Romans 11- God's Vindication Part Three
Vindication of God-Part Three
Unreliable maps and faulty GPS units are oxymoron’s of sort. Neither are useful when you are lost. Accuracy is what we want of guides; a well used proven one is our first choice.
The Scripture is our compass from this life to the unseen life of eternity. It is reassuring to know that even mundane names in obscure chapters of the OT are completely reliable. Take for example Jeremiah 39:1-3 “This is how Jerusalem was taken: In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. 2 And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah's eleventh year, the city wall was broken through. 3 Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon”. In 2007 a Viennese professor was reading ancient cuneiform tablets, when he noticed a proper name that reminded him of this passage in Jeremiah. He double checked and there to his amazement he found that this small clay tablet from 595 B.C. was an actual receipt for a gift given by this Nebo-Sarsekim to a Babylonian temple. Eight years later, Jeremiah describes this man sitting with other high officials at the Middle Gate in Jerusalem during the siege. Even in the most obscure list of names, we have historical validation. We rejoice with the Psalmist, when he exclaimed, “forever O Lord your word is settled in heaven”. It is utterly significant that 30% of Romans 9-11 is Old Testament quotations; the apostle Paul battled God’s detractors with Scripture. Even more to the point, is the fact that the Lord Jesus trusted explicitly in the authority of Scriptures (check out Luke 16:27-31). And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"
In Romans 9-11 God’s truthfulness is under attack because His promises to Israel seemed to have failed. Gentiles were believing the Good News about the Lord Jesus, whereas the Jews were walking away in unbelief. To vindicate God from the charges of infidelity, the apostle Paul reminds us in chapter 9 that a believing remnant chosen by grace is in fact the real Israel. The Patriarchal stories establish that God’s purposes of election/choice are the operating principle. In chapter 10 the apostle Paul proves that Israel’s unbelief was the real problem. The Good News was near them, it was understood, it was authenticated by signs and wonders, yet in the end the Jews asked for the release of Barabbas, a guilty insurrectionist, and demanded the execution of Jesus of Nazareth.
Chapter 11 opens with a question that questions God’s faithfulness. Has God erased the Jews from the pages of history? “Did they stumble so as to fall”? NO WAY! The final proof that vindicates God’s faithfulness is the outline of God’s strategic plan for Jewish world evangelization. Romans 11:26-27 as a summary statement makes this abundantly clear; “And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob and this will be my covenant with them, when I take away their sins."
But let’s back up to verse 11 of chapter 11 of Romans. (11:11-16) So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! 13Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
The first step in this divine plan is the over-riding of Jewish unbelief-their false step (vs.11,12) their defeat (vs. 12b), and their rejection (vs. 15). In each verse Israel’s unbelief opens the door for Gentile evangelism (salvation, riches for the Gentiles, and reconciliation of the world). Historically, this process is already seen in the Gospel of Matthew (8:8f), “But the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 10When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed at that very moment.
At the end of the second half of Luke (Acts 28:25-28) we read the following
And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: "The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:
26 "'Go to this people, and say, You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
27 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.' 28Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen."
Jewish unbelief changed the mission strategy of the early church. Even in the Gospels salvation would come to the Syro-Phoenician woman and Roman military officers. Raw pagans would worship the Lord Jesus with thankful hearts for the gift of forgiveness.
Gentile enjoyment of salvation blessings would drive Jews to jealousy, that “some would be saved”. It was the Apostle’s prayer that his missionary efforts among the Gentiles, would make his fellow Jews want those same blessings. This is the second phase of God’s master plan. Changed lives are huge billboards advertising the values of Christ. It is hard to argue when drunks become loyal fathers, or when tax gatherers make restitution. Is my Christian life that winsome? Or do people conclude that I’m just one of them? In the end the Apostle Paul looks with solid hope that great multitudes of Jews will be converted (11:12c, 15c). This world wide revival will be unbelievable; “like people rising from the dead”. This final phase of world evangelization will occur after the fullness of the Gentiles comes in (vs. 25). Two small parables in verse 16 confirm the fact of future Jewish revival. First fruits of coarse meal given to God in thanksgiving sanctify the whole harvest. So now the current Jewish remnant becomes an assurance that God will act on the whole race. The second mini parable in verse 16 talks about the oneness of the root and branches. Roots go back in time to the patriarchs-those men who received the promise of worldwide blessing. “Jews are beloved for the sake of their forefathers” (vs.28). God’s gifts and call to AIJ are irrevocable. God has surely not forgotten his ancient people.
On the practical level of everyday life racially divided people were now sharing the same pew. Jewish/Gentile animosities that separated them were coming down, but not with some struggle. Romans chapters 14-15 connect to some of the divisions of the early church. Early anti-Semitism raised its ugly head, and the unity of the church was jeopardized. To counter this cancer, Paul reminds the Gentile Christians of two important considerations in his olive tree illustration. Read vss. 17-247 “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22Note 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. 23And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.”
#1 Avoid Pride- Jewish root system supports you
Romans 15:25-27 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.
John 4:20-23 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." 21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him”.
Humility is characterized by thanksgiving.
#2 Avoid Pride –Remember the lesson of faith Hab. 2:4 Look at the proud; his soul is not straight or right within him, but the just and the [uncompromisingly] righteous man shall live by his faith and in his faithfulness.
Pride is self sustained living; in contrast righteous people thru faith will live. In the theology of Romans trusting is the humble, open, empty hands approach to God. Rejoicing in Christ sets up a fire wall against proud self sufficiency. Consequently, Gentile comparisons with the Jews is self destructive pride. “Stand in your faith, don’t be conceited but stand in awe” (vs. 20). A final warning about pride is repeated in vs. 25; alerting us to the dangerous journey this sets us on.
Faith is not left to dangle in mid air with no attached object. In vs. 22 and 24 the text tells us our trust is in the God who “kind and severe” and the God who is able to do great and mighty things. So we are encouraged to make our calling and election sure (II Peter 1:10). Our call is to continue on energized with the Holy Spirit, exalting in the One “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
A U.S. Air Force transport plane with its captain and 5 crew members was flying over Alaska in the mid-50s when they entered an unusually fierce snowstorm. The navigator contacted an air base only to be told that he had veered several hundred miles off course. Correct coordinates were given to the navigator, who continued to insist that his own calculations could not be that far off. Soon the plane ran low on fuel. The six men decided to abandon the plane and parachute to safety, but because of the -70 degree Farenheit temperature and winds that gusted to 50 mph, they were all frozen within minutes of hitting the ground. A friend of mine was part of the rescue team that discovered and retrieved the bodies 3 days later. As a result of the navigator's pride, 5 other people went to their deaths. Proverbs 12:15 tells us that "the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise." The results may not always be so dramatic, but we must all be careful to seek the counsel of God and wise individuals before making decisions of lasting significance.
Dave McPherson, Maranatha Bible Church, New Orleans.