January 31, 2021

A Theologian’s Heart


1:16-18 – salvation by faith. The wrath of God against the wickedness

2:12 – Jews are also under sin

3:23 – all have sinned; 3:21-22 – righteousness by faith!

4:3-5 – Abraham is an example of faith that leads to righteousness

5:15 – Christ is the author of our salvation (v. 8)

6:15-16 – the believer does not live in bondage to sin

7:7 – the law reveals sin, (v. 18) – but the struggle continues

8:1-2 – saved live by the Spirit and rejoice in blessings (v. 28)

This comes to a climax – (vv. 38-39) – absolute confidence in the love of God!!!

In chapters 9-11, Paul looks at the divine perspective on salvation. What does God do, what does He decide, and why does He act in a certain way? As soon as we turn to this side of salvation, a very interesting term emerges – sovereignty… God’s sovereignty! God is absolutely independent, He is free to do what suits His character and purpose! Surely, it begins to bother people! We want to be taken into account, and if possible we want to hold the steering wheel, if not of history, at least of our own lives.

The theme of God’s sovereignty has troubled the minds of theologians for thousands of years.

The essence of this question boils down to the following observations – if God is sovereign, and looking at the Scripture, we must make this observation, then the role and responsibility of a person is called into question. And our task today is not to resolve this tension, because our text does not do this, but our text does something more global! This text does not try to change our mind, or stretch it so that it eventually is able to grab a hold of God’s sovereignty, but this text speaks about the heart of a person who begins to analyze the topic of God’s sovereignty! It turns out that in order to deal well with God’s sovereignty, you do not need to train your brain and stretch the abilities of the mind, but you need to work with the heart and prepare it. It turns out that it is the state of the heart that will determine our understanding of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty!

What is God’s sovereignty? Let’s briefly see how God’s sovereignty or His rule is presented in this chapter.

Read the entire chapter… then look at the first 5 verses…

In v. 3 we find that at the moment Israel as a nation is in rejection; they are without salvation. And without forgetting Rom. 8, that nothing can separate us from God, how can we make sense of this statement? Rom. 8:29-30 – God predestined us for salvation, and this chain cannot be broken until eternity. But someone will say: what about Israel, who was chosen by God, yet rejected the promised Messiah? They seem to have falled away from God’s election. It is to this objection that Paul answers: 1) God’s Word or promise did not disappoint (v. 6), but the whole point is in God’s sovereignty and faithfulness, and the fact that not all Israel is true Israel. 2) God has the right to show mercy as He pleases (vv. 14-15), 3) God is just pronouncing a sinner guilty (v. 19), 4) God’s choice of some to salvation corresponds to His goodness (v. 20-23). It’s all about God’s sovereignty, that Israel as a nation will reject the Messiah, and at this moment the door will be opened for the Gentiles, and this is also God’s plan!!! And this, even a more difficult question, Paul begins from explain starting from his own heart and his attitude toward this issue! His heart is really broken! What he will say about God’s plan and His will is not just an academic debate for Paul, but a deeply personal matter. How can you have such a loving heart in the midst of complex theological debate or simple reading of Scripture? How should we approach the doctrine of God’s sovereignty?

I. Brokenness in view of eternity (v. 3) – Israel is excommunicated, or Greek, Anathema. Paul wants to be accursed and cut off in their place; which implies that they are accursed/rejected at the moment. Why? The entire chapter talks about God’s plan, election, and will. God did not choose all ethnic Israel at this moment for salvation, and this shocked Paul greatly! But, his pain about their rejection is also connected with the fact that Israel herself rejected her Messiah (9:30-33) – they stumbled over the stumbling stone!

Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luk. 19:41-44) – their rejection, have broken Christ. He saw their serious condition in light of eternity!

  How do you view a person without Christ?

