Israel’s Unbelief (Romans 9:30-33)

God’s Providence: Israel’s Unbelief (Romans 9:30-33)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 1, 2021

Even the best of humanists devise systems of ungrace to replace those rejected in religion. Benjamin Franklin settled on 13 virtues, including:

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
Frugality: “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.”
Industry: “Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
Tranquility: “Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable.”

He set up a book with a page for each virtue, lining a column in which to record “defects.” Choosing a different virtue to work on each week, he daily noted every mistake, starting over every 13 weeks in order to cycle through the list four times a year. For many decades, Franklin carried his little book with him, striving for a clean 13-week cycle.

As he made progress, he found himself struggling with yet another defect: pride. There is perhaps not one of the natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it. Struggle with it. Stifle it. Mortify it as much as one pleases. It is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself….

Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.[1]

Franklin wrote those very good things, but they will not bring salvation.

My theme is:

The gentiles have found righteousness, the Jewish people, though following the Law, have not been made righteous. We must trust in Jesus.  

My application is:

Trust in Jesus for your salvation and do not let Him be a stumbling block to you.

  1. Context:
    1. Paul has been talking about how God can do with nations as He pleases.
    2. We see in Romans chapter 9 an antinomy, that is an apparent contradiction, or a paradox. This is a mystery. There is a mystery which is God’s sovereignty alongside the freewill of human beings. God is sovereign and people have freewill, people are accountable for their actions, yet God does have a predetermined plan. There is a mystery regarding how much freewill we have and how God orchestrates things to accomplish His will.
    3. This chapter is showing that God is in charge. God is in control.
    4. So far Paul has given examples in order to show that God is faithful, and that God is in charge.
    5. In verses 7-13 (Romans 9:7-13) Paul showed that the promise to Abraham was going to go through Isaac, not Ishmael, and then through Jacob, not Esau. In verse 13 (Romans 9:13) God said that Jacob He has chosen, but Esau He has rejected.
    6. In verses 14-18 (Romans 9:14-18) Paul gives the example of Pharoah. God raised Pharoah up for His purposes and God hardened Pharoah’s heart for His purposes. God has the right to do with nations as He pleases and Pharoah was the head of Egypt. Further, Pharoah hardened his own heart.
    7. In verses 19-29 (Romans 9:19-29) we talked about God’s providence and that we cannot talk back to God. Paul gave the example of a potter and clay. The clay cannot talk back to the potter (Romans 9:20). A potter has a right to make some for honorable use and some for dishonorable. The potter has the right over the clay. God has the right over nations. God chose Israel for His purposes.
    8. Paul then used a few Old Testament quotes, Hosea 2:23 and Hosea 1:10, to show that God was going to call gentiles to Himself. Isaiah 10:22-23 is also quoted. Isaiah 1:9 is also quoted to share that God was preserving a remnant.
    9. That bring us to the end of Romans 9.
  2. Summing this up, what about Israel?
    1. Let’s read verse 30:
    2. 30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith
    3. One source shares: Paul’s question, that often marks a new argument in Romans, introduced his concluding summary that he couched in terminology suggestive of a foot race. Israel struggled hard to obtain the prize of justification but crossed the finish line behind Gentiles who were not running that hard. Israel as a whole hoped to gain justification by doing good works, but believing Gentiles obtained the prize by believing the gospel.[2]
    4. Paul is asking a question and then he answers it.
    5. What shall we say? Paul is using a question format to explain what he has been explaining.
    6. Gentiles, that is, non-Jewish people, did not pursue righteousness, but they have attained it. How did they receive this righteousness?
    7. They received it by faith.
    8. They received it by trust.
    9. Look at Romans 1:17: For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
    10. Knowing Jesus is about faith. It has always been about faith.
    11. Look at verse 31: but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.
    12. Paul now is contrasting the Jewish people versus the gentiles. The gentiles had faith and that faith brought righteousness. But on the other hand, the Jewish people, Israel, pursued the law that leads to righteousness and that did NOT succeed in reaching the law.
    13. They pursued the law, but that did not give them righteousness.
    14. Remember that Galatians described the Law as a tutor to lead them to Christ (Gal. 3:24). The Law was to lead them to Christ. Galatians 2:16 shows that a person is not justified by works of the Law, but by faith in Christ. They thought the Law would make them righteous in, and of, itself, but it was supposed to lead them to Christ.
    15. Paul is about to complete his argument. He has an argument, a logical argument, called a syllogism.
      1. Verse 30: Gentiles are righteous without the Law.
      2. Verse 31: Israel followed the Law of righteousness without receiving righteousness.
      3. Verse 32: why? They did not pursue it by faith.
        1. Stumbling over the stumbling stone.
        2. Paul substantiates his argument in verse 33 with a quote from Isaiah 28:16 and Isaiah 8:14 in that order.
    16. So, let’s read verses 32-33: Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
    17. Israel did not pursue the Law with faith. They did not pursue the Law with faith in the Redeemer, faith in the Messiah to come. Those that did pursue the Law with faith in the Messiah were saved.
    18. What a picture, they stumbled over the stumbling stone who Isaiah wrote about. Jesus was the stumbling stone.
    19. So, Paul quotes from Isaiah 28:16 and then Isaiah 8:14:
    20. Isaiah 28:16: therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
    21. Isaiah 8:14: And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
    22. Isaiah prophesied around 700 years before Jesus that God was going to send the Messiah. The Messiah is Jesus. Jesus is the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:19-21). People will, and have, stumbled over Him.
    23. However, those who believe in Jesus will not be put to shame. They will be saved.
    24. One source: Here Paul follows a common Jewish interpretive practice of blending texts together (Is 8:14; 28:16). Because Isaiah 28:16 probably alludes back to Isaiah 8:14, Paul’s blending of the two is especially reasonable, although perhaps only his Jewish readers caught what he was doing. The point is that the same stone that caused Israel to stumble (Is 8:14, which also speaks of the stone as a sanctuary) would save those who believed (Is 28:16).[3]
    25. 1 Peter 2:6, 8 are good cross references.
    26. Dr. Ben Witherington shares: The shame in view here is the eschatological shame of appearing at final judgment naked—that is, in the wrong condition. Thus, Paul clearly has had a future wrath in mind in this discussion, not merely a present wrath (cf. 5:5).[4] Further: Käsemann says that “Judaism must take offense at Christ to the degree that the requirement of faith enforces a break with its religious past. It cannot see that precisely in this way it is summoned back to the promise it has been given. The continuity of the fleshly conceals the continuity of the divine word maintained in Scripture. It thus conceals the eschatological goal.”52 The problem with this assessment is that it seems to assume that faith was not a requirement before Christ, which is not so.[5]
    27. New American Commentary: Sinners still reject the righteousness of God because they cannot earn it. It is absolutely free. They stumble over the offer because it deprives them of any proprietary involvement in their own salvation. It is pride that brings people down. How deeply ingrained is our rebellious self-esteem! Too proud to accept God’s willingness to forgive, sinners stumble headlong into eternity with their stubborn sinfulness intact.[6]
    28. Carl F.H. Henry shared: Many think the Christian religion has run its course, and that the gloom of Good Friday is now settling over the long history of the church. But they are wrong. The reality of the resurrection cannot so easily be undone. In truth, it is the world of unbelievers that remains on notice of judgment.[7]
  3. Application:
    1. This whole section is about faith. We must recognize that we must have faith in Jesus (verses 30-32).
      1. As we pursue the moral law, and doing what is right, we must recognize that we are only saved through faith in Jesus.
      2. This means that we are only saved by trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection for atoning for our sins.
      3. As we attend worship services and Bible studies, we must understand that we do that in order to grow closer to Jesus, and to stay in tune with Jesus, and to hear from God, not to earn our salvation.
      4. As we share the Gospel, we must recognize that we are only saved by Jesus’ grace, and others can only be saved by Jesus’ grace.  
      5. As we worship God, we must recognize that worship does not save us. We worship to give back to God. We worship because He is worthy (Rev. 4:8-11 and Rev. 5:8-11).
      6. As we pray, we must recognize we pray for support and a relationship with God, not to earn our salvation.
      7. As we serve others, we must recognize we do not earn our salvation by good deeds.
      8. As we fellowship with the church, we must recognize that we do that to spur one another on towards love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25), not to be saved.
    2. We must recognize that Jesus was and still can be a stumbling stone. May we never let Jesus be a stumbling stone for us (verse 33).

With hundreds of things to see in Berlin, few tourists pay attention to what lies under their feet. The four inch by four inch blocks of brass embedded in the pavement are easy to miss. But once you know they exist, you begin to come across them with surprising frequency.

Each stone is engraved with the name and fate of an individual who has suffered under the Nazi regime. They are known as Stolpersteine, or “stumbling stones.” There are over eight thousand of them in the German capital, and tens of thousands of them are spread across European countries, making it the largest decentralized monument in the world.

The idea was first conceived by German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992 to commemorate individual victims of the Holocaust. Each block, which begins with “Here lived,” is placed at exactly the last place where the person lived freely before he or she fell victim to Nazi terror and was deported to an extermination camp. Unlike other holocaust memorials that focus only on Jews, the Stolpersteine honor all victims of the Nazi regime, including Jews, the disabled, the dissident, and the gays.

Although not everyone supports the drive, Michael Friedrichs-Friedländer, the craftsman who makes each Stolperstein, spoke in support of the project. “I can’t think of a better form of remembrance,” he says. “If you want to read the stone, you must bow before the victim.”[8]

Of course, this passage is talking about Jesus being a stumbling stone. Let’s not let that happen.

Prayer


[1] Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace (Zondervan, 1997), p. 34

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 9:30.

[3] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ro 9:33.

[4] Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 259.

52 Käsemann, Romans, p. 279.

[5] Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 259.

[6] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 206.

[7] Carl F. H. Henry in Carl Henry at His Best. Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 4

[8] Kaushik, “Stolpersteine: The ‘Stumbling Stones’ of Holocaust Victims,” Amusing Planet (3-8-19); Eliza Apperly, “’Stumbling stones’: a different vision of Holocaust remembrance,” The Guardian.com (2-18-19)

Can we talk back to God (Romans 9:19-29)?

Can we talk back to God (Romans 8:19-29)?

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, July 25, 2021

When I was training for my second marathon there were some days when I would get up at 4 am and go out to try to run long distance. I was trying to run close to twenty miles before 7 am. There were times that I was running away from the city and I would look up in the sky and notice the stars. Do you ever look at the stars? Do you ever notice how many stars are up there?

The vastness of our universe allows us a glimpse of the might and majesty of our Creator. Philip Yancey gives the following description to help us appreciate the scale of that universe:

If the Milky Way galaxy were the size of the entire continent of North America, our solar system would fit in a coffee cup. Even now, two Voyager spacecraft are hurtling toward the edge of the solar system at a rate of 100,000 miles per hour. For almost three decades they have been speeding away from Earth, approaching a distance of 9 billion miles. When engineers beam a command to the spacecraft at the speed of light, it takes 13 hours to arrive. Yet this vast neighborhood of our sun—in truth, the size of a coffee cup—fits along with several hundred billion other stars and their minions in the Milky Way, one of perhaps 100 billion such galaxies in the universe. To send a light-speed message to the edge of that universe would take 15 billion years.[1]

Isn’t that amazing? When I think of how big the universe is, it makes me realize how small I am, and yet I question God. I think we all do at some time or another, but we really must realize who we are versus who God is. We really must realize our place.

It would be easy to be discouraged thinking we are small and that leads to more depression, but I want to encourage you that God does care about you. So, realize 2 things: Firstly, God is God and we are not. Secondly, God does care about you. God does love you. God does want a relationship with you (2 Peter 3:8-9).

That is my theme today. We are going to continue our trek through Romans and I want you to notice:

Firstly, God is God and we are not. Secondly, God does care about you. God does love you. God does want a relationship with you (2 Peter 3:8-9).

