and the Jewish Christians of our time.  There were thousands of believing Jews in Paul's time. See Acts 21:17-20  God never has and never will reject a member of Israel who turns to Him in faith.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones brings out an important issue in the interpretation of these verses.  In verse two Paul says, "God did not reject his people whom he foreknew."  Who are "his people whom he foreknew"?  Are they just the "remnant" of Israel or is Paul referring to the chosen nation of Israel, including both the believing "remnant" and the unbelieving members of the Jewish race?  Lloyd-Jones points out that Paul must be referring to the whole chosen nation for the following reasons:  (1) He clearly is referring to the whole nation in verse one, "Did God reject his people?"  It is obvious that God did not reject the believing "remnant."  Then, the question would be, "Did God reject those who are the believing remnant?"  Those he is writing to were not perplexed about that question.  The answer is too easy to answer.  So, Paul must be referring to the whole nation; the nation God does appear to have rejected.  (2) The whole chapter, as well as chapters 9 and 10, is answering the question, "Why did God reject the whole nation of Israel and turn to the Gentiles?"  You will immediately see, as we continue on in Romans 11, that Paul is dealing with the whole nation of Israel.

It is also important to consider why Paul adds, "whom he foreknew."  He is stating how impossible it is for God to reject His people Israel.  They are His chosen nation.  They have been part of His plan before the world began.  In 11:28, Paul describes the nation of Israel as "loved on account of the patriarchs."  God chose a nation that would come through the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  From this nation would come the God/man Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.  Paul is saying: "Could God reject His especially selected people?"  The obvious answer is, "No!" For more examples of God's foreknowledge see Matthew 22:14; John 15:19; Acts 2:23, 13:48; Romans 8:29, 9:6-25; Ephesians 1:4,5,11; I Peter 1:2,20

Paul makes a very important point at the end of these verses:  "So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer by grace."  Israel has always been unable to earn their status with God.  They were chosen originally by God's grace.  Those who believed in Paul's time and those who believe in our time have their favored position with God only because of God's grace.  It is not because of our works that God's plan is being fulfilled in us who have believed in Jesus Christ; it is because of God's grace.  We can never say that we have earned our place with God.  It is and always will be by God's grace!  Paul also did not earn the right to be saved.  God met him on the road to Damascus and saved him.  God saved Paul when he, with fire in his eyes, was determined to kill God's chosen people the Christians.  A favored position with God only comes through His grace!

b. Why did not the whole nation of Israel receive the gospel message?

(11:7-10)
"What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written:  'God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.'  And David says:  'May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them.  May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.' "

Thought Question:  What is there in these verses that should be a warning to us today?

 

 

"What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did."  In Romans 9:30-10:3, Paul asks similar questions and also gives his answers:  "What shall we say?  That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel who pursued a law of righteousness, has not obtained it.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works…For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness."

In short, Israel was very zealously pursuing God in the wrong way.  They were pursuing God in a self-righteous way, not realizing that their works would only gain them God's condemnation.  As Paul concluded earlier in Romans 3:20: ". . . no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."

In these verses we learn that God allowed them to follow their self-righteousness to its natural goal: they were hardened!  They "were hardened, as it is written:  'God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.'"  Paul quotes these words from Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10.  So, what had happened to Israel in Paul's time---their rejection of Jesus their Messiah and the gospel message---was predicted many years before by Moses and Isaiah. 

Listen to William Barclay's word on these verses:  "In verse 7 the Authorized Version says, 'they have been blinded.'  More correctly, it should be, 'they have been hardened.'  The verb is poroun.  The noun porosis will give us the meaning better.  It is a medical word, and it means a callus.  It was specially used for the callus which forms around the fracture when a bone is broken, the hard bone formation which helps to mend the break.  When a callus grows on any part of the body that part loses feeling.  It becomes insensitive.  The minds of the mass of the people have become insensitive; they can no longer hear and feel the appeal of God."  "Taken from The Letters to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Earl Radmacher, former president of Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, said that truth will always have its impact on us.  We will be humbled and changed by it, or, if we reject it, we will become hardened by it.  Israel had become hardened.  They had rejected the truth in the Bible until they became hardened and unable to understand it. See Hebrews 3;12,13

Next, Paul quotes David (So, in these verses, he quotes Moses, Isaiah, and David):  " 'May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them.  May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.' " (from Psalms 69:22,23)

Listen once more to William Barclay's words on these verses:  "The idea is that men are sitting feasting comfortably at their banquet; and their very sense of safety has become their ruin.  They are so secure in their fancied safety that the enemy can come upon them all unaware.  That is what the Jews were like.  They were so secure, so self-satisfied, so at ease in their confidence of being the Chosen People, that the very idea had become the thing that ruined them."  "Taken from The Letters to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Israel had become so familiar and comfortable with God's book and with their ceremonies that they had lost touch with the meaning of it all.  Can this happen to us today?  Of course it can!  We can get so comfortable in our Sunday routines that we become insensitive to the meaning of God's book. We believe that we have heard it all before.  It loses its freshness to us, until we also have become hardened.  May God deliver us from this path to unbelief. See Hebrews 3:7-15 and Revelation 3:14-22

Another meaning of "their table" becoming a snare and a trap" is that worldly riches can lead us into thinking that we have all that we need.  Listen to Jesus' words, to the church at Laodicea: "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." (Revelation 3:17)  Listen to God's words to Israel in the book of Amos:  "You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on yourcouches.  You dine on choice lambs and fatted calves.  You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments.  You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph." (Amos 6:4-6)  Certainly, the affluence in our country can seduce and lull us into the same type of selfishness and complacency.

