As a couple of hundred people came down to the front after the sermon, the evangelist said to the thousands in the stands, "You have prayed for those who now stand before me and that is good. You will pray for them tomorrow and that is good. But there is no use of your praying for them now, FOR NOT EVEN GOD CAN HELP THEM NOW, they must decide for themselves." That evangelist must serve a different God than the God of the Bible. If God is unable to help us, then we are all damned. The Scriptures clearly teach the absolute sovereignty of God, but men today are teaching the opposite.
We come this morning to our concluding study in chapter 9 of Romans . I know that this has been a difficult chapter for many of you, it has raised many questions in your mind that you can't quite seem to answer. Some of you have probably even felt your stomach tie in knots as you were confronted with the truth of Scripture.
Romans 9 is the clearest, most in-depth teaching on the absolute sovereignty of God to be found in Scripture, and fallen man finds this hard to accept. Why is this doctrine so difficult for us to accept today? I think that it is because throughout the Church today, with almost negligible exception, the theory is held that man is a "free agent," and therefore lord of his fate and determiner of his own destiny.
Arthur Pink said this, "God's sovereign election is the truth most loathed and reviled by the majority of those claiming to be believers. Let it be plainly announced that salvation originated not in the will of man but in the will of God, that were it not so none would or could be saved. For as a result of the fall man has lost all desire and will unto that which is good and that even the elect themselves have to be made willing, and loud will be the cries of indignation against such teaching. Merit mongers will not allow the supremacy of the divine will and the impedance of the human will. Consequently they who are the most better in denouncing election by the sovereign will of God are the warmest in crying up the free will of fallen man."
Romans 9 is death to Arminianism, clearly declaring that salvation is solely an act of God.
Romans 9:16 (NKJV) So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
The emphasis in Romans 9 is on the absolute sovereignty of God, brought forth by a question about Israel's rejection. Israel was a unique people in the plan of God. They were sovereignly called into existence and set aside as God's people. They were given promises, and covenants, and God led and guided them. It was to them that Christ came.
Romans 9:4-5 (NKJV) who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
Israel, God's chosen people, rejected Jesus Christ and crucified Him, and at the time of Paul's writing they were rejecting the proclamation of the gospel by the apostles. So the question arises; how can the gospel be true if God's people, the Jews rejected it? And if the gospel is true, has God gone back on his promises to Israel? Romans 9 becomes, in a sense, an apologetic -- a defense of the gospel, as well as a theodicy -- a defense of God.
Romans 9 could be broken into four subsections, Israel's rejection of the gospel doesn't violate God's: PROMISE, PERSON, PLAN, or PREREQUISITE.
Paul opens this chapter by solemnly declaring that Israel's unbelief and consequent rejection is for him a heavy burden, (verses 2 & 3) but he wants us to be clear that Israel's rejection and unbelief doesn't violate God's PROMISE (verses 6-13).
Romans 9:6 (NKJV) But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,
God's promise was never meant to be realized in the nation as a whole. God's promises were always limited, they were to the true, spiritual Israel. The promises were for Isaac and not Ishmael, they were for Jacob and not Esau. God has not gone back on His promises, they were misunderstood, and they are still being misunderstood today. God is finished with Israel as a nation. The Church is now God's special people.
Most Christians today believe that the Jews, the nation Israel, are God's special people. Despite all the Bible says about faith, they think there is a special blessing in physical descent.
Galatians 3:26 (NKJV) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Israel's rejection and unbelief doesn't violate God's PERSON: (vss 14-24) God in no way violates His person by choosing some to salvation because he's always been revealed as a God who is selective, so he hasn't changed.
Romans 9:15 (NKJV) For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion."
This is a quote from Exodus 33:19, God is sovereign in the exercise of His mercy.
Romans 9:14 (NKJV) What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! Romans 9:19 (NKJV) You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"
The only reason that these questions arise is because Paul is teaching that God chooses one and rejects another based solely on his own will, and that the destiny of men is determined by his sovereign pleasure alone. These questions would never arise if Paul was teaching the foreknowledge view so popular today.
Romans 9:22 (NKJV) What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
What if? So what if? He's God, so he can do what he wants, he can make vessels to display his wrath or his mercy.
Paul's point is that God has always been selective. His promises were never to the entire Jewish nation, but to his elect. God is selective in his love:
Romans 9:13 (NKJV) As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."