  1. As a potter creates vessels, God creates nations (19–22).
    1. How did we get to this place in Romans 9?
    2. Paul has been writing about God’s sovereignty over nations. Some think this chapter is about how God can predestine some individuals for salvation and others not for salvation, that may be an indirect conclusion, but I think the main theme is God’s sovereignty over nations.
    3. Paul has been writing why the Jewish people have had a hardness of heart for the Gospel.
    4. In verse 14 Paul began to defend God’s justice. Paul started with the example of Pharaoh in the Old Testament.
    5. Now, Paul will build on that example with more examples of God’s sovereignty.
    6. Verse 19: You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
    7. This verse is a rhetorical question.
    8. This verse is asking about how we can question God. Who can resist God’s will?
    9. In other words, how can God find fault with Pharoah if God was governing Pharoah.
    10. Paul is alluding to Jeremiah 18:1-12 and the example of a potter with clay.
    11. Look at Paul’s response in verse 20:
    12. But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
    13. This is a very basic analogy and a good analogy.
    14. God created us. God knit us together in the womb (Psalm 139).
    15. How can we question God the creator?
    16. John Piper shares these differences between God and man:
      1. God is the creator, and man is the created.
      2. God is infinite, and man is finite.
      3. God is utterly self-sufficient, and man is totally dependent on God for everything.
      4. God is all-knowing, and man is little-knowing.
      5. God is never erring, and man is often erring.
      6. Therefore, how can we, mere men, presume to object to that God and his will.[2]
    17. Look at verse 21:
    18. Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
    19. The potter can do what he wants with the clay, correct? Of course.
    20. Paul is comparing God’s work with us like a potter with clay.
    21. Bobby murphy’s message on this passage is helpful:
    22. Paul’s analogy of the potter and clay in verses 20-21 is the hermeneutical key. I said he’s alluding here to Jeremiah 18:1-12. In that context, God is speaking of nations not persons. He teaches in verse 6 that He can deal with Israel, and by implications all nations, however He pleases, just as a potter can deal with the clay however he pleases.
    23. God goes on in verses 7-10, to explain how He pleases to deal with nations. He might declare to destroy a nation but relents if that nation turns from evil. Or He might declare to build up a nation but will change His mind and not build it up if it turns to evil.
    24. The pattern is clear. God can do with nations whatever He wills. What He wills is to build those up that turn from evil and not build those up that turn to evil. He can justly do whatever He wills with nations and this, consistently with His nature, is what He wills.
    25. Paul does apply this to individuals as well, again from Bobby Murphy: God is sovereign. Individuals deserve nothing from Him and thus He can do with them whatever He wills. Well, the Bible, in verses like 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9, tells us what He wills. It’s that none should perish. Or to use Paul’s terminology in verses 22-23, it’s to have mercy on all individuals and prepare them for glory. It’s not to bring His wrath against them and prepare them for destruction.
    26. Look at verse 22:
    27. What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction
    28. “What if…” so this is an example.
    29. Does God have a right to create people, things, or nations to be used for destruction? He is God, right?
    30. Remember, in context he is talking about Pharoah and Egypt.
  2. As a potter controls those vessels, God controls nations (9:23–24).
    1. In light of this, is man responsible? Yes! (9:19–20): As the vessels have no right to criticize the potter, the nations have no right to criticize the Lord.[3]
    2. Now, these verses go along with the previous verse.
    3. Paul is comparing God to a potter and so what if a potter creates some vessels for wrath and destruction and then the purpose is here in verses 23-24:
    4. Look now at verses 23-24: in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
    5. In verse 24 Paul connects this with the people he is writing to. God called them, both Jewish people and gentiles. God called them to be saved in order to show His glory and His mercy.
  3. The example from Hosea (9:25–26):
    1. This Old Testament prophet predicted that God would not limit his grace to Israel but would save repenting Gentile peoples; Hosea called these Gentiles “children of the living God” (Hos. 2:23; 1:10).[4]
    2. Look at verses 25-26: As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”
    3. Verse 25 comes from Hosea 2:23.
    4. One source shares: Drawing from Hosea’s marriage, Paul compares Gentile salvation to mercy bestowed on an undeserving adulterous wife (see the book of Hosea).[5]
    5. Verse 26 is from Hosea 1:10.
    6. This is an example of God having mercy on who He wants to have mercy.
  4. The example from Isaiah (9:27–29): Paul quotes from Isaiah to demonstrate God’s sovereignty concerning Israel.[6]
    1. Out of the millions of Israelites, only a small remnant will be saved (Isa. 10:22–23) (9:27–28).[7]
    2. Even the remnant would perish apart from the grace of God (Isa. 1:9) (9:29).[8]
    3. Let’s read verses 27-29:
    4. And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”
    5. The first quote in verse 27 is from Isaiah 10:22. This is God saying that there are many Israelites. Israel is like the sand of the sea, BUT most won’t be saved. Only a remnant will be saved.
    6. Remember the context, from the beginning of Romans 9 Paul has been answering the question of why the Jewish people are not responding to the Gospel.
    7. In Romans 11:5 Paul will say that it is true in this time that only a remnant will be chosen by grace.
    8. Verse 28 is also a quote from Isaiah and in this case Isaiah 10:23. In that passage, in Isaiah, God was talking about judgment from the Assyrians which was judgment on Israel.
    9. Verse 29 comes from Isaiah 1:9 and the point is that if the Lord did not intervene to preserve a remnant there would have been no Israel. They would have been like Sodom and been destroyed.
    10. Some translations say: “Lord of Sabaoth” which means: Traditionally, “Lord of hosts”; Grk “Lord Sabaoth,” which means “Lord of the [heavenly] armies,” sometimes translated more generally as “Lord Almighty.”[9]
  5. So, what is the point of all of this.
    1. In verses 1-5 Paul began answering the question of Israel’s unbelief. Paul said that he would be accursed for the sake of his brethren, the Israelites being saved.
    2. Paul is building his case that God can have his way with nations.
    3. God hardened Pharoah’s heart in order to bring judgment on Egypt and glorify His name in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt.
    4. God is like a potter working with clay. The nations are the clay.
    5. However, God preserved a remnant of Israelites and He still has a remnant.
  6. Applications:
    1. We must know our place (verses 20-21).
    2. God is the Lord, He is the creator and we are the creation (verses 20-21).
    3. We must submit to Him as God.
      1. This means that He sets the rules of right and wrong which are revealed in His word.
      2. This means that we must submit to His ways.
      3. We must submit to His plan of salvation (John 14:6), though we do not really have a choice.
      4. We must submit to His Ten Commandments (Ex 20).
    4. We must worship Him as God.
    5. We must understand that it is God’s right to do with His creation as He pleases (verse 21-22).
    6. We must understand that God is to be glorified and exalted (verse 23 and 1 Cor. 10:31).
    7. We must worship God for preserving a remnant and grafting the gentiles in (verses 24-29).

On September 5, 1977, the Voyager I space probe was launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket. It has been speeding through space at an average speed of thirty-eight thousand miles per hour ever since, almost a million miles per day. Voyager I is the first spacecraft to travel beyond the he­liopause into interstellar space, and NASA continuously calculates its distance from Earth. As of this writing, Voyager I is 13,490,006,617 miles from Earth and counting.

That is pretty amazing, isn’t it? But not as amazing as you. The Voyager 1 will run out of gas, so to speak, around the year 2025. At that point, it will have traveled more than fifteen billion miles! But guess what? That is less than half the length of the DNA strand(s) in your body if (they) were stretched end to end. The cumulative length of DNA in all the cells in your body is about twice the diameter of the solar system (over 32 billion miles)! In the words of the psalmist, you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”[10]

So, don’t be discouraged. Be encouraged. In this amazingly big universe God cares about us. God cares about us so much that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again.

Prayer


[1] Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (Zondervan, 2006), p. 20

[2] https://www.desiringgod.org/labs/who-are-you-to-question-god

[3] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:14–20.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1796.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 9:29.

[10] https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/how-long-is-your-dna/

Excerpted from Double Blessing: Don’t Settle for Less Than You’re Called to Bless Copyright © 2019 by Mark Batterson, page 87. Used by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

God’s Providence: Israel’s Unbelief is Not Inconsistent with God’s Plan (Romans 9:14-18)

God is a just judge. Isn’t that nice?

Figure skating analysts have expressed concern about the possibility of judge favoritism tainting the proceedings in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

At the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, a scandal was generated after Russian skater Adelina Sotnikova won the gold medal in the short program, beating out highly favored and leading skater Yuna Kim, who’d previously won the gold in 2010. The optics of Sotnikova skating off the ice and into the arms of a Russian judge, who was married to the leader of the Russian skating federation, sparked an outcry of unfair bias.

“Our jaws dropped,” recalled U.S. skater Simon Shnapir, who was watching at the rink in Sochi with other competitors. “But at the same time, none of us are strangers to how skating works. … You either deal with that or you don’t.”

The subjective nature of the sport, combined with the unique system that allows judges to score athletes from their own countries, has created an environment rife with conflicts of interest, which is why figure skating has consistently been plagued by controversy.

NBC News found that approximately one fifth of the 164 judges eligible for the upcoming figure skating events are current or former leaders in their national skating federations, which gives them a natural incentive to inflate the scores of their countrymen.

“This, in my opinion, is a clear conflict of interest,” said Sonia Bianchetti of Italy, a skating judge at seven Olympics, “but the rules do not forbid it.”[1]

We deal with injustice in this world, don’t we? What we see in the Scripture is that God is just. God is not partial. God is not swayed by money, or influence or anything like that. The passage we will look at today shows that.

My theme today is:

Israel’s Unbelief is Not Inconsistent with God’s Plan (Romans 9:14-18)

  1. God IS just (verse 14).
    1. Let’s read verse 14: What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!
    2. There is a question.
    3. Is God unjust?
    4. Paul is emphatic in his response.
    5. “By no means!”
    6. How did we get to this place in Romans?
    7. Remember in Romans 9:1-6 Paul was writing about how desperately he wanted to see his people saved. Who were his people? The Israelites. Paul wanted to see the Israelites saved. But they had rejected the Messiah.
    8. In Romans 9:6-13, Paul wrote about how the Word of God has not failed. Paul wrote about how the promises of God have not failed. Paul explained that all of those descended from Israel were not true Israel. What Paul meant is that all of those descended from Abraham are not true Israelites. Abraham had two sons, but God said that through Isaac your descendants will be named (verse 7). The covenant and the promise were through Isaac and not Ishmael.
    9. Then, in verse 13 God says that the promise was through Jacob and not Esau. Verse 13 says that Jacob God has loved, but Esau God has hated. I shared that that could be translated “Jacob I have chosen, but Esau I have rejected.” God chose the promise to come through Jacob.
    10. This chapter is showing that God has a right to do what He wants with nations.
    11. God has a right to choose Israel.
    12. One reason He chose Israel is that the Messiah would come through Israel. The Messiah, Jesus, came through the descendants of Abraham and all throughout the Old Testament God is protecting that line for the Messiah. Through Jesus Jewish people and gentiles can be saved. That fulfills Gen 12 that God will bless the nations through Abraham and further that Abraham is the father of many nations. This is because the gentiles are grafted in as Abraham’s descendants.
    13. Back to verse 14, in Romans 3:5 Paul talked about this same question. God is not unrighteous.
    14. 2 Chron 19:7 reads: Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.”
    15. Romans 2:11 says that God shows no partiality.
    16. God is just.
    17. What does it mean to be just? A dictionary definition reads “based on behavior according to what is morally right and fair.” To be just means to be impartial in judgment.
    18. Think of equity. God punishes wrongdoing. God will do what is right. His judgment is impartial. God is righteous. That is why Paul is bringing it up again in Romans. People could be charging God with being unjust in favoring the Jewish people over the gentiles, but Paul is responding to that argument.
    19. In the rest of this chapter, Paul is going to give examples to defend his argument.
    20. The first example is Pharoah, which Paul will write about until verse 24. As well as in verses 21-24 the example of a potter and the pottery.
    21. Then, in verses 25-26 we will see an example from Hosea. The Old Testament prophet Hosea predicted that God’s grace will not be limited to Israel (Hos. 2:23; 1:10).
    22.  Then, in verses 27-29 Paul will quote from Isaiah to show that even amongst Israel only a remnant will be saved (Isa. 1:9; 9:27-29; 10:22-23).
    23. The point is that God is being consistent with His Word.
    24. Paul will wrap up this chapter with two grand conclusions:
      1. Through faith the Gentiles have found righteousness without even seeking it (9:30).
      2. Through the law Israel has not found righteousness even after seeking it (9:31–33).
        1. The seeking (9:31–32): They tried to be saved by works.
        2. The stumbling (9:33): They have stumbled over Christ the rock, as predicted by Isaiah (Isa. 8:14; 28:16).[2]
    25. That summarizes the rest of this chapter, as I have stated I think Paul’s case is that God has a right to do with nations as He pleases. This passage is not about individual election, or individuals, but about God choosing Israel.
    26. Let’s now look at Paul’s first example, Pharoah.
  2. God determined to pardon sinful Israel with undeserved grace (9:15–16).[3]
    1. Verse 15 reads: For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
    2. In verse 15 Paul is quoting from Ex 33:19. In that passage Moses was interceding for the people. Moses wanted to see the Lord and the Lord says that His goodness will pass before him. God then says what I read.
    3. In verse 16 Paul makes a conclusion, it would be better translated “consequently, therefore”: Verse 16 reads: So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
    4. God is the creator, correct? As creator God has a right to do what He wants with His creation. Paul is showing that God is consistent with His promises.
    5. This means it is all about God.
    6. About these verses Bobby Murphy shared: “…man deserves nothing from God. Thus, if He withholds advantage from a person, He isn’t unjust because the person doesn’t deserve it. The fact He gives advantage to another person who doesn’t deserve it is irrelevant in that regard.” 
  3. God determined to punish sinful Pharaoh with deserved judgment (9:17–18).[4]
    1. Verses 17-18 read: For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
    2. Paul uses a typical rabbinic formula here in which the OT scriptures are figuratively portrayed as speaking to Pharaoh. What he means is that the scripture he cites refers (or can be applied) to Pharaoh.[5]
    3. Paul is responding about Pharoah. That passage comes from Ex. 9:6. Paul does not explain the context, so we are supposed to know the context. Most of us know it. Moses was confronting Pharoah. God was doing miracles and curses on the Egyptians in order to show His glory and lead the people out of Egypt.
    4. God did show His glory through Pharoah.
    5. I am quoting from Bobby Murphy again: Notice the word “hardens” in verse 18. It alludes to the terminology in the narratives about Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; and 14:4, 17). Those verses teach God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate His power through the 10 plagues.[6] 
    6. Verse 18 is another application.
    7. There is a double connective here that cannot be easily preserved in English: “consequently therefore,” emphasizing the conclusion of what he has been arguing.[7]
    8. God’s mercy is about God.
    9. There are many scriptures about the Lord hardening hearts: Ex 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 17; Deut 2:30; Josh 11:20; John 12:40; Rom 11:7, 25[8]
    10. Piper shares: At least in this case, God seems not to be actively inflicting a hardening, but instead withholding himself (which is itself the hardening) (Isaiah 64:7).[9]
    11. The Christian Standard Bible: Exodus points out that Pharaoh hardened his heart many times before God punished him by hardening him.[10]
    12. Seventeen times Exodus mentions Pharaoh’s hard heart, the first two being ascribed to God’s decision to harden him (Ex 4:21; 7:3). Only four times does the text say that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex 7:4; 8:15, 32; 9:34), and one of those verses (8:15) says that “he hardened his heart … as the Lord had said,” indicating that God was the impetus behind Pharaoh’s hardness.[11]
    13. MacArthur: This does not mean that God actively created unbelief or some other evil in Pharaoh’s heart (cf. Jas 1:13), but rather that He withdrew all the divine influences that ordinarily acted as a restraint to sin and allowed Pharaoh’s wicked heart to pursue its sin unabated (cf. 1:24, 26, 28).[12]
    14. One more source: He is sovereign in all that he does. Although the text says repeatedly, however, that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it also stresses that Pharaoh hardened himself (cf. Exod 7:13–14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34–35). Morris notes that “neither here nor anywhere else is God said to harden anyone who had not first hardened himself.”24[13]
  4. Applications:
    1. We must be careful of accusing God of being unjust (verse 14).
    2. We must remember that God is the Lord and creator. He is the sovereign King of the world and all that is and was and ever shall be. God hold all things in existence (John 1:1-14; Col. 1:15-20).
    3. We must remember that when we do have doubts or questions about God and His justice it is important to think them through (and pray them through) as Paul does right here (verse 14 and verses 14-18).
    4. We must remember when we do have doubts or questions about God and His justice we must have a reality check of who we are and who God is (verse 14).
    5. We must remember that it is God’s right to have mercy on who He wants to and have compassion on who He wants to have compassion on. God would have every right to have eliminated the human race when sin entered the world in Genesis 3 or when the Israelites made the golden calf in Exodus 32 (verse 15).
      1. We must worship God for His mercy on us.
      2. We must worship God for His mercy giving us the Gospel (John 3:16; 6:44).
      3. We must worship God for His mercy giving us the Holy Spirit (John 15; Romans 8:9).    
      4. We must worship God for His mercy in the place of our birth.
      5. We must worship God for His mercy in the time of our birth.
      6. We must worship God for His mercy in the family we were born to.
      7. We must worship God for His mercy that we do not suffer more.
      8. We must even worship God for His mercy that we do not suffer less. Maybe, even in suffering, it is God’s mercy drawing us closer to Him.
    6. Praise God, it is not about us, but God (verse 16).
      1. If it was about us we would never be saved (Eph 2:8-10).
      2. If it was about us we would fail. We cannot save ourselves.
      3. We were dead in our sin (Eph 2:1-5).
    7. We must recognize that God does put people in places for His glory as He did with Pharoah. God is sovereign (verse 17).
    8. Yet, we must recognize that God seems to harden people who are already hard-hearted. May we not be hard-hearted (Ezek 36:26).