The "table" becomes a "snare" when it leads to blinding us to our need for God, finally leading us to hardness of heart.  God judicially has given Israel over to their choices, and their eyes have become darkened to Him. See Romans 1;24,26-27 and Ephesians 4:17-19

These words of David in Psalm 69:22-23 are very strong words: " 'May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.'"  These words are part of David's imprecatory Psalms where he calls down God's horrible judgment on his enemies. See also Psalm 58, 109, 137  How can we harmonize Jesus' exhortation to love our enemies with David's prayer that his enemies be horribly judged by God?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that these words are not words of personal vengeance.  David was the very opposite of vindictive in his relationship with King Saul who hated him and chased him mercilessly.  Though he had opportunities to kill Saul, he did not kill him; instead, he was merciful to him. See I Samuel 24:1-7, 26:7-9  What David is talking about in these verses in Psalm 69 is wrath on God's hardened enemies.  He is ultimately speaking of the final judgment of God on the hardened Israel of the future for rejecting their Messiah!

c. He will not reject Israel forever (and as the Gentiles have benefited from

the rejection of Israel, how much greater the Gentiles will benefit from their restoration). (11:11-12)
"Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.  But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!"

Thought Question:  What insight do these verses give you about how God works in our world and in your life? (Hint: Romans 8:28)

 

 

Paul's question is as follows: "Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?"  His answer: "Not at all!"  Israel has not fallen to never rise again, but has merely stumbled.  Notice that Paul distinguishes between falling and merely stumbling.

As Israel's stumbling has helped the Gentiles - the Christian church began because of Israel's stumbling.  Paul's point is obvious.  If we of the Gentile church benefited from Israel's stumbling, how much more are we the Gentile members of the church going to be enriched when God brings Israel into the completeness of His plan for her.

We see in these verses, the magnificent wisdom of God.  First, Israel has chosen to reject God.  What is God's response to their rejection of Him?  He  uses their rejection of Him to bless the Gentiles.  He starts the church.  Then, secondly, God uses the church to reach Israel.  He uses the Gentiles' eager reception of the gospel and their new and vibrant relationship with God to make Israel envious, so that they will be drawn to him.  Think if the opposite happened.  What if suddenly there was a huge surge of Jewish people becoming Christians, and it was obvious that their relationships with God surpassed what is typically happening in our mostly Gentile churches.  Would you be able to ignore this revival among the Jews?  Possibly, this change of perspective will help you to see how the growth of the church did not go unnoticed by the Jews, and that it did produce envy in them.  Thirdly, God will use Israel's ultimate turning to God to enrich the Gentiles still further.  From our human perspective, it appears that when God favors one person over another, it means that He has stopped loving the one He is not favoring.  But, God continues to love Israel even though they have turned from God and even though He has turned from them.  In His wisdom He is still doing things that are in their best interests and are for them, though it appears that the very opposite is true.  Do you see how this applies to all of us?  There are times when bad happens to us.  Yet, nevertheless, based on these verses and many others, God is directing even our bad times toward our ultimate good. See Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:2; Jeremiah 29:11

Let us consider Paul's words, "salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious" a little more.  How can Israel becoming envious lead to Jewish people becoming believers in Christ?  We have probably heard of something happening that is very similar to what Paul is describing in this verse.  A young lady begins to lose interest in her boyfriend.  She tells him she wants to be free to date anyone.  So, he takes that to mean that he can also date anyone.  So, he dates a pretty young lady.  His former girlfriend sees them together and is jealous and desires to once more be his only girlfriend.  Israel loses interest in God.  He reaches out to the Gentiles.  They see the Gentiles being blessed by God, and some of them may also want God to bless them also.  John Stott points out that Israel was also jealous of Paul's success and influence with the Gentiles in an ugly sort of a way. See Acts 5:17, 13:4, 17:5

How has Israel's "transgression" meant "riches for the Gentiles" (riches for us!)?  Paul answers that question in Ephesians 1:7,8: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."  Because God has turned to us and poured out His grace on us, we are now experiencing the riches of God's grace that has been "lavished on us."  Israel's ultimate "transgression" occurred when they sent their Messiah to die on a cross outside of Jerusalem.  That "transgression" led to Jesus' death for the sins of the whole world.  They sinned; we have received the riches of God's grace!

Finally, what is meant by, "how much greater will their fullness bring"?  Israel rejected their Messiah and this rejection by Israel moved the gospel message out of Israel to the Samaritans and to the Gentile world.  Remember how the murder of Stephen in Acts seven forced many Christians to flee Israel and ultimately resulted in the preaching of gospel message moving away from the persecution in Jerusalem and out into the world at large.  So, Israel's "loss" leads to "riches for the Gentiles."  But, Paul says that there will be "greater riches" when Israel is returned to a place of "fullness." 

