As I always mention, an introduction is always in order. In chapter 1, after Paul introduces himself, his credentials, and his audience, he begins to speak about the subject that we have now termed in our understanding, RADICAL DEPRAVITY, detailing it in 1:18-32, giving both reasons and examples regarding the terrible and approaching wrath of God.
Chapter 2 becomes a little more specific, addressing a specific target audience – the Jew in their midst – that perhaps had come because of some kind of agreement that Jesus was a man to follow, but still relying on their own Jewish ritual, rite, sign, or even membership of the specific group for their salvation. Paul went on to explain that there is no ritual, rite, sign, place, set of words or actions, or membership of any specific earthly group that has salvific effect. That salvation [soteria] only comes from one source for everyone – from Christ alone, by grace alone through faith alone, as the theologians of the Reformation put it. Romans 3 talks about the straight up gospel, and tells us not only why we need to be saved from that coming wrath, but the hows and the whens and all of that.
Then in Chapter 4. we saw Abraham, the Old Testament example of justification by faith. The chapter discussed in detail that Abraham was not justified by following the Law, which came 430 years after Abraham, or by circumcision, because this covenant was a unilateral covenant that God performed all by Himself before circumcision was ever given as a symbol of the Abrahamic Covenant – and certainly WELL before the Mosaic Covenant. Then in Chapter 5, we saw how that extended to all of us who believe now, and talked about how this “justified” us before God, or “acquitted” us before God of the unrighteousness by our great Substitute that took our place to pay for our sins, having lived a perfect life before God and then knowingly and willingly surrendered it. That’s right, Jesus was no victim – he was an active participant – as was the rest of the Godhead in this plan. However, the chapter briefly spoke about something else that will be the subject of chapter 6 – sanctification – the process whereby God uses the difficulties that He allows (I argue engineers) in our lives to make us more like His son; this will literally take the rest of your life. But we must choose to yield to God and His work in our lives through the Holy Spirit within us, and that is the problem.
Although we have been born again, or redeemed, or saved, or regenerated – whatever term you are comfortable with here – and although we are renewed in our spirit by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we still live in the flesh and in the world system that is controlled by the father of lies. Our own flesh is what we are to consider as dead – but it isn’t easy, because it for now is still alive and it fights us, being still enslaved to sin through death. And that is what the entire subject is in chapter 7, which then breaks into chapter 8, where Paul starts to talk about the implications, but more, the power behind this new life in Christ, the Holy Spirit, also known as the Spirit of Christ, also known as the Comforter, the third person of our Godhead Trinity. Last time, in chapter 8, we talked about how Christ set us free and how the Holy Spirit has assisted in every aspect of our salvation, and how a person’s changed behaviour is the evidence that Christ has saved said individual – that they no longer focus their minds on the things of the world, or the “flesh” according to Paul, but instead they focus on the “Spirit,” or rather pleasing the One that has set them free from the penalty, power, and someday the presence of sin in their lives. The next thing he talks about in the second part of chapter 8 is that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus, and then he defines exactly who that group of people is in verses 29 and 30 – and we need to have a theological understanding of that text – that those that God foreknew, he predestined to belong to His Son, and he called them, and then He justified them, and then He glorified them (all in the past tense, that is, the action has already been completed, which infers an eternal security among other things). It is this group of individuals that God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit will lead all the way to glory to be with and to be like His Son Jesus Christ. We may not know what that looks like, but we can be sure that it will be – glorious!
That brings us to chapter 9, which I broke down for textual analysis as follows:
KV16: Election is dependent on God Alone
1-13: Sons of God are not created by the flesh
14-18: Sons of God are chosen in mercy
19-29: Sons of God are chosen by God alone
30-33: Sonship of God is pursued by faith alone
In introducing chapter 9, I have to acknowledge that this book can offer some difficulties in bringing chapters 9 through 11 into the overall narrative of Scripture. If we were to turn directly from 8:39 to 12:1, we could continue the narrative of Scripture and Paul’s gospel without trouble and without loss. That is in fact what the vast majority of modern preachers do – they avoid it because it introduces conflict into Scripture that can be hard to explain, and harder to accept.
However, Paul DID include these three chapters in his gospel narrative, and I believe I may know the reasons why it occurs here. We’ll get into this as we go, no doubt, so let’s jump in.