And God is selective in His mercy:
Romans 9:15 (NKJV) For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion."
God can't be accused of injustice because justice would send us all to hell. The unbelief and rejection of the nation Israel does not violate God's PROMISE or his PERSON, nor does it violate his PLAN:
Romans 9:24 (NKJV) even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
He tells us here that the true seed of Abraham, true Israel, are the called of God of all nations. This verse tells us that God not only chooses some out of Israel to be vessels of mercy, but he chooses some from the Gentiles also. This would really irritate the Jews, but this is God's sovereign right.
Romans 9:25-26 (NKJV) As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved." 26 "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God."
Paul shows that the calling of the Gentiles was according to God's plan as revealed in Scripture, and he quotes from Hosea. When Paul wanted to make a point, he went to the Scriptures. You can't argue with God's Word.
Hosea 2:23 (NKJV) Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they shall say, 'You are my God!'"
This is what Paul quotes, it is a paraphrase. To get the meaning we need to go back to chapter 1. Hosea was a prophet to Israel, the kingdom of the ten tribes. He prophesied during the eighth century before Christ.
Hosea 1:2 (NKJV) When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: "Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the LORD."
At God's command, Hosea married a woman named Gomer. She became a harlot and conceived children of whoredom.
3 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 Then the LORD said to him: "Call his name Jezreel, For in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, And bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.
Hosea lived out a parable as his wife was a harlot to him, so Israel was a harlot to her husband God. The name "Jezreel" means scattered.
5 It shall come to pass in that day That I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel."
The phrase, "break the bow" is a term meaning destruction of the nations military might. This happened in 733 BC when Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrian General, overran Israel.
6 And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: "Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, But I will utterly take them away.
The name "Lo-Ruhamah" means, not my loved one or not pitied.
7 Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, Will save them by the LORD their God, And will not save them by bow, Nor by sword or battle, By horses or horsemen." 8 Now when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. 9 Then God said: "Call his name Lo-Ammi, For you are not My people, And I will not be your God.
The name" Lo-ammi" means, not my people. So Hosea marries a woman, she becomes a prostitute, she has three children, one named "scattered," one named "not my loved one", and another named, "not my people." Those names have reference toward God's attitude toward adulteress Israel. The children of Israel are scattered, not loved, and not the people of God.
So Israel's relationship with God was to be severed and Hosea 2:23 points this out. This is referring to physical Israel, not spiritual Israel. Israel had broken the covenant and would experience the covenantal curses (Deut 28).
10 "Yet the number of the children of Israel Shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There it shall be said to them, 'You are sons of the living God.'
God brought them back again and gave them back their temple, nation, land, and identity. So what you have here is a prophecy related to Israel, and not the Gentile nations but Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, applies this passage to the Gentiles.
Just as it was with the Jews , so it is with the Gentiles, once forsaken of God but later embraced in covenant love and favor. The same procedure is exemplified in both cases. Paul finds in the restoration of Israel, to love and favor the type in terms of which the Gentiles become partakers of the same grace. Peter quotes Hosea 1:10 also, and he too applies it to the Gentiles.
Romans 9:26 (NKJV) "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God."
Paul quotes directly from Hosea 1:9. Where was it said of them, "ye are not my people?" Everywhere! They were scattered everywhere. They shall be called, "sons of the living God." -- this is a title that is in opposition to sons of idols, or dead Gods. We are children of the Living God. Look with me at a few comparisons between our God and idols.
1 Samuel 5:1-6 (NKJV) Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the temple of Dagon and set it by Dagon. 3 And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set it in its place again. 4 And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon's torso was left of it. 5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor any who come into Dagon's house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day. 6 But the hand of the LORD was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory.
Jeremiah 10:1-10 (NKJV) Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2 Thus says the LORD: "Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. 4 They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple. 5 They are upright, like a palm tree, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, For they cannot do evil, Nor can they do any good." 6 Inasmuch as there is none like You, O LORD (You are great, and Your name is great in might), 7 Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is Your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, And in all their kingdoms, There is none like You. 8 But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine. 9 Silver is beaten into plates; It is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of the craftsman And of the hands of the metalsmith; Blue and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skillful men. 10 But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation.
From these texts we can see the stupidity of idolatry, but had we lived before the times that God visited the Gentiles, we would have been ourselves involved in this darkness. How thankful we should be that we live in the days that we do. This should be a reminder to us that our God is a living God, even though we often act like he's dead. We didn't create our God, he created us. We don't need to care for our God, he cares for us. What a precious comforting truth, we serve the Living God.