We have begun to see Israel moving toward this time of "fullness."  Israel was stripped of their land in A.D. 70 by the Romans, but they returned to their land and became a nation once again in 1948.  Yet, there is a time in the future when Israel will turn to God as a nation. See Zechariah 12:10

The "fullness" describes a time when not only a small remnant will respond to the gospel message, but the full nation will respond to the gospel that comes to them through their slain Messiah.  What is the "much greater riches"?  Paul does not explain what he means at this point, but he states as a fact that something much richer awaits us who are Gentiles when the Jews repent and receive Jesus as their Messiah.  He appears to be referring to the Millennial Kingdom which will be an even richer period than this period of the church.

d. God has not exalted the Gentiles over the Jews, for the Jews remain the

central part of His plan. (11:13-24)

(1) Even Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles was seeking to besuccessful in

reaching the Gentiles, so that the Jews might become envious of the Gentiles' relationship with God and want to have it also! (11:13-14) See also 10:19, 11:11

"I am talking to you Gentiles.  Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them."

Thought Question:  Who is there whose relationship with God stood out to you in such a way that you desired to have a relationship with God like they had?  Is there someone like that right now?  Please explain what it was or is about them that aroused you to envy.

 

 

Paul did not see his ministry to be in any way an anti-Jewish ministry.  In fact, he saw his ministry to be a pro-Jewish ministry.  For the more successful he was in reaching Gentiles, the more likely that Israel would become jealous and possibly turn to God.  The Greek word translated "make much of" is the Greek word doxazo, which means "glorify."  The better he does and his ministry is glorified by God, the more likely that the Israelites will become jealous and turn to God. 

Is this "envy" that Israel will develop, that Paul hopes will be caused by the Gentiles coming to God in great number, a selfish desire?  In other words, is Paul trying to create a selfish jealousy within the Jews?  "Envy" is the desire to have what someone else has.  It is selfish when we want something that belongs to them and we can only have it if we take it away from them.  The gospel message, of course, is not like that.  It is available to anyone, and when you or I receive what the gospel offers, we do not take it away from anyone.  It is, then, a totally pure desire that Paul is seeking to create in the Jews.  It is a totally pure envy for us and for the Jews to want to have the very same type of rich relationship with God that someone else has.  Undoubtedly, you know someone who has a very rich relationship with God.  You envy their relationship with God and wish that you had the same type of relationship with God that that person has.  Is that sinful or selfish?  Of course not!  It is a good form of envy.  This is the type of envy that Paul is speaking about here.  Many of us have been drawn to God by seeing God's life in a Christian or a group of Christians.

(2) And the Gentiles will benefit much more greatly when the Jews are

restored and God's plan is fulfilled for them than from their rejection by God. (11:15)
"For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead."

Thought Question:  What do you believe is the "life from the dead" that will occur when Israel turns around and is once more accepted by God as a nation?

 

 

Now, our focus moves to verse 15: "For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead."  If God can bring the blessing of "reconciliation" with God through His rejection of Israel, what will God do for the Gentiles when Israel is restored to their place of prominence?  Paul implies that it will be very much better for us who are Gentiles when Israel is restored.  It will be so great that it will be like "life from the dead."  He undoubtedly is describing the transformation of the earth from a place of death to a place of life during the Millennial (1000 year reign) of Christ.  At that time the effects of the curse will be partially reversed.  Though people will still die during this unique period of time, they will live to much older ages. See Isaiah 2:1-4, 4;2-6, 11:6-9, 12:1-6, 14:7,8, 25:8,9, 29:18-23; Zechariah 14  So, the restoration of the "acceptance" of Israel will be "life from the dead."

(3) When God set apart the founder of the Jewish nation, He was also

setting apart the nation that would descend from them (11:16)
"If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches."

Thought Question:  Christians are called "saints," or "holy ones."  According to this verse, how is the nation of Israel similar to us who are saints?

 

 

In the Old Testament instructions, a portion of the dough offered to God makes the whole batch holy:  "and you eat the food of the land, present a portion as an offering to the LORD.  Present a cake from the first of your ground meal and present it as an offering from the threshing floor." (Number 15:19-20)  Also, the roots of a tree determine what the branches will be like.  Paul's argument, then, is that because God set apart to Himself their ancestor Abraham, the nation of Israel is set apart to God   "Paul uses two pictures to show that the Jews can never be finally rejected.  All food before it was eaten had to be offered to God.  So the law laid it down (Numbers 15:19, 20) that if dough was being prepared, the first part of it must be offered to God; when that was done, the whole lump of dough then became sacred [or set apart to God].  It was not necessary, as it were, to offer every separate mouthful to God.  The offering of the first part sanctified [set apart to God] the whole.  …What Paul deduces from that is this---the patriarchs were sacred to God; they had in a special way heard God's voice and obeyed God's word; in a special way they had been chosen and consecrated by God.  From them the whole nation sprang; and just as the first consecrated handful of dough made the whole lump sacred and the dedication of the sapling made the whole tree sacred, so the special consecration of its founders made the whole nation sacred in a special way to God." "Taken from The Letters to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." See Numbers 15:15-21 and Leviticus 23:9-14

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, the "holy" that Paul refers to here is not holy moral character.  As, we can tell by reading the book of Genesis; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not holy in this way.  They were holy in that God set them apart for His holy purpose.  And, so, He set their descendants apart to this same holy purpose.  As the first part of the dough and the roots were set apart to God – holy, so the descendents of these patriarchs are set apart for God's holy purpose.

