Bible Passage: Romans 9:1-9
Big Idea: God’s Word has not failed for the Elect
Intro: Morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today as we continue our study of Romans 9-11 (thinking about the JEWS) I am going to be speaking about predestination and election. SO BUCKLE UP and lets ask God for help – so that we may divide his word correctly. Lets pray….
Well friends, let me say that understanding PREDESTINATION and ELECTION is like understanding Quantum physics. (It’s hard and I don’t claim to understand these things perfectly. Some Christians see things differently). Yet, predestination and election are key ideas in Romans 9-11.
So as we begin I want you to IMAGINE A COURT-ROOM. A court-room where the verdict is determined by a judge, not a jury. Now in this courtroom there are three teenagers who worked together in mugging an old lady. They are 16 years of age and they have a long history of crime. But this time it’s SERIOUS. In the process of doing A PURSE SNATCH they have knocked an old lady over. She has hit her head in the gutter and died on her way to hospital.
So the judge hears their case and he explains that the sentence for manslaughter, (under such circumstances) is 18-years in prison. But the judge knows one of the boys grew up in his neighbourhood. So he makes an executive decision. He decides 1) to give an 18-year sentence to two of the boys, but 2) he shows mercy to the third boy. He pardons the third boy on the condition that he now comes and lives with the judge. So two boys rightfully go to jail, and the third boy receives mercy.
Now is a judge free to uphold justice and show mercy (within the bounds of the law)? (PAUSE) Well, YES. Generally speaking, even earthly judges have that PREROGATIVE. 1) A judge who always hands down the letter of the law – may be accused of never being merciful. 2) But a judge who always showed mercy to criminals would be accused of being too lenient. The very nature of mercy – is that it is not given to all. If mercy is given to all – it is no longer mercy, it is just a perversion of justice. MERCY is a key idea in Romans 9 & Romans 11. In a fallen world is God free to show mercy to whom he chooses?
Now you may say, but can’t the two boys sent to jail complain that the judges verdict is unfair? Well sure they can complain. But it’s not unfair. They committed a serious crime AND their punishment is actually what they deserve. So, it’s not unfair. It’s just they have received justice and the other boy mercy. But that is the judge’s prerogative, as a judge.
Now if you can expand that illustration to the WORLD STAGE – you’ll begin to understand Romans 9-11. God is the judge. And in His courtroom we’re all guilty. But in that context – God chooses to show mercy to some people and he hands down justice to others. Now, to the best of my ability that is what I believe the Bible teaches. In a courtroom where everyone is guilty, (and everyone has forfeited their rights) God has the prerogative to choose who receives mercy.
Point 1: God’s Mercy is ONLY for those God Chooses
Show: Rom.9:6-7a (READ)
Explain: Well the words “not all who are descended from Israel, are Israel” forms the basis for most of Paul’s argument in Romans 9-11. As I’ve pointed out the big question in these chapters is (Slide 2); “if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah – why have so few Jews followed him? What happened?” And this raises another question (ENTER) IF God has broken his promise to the Jews, can we trust God to keep his promises to us, as Christians. This is a serious question.
So Paul begins by saying; “God’s word has not failed. It’s just that not all Israel, is Israel.” (SLIDE 3) The first Israel “from Israel” is biological Israel or national Israel. Everyone who is descended from Abraham is “from Israel”. But within this group there is a smaller subset. (ENTER) The second Israel, those who “are Israel” is what we might call true Israel, or ELECT Israel. Now when I say “ELECT ISRAEL” I’m actually using a biblical word. If you look down Rom.9:11 – you’ll see the word ELECTION. Rom.9:11-12 says (READ). The word “ELECT” or “ELECTION” occurs 13x in the Bible and it means those God has predestined for salvation. So there is biological Israel and a smaller subset we might call “elect Israel” or “true Israel”.
Paul is saying God’s Word has not failed because God never promised that EVERY BIOLOGICAL JEW would be saved when the Messiah first came. Rather, God made it clear that only a REMNANT of Jews (saved by God’s mercy) would come to their Messiah. And that’s what happened. When Jesus came – a remnant of Jews, preserved by God’s mercy were saved. SO, GOD’S WORD HAS NOT FAILED.
Now we could say A SIMILAR THING in the church. We could say “not all who appear Christian, are Christian.” Fact is, there are a lot of NOMINAL and CULTURAL Christians in the church. People who have the trappings of Christianity, but lack the true faith of Christianity. But within the church – there are also true, born-again, Christians – who have received God’s mercy. Now when Jesus comes again will God’s promise of heaven apply to nominal Christians, or to real Christians? (PAUSE) So why would it be any different – when Jesus came the first time?
Apply: The fact that there are so many Jews who have rejected their Messiah (does not mean God’s Word has failed); it just means they were never true Jews in the first place. Now to explain this difference – I’ve chosen A) “BIOLOGICAL ISRAEL” and “ELECT ISRAEL” because I believe it’s closest to the language Paul uses in Romans 9. (I have also created some HOMEWORK in the Romans handout (page 10) – where I want you to work through Romans 9-11 (and fill in the blanks). Each time Paul refers to Israel or the Jews or “they” work out if he is talking about biological Israel or elect Israel. I truly believe this exercise will help you better understand these chapters).