Paul supports God's call of the Gentiles as the fulfilment of Old Testament promises. It was part of His eternal PLAN.
Romans 9:27-29 (NKJV) Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved. 28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth." 29 And as Isaiah said before: "Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah."
Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah as loudly testifying the doctrine which he is declaring. Hosea testifies, with respect to God's purpose of calling the Gentiles and Isaiah in 10:20-22, quoted here by Paul, testifies of the rejection of the great body of the Jews, and of the election of a number among them, comparatively small. This is the proposition with which Paul began, "They are not all Israel which are of Israel."
"Isaiah cries" is the Hebrew Krazo, an impassioned utterance.
Isaiah 10:22-23 (NKJV) For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea, A remnant of them will return; The destruction decreed shall overflow with righteousness. 23 For the Lord GOD of hosts Will make a determined end In the midst of all the land.
Isaiah predicts that due to the Assyrian invasion, Israel will be greatly reduced in number, only a remnant would return. The word "remnant" means, that which is left. A carpet remnant is a small piece of the whole.
This Scripture demonstrates that God's promises do not pertain to the mass of Israel but are fulfilled in the remnant.
Romans 9:28 (NKJV) For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth."
Romans 9:28 is a quotation from Isaiah 10:23. God is going to judge Israel thoroughly and quickly and only a remnant will be left. This is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Roman armies.
Amos 3:11-12 (NKJV) Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "An adversary shall be all around the land; He shall sap your strength from you, And your palaces shall be plundered." 12 Thus says the LORD: "As a shepherd takes from the mouth of a lion Two legs or a piece of an ear, So shall the children of Israel be taken out Who dwell in Samaria; In the corner of a bed and on the edge of a couch!
This is a vivid picture of judgement. Any saving of Israel would be like a shepherd saving a couple of leg bones or part of an ear. These little bits of rescued evidence were to prove that a shepherd had not stolen or sold one of the sheep.
Amos 3:2 (NKJV) "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities."
Israel had a special relationship with the Lord, and therefore, it also had great responsibility. God is going to save a little of Israel from judgement.
Romans 9:29 (NKJV) And as Isaiah said before: "Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah."
Israel might object to the doctrine of sovereign election, to the fact that God chooses some, not all, to be saved. But Paul, in verse 29 quoting Isaiah 1:9, shows that if God had not intervened in sovereign love and mercy, they would "all" have become like Sodom and Gomorrah. God's election destroyed none, it's the sole reason that any were spared.
I believe that any opposition to the truth of Divine sovereign election arises from ignorance of, or blindness to the utter sinfulness and wholly lost state of mankind. If you understand "total depravity" you understand the need for sovereign election. "All" would go to hell unless God in mercy intervened.
When talking about election, the question is often asked about children, "What if they're not elect?" It's hard to understand or accept that our children might not be elect and thus have no chance to be saved. When people ask me this question, I always respond by asking them, "Would you rather trust your children or your God in the choice of their salvation?" Some folks respond by saying, "If my children reject Christ, I want it to be their fault." Implying that if my children go to hell, I don't want it to be because God sent them there due to no fault of their own, but because they rejected Him. I understand this sentiment, but it comes from a false presupposition, that being that man is basically good, and left alone he would some day trust God.
Romans 5:12 (NKJV) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;
"One man," = Adam. When Adam sinned something terrible happened, sin entered the world of humanity. Sin, not sins. Man's nature became corrupt. This is what theologians call "original sin." Man is born with a corrupted sinful nature. This is evident to anyone who is even slightly honest. "Death by sin"Where did death come from? It is penal, it is punishment for our sin. The death that is referred to here is spiritual death. Spiritual death is man's problem, not physical death. "Death passed upon all men," -- Everyone born is born spiritually dead, no exceptions. Why are all men born spiritually dead? "Because all sinned," -- This is in the aorist tense expressing momentary action in past time. It doesn't mean "do sin," but have sinned. When did we all sin? We all sinned in Adam, he was our federal head. God appointed Adam as the federal head or representative of the entire human race. Adam acted on our behalf, as our representative. Because he was appointed by God, he was a perfect representative. When he sinned, we sinned with him. Adam's sin has been put to the account of every human being, this is called "imputation."