Lloyd-Jones also points out that the "root" is singular, so it does not appear to refer to the three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), but just to Abraham. See Romans 4:1; Isaiah 51:1-2

(4) And we must remember that we have been grafted into Israel (So, we

have no basis for boasting that we are greater than Israel)
(11:17-18)
"if some of the branches have been broken off and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches.  If you do consider this:  You do not support the root, but the root supports you."

Thought Question:  Paul is speaking to us who are Christians: What is he warning us about?

 

 

Wuest summarizes Paul's thoughts in these two verses as follows:  "Paul's figure is:  The Jewish nation is a tree from which some branches have been cut, but which remain living because the root (and therefore all the branches connected with it) is still alive.  Into this living tree the wild branch, the Gentiles, is grafted among the living branches and this draws life from the root." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Company."

Now, consider Barclay's words:  "From the point of view of horticulture Paul's picture is impossible.  In horticulture it is the good olive that is grafted into the stock of the wild olive so that a fruit-bearing olive may result.  The process that Paul pictures was never used in actual practice, because it served no useful purpose.  But the point Paul wishes to make is quite clear.  The Gentiles had been out in the deserts and the wilderness and among the wild briars, and now, by the act of God's grace, they are engrafted into the richness and fertility of the garden olive tree."  "Taken from The Letters to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." See Jeremiah 11:16

Lloyd-Jones and John Stott point out, however, that Sir William Ramsey in his archaeological research discovered that sometimes wild olive branches were grafted into the garden olive trees to invigorate trees that were not doing well in producing fruit.  Whether or not what Paul describes here actually took place in Paul's time or not, his point is that the Gentiles, the wild olive tree, were grafted into Israel, the garden olive tree.  This grafting resulted in the Gentiles becoming God's people.  The Gentiles---we who are God's people but not Jews---now bear fruit for God due to our being grafted into God's people the Jews.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues that the olive tree does not represent Israel but represents God's people among the Jews.  So, for him, the olive tree represents the people of God since Abraham who have shared in Abraham's faith and are the true Israel. See Romans 9:6 and Galatians 3:29  But, his viewpoint does not fit with the way Israel is represented in this chapter.  For example, in verse 17, Paul says:  "If some of the branches have been broken off."  This would mean that some of the people of God have been broken off from the tree.  It would mean that some people were the people of God and saved, but then lost their salvation.  This contradicts what Paul says earlier in the book that we are chosen by God to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and all who are so chosen will be glorified. See Romans 8:28-39

A better interpretation of the meaning of the olive tree is that it represents Israel throughout time.  As Israel rejected God and was moving away from God's purpose for them as a nation, God has removed the nation of Israel that has existed from Jesus' time to our time from being the vessel through whom He primarily expressed Himself and He grafted in the Gentiles believers or the church to fulfill this purpose. See Matthew 8:11,12, 22:1-10  But, Paul cautions we who are in the church to not do what Israel did and become proud as they became proud. See Romans 2:17-29  For we who call ourselves Christians can also be Christians in name only-as Israel became God's nation in name only.  They were not God's people in their hearts.  Much of what is called the church and Christianity today has become as Israel was in Jesus' time.  They are God's church in name, but not in their hearts and have been cut off.  For example, there are churches and church people who do not believe the Bible is God's fully inspired word.

Paul also cautions them to remember and be grateful for the nation of Israel, for it was through them---the nation of Israel---who are the root of the tree that bears all that we enjoy as Christians.  For example, men and women like Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, and Paul are the tree into which we have been grafted.  The church in Nazi Germany sadly bought into much of the Nazi's hatred of the Jews and participated in the carnage.  The true church must not forget that it is the Jewish people whom God used to reach out to us and to teach us about faith in God.  The book that we are now studying was written by Paul, a Jew.  In fact, most of the Bible was written by Jews and most of the Bible is written about Jews.

Pride leads to the sin of despising others whom we deem to be of a lower stature than us.  The Jews in their pride despised us who are Gentiles.  We must not follow in their footsteps and despise the Jews, for parts of that which is called the church can do what they did and also be cut off from God's plans.  We ourselves can do what they did and also be cut off from God's plans!  Though, if we are genuinely born-again Christians, we will never be removed from His eternal family.  There was a man at the church at Corinth who was turned over to Satan, but did not lose his salvation. See I Corinthians 5:4-5

It is important that we make a distinction between a nation or the church being cut off and a person being cut off from eternal salvation.  The subject in these verses is about Israel and the church, not about individuals.  So, these verses are about God ceasing to use a group of people as His people, and not about Christians losing their salvation.  Large portions of what was once the church are no longer what they were at one time.  There are, for example, churches that we call dead churches because they no longer share the gospel message and no longer give signs of having born-again Christians in their membership.  That church is a church that has been cut off.  Jesus warned the church at Ephesus that if they did not repent from falling away from their first love, He would remove their lampstand. See Revelation 2:4-5  He was not speaking of individual Christians losing their salvation, but of a church no longer being Spiritually blessed by Him.

(5) And we should not look down on Israel because God broke them off

and grafted us in, for if the natural branches were broken off, it
will be much easier for we who are the unnatural branches to be
broken off, if we also fall away from God. (11:19-22)

"You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.'  Granted.  But they were broken off because of unbelief and you stand by faith.  Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.  Consider therefore the kindness and the sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you provided that you continue in his kindness.  Otherwise you also will be cut off."