KV16: Election is dependent on God Alone
Please understand that I am not a proponent of replacement theology. The church has not replaced Israel in the New Testament as some have errantly taught (typically the Catholic cult or others that espouse their theology). I am also not an advocate of something known as British Israelism (or it’s more common name, Armstrongism) that teaches that we in the West (particularly the UK and North America) are the ten lost tribes of Israel. Many years ago, I had opportunity to examine some of their basic literature, and all I can tell you is that somebody made that junk up out of an overactive imagination. Why then am I talking about these doctrines? Because each of them have to do with the identity of who are God’s chosen people, or if you like, His Elect. Some, again in error, have said that Romans 9 was added later by corrupt Judaizers, but there is NO evidence of that. Some, as some of us can attest, have called it “just poetry,” which is also not accurate.
No, this is Paul speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about who is to be the ultimate authority about who are Elect. As we will see in this chapter, it is God alone, for His own and untold-to-us reasons who made that choice, and this is the only way I can actually make sense of chapters 9-11. Let’s see what He has to say.
1-13: Sons of God are not created by the flesh
The very first thing that Paul speaks about is that one cannot get in on their own merits. Paul talks about how the nation of Israel, the very one earlier chosen by God, who are heir by default of all the promises of adoption and sonship, are now rejected from those very promises. He actually states in v.8 that “…it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” What promise was Paul speaking of? It was God’s promise to Abraham and that’s from surrounding context, which we will look at now.
1: I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,
- Paul begins this section by stating that He is telling the truth, and not making things up (lying). He is telling us that he is speaking what the Holy Spirit has put in his own mind to know, and therefore to speak.
2: that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.
- Now, I ask you – does this sound like the same Paul that told the Philippian church in Phil. 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say rejoice?” Not really. That means that something that Paul knows about is causing this sorrow and unceasing grief. We have this tendency to forget that Paul was human like we are, and infirm and frail like we are, he could get angry (see Galatians), and he could have sorrow and grief in his heart. But what is causing it?
3: For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
- And here we see what is eating at him that makes him sad – in fact SO sad, that he could wish to trade places with his own countrymen in the flesh, that is his fellow Jews – but for what purpose?
4: who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises,
- Now Paul starts to go into how the Israelites were naturally gifted by God with glorious gifts and callings, the first of which was the adoption into God’s family as sons [huios, mature offspring of either gender]. We went through what all that meant last week as you may recall.
- God also allowed His own glory to dwell with them in the tabernacle, and later a more permanent temple from the days of Moses to the days of Jeremiah when God left His earthly throne in the Holiest of Holies in the Temple at Jerusalem.
- The Covenants (plural)! I don’t think it important to deal with what covenants are involved here, but every one except the New Covenant is probably the correct answer there, from Adamic, to Noahic, to Abrahamic, to Mosaic, to Davidic, to Prophetic.
- He also gave Israel the service of the Temple. Yes, it was the specific tribe of Levi, but they did not have land inheritance in Israel, they were especially the Lord’s according to the texts.
- He also gave the promises. What promises? Well, I tend to look at this as “all of them,” but specifically about the Messiah if you’re asking me.
5: whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
- The “fathers” to which Paul refers are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then likely Moses. They were descended physically from Abraham, the friend of God, and God’s promised and chosen seed of Isaac, and then Jacob, again the chosen seed. Both of those chosen seeds were not the firstborn, either – and that’s pretty typical of God – He doesn’t choose the first one to come along, He makes His own choices for His own reasons, and doesn’t always explain why.
- From this nation came the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ physically. That’s a pretty big claim to fame if you didn’t know that. And that Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God, is over all, and is God-blessed forever. Amen. Look, Paul can’t even think of Christ without breaking into a glorious doxology!
6: But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;
- And after listing all this stuff that Israel has by default, Paul makes THIS rather curious statement. The first part we can easily understand – it isn’t like the word of God has failed. The second part of the verse is the interesting part.
- To put that into a phrase that means the same thing but that we will understand requires a little mastery of English grammar. Not everyone who descended from the man Jacob (whom God renamed Israel, or “Prince with God”) is a part of Israel. What Gerry, do you mean the Nation of Israel? No, I don’t – I mean something Paul calls “the Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16. Paul is referring to an as-yet-unexplained or undefined entity called “the Israel of God.” I can very easily and scripturally define it like Paul did – God’s Elect – but specifically those who were also saved through faith that came by the Grace of God alone in the Old Testament, and includes people like our great example Abraham. I love it when Scripture makes a reference like this. It is so clear and well-supported it cannot be mistaken for anything else!
