Children of Promise

Children of Promise

Well, Lord, we do ask that you would come and shed your light upon us, that being rid of the darkness of our hearts, that we would come into the true light, which is Christ, who is the light of the world, who lives and arrange with you in the unity of the Holy spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. Beginning in verse one, I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying. My conscience bears witness in the Holy spirit that I have great sorrow and inceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen, according to the flesh. They are Israeli, 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 to Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. But it’s not as though the word of God has failed, for not all who are descendant from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring.

But through Isaac, shall your offspring be named? This means that it’s not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what as a promise said, ‘About this time next year, I will return, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived a child by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born, had done nothing either good or bad. In order God’s purpose of election might continue, not because it works, but because of him who calls. She was told, ‘The older will serve the younger, as it is written, Jacob I love, but Esa I hated. The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. If Romans 12 followed Romans 8, it would seem like a perfect fit. For some, Romans 9 to 11 can seem a bit of a non-sequitur. Paul, though, is answering some important questions. How does God’s promises to Israel figure now with the new covenant? And he returns then to some of the themes he mentioned earlier. If the Gentiles have equal access to God, as do the Jews, then what advantage is there of being Jewish?

What promises are still for them? And here, beginning in chapter 9, Paul addresses many of these issues. And along the way, he brings up some very difficult themes. One of those questions then is, why is it in his own day the majority of Jewish people were not following Jesus, the Jewish Messiah? To answer this question, Paul, he retraces Israel’s history. In this retracing that Paul does, he takes a closer look at what’s happening behind the scenes. He tells us what God has promised that God performed. The issue, of course, is an important one because it has to do with whether or not God keeps his promises. Paul has continually stressed this, that God is a promise-keeping God. God alone can bring about what no person is able to do. So yes, but if God’s promises are irrevocable, what about the Jewish people? Why are there so few of them following after the Messiah? Why are so few Paul’s time recognizing who Jesus is? And as Paul then addresses this question, we also see as well the difficulty that nominal faith brings to all of us. It isn’t just a problem in Paul’s day, it’s a problem in our day.

And because the Lord has accepted his people by mercy, there’s no room to boast in any human achievement. And that is laid clear throughout Romans, and certainly here. The great heights and the glories of Romans 8, Paul now dips down into his own personal anguish over the plight of his people. He begins by saying, I’m speaking the truth in Christ. I’m not lying. My conscience bears witness in the Holy spirit that I have great sorrow, unceasing anguish in my heart. And you think, Well, why are you talking like this? Why are you going to such great lengths to speak of your feelings being true? Well, there are many Jewish people who thought Paul was a traitor to his people. He had taken the great promises of God that God made to Israel, and he applied them to everyone. The special favorite nation status that Israel had, Paul now says, is for all nations. The Messiah has come. And while he was Jewish, he was a Messiah for the whole world. The Gentiles did not have to become Jewish to receive him. And Paul was hated for this by many of his own people. And we take it for granted, it seems so clear, but not at this time.

Paul was despised, spoken against, persecuted for acknowledging the grace of God going out into the entire world. And Paul goes on. He goes, I wish myself that I could be accursed, cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen, according to the flesh. And here Paul is echoing his inner Moses. If you recall in Exodus 32, when Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, down below, Israel is making the golden calf and worshiping it and running amok in rebellion. God is determined to blot them out. And Moses intercedes to the Lord on their behalf. And he says, If you won’t forgive them, then blot me out of your book that you’ve written. And Paul, he’s expressing then real love and concern for his fellow people. And then he goes on to the list several of the advantages that Israel has had. He picks up this theme that he mentioned all the way back in chapter 3. What then is the advantage of being Jew? Well, he says, Here, they’re Israelis. To them belong the adoption. Their sons, they have been called into the family of God. Theirs is the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, the promises, all these great things that God has brought to them.