Thought Question:  Once again, Paul is speaking to us who are Christians.  What is he warning us about in these verses?

 

 

The Jews were broken off according to Romans 9:32, "Because they pursued it [being right with God] not by faith but as if it were by works."  We who are Christians have entered our relationship with God by faith in Who Jesus is.  We believe that He is the Son of God and we have put our faith in what He did for us; he took our penalty for sin by dying on the cross.  Could the church make the same mistake that Israel made and pursue salvation by works?  Yes!  In fact, the Roman Catholic Church is what it is because they exchanged salvation by faith for salvation by works.  The Roman Catholic Church system has been cut off from the family of God as Israel was cut off from God.  This, of course, does not mean that individual Roman Catholics are not Christians.  If they are Christians, they are not Christians because they have followed the system of works required by the Roman Catholic Church.

What about the Protestant Church? Can the same thing happen to the church that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church?  It not only can happen; it did happen.  Much of the Protestant Church was broken off due to the Ecumenical movement, a movement to unite churches around a liberal social agenda rather than around the teachings of the Bible.  Can this same type of thing happen today?  Yes!  For, whenever what was once a faith-type of church moves back to self-reliance and self-righteousness, that part of Christendom is cut off from God.

Paul predicted in a number of places that this type of apostasy from faith in God would happen among those who call themselves Christian See I Timothy 4:1-3 and II Timothy 3:1-9

What must we do so that the church that we are a part of today will not fall away?  We must remember that we are saved by faith in what Jesus did for us and not because of any good in us!  The regular communion service where we celebrate the Lord's Supper should be a reminder to us that it was what Jesus did and not what we have done or do that saves us.

Ultimately what Paul is warning us about is pride.  In verse 18, he said: "do not boast over those branches [the Jews]."  Someone has said that we should fellowship with each other as if we are presently at the foot of the cross and we are looking up at Jesus as He is dying there for our sins right now.  At the foot of the cross there is nothing to provoke pride in us.

(6) And we must also remember that God can graft Israel in once again

(11:23-24)
"And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.  After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!"

Thought Question:  There are some in Christianity who believe that God is through with Israel as a nation.  They believe they have been completely replaced for all time by the church.  What do these verses have to say about their view?

 

 

Once again, a branch of a wild olive tree will not naturally bear cultivated olives.  For it is the branch that will determine what the branch bears and not the tree it is grafted into.  But, we have been grafted into Israel and we bear the same fruit as the people of God in Israel bore throughout the years-people like Moses, David, and Isaiah.  Now, if God can graft us who are Gentiles into Israel, how much easier it is for God to graft those who are Israelites back into Israel.  If Israel humbles themselves and cries out to God for mercy as we Gentile Christians have done, will not God be even more ready to receive them into His family? See Zechariah 12:10-14

Paul says that "if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again."  Notice Israel's part and God's part.  Israel's part is to "not persist in unbelief" and God's part is to "graft" them in.  He is able to do this task.   Though man cannot accomplish this task, God can.  The words "God is able" implies the difficulty of the task.  Man cannot, but "God is able"!  "For nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37)

e. And after the full number of Gentiles have come in, God will restore Israel.

(11:25-32)

(1) Israel's hardening will only continue until the full number of Gentiles

have been saved, and then the Deliverer will come to save Israel.
(11:25-27)
"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.  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:  'The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.  And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.' "

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe Paul means by a "mystery"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  These verses, once more, bring up the very important issue of whether or not God has completely eliminated Israel from His plans.  What do these verses, then, tell us about God's plans for Israel?

 

 

Paul begins this section of verses by speaking of a "mystery."  What does he mean by a "mystery"?  The "mystery" referred to in the Bible is not a "who dunnit?" type of mystery, but it refers to something that has always been part of God's plan, but is only now being revealed to us. See Matthew 11:25; Romans 16:25-26; I Corinthians 2:6-10, 15:51; Ephesus 1:9-10, 3:4-6

What is the particular "mystery" that Paul refers to in 11:25?  It is the present "hardening" of Israel.  Israel as a whole is hardened and resistant to God's gospel message about Jesus Christ.  Even though Jesus' sacrifice for their sins is clearly predicted in such parts of the Old Testament as the teachings about the sacrifices and the Passover Lamb, and in such key chapters as Isaiah 53, and Psalm 22; Israel is strangely blind to who Jesus is.  But, this hardening will not continue on forever.  There is a time when their eyes will be opened. See Zechariah 12:10

Notice that this "hardening" is not only a temporary "hardening" that will end at that future time when Israel will turn back to God, but it is "hardening in part."  It is "in part" for there have been many Jews who have seen Who Jesus is and have become Christians.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, however, offers another interpretation of the "in part."  He believes that it is a "hardening in part" because it is not a final and complete "hardening" that will never end. See II Corinthians 3:14,15 where the hardness is called a veil over the eyes and hearts of Israel

In Luke 21:24, Jesus tells us that Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until "the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."  The "times of the Gentiles" is different from "the full number of the Gentiles" coming in that Paul is talking about in these verses.  The "times of the Gentiles" refers to the Gentiles' rule over the world and over Israel that began with the conquest over Israel by Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar and will end when Jesus defeats the Antichrist, the last ruler of the Gentiles.  The "full number of the Gentiles" coming in occurs when the Gentiles church is complete and everyone who has been chosen to be part of it has believed and has become part of the eternal church of Christ.

