The following are sermon notes from Romans Soli Deo Gloria. This is a study of the book of Romans. To read more about this series, including the introduction, download the study guide, resources and listen to audio content click here.
No doubt the Bible is controversial. It is controversial to those who’ve never read it and it is, sometimes, just as controversial to those who have read it. The Bible is controversial for many reasons, one of them being the fact that it is written from a perspective that is exceedingly counter-cultural. It is this very counter-cultural nature that challenges our thoughts on life, death, the afterlife and everything in between. In fact, even the authors of the Bible understood the controversial nature of what they were writing. Romans 9:1-18 is particularly controversial.
As Paul continues writing the book of Romans he opens up with each page. What begins as a passionate theological exposition moves into a heartfelt plea containing personal remarks, laments and thoughts that had previously been silent behind the deep theological truths.
Paul anticipates that many will resist what he is about to say and seeks to qualify his statements by reminding his readers that he is speaking the truth:
“I am speaking the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience bears witness in the Holy Spirit that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (Romans 9:1-2).
It’s not hard to see Paul’s pain. Though what he’s about to say pains him so, he must speak, because it is the truth. In many ways, Christians today can empathize with Paul’s anguish if they are seeking to maintain their hold on the truth and hold Scripture in highest authority. There will be times that the truth we know and sometimes must teach is controversial and that many will reject us, even those whom we love and are close to. This is precisely why Paul is grieving, there are many that he is close to that reject the truth that Jesus is Lord and the only means by which we ‘re saved.
The root of Paul’s grief is the fact that the very people that are not saved are his kinsmen, family members and close friends (Romans 9:3-4). These people were God’s chosen people here on earth. They received the physical blessings from God in ways no other people group has received. Paul sites six specific aspects of what they received from God:
- Adoption (referring to when Israel was rescued from Egypt).
- Glory (referring to the tabernacle and the temple).
- Covenants (referring to Abraham being the father of the Israelite people and through him the coming Messiah).
- Law (the law by which our sin is revealed and the necessity for the Savior is made certain).
Paul is lamenting because these chosen, special people in His day have not received the greatest blessing of all, salvation from Jesus Christ. The Jews in Paul’s day had rejected Jesus as savior and therefore many were not saved.
Do you have a family member that is not saved? Do you grieve over this fact? Do you even care? Paul gives us the great example that we are to care! We are to grieve, cry and lament over those who have not received salvation. Yet, Paul reminds us (and himself I think) that God does not fail (Romans 9:6). God does not make mistakes. From here Paul launches into his thoughts on predestination.
Man does not choose, because it’s not about man
Paul’s comfort, rock and confidence is not in man’s ability to choose God, but God’s ability to choose man. What is most important to keep in mind about this truth is the fact that salvation is not man-centric, it is God-centric. The salvation of God’s children is NOT about those that are saved, it’s entirely about God. This is one of the worst errors that can be made in our understanding about God. God does not exist for you, He does not give salvation for you. You are not needed! It is all about God, not you.
“…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad– in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls– she was told, ‘the older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (Romans 9:11-13).
Paul defends this controversial truth by saying, “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! …So then he has mercy on whomever he will,s and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:14 ;17-18).
Salvation is not up to you. It’s up to God. The miracle in salvation is that God makes dead people alive, dead people don’t wake themselves up do they? Salvation is like adoption, children don’t choose their adoptive parents do they? Salvation is God saving us while we were still enemies, enemies do not become friends with their foes!
What this means for us
Many will say, “if God chooses us, then why should I care about those who don’t know him yet?” Do we see this in Paul’s understanding? No! He laments, grieves and cries out for those who don’t know Jesus! He cares so deeply for these people and desires them to be saved. You and I have no idea who will be saved and will not be saved. Furthermore, Christians have been commanded in Scripture to make disciples by sharing the good news, so it’s not a matter of your success in leading them to Jesus, it’s matter of your obedience to God! Will God save them if you don’t say anything, yes. Will you be held responsible for your disobedience, yes.
Think of it this way: when I ask my daughter to perform a task such as picking up her room I know that task will be completed, it is my will that it be so. Now, there are two ways the task can be completed, with her compliance to my command or with her disobedience to my command. Regardless, it will be completed. Now, my daughter will be rewarded for her obedience and likewise disciplined if she were to disobey. I may even have to step in and do it all myself, the point is, my will will be completed regardless of my daughter’s response.
Here are my questions for you:
- Have you made salvation, and even God’s plan all about you? If so, you need to repent! It includes you, but it’s not about you!
- Christian, do you lament over those that don’t know Jesus? Do you even care that they are not saved? Your example that you are to follow is Jesus, the man who poured out His life for everyone. If you don’t care about those who don’t worship Jesus, you’ve become self-consumed and are no longer following the God who gave it all.
- Do you struggle with the theology of election? What confidence do you have in God if He is not the beginning, middle and end of your salvation? Any confidence in yourself is prideful, weak and misplaced confidence.
- Trust in the Lord God who saves His children! Worship the God of the Bible who saves those who hated Him, those who were opposed to Him! Praise Him who brings the dead back to life! This is why we are called Paradox: death to life through Jesus Christ!
For more information about this series click here.
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