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It’s Grace Not Race

The Gospel in Romans  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:17
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It’s Grace Not Race

Today we will look at what our background means to God when it comes to His favor. We might frame the question this way:
How does one come into a place of favor with God?
It’s not by good looks. It’s not by the color of the skin we are in. It’s not by the culture which shapes us. It’s not by the place we live. Favor with God is not because of how smart we are, or how much money we have. It’s not because of the things we know how to do, or how far we can walk in a day.
Favor with God is not because of how fast we can run, or how accurately we can toss a basketball. It’s not because of our ability to use fly-fishing gear to place the perfect cast on a stream right over the shadow of a big trout. Favor with God is not about how strong we are, or how determined we are, or even how righteous we are according to how we practice God’s laws.
I’ll say it again, it’s not because of the color of skin we live in, the color of our hair, or the family we are born into or adopted into. Favor with God is not about our situation or political party or the job we have or our eloquence in oratory.
Favor with God is about God’s grace, not our race. Favor with God does not come because our skin is white or black or brown, ruddy or fair, tanned or sun-burnt. It’s not because of the shape or color of our eyes, of if we have curly hair or straight.It’s not about the language we speak, or the ethnicity we identify with. It’s not because of the pets we favor or if we know how to farm or fix machinery.

Favor with God has to do with God’s grace, not our race. We enter into God’s grace by faith, not by flesh.

Paul’s Place as an Israelite

To the Romans, a young church with both Gentile believers and Jewish believers, Paul must state his place as an Israelite and his case that it is not about your human birthright or training, but about your Spiritual birth and God’s grace when it comes to confidence before God.
In his defence to the Jews in Jerusalem when he was arrested because of accusations he was a traitor to the nation and one who desecrated the temple, Paul said of himself,
Acts 22:3 CSB
He continued, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strictness of our ancestral law. I was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
In another place, Paul says to the church, “Do not put confidence in the flesh, ...
Philippians 3:4–6 CSB
although I have reasons for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.
2 Corinthians 11:22 CSB
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the descendants of Abraham? So am I.
It’s important we remember who Paul is as we look at what he says about his heart for his Israelite brothers. He has not turned his back on them; even though he has suffered much at their hands.
2 Corinthians 11:24–25 ESV
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;
His life has not been easy as he has brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world, by God’s commission and call to him as Apostle to the Gentiles.
Yet his heart is broken for his brethren according to race, for so many have thus far rejected God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Yet his hearts’ desire won’t make the difference. We read in Roman’s 9 that no matter Paul’s heart, he knows that

Wishing Won’t Save Anyone

Having been accused of anti-Semitism because he has taken the message of salvation to the Gentiles and defended that position in his defence of Grace over Law, Paul here opens his heart.
Romans 9:1–3 CSB
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience testifies to me through the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the benefit of my brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood.
Amazingly, in his thoughts about his fellow Jews, Paul’s heart is for their salvation even if it means he becomes anathema himself, cast out of the place of promise, separated from Christ and the church, whatever it may take.
Paul speaks of why the

Israelites Have Every Advantage

Romans 9:4 CSB
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises.

Even Christ is Theirs

Romans 9:5 CSB
The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.
What is the possible reason, then, that his fellow Jews have mostly rejected Jesus Christ, while so many Gentiles have been hungry to hear the Good News of God’s love and gift of salvation? Is there a problem with God’s promises?

Have the Promises of God Failed?

Romans 9:6 CSB
Now it is not as though the word of God has failed, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
Now Paul brings us to a new understanding of the rights of race and privilege. God is faithful, and his word is faithful. The reality is that your situation in life, in terms of race and color or creed, does not guaranteed that you are or will remain one of God’s chosen ones.
Paul says not every Israelite is a part of the true Israel.
What? Not every descendant of Jacob is a part of the true Israel. Paul goes back a little further in Jewish history, to Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather, to find...

A Key in the Word of God

You remember in the story of Abraham, called by God to become a nation that bears his Name, how the promise was slow in coming because Abraham was an old man and his wife Sarah had not borne any children. So Hagar the handmaid of Sarah was given by her to Abraham to bear offspring. And Ishmael was born. It was ten years or so later that Isaac was born, through Sarah; an impossible pregnancy and birth because of her age, but not impossible through God.
So Paul makes a bold statement based on God’s plan of Grace through Sarah:
Romans 9:7–8 CSB
Neither is it the case that all of Abraham’s children are his descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring.
So it is not about birth, in the human sense, that brings God’s favor. For Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn, the rightful heir of all he had; Abraham even pleaded with God once for Ishmael to be his heir and bearer of the promise to Abraham, but that was not the plan of God.

God’s Choice and God’s People

The promise would be carried through Isaac—the child of impossible conception, yet the child of God’s promise to Abraham that included Sarah his wife, not Hagar his handmaid:
Romans 9:9 CSB
For this is the statement of the promise: At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son.
Again, it is Grace not Race that puts us in God’s favor. It is God’s original choice of and blessing on Sarah because of Abraham’s faith that Isaac was born to become the father of Jacob, in other words, the father of Israel.
Then Paul gives a second example from the heritage of the tribes of Israel, that is the from the 12 offspring of Jacob who was later named Israel in the promise he received from God. It has to do with Jacob’s own favor before God, looking back to the situation of his birth.

God’s Choice and God’s People

Sarah’s son Isaac took a wife named Rebekah. And she had twins, Esau and Jacob:
Romans 9:10 CSB
And not only that, but Rebekah conceived children through one man, our father Isaac.
The covenant promise to Abraham and Sarah was fulfilled in Isaac, the child of promise, and then through Isaac and Rebekah, but not quite as simple as it could be.
God’s promise brought sons, but God’s purpose is fulfilled through faith. Paul talks more about it later, but in this place he writes:
Romans 9:11–12 CSB
For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand—not from works but from the one who calls—she was told, The older will serve the younger.
At first it seems to us completely arbitrary how twice God chose the younger son over the older to breed the race of his chosen people.
Before the twins had been born, before they had proven their heart’s bent to any human, God’s foreknowledge saw which would choose God, which is the proof of God’s purpose and election.
And so we read the words that sound so harsh to us:
Romans 9:13 CSB
As it is written: I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.
We put love and hate at opposite ends of the long pole of human affections. Don’t under-think this statement. It is a part of common Jewish hyperbole that was used in this quote from the prophet Malachi. Jesus used the same kind of hyperbole when he said
Luke 14:26 CSB
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.
But don’t miss the important reality that is the backstory here:

It’s By Faith We Are God’s Chosen

I spoke last week about how we are God’s chosen people
Romans 3:23–25 CSB
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented him as the mercy seat by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.
Romans 5:1–2 CSB
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

We Enter Grace by Faith, Not by Flesh.

God’s favor, or even his favoritism from our point of view is upon those who by faith accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. None else matters. This is why Paul said earlier,
Romans 9:3 CSB
For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the benefit of my brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood.
Paul’s lament was over unbelief. His own people had stubbornly chosen the curses of the law as they chose the sin in the skin they were in, instead of the amazing love and grace of God in his Son, Jesus Christ. A righteousness by works will not save you, for that kind of righteousness is the minimum standard of God for our behavior; it has not power to cover the sins of our past.
Only the blood of Jesus Christ can atone for our sins. And that we have only through faith.

It’s Grace Not Race

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