Here we have, as pointed out by Warren Wiersbe, one of the "until" parts of the Bible.  Israel has been hardened "until the full number of the Gentiles has come in."  So, we are waiting for the next great occurrence in God's plan of the ages.  It will not occur "until the full number of the Gentiles has come in." See Matthew 23:39; Luke 21:24 and Psalm 110:1 for other "until" verses.

These verses (11:26-27) are mostly a quote from Isaiah 59:20,21 in the Old Testament.  There are those within Christianity who believe that God has completely abandoned Israel because she rejected her Messiah.  But, these verses in Isaiah promise a time when the Redeemer will return to Israel and forgive them of their sins.  See also Isaiah 60 and Zechariah 12-14  Paul will make it clear to us in the verses following these verses (11:28-32), that God will keep His promises to Israel even though Israel has rebelled against Him.  See also Isaiah 27:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Psalm 14:7.

It appears that the inspired Apostle paraphrases a number of Old Testament verses to fit with his purposes in this letter.  His words are not exactly what are found in any of the verses, but it is, nevertheless, exactly what God taught and meant in these Old Testament verses.  The Old Testament writers' words were inspired and so were the Apostle Paul's paraphrases of their words inspired.

What does Paul mean in verse 26 when he says "'The deliverer will come from Zion"?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones appears to be right when he says that the "Zion" being referred to is the heavenly Jerusalem.  At some time in the future Jesus will come from the heavenly Jerusalem and, at that glorious time, He will turn Jacob---the nation of Israel--from their godlessness.  This could be referring to a spiritual revival that will come on Israel spiritually or it could speak of Jesus appearing to Israel like is described in Zechariah 12.  However it will happen, it will be the work of the future Deliverer of Israel.  That future Deliverer of Israel will be the same One whom they crucified when He first appeared to them. See Zecharariah 12:7-13

What is meant by "the full number of Gentiles has come in""The full number" in the NIV translation is actually only one Greek word in the Greek New Testament.  It is the Greek word pleroma.  It is the same word that is translated "fullness" in 11:12 where it refers to the "fullness" of Israel.  The "fullness" in 11:12 refers to the time when Israel will experience the spiritual "fullness" that God desires for them.  What, then, is the "fullness" or "the full number" of the Gentiles?  As was explained earlier, it may be referring to the time when "the full number of Gentiles" that are included in God's plan have become believers.  Also, it could be referring a time in the future when the church will experience a spiritual fullness in their relationship with God that will be so obvious that God will use this "fullness" or revival to draw Israel to a national repentance. See Ephesians 3:14-21, 4:11-13

What is meant by "all Israel will be saved"?  The meaning is clear; there will be a time in the future when Israel as a nation will turn to God and there will be a national revival.  Again, look at Zechariah 12-14 where this national turning to God is clearly described and predicted. See also Isaiah 60

There are some in Christianity who believe that "all Israel" refers only to the elect of Israel throughout time.  But, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, if it only means all the elect throughout time it has never been a "mystery."  For we have known all along that there will always be a remnant in Israel who will believe. See I Kings 19:18  Also, Paul appears to be speaking of a future time when all Israel will be saved, rather than speaking of Israelites being saved throughout time.

And, so, we have here the answer to the question that has been a major point of difference and disagreement between Reformed and Dispensational Christians.  That question is as follows:  "Is God finished with Israel?"  The Reformed Christians' answer is, "Yes!"  The Dispensational Christians' answer is, "No!"  Paul's answer in Romans 11 is a resounding, "No!"  According to Paul, Israel has experienced a temporary hardening, but there is coming a time when Israel, as a nation, will turn back to God.

It is important to point out once more that the olive tree symbolizes Israel throughout time.  Jewish individuals of the past who turned away from God and died in their rejection of God and unbelief will, of course, not turn back to God.  But, the individuals of Israel of some future time will turn back to God.  The turning away and turning back is not speaking of individual Jews turning away from God and then turning back to God.  The olive tree with its grafting in and possibly cutting off of the Gentiles; and the breaking off of Israel and grating in again of Israel refers to what occurs to the nation of Israel and Gentiles throughout time, and not to individual believers losing their salvation and regaining it.

The reason that God is speaking to Gentiles and explaining about Israel's present hardening and their future national turning to God is so that they (the Gentiles) will "not be conceited."  All that Paul speaks about here is very ironic.  The Jews were chosen by God and eventually became very proud and felt themselves superior to the "lowly" Gentiles.  The Jews were cut off and the mostly Gentile church began.  So we, the Gentile Christians, can very easily fall into the very same patterns that occurred to the Jews; we can now feel superior to the "lowly" Jews.  But, it is God who has been doing it all.  The choosing was God's doing.  There is nothing that we the mostly Gentile church or the Jewish nation has done that has given either of us any reason to have any feelings of superiority toward the other.

(2) Though Israel is now rejected by God because of their rejection of the

gospel, they still remain God's people because of His irrevocable promises to the Patriarchs (their ancient fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). (11:28-29)
"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, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what is the proper attitude a Christian should have toward Israel?