Being the one family of Abraham going out into the world now as a nation. But the difficulty is, as one author stated, Israel’s highest privilege when spurned becomes the cause of Israel’s greatest tragedy. So these great and wonderful privileges have now become a tragedy to them because of unbelief. And Paul goes on, To them belong the patriarchs. From their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God overall, blessed forever men. Amazing statement that Paul just makes there about who Jesus is. Now, when the New Testament is written and they wrote these letters back and forth, they were all written in capital letters with no punctuation. So all the periods and commas and those things, those later editors have put in. And what that means is occasionally there are places where there can be a couple of different ways of understanding what Paul is saying based on punctuation. And some have wondered, is Paul really making such a strong Trinitarian claim here in Verse 5. Well, other places Paul has said things just as direct about Jesus being God as here. And the ESV does a really good job of capturing what Paul is saying about Jesus.

Jesus indeed is God. The Messiah, the chosen one. He is God overall. This Trinitarian work for us to be in Christ means to be a part of this. And Paul then speaks to these amazing advantages that Israel had. They were called to be the light of the world. And from them, the light of the Messiah was going to go into the world. And now many are choosing to remain in darkness. And this is breaking Paul’s heart because they had it all. All the truths were laid out before them. They were a part of this unfolding covenant that God had for the world, and many of them were turning away. A great inheritance matters little if you’re not in the will. And now he goes on to explain what’s taking place. In verse 6, he said, It’s not as though the word of God has failed. The Lord clearly has brought about his purposes. From the family line of this man, Abraham, Jesus has come. And Jesus is the one who’s fulfilled everything that Israel failed to do. But why are so many in Paul’s day not following this Jesus? And Paul says something very poignant here, For not all who are descendant from Israel belong to Israel.

Not all who are of physical Israel are a part of spiritual Israel. You see, it’s entirely possible to be a religious unbeliever. You can be very close to the things of God, but not be truly a part of God’s people. And we know that. We know that with people in our lives. We know people who can be very religious, but still not walk in real faith. And Paul is explaining what this is taking place with many of the people in Israel. He goes on, And not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring. Goes back to chapter 4. He says, What makes you a real child of Abraham is your belief, not your biology. Now, this is really offensive to many of the Jews because Paul is including Gentiles. He’s saying, The Gentiles who believe what Abraham believe are really children children of Abraham. And if you do not believe what Abraham believed, even if you’re biologically connected, you’re not. He goes on, But through Isaac, shall your offspring be named? This means that it is not the children of the flesh (biology), who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Verse 9, For it is what the promise said, About this time next year, I’ll return, and Sarah shall have a son. The promise is given to this one son. Now, he had two. He had Ishmael, who was biological, but it was Isaac. And some may go, Well, yeah, but they have different mothers and not quite the same. Okay, true enough. But in verse 10, it takes that off the table, too. It says, not only so, but also with Rachel, having conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac. Jacob and Esa, they are twins, same parents. And yet twins, he goes on and says, though they were not yet born and had done nothing, either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works, but because of him who calls. She was told the older will serve the younger. Paul’s entire point here is not that God somehow peaked ahead to figure out which of these two would be better or the choices they would make. His point is that before he either had done anything, God’s plan was already set in motion. He chose Jacob. And when you actually look at the life of Jacob, he’s not exactly a stellar example of some person of great faith.

He messed up continually. He was doing lots of terrible things. And in many ways, Esa was more noble than Jacob, but not according to the purposes that God had intended. And then Paul quotes from the prophet Malachi, As it is written, Jacob, I love, but Esa I hated. And there in the prophet, he’s speaking of Esa as the nation of Edom and Jacob, the nation of Israel. But I think John Sott has captured the meaning of this very well because we hear that and go, wow, that’s really stark. And Stott refers to this as a Hebrew idiom, a Hebrew idiom for preference. In the same way that Jesus tells us in comparison to following him, we are to hate our own family. So, two, we see that God’s choosing of Jacob, it highlights his sovereign mercy, his preference, his choosing. He chose one over the other before either of them had done anything. And what we see is God’s plan had always included the division within Abraham’s family. God’s grace was always discriminating. His election had two levels or two dimensions, as it were. Israel was the chosen people of God, to be sure, but only in one respect.

