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Some, Not All

Romans  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Why does God save some people and not others?

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Coming from Rom. 8 to Rom. 9, we are faced with at least one serious question. This question has likely been on your mind at some point or another.

Why does God save some people and not others?

This is a tough question… and I think that Paul gives us some insight in Romans 9... Now, I am telling you, Romans 9 is a difficult chapter in the Bible and for nearly 2000 years, people way smarter than me have been been arguing about some of the implications surrounding this text. So, you can count on there being some places where you find that folks disagree, but with God’s help, we will walk faithfully through this passage together this morning.
We read Romans 9 in the context of Romans 8, where we saw Paul’s declaration of victory in Christ. In fact, Romans 8 has some of the most encouraging and uplifting verses in the Bible. Let me remind you of
Romans 8:37–39 NASB95
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But we see that chapter 9 actually turns a corner to reveal the lament and sorrow of the apostle Paul because of those, especially Jews, who had rejected Christ. This highlights the reality that not all will attain this victory; not all will share in God’s glory.
In these first 5 verses, we see that there’s a bit of a conundrum- the very people whose ethnic heritage includes Abraham, Moses, David, etc. have rejected the promised Messiah. These people who touted their ancestry and were brought up in the retellings of God’s covenants, his Shekinah glory at the tabernacle, the Law given to Moses and the character of God revealed through it; they were given the means and the method by which they could commune and worship Almighty God- these people rejected Jesus, the Savior that they were supposedly looking for.
And through Paul’s words, we see the depth of his sincerity- wishing that he himself could trade places with them.
Romans 9:3 NASB95
For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
But Paul could not make them see- he could not seem to get their eyes and ears to see and hear what was right in front of them.
Maybe you have someone in your life that you grieve over because they are utterly lost and separated from God?!
Write down the name of someone you know who is unsaved and pray for them. What extent would you go in order for them to be saved?
But we have to ask, What went wrong? Why were there people who grew up in the Jewish nation who did not get on board with Jesus? Isn’t Israel, the Jews, a nation that has special favor from God? Did God’s plan fail?
The answer is “NO.” But if God’s plan did not fail, how did this happen?
Paul is going to make an argument that showcases God’s character in three distinct areas: His sovereignty, His righteousness, and His love. Through these, I believe we can shed some light on our question of why some people are saved and others are not.

God’s Sovereignty (6-13)

Now, first I want to give you Paul’s statement, and then we will look at his example which is sandwiched in the middle of his point. Look at the beginning of v. 6- “It is not as though the word of God has failed.” So, Paul anticipating the question we just asked, gives us first the answer- God’s word did not fail. Now look down in v.11 “… so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand”
In other words, God’s word is true- his promises, his plans do not fail. God chooses who He will use and how He will use them according to His purpose.
Now, let’s look at Paul’s example- (read 6b-12) We are going back in history here. The present state is that there are Jews rejecting Jesus. These Jews were promised the adoption as sons of God, weren’t they? Well, let’s go back all the way to Genesis ch. 12- the flood has come and gone, the tower of Babel has taken place, and in Gen. 12:
God chose Abraham- Why? Because it was His desire and will to do so… - and promised in Gen 12:2 to make him a great nation. Now, Abraham had 2 sons, Isaac and Ismael. God chose Issac to be the bearer of the blessing, not Ishmael. Why? Ishmael was Abraham’s attempt to carry out God’s plan according to his own will, not God’s. It is God’s plan, however, not Abraham’s. God had made a promise to give Abraham a son. Isaac was the son promised by God, and so God was faithful in His promise and used Isaac because it was His purpose, that was His plan.
Isaac had twin boys, and God chose to use Jacob, saying (v. 12) “the older shall serve the younger”, just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”
Let me explain this- God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but He was not choosing salvation. He was choosing a nation to whom He would reveal Himself, to whom He would offer Himself. This was God’s purpose and His plan. And just as God did not raise up Ishmael or Esau to be his chosen nation, Not all ethnic Jews were necessarily children of God. It did not mean that they could not be, but rather that they were not.
So, let’s be clear: God did not look at the two pre-born babies in Rebekah’s womb and determine one for heaven and one for hell. This was not about salvation at all. Let me show you that in Scripture:
Genesis 25:23 NASB95
The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”
Further, in verse 13, we must understand that “Hate” in this context as in other places in Scripture does not mean to despise, but rather talks about preference. Take for example:
Luke 14:26 NASB95
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
Jesus did not expect people to despise their families or themselves, that would contradict the rest of His teachings to love your neighbor, love your wife, etc. Jesus is speaking about who gets first place-and so it is with Jacob and Esau as well. God did not despise Esau, but He gave preference to Jacob.
God chose Jacob to be the line by which the nation of Israel would come. God chose Israel to be the nation that would receive God’s covenant and His Law, the nation that God would use to reveal Himself to the world. God chose Israel to be the lineage by which the Messiah would come. It was His choice. He is sovereign.
And get this, man had absolutely nothing to do with it. Abram didn’t do anything special before God called him, Isaac didn’t have any input either, and Jacob, well, he was kind of a booger for a good part of his life, so he definitely didn’t earn it. No, God in His sovereignty, chose him.
Now you might be thinking: well, that’s not fair. What about `ol Esau? Did God do something wrong by choosing Jacob? No way!
Discuss: How sovereign is God?
God is not just in charge, He is righteous, so let’s look at how Paul defends