7: nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.”
- This is kind of hitting on the principle that Paul is introducing here – No one who is a physical descendant of Abraham can claim automatic inclusion into the Israel of God. This promise was only through the promised child, Isaac. That immediately disqualifies (at least in the flesh) the seed of Abraham’s other children including Ishmael. Only Isaac and his children have the possibility of physical access. But again, Paul is talking about something else.
8: That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
- Paul is saying it is not and in fact cannot be the children of the flesh that are the children of God. Rather it is the children of the promise, in this case referring to Isaac alone.
9: For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.”
- This is God giving us the context of the specific promise he is having Paul use here – the one made to Abraham by God Himself under a tree so very long ago. It came true, too! Tis is telling us that it is only God that can make the promise of an individual being in His own version of Israel, the princes of God if you’re asking me.
10: And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac;
- Now fast forward a few decades and we speak of God dealing with Isaac and HIS wife Rebekah. Another promise of a seed, another younger brother chosen to carry forward the purpose of God.
11: for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,
- Here is at least a start on what Paul is aiming at. Esau was the firstborn, and was even in later years the favourite of his father Isaac. Yet it was Jacob that the promise was through, and it caused all kinds of chaos in the family that I think we can see some of the result of down to the present time.
- The point Paul is making here is that neither child by their behaviour (their works) had yet done anything that could have earned or disqualified them from this promise of God. The promise was given prior to that, “so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls!”
- Did you catch that? It didn’t depend one iota on either Esau or Jacob, but on God who chose.
12: it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.”
- Rebekah was given this promise (in this case a prophecy, a foretelling of future events in this case – prophecy can also be seen in the pattern of events on occasion). God told her that the Older (Esau) would serve the Younger (Jacob), and that prophecy of promise came to pass. Was there some specific reason for it? Maybe.
13: Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”
- You know, this verse is one I have hear used to mock Christians and Jews, where people point out gleefully it seems that God does not in fact “love the world,” as John 3:16 suggests. I don’t think that’s entirely accurate, but I should point something out.
- Although we know that God by His nature is love (see 1 John 4 if you need text for context here), God also hates things and even individuals. Certainly God hates Sin. That alone should make people quake in fear instead of mock the young Christian attempting to share his or her faith with you, sinner. You are already under the wrath of God by default. Why would you want to make it worse for yourself?
- It very clearly here says that God HATED Esau. The Greek work is miseo. It means to detest (particularly to persecute). Now from very early on, some folks felt like they had to soften that, probably to make sense of their theology, but I am of the opinion that maybe they overthought this one. Even Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says that it can mean by extension, “loved less.” But can it really mean that? I do not believe so. There are things, and even people that God hates. But remember, God is not like us. He is not driven by His emotions, though he has them. God will always do justice (which again should scare the pants off an honest reader, we are ALL sinners if you remember chapter 3 at all). Ultimately it is His hate that I believe will give way to His wrath on that final day of the Lord. There’s more I could say, but we need to move on. Maybe another time.
All of this says to me that God’s choosing of the sinner is up to Him who makes the promise, not the man who acts or wills it so. I think that also means that there are a lot of people that think they are saved that really are not and need to hear this message. Think about what it means to really repent and let God change you into one of His children and call out to Him for that. Will, strength, behaviour, works – none of these things will ever make you a son of God, although these things can delude you into thinking that about yourself. I pray that God reveals this to you and saves you by His own mighty hand. And why can I make that prayer?
14-18: Sons of God are chosen in mercy
It is because God makes that choice for His own reasons according to mercy. Now, I can almost hear the thoughts of the more Arminian in the crowd getting upset at me making reference to the very Scriptural doctrine of Sovereign Election, but can you imagine what they will say when I tell them about Definite Atonement? I can hear their violent question: How can God limit the number of people atoned for? It isn’t fair! How dare He? As if their outrage could change the doctrines of Grace or the mind of Almighty God. Folks, calm down – you’re asking the wrong question.
You see, all men are sinners. All have come short of the glory of God. The question shouldn’t be about the number or limit of people that God will save. The amazement and wonder should be that He saves anyone at all. However, He has promised a Definite Atonement for at least His chosen people – you know, the ones that He foreknew, foreordained, called, justified, and glorified. Those individuals. It is to those individuals that He will extend mercy.