Justice, we all long for it, don’t we?

We want justice. In this world we lack justice. I have an example. It was 1994 and O.J. Simpson was the main suspect in the murder of Nichole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Supposedly that trial is something that changed cable news. Remember the white bronco chase? Many people were glued to the television to watch CNN to see if O.J. would be acquitted of the crime. The thought was that his money and influence would get him off. On October 3, 1995 he was acquitted of all criminal charges.[14]

In this world we have injustice. Take heart God is a just judge.

Christianity is the unreligion. It turns all our religious instincts on their heads ….

The ancient Greeks told us to be moderate by knowing our inclinations. The Romans told us to be strong by ordering our lives. Buddhism tells us to be disillusioned by annihilating our consciousness. Hinduism tells us to be absorbed by merging our souls. Islam tells us to be submissive by subjecting our wills. Agnosticism tells us to be at peace by ignoring our doubts. Moralism tells us to be good by discharging our obligations. Only the gospel tells us to be free by acknowledging our failure. Christianity is the unreligion because it is the one faith whose founder tells us to bring not our doing, but our need.[15]


[1] Mary Pilon, Andrew W. Lehren, Stephanie Gosk, Emily R. Siegel, and Kenzi Abou-Sabe, “Think Olympic figure skating judges are biased? The data says they might be.” NBS News (2-6-18)

[2] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:30–33.

[3] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:15–16.

[4] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:17–18.

[5] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 9:17.

[6] Bobby Murphy

[7] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 9:18.

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[9] https://www.desiringgod.org/labs/god-exalted-him-to-crush-him

[10] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1796.

[11] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1760.

[12] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 9:18.

24 Morris, Romans, 361. Calvin speaks of “weak exegetes” who hold that when God is said to “harden,” it implies only permission and not the action of divine wrath (Romans, 207). See also Murray (Romans, 2:28–30). Fitzmyer says that “the ‘hardening of the heart’ by God is a protological way of expressing divine reaction to persistent human obstinacy against him” (Romans, 568).

[13] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 200.

[14] https://abcnews.go.com/US/key-moments-oj-simpsons-life/story?id=48724637

[15] Dane Ortlund, Defiant Grace (EP Books, 2011), p. 38

God’s Providence: the Word of God Has NOT Failed (Romans 9:6-13)

God’s Providence: the Word of God Has NOT Failed (Romans 9:6-13)

God is faithful, we can trust Him. God is sovereign over nations.

The promise was through Isaac and through Jacob.

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, July 11, 2021

There is a story told about a mother who came to Napoleon on behalf of her son, who was about to be executed. The mother asked the ruler to issue a pardon, but Napoleon pointed out that it was the man’s second offense and justice demanded death.

“I don’t ask for justice,” the woman replied. “I plead for mercy.”

The emperor objected, “But your son doesn’t deserve mercy.”

“Sir,” the mother replied, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask.”

Her son was granted the pardon.[1]

God also gives us mercy. He gives us mercy through Jesus. Jesus took the wrath of God in our place. Jesus did this so that we can be saved. God gives us these promises in His Word, let’s continue to look at them.

My theme today is:

God’s Providence: the Word of God Has NOT Failed (Romans 9:6-13)

God is faithful, we can trust Him. God is sovereign over nations.

The promise was through Isaac and through Jacob.

The application:

Trust in God’s Word.

  1. First, we see the example of Ishmael and Isaac (Romans 9:6-10).
    1. How did we get to this section?
    2. In Romans 9:1-5 Paul shared his heart for Israel. He wanted to be cursed so that his people would be saved.
    3. This is why in verse 6 Paul anticipates the question, did the Word of God fail? In other words, did the promises of God fail? Did the promise of His special plan for Israel fail?
    4. Paul is going to begin with two examples to show that God’s promise is trustworthy. God’s word did not fail. But we do need to make sure we are understanding God’s word correctly. Before we say God is not faithful, we better check our understanding.
    5. MacArthur shares:

Eureka!

It is a simple Greek word, only six letters long. But for a generation of treasure seekers in the late 1840s, it became a life slogan. Meaning “I have found it!” in English, the term purportedly comes from Archimedes, the Greek mathematician who cried out “Eureka! Eureka!” when he determined how much gold was in King Hiero’s crown. Yet, for James Marshall (who discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848) and many of his contemporaries, the term took on new meaning. For them, “eureka” meant instant riches, early retirement, and a life of carefree ease. It’s no wonder California (the “Golden State”) includes this term on its official seal, along with the picture of a zealous gold miner.

News of Marshall’s discovery spread quickly throughout the nation. By 1850 over 75,000 hopefuls had traveled to California by land, and another 40,000 by sea. Whether by wagon or by boat, the journey was an arduous one, as adventurers left friends and family behind in search of vast fortunes. Even when they finally arrived in San Francisco, the closest goldfields were still 150 miles away. Undaunted nonetheless, many of the forty-niners set up mining camps and started to dig.

As they traveled out to their various destinations, prospectors quickly learned that not everything that looked like gold actually was. Riverbeds and rock quarries could be full of golden specks, and yet entirely worthless. This “fool’s gold” was iron pyrite, and miners had to be able to distinguish it from the real thing. Their very livelihood depended on it.

Experienced miners could usually distinguish pyrite from gold simply by looking at it. But in some cases the distinction was not quite so clear. So they developed tests to discern what was genuine from what wasn’t. One test involved biting the rock in question. Real gold is softer than the human tooth, while fool’s gold is harder. A broken tooth meant that a prospector needed to keep digging. A second test involved scraping the rock on a piece of white stone, such as ceramic. True gold leaves a yellow streak, while the residue left by fool’s gold is greenish-black. In either case, a miner relied on tests to authenticate his finds.

  1. God’s Word has NOT failed. God’s Word is the gold standard. Paul is about to show that.[2]
    • That is what Paul is about to address. The first example is Ishmael and Isaac.
    • God chose Isaac (Abraham’s son through Sarah) over Ishmael (Abraham’s son through Hagar).[3]
    • Let’s read verses 6-7, Romans 9:6-7: But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.
    • What does verse 6 mean? I love the language. God’s Word never fails! God’s promises do not fail. Numbers 23:19, God cannot lie or change His mind.
    • Israel could mean Jacob, as in all of those descended through Jacob. Remember that Jacob was renamed Israel (Genesis 32:28).
    • Or, Israel could go back to the first promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3.
    • Based on context I believe this is the latter. Israel is about the original promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. Romans 9:7 makes that clear. This is about what became the nation of Israel.  
    • Not all of those born into the nation of Israel are truly members of Israel (verse 6).
    • Being descended through Abraham does not do it. They had to be descended through Isaac, the child of promise (verse 7).
    • Verse 7: your offspring shall be traced through Isaac.
    • Verse 7 is a quote from Genesis 21:12.
    • Romans 2:28-29 is important: For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
    • Paul is connecting this with the promise made to Abraham through Isaac, but also about the heart.
    • Now look at verse 8: This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
    • Only the children of promise, that is, the children through Isaac.
    • We see the contrast of the “flesh” versus the “promise.”
    • In verse 9 Paul quotes Genesis 18:10. Look at verse 9: For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”
    • That was the promise given to Abraham and Sarah. The following year she would have a son at 90 years old for her, and 100 for Abraham.
    • In verse 10, Paul begins to introduce the next example: And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac
    • So, Isaac is the son of promise, we have established that. Now, through Isaac will come twins.
    • However, God is still providentially directing which of these children he is choosing. But I continue to want to show you this is about God choosing a nation. This is all about the nation of Israel which God chooses over other nations.
    • But Isaac and Ishmael had different mothers. Perhaps God discriminated between the two on that basis. Jacob and Esau, however, had the same mother and were conceived at the same time (vv. 10–11).[4]
  2. Next we see the example of Esau and Jacob (Romans 9:11-13).
    1. Let’s read verses 11-13: 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.”
    2. If you notice in verse 11 Paul is emphasizing that God choosing to follow the Israelite line through Jacob and not Esau is God’s free act. This is not about anything they had done good or bad. Paul says they were not yet born, they had not done anything good or bad.
    3. Again, I believe this is about God having His way with nations. God chose Israel over other nations.
    4. But nations are determined by individuals. Nations also effect individuals.
    5. So, why did God choose Jacob to be part of the promise and not Esau? We cannot totally answer that.
    6. Genesis 25:23 is quoted about God choosing Jacob. This was when they were still in the womb.
    7. However, in Hebrews 12:16-17 the writer talks about how Esau sold his birthright. This is described as something immoral and godless. We also know from Genesis 26:34-35 and Genesis 28:6-9 that Esau married women from families that his family would not approve of, and did not approve of. Yet still God pronounced that Jacob was chosen long before that. God pronounced that Jacob was chosen before they were born.
    8. Is that because God knew what Esau would be like? I do not think so.
    9. Remember that Jacob was not a moral man either. In Genesis 27 Jacob is deceitful. Then, from Genesis 28-32 he has a polygamous marriage and still is deceitful. Was he the best of the worst? Maybe, but my thought is that this is about God’s providence.
    10. So, did God choose Jacob’s descendants to be the Israelite line and Esau’s descendants to be excluded without any of their freewill? God has that right, but I am going to refer back to Molinism. I talked about that on June 6. It is also called “Middle-Knowledge.” That is that God knows all possibilities. God not only knew what Jacob and Esau would do in the future, but also what they could do. God could know how things would work out if He chose Esau instead of Jacob. God knew what Jacob and Esau would be like in any possible world. So, God did know.
    11. God knows the middle knowledge and God orchestrates it so that we are predestined and yet free because the predestination is based on our free choice which He knows because of His omniscience.
    12. Foreknowledge says God knows what will happen. Middle knowledge means God knows what “could” happen. God knows the subjunctives. God knows what a person will do in their free will in any possible world and God orchestrates that. They do it of their free will but God predetermined it but based on their free will.
    13. God took those into account, and He chose that the line of Israel would pass through Jacob.
    14. Although God chose the line of Israel for the Messiah to pass through Jacob and not Esau, the line of Esau can be saved. This is not about individual predestination. No, this is about how God chose the nation of Israel to come through Jacob and not Esau. Non-Israelites could be saved.
    15. God has a right to do what He wants through nations.
    16. What did God do (9:12b-13): He chose Jacob (the second-born twin son of Isaac) over Esau (the firstborn twin).
    17. Again, in verse 12, Genesis 25:23 the older will serve the younger.
    18. In verse 13, Malachi 1:2 is quoted. This is harsh. Jacob, I loved, but Esau I hated. This could be translated, “Jacob I have chosen, but Esau I have rejected.” In other words, God chose the covenant to pass through Jacob and not Esau.
    19. “As to ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,’ a woman once said to Mr. Spurgeon, ‘I cannot understand why God should say that He hated Esau.’ ‘That,’ Spurgeon replied, ‘is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob!”[5]
    20. One source shares: Both nations were punished for their sins, but only one received grace. I have loved Jacob means God chose or elected his descendants (the nation of Israel), whereas I have hated Esau means that God rejected the nation that stemmed from him (Edom).[6]
  3. Applications:
    1. We can trust in the promises of God (verse 6).
    2. God’s promises are true, and clear, and sure, and will still be fulfilled.
    3. We can STILL trust in the promises of God.
    4. We can trust God’s Word.
    5. We can trust in salvation (John 1:12; 3:16; 14:6; 2 Cor. 5:17, 21).
    6. We can trust in the Holy Spirit’s presence with us (John 14:16; Romans 8:9)
    7. We can have God’s peace (John 14:27).
    8. We can trust Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
    9. We can trust the Holy Spirit is interceding for us according to the will of God (Romans 8:27).
    10. We can trust God causes all things to work together for good… (Romans 8:28).
    11. We can trust God’s logical plan of salvation (Romans 8:29-30).
    12. We can trust that if God is for us who can be against us (Romans 8:31).
    13. We can trust that if God did not spare His own Son what else will He not do for us (Romans 8:32)?
    14. We can trust that no one can bring a charge against God’s elect (Romans 8:33), God justifies us.
    15. We can trust God’s Word that nothing, and no one, can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39).
    16. We can trust in the promise of the Millennial Reign and the New Heaven and the New Earth (Isa 60; 66:22ff; Rev 21 and 22).
    17. God is faithful.
    18. We must trust in God for salvation.
    19. We must trust in God for our life now and make Him Lord of our life. We must not think we get a free pass into heaven because of ethnicity.
    20. This whole passage is about God choosing Israel to bring the Messiah into the world. We must worship Him for salvation.

