SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 19 June 2022
Sermon Text: Romans 9:1-29
Sermon Series: “Romans Chapters 9-16”
I. Chosen by the will of God
II. God’s promise to Israel remains intact
III. God is just in His choice
In the previous two Lord’s Days, we listened to two messages as summaries of the first eight chapters of Romans. And that was our preparation for dealing with the following eight chapters of Romans.
The first summary message was on chs. 1-4 and we heard about ‘the righteous shall live by faith.’ In that message, we listened to the apostle’s explanation of the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ which is for everyone who believes.
The second message covered chs. 5-8 and it was about believer’s new status in Jesus. In a word, we’re dead to sin and alive to God. No longer does sin have dominion over us because we’ve been moved to the realm of Christ’s righteousness, thus, reside under His eternal grace. Concluding this message, the famous section of Rom. 8 proclaims, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? … [N]either death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”!
Simply put, God is the Father of all true believers, and we’re His children now and eternally. There’s none or nothing that could cancel our status of sonship.
Having explained this truth, the apostle changes his attention, in ch. 9, to answering an important question his readers have in their minds. That question was about Israel and their position in Christ’s church and His eternal kingdom. The original readers of this letter of Paul were mostly non-Jews. But they had read the OT and known God’s promises for Israel. But, the reality in their church seemed to be contrary to that promise. They found not many Jews in their midst but non-Jews or Gentiles were the majority. ‘How come?’ they wondered. Some of them were puzzled and questioned, ‘Is God’s promise nullified or failed? Had not God promised to Israel that He would be their God forever?’
In fact, this question is in line with the question many people of the 21st century have, that is, ‘How come some are saved and others are not? What makes this difference?’ To some minds, this causes doubt and, to some others, anger, thus, rejection of the Saviour. Many see this perplexing; many say that considering the idea of exclusion of their family members or close friends from God’s favour is dreadful. The ultimate question for all is whether God is just in His act of choosing some over others.
This is one of the truly important teachings of the Bible, that is, God’s sovereign choice. We sometimes call this as election or predestination. And this is the subject we face in ch. 9.
I. CHOSEN BY THE WILL OF GOD
The apostle begins with the status quo of the church membership, that is, more non-Jews or Gentiles and less Jews. Despite the OT’s promises for Israel, just a small number of Jews are with numerous Gentile followers of Jesus Christ. And the apostle says that all of them – both Jews and non-Jews – in Christ’s church are the chosen by God.
In saying this, the apostle is firm and clear. God chose and willed to draw them to Christ. Being Jew or non-Jew makes no difference in God’s choice, but God in His sovereign will chose each one. It sounds that the OT has guaranteed Israel’s eternal status in God, nevertheless all who belong to the NT church are God’s chosen.
The Apostle Paul is explicit in saying this. So obvious is this truth that it breaks his heart because the Jews are his own blood and flesh. As we read vs. 2-3 of our text passage, Paul wishes that he’d like to be accursed and cut off from Christ if that were possible and could save his fellow Jews instead. He has great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart because of this truth he has just explained, that is, God chose in His sovereign will some to salvation and not others. It breaks his heart, but this is true, this is a fact that cannot be altered or interfered or even questioned.
Whether this truth of God’s sovereign choice over souls bothers any of you or troubles your heart or even causes an unceasing anguish, none of us can do anything about it, none can question it because it is the work of the King of kings and Lord of lords who owns all things, including the life of every man and woman on earth. The apostle affirms that all must acknowledge this universal truth.
II. GOD’S PROMISE TO ISRAEL REMAINS INTACT
Then, he leads us to look at this subject from the right perspective. From this perspective, you’ll find that God’s choice is always righteous. You’ll also realise that God has never forsaken Israel but remained faithful to His promises.
In doing this, Paul takes us to the beginning of Israel, that is, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. They’re the patriarchs of Israel and the beginning point of understanding the nation Israel and God’s promise to them.
But, the focus should be not on their fleshly lineage, but on God’s sovereign choice for each of them. They were patriarchs of Israel only because God chose them to be. Consider the case of Isaac. He wasn’t the only child of Abraham; Ishmael was born to him years before Isaac. But God chose Isaac over Ishmael and so Isaac inherited God’s favour that had been given to his father, Abraham.
What about Isaac’s son, Jacob? His case proves the point more vividly. He was one of the twins. Esau and Jacob were born as twins to Isaac, and Esau came out first to be the rightful heir of his father. But, as the apostle quotes from both Gen. 25 and Mal. 1, God’s choice was Jacob, not Esau. Moreover, that sovereign choice was announced to their parents before their births. While the twins were still in their mother’s womb, God’s message to Rebekah was that the older would serve the younger, meaning that Jacob God had chosen, not Esau. In this way, God’s sovereign choice has always been the only factor and foundation of Israel.
Listen to the apostle as he emphasises that not all descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are Israel! As the cases of Ishmael and Esau, not all descendants of Abraham are Israel from the beginning.