14: What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!
- I don’t think I was the only one that hear your anger and shouts of “Unfair, unfair!” I think Paul heard them too – and I know God heard them. And here is where God explains Himself through Paul, who simply says what God says. There is no injustice in God. Assuming the fairness and Justice of God are given here, you don’t want to receive what is fair or Just for yourself – I know I don’t – that would be HELL and DESTRUCTION. Paul uses that question/answer catechism-like formula here again and then answers it; Can there be injustice with God? NOT EVER.
15: For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.”
- You see, God has been telling humanity this for a very long time. He said these words to Moses. MOSES! Think Sovereign Election in the Old Testament here.
- We also see in these words of God that He spoke to Moses that it is God’s choice alone as to where He will have mercy. You know what this doesn’t say? It doesn’t say, “I will have mercy if you ask for it.” It also doesn’t say, “I will have mercy of you invite Jesus into your heart.” It never says THAT anywhere in Scripture. That’s a modern and mostly ineffective twist on the Gospel. Having said that I know of people who were saved that way, and I am one of them – but I grew into my current understanding by exposing myself to the clear teachings of Scripture and good theology. And God had mercy on me. And I thank Him for it, because He had no reason to do so.
16: So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
- Paul draws a direct conclusion from that statement of God to Moses – it does not depend on mans actions or will. Rather it depends on God who has mercy – on whomever He will have mercy. Beloved, we don’t know who that is, so we need to preach the Gospel to everyone faithfully.
17: For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.”
- Paul here cites an example – Pharaoh in Egypt from Exodus. This is in fact a negative example – Pharaoh is ultimately destroyed by God. But wait! Didn’t God make Pharaoh? Well, yes – yes, He did. Didn’t He LOVE Pharaoh? I mean He loves the whole world, right? Well, no. Apparently not. He destroyed Pharaoh to show mercy to the new and emerging nation of Israel, his chosen people. And who decided that? Well, to be sure Pharaoh played a part with his choices. But it was God that perfectly engineered what happened. Are you saying Pharaoh had no choice, Gerry? NO. I’m saying that Pharaoh would not have chosen anything but what he himself chose. Remember the part of the Westminster Confession of Faith that talks about no violence being done to the will of the creature? That’s what happened with Pharaoh. He got to choose what HE wanted every step of the way. Now think about what that says about the power of God – what He wants to happen happens through the free will of people who will not choose what He wants. It’s almost like He is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Oh, wait…
18: So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
- Paul is making the point under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, that who obtains mercy from God AND who does NOT is all up to God. If He desires that you will receive mercy, you WILL receive mercy. If He does not, or desires that you do not, you WILL not. It is all based on the desire and will of God.
You can be as angry as you like, you can curse Paul or myself up and down all you like, you can tell God that “He isn’t fair (you’re wrong)” all you like. It does not change the fact that God chooses His own Sons and grants them the mercy of adoption as Sons, and then sanctifies them (makes them like Jesus) according to His own desire to show them mercy. You cannot say otherwise and still tell me that you are adhering to Scripture. And this is not my interpretation, by the way. It is Paul’s, and HE was being inspired by the Holy Spirit. If that offends you – well, too bad.
19-29: Sons of God are chosen by God alone
Friends, it may be an act of mercy from God that saves each one of us. Not May be – IS. Paul goes on to say that that choice is God’s alone, and he has already said that it cannot be earned by works or will of man. Yet people still try, and people still argue the point.
19: You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”
- Okay, out comes the logic. Bad news, friends, Paul anticipated your questions. It would be hard not to, the Holy Spirit knew them before they had formed in your thoughts. Paul is asking the rhetorical question here, and it would sound to us like this: “Look, you say that this is all God’s choice, but that God doesn’t ever violate the will of the creature. Why then does God find fault with anyone, because they are doing what He wants?” Good question. Make sure you brace yourself for Paul’s answer.
20: On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?
- Now I did warn you to brace for it. This is the kind of answer that God gave Job when HE asked why of God. He also spoke the “potter and clay” analogy to both Isaiah and Jeremiah the prophets (no doubt where Paul learned it). Paul is saying that the creation has no right to ask. God created you, and YOU ALSO have no right to ask.