In the early days of aviation, planes were not yet equipped with gyroscopic turn indicators. When pilots flew through clouds or fog, they would often become disoriented, and because the inner ear does not accurately perceive a banked turn, they sometimes got caught in steep spiral dives called “graveyard spirals.”

Pilot and author William Langewiesche describes one such incident:

In December of 1925 a young Army pilot named Carl Crane got caught in the clouds at 8,000 feet directly over Detroit while trying to fly a congressman’s son to Washington, D.C., in a biplane. Crane later said, “In a short time I was losing altitude, completely out of control. I could not fly the airplane at all—it had gotten into a spiral dive. Halfway down I looked around at my boy in the back, and he was enjoying the flight to no end. He was shaking his hands and grinning, and I was slowly dying because I knew we were going to crash….”

Crane did not know which wing was down, let alone by how much. If he tried to level the wings, he was just as likely to roll upside down as right side up. If he tried to raise the nose, the effect would be exactly the opposite: the turn would quicken, steepening the descent.…

“Finally it got down to under a thousand feet, and I said, ‘Well, here we go. I’m going to look at my boy once more.’ And as I turned around to look at him, a sign went by my wing. It said ‘Statler Hotel.’ I had just missed the top of the Statler Hotel. In all the mist and rain, I could see the buildings and the streets. I flew down the street and got over the Detroit River, and flew about ten feet high all the way to Toledo, shaking all the way.”

In life as in flying, it is all-important that we have our bearings.[7]

We can trust God. We can trust His promises. This passage is the beginning of Paul showing that God was faithful to the promise made to Abraham. We must keep our focus on Jesus.

Prayer


[1] Source: John Koessler, in the sermon “Blessed Are the Merciful,” PreachingToday.com

[2] https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180530

[3] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:6–10.

vv. verses

[4] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1760.

[5] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 9:13.

[6] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1796.

[7] Source: William Langewiesche, “The Turn,” Atlantic Monthly (December 1993), pp. 115-22

God’s providence in American history. Christians must care about our country (John 17:16-18; Romans 9:3; 1 Tim 2:1-8)

God’s providence in American history. Christians must care about our country (John 17:16-18; Romans 9:3; 1 Tim 2:1-8)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, July 4, 2021

Special NOTE: I know this manuscript looks long. I do not know that I will read every quote, so the sermon should be the normal length.

As most of you know President Jefferson wrote the declaration of independence. 

David McCullough, in his 2001 biography of Adams, says Jefferson offered the job to Adams, but Adams declined for several reasons. Jefferson was from Virginia, was younger and possessed, as Adams said, “a peculiar felicity of expression.”

And the Virginian wasted no time in submitting a draft to the Continental Congress.

Jefferson worked quickly, without access to his library, and produced a draft in about three weeks.

The committee presented its draft to Congress on June 28th. The Second Continental Congress actually passed the resolution for independence on July 2nd, 1776, but the wording for the declaration wasn’t officially approved until July 4th. And that, of course, is a date that would go down in American history.[1]

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams maintained a close friendship, but that friendship was eventually tested. Jefferson and Adams found themselves of differing opinions on political issues. Sound familiar? Their actual political philosophy differed. However, in their later years they began writing letters to each other and wrote to each other until their death. Do you realize they both died on the fiftieth anniversary of our country? They both died on July 4, 1826.

Michael Medved writes:

At a time when male life expectancy barely reached forty years, John Adams, the “Atlas of Independence” and the second president of the United States, had passed his ninetieth birthday with his faculties and health remarkably intact.[2]

Six hundred miles away, at the elegant hilltop plantation house he had designed for himself, Adams’s old friend (and sometime bitter rival) Thomas Jefferson also defied the actuarial tables. At eighty-three… He told his grandson that “I am like an old watch, with a pinion worn out here, and a wheel there, until I can go no longer.”[3]

Jefferson wanted to live until July 4th, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He made it to the 4th and then Medved writes:

He uttered no further comprehensible words, but he had unequivocally achieved his ardent desire: living through more than half of his cherished nation’s sacred day, finally expiring on Tuesday, the Fourth of July, at ten minutes before one o’clock in the afternoon. The celebratory bells had already begun ringing in the valley below, unaware of the loss of the local and international eminence.[4]

Also unaware, John Adams stubbornly clung to life at Peacefield. Early in the oppressively humid summer morning of Tuesday, July 4, as the first celebratory cannon began blasting in the distance, the former president arose and demanded assistance to place himself in his favorite armchair in the second-floor study, looking out the window toward the town. Reverend George Whitney arrived for a holiday visit but sadly concluded that “the old gentleman was drawing to his end. Dr. Holbrook was there and declared to us that he could not live more than through the day.” Adams’s youngest son, Thomas, dispatched an urgent letter to Washington to alert the president, his brother, that their father neared the end of his course. By midday, the weather darkened with an impending storm, and relatives and friends returned Adams to his bedchamber, watching the great man’s labored breathing. As they shifted his position to improve his comfort, the former president awoke and blinked at the familiar surroundings. Reminded it was the Fourth of July, he lifted his head from the pillow and declared in a strong, clear voice: “It is a great day. It is a good day.”

With more cannon barking out their salutes in the nearby village, afternoon thunder and lightning offered “the artillery of heaven,” as subsequent observers described the dramatic scene. Adams lay back on his bedding, silently watching and listening, with his mind clear, according to those who waited with him. Toward evening, with a gentle rain falling, he breathed his astonishing last words in an effortful gasp that was still clear enough to be understood. “Thomas Jefferson survives,” he managed. The breathing stopped shortly after six o’clock, with a resounding clap of thunder at the very moment of the great man’s passing. Witnesses insisted that at the same instant, a sudden burst of light from the declining sun pushed through the looming clouds and spilled into the upstairs room like a benediction.[5]

Today, I intend to answer the question, should we, as Christians, be proud to be an American? Should we as Christians be patriotic? Further, I wish to talk about God’s providence on American history.

What is providence?

I think of God’s sovereignty meaning that He is in control of all things. I think of providence meaning that He is using His sovereignty to orchestrate the details of life.

John Piper, defines “providence” as “purposeful sovereignty.” He writes: The word providence is built from the word provide , which has two parts: pro (Latin “forward,” “on behalf of”) and vide (Latin “to see”). So you might think that the word provide would mean “to see forward” or “to foresee.” But it doesn’t. It means “to supply what is needed”; “to give sustenance or support.” So in reference to God, the noun providence has come to mean “the act of purposefully providing for, or sustaining and governing, the world.”[6]

Ground rules:

The United States of America is not God’s chosen people. The chosen people would be the Jewish people and Israel. God’s providence just means that He has exercised His Divine will in our history. He has exercised His sovereignty. We must not deify America or our founders and we must not idolize America.

I reject Christian nationalism. By my understanding, Christian nationalism combines the church and state. Christian nationalism would say as goes the country, so goes the church. They combine the church and state. The church and the state are NOT the same. I will make the case that we do see God’s providence in American history, further we should be patriotic, but still we are Christians first and Americans second. Christianity is good for the country. I believe Christianity is good for America. We see that in our history, but the church usually does well under persecution.

Again, my focus is God’s providence in America’s history. Also, should Christians be patriotic?

  1. Let’s turn to Scripture.
    1. What does Scripture say about being patriotic? I am glad you asked.
    2. In Romans 9:3 Paul shares: For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
    3. In that passage the apostle Paul really cared that his people, the Jews would know Christ.
    4. In a direct way we can make the application that we must care that our nation knows Jesus. Indirectly, we can apply this to the idea of being patriotic.
    5. We should want the best for our country, right? Of course, we should.
    6. Romans 9 also shows that God can control nations the way He wants to. God has chosen Israel above other nations.
    7. In John 17:18 Jesus says: As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
    8. We are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:16).
    9. Let’s turn to one more passage. Let’s turn to 1 Timothy 2:1-2: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way…
    10. That passage is telling us to pray for our leaders. Whether we like them or not we should pray for our leaders.
    11. C.S. Lewis wrote a book, The Four Loves, and he distinguishes philia, friendship; erōs, sex; agapē, the love of God; and the one that I think is relevant right here: storgē.[7]
    12. This comes from Piper: Storgē is a kind of affection. We should as Christians have an affection for our country. That is the type of love we should have for our country. When you leave our country you are likely happy to come home. This is home, we love home. When we see our country losing certain good values, that disappoints you. Some of you may feel like you cannot recognize the country that you love. But this is not a love like you have for a spouse, or a child, or for God (agape), this is an affection. This is a storgē love.
    13. Yes, in that sense we should love our country. We should support our country. We should be patriotic. We should be proud to be an American. We should care that our people, the people of our nation are saved. We should want the best for our nation. Christians should be the best citizens.
    14. We could go to other passages. Romans 13 is about being submissive to the authorities. We also see that in 1 Peter 2:12-17.
    15. But what about God’s providence in America? This is the day America celebrates Independence Day. Remember God’s providence as purposeful sovereignty. Has God shown purposeful sovereignty over America? I am a student of history and I think He has.
  2. God’s Providence in our history.
    1. I think, as I study history, God had shown great providence in our history. Remember, providence is “purposeful sovereignty.”
    2. How did we beat England, twice? I know that during the War of 1812 England was also fighting Napolean, but they could have wrapped us up later on, and they did not.
    3. Medved writes:
    4. As contemporaries on both sides of the conflict suggested, the Continental Army benefited from a series of unusual natural phenomena and a pattern of illogical but consistent good luck that in the painful summer of 1776 rescued the troops from all but certain catastrophe.
    5. On July 3, 1775, the tall Virginian George Washington arrived from the capital, Philadelphia, to take command of these courageous but undisciplined New England forces who had come together under the grand title “Continental Army.” The new top general worried over their vulnerability to British attack and, in one of his periodic bouts of self-pity, told his military aide Joseph Reed that he never would have accepted his command had he known of the perilous position in which he found himself. His only hope, Washington confided, involved the necessary intervention of a higher power.[8]
    6. God did provide weather to help us win.
    7. Washington should not have survived. He had an incident when he was 23 years old that should have killed him and then Medved writes: Washington’s successful defiance of danger became a notable feature of his leadership during his eight years of service in the Revolutionary War. The general in chief frequently and fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire, rallying his troops on many occasions by his own incomparable example. At the Battle of Princeton in January 1777, he rode at the head of his troops on a huge white horse as they marched directly on a well-formed British line. When the Americans came within range, both sides fired, and smoke from their rifles temporarily obscured Washington, who rode forward halfway between them. His aide, Richard Fitzgerald, covered his face with his hat in order to avoid watching the inevitable death of his beloved commander. But as the air cleared and he lowered his hat, he saw men on both sides who were dead and dying while Washington, unscathed, rose in his stirrups and urged his men forward against the shattered British line. “It’s a fine fox chase, my boys!” he shouted. A year and half later, in June 1778, the Marquis de Lafayette, the aristocratic Frenchman who became an esteemed general in the Continental Army, recalled the great man at the Battle of Monmouth, where “General Washington seemed to arrest fortune with one glance….His presence stopped the retreat….His graceful bearing on horseback, his calm and deportment which still retained a trace of displeasure…were all calculated to inspire the highest degree of enthusiasm….I thought then as now that I had never beheld so superb a man.”
    8. On September 8, 1779, Washington was spared because a marksman would not shoot someone in the back.[9]
    9. I am sure you have heard the stories that Washington shook bullets out of his jacket. He had horses shot out from under him. Three years ago, I listened to an extensive 1000+ page biography of Washington and I think he was God’s man for the time. That is God’s purposeful sovereignty. That does not mean he had to be a Christian, I think he was, but God, in His purposeful sovereignty, can use whoever He wants.
    10. Chernow writes: In the end, he [Washington] had managed to foil the best professional generals that a chastened Great Britain could throw at him. As Benjamin Franklin told an English friend after the war, “An American planter was chosen by us to command our troops and continued during the whole war. This man sent home to you, one after another, five of your best generals, baffled, their heads bare of laurels, disgraced even in the opinion of their employers.”[10]
    11. Our founders were not all Christians, though most were, and all held to Judeo-Christian values. Even Jefferson, who was a deist, thought the Bible should be taught in schools.
    12. What about the second war with England? What about the war of 1812? Do we see God’s providence in that war? Years ago, I was watching a history channel documentary about our history. Do you know that after the British burned down Washington D.C. they were heading to Baltimore? Do you know what stopped them? A hurricane stopped them. How often does a hurricane hit Washington D.C.? 
    13. Some could say that these things are coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that God has been working through history.
    14. Recently I read that Churchill was visiting a friend in 1931. He was visiting a friend and he was ran over by a car. He should have died.[11] Of course there were many times when Churchill should have died, but God, in His providence, had him to help England and the United States, win the second world war.
    15. Why? Why would there be many things in which God acted to help America?
    16. We can’t really know, but I have some suggestions:
      1. We were founded on Biblical values and there is a common-grace blessing when we follow His values. Yes, we had sins in our past, but our values, by and large were Biblical.
      2. We see this in the impact of the puritans before our founding.
      3. We have many quotes from our founders. See me for the Truth Project lesson 10 which shares much about this. Our founders recognized that we needed to teach Christian values. John Adams: “Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”[12]
      4. Washington’s Farewell address, Sept. 17, 1796: “…And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion… reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.”[13]
      5. Benjamin Rush: “The only foundation for… a republic is to be lain in religion.” “…Christianity is the only true and perfect religion; and that in proportion as mankind adopt its principles and obey its precepts they will be wise and happy.” (Benjamin Rush, “A Defense of the Use of the Bible as a School Book,” 1796.[14]
      6. The problem is that today the State has replaced God. The State is supposed to surrender to God’s authority. Our founders recognized the importance of a Biblical Worldview.
      7. We were founded on Judeo-Christian values, but yet still freedom of religion. People in the United States did not have to be Catholic or protestant or one national religion.
      8. We have always supported the Jewish people and later Israel (Genesis 12). Not perfectly, but our pattern has been supporting the Jewish people and Israel.
      9. Could it be that God was providentially acting in our history so that we could be available to help Europe in World War I and World War II?
      10. What would have happened if we were not available to save Europe in World War II?
      11. Could God have providentially acted in our past in order that we could help Israel in 1948?
      12. Remember these are just thoughts: we aren’t like other superpowers, we annihilate a country and help them rebuild. We have seen this in Germany, Japan, Iraq, and other places. This is not to excuse the way we conquered the Native American land. In that way we were like other nations.
      13. Lastly, do you know that most of the mission money comes from the United States? I was looking for the total, but I think I once heard around 90%.
    17. This is NOT to say that God will continue to providentially guide the United States. I don’t see our name in Revelation and if we are there we are likely connected with Babylon. I am just saying that in history I see God working through the United States.
    18. Again, yes, we should be proud to be an American. Yes, we should be patriotic. Yes, we should want the best for our country.
  3. Warning: Don’t make the country your idol. Be a Christian first.
    1. Remember though, we are Christians first.
    2. America is not the promised land. We are not the new Israel.
    3. In Phil 3:8 Paul counted all of his Jewish status as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. Jesus must be number 1.
    4. Yes, we should be proud to be an American but we must not make an idol of our country.
  4. Some applications:
    1. We must understand that God is at work.
    2. We must understand that God is at work in His providence working through nations.
    3. We must be good citizens, really caring about our people group as Paul did in Romans 9:3.
    4. We must pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-8).
    5. We must not make our country an idol. We must be Christians first and then Americans.

