Sermons

Sovereign in Choosing

June 6, 2021 Speaker: Chris Jessee Series: Romans

Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Romans 9:1–9:33

Please Note: this is Chris' original manuscript for this sermon, due to the nature of this particular Sunday morning, the delivery of this sermon was more of a summary of what is captured below (you can find this in the recording of the morning).

 

Intro / Context

Romans 9-11 is not an interruption on our way to the very practical to our day-to-day living in chapters 12-16. These chapters are an illustration of the sovereignty of God very much connected to Pual’s train of overall thought for the church in Rome and as such, it is for us today as well!  Paul builds on what he said late in Romans 8, in verse 30

Romans 8:30 - And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

From the beginning of the book of Romans Paul is moving from Sin & Salvation (Justification - that is, how we’re made acceptable before God) to Sanctification (that is, how we are changed into the image of God’s Son in thought, word & deed) - Paul is now turning his attention to God’s Sovereignty.

Romans chapter 9 is rich in theological truth, doctrines including:

  • Election (God Choosing His Own) mentioned specifically in v.11
  • The Church (God’s People in Community)
  • Predestination (God’s Purposes)
  • The Trinity (God as ONE & THREE)
  • The Goodness of God (God is Love)
  • The Incarnation of Christ (God sent His Son, to save us)

We bump into the promises of God for his people, dealing with questions that may come to mind about how sure we can be in those promises.  We see God’s part in making, keeping and choosing the people who are a part of his covenants as well. 

Today, rather than focusing on any one of these - helpful, ways to organize our thoughts into right thinking according to the whole counsel of God’s Word. I want us to allow the passage to speak to us, today, as Metro Life Church gathered together.  

Let us consider the deep, at times difficult truths, hear the ways we’re being called to act according to our maker and allow God’s Word to draw our hearts to wonder at this great salvation we have received.

Romans 9

[1] I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—[2] that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. [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. [4] They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. [5] To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

[6] But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, [7] and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” [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. [9] For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” [10] And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, [11] 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—[12] she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” [13] As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

[14] What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! [15] For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” [16] So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. [17] 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.” [18] So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

[19] You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” [20] 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?” [21] 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? [22] 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, [23] in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—[24] even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? [25] 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.’”

[26] “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.’”

[27] 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, [28] for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” [29] And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,

we would have been like Sodom

and become like Gomorrah.”

[30] What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; [31] but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. [32] Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, [33] as 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.

A few weeks ago as we were closing out Romans 8 I mentioned that God, throughout the grand narrative of scripture, has been rushing toward his people.  That’s good news for us today but if we think about it a bit more deeply, there’s a question we have to ask ourselves about that statement - namely, who are God’s People?

As I’ve been studying these chapters for the past several weeks, there’s a great number of books, commentaries and authors who will somewhat shy away from these passages.  I don’t fault them for that, but you may be wondering who you can find helpful in wanting to do further study… I’ve personally found John Stott’s commentary on Romans to be helpful here, he has two: one is called ‘The Message of Romans’ - this is a lot like the ‘teacher’s edition’ of commentaries, there’s also a more devotional summary of Stott’s commentary called Reading Romans with John Stott - this includes a discussion guide, etc. in case you want to not only have further study but talk about it with others as well.

I mention this because as Pual transitions into a section in the book of Romans focused on the Sovereignty of God, you may find it helpful to have a study guide to go along with your reading.  

Paul wants to bring clarity to our potential assumptions, presuppositions, potential worldview distortions, misunderstandings of His Character or even ways that we’d be tempted to doubt in other ways what God has Promised and the assurance that we can have in our relationship with God.

ILLUS: Some years ago, I bumped into a couple of friends in an airport in Haiti - it was a strange experience - as we were talking a question was asked about the church (in general) and why some people seem to be fine with studying theology but they don’t share with others.  It seemed they were asking about 

A Heart for the Lost

Romans 9:1–5 [1] I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—[2] that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. [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. [4] They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. [5] To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Who are you praying for today?

Paul’s heart for his own people, God’s covenant nation, Jesus own lineage… but don’t presume on that.

ILLUS: you don’t have to be in an airport in Haiti to be on mission, this past week: interaction, sharing and prayer with a tow truck driver after he actually scraped our vehicle against the side of another… how do I respond, what door is being opened to share the mercy and kindness I’ve been the recipient of?