- Brothers, sisters, and neighbours particularly, it is my desire for YOU that God would show you this mercy, that He would show you Himself and the work He has done in the person of His Son on the cross. I ask that instead of demanding answers that God is not obligated to answer, you seek Him humbly and be saved by His mercy. Don’t get bogged down in the pride of your question. Paul isn’t avoiding the question and neither is God. If you think He is, read the book of Job and see how and why God answered Job in all of his pain, which God caused by the way, and didn’t ask Job’s permission. He’s GOD, get it?
21: Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
- Here again is the potter/clay analogy used by Paul. Think about this. The potter has a quantity of clay that we will define by the scientific unit of “lump.” All of the clay is a lump, and it is from this “lump” that the potter takes individual quantities of clay to make individual vessels like pots or cups or urns, like that. Let’s say he needs to make two vessels approximately the same size, one to hold the beautiful and fragrant floral arrangement for his wife, and one as a trash basket for the kitchen where she works. Where does he get the clay? Well, from the lump of dust mixed with water that makes clay.
- What else has the Potter, capital P here, made out of clay? Genesis 2:7 tells us this: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Us. He made us out of Clay. We too are earthen vessels, and each of us have some part to play in His grand design. We did not choose our own roles (we cannot, despite what guys like Tony Robbins tell you), nor did God ask our permission. But it is our assigned role, and we need to play it out! And we don’t get to ask, “Why didn’t you make me another way?” From God’s point of view, you’re right where He wants you. Especially if you’re hiding like me from people that have COVID-19.
22: What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?
- This is an interesting turn in the conversation. What Paul is doing here is moving from your silly objections to His will to the attributes of God. The thing about attributes is that they must be expressed by the one who has them – that’s just how things in general work. People can tell if you are a caring person, as an example, because you actively care about people and it can be seen. One of the attributes that can be ascribed to God (that many preachers seem to skip over; my guess is that they feel it makes God look mean) is that of WRATH. God is Love by His very nature, I will grant you that. Again, refer to 1 John 4 for text on that. But all over both Old and New Testaments, He is also WRATH. His wrath is described in many places as destruction on a grand scale. When Jesus talked about the coming day of the Wrath of God, he described large-scale disaster at a cosmic level. The sun turning blood red (not the moon, the moon won’t give light at all). MASSIVE earthquakes – so big that they change the geography of the planet. Stars falling from the sky. My understanding of that is meteors falling to earth and causing huge amounts of devastation. Pestilence that is so fatal, COVID-19 will look like a little sniffle by comparison. Now read this verse again. What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience (that’s longsuffering) vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? Like Hitler. Stalin. Mao. Like the coming world leader that will seemingly have all the answers – that will ultimately set himself up as God? What about those who will follow this individual that Revelation calls “The Beast?” Or that John in his epistles calls “the Antichrist?” What if God has enough patience to wait and let all of those He chose from before the foundation of the world (see chapter 8:29-30) come to be and THEN demonstrates His awesome and fearful and terrible wrath once and for all?
23: And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,
- After all that wrath is spent on those vessels, that after that, the riches of His glory will shine forth on His chosen people, those vessels of mercy – the ones He prepared before it all happened – all for His great glory? And who are those vessels of mercy?
24: even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
- Us. That is us. All those whom he in 8:29-30 he foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. All those that have through faith by His gift of grace have been justified (acquitted). All of those who have endured the trials and sufferings of sanctification whom He glorified. All those who have believed in Him through all of time – not just those of the seed of Israel, but those from the Gentiles as well who have had faith in the Messiah, our Christ, the Anointed One of God. Behold the Israel of God.
25: As He says also in Hosea, “I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, ‘MY PEOPLE,’ AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, ‘BELOVED.'”
- Paul begins at this point to discuss Old Testament passages that tell of this set of people that God has shown to be vessels of His mercy. The first of these is in Hosea – the man that God commanded to marry a prostitute and tolerate her prostitution and still have children with her – and ultimately to buy her back out of slavery because He loved her. That story sound familiar? It should! It’s the Gospel! God came after us while we were still in our sins and bought us out of slavery to Sin! We who were not His beloved are now His beloved.
26: “AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, ‘YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,’ THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD.”
- Continuing in Hosea, Paul is emphasizing that this is correct. God is saying out loud to the prophet Hosea that He is going to adopt as sons those from outside the physical house and nation of Israel and include them in “the Israel of God.”