 

 

Here, we see that God sees Israel both as enemies of the gospel and as loved by Him because of the promise and calling of the nation through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  See Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; Romans 3:3  Why is Israel regarded by God as His enemy?  It is because they stand opposed to Him, Jesus Christ, the gospel, and to Christians who are God's people.  In fact, they murdered His Son Jesus Christ, who came as their promised Messiah.

What did Paul mean by, they are "enemies on your account"?  God is on the side of we who are the church and opposed to the Jews as they stand against us in so many ways.  For example, some of the strongest opposition to Christianity and Christian viewpoints in our country comes from Jewish people.  In these cases, they are our enemy and God says they are His enemy as well.  He is on our side and against them for our sake!

Nevertheless, the same people who are such staunch enemies of all that is Christian are also beloved of God because they are His chosen nation.  John Stott points out that the people of Israel are still God's elect, even though they are now also His enemies.  Then Stott observes that the message of 11:30-32 is that God will one day show mercy to those who are His elect nation.  So, God is clearly not finished with His elect nation.  Israel's hatred of God and their hatred of all that is of God will change at some time in the future and Israel will be dramatically and climactically drawn to God by His mercy.

The ultimate reason why God will one day restore Israel to a place of favor with Him is stated in verse 29:  "for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."  The word "gifts" is a translation of the Greek word charisma.  It is not something which Israel has earned, but an undeserved gift much like the gifts that are given to children at Christmas.  They are God's people due only to the fact that God graciously chose to endow them with the gift of being His people.  God's "call" is another aspect of His gift.  It is, according to Wuest, not "a calling in the modern sense of a vocation or career assigned to any one by Him; it His authoritative invitation to a part in the Messianic Kingdom."  "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 195 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." 

God made this promise to the fathers of their nation, and He will never go back on His to promise to them.  As Paul says, His promise is "irrevocable."  "Irrevocable" comes from a Greek word that means that which God promises, He will not change His mind.

(3) Just as God used Israel's unbelief to provide mercy for the Gentiles, so

God will use His mercy to sovereignly accomplish His purposes for the presently disobedient Israel. (11:30-32)
"Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you.  For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all."

Thought Question:  What do you believe Paul means by the words: "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all."?

 

 

What we see in these verses is the wisdom behind God's dealing with both the Jews and the Gentiles.  When we who are Gentiles began being saved and thus became the major part of the church, it was obvious that we did not deserve this salvation.  We were rebellious against God and the only part we played in our salvation was that we cried out to God to be saved. See Psalm 107   It was obvious that we did not earn our salvation.  It was all of mercy.  Here, Paul says that exactly the same type of thing will happen to the nation of Israel.  Right now they are clearly in rebellion and opposed to Jesus Christ, God's Son and His church.  When they do turn to Him, it will be obvious that the salvation that they will receive will be due only to God's mercy and not due in any way to what they have earned from Him!  "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all."  As John Stott astutely observes, disobedience imprisoned us all.  What is alone able to free us from this prison of disobedience?  Only God's mercy can set us free?  We who are in the church have already been set free by His mercy.  Likewise, only God's mercy can set Israel free!  Now they remain imprisoned in their disobedience; one day they will experience the very same freedom that the church now experiences.

We are not ready to see that we need mercy until it is clear to us that we are hopelessly-lost-rebellious sinners.  As we concluded just before we became Christians that we were hopelessly-lost-rebellious sinners, so Israel will need to also conclude that they are hopelessly-lost-rebellious sinners before they will cry out to God for mercy and receive it from Him. See Zechariah 12:10

(4) How totally beyond us is God's wisdom and His grace! (11:33-36)

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  'Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?'  'Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?'  For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever! Amen."

Thought Question:  What is there in these verses that help you to have the proper attitude toward God?

 

 

This majestic description of God's infinite wisdom and transcendent ways can be summed up in these words:  "God deserves to be worshiped, not questioned!"  When Paul went into the Synagogues and argued from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Promised Messiah some believed, but some became hardened to what he was saying.  They rejected Jesus, Paul and the church.  They questioned and challenged Paul's presentation of the gospel.  Ultimately, they questioned God's right, as they saw it, for Him to change His plans and go from using the Jewish nation as His chosen vessel to reach the world to using the church which included both the Jews and the Gentiles as His chosen vessel.  They were questioning God and not worshiping Him.  If it did not make sense to them; God was wrong.  Here, Paul is dynamically pointing out that God's wisdom and thinking is far beyond their thinking and all men's thinking.

It is very similar to what you see in the book of Job.  Job did not understand why all the trouble had come down on him.  He was sure if he could only explain things to God, that God would see it his way. See Job 13:3,15, 23:3-7  What was God's response to Job?  "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?  Tell me, if you understand…" (Job 38:4)  "…Let him who accuses God answer him!" (Job 40:2)  "Brace yourself like a man and I will question you, and you shall answer me." (Job 40:7)  In simple terms, "What exactly qualifies you to talk to Me on equal terms?"  The answer, of course, is, "Nothing."  We are infinitely out of our league when we try to understand God and why He does what He does.

There is so much in life that we do not understand.  At the time that these words are being written, our country has just experienced the natural disaster of hurricane Katrina that flooded New Orleans.  Not so long before that there was a huge tsunami in southeastern Asia.  Why?  There are still those who horribly enslave young girls and force them into prostitution.  Why does God allow this to happen?  We just do not understand why God allows what He allows to happen.  Why did God allow the disaster in New York on 9/11 to happen?  As Paul says here, "How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" 

Many of us have gone through times in our own lives that turned out much different than we thought they would.  If you and I had been God, we would not have allowed it to happen.  We would change so much of what happens in life.  Why does God allow all the evil to happen?  Why does He not step in and stop the evil before it happens?  The answer is that God has a better plan; a plan that will accomplish the ultimate good.  We do not understand why it includes all the evil that occurs, but one day we will understand.