Are babies born spiritually dead? Yes. Have they personally sinned? No! If death is penal and the child hasn't personally sinned, why is it spiritually dead? Because it sinned in Adam. We all have, and therefore were all born dead spiritually. We all chose to reject God in Adam. And because of our choice, we died spiritually. We are all separated from God by our sin and stand under his wrath. If God in sovereign love and mercy did not choose to save some, we all would end up in hell and it would be what we deserve. Hell is justice. The wages of sin is death.
In the case of angels who sinned, there was no election, and all of them will spend eternity in hell. Had there been no election among men, all of us would also spend eternity in Hell. Thank God for his sovereign electing grace that saves some.
"Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah."
"Lord of Sabaoth" -- is Lord of the armies of heaven. "Sodom and Gomorrah" are pictures of total and complete destruction. Only a remnant, a seed, escaped the destruction of Jerusalem as the true seed of Israel fled Jerusalem as their Lord told them to.
Luke 21:20-22 (NKJV) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
Only the remnant, the true seed, escaped and the rest of Israel was made like Sodom and Gomorrah, totally destroyed. This verse clearly shows that being an Israelite was not enough to secure either exemption from divine judgements or the enjoyment of God's favor.
Paul draws from Hosea and he draws from Isaiah as Old Testament proof that God planned that not all Israel would be saved and that some Gentiles would be saved. The only reason anyone believes is because God has chosen them.
The unbelief and rejection of Israel doesn't violate God's: PROMISE or his PERSON or his PLAN or his PREREQUISITE vss 30-33. God's prerequisite to salvation is faith. The emphasis upon the sovereign will of God in the preceding verses does not eliminate human responsibility. You must believe the gospel.
Romans 9:30 (NKJV) What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
What is the conclusion? The Gentiles, who did not "pursue" -- this is the Greek word dioko which means to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing. Metaphorically, to seek eagerly. They weren't seeking it. But they "attained" -- katalambano, to lay hold of so as to make one's own, to appropriate. The Gentiles who made no effort, (vs16) got it. They didn't will or run, but God chose them and called them.
This is the human response to God's sovereign election-- faith. We only respond in faith because God gives us faith.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
To what does the demonstrative pronoun, "that" refer? It refers to the nearest preceding noun "faith." Our faith is a gift of God.
The evidence that you are one of God's elect is that you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.
1 John 5:1 (NKJV) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.
Paul goes on to say:
31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
Israel pursued righteousness but they never attained it; why?
32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.
Salvation is not by human effort. They were seeking to be justified by works and thus were striving to attain to a position which no man can reach. The whole plan of salvation is so ordered that no flesh can glory in His presence.
1 Corinthians 1:31 (NKJV) that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."
Our only responsibility is to believe the gospel. Man has a responsibility to believe but he does not have the ability. Why does God command us to do what we cannot do? To show us the depth of our depravity. We can't do it because we're fallen, we are separated from God by our sin. If salvation is ever going to come, it must be applied sovereignly. The Jews sought it by works, human effort.
"For they stumbled at that stumbling stone," Paul quotes Isaiah 8:14. This was predicted and it happened.
33 As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
Paul quotes here from Isaiah 8:14-15 and 28:16. God's enemies stumbled then because of him, and they stumble now at the gift of Christ. The message of Christ crucified, the doctrine of the atonement, was very offensive to Jews who were expecting a royal deliverer. Even with Isaiah 53 before their eyes, the Jews had never dreamed of a suffering Messiah. By Jewish law, anyone who was crucified died under the curse of God. Deut. 21:23 ; Gal. 3:13. To the majority of Jews, Christ was a stumbling stone and a rock of offense. At the same time, Christ is a security, a solid rock, for him that believes on Him.
The word "put to shame" is from the Greek kataischuno which means to shame because of disappointment in unfulfilled promises. God keeps his promises and his promises are for those who put their trust in Him, and Him alone. Israel was rejected because of unbelief. Man's responsibility before God is to believe in Jesus Christ.
John 3:36 (NKJV) "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
The only thing that you can do to be saved is to believe that you can do nothing to be saved and cast yourself upon the mercy of God, trusting in what Christ has done for you.
The doctrine of election should cause great praise and thanksgiving, for without it, we would all end up in Hell. We would, of ourselves never have chosen God, and therefore, should be eternally grateful that He chose us.