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]


[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,”

[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.



[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:

[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.


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

Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids



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

[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,”