God’s Righteousness (14-18)

Read Romans 9:14-18
Notice that Paul answers the question of God’s justice by citing God’s mercy.
Mercy is defined as receiving favor that is not earned or deserved. Mercy, then cannot be chosen or earned.
So, since mercy is not earned or deserved, God cannot owe anyone mercy. Are you with me? Now since God does not owe anyone mercy, it cannot be unfair or unjust for Him to have mercy or to not.
Let me say it like this-> Does God owe you or anyone salvation? - Of course not!
Therefore, since He owes it to no one, He is free to give it to anyone, or everyone, or no one and it is completely His choice. He is just and fair in doing whatever He pleases. You don’t like it, I get it, but let me remind you of what is fair:
Since we all have sinned, Rom. 3:23, we all are due the penalty of sin (Rom. 6:23) and see that what is fair is that we perish! None of us deserve to be God’s children.
But, hold on to that, because we are still not talking about salvation yet. We are talking about whether or not God is righteous.
Now we see Paul citing God’s words to Moses- “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and it depends not on man, but on God.” Now this is where we can get lost if we are not careful.
Paul uses the example of Pharoah - he’s big cheese in Egypt- God, in His sovereignty chose Pharoah to raise Him to power in the time when God would use Moses to bring the Israelites from Egypt. God chose to raise up Pharoah in order to demonstrate His power in him and that His name would be proclaimed throughout the earth (17).
Now, you and I remember this Pharoah.. perhaps you’ve at least seen the movie- Pharoah is the one who had to endure all these crazy plagues before finally chasing the Israelites and getting drowned in the Red Sea. And so Paul says, God has mercy on whom He desires and He hardens whom He desires.
And you might be thinking: Wait, pastor, what chance did Pharoah have If God hardened his heart? How does this reveal God’s righteousness? Could not Pharoah have received mercy instead? Friend, you need to know that Pharoah was not simply sitting on his throne, minding his own business and God just up and hardened Pharoah’s heart.
If you remember, God warned Pharoah several times and over and over again- he just wouldn’t listen and instead, Pharoah hardened his own heart toward God (Exodus 8:15, 32) before God crystalized his hardened heart and, as we read in Romans 1, gave him over to his sinful desires. God did show mercy, and God righteously judged Pharoah. God’s righteousness demands justice.
Now, you might be thinking, Why would God do that? Wouldn’t a good God just save everybody?
Discuss: Why doesn’t God just save everybody?
I’ve heard this several times and this kind of thing is what we hear from those of more liberal theology. If God loves us, then He will not let us go to Hell....
But what we need to understand is that love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth. (1 Cor. 13:6). The truth is that we can receive God’s mercy, but we are due God’s judgment.
And speaking of love, we need to take a minute and examine:

God’s Love (19-29)

Paul is anticipating this question in verse 19... Here he words it this way: Why does God still find fault? Who can resist His will? If God is sovereign and righteous, aren’t we just pawns on the chessboard of faith? If God is in charge over all, how can I be judged for playing the role that He set me in?
Now, this might just be the question you yourselves are wrestling with, so let’s try and wade through this.
Paul, in his anticipation and answer, first says “Who are you, O man who answers back to God?” (20) Now this is not the answer, but is a warning worth noting; in this current train of thought, we’ve placed ourselves as judge over the Almighty, and Paul says that we are on dangerous ground when we accuse God. One preacher said, “Your arms are too short to box with God!” Be careful.
I want you to understand Paul’s argument in these verses:
1. God and man are not on the same level. He is the potter, we are the clay.
I mean, can you imagine when you go to the bathroom at your home, if your toilet were to speak up and protest saying, “I deserve better...” um, no, it was made for that purpose! Or if your car suddenly started judging the way you were driving. (Some of you have those smart cars with lane assist and auto braking… I don’t know about you, but that kind of offends me it doesn’t set well with me… like, Hey, I’m the one in charge here, keep your beeps to yourself!) God and man are not on the same level- adjust your view of God accordingly.
2. God has the right to form you for whatever purpose He desires. He formed me to be a pastor, he formed some of you as teachers, electricians, etc. God has the right to place you in power or not. He is God, BUT- God did not form you so that He could send you to hell. Look, no potter in his right mind would form a line of pots just so he could take and whack them with a broomstick.
No, Listen to verse 22-23, God, instead of zapping us with lightning bolts, has endured our rebellion. Though we are deserving of His wrath right now- we don’t deserve second chances, we don’t deserve His forgiveness BUT, He’s been patient and long-suffering so that He could display His glory in us ; listen to
2 Peter 3:9 NASB95
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Discuss: How do we view God’s love in justice?
God is righteous and merciful. In His love, He is patient toward us and desires to make known the riches of His glory to both Jews and Gentiles.
The Gentiles - the people that were not chosen like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are given the call to respond to God. Listen to Rom. 8:25-26
The Jews, though they stumble over their own pursuit of holiness, God patiently waits for them.
You might be wondering, how do we know that God wants to pour out mercy? How do we know that God will give us mercy?
Friends, our God loves the sinner. In fact, Jesus said that He came to seek and save the lost- that He came to die so that you and I could have life. Let me give you some other Scriptures that you might write down:
Romans 5:8 NASB95
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
1 Timothy 2:3–4 NASB95
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Why does God save some people and not others?
Here is what I know:
As Christians, we ought to have a deep sorrow for the lost in such a way that it compels us to not only witness to them, but to plead with them over their soul.
God has a plan to display His power and make His name known throughout the whole world. You are a part of that plan. God is sovereign and has placed you exactly where He desires to use you.
God did not create you just to send you to Hell. He desires to pour out His mercy on us. (Matt. 23:37)
It is our responsibility to respond to God. Do not harden your hearts toward Him. (Heb. 3:8)
Don’t be silly in thinking that you would be more merciful than God… that you would save everyone... (Seriously, you get frustrated in traffic and fantasize about knocking bicyclists into the ditch) You cannot comprehend the depth of God’s mercy and patience owards us.
Do not mistake your distaste of Hell for what is “right”- we are not the measure of right and wrong.
We ought to meditate on how absolutely unworthy we are of God’s mercy and salvation, and how great He is to give it freely!
Finally, if you desire God’s mercy and salvation, He offers it to you.
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