Medved shares:

To this day, Adams and Jefferson remain the only two presidents to have expired on the same day. And only one other president had the honor of dying on the Glorious Fourth: James Monroe, fifth president of the United States, wounded veteran of the Revolutionary War, and a close colleague of both Jefferson and Adams. He succumbed to heart failure at 3:15 in the afternoon of July 4, 1831, exactly five years after the Grand Jubilee. The stunned public could only marvel at the exceedingly odd fact that three of the first four presidents to die all perished on the same deeply significant calendar date, lending further support to perceptions of providential participation in the favored nation’s development.[15]

Mark Grant, whose Macronicity blog seeks obscure, mystical numerological significance in such perplexing occurrences, carefully calculates the odds of three presidents all dying on the same national holiday and suggests that the chances against such a pattern recurring stand at approximately fifty million to one. “It would be about 75 times easier to be dealt a Royal Flush in a poker game with five cards (which we should see once every 649,740 hands),” he writes. “Many readers can easily imagine how impressed poker players would be to see a hand like that dealt just once.”[16]

America, on the other hand, has drawn just such remarkable hands again and again—giving rise to widespread suspicions of a rigged game.

If a single player wins an ongoing contest with maddening consistency, his frustrated rivals will inevitably accuse him of cheating. Our new nation’s shockingly rapid rise to world dominance counts as so illogical, so utterly unforeseen, that many mystified observers have determined that the only rational explanation involves a shameful record of American greed, ruthlessness, and immorality. Given recent themes in our educational system, every schoolchild has heard about national guilt for cruel treatment of Native Americans, brutal exploitation of African slaves, and imperialist interference with less fortunate societies around the world. According to this logic, the United States’ rise to international eminence can be explained by the rapacity of our political, business, and military leadership.

The great weakness in this understanding of American success involves its lack of context. Nearly all competing powers in the last three hundred years compiled histories regarding indigenous populations, slavery, and imperialism that count as far more problematic, and never more honorable, than the imperfect record of the United States. Yet none of these other societies, however disturbing and vile their abuses of power, managed to replicate America’s triumphs for its own population or in global affairs. In fact, some of the worst offenders in terms of slavery, exploitation, and colonialism endured the opposite trajectory achieved by the United States: for Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands, bloody imperialist adventures corresponded with the loss of world power status, not its attainment.[17]

So, it is July 4th. I think as Christians we should celebrate our history. We should be patriotic. Certainly, don’t celebrate the bad in our history, own that. But there has been plenty of good in American history. As Christians we should be the best citizens. We must pray for our country (1 Timothy 2:1-8). We must recognize God’s hand in our history, but see God’s providence in everyday life. God is still at work.

Prayer


[1] https://wng.org/podcasts/history-book-preserving-national-artifacts-1623038602

[2] Medved, Michael. The American Miracle (p. 2). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, pages 9-10.

[5] Ibid, pages 10-11.

[6] Piper, John. Providence (p. 32). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[7] https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-much-patriotism-is-too-much-patriotism

[8] Medved, Michael. The American Miracle (pp. 49-50). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[9] Medved, Michael. The American Miracle (pp. 82- 83). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[10] Chernow, Ron. Washington (p. 460). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[11] Medved, Michael. God’s Hand on America (p. 203). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[12] Letter of June 2, 1776, quoted in the Wall Builder Report, Summer 1993. John Adams, “Letter to Zabdiel Adams, Philadelphia, 21 June 1776,” in The Works of John Adams—Second President of the United States, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1854), 9:401.Truth Project Lesson 10

[13] The Will of the People: Readings in American Democracy (Chicago: Great Books Foundation, 2001), 38.

[14] Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), 93.

[15] Medved, Michael. The American Miracle (p. 17). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[16] Ibid, 18.

[17] Ibid, 18.

Paul’s Sorrow Over Israelites and God’s Providence (Romans 9:1-5; part 1 of a 5 part message on Romans 9) 

Paul’s Sorrow Over the Israelites and God’s Providence (Romans 9:1-5; part 1 of a 5 part message on Romans 9) 

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, June 27, 2021

Martin Luther shared:

My conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God, and to go against conscience or Scripture is neither right nor safe.[1]

We now come to a passage in Romans in which the Apostle Paul shares his heart for his people. From the very beginning he references that he is telling the truth and references his conscience and the Holy Spirit as his witness.

My theme today is:

We see Paul’s passion that his people would be saved and we see all of the spiritual benefits the Israelites were blessed with.

My application:

Do we care about people’s salvation? Paul wanted, desperately wanted, his ethnic group to be saved.

  1. Pauls grief over Israel (9:1–3): The apostle is so burdened over Israel’s unbelief that he is willing to suffer eternal damnation if that would help them come to Christ.
    1. Introduction to the section.
    2. Notice that this is coming after Romans 8. Romans 8 was all about the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 shows that if we are saved, we have the Holy Spirit (verse 9). Romans 8 was about how we can cry out “Abba Father,” that is “Daddy, Daddy” (verse 15). Romans 8 was all about how we have the privileges of adoption (verses 16-17). Romans 8 was about how if God is for us who can be against us (verse 31). Romans 8 was about how our present suffering does not compare to our eternal glory (verse 18). Romans 8 was about how God did not spare His own Son and that shows that He will graciously provide for us all things (verse 32). Romans 8 was all about how nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing (verses 38-39).
    3. Then, we come to Romans 9.
    4. In Romans 9 Paul begins to deal with Israel. Paul will write about Israel from Romans chapter 9 through Romans chapter 11.
    5. Some think that these chapters deal with Israel but also individual election as well as individual reprobation. In other words, some think that Romans 9 is about Israel, but also how God elects individuals to salvation and then those who are not elect to salvation are reprobate which essentially means that they are elected to hell. This means that some are predestined to salvation and others are predestined to hell.
    6. I talked about my views on this a few weeks ago and how I like the Molinism view, also called Middle Knowledge. HOWEVER, I agree with Bobby Murphy that this passage is not about individuals but nations.
    7. The view that I will be outlining throughout my sermons on Romans 9 will be the typical Arminian view with a flavor of Molinism/Middle Knowledge added. That is where I fall on these verses and the subject of predestination and election.
    8. Remember that election is corporate, and predestination is individuals. God elects corporate groups and God predestines individuals.
    9. The predestined will be saved and then they become part of the corporate church (the elect). HOWEVER, I believe the predestined are predestined based off of their free choice to receive or reject Christ with the prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit convicting them they are a sinner in need of a Savior. For a quick review, no one can receive Christ but that the Father draws them to Him (John 6:44 and 65). Therefore, we believe that God’s prevenient grace sends the Holy Spirit to people to convict them they are a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe since God knows what we would do in any situation, God knows whether a person will, or will not, receive Christ given the opportunity and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and those people are predestined. But they are predestined based off of God’s foreknowledge.  
    10. So, we will come back to that in a few weeks. But, I think it is clear that this chapter is saying that God has a right to do with nations as He pleases.
    11. Over the last 17 years I have spent a lot of time studying these topics. About a year and a half ago I was meeting with a ministry leader in the community, and he challenged me on this passage. Since then, I have spent countless hours studying this chapter. I have read several books on this chapter and talked with many scholars about it. In college and seminary I had required reading dealing with this subject, but have only preached a few times, and those very cursory, on this subject. Now, begins a series on some of the most controversial verses of Romans, and I dare say the Bible.
    12. Last fall, I met with a Bible teacher who thought that up until Romans 9 Romans has been about individuals, not nations and therefore this is about individuals.
    13. I STRONGLY disagree. All throughout Romans Paul has been contrasting two corporate groups:
      • Romans 1= Gentiles
      • Romans 2=Jews
      • Romans 3= Jews and then Gentiles with the Jews in verses 23-31
      • Romans 4= example of justification from the Old Testament
      • Romans 5= example of sin nature from the Old Testament and the fix through Jesus; example of Adam to Moses and then Jesus; example of sin reigning in death and grace and righteousness in Jesus (Romans 5:21)
      • Romans 6= believers, the corporate group of believers, dead to sin, alive to God
      • Romans 7= both believers and unbelievers, dead to sin, we don’t need more Law, the Law could not save us, we needed Divine help.
      • Romans 8= the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life= victory in Christ.
    14. As we can see Romans chapters 1-5 are a strong contrast between the Gentiles and the Jews and the Law and grace. Then, Romans chapters 6-8 are more about believers. These are corporate references.
    15. Therefore, I think the case is strong that we are dealing with Scriptures talking about corporate groups, in this case God can do what He wants with nations. That is not to say that God does not have a right to do what He wants with people. He does, He is God.
    16. Okay, it is past time we talk about these verses. These first five verses are fairly straightforward.

Verse 1: I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit

  • Paul is getting into a subject that is very important to him and many people would have questions about.
    • Paul is Jewish, what about the Jewish people? The Savior came through the Jewish line, do they get a free ticket to Heaven? What about the Jews that reject Jesus? Paul has been writing in Romans chapter 2 and 3, and other places, that they need a Savior as well (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
    • Paul says the Holy Spirit is his witness.
    • The genre of these verses is a lament. A lament for his ethnic group.
    • At the beginning of chap. 3 the question was raised about what advantage there was in being a Jew (v. 1). It was occasioned by the previous paragraph, which established that mere membership in the Jewish nation was insufficient to warrant God’s praise. To be a Jew one had to be one inwardly. Real circumcision was inward and accomplished by the Spirit, not outward obedience to a written code. In fact, the entire second chapter of Romans undermined any confidence that Paul’s readers might have had that on the basis of their national identity they would receive favored treatment from God. The obvious question was what benefit there was in being a Jew. Paul started to answer the question in 3:2 but then returned to the major theme of showing that all people, regardless of their national origin, are under the condemnation of sin. It is only now in chap. 9 that we find a full answer to the earlier question. Chapters 9–11 discuss the subject of God’s righteousness in view of his apparent rejection of the Jewish nation.1[2]

Verse 2: that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.

  • Paul has great sorrow AND unceasing unguish, think about that word, Paul has anguish in his heart that does not cease. What is this anguish about?

Verse 3: For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

  • Paul has sorrow for his people. He wishes that he could be accursed and cut off from Christ… hold on a minute. Paul is making a strong statement there. He wishes he could go to hell and they could be saved. He knows that this is impossible and he is likely using a little bit of hyperbole to drive home his emotions. He REALLY cares about the Jewish people.
    • “accursed” MacArthur shares: The Gr. word is anathema, which means “to devote to destruction in eternal hell” (cf. 1Co 12:3; 16:22; Gal 1:8, 9). Although Paul understood the exchange he was suggesting was impossible (8:38, 39; Jn 10:28), it was still the sincere expression of his deep love for his fellow Jews (cf. Ex 32:32).[3]
    • He would be accursed if it would save them, but as one source shares: But he knows this would achieve nothing, for none but Christ could be any person’s substitute to bear God’s wrath.[4]
    • Moses voiced a similar self-sacrificing wish for the Israelites’ salvation (Exod. 32:30–35).[5]
    • In the book of Acts, during Paul’s missionary journeys, his pattern was to go to the Jewish people first and then when they rejected him he went to the gentiles (See Acts 13 and 14 specifically).
    • He calls them “my kinsmen according to the flesh.” This means that the Jews are his family in a genetic/biological way. Paul will expand on this in the next few verses.

There is a story told about a mother who came to Napoleon on behalf of her son, who was about to be executed. The mother asked the ruler to issue a pardon, but Napoleon pointed out that it was the man’s second offense and justice demanded death.

“I don’t ask for justice,” the woman replied. “I plead for mercy.”

The emperor objected, “But your son doesn’t deserve mercy.”

“Sir,” the mother replied, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask.”