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"  According to what's stated in these chapters, the Jews were using their human reasoning and putting God on trial.  Paul's response?  Your finite minds cannot understand the infinitely deep and rich "wisdom and knowledge of God."  What is the proper response to God and who He is?  The appropriate response to make to an almighty, omniscient, and all-wise God is to stop questioning Him and start worshiping Him.  All that is taking place is gloriously fulfilling His loving and all-wise plan; even if it does not make sense to our minds with our very limited knowledge and completely inadequate understanding.  " 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD.  'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.' " (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Let us focus on a key word in these verses:  "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"  Years ago, as a sailor in the United States Navy I was transported from Hawaii to the small island of Guam on a Navy transport ship.  As I gazed out on the sea for two weeks, I saw only the top of the ocean as we sliced through the surface part of the waters.  But, oh the depths that were below us!  I could have dove into this water and swum down as far as I could go, but there were great depths in those waters that I could never have even begun to have swum down to.  This is the picture that Paul is describing here.  We can dive into trying to understand God's ways, but it is not long before we go as far as we can go.  Beyond our limits are vast depths that are far beyond our ability to swim to.  We, therefore, who understand so little, should not think we have a right to question God for what He does.  Instead, we can be comforted that nothing will separate us from God's love, and He works all things for the good of those He loves. 

Then, Paul says, "How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!"  It is apparent that the Jews were saying, in effect, "Give us an answer that makes sense to us."  God's ways and reasons, however, need not make sense to us; they only need to make sense to Him.  His ways are "unsearchable" by us; but they, nevertheless, are completely just, pure, loving, and all-wise.

Next, Paul says, "Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?"  This question comes from Isaiah 40:13.  These words are meant, with strong sarcasm, to put any man in his place who puts himself on an equal status with God:  "Explain it so it makes sense to me, and only then will I be satisfied."  In our modern-day world we have philosophers, scientists, university professors, pundits of all types who believe they are the final word on their areas of expertise. See Romans 1:22  They are the great ones who know it all.  They ridicule the Bible, God's Word.  It is merely a primitive book; we know so much more today.  They feel that they are qualified to be critics of God.  Instead, they need to see how little they know compared to all that God knows.  They do not know at all what God knows and they need to turn to Him for counsel.  Certainly, He does not need to turn to them for counsel!

Though we may see how preposterous it is for these men and women to criticize God, they are not alone; for we all can and do have the very same attitude toward God when we question why He does what He does.  Job did it, and we do it as well.  Whenever life takes a turn for us that does not fit in with our plans for ourselves, the very human pattern is for us to blame God for not doing it our way.  Sometimes it is very understandable.  For example, when we lose a loved one in some very painful way, we can shout out to God, "Why?"  This very section of verses was the sermon text at the funeral service of middle-aged man who died of cancer that I knew years ago.  He had a wife and a young daughter.  They certainly could not understand why he was taken from them at such a key time in their family-life.  Yet, we must believe that in the depth of God's wisdom and knowledge there is an explanation.

Then, Paul says, "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"  This rhetorical question comes from Job 41:11.  The obvious answer is, "No one!"  The pastor in the local church where I am an elder often reminds us during the offering time that God is not in need of our giving.  He is doing quite well without our financial help.  If we stacked up all that God has done for us next to what we have done for Him, it will immediately become obvious who is in debt to whom.  He owes us absolutely nothing; we owe Him everything!

This really is the message of Romans up to this point.  We cannot in any way earn a righteous stance before God.  Therefore, being righteous before God can only come to us through grace.  The gospel of grace through which the Gentiles in the church came into a relationship with God is not at all inconsistent with what is taught in the Jewish Old Testament.  For, it is the only way anyone can come into a righteous and just relationship with God.  The Jews could not and cannot today say to God, "We have done such and so, now, you are obligated to give us a favored place in your Kingdom."  No one is in God's debt.  On the contrary, we who have believed in Jesus Christ are infinitely in debt to God!

Last of all Paul says:  "For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever! Amen."  If we see existence as it actually is, we will conclude what Paul concludes in this final verse of Romans 11.  All things are "from" God.  All things maintain their existence "through" God.  And all things exist "to" accomplish His ultimate goal.  What is God's ultimate goal?  His goal, as clearly expressed here, is that all things might be an expression of His glory and reveal to us His glory.  "To him be the glory forever!"

The theme of Romans is given in Romans 1:1-17.  The theme of Romans is the gospel of God. See Romans 1:1-1-5,8,9,14-17  The gospel is that "righteous from God [that comes to us] apart from the law" and it comes to us "through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." (Romans 3:21-22)  As Paul has pointed out in Romans 9-11, it is only through God mercifully reaching out to us that we can be saved.  Paul, as the consummate defense attorney, has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the gospel is God's premiere message to man and that God is totally just in reaching out to the Gentiles with the gospel message.  For it is also the way through which the nation of Israel will one day turn to God and also be saved!

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Romans