The benefits the Jewish people had received

Paul mentions, beginning in v.4, privileges that the nation of Israel, as God’s chosen, covenant people had received and yet they rejected God anyway!  These were things that should have prepared and even pointed them to Christ (adapted from Keller’s Romans for You materials):

  • “The adoption as sons” refers to Exodus 4:22 and other places where Israel is called God’s “son.”
  • “The divine glory” refers to God’s visible glory cloud—called the shekinah—the manifestation of his presence, dwelling in their midst in the tabernacle and temple .
  • “The covenants” refer to God’s making a relationship with the people through Abraham (Genesis 15), Moses (Exodus 24:8) and David (2 Samuel 23:5). In each case God creates a relationship with them and promises to bless them. In all the cases, however, he tells them of a Messiah or future figure who will come to fulfill the agreement. 
  • “The receiving of the law” refers to God giving the Ten Commandments and all of the law by revelation to Israel (Deuteronomy 4:8). Paul told us in Romans 2 that if we truly understand the law, we will see that we cannot merit salvation and will look to God for a provision. 
  • “The temple worship” was a visible order of service. Hebrews 9:1-5 describes it well. It outlined how the people could approach God. There needed to be a blood sacrifice, a washing and preparation for purification, and a priest to go in on your behalf. All these God-given rituals showed that we could not approach God in just any manner—we needed blood to atone for sin, and a priest-substitute. Jesus is our sacrifice, our priest, our purity, our bread, etc. 
  • “The promises” refer to the numerous Old Testament prophecies and promises about the coming of a Messiah. 
  • “The patriarchs” probably refer not just to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but also to men like Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel and David. Now, all nations have great leaders, but Paul seems to be pointing out that God spoke to Israel through these men. Virtually all of them predicted and foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah. 
  • “From them is traced the human ancestry of Christ.” This is obvious but often overlooked. Jesus was Jewish. For the Son of God to become human, he had to become part of some race and culture. By becoming a Jew, God was giving the Jews not only a great honor, but making it “easier” for them to relate to the Son of God than anyone else.

We may want to ask here - if they had all of these things, these benefits and privileges, the covenant but all of them aren’t saved… where can I find any sense of security or assurance of salvation?  Paul’s actually ahead of you… he wants us to understand that God’s Word does not fail.

God’s Word does Not Fail

God had promised to bless Israel, but they forfeited his blessing through unbelief.  Israel’s failure was their own, not a failure of God’s Word or covenant bond.

Romans 9:6–10 [6] But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, [7] and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” [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. [9] For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” [10] And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,

Who is it that would now be said to be Abraham's offspring? Who is it that can receive the Covenant Promises of God? Not those who are children by physical descent as is mentioned in verse 8, rather it is the children of the promise of God... Those who have faith in the promises of God for salvation. 

Paul wants us to realize that there’s nothing in our heritage, lineage, nationality or DNA that saves us - his heart beats this way so much that he says: TELL THEM, TELL THEM ALL - share the good news of Christ.  Have a heart for the lost that beats so deeply for them that you’d be willing to trade places with them so they might know Christ Crucified as the finished work for their benefit.

Romans 9:11–13 [11] 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—[12] she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” [13] As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Let’s address this last word first: “hated” - it’s a harsh word to be sure, we teach our children not to use this word toward others as it relates to our attitude toward someone or emotions.  We may be tempted to just write it off as if Paul is using the Epi-tome of Hyper-bole (HT: Brian Regean)

But that’s not how Paul is using the word ‘hate’ here - Paul is using this word ‘relationally’ or ‘in-comparison’ to something else… in other words… in comparison to the Love and Mercy of God that is poured out toward his covenant people it seems that God hates those he does not choose.

Here, as we have read through Paul's reference to Isaac and Ishmael as well as Jacob and Esau we realized that God's choosing had nothing to do with anything in the boys themselves. There was nothing to distinguish them one from another.

If we consider Isaac and Ishmael, they had different mothers dot-dot. It wasn't as if it came from their own bloodline.

With Jacob and Esau they had the same mother, they were twins but before they had done anything good or bad it says in verse 11, God had made his decision and had revealed it to their mom. 

Perhaps in your own life and daily surroundings - you may be tempted to think: my co-worker is a good person, my manager is the best manager I’ve ever had so I can imagine that God will kind-of let them in because of their goodness.  Maybe you know or have taught a top of class achievement student… Perhaps in your own family there’s a lineage of believers that go all the way back to your great-grandmama’s family being saved in a big-tent-revival and we’ve been in a church ever since - that’s wonderful but these all ‘fall short’ as the basis or foundation of salvation!

