Tis Mystery All
Tis Mystery All
March 4, 2007
John Wesley’s hymn, And Can it Be, begins the second verse with this: ’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies: Who can explore His strange design?
The word, mystery usually does not mean ‘inscrutable’ but rather, something once hidden and now revealed. Yet, even as God discloses things once hidden from us, he does so in a way which exceeds our full understanding.
Ephesians 3:4 (ESV)
4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,
Ephesians 3:5-7 (ESV)
5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel
Romans 11:25 (ESV)
25 Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in….
We’re going to be looking at the entire chapter 11 this morning –
A quick summary. Paul deals with the gospel’s impact on his kinsmen, the Jews.
Why are so few turning to Christ?
Chapter 9. God is sovereign. He chooses whom he wants from both Jew and Gentile.
Chapter 10. Israel’s rejection is their own fault. There is only one way to receive God’s promises, and that is the way of faith, not by seeking our own righteousness which was characteristic of so many Jews, and I might add is characteristic with so many people.
Chapter 11. God’s rejection of Israel is not permanent, but is part of his sovereign plan.
Plan which benefits not only the Gentiles, but the Jews as well.
God has not rejected Israel.
1. There is a remnant of Israel which is not rejected (1-10)
2. The fall of Israel means salvation for the Gentiles (11-25)
3. This rejection means not only salvation for Gentiles, but is also the way back for Israel. (25-36)
Point One: There is a remnant of Israel which is not rejected (1-10)
How can Paul say this?
1. He is a Jew and he is a believer. Salvation has come to this Jew, he says.
2. The example of Elijah. Oh, how they knew and didn’t know their own book.
The prophet Elijah says in
1 Kings 19:10 (ESV)
10 He said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away."
1 Kings 19:14 (ESV)
14 He said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away."
We feel that way sometimes, don’t we. We’re the last refuge of orthodox Episcopalianism. – Such an attitudes breeds pride and superiority – and such pride works separates us from God!
And what did God say to Elijah?
1 Kings 19:18 (ESV)
18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."
We may think we are the last ones left. But that isn’t true.
There too is a remnant of believing Jews now, as there was in the past. And this remnant he says in verse 6 is chosen by God, and find God through Christ by his grace.
Again, he chooses us;
Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Verses 7-10 are tough. God has always been visiting judgment on Israel – while still calling a remnant. In fact, he does the same with the Gentiles as well.
They were hardened – v 8 takes us back to Pharaoh’s hardening, and also to Romans 1 when we noticed that God’s wrath means now his giving us over to the desires of our hearts – which is what we want! Yet, that is what he also means, I believe, by hardening our hearts.
Point Two: The fall of Israel means salvation for the Gentiles 11-24
Here is God’s mystery – his purpose in Israel’s rebellion against the Lord.
V 11- Did they stumble in order to fall. That is, is there any hope for Israel?
Now, notice the undulating purposes of God.
V 11. The Jews’ trespass means salvation is now given to the Gentiles – which in turn makes Israel jealous.
The gospel goes first to the Jew, then, to the Gentile.
Now if Israel’s failure means riches (salvation) for the worl; how much more will their full inclusion mean!
What a day!
Israel’s rejection means salvation to the Gentiles, which awakens the Jews to their own heritage, and eventually will lead to “all Israel” being saved. (see v 26 – we’ll come to that later).
A man’s son was bullied at school & in fact was kicked so hard in the stomach that he developed stomach pains. His personality changed; he was no longer the happy little comic he had once been. Something was wrong. His urine was bloody. He was taken to the doctor. A biopsy showed a blood clot on his kidney – which led to surgery. He had renal cell carcinoma.
The bully saved his life. Normally, the symptoms of this kind of cancer are mild and hard to detect. But, the kick triggered the bloody urine – which led him to the doctors and to treatment. The boy is living.
Israel was ‘kicked’ in the stomach by their rejection the Gentiles’ inclusion – which, Paul says will lead ‘all Israel’ back to the Lord.
God is in charge.
In verses 17f, Is is the Olive Tree, the Geniles are the wild olive shoot grafted in.
The branches (the Jews) have been broken off because of their rebellion, and as a result the wild olive shoot has been grafted in.
But, Do not become proud, but stand in awe.
Verse 22 says: Romans 11:22 (ESV)
22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
We underestimate both. We have trouble putting together what the Bible tethers, God’s justice and his mercy. His mercy is central, of course, but it does not simply swallow up his justice and wrath.
The roots of the Christian Church is the OT. The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are our roots. And, of course, there is a sense in which they are even more important for a Christians from a Jewish heritage.
If the Jewish trespass means salvation for the rest of the world; how much greater it is when these natural branches are grafted back into their own olive tree.
Point Three: This rejection means not only salvation for Gentiles, but is also the way back for Israel. (25-36)
These verses are very difficult and have led to various conclusions.
One of these was one debated years ago by the Episcopal Church when it was believed that there were separate ways of salvation for the Jew, and for the Christian.
Our PB, Katharine Jefferts Schori seems to say this.
We understand that Jesus is our way…For us to assume that God may not act in other ways is put him in a small box. Christians believe this but not all other human beings understand that Jesus is our salvation. We should be in conversation and perhaps see a larger picture of God in all of that.
Jew and Gentile (all the rest) come to God in the same way – through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our forgiveness and was raised from death to life for our justification or acceptance before God.
First of all, all can mean every single individual, as it does in v 32; but it can’t mean that in verse 26, otherwise it would make nonsense of everything else Paul has said regarding the hardened hearts of his own kinsmen.
I think the phrase fullness of the Gentiles in v 25 is a parallel pharse to all Israel will be saved. That is both are occuring together in time and when they will meet – when simultaneously the hardening of Israel will end, and the fullness of the Gentiles will be complete.
Others see this differently.
Every time a Gentile turns to faith in Christ, his conversion arises out of Israel’s unbelief, and constitutes an appeal to the Jews who notice it. Every time a Jew turns to faith in Christ, his conversion means that the appeal has been heeded.
So, all Israel means, the elect of Israel those, known only to the Father, whom he has called and chosen.
For, from him - God our Father is the source of our lives;
And through him – God through our Lord Jesus Christ is our mediator. Through Christ he saves us
And to him. He is the end of all things.
God cannot be but god to us – until we come from disobedience through mercy to salvation