II. Love toward people (vv. 2-3) A person cannot pay or redeem another person out of eternal condemnation. This passage talks about the intensity or strength of Paul’s sincere love! He is ready to pay the dearest price – his soul! But this is not God’s plan of salvation. Paul’s words indicate Christ’s love for the church. Only in the case of Christ, He endured suffering and death for the church, and redeemed them from eternal condemnation, but Paul and any other person cannot do this in reality!

Example: Moses and his love for the disobedient people (Ex. 32:32) – forgive them, or blot me out of the book… 

Oh, how I would like to see more of such an attitude in our environment, among parents, and among brothers and sisters, employees at work, relatives, friends, ministers – for the sake of the salvation of sinners, ready for radical measures!

III. Honesty in relationships (v. 1)

Paul talks about his sincerity and honesty! We cannot prove the truth of our feelings… can only convince and point to our own conscience! We can point to the work of the Holy Spirit. We can talk about our sincere desire for people’s salvation. We need to learn to tell people about our affection for them! Why? He will say that Israel is now in hardening and rejection (10:2-3; 11:7). This is very sad news, and Paul speaks of it with tears.

IV. Zeal toward evangelism (vv. 3; 10:1) – Paul’s strong desire for the salvation of unbelieving Israel in 10:1 turns into prayer! Sooner or later, a sincere desire will be manifested in specific actions. Many people here follow their own logic, not the logic of Scripture! People reading the 9th chapter of the Romans come to the erroneous conclusion that since God’s election is determined, then why pray for sinners. But Paul, just in these verses, refutes such thinking – in fact, he says: “since God is sovereign and can do everything, I will pray as Christ prayed on the cross for the salvation of his enemies.” 

Example: Samuel prayed for the people (1 Sam. 12:23) even though they wanted a king.

What happens in your heart when your loved ones reject Christ? Do you care about the fate of the people around you?

V. Humility toward God (vv. 4-5). We have already determined that Israel will be rejected; a little later we will discover that it is only for a while, but nevertheless, Paul here reinforces this horror of their situation; they have been given a lot, but they rejected it! This is a tragedy! Yet, Paul worships God (v. 5)!

I want those people who are not sure of their salvation to listen especially carefully. This is a very serious waring!

Blessings that intensify the tragedy:

“Israelites” is a sign of being part of God’s people! Part of being God’s nation was seen in their exodus from Egypt, eating manna in the desert, and yet, not entering the Promised Land! This is the tragedy of the children of believing parents or relatives… these people are nearby, but still not being part of it. 

“Adoption” – here he speaks of the time when God adopted Israel and brought them out of Egypt. This is a close relationship, like with a father. Israel heard and saw a lot, but only 2 people entered the land.

“The Glory” – Shekinah glory – God has revealed himself to Israel very often throughout history and they knew about His glory! They enjoyed His greatness, but did not submit.

“Covenants” – God repeatedly gave Israel promises, and encouraged them in His kindness and favor toward them. They understood that God was with them!

“Legislation” – they had laws and rules by which they lived, and these laws helped them to grow. The principles presented in the law made sense, and were a blessing to Israel.

“Worship” – they repeatedly observed the temple worship, they offered sacrifices for sin more than once (Lev. 4:20, 26, 31). It is not something that can be easily forgotten and ignored.

“Fathers” – the history of the nation itself, beginning with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, says that God has been faithful for many years!

But the last blessing, is also the most important – Jesus Christ! He came from Israel, but the problem is that Israel just stumbled on this blessing (9:31-33). Or how John 1:12 presents this tragedy. The listed blessings, are also spiritual privilege that was given to Israel, but they did not use it. 

It is quite possible that there are people here too, who experienced many blessings from God, but when it comes to the most important and final blessings – the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, they suddenly reject. This is tragedy!

Paul’s attitude toward God’s sovereignty is the great insight into the Gospel! This is the attitude Christ has toward you and me! He is loving and caring, willing to give up His life for you, and He did so! It only makes sense if eternity is real!!!

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