Here’s where we may be tempted to think: that seems unfair… maybe even unjust if that’s so much a part of God’s character… once again, Paul understands and helps to shape our understanding not through the lense of the world looking up, but through how God reveals himself to us throughout history… 

let’s look at how God’s Mercy and Patience are displayed beginning in v.14

God’s Mercy in His Purposes

Romans 9:14–24 [14] What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! [15] For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” [16] So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. [17] 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.” [18] So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 

What is Paul saying here?  He’s telling us plainly - We don’t want ‘fairness’ or ‘justice’ as we work to define it today… there’s death in that.  He said it back in Romans 6:23 where he told us that the wages of sin is death… but the gift of God, through Christ Jesus, is eternal life”

You don’t want fairness or justice, you want Mercy - mercy’s better, mercy’s enough, mercy reigns over death and it’s God’s kindness in mercy that leads us to any repentance - It's worth noting here that anytime scripture speaks of God's Sovereign Choice, what we understand as this doctrine of election, it is always spoken of as a part of the good news of the Gospel, the goodness of God on display... Not some type of poison pill that comes along with the good news of the Gospel.

When God hardens someone, he doesn’t create the hardness; he simply allows the person to go his or her own way. God hardens those he wants to harden. And all those whom he hardens want to be hardened. - Keller, Timothy. Romans For You

Remember: we are all born with sin because of Adam’s original sin, there’s not something inherently good in us that gets corutorrupted, 

God's hardening of pharaoh, that is the removal of his common Grace (available to all, even today) and giving over to his own desires and abandoning him to his own stubbornness is not unjust or unfair. it is a Judicial Act, it has an eternal sentence... That should sober us because the Wonder is not that some are saved and others are not, but that anyone is saved it all! 

The Keller quote a moment ago, more importantly this passage of scripture, reminds us that our Salvation does not depend on any human desire or effort as it says in verse 16. It's not anything that we want or strive for as if we could achieve it - no,  it is God's mercy alone. 

Paul is going to illustrate his mercy being poured out on us, not only through Pharoah as we just saw… but through another analogy beginning in verse 19

[19] You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” [20] 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?” [21] 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? [22] 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, [23] in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—[24] even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

I don't know if anyone notices this but Paul is putting on a Master Class A preaching for us here. he’ s using scripture to interpret and help us understand what he’s saying… giving practical, everyday illustrations.

We work to bring very practical illustrations into a sermon, something that you might even see or interact with on a daily basis to help people understand a concept or be reminded of a truth throughout their everyday experience. 

Paul, in using a clay pot, is doing just that.  Everyone in Rome, no matter their socioeconomic status had and used clay pots for pottery

Chris Romans 9 Illustration -3x

The ESV Archaeology Study Bible  references monte testaccio (see images), this is an artificial Hill more than 100 ft high that is made entirely from broken pottery from the Roman area. This artificial Mound covers more than 200,000 square feet and it's estimated to contain the remnants of 53 million olive oil storage vessels that were shipped to Rome.

Pottery as an illustration certainly emphasizes the disparity between us and God even though there is a part of Biblical teaching that affirms our likeness to God being created in His image because, though distorted, we still Barrett. Even since the fall.

As those who are image bearers of Gods we are rational, we are responsible we are moral and Spiritual Beings. This means that we are able to engage with God as we explore his Revelation to ask questions not thinking that they're too big for him to face.

Paul's emphasis in this illustration of the Potter and the clay is that the Potter, as the creator, has the right to shape the clay into vessels for different purposes. So we understand that…

“God has the right as our creator to deal with Fallen Humanity according to both his wrath and his Mercy.” - John Stott

This pottery illustration along with the Stott quote certainly makes this teaching on sovereign election easier to understand but; it can be very difficult to accept.

Paul's way of helping us to understand and even defend God's justice is to proclaim the excellencies of his Mercy. For us to have the thought that God's dealing with sinners is somehow harsh or unjust or unfair as we try to define the terms is a misconception of who God is. salvation is about God's mercy, salvation is God's Gift... Not we work to earn or some inherent -or inalienable- right. 

If all of this is true, why would God still blame us?  The question we read back in verse 19 - We’re his creation, he holds out the promises, he alone can provide the salvation, he chooses… him, he, his… why are we to blame -held responsible- then?!

