Saturday, May 6, 2017

Romans 9:10-21 The Difference Between Man and God

Last time we ended with verse 9 which had Paul stating the promise YHWH had given to Abram and Sari – He would give them a son, through whom all nations would be blessed. The apostle is pressing the point that divine blessings come through divine means; mortal man is incapable of conferring God’s favor on one another. And so Abram and Sari had to wait on God 13 years after they delivered what they were able. But Paul is concerned that his audience get the message – as he has been in this entire letter. So he repeats his message, from another familiar part of Israel’s history.

Romans 9:10-12 (HCSB) And not only that, but also Rebekah received a promise when she became pregnant by one man, our ancestor Isaac. For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand—  not from works but from the One who calls—she was told: The older will serve the younger. In order to build a solid identity for national Israel that would not be able to deny was due to YHWH’s will, He determined who would be the patriarchs of that faith – contrary to the norms in that culture, which always rested on the first-born male. Recall how the Lord worked with Gideon to reduce the number of soldiers going into battle? God kept sending men home until there were only 300 – so when they won the victory, everybody would know Who had given them the day.

And there’s another aspect, just as important, that our apostle is bringing to our ears: God’s doctrine of election. John Wesley taught that God looks down the corridors of time to see who will choose Jesus and then He selects those to save. Here we see yet again how wrong he and his disciples are. Paul has already built the case of our depravity and inability to seek after God (chapter 3). Here he shows us that He chose the younger to rule before either was born, so that nobody could deny His hand in making this determination. Many passages tell us that God is jealous of His name, will not share His glory, will do what He declares. This one short passage is in complete agreement with those others – He elects whoever He wanted to, without regard for anything the elect may end up doing of their own volition. This order of brothers was turned on its head so Rebekah and all Israel would know YHWH rules!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Romans 9:1-9 Concern for friends, Confidence in Christ

Doug Moo observes that Paul’s tone moves from one of celebrating the joy of being in Christ to that of lamentation as he considers the condition of his kinfolk.

Romans 9:1-4 (HCSB) I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit—  that I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart. For I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises.

In our passage today, Paul reveals his deep-seated love for his kinsmen of the flesh. This should show us that it is acceptable for us to likewise care especially for our kin folk. He stresses how his conscience is clear, he speaks as one united with Christ – speaking truth, and goes on to say he is not lying. He wants his fellow Jews to know that his desire for them is to be truly united to YHWH is sincere. But we also should learn from Paul that we can do nothing to overturn God’s redemptive plan. Here he describes how could almost wish to sacrifice himself for the sake of the Jews. I believe he recognized how outrageous his desire was, for he had written previously about the sovereign nature of God in the redemption of sinners. He further knows he cannot serve as a suitable sacrifice for them because of his own sin. It’s almost like Paul is trying to convince himself that the Israelites are worth saving – he lists several things that set them apart from the rest of humanity. The promises belong to them!

Recall what the apostle said about this in chapter 3 when he asked, What advantage do the Jews have? Considerable in every way. First, they were entrusted with the spoken words of God. Yet this advantage did not help them in the matter of utmost importance, as Paul noted in that chapter – where his point was that man cannot judge God as being unfair because He saves some but not others. Think about that in our culture. Those who think man chooses to have God save him rely on the human notion of fairness to rebut the biblical doctrine of election. Paul denies this argument as it directly bears on the Jewish people of his day. 

Listen to this message here.