April 18, 2021

Exclusivity and Inclusivity of the Gospel


Any religion is exclusive (carries limitations). For example, if you say that in any religion, people who believe in God will be in heaven. This excludes everyone who does not believe in God. If you say that only good people will go to heaven… you also discriminate… you exclude all the bad people. You become the yardstick of who is saved and who is not. But, is it right measure? If you are conservative, then you have one yardstick for being good or bad. If you are liberal, you have different yardstick, but you have it. But the Gospel puts one and very important measure of exclusivity – faith! This is when a person receives salvation by grace, through faith and repentance with humility before God. This is humble exclusivity!

The text we are going to study today speaks of this exclusivity of the Gospel, and specifically explains that not everyone falls into the category of the saved! The apostle Paul, speaking of this, understands that people will try to somehow justify those who do not believe, and they will offer several arguments in support of their idea… That’s why Paul will argue then for the inclusivity of the Gospel.

I. The Exclusivity of the Gospel (vv. 16-17)

Reading such statements – any preacher of these texts is forced to say a very unpleasant thing for people – not all people will be saved, even more difficult – not all those who heard the truth, knew the truth, spoke about the truth, will actually be saved! This is a very difficult statement to accept! This reality makes the speaker feel the immensity, pain and grief of these news!

Remember when a messenger from the field in pain carries the news to the people in the city that their army was defeat3d – everyone was killed… With what kind of heart will you say this?

This is the weight with which Paul is now talking about the fact that not everyone obeye3d the Gospel!

Unfortunately, people enter these texts as theologians, but not as shepherds. People take these truths and build systems, charts, diagrams… but without heart.

To say that not everyone will be saved can only be done by the one who says this with pain in his heart…

Now you understand that preaching is not that simple…

Now I invite you to look at what Paul is writing about. One simple requirement is to believe the Gospel! What about those who did not believe the Gospel? The Gospel excludes such from salvation. In other words, the Gospel divides. People are divided into two groups… On what basis? Based on the presence or absence of faith! 

The problem that bothered the apostle Paul is that to his great sorrow, his own nation of Israel, for the most part, rejected their Messiah, Jesus Christ. It hurts him very much (9:1-3; 10:1-3), but he is forced to admit that there are people who, having rejected the Gospel, rejected the possibility of salvation and opportunity to have eternal life.

So, some accept salvation by faith in Christ, and some, reject salvation by unbelief.

Example of unbelief:

  • People before the flood (saw Noah)
  • Israel in the wilderness
  • At the time of Christ – His own brothers
  • The Pharisees (they even demanded miracles in order to believe)
  • Herod, Pilot, leaders
  • A rich young ruler – did not want to trust Christ
  • (Luke 8:4-15) – the parable of the sower and the 4 types of soil

Examples of faith:

  • (Luk. 7:2-10) – realized the unworthiness
  • (Luk. 7:36-50) – sorrow over sin
  • (Luk. 8:43-48) – confidence that Christ will help
  • (Luk. 17:11-19) – request and thankfulness (understanding who did this)
  • (Luk. 18:35-43) – request for healing

We looked specifically at examples of faith so that now Paul’s statements about saving faith are easier to understand. 

A. Only if you accept Christ as Lord (v. 9a)

B. Only if you rely on facts (v. 9b)

C. Only if you trust in Scripture (v. 17)

D. Only if you find satisfaction in Christ (v. 11)

The quote from (Is. 28:16) and the meaning of the word “to haste” is to hurry, to rush… In (Rom. 10:11) – will not be put to shame (Greek – not to be disappointed, not to be disgraced, not to be humiliated). It’s contentment and confidence. And these are two components of happiness – satisfaction and confidence.

So, at the very core of the Gospel, there is a division – it is very exclusive. This divides people into believers and non-believers.

II. The Inclusivity of the Gospel (vv. 18-21)

The context – a very important chain is observed – a person who is saved must experiences the following: God must send a preacher, a preacher must preach, a person must hear the preaching of the Gospel, hearing, he must believe, when he believes, he calls on the name of the Lord. And now, the serious reality is that Israel had all of the preaching, yet most of them are not saved… How can this be? What happened? Where did it fail? Their unbelief is not due to the lack of anything necessary for salvation – it is their hardness of the heart! Now, Paul defends the Gospel!

A. Don’t say, “I did not hear” (v. 18)

A very interesting turn – Israel heard the truth (they were given the OT), but as an argument in support, Paul quotes Ps. 19:4!?!

Although this Psalm speaks of the Scripture, the direct quote comes from the first part, which deals with so called, general revelation! Seems as a misquoted on Paul’s part?

The point is this – even though, Paul in Romans talks about Israel, by quoting the general revelation passage, he says that no one has an excuse – the Israel has the Word, but the rest of the world, has general revelation through creation (Rom. 1:20)!!!

B. Don’t say, “I didn’t know” (v. 19)

A quote comes from (Deut. 32:21) – Israel had knowledge!

They were given many warnings/prophecies. Which explained to the details what and how will happen.

Of all the interesting prophecies about the future, the apostle Paul draws attention to one thing – the Gentiles will believe in Christ, and become heirs of the promises that were given to Israel. Israel’s responsibility for their unbelief is increased because the Gentiles responded to the Gospel message! When people next to you believe, and you don’t, this makes you even more accountable for your choice!

C. Don’t say, “I have not found” (v. 20)

(Is. 66:1) – independently from people’s seeking, God reveals Himself!

This should make Israel even more jealous for God – salvation is by grace to everyone who believes. 

And this is a strong message for Israel: they will not be justified by their works of the law. They need simple trust in grace.

So, the question is not in who is seeking harder? The question is who believed the simple message of the Gospel?

D. Don’t say, “God decided so” (v. 21)

(9:15-18) – can potentially cause some to disagree with God… People can say: “God cannot act like that, that’s not right!” But, this is the reality with which one must not fight, but submit to.

But, this text, Paul reveals another side of God’s attitude toward sinners – He invites, asks, calls, appeals to people through the prophets and the preachers.

So, these two statements stand side by side: God is sovereign in salvation, and He invites people to respond. Those who believe in God’s sovereignty, cannot agree that God can be asking people to come to Him. Those who reject God’s sovereignty, agree with God’s call to repent, but have a hard time agreeing that ultimately, it is up to God!

But, the apostle Paul here disappoints both of these groups. God is not just good or just sovereign. He is good and sovereign!

A few illustrations should help:

(Acts 13:38-39, 48) – every one who believs is freed; all who were appointed believed

(John 6:35-37) – come all; whom the Father will give, will come.

Why does God acts this way? The answer: only when our minds boil from overload, only when our computer freezes, are we able to suddenly come to the most important conclusion – we are dealing with God and not human invention!

I would like to end today’s study with the following text, which reflects (Rom. 10:21) – God calls for salvation:

(Matt. 11:28-30) – Christ calls everyone to come

But in (11:25) God hides from some.

How should you and I respond to such teaching? Twofold: God is in control and I must humble myself before Him; Christ is inviting you into fellowship, respond with faith. This is why the Gospel is both, exclusive, and inclusive!

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