Sunday, February 26, 2012

Romans 9 – God is Sovereign

[There is an old hymn from 1890 called "Throw out the lifeline", it was common to hear it during a missions conference just a few decades ago. The song uses the metaphor of rescuing someone from the ocean waves, using a life-boat, and a life-preserver ring with a rope or line attached. The beauty of the ring is you can throw it to someone in danger without leaving the boat, and then draw them to the boat using the line.

Imagine you are the one holding the ring and your boat just pulled up to a disaster scene. Hundreds are in the water, some crying out, others thrashing around trying to stay afloat, while others are motionless either unconscious or worse. What do you do with the ring? Do you survey the scene looking for people you know so you can cast it to them first? Do you throw it to those screaming the loudest? Do you target someone who seems close to going under, or just throw it to someone nearby? You could make an argument for any of these techniques, but no argument will matter unless you throw the ring.

Last week discussing predestination, Michelle mentioned that some people think that it means some won't hear the gospel. I also suggested that some might claim to be Calvinist just to avoid the responsibility of evangelism. This week we will have the difficult discussion of man's free will vs. God's sovereignty, using Romans 9 as our guide.]

Israel's Rejection of Christ

1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 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.

[Paul says that if by force of will or personal sacrifice he could redeem his kinsmen he would. They were the recipients of God's promises, the law, and even ancestors of faith. In every city where Paul traveled he went fist to the synagogue to preach and found converts there, but once opposition hardened against the gospel, he would leave the synagogue and turn to the gentiles. No matter how much he cared for his own people he could not believe for them, so he followed the Holy Spirit wherever he would lead.]

Israel's Rejection and God's Purpose

6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called."[Genesis 21:12] 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son."[Genesis 18:10, 14]

[Here we have the first of many examples in Bible history of God exercising His will to choose who would receive His grace, promise, or blessing. Abraham had two wives and two sons but God had chosen Sarah and Isaac as the channel of this inheritance. The inference we are to draw here is that it is more than the flesh and blood of common DNA that establish a godly lineage, our God is looking deeper.]

10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger."[Genesis 25:23] 13 As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."[Malachi 1:2-3]

[The reference to verse 12 is from Genesis 25 where God foretells of Jacobs higher standing even when they were in the womb. The reference in verse 13 is from Malachi (long after the lives of Jacob and Esau). Remember God's foreknowledge in this case relates to Esau who lightly esteemed or even despised the birth right of the first born to trade it to Jacob for a meal. So the sovereign God withheld His inheritance from a man with no higher principle than his next meal. And even though God knew it when they were still in the womb, He is still grieved by the attitude.]

Israel's Rejection and God's Justice

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 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."[Exodus 33:19] 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth."[Exodus 9:16] 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

[Two more examples here in Moses and Pharaoh; verse 15 refers to Exodus 33 where God shows grace to Moses in allowing him to see the glory of God as He passed by. Verse 17 refers to Exodus 9 where after the 6th plague God says "you know I could have just killed you and all your people, but I have a purpose in keeping you alive"

The scripture says both that Pharaoh hardened his heart and that God hardened Pharaoh's heart to make a full demonstration of His power. You see the faith that Israel gained from remembering the Exodus was intended to sustain them for generations. So God kept Pharaoh alive until he broke his heart, to make a full demonstration to Israel of just what He can do. Whether God extends mercy to one, or hardens another it is still according to His own will and purpose. Why we should like this is as we concluded last week; God fulfilling His purpose means that I cannot fail in inheriting His glory, because it is God that is in control.]

19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 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, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

[Mercy isn't earned but sovereignty (the authority to govern) is earned. God has earned this authority by virtue of being the only self-existent one. He is the first-cause of creation, the one who spoke all things into existence according to His own will. Through the rejection of many Jews He chose to extend His grace to many Gentiles with no blood relation to Abraham as a sign of His mercy.]

25 As He says also in Hosea:

"I will call them My people, who were not My people,

And her beloved, who was not beloved."[Hosea 2:23]

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."[Hosea 1:10]

27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel:[Isaiah 10:22-23]

"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[Hosts] had left us a seed,

We would have become like Sodom,

And we would have been made like Gomorrah."[Isaiah 1:9]

[The natural course of man is to follow his own will all the way to judgment. But God reaches out in supernatural ways to turn us out of the path that leads to destruction.]

Present Condition of Israel

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 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."[Isaiah 8:14, 28:16]


[Who can be like God? Satan's first deception in the garden was "you will be like gods". Even today people claim the rights for themselves that they would deny to God. To decide good and evil, or to extend mercy to whomever we will. But those who find mercy will find it by faith rather than the works or will of any man.

The gospel is offensive to those who reject God. It is the litmus test or dividing line; some will try to blur the line even saying there are many paths to God. But the gospel says that faith is the only exit ramp from the path of destruction. All of God's promises boil down to faith in Jesus; the bottom line is who do your trust with your eternal life?

Therein is the secret to understanding God's sovereignty; who do we really trust to save sinners, to keep them saved, and present them blameless to the heavenly Father?

If we really trust God he has a wonderful way for us to share in the working out of His plan. To demonstrate God's love to others and live a life of faith. Some may fear that God's sovereignty means that some will not be saved, when in reality it is the only way that any are saved. Because of His love, His grace, and His mercy, some will hear the call of God and respond.

That life preserver ring we talked about at the beginning is the gospel, and regardless what you think is the right strategy to deploy it, the most important thing is to trust it enough to throw it out and see who grabs on.

"Soon will the season of rescue be o'er,

Soon will they drift to eternity's shore;

Haste, then, my brother, no time for delay,

But throw out the lifeline and save them today.


This is the lifeline, oh, tempest-tossed men,

Baffled by waves of temptation and sin;

Wild winds of passion, your strength cannot brave,

But Jesus is mighty, and Jesus can save."

Read 2 Peter 3:8-10

8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.



If God is not willing that any should perish then why do they still perish?


Relate the timeless nature of God to His longsuffering in giving people time to repent.


How does foreknowledge help resolve the conflict between the ideas of man's free will and God's sovereignty.

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