Her son was granted the pardon.[6]

  1. Gods gifts to Israel (9:4–5)
    • These next few verses talk about who the Israelites are.

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

  • Paul is about to give 9 spiritual advantages of Israel.  
    • They are a special nation (9:4a).
    • They have been adopted by God (9:4b, 5).
    • They have had Gods glory revealed to them (9:4c).
    • They have been given the covenants (9:4d).
    • They have been given the law (9:4e).
    • They have the privilege of worshiping him (9:4f).
    • They have the messianic promises (9:4g).
    • They have a godly ancestry (9:5a).
    • They are the people from which Christ came (9:5b).[7]
    • Now, we could spend time on each one of those 9, but let’s just make a few brief comments.
      • They are a special nation. God chose Abraham in Genesis 12 and reaffirmed the covenant with Him and then Moses and then David throughout the Old Testament. The Messiah, Jesus, came through the line of Abraham, that is from Israel (see Genesis 12, 17; Exodus 19-24; Deut. 28 and 29; 2 Samuel 7).
      • They have been adopted by God. This goes back to Genesis 12 and is re-affirmed by the prophets. In Exodus 4:22 God calls Israel His firstborn son.
      •  They have had Gods glory revealed to them (9:4c). Think of all the miracles in the Old Testament. Think of them seeing God’s glory. Think of the Red Sea splitting (Exodus 14:13ff). Think of the pillar of fire guarding them and the cloud by day leading them (Exodus 13:21). Think of the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16). Think of the miracles with the prophets, the prophets of Baal and Elijah in 1 Kings 18:20-40.
      • They have been given the covenants (9:4d). See verses on number 1.
      • They have been given the law (9:4e). As mentioned Exodus 20.
      • They have the privilege of worshiping him (9:4f). It is a privilege to worship God.
      • They have the messianic promises (9:4g). All of these promises of the Messiah came through Israel.
      • They have a godly ancestry (9:5a).
      • They are the people from which Christ came (9:5b).[8] The Messiah, Jesus came through the Israelites (Matthew 1:17; Luke 3:23-38).
    • As an important note, some of those promises are future as well, one source shares: Some of the privileges in vv. 4–5 have future components as well as past ones. For example, Israel’s adoption as sons is grounded in God’s selection of Israel as the recipient of His covenant blessings (cf. Ex 4:22; Jr 31:9). But Israel’s sonship also has a glorious future component for Jewish believers (see Is 43:6; 45:11; 63:16–17; 64:8–12; Hs 1:10; Mal 3:17, all in eschatological contexts). This suggests, among other things, that God is not finished with the Jewish people yet, the primary point of Rm 9; 10, and 11. The future implications of these blessings gave Paul hope that God had not broken off relations with Israel and would yet keep His promises—all of them—to the people. Verse 5 indicates that Christ shares the divine nature, was incarnate, is absolutely sovereign, but is also worthy of eternal acclamation (blessed forever). Paul’s anguish stems from his awareness that the Jewish people were not (yet!) experiencing everything God promised them, including their own exalted Messiah. Each of the privileges in 9:4–5 belongs to Israel presently (note the present tense are in 9:4a), suggesting that these privileges have not been rescinded. Their experience of these blessings, however, is contingent upon faith in Christ.[9]
    • In the beginning of Romans 9 Paul shares his passion for Israel.
    • Paul shares that it is a privilege to be an Israelite.
    • Most of all the Messiah, Jesus, came through Israel and saves Jews and gentiles all who believe, and Paul wants the Jewish people to be saved.
    • Notice how Paul ends verse 5: who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
    • Since the genre of these opening verses of Romans 9 is a lament, it is probably best to take this as an affirmation of Christ’s deity (as the text renders it). Although the other renderings are possible, to see a note of praise to God at the end of this section seems strangely out of place. But for Paul to bring his lament to a crescendo (that is to say, his kinsmen had rejected God come in the flesh), thereby deepening his anguish, is wholly appropriate.[10]
    • In two weeks we will pick up on verse 6, but look at the first part of verse 6 right now: But it is not as though the word of God has failed.
    • The Word of God has not failed. Remember that.
    • God had a plan for Israel to bless the nations. In verses 23-26 Paul will write about how God used Israel to bless the nations.
    • Realize that God used Israel to bless the nations.
    • God used ethnic Israel to save the gentiles through Jesus. Throughout the whole Old Testament God was watching over Israel for a few purposes, one of them, was that Jesus would come through Israel and save you and me.
    • God wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:8-9).
  • Applications:
    • Can we speak with the Holy Spirit as our witness that we are being honest (verse 1)?
      • We must be about the truth.
      • We must not share anything that is not true.
      • We must check our motivations for what we share as well.
      • We must not forward an email that is not true.
      • We must not forward an email that we cannot verify as true.
      • We must not share a social media post that we cannot verify as true.
      • We must not share a news article that is not true.
      • We must care about the truth and falsehood must bother us.
    • Do we have a passion for our ethnic group to be saved (verses 2-3)?
    • Do we have a passion for our family to be saved (verses 2-3)?
    • Do we recognize all of the spiritual benefits of Israel? We must recognize God’s place for Israel (verses 4-5).
    • We must praise God for Israel and pray for Jewish people to be saved (verses 1-5 and Romans 11).
    • We must accept the Gospel and share the Gospel.  

Let me repeat my theme:

My theme today is:

We see Paul’s passion that his people would be saved and we see all of the spiritual benefits the Israelites were blessed with.

My application:

Do we care about people’s salvation? Paul wanted, desperately wanted, his ethnic group to be saved.

The worst sin is not to hate a fellow creature but to be indifferent toward him. That’s the essence of humanity.

—George Bernard Shaw, quoted in John Bartlett, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations[11]

Salvation is a gift from God:

A young man named Sinner once received from his Father a beautiful, bright-red convertible. He named it Salvation—sparkling, new, clean, modern, powerful.

It delighted the young man so much, especially because it was a gift. He could never have afforded it. So delighted, the boy even changed his name from Sinner to Saved.

He polished his car every week. Took pictures of it. Sent it to friends. Looked it over—front, back, under, top, bottom, inside out. Never—never tired of telling others about the gift. “My Father gave it to me. It was free!”

Some days later Saved was seen out on the highway, pushing Salvation. An individual named Helper walked up and introduced himself and asked if he could assist.

“Oh, no thanks. Just out enjoying my new car,” as he wiped the sweat off his face. “Just had a little trouble because my bumper kept cutting my hands, especially on these hills. But then a nice man helped me. Showed me how to mount little rubber cushions right here, underneath the bumper, and now I can push this thing for hours without a blister. Also, I’ve been trying something new lately. They use it over in England. You put your back against the car, lift, and it works like a charm, especially on muddy roads.”

Helper asked, “Have you pushed the car very far?”

“Well, about 200 miles altogether. It’s been hard, but since it was a gift from my Father, that’s the least I can do in return to thank him.”

Helper opened the door on the right side and said, “Get in.”

After hesitation, he decided it was worth a try and he slid in on the passenger side and rested for the first time since he’d been given the car. Helper walked around, opened the door, slid behind the wheel, and started the car.

“What’s all that noise?” he said. Moments later they were moving down the highway quietly, at fifty, sixty miles an hour. He was taken aback. It all seemed to fall into place. It was even exciting. He knew he needed this Salvation Car to be admitted through the gate at the end of the highway. But somehow he felt that getting there was his responsibility.

—Larry Christenson, The Renewed Mind[12]

Prayer


[1] Source: Martin Luther, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 2.

 

[2] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 194–195.

[3] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 9:3.

[4] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2172.

[5] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 9:3.

[6] Source: John Koessler, in the sermon “Blessed Are the Merciful,” PreachingToday.com

[7] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:1–5.

[8] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:1–5.

[9] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1759.

[10] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 9:5.

[11] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 296.

[12] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 504–505.

On Being a Spiritual Parent (Acts 16:1-3)

This year, my oldest daughter, Mercedes, will be turning ten. This year, I turned forty years old. As much as I hate to admit it, I always wanted to be older. When I turned thirty, I wanted to be forty, people would ask me why and I would say that forty is the perfect age for a pastor. Thirty is too young for people, but forty is just right. I have now served in full time ministry in three older congregations, so forty still does not seem to be the right age, now I want to be fifty. Well, maybe, God is teaching me contentment with my age. In 2017 the average life expectancy of an American man was 76.1 years old.[1] However, it has been going down, not up. Age is relative to the person. Literally, ask a child an age and they will say twenty is old. To most of you forty is young, though it is technically middle age. Over the last several months, and even last few years, I have realized that the desire to be older could make me miss-out on my children’s younger years. My dad tells me his greatest joys were raising his three boys. Likewise, I am really, REALLY enjoying being a dad. Being a dad is greater than any job that I have had. I worked at Lowe’s in the hardware department and the paint department, but being a dad is far greater than that. I worked at Tractor Supply Company, but being a dad beats that job. I worked at a Dayton pet store, but being a dad is greater than that. I worked as a McDonald’s shift manager and being a dad is more important than that. I worked as an associate pastor, in that role I worked with youth and children. I was able to teach the kids, play games with the kids, and send them home. I love being a dad more than that. I am in my eleventh year serving as a lead pastor, but my favorite job, my favorite calling, is dad. I remember when Mercedes was just born seeing my name with “father” or “dad” on the forms. It was a special moment. I think I will always be dad to my two girls, but I want to be careful of rushing the younger years.

For the young dads here, or watching online, as well as for those who are always rushing to the next task and missing the moment I have this illustration:  

Swindoll shares this in “Come Before Winter”:

Someday when the kids are grown, things are going to be a lot different. The garage won’t be full of bikes, electric train tracks on plywood, sawhorses surrounded by chunks of two-by-fours, nails, a hammer and a saw, unfinished “experimental projects,” and the rabbit cage. I’ll be able to park both cars neatly in just the right places, and never again stumble over skateboards, a pile of papers (saved for the school fund drive), or the bag of rabbit food—now spilled. Ugh!

Someday when the kids are grown, the kitchen will be incredibly neat. The sink will be free of sticky dishes, the garbage disposal won’t get choked on rubber bands or paper cups, the refrigerator won’t be clogged with nine bottles of milk, and we won’t lose the tops to jelly jars, catsup bottles, the peanut butter, the margarine, or the mustard. The water jar won’t be put back empty, the ice trays won’t be left out overnight, the blender won’t stand for six hours coated with the remains of a midnight malt, and the honey will stay inside the container.…

Yes, someday when the kids are grown, things are going to be a lot different. One by one they’ll leave our nest, and the place will begin to resemble order and maybe even a touch of elegance. The clink of china and silver will be heard on occasion. The crackling of the fireplace will echo through the hallway. The phone will be strangely silent. The house will be quiet, and calm, and always clean, and empty, and filled with memories, and lonely, and we won’t like it at all. And we’ll spend our time not looking forward to Someday but looking back to Yesterday. And thinking, “Maybe we can baby-sit the grandkids and get some life back in this place for a change!”[2]

Not all men are dads, but all men can have a spiritual paternal influence. That is what I want to talk about today.

The reality is there are many children without a father. There are many children without a spiritual father. In the Bible Timothy was one of those children. He needed a spiritual father and Paul took care of that job.

Theme: I want us to look at Paul serving as a spiritual father to Timothy.

I encourage you to take seriously your role as a spiritual parent. Make disciples of young people, this is most important in your children, then your grandchildren, but also others whom God places in your life.

Let’s read Acts 16:1-3:

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek

  • Let’s talk about Paul and Timothy.
    1. We just read Acts 16:1-3 and in that passage, we see that Paul met Timothy and was obviously impressed. From this passage we see that Timothy’s mother was Jewish, but his father was Greek. Paul wanted to take him along. From all indications Timothy’s father was not a believer in Jesus. After this Timothy goes with Paul. We see Timothy show up much in Paul’s letters.
    2. In 1 Tim. 1:2 Paul writes To Timothy, my true child in the faith
    3. Paul compares Timothy to a spiritual son.
    4. Then in 2 Timothy 1:2 Paul again writes: To Timothy, my beloved child… Again, we see Paul and Timothy’s relationship.
      • They had likely traveled together for 10 years.[3]
      • They obviously had a special bond. 1 and 2 Timothy are written to Timothy from the Apostle Paul while Timothy was serving as the interim pastor in Ephesus.
    5. Then, one more passage I will show you. In Phil. 2:22: Paul writes: But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
  • Let’s talk about serving as a spiritual parent.
    1. What is this like?
    2. It is not meaning simply going fishing together, though spiritual advise can be passed on during a fishing trip.
    3. It is not meaning simply activities. I am not talking about simply hanging out with someone younger than you.
    4. This is talking about discipleship.
    5. This is about mentoring someone younger than you in the faith and in the ministry. The Gospel is at the center of serving as a spiritual parent. However, understand the Gospel must be at the center of being a parent (see Deut. 6:1-9).
    6. Serving as a spiritual parent does begin with a relationship with someone younger than you, but it continues as you study the Bible together. As you model what it means to be a man or woman of God. Serving as a spiritual parent continues as you share life together, but in doing so you are modeling and teaching how to be a man or woman of God. You are modeling service to the church. You are modeling and teaching evangelism, discipleship, worship, ministry, and fellowship. Being a spiritual parent means that the Gospel is everything.
    7. If we do not teach our biological children the Gospel we have taught them nothing worthwhile. If we have relationships with others younger than us but we do not teach them the Gospel we have taught them absolutely nothing worthwhile. They die and it is the end of anything good.
    8. My youth pastor was my spiritual father. He was older than my father and he was living for Jesus and my father was not. He discipled me as he taught me the Bible, but he also discipled me as we served the church together, we had lunch together, we worked together. He modeled integrity and Christian values. I remember going with him to pick up an old truck he was restoring. The man was signing the title over and said, “How much do you want me to put down that you bought this for?” This was because you have to pay taxes on every dollar, so the seller was willing to just put down a dollar. My youth pastor had him put down the correct price. He modeled integrity. He modeled service. He modeled being a Christian father and grandfather.
  • Application: Serve as a paternal influence to others.
    1. Who has God placed in your life for you to serve in that spiritual paternal influence role?
    2. Right down a name in your bulletin and take it home and pray about it.
    3. This may be your children and grandchildren, nephew, or neighbor, or employee.
    4. Slow down and make time.
    5. This is true for all of us. Often times we miss what God wants us to do because we do not allow margin in our time to serve.
    6. Some of the most important moments I have had with my children have been inconvenient. Several years ago, probably 5 or 6 years ago, Mercedes woke up sick. I got up with her and thought I am going to get some work done. I started doing dishes. You know what she wanted? She wanted me to sit with her, not do dishes. There was a time period from when Mercedes was 2 years old until she was 5 in which she would get a bad cough and eventually vomit. It was corrected when she got her tonsils taken out. There were many, many nights I sat up with her watching Curious George. You know what? I would not trade those nights for the world. Some of the most important moments are inconvenient.