History would move forward until the election narrowed down to a single individual, Jesus. Now, it doesn’t do to say that, well, Jacob and Esa refer to two nations instead of individuals because it doesn’t remove the difficulty at all. God’s election still stands. Paul is referencing salvation for individuals as much as it is for groups of people. It’s still God’s choosing. Without any doubt, Paul wants us to understand that salvation is entirely by God’s grace, will, initiative, wisdom, and power. Period. Douglas Moon, New Testament scholar, he reminds us, he said, Salvation is never a birthright, even for Jews, but always a gift of God’s electing love, a gift he’s free to bestow on Gentiles as well as Jews. And that bothered a lot of the Jewish people. They wanted there to be an exclusivity for them. And Paul is saying, No, no, no. Your exclusivity is only because of God choosing, not because of something in you. Just as his choosing to give this gift of grace to others is also his own initiative. God is the one who initiates. Or if you put it in Augustine’s language, God does not choose us because we believe, but that we may believe.

Now, of course, the immediate question rises up, which we will look at next week when we finish off chapter 9. Paul mentions it in verse 14, What shall we say then? Is God unjust? Is this an injustice on God’s part? We’ll look more into that later. But here what Paul is focusing on is that God is fulfilling his promises. And some observations first. First, this is not abstract. Paul is talking about specific human history. And even more specifically, election is first and foremost God’s election of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the chosen one. It is through Jesus that God’s grace and mercy are fully on display. We see clearly taught in Scripture that God, he takes the initiative to redeem his fallen creation. I appreciate the insights of Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, he had on this. Speaking of election, he says, We begin by acknowledging that Jesus Christ as both the electing God and the elected man. This is why who Jesus is matters. He is the God man. Election begins first and foremost, with the electing God and the elected man. It’s about Jesus, and we see that in scripture. We see God taking the initiative to redeem a fallen and broken creation.

We also see is that humans are responsible for their sins. Now, how these two biblical themes come together in a way where God is not the author of sin and human achievement is not the basis of salvation, that requires a bit more of us to think through. That word antonomy is often used to describe this. Antonomy simply means an apparent contradiction, a seeming paradox. And the first part of accepting this antonomy is that you and I are drastically underqualified to be God. This idea that, well, I got to be able to understand it. Really? The things I know I can put in the thimble compared to the ocean of things I don’t understand in the world around me. We know that that all people who are saved, they do not credit this to themselves. They give credit to God’s grace and mercy. You see that everywhere. No one goes, Yeah, I was sitting there thinking about it and it made a lot of sense. I thought, Yeah, God would really be blessed to have me on his team. So I decided to follow Jesus. No, not at all. You’re like, Oh, my goodness, I can’t believe God’s grace mercy came to me.

Me, a sinner. That’s where this goes. When Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, no one argues whether or not he had a choice to stay in it. Well, He could have just stayed there in a tomb. He had to choose to walk out. No, he was physically dead. Jesus made him alive. We’re not running around celebrating Lazarus’ great choice to walk out of the tomb. We who were spiritually dead, Jesus made alive. We’re not running around celebrating our choice to follow Jesus. We’re celebrating the Jesus who makes dead things alive. That’s what we celebrate. The focus is in the right spot. It’s on him. Now, I think one of the best places for us to see these twin themes coming together in Scripture is when Paul is on board ship headed to Rome in Acts 27. He’s a prisoner, he’s headed to Rome, And at one point along the journey, the weather is starting to shift, time is changing, and Paul says, Sirs, I perceive the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only the cargo in the ship, but also of our lives. The centurion, though, decided not to listen to Paul.

He listened to the pilot and the owner of the ship, and they sailed on. And soon they get caught in this violent storm for days. They were being tossed back and forth. They gave up all hope with survival. And Paul, he stood up among them and he said, Men, you should have listened to me. And not set sail from creek and incurred this injury and loss. Yet even now I urge you, take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night, there stood before me an angel, the God whom I serve and whom I worship. And he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. Behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you. ‘ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it’ll be exactly as I have been told, but we must run aground on some island. So Paul mentions this. Two weeks later, they’re still being driven violently across the sea, and the sailors are starting to get nervous and think they’re coming your land and they’re like, Oh, we’re going to do something down here and they’re going to go off boat, go into the lifeboat and float away, save themselves.