But many people still struggle with predestination and election because we are now looking at things from GOD’S PERSPECTIVE. As Christians we usually look at salvation from our own HUMAN PERSPECTIVE. What must I do in order to be saved? Well the Bible says; I need to believe in Jesus and repent of my sins. This is true. But what did God have to do in order for us to be saved? Did God simply A) give us the Bible and B) Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins and then leave it to us to work out; OR did God do more than that?
Personally, I believe the Bible says God did much more than that. The Bible says we were dead in our sins. The Bible says we were slaves to Satan (Eph.2:1-3; Heb.2:15). That means our free-will was not really free. It was in slavery too. What’s more, in Romans 3 – Paul explained that all of us – are so corrupted by sin – that there is NO ONE WHO EVEN SEEKS GOD. (We’re not even looking for God). And Paul adds; there is no fear of God before our eyes (Rom.3:18). Now the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. So, with no fear of God before our eyes – we are actually FOOLS – forever trapped in our own foolishness. I believe (that in our unsaved status) we are so FALLEN as human beings that we have lost the ability to turn back to God in our own strength or of our own volition. We can’t do it.
Now some will disagree with me. That’s fine. But I believe Romans 3 teaches what is called total depravity. Human beings are not just a little bit broken. No! Our hearts are so hard, our eyes so blind and our rebellion so entrenched – that we have lost the power to turn to God in our own strength. Now thankfully, God (who knows all things) knew before He created the world that our sin would totally enslave us. So before creation – God actually predestined some of us for mercy (Slide 3; Eph.1:3-5).
Now I know this does our head in because God is too big for us to grasp. (What a surprise? Not!) But this is saying – we believe In Jesus because God predestined us to believe in Jesus and wrote our names into the book of life. Now the BOOK OF LIFE is mentioned eight times in the Bible and it records the names of those who will ultimately go to heaven. But this is what Revelation 17 says (Rev.17:8 ENTER). NOTICE, some people’s names were left out of the Book of Life at the creation of the world. If you are a Christian, just be thankful, your name was included. Don’t marvel at the beast. Marvel at the fact your name was included. God saw you in your fallen state (and decided to show you mercy). Then at the APPOINTED TIME God humbled you and through the Holy Spirit He showed you Jesus so clearly – that you were compelled to say “I believe.” Now from a human perspective it felt like it was all you. But from God’s perspective – (the Bible says) it was all God.
Now because the book of life was written before creation God also knows the EXACT NUMBER of people who will be saved. Let me show you what Paul says in Romans 11 (Slide 5; Rom.11:25). Notice it says; “the full number”. There is an actual number of Gentiles who will be saved (and when we reach that specific number, no more or no less) I believe God is going to begin a revival among the Jews. And then the full number of Jews (everyone whose name is in the Book of life) will also be saved. Friends, I know that from a human perspective people need A) to believe in Jesus and B) repent of their sins in order to be saved. So whenever I’m doing evangelism I call for faith and repentance. But Romans 9-11 tells us that God is Sovereign and He is far more involved in our personal salvation than we may first realise. I’d go so far as to say; A) God has not just made salvation possible for an indefinite number of people, I’d say B) God has secured a certain and exact number of people personally, in Jesus.
Point 2: God’s Mercy can ONLY be received Miraculously
Show: Rom.9:7-8 (READ)
Explain: Well as Paul continues to UNPACK the idea of true Israel, and biological Israel – he focuses on some JEWISH BROTHERS. First, Paul talks about Isaac and Ishmael AND then he talks about Jacob & Esau. Paul is showing us that even in Jewish history God’s promises do NOT automatically apply to every Jew. The promises to Abraham were passed through Isaac, not Ishmael. The same promises were also passed through Jacob, not Esau. God’s promises have always been selectively applied to those God chose to bless.
Now I know many people struggle with the idea of God choosing certain people for salvation (and not others). IT’S NOT FAIR is the normal complaint. But you do realize that out of all the nations of the world, God did choose the Jews. The Jews were the chosen people. (Was that unfair?) In the days of Abraham – there would have been at least several hundred different people groups scattered after the Tower of Babel. Yet, (of all the peoples) God chooses Abraham. And if you read Genesis closely – God chooses Abraham before He comes to real faith. 1) Abraham is chosen by God in Genesis 12 and yet does not come to saving faith until Genesis 15. So God chose Abraham before he believed.
Now again, can we say it is UNFAIR that God chose the Jews instead of the Egyptians or the Canaanites or one of the other people groups? (PAUSE) Well again, I’d say no. All people had sinned. They had forfeited their rights to expect anything from God. So it was now God’s prerogative to show mercy to whom he chooses to show mercy. Now were the Jews a better people or a people more deserving of mercy. Well years after God chose the Jews he said to them (Slide 6 – Deut.7:7). So election and choosing is based solely on God’s love and mercy.