I read the following:

Truett Cathy is probably best known for his Chick-Fil-A restaurants, and while I like the food he helped make popular, I’m most appreciative of the work he does to help boys who face the prospect of growing up without a father.

Mr. Cathy has been mentoring youngsters for more than sixty years. He runs a camp and a foster- care program designed to help give children of broken homes a second chance at life. It’s an inspiring program. Boys are matched with mentors and father figures, and some are even placed in full-time Christian foster homes. Many are given the opportunity to work side by side with Mr. Cathy on a beautiful farm in the rolling hills of Rome, Georgia.

Truett Cathy is a well-seasoned Southern gentleman. But he’s more than a nice guy with business savvy. He knows how boys think. Most important, he knows what they need: a father or— at the very least— a strong male role model. Mr. Cathy travels the country with a simple but strong message: you can make a difference! It’s better to build boys than to have to mend men.[4]

So, next time you complain about the next generation, pray. Pray that God would send you a young person to serve as a spiritual parent.

Prayer


[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/life-expectancy-for-american-men-drops-for-a-third-year/

[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 410–411.

[3] See George W. Murray, “Paul’s Corporate Witness in Philippians,” Bibliotheca Sacra 155:619 (JulySeptember 1998):316-26. Seen in Dr. Constable’s notes on Phil. 2:22: http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/philippians.pdf

[4] John Fuller with Paul Batura. First Time Dad, the Stuff You Really Need to Know. Moody Publishers, Chicago 2011.

God Gave His Son for Us, This Shows that He IS For Us (Romans 8:31-39)

Think about how special it is to give gifts and receive gifts.

Joni Eareckson Tada is a Christian quadriplegic. She writes about Christmas before her diving accident, which made her a quadriplegic, listen to this:

Every Christmas I think about what it was like to be on my feet during the holidays. There were parties and plays, dates and decorating, and hittin’ the malls. My sister Jay and I would traipse through stores, searching for the perfect gifts for everybody.

Then came my diving accident. That Christmas I spent at a rehab center in Baltimore. One of the things that hurt me most was that I couldn’t buy gifts. It added to the hurt I was already feeling. The way I saw it, God was asking way too much of me. Not only was the use of my body taken away at Christmastime, but I was also deprived of the joy of gift giving. Nothing was right; everything was wrong. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve I felt like a martyr.

But Christmas morning my heart softened. Maybe I’m concentrating too much on what God is asking of me and not enough on what he’s given me. Was my relinquishing everything unreasonable? Of course not. He gave more than everything. As Romans 8 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Things like profound peace. A settled soul. Rock-solid contentment.

As I focused on Christmas’s meaning, I realized the best gift I could give him and others was myself. My mother didn’t want a new dress; she wanted to see me smile. My father didn’t need a new bridle for his horse; he needed his daughter to laugh. Jay didn’t need another sweater; she needed to see me grab hold of hope.

What about you? What gifts from your heart—the ones you can’t buy—can you give?[1]

Wow! Realize how profound it is that God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all. God gave for you. Think about that. We all can have a free gift of salvation because God gave for you.

We are walking through Romans and we come to the end of Romans chapter 8.

My theme today is “Our Victory in Christ.”

  1. God gave His Son for us, this shows that he is for us (verses 31-39).
    • Remember, this is in context of God’s logical order of salvation.

Look at verse 31: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

  • Really, think about this, God is for us. Who cares if mere humans are against us? The creator of the cosmos is for us. The creator of the cosmos wants a relationship with us.
    • The argument is from the greater to the lesser.

Verse 32: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

  • God, the Father, did not spare His own Son. What does that show? It shows that He greatly cares about us. He was willing to send Jesus to the cross for us.
    • How will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? This is a question anticipating an obvious negative answer. He will graciously give us all things. That means all things needed for salvation and for our life in Him. God will graciously give us the Holy Spirit and what we need to live for Him. This is not meaning that He will graciously give us all things like a big house and a BMW, or a Mercedes. I prayed for a Mercedes and God gave me one but that does not happen with everyone (sarcasm, since my daughter is named Mercedes). No, God will graciously give us all we need to be saved.
    • Remember the point of Romans. God gifts us with salvation. We could NOT be saved by the law. The gentiles need a Savior, the Israelites need a Savior. God graciously gifts us with salvation.

Piper shares: Romans 8:32 is a quintessential summary of the argument (and argument is the right word!) of the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans. There is a logic to this greatest-of-all letters. I call it the logic of heaven.

This kind of logic has a technical name. You may or may not know the name of the logic, but you definitely know how to use it. You can call it an argument, or a logic, from the greater to the lesser. The technical name is a fortiori, which is Latin for from the stronger. The idea is this: if you have exerted your strength to accomplish something hard, then surely you can exert your strength to accomplish something easier. That’s an a fortiori argument.

So, suppose you say to your child, “Please run next door and ask Mr. Smith if we can borrow his pliers.” But your child says, “But what if Mr. Smith doesn’t want us to borrow his pliers?” How can you persuade your child that Mr. Smith will surely loan you his pliers? By using an a fortiori argument!

It goes like this: you say to your child, “Yesterday, Mr. Smith was happy to let us borrow his car all day long. If he was happy for me to borrow his car, he’ll be very willing for us to borrow his pliers.” Even children grasp a fortiori arguments. Loaning his car was a greater sacrifice than loaning his pliers. Therefore, it was harder to loan his car than it will be to loan his pliers. If he was inclined to do the harder thing, then he will be willing to do the easier thing. That’s the way we use a fortiori arguments.

Now watch Paul use this kind of argument for the greatest event in the history of the world. He says, God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. That’s the harder thing. Therefore, he will most certainly give us all things with him. That’s the easier thing. When this argument penetrates through the callouses of familiarity, it becomes gloriously hope-filled and all-encompassing.[2]

Verse 33: Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

  • This is a question with an implied negative answer. NO ONE can bring a charge against God’s elect. Why? God justified. God has declared us righteous.
    • Once we are saved by the blood of Jesus your sins are washed away. They are gone. The devil can accuse you all he wants but Jesus has paid for your sins. No one can bring a charge.

Piper writes: Paul could have said here, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” and then answered, “No one! We are justified.” That’s true. But that is not what he said. His answer instead is, “God is the one who justifies.”

The emphasis is not on the act but on the Actor.

Why? Because in the world of courts and laws where this language comes from, the acquittal of a judge might be overturned by a higher one.

So what, if a local judge acquits you, when you are guilty, if a governor has the right to bring a charge against you? So what, if a governor acquits you, when you are guilty, if the emperor can bring a charge against you?

Here’s the point: Above God, there are no higher courts. If God is the one who acquits you — declares you righteous in his sight — no one can appeal; no one can claim a technicality; no one can call for a mistrial; no one can look for other counts against you. God’s sentence is final and total.

Hear this, all you who believe on Jesus, and become united to Christ, and show yourself among the elect: God is the one who justifies you. Not a human judge. Not a great prophet. Not an archangel from heaven. But God, the Creator of the world and Owner of all things and Ruler of the universe and every molecule and person in it, God is the one who justifies you.

The point: unshakable security in the face of tremendous suffering. If God is for us, no one can successfully be against us. If God gave his Son for us, he will give us everything that is good for us. If God is the one who justifies us, no charge against us can stand.[3]

  • The next verse builds on this:

Verses 34-36: Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

  • Who is to condemn?
    • If you are in Christ no one can condemn you. Jesus has saved you.
    • Jesus died, and was raised for you. Jesus is at the right hand of God, that is the place of authority, interceding for you.
    • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Remember if God sent Jesus to the cross for us what more can God do to show that He cares? No one can separate us. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, no, nothing can separate us from God’s love. 
    • Paul then cites Psalm 44:22.

Look at verses 37-39: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • We are more than conquerors, but how? Through God, who loved us.
    • Because of the salvation that God freely gives us we are more than conquerors, but not because of what we do, but what He has done. It is all about Jesus.
    • Paul repeats with great detail that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    • Notice the end, “in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

There was a pastor Robert Bruce and this happened in 1631:

In August of 1631 Bruce was very elderly and weak in body. At breakfast one morning having eaten his normal portion of eggs, he asked his daughter for more. As she went to prepare it, he called her to wait for his master was calling. After a short time of meditation he asked his daughter to get his Bible and open it to Romans 8. Having read the chapter he turned to his family and said “Now God be with you, my children; I have breakfasted with you, and shall now sup with my Lord Jesus Christ this night.” He died shortly thereafter.[4]

We have salvation and eternal life freely given through Jesus.

We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus, but we do have to go through life, but WITH Jesus.

In a Leadership Journal article, John Ortberg argues that sometimes stressful and painful situations can actually help us grow. Ortberg creates the following scenario:

Imagine you’re handed a script of your newborn child’s entire life. Better yet, you’re given an eraser and five minutes to edit out whatever you want. You read that she will have a learning disability in grade school. Reading, which comes easily for some kids, will be laborious for her. In high school, she will make a great circle of friends, then one of them will die of cancer. After high school, she will get into her preferred college, but while there, she will lose a leg in a car accident. Following that, she will go through a difficult depression. A few years later she’ll get a great job, then lose that job in an economic downturn. She’ll get married, but then go through the grief of separation.

With this script of your child’s life and five minutes to edit it, what would you erase? Psychologist Jonathon Haidt poses this question in this hypothetical exercise: Wouldn’t you want to take out all the stuff that would cause them pain?

If you could erase every failure, disappointment, and period of suffering, would that be a good idea? Would that cause them to grow into the best version of themselves? Is it possible that we actually need adversity and setbacks—maybe even crises and trauma—to reach the fullest potential of development and growth?

Ortberg contends that God doesn’t always erase all our stress and pain before it starts. Instead, God can use the failures, disappointments, and periods of suffering to help us grow. Ortberg writes, “God isn’t at work producing the circumstances I want. God is at work in bad circumstances to produce the me he wants.”[5]

This is a powerful passage about our awesome salvation.

Prayer


[1] Taken from More Precious than Silver; By Joni Eareckson Tada; Copyright © 1998

Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids

[2] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-most-important-promise-in-my-life?utm_campaign=Daily%20Email&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=66875640&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8kGPERqY4e9oodz68-OVVDvOWipvM1zgZEeZay4rLYia7RKAfNOlm0cRYo2qEElCS61CMQ8bcCI2FBante24D_OdZt-A&_hsmi=66875640

[3] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/finally-and-totally-justified?utm_campaign=Daily%20Email&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=83737143&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-808zFRbJ8WVW0PEq5KpAnpuIQk4y9vgOCIkMh_ACwad0tMTXswNY195pwtqQQ8v2y4hGWv0BjLlhuWkSRpOt2hylDSeg&_hsmi=83737143

[4] See reference below but I heard this from Ray Ortlund Jr at the Aug 28 Cedarville University chapel

http://www.newble.co.uk/hall/history.html

[5] Source: John Ortberg, “Don’t Waste a Crisis,” Leadership Journal (Winter, 2011)

Our Victory in Christ (Romans 8:26-30)

Our Victory in Christ (Romans 8:26-30)

Prepared and preached for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH by Pastor Steve Rhodes on Sunday, June 6, 2021

Noble Doss dropped the ball. One ball. One pass. One mistake. In 1941, he let one fall. And it’s haunted him ever since. “I cost us a national championship,” he says.

The University of Texas football team was ranked number one in the nation. Hoping for an undefeated season and a berth in the Rose Bowl, they played conference rival Baylor University. With a 7-0 lead in the third quarter, the Longhorn quarterback launched a deep pass to a wide-open Doss.

“The only thing I had between me and the goal,” he recalls, “was twenty yards of grass.”

The throw was on target. Longhorn fans rose to their feet. The sure-handed Doss spotted the ball and reached out, but it slipped through.

Baylor rallied and tied the score with seconds to play. Texas lost their top ranking and, consequently, their chance at the Rose Bowl.

“I think about that play every day,” Doss admits.

Not that he lacks other memories. Happily married for more than six decades. A father. Grandfather. He served in the navy during World War II. He appeared on the cover of Life magazine with his Texas teammates. He intercepted seventeen passes during his collegiate career, a university record. He won two NFL titles with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Texas High School Hall of Fame and the Longhorn Hall of Honor include his name.

Most fans remember the plays Doss made and the passes he caught. Doss remembers the one he missed. Once, upon meeting a new Longhorn head coach, Doss told him about the bobbled ball. It had been fifty years since the game, but he wept as he spoke.[1]

Sometimes we get weighed down with our mistakes. Praise God we don’t have to do that with salvation. In Jesus our salvation is great, it is awesome! God does not drop balls. The Holy Spirit draws us to Him. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. We can focus on the optimistic awesome truth of God and not the mistakes we have made.

I decided to divide this message in two parts. This will be a two part message talking about our victory in Christ. First, today, we will talk about the Holy Spirit’s help in our prayer life, we will also talk about God’s good plan in our salvation.

My theme today is: Victory in Christ, the Holy Spirit’s help and God’s good plan. 

  • In verses 26-27 we see the Spirit’s help.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

  • In the previous verses the apostle Paul had been instructing on the Christian hope. Now, he builds on this.
    • We all have weaknesses, correct?
    • The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses.
    • We are not alone.
    • For… Paul is explaining.
    • We do not know what to pray for, or we do not know how to pray, or maybe we cannot pray. BUT the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
    • Paul does not leave it at that. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
    • My youth pastor’s daughter died of leukemia. During and after that time he would meet a friend to pray. He would get on his knees to pray, but he could not pray. He would just weep. You know what, the Holy Spirit was interceding for him.
    • Remember that, the Holy Spirit is praying for you!
    • Wow, take that in a moment.

Verse 27 reads: And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

  • “And He” this is about the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit knows you. The Holy Spirit searches your heart and knows what is the mind of the Spirit. What does this mean?
    • To me, this means that the Holy Spirit knows us and the Holy Spirit knows God’s will and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us accordingly.
    • What is God’s will?
    • God’s will is for you and me to be saved and to know Him (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:8-9).
    • God’s will is for us to depend upon Him and grow in Him and walk with Him.
  • In verses 28-30 we see God’s good plan.

