May 23, 2021

A Warning to Believers


I believe in God’s providence that we are studying Romans 11, right now, when the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians stirred up a new wave of anti-Semitism around the globe. Today, our goal is not to talk about politics, but the text we are about to study must be correctly understood, otherwise, it can also lead to anti-Semitism.

Imagine the scenario – a sinking ship (Titanic), the boat space is limited, and the space that belonged to someone, is now given to you, although, you had no chance to get it. Your reaction? There are two possible reactions: 1) Humble wonder and a feeling of unworthiness (who am I that you should receive it?), 2) Prideful arrogance (saying, “of course, I am better and more worthy of the one I replaced!”).

Children, here is a scenario for you: you came to someone’s birthday, and all the gifts that were brought in to be give to a boy or a girls whose birthday you were celebrated, suddenly, everything is presented to you, even thought, it is not your birthday party! What’s your reaction? Do you joyfully thank everyone and then say, that it must be a mistake, and you are not worthy of the gifts, since it is not your birthday, it must be a mistake? Or, your with confidence, tell everyone that this a right thing to do, and you wonder why at all other birthdays previously, people didn’t turn their gifts to you because you are better and more worthy?

Explaining the current position of Israel as a people who are rejected by God, and the Gentiles who accepted the Messiah, he wants the Gentiles to appreciate such a plan, humble themselves, rejoice, give thanks… but there is a great temptation to be proud of such position!

Read 11:16-24… 25 (v. 18 – do not be arrogant, v. 20 – do not become proud, v. 25 – don’t become wise in your own sight…).

Pride is an elevated view of oneself or disproportionately high self-esteem, arrogance, self-exaltation over other, and looking down on others.

The most dangerous pride is the religious pride!

(Luke 18:9-14) – pride – self-righteous, treated others with contempt, he looks only at himself and not at God, and as a result, he compares himself with other people. This either gives the person a reason to take pride in, or leads to discouragement. 

Here is the main concern of Paul: the rejection of Israel by God in order that the Gentiles might be saved, can push those Gentiles into exaltation and pride. Pride arises when we begin to look at ourselves and not at God! How do we deal with pride?

I. Remember the Kindness of God (vv. 16-18) God is building our future on the root of Israel and the promises to Abraham and the patriarchs. What is this root?

(v. 16) The holiness of the firstfruits offering and the root, guarantees the holiness of everything after (the whole dough or offering) and branches. (vv. 25-26) – if God began to work and separated Israel for Himself (and this is the meaning of the word holiness), and if they temporary reject the Messiah, in the end, all Israel will be saved! God is faithful to the covenant at the beginning and will be faithful at the end (Ez. 16:60).

(v. 17) The believing Gentiles were grafted into the root – those promises and covenants that were given to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). We come part of this tree by faith, and we become recipients of those promises by faith (4:11-12, 16-18).

(v. 18) – the fight against pride is linked to the ability to see the whole panorama of God’s plan of redemption of people – God began to work with Israel, and He will finish working with him, but in the middle there is a unique opportunity for the Gentiles to become part of God’s people!

II. Remember the Nature of Your Faith (vv. 19-21, 23-24) We are saved and remain rooted in salvation only by faith! Faith itself is the antidote to pride (v. 20).

(Rom. 3:27) – once a person has believed in the Gospel, faith by its very nature begins to work against pride and the desire to boast. The more we live and act by faith, the stronger the opposition to pride. 

How do we believe like that? Is it really just a jump against all odds logic? 

Faith is not a feeling, not naivety, or optimism, but knowledge and trust in that knowledge.

Like a child, who, believing his father, jumps into his arms…

(Rom. 4:1-5) not works, but trust; believing in God (v. 5), and believing God (v. 3), sooner or later leads one to joy in God (Rom. 5:10-11) – cannot trust in something, and not rejoice or boast in it!

(vv. 23-24) – as soon as Israel leaves behind unbelief, it will be grafted back in, since they are natural branches! God will restore Israel through faith!

III. Remember the Severity of God (vv. 20-22) If a believer allows in his life pride or anti-Semitism, God acts the same way as with Israel – cuts this branch off! What is God’s severity? Those from Israel, who did not remain in the faith, were cut off… if those who consider themselves Christians hear about God’s reaction towards unbelievers, they react in fear and awe. Only a true believer reacts this way! A person, who is in the church, but who is a religious hypocrite, will use multiple reasons not to heed such warnings, to the extent that he will use even theology, that, “once saved, always saved” is a good reason not to heed the warnings. He says that there must be one or the other in the Bible, but not both. But, these two theological truths exist in the biblical texts – we are saved and have eternal life, and the warnings not to fall away in unbelief. How do the fit together? These warnings are the instruments by which God keeps his children in faith and faithfulness to the end!

But the most important thing in this text, unfortunately, some translations have lost – the verb “you see” – “note” is in the imperative mood. This is a command to see or look at the severity and kindness of God. But how? How can you and I today look at the kindness and severity of God? The answer is to hear Him! To see God, you must hear Him!!! 

This idea was prompted by our Bible reading plan this week (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:4-6) – when the Gospel is preached, the hearing person has an opportunity to see Christ! Why? Because this is an unusual book – it is the Word of God (Heb. 4:12)! 

Another example from the life of Moses and his relationship with God! At one fine moment he wanted to see God… he asked, “can I please see You?” This is what God answered (Ex. 33:17-23; 34:6-7). Two reasons why this text is important for us: 1) to see = to hear, and that when we want to have a complete picture of God, it is both His kindness and His severity!

What does this lead us to? To a healthy or safe fear that gives pleasure. We fear God, but this fear is safe! We don’t want to experience a fear of falling off the bridge, but people pay money to jump from the same bridge with bungee jumping rope. Why? It is a fear, but it is a safe fear. 

Moses experienced exactly this – God’s judgment over the people for the golden calf – God punished them severely… a very dangerous situation, Moses sees God’s severity, but realizing that he himself is safe from God’s wrath, he is still afraid of God, yet wants to see Him!

What should be the reaction of every believer when they encounter God’s kindness and His severity? An absolute absence of pride!

(Job 42:1-2) – he heard, and then, he saw, and because of that he humbled himself!

A warning to church attendees…

What should Israel’s rejection of their Messiah teach those who also continue to reject Jesus Christ?

Why was Israel rejected? After all, they were God’s people! Why were some branches broken off? Because of their unbelief! Their tendency to take salvation for granted. They continued to say and do religious things, but they did not live by those truths. It is the reality of today’s children of believing parents. They grew up with the understanding that there is God, and in due time it was expected of them that they repent, be baptized, and attend the church. But, they personally have not met Christ! And there are a lot of such Christians! They think that the church is not bad, but they are not dedicated to either the church or the work of the Gospel! They are not involved in ministries, they are not constant in attending the church, they are not sacrificial, they are not witnessing…

Such people are very similar to the very branches that were broken off by God from the olive tree.

Example: what do you say about a guy who proposed to a girl, and on the wedding day pronounced very powerful vow, gave the girl a ring, signed the documents, but in the evening, instead of joining his wife for the honeymoon, he returned to his parents, saying that he will be visiting his new wife only on Sunday mornings for a small chat?!? You will say that this is simple not normal, but this is what happens to so many church attendees – their faith and confessions of faith have not changed their lives in any way! 

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