Some Christians accept 1) that God chose the Jews at a national level but 2) they reject the idea that God chooses and saves particular people at the individual level. Yet, Romans 9 pushes us to the level of individual election. God chose to fulfill His promises in Isaac, not Ishmael. God chooses to make Jacob a Patriarch, not Esau (even though he was born first). So in our fallen world God gives mercy to the nations and the individuals he chooses.
Now coming back to GOD’S CHOICE OF ISAAC not Ishmael, look with me at verse 8 (Rom.8:8; READ). Gods point is that his promises do not automatically apply to those physically born, but only to those miraculously born (by God’s promise or decree). You may remember – ISHMAEL was born naturally – to a young woman named Hagar. BUT ISAAC was born miraculously to an old woman named Sarah. God’s promises apply to children miraculously born of God, not children naturally born of the flesh.
Apply: Obviously, Paul’s MAIN POINT is that God decided His promises would be fulfilled in Isaac, not Ishmael. That was God’s choice. But I suspect Paul is also making A SUB-POINT that God’s promises can ONLY be received through a miracle of God. To receive God’s promise, God first had to work a miracle in Abraham & Sarah’s life. Abraham tried to take hold of the promises of God in his own strength and through his own will. He grabbed Hagar and said let me help you God. But God said no. For Abraham and Sarah to receive the promises of God it required a miracle on God’s side. Not human effort. But God’s supernatural effort.
You may recall Jesus talks in the New Testament about the importance of being born again. He says A) no one born of the flesh will enter the Kingdom of God, but only B) those born of the Spirit. I’d say (in a way) Ishmael was born of the flesh AND (in a way) Isaac was born of the Spirit (through a miracle of God). Like Sarah’s womb, we are so dead in our sins – that we do not have the resources within ourselves to take hold of Gods promises. We don’t help God in that miracle. It’s just a miracle. And if we think we are somehow taking hold of Gods promises (through our efforts) – it is little more than Abraham taking hold of Hagar. For God’s promises to truly come alive in our life it actually requires the miraculous intervention of God. We do not so much take hold of God’s promises through our effort, rather the promises take hold of us through God’s effort. From our side we may think 1) we are born again because we put our faith in Jesus and repented of our sins. (Job well done. Pat myself on the back). But from God’s side – we ONLY have faith in Jesus and repent of our sins because God miraculously brought us to a place where we could no longer deny – the undeniable.
Point 3: God’s Mercy is also ONLY received at God’s Appointed Time
Show: Rom.9:9 (READ)
Explain: Well the focus in this verse is on the word “promise” – that was introduced in verse 8. The PROMISE is fulfilled in Sarah and the promise is fulfilled at God’s appointed time. Now this phrase “APPOINTED TIME” is used in the Bible – to refer to times established by God, especially Jewish festivals and things related to the end of the world. God has “appointed times” for certain things to happen in his schedule. Now I hope I’m not reading too much into this phrase “appointed time”. But I suspect Paul is beginning to lay the groundwork for his argument later in chapter 11. The book of Habakkuk says (Slide 7; Hab.2:3).
Now when God first promised Abraham an HEIR – to the time when Isaac was born – nearly 25 years had passed. For a period of time – it looked like God’s word had failed. God couldn’t be trusted. But at God’s appointed time – the promise to Abraham & Sarah was fulfilled; no sooner and no later. As Paul begins his discourse I think he has already hinted at why so few Jews have become followers of Jesus. FIRST, not all biological Israel, is true elect Israel. But SECOND, it’s NOT yet the appointed time for certain promises to be fulfilled to the Jews…
Paul will explain in Romans 11 that “the present time” is a time when Israel (the nation) is partially hardened until the full number of Gentiles comes in. This (what Paul calls the present time in Romans 11) is what Jesus calls the time of the Gentiles in Luke 21. But Paul says that when this present time is complete (and the full number of Gentiles have come in) then we will enter a new time when God’s promises will be applied to the Jews – not just at an elect or remnant level, but also at a national level.
APPLY: The point is God is Sovereign in everything and this means he does keep His promises 1) with those He has chosen and 2) at the exact time he has determined. And because God’s salvation is based wholly on God’s mercy – all glory must go to God. There is no room for boasting in our faith OR boasting that we are somehow better than the Jewish branches that have been broken off. There is zero room for arrogance or pride – because what saved us was God’s mercy; not our intellect, not our wisdom and not even our faith. From God’s perspective it was ALL God and what he deserves from us is thank you, thank you, thank you).
As I finish, let me show you where I think Romans 9-11 is headed (Slide 7). Notice Romans 9-11 finishes with doxology or worship. At the end of the day Jews and Gentiles saved by God’s mercy – will all bow in worship together acknowledging 1) our salvation is all God and 2) that all God’s promises have been fulfilled. God is faithful. And then together (side by side) we will fall in worship before the one WHO SITS UPON THE THRONE and TO THE LAMB (and with the four living creatures) we will join in saying; Amen. Amen. Amen – to the glory of God. Amen.