27: Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED;
- This is how we can know that God isn’t going to save everyone. I’ve been beating around that particular bush unintentionally, but this is a limit to the atonement. Only the remnant that God selects will be saved. That’s a nod at Definite Atonement directly. The other way we can know that God has not saved everyone is that He has not saved everyone. Or are you willing to tell me that Chairman Mao, Comrade Stalin, and Der Furher Hitler are in heaven with Jesus right now? No, those guys are why we know hell exists. They aren’t going to heaven, and the other alternative is…well…hell.
28: FOR THE LORD WILL EXECUTE HIS WORD ON THE EARTH, THOROUGHLY AND QUICKLY.”
- And get ready because it IS coming. God has already made all of His selections and He will draw things to a close.
29: And just as Isaiah foretold, “UNLESS THE LORD OF SABAOTH HAD LEFT TO US A POSTERITY, WE WOULD HAVE BECOME LIKE SODOM, AND WOULD HAVE RESEMBLED GOMORRAH.”
- And look, God could have just left us in our sins! We could have been that bad, bad man who looks so cool in his leathers with a girl on each arm and drugs in his pocket that he doesn’t know what to do with them. We would have, not could have, become like Sodom. We would have, not could have, resembled Gomorrah. How do I know? “…and such were some of you.” (1 Cor. 6:11a)
No friends, we cannot lay the blame at God’s feet, we must be honest about our own proclivities for sinning, and fess on up. We must agree with God that they are in fact sin, and then leave off doing them. If someone does less than that, it would be difficult for me to conclude that said individual is a real Christian.
30-33: Sonship of God is pursued by faith alone
So we know that God does not allow the selection of His own eternal people to be made by the will and effort of Man, and we know that God gives it Himself through His great mercy in making any atonement for anyone at all, all for His own reasons. We also know that as the Creator, He has sole rights in this area, and we have none to question His choices. I suppose we could question some peoples’ choices to pretend, but that isn’t the topic here.
The topic under discussion is our adoption to sonship under Almighty God, and what we will learn in this section is that it can only be pursued through faith alone, which comes to us by grace alone, in Christ alone, as we as His chosen read the Scriptures alone, all to the glory of God alone.
30: What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;
- Here is Paul’s definite statement about God’s Definite Atonement – it includes the Gentiles, none of whom pursued righteousness on their own obtained righteousness from God by faith in Christ! That this atonement includes anyone at all is miraculous.
31: but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.
- And natural physical Israel? They DID pursue righteousness by the law – and did not arrive at it. We have established in our previous studies of earlier chapters about how the Law could make nothing perfect – all it could do is call sin what it was and show the standard of righteousness that not one of us could achieve as sinners.
32: Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,
- This righteousness, it turns out, can ONLY be pursued by faith alone, not of works. That was their metaphorical “stone of stumbling” I suppose, the obstacle that brought them down. They needed to believe Messiah – not be their own messiahs, which is pretty much where they are now. Any Messianic passages that Jews read through they believe is a reference to collective Israel. Their suffering servant from Isaiah 53 they believe is themselves as a people. How sad, because we who are Christians know that was a direct reference to Jesus, our Lord.
33: just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
- That stumbling stone for us now, that offensive rock that trips us up, has to do with Definite Atonement. There is something that rises in our throats at the fact that man can do nothing (Radical Depravity) and our own works (like our “inviting Jesus into our heart/life/event/thing”) are like filthy rags [Isaiah’s usage detail was “used menstrual rags”]. What can we do? Well, we can believe, like the verse here says. And if you can’t do that, pray about it. God says (next chapter) that all who call on His name SHALL be saved.
Brothers and sisters, it is easy to see from an informed reading of Scripture that WE are indeed the Israel of God. We did nothing to join it, we did nothing to earn it, and we probably didn’t even want it – but here we are just the same. With that in mind, all that can really be said is that we need to be thankful to our merciful Heavenly Father for choosing us, if we in fact have been chosen (and if we are walking with Him through the sufferings He brings our way, we will have a greater assurance of that), even though we cannot possibly deserve it.
Yes, one can see that things like replacement theology and Armstrongism can cause division (heresy usually does), but there is no denying that all believers through all time form “the Israel of God,” may the peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be upon her as she walks in the Holy Spirit of sanctification all the way to glory.
And that’s chapter 9!