Because as God is rushing toward his covenant people, he is expanding his kingdom through us and he is expanding who his covenant people are.  No longer a nation, a royal priesthood known as his church!  Let’s look at verse 25 together 

Expanding Kingdom & Covenant People

Romans 9:25–26 [25] 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.’” [26] “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.’” [27] 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, [28] for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” [29] And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”

Paul is telling us to look closely at the promises of God!  What is happening through Christ, expanding beyond the nation of Israel, has been there all along… don’t miss this!We look a little more closely at these texts that Paul quotes from Hosea and Isaiah, it's important for us to understand that according to the New Testament, prophecies in the Old Testament had a three-fold fulfillment:

  1. an immediate and literal fulfillment in times of the Old Testament
  2. an intermediate and spiritual fulfillment, that is, in Christ and His Church
  3. Lasly, an eternal and ultimate fulfillment (in God’s consummated kingdom)

I'm going to take the second part first in terms of Isaiah's prophecy for a remnant of the nation to be accepted.

I want be careful here to separate the politics and the state of Israel from the Covenant nation of Israel and -even as I said a few moments ago- Israel's rejection of the covenants of God even with all of the Privileges and benefits given to them is due to their own unbelief. 

Things that were given to them, as a nation, as a covenant people, that should have pointed them to and prepared them for Christ actually became a part of what they used to reject the Messiah, the Savior that had come.

Paul is not saying that Israel, or the Jewish people would be excluded from the work of Christ, rather than they would be included -  this remnant would be accepted.

We do see that there is a disproportionate imbalance between the size of those who would be considered Gentiles, that is outside of the nation of Israel, of Jewish heritage oh, and their participation in the redeemed community. That is, the church! It is no longer a covenant Nation, it is now the church that Jesus Christ has redeemed and rescued to be his own.

Even though it seems that Isaiah's prophecy reduces the number of people, the Jewish people who find their saving faith and righteousness through Christ Alone are included but so are the Gentiles who find their saving faith and righteousness in Christ alone. This is why we say it is the expansion not only of the kingdom of God but who is Covenant people are. His Covenant extended to us today. 

A Stumbling Stone

Romans 9:30–33 [30] What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; [31] but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. [32] Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, [33] as 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.”

As I said earlier, this is not a separate thought, or Rabbit Trail, or random musings of Paul and these next chapters. 

No, he actually ends this chapter asking a question that he ended Romans 8 with - the question:  “what shall we say, then?”

How will we respond?!  

Paul is still extrapolating the arguments of the nation of Israel and Gentiles being included in the righteousness of Christ available to us through faith. Is acknowledging the work of the law which we will study more in the weeks ahead. For now I think this is a helpful summary from Tim Keller:

The ones who knew the most about God did not come to know God, while the ones who knew the least about God came to know God best. The ones who most wanted to be righteous ended up dead in their sins, while the ones who least wanted to be righteous ended up holy and blameless in his sight. - Keller, Timothy. Romans For You

The Romans 9 verse 32 paints a stark picture for us of those who do not approach God by faith the based on their works alone. They are said to stumble over a stumbling Stone.

Who is this stumbling-stone? Christ Jesus himself! From Isaiah to the Psalms all the way through to 1 Peter, this closing refrain from today’s passage echoes throughout scripture.

Why does this matter? Christ as a stumbling block removes any sense of self-righteousness.  It helps us understand that any form of humanly generated “righteousness” is hollow and worthless. 

True righteousness is “by faith” (v. 30). This means that we come to God, sinners as we are, with the empty hands of faith, trusting only in Christ.

Some thoughts along the way:

  • Paul’s heart is to see the kingdom and God’s covenant people expanded through evangelism.  Rather than thinking about the immense number of people who need a Savior - have you prayed and considered 1 that you can pray for, reach out to, invite to community group or your home… even take the bold step of asking if they’d come to church with you?
  • What benefits, either from your upbringing or perhaps even your exposure to the church over a number of years, have you begun to presume upon that God wants to use to draw you to Christ in new ways as you seek to follow him?
  • Is there someone you’ve been praying for that you’ve been tempted to wonder if God’s Word is enough to reach them?  How has that affected your own faith or prayers as a result?
  • How do you think of God’s Mercy?
  • In what ways is God stirring you to be used to expand his Kingdom (his covenant people) through you reaching out to others?

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