Verse 28 reads:And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

  • Remember this all must be read and studied in context.
    • The Holy Spirit is interceding for us according to the will of God.
    • And this verse is about how things work together.
    • For those who love God…
    • Do we love God?
    • Do I love God?
    • If we love God all things work together for good and according to His purposes. The good is about conformity to Christ. God has a salvation plan.

Verses 29-30 read: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

  • This is very straightforward.
    • So, God has a salvation plan.
    • Those God foreknew, God’s foreknowledge is His ability to see the future.
    • God is omnipresent that means that He is present everywhere including outside of time.
    • Those God looked to the future and saw they would be Christians, those He predestined.
    • What did God predestine them for? Did God simply predestine them to be saved and then live like the devil? NO!
    • He predestined them to be conformed to the image of His Son, that is Christians are predestined to become like Jesus.
    • This happens in order that Jesus might be the firstborn among many brethren. What does that mean. It means that He is the head of the church. Jesus was not born, but in a metaphorical way, He has the rights and privileges of the firstborn. He is the head. MacArthur shares: [firstborn means] The preeminent one, the only one who is the rightful heir (cf. Ps 89:27; Col 1:15–18; Rev 1:5). Jesus Christ is the most notable one among those who have become “brethren” by being made like Him.[2]

Look again at verse 30: And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

  • Okay, the “predestined” are “called.” To be “predestined” means to “choose out beforehand.” This means that those God foreknew, that is those God knew would be saved, He predestined them, he chose them beforehand, that is in eternity past. Now, at a certain point God calls them (see Acts 16:14). This means the Holy Spirit opens our eyes so that we understand that we are sinners in need of a Savior, and we are saved. Sometimes this “call” does not happen all at once for us. Meaning, God may call you at one time, but it may take some time before you accept Him.
    • Those God calls will be saved and are justified. That means God declares us righteous.
    • Then, lastly, the justified are glorified. That means when we go to Heaven, we are literally sinless. 
    • Now, I stated that the predestined are those God foreknew. That is generally what I believe.
    • Predestination is a broad concept in that what is foreordained can be any number of occurrences such as the Romans and Jews killing Jesus (Acts 4:28), or the elect experiencing fullness of life (1 Corinthians 2:7ff.) (This is a quote from a sermon by Pastor Bobby Murphy). 
    • The elect is a reference to the corporate church.
    • Why do we need predestined for salvation?
    • Jesus says:
    • John 6:44: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.[3]
    • John 6:65: And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”[4]
    • The Bible affirms God’s sovereignty, but also our freewill.
    • Salvation does start with God, but we do have freewill.
    • Salvation is God’s idea.
    • We were dead in our sins, but God wants a relationship with us, and if we are totally depraved, how do we receive Christ? We need the Holy Spirit to draw us to Him. So, that is predestination.
    • What I have stated here is that God predestined those He knows will be saved.
    • Remember that technically God does not look to the future to see who will be saved. Everything is eternally present. So, the term “foreknowledge” is anthropomorphic, meaning it is ascribing to God human attributes. Bottom line, God knows who would receive Him, in their own freewill, given the opportunity, and He makes sure they have the opportunity. The opportunity means that they receive the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Remember, no one can receive Jesus without the Holy Spirit’s conviction. We are dead in our sins. 
    • This is called “prevenient grace.” This means the grace of the Lord coming before-hand giving us the convicting power of the Holy Spirit so we can be saved.
    • I would not be opposed to the idea that the Lord gives everyone, at some time, or many times, the Holy Spirit’s conviction so they can be saved. However, the predestined, and elect, are only those whom God knows will be saved.  
    • Real quickly, there is a view called “Molinism,” or “Middle-Knowledge.” I am leaning towards this view. This would be the view that God knows any choice we would freely make, in any possible circumstance, in any possible world. God knows, in any possible world, if with the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, with prevenient grace, we would freely receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. God then puts us in those situations. Then God providentially orchestrates us into events, but those are the events that God knows we would freely choose.
      • This is called “middle knowledge” because it is based on God’s “middle knowledge.” Williams Lane Craig shares:
        • In the first moment is God’s knowledge of all necessary truths, for example, the laws of logic.
        • To skip ahead, the third moment of God’s knowledge is his knowledge of the actual world which he has created [God’s free knowledge]. In between God’s natural knowledge and his free knowledge, in the second moment of omniscience, omniscience stands God’s middle knowledge. In this moment God knows what every possible creature would do (not just could do) in any possible set of circumstances. For example, he knows whether Peter, if he were placed in certain circumstances, would deny Christ three times. By his natural knowledge God knew in the first moment all the possible things that Peter could do if placed in such circumstances. But now in this second moment he knows what Peter would in fact freely choose to do under such circumstances. This is not because Peter would be causally determined by the circumstances to act in this way. No, Peter is entirely free, and under the same circumstances he could choose to act in another way. But God knows which way Peter would freely choose. God’s knowledge of Peter in this respect is not simple foreknowledge. For maybe God will decide not to place Peter under such circumstances or even not to create him at all. Middle knowledge, like natural knowledge, thus is logically prior to the decision of the divine will to create a world.[5]
      • God knows the middle knowledge and God orchestrates it so that we are predestined and yet free because the predestination is based on our free choice which He knows because of His omniscience.
      • Foreknowledge says God knows what will happen. Middle knowledge means God knows what “could” happen. God knows the subjunctives. God knows what a person will do in their free will in any possible world and God orchestrates that. They do it of their free will but God predetermined it but based on their free will.
      • This means that no one is eternally damned to hell who would be saved given the opportunity.

Theologians use a phrase to talk about how Christ-followers are already redeemed but will not experience the fullness of redemption until they live with God in heaven. The phrase is, “The already and the not yet.” How does that work exactly?

A little girl in England, Josie Caven, was born profoundly deaf. Growing up, she often felt isolated because of her inability to hear, but that changed after receiving a cochlear implant during the Christmas season. At the age of 12, she heard clearly for the first time. The first sound she heard was the song “Jingle Bells” coming from the radio.

Was Josie’s hearing restored? Yes—completely. Was she hearing well immediately? Not exactly. Her mother said, “She is having to learn what each new sound is and what it means. She will ask, ‘Was that a door closing?’ and has realized for the first time that the light in her room hums when it is switched on. She even knows what her name sounds like now, because before she could not hear the soft ‘S’ sound in the middle of the word. Seeing her face light up as she hears everything around her is all I could have wished for this Christmas.”

Josie’s hearing was restored, but that restoration introduced her to the daily adventure of learning to distinguish each new sound in the hearing world. It’s the already, and the not yet.[6]


[1] Max Lucado, Fearless (Thomas Nelson, 2009), pp. 31-32

[2] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 8:29.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jn 6:44.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jn 6:65.

[5] Craig, William L.. The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (pp. 128-130). Wipf & Stock, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[6] Source: “Christmas Carols Music to the Ears of Deaf Girl,” Yorkshireposttoday.com

Your eternity and daily living are on Jesus, not you. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Memorial Day was established after the Civil War. All these men served in the War Between the States. All these families sacrificed as the husband was gone, the father was gone. Families were torn apart. What was it like for the soldier? What was it like for the leaders? I wonder if they ever felt the weight of the war was on them?

What about Lincoln? How did he make it through the war? How did he make it through the day? I am sure he felt like the weight of the war was on him. I am sure he felt like the future of the United States was on him.

What was it like for other soldiers and families in other wars? I listened to a “Backstory” program about the history of World War I. At first America was not going in. Funny as it may sound; at first, we even had songs about not going to war. There was a song that had lyrics something like this:

Verse 1

Ten million soldiers to the war have gone,

Who may never return again.

Ten million mother’s hearts must break

For the ones who died in vain.

Head bowed down in sorrow

In her lonely years,

I heard a mother murmur thru’ her tears:

Chorus

I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier,

I brought him up to be my pride and joy.

Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder,

To shoot some other mother’s darling boy?

Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,

It’s time to lay the sword and gun away.

There’d be no war today,

If mothers all would say,

“I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier.”

Verse 2

What victory can cheer a mother’s heart,

When she looks at her blighted home?

What victory can bring her back

All she cared to call her own?

Let each mother answer

In the years to be,

Remember that my boy belongs to me![1]

Within a few years we went to war and the songs changed: Over there:

Johnny,[8] get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.

Take it on the run, on the run, on the run.

Hear them calling you and me,

Every Sons of Liberty.

Hurry right away, no delay, go today.

Make your Daddy glad to have had such a lad.

Tell your sweetheart not to pine,

To be proud her boy’s in line.

Verse 2

Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.

Johnny, show the “Hun[9] you’re a son-of-a-gun.

Hoist the flag and let her fly

Yankee Doodle[10] do or die.

Pack your little kit, show your grit, do your bit.

Yankee[11] to the ranks from the towns and the tanks.[12]

Make your Mother proud of you

And the old red-white-and-blue[13]

Chorus

Over there, over there,

Send the word, send the word over there

That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming

The drums rum-tumming everywhere.

So prepare, say a prayer,

Send the word, send the word to beware –

We’ll be over, we’re coming over,

And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.[2]

I wonder the burden our soldiers felt?

Do you ever feel burdened? Do you ever feel that the weight of the world is on you?

We can look at this topic two ways. Is our living all about us? Are all the pressures of daily living all on us? We may feel that way? What about salvation? What about our faith in Christ? Is our spiritual condition all on us?

I would say no to both of those statements.

A year ago, I preached on lies we believe versus Biblical Truth. Today, I want to focus on another lie we believe versus Biblical Truth. As we look at these lies we believe some of you may think, “duh, I know that!” But can you justify what you know based off of the Bible. Be schooled by the Bible.

Theme: Your eternity and daily living are on Jesus, not you.

Application: Surrender continually to Jesus. Pray continually.

Let’s read Matthew 11:28-30:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

  1. Our Salvation is not all on us.
    • This passage is about salvation, not about daily living. Now, we can make the case that our daily living is not all on us and I’ll come to that in a minute.
    • The people were burdened with the Jewish law. This law did not all come from Scripture. Jesus was saying that He fulfills the law for them. We can’t keep the law, but Jesus did it for us. Jesus died in our place.
    • What is a yoke: ESV Study Note: The wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) for pulling heavy loads was a metaphor for one person’s subjection to another, and a common metaphor in Judaism for the law. The Pharisaic interpretation of the law, with its extensive list of proscriptions, had become a crushing burden (cf. 23:4) but was believed by the people to be of divine origin. Jesus’ yoke of discipleship, on the other hand, brings rest through simple commitment to him (cf. 1 John 5:3).
    • It is not about religion, but about Jesus.
    • It is not about religiously following rules but following Jesus.
    • We will follow one or the other. You will either follow Jesus or a list of moral rules. Are you committing to the church because you are supposed to or because you are committed to Jesus and the church is the bride of Christ?
    • Lean in on Jesus. Christianity is NOT a religion. Christianity is about Jesus. Religion is NOT about earning your way to Heaven, but Christianity is about what Jesus has done to give us eternal life.
  2. We have daily help.
    • John 14:16-17: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
    • We talk about the Holy Spirit a lot, but the point is that you can always place your burden on Jesus. Your eternal life is on Jesus and your life now is on Jesus. It is not all on you.
    • How do you give it to Jesus? First, surrender your eternal life to Jesus; second, keep a constant connection with Jesus.
  3. The weight of the future is on God, not us.
    • So, let me go back to the Civil War, or World War I, or World War II, each soldier made a difference. Was the weight of the war on one soldier or another? No, all the soldiers came together and made a difference. But more than that each soldier had daily help.
    • Memorial Day was originally honoring fallen soldiers. How do families go through pain and loss? We can only go through difficulty with God’s help.
    • God gives us help through prayer.
    • More than that, God is in charge. Amen.
    • God is in charge, right? Do we believe that?
      • NOW, this is where it gets difficult. Was God on America’s side? I think it was Lincoln who said: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”[3]
      • So, we can pray during anything and pray, “Jesus, I hope I am doing the right thing, please help.” We can always ask God for help.
      • We can give our burden to God.
      • I really do not wish to get in the politics of war, but I will say that looking at Scripture God would absolutely NOT be happy with slavery. I can say that God absolutely was NOT happy with the concentration camps.
      • I have recently been studying Winston Churchill more. It is almost as if God setup him as a leader for World War II. I am not saying he was a Christian, maybe he was. I am simply saying that God used him. It would have been easy for Churchill to think the weight of Britain was on him. The man was stubborn and strong willed to begin with. I am listening to an audio book about his younger years, and I watched a documentary about him during World War I. It was like he was happy with war. He would walk right out into the “no-man’s land” in between the trenches. It was like God used him.
      • Here is a strong and true statement. God is in charge. God is available to help us. We can turn our burden over to God. The weight is on God and not us.
      • God is in charge. Your eternity and daily living are on Jesus, not you.
  4. Pray like a child.
    • We are taught to pray continually in 1 Thess. 5:17.
    • Jesus talks about the faith of a child (Matthew 18:3).
    • How do children talk to their parents?
    • When children are talking to their parents, they don’t formulate words, no, they just talk. You know they don’t think about their vocabulary. They just talk. They beg and will repeatedly ask us questions. They don’t try to formulate their words carefully, they just ask. Many times, while they are asking for something they are not making sense, but they ask.
    • My children will ask for help, there is no hesitancy in a young child asking her parents for help. They just ask.
    • Abigail does not hesitate to ask for help. Several years ago, she was once trying to get her coat on at childcare and she turned around and asked a state inspector, “will you help me?”
    • I believe we need to talk to God like a child. Keep an ongoing conversation with God going.
    • Pray specifics to God. You are not alone.

Theme: Your eternity and daily living is on Jesus, not you.

Application: Surrender continually to Jesus. Pray continually.

Here is an idea for application: this week try to pray about everything, seriously everything. Talk to God as your good and loving Father and pray. At the end of the week record in a prayer journal how you have done.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Didn%27t_Raise_My_Boy_to_Be_a_Soldier

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over_There

[3] https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin388944.html