The apostle says in v. 8, “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Here, the expression, ‘the children of the promise,’ means and points out ‘faith’ in God’s promise. Those who believe in the promise, that is, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, are the children of the promise! As those of the OT who trusted God and upheld His promise, looking forward to beholding the promised Messiah, all of the NT who believe in Jesus and bow to Him in worship are the ‘offspring of Israel’ and ‘the children of the promise.’ After all, this ‘faith’ that enables anyone to be counted as an offspring of Israel is not of one’s own doing, but of God as His ‘gift’ given according to His sovereign choice.
This means that being a Jew according to fleshly linage has never been the condition for being a member of true Israel. True Israel has always been composed of those who have received faith as God’s gift and, through this faith, trusted God in His Son, Jesus Christ! The ethnic nation Israel in both testaments has nothing to do with this true nation of God’s people.
In this way, God’s promise has been unaltered nor failed, but remained intact! Moreover, His promise to Israel is still ongoing and is being fulfilled with increasing force as more souls are called and justified by the blood of Jesus and sanctified by the Word and the Spirit. It is happening in you and me and in this church of Christ!
III. GOD IS JUST IN HIS CHOICE
Having said, I believe that this has not fully answered the question you have in your mind. The same was the case with those believers at Rome in the time of the Apostle Paul. So, he deals with this query, that is, ‘Why some are saved while others are not?’ This question is always followed by a false assumption, such as, ‘God seems to be unjust in His choosing some and not others.’
For two reasons, that is a seriously wrong assumption, if not accusation. Firstly, that assumption rules out the true nature of God who is the Creator of all. In other words, He is the sovereign God who has full power and authority to do and govern all things according to His will. Australia is a sovereign nation which means no foreign countries can interfere in its affairs. Legally speaking, every decision made by this nation is complete and sovereign in itself (although not all of them are commendable from the biblical point of view). Incomparable is God’s sovereignty to that of an earthly nation or of anything of this earth. He did not earn it but owns it from the beginning because He began all things, caused all things to exist, and owns and governs all things. Because of this, God can choose one over another, and there’s no injustice in His choice!
Secondly, God’s choosing of some over others is, in fact, sheer revelation of His grace. The fact that God chose some to save means He decided to save some sinners. These chosen were to be judged and damned eternally alongside all other sinners. But God chose to bring some out of their misery. So, the focus should be on God’s gracious choice of some and not leaving all to die as sinners.
Remember how thoroughly the Apostle Paul has explained in the first three chapters of Romans, expounding that none is righteous in the world but sinners damned eternally due to their sins. Yet, not leaving all sinners to perish, God chose some of them to life by giving them His gift, that is, faith in the Lord Jesus. In saving these sinners, is God unjust or unfair? Let me repeat this and remind you of how much and how firmly the apostle disagrees by saying, ‘by no means!’ in v. 14.
None of us deserved God’s grace; all of us alike were going to die because of our own sins. In that, none of us can blame our common father, Adam, and his fall in sin, because all of us alike sin and deserve judgment. But God stretched His arms to us and rescued us from death. Of course, it’s pity to see our loved ones left untouched by God. But can we complain about that? Can we say God is unjust? Never! John Stott, one of the great servants of God who is now in glory, has said and listen to the point he makes in these words: ‘The wonder is not that some are saved and others not, but that anybody is saved at all’!
Moreover, God patiently delays and holds the judgment of sinners so that His chosen ones could hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and, by believing, come to Him and be His children. This reveals how deep and uncountable God’s grace is! Listen to the apostle as he quotes from the OT prophet Isaiah who spoke about the unfathomableness of God’s grace in His delay of due judgment for the sake of His chosen ones, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah”! Unless God pitied and showed His grace, he means, all of us would’ve been doomed long ago alongside those ancient ruins judged by God for their sins!
All these prove that God is just in His sovereign choice. And we’re grateful for His uncountable grace!
So, the conclusion is that God’s sovereign choice is, quoting Stott again, ‘an indispensable foundation of Christian worship.’ Because we’ve received God’s uncountable grace, we ought to praise Him and be always thankful.
At the same time, we who are under grace ought to be God’s message to all people around us and live our life in a way to reveal and display God’s saving grace to their eyes. Paul the Apostle talks about this in v. 23 and points out that God’s sovereign choosing us is to “make known the riches of His glory.” We’re the riches of God’s glory visible to the eyes of the world!
In addition, you and I should always remember that God is delaying His judgment to give time for all elect to come to Christ. The day of Jesus’ return is delayed only to add more souls to His eternal church. So, you and I should spread the good news of Jesus’ salvation to all people, starting from our home and places of work and even of entertainment. It’s an urgent mission which cannot be done leisurely or insipidly. From prayer to pleading, we should endeavour to bring to Christ our parents, siblings and children alongside our friends and neighbours.
Yet, in all these, we must know that we’re chosen by God’s sovereign will, thus, look to Him and give thanks to Him who pours out His grace according to His sovereign will! ***