And this is what Paul says. He sees this taking place. He says to the centurion and his soldiers, Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved. And they cut away the ropes and the boat went on. Finally, they run aground. The centurion, it said, he spared the prisoners for Paul’s sake, and they all made it safely to shore. A us of complete divine salvation of life, along with drastic human action. Which is it? Yes. It’s both. The sailors had to stay in the boat, even while the And the insurance was given to Paul of their safety. Now, Paul is not telling us so we can sit around and argue about this. He’s telling us so that we are moved to follow after Jesus with real faith. He warns us simply being a religious unbeliever. You’ve heard this said, there are no great grandchildren in God’s family. Each person must follow Jesus directly so that God is their Father. As God’s children, we must use the faith that he has given to us. We don’t get in just simply because we’re near the Holy Things of God. We get in because we have been united personally to Jesus Christ.

And in this, we celebrate God’s bringing us now in as children of the promise because of what Jesus has done. The electing God and the elected man, we enter into that by the work of the spirit of being in Christ. That’s amazing. Paul is talking about these things because of the difficulty so many are going through. He’s not telling us difficult things we can argue about around the dinner table or online in chat rooms with people. He’s telling people who are struggling, who are really going through it, that God’s plan and purpose is going to come about because he’s doing it, not you. That’s really good news. Because there’s a lot of things in life that don’t really seem to match up with what you expect. How is God going to bring this together? I don’t know how any of this is going to work out. Think about Joseph. Went from the pit to the prison. Now, we read about that and you just flip a page and he’s already out. Like, Oh, poor guy. Oh, look, he’s doing great. He was years in prison. And I’m sure somewhere along the line, he’s sitting there going, God, this doesn’t seem really good news.

The promises that you gave earlier. My brothers are terrible. That woman lied about me. I’m in prison. This is a miserable life, and it seems like you’re responsible for it. How is anything good going to come from this? And we do know how it When this great reveal, Joseph saying to his brothers, What you intended for evil, God intended for good. Only God can do that. We don’t know the end from the beginning. You don’t know your circumstances, where it’s going to lead to, how it’s going to connect. And Paul is saying, You don’t have to. Because it’s God who has this scripted out for you. He’s the one who’s bringing these things together, and in such a way that what you choose and what you do matters. It’s a part of this. Well, I don’t see how that connects. Okay, well, it doesn’t matter. You got an omnipotent God who can bring these things together. That’s all you need to know. That’s where our faith is put in. It’s put in Jesus. This is really good news. In the midst of a life that gets turned upside down and it doesn’t turn not the way that you want it to.

And it’s going in directions you’re like, No, this isn’t good. In fact, I don’t think you’re really nice to me in doing this, God. And all along, every point along the path, God’s fingerprints are all over it. You’re not alone. You’ve not been abandoned. You belong to him because before the foundation of the world, he’s chosen you in Jesus Christ, and he will complete what he has accomplished. He will bring it about. You’re not holding on for dear life to the rope. It’s wrapped firmly around you and cinched. Most time we’re just like, and he’s holding on. That’s the God we worship. This is what Paul is pointing pointing us to. And in the midst of that, the difficulty of saying there are those who walked with us along the way who had access to these great privileges, who passed it up, who went a different way. And there’s a warning there. Even as we hear Paul say, These men must not leave the ship. There’s a warning there. That we do hold fast to what that has been given to us, that we don’t use privileges as a means of getting around the heart.

But these privileges should move us deeper, deeper into love and adoration of the one who has called us, who has chosen us in his son, not because of anything in us, but because of his good pleasure. A pleasure that is not arbitrary, it is not capricious, but is purpose to bring exaltation to Jesus. That’s what we have. That is a good promise for us as the children of the promise. Pray with me. Father, indeed, we thank you. We bless you that you are accomplishing your purposes in our lives. And Father, we ask that you would continue to bring to us all all the means of grace at our disposal for that work to be accomplished and finished. Father, we pray that you continue to give us a soft and tender heart that’s quick to repent, that’s quick to reconcile. And Lord, that through this, that even in the difficult moments, that you would fill our hearts with joy, that we would be able to worship truly and well because of your spirit in us calling out Abba Father. We bless you this day through our savior, your son, Jesus.

Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.