God's Sovereign Freedom to Choose
March 17, 1996
Scripture: Romans 9
In Romans, Paul presents an airtight case for the gospel, but it would not be airtight if it were not for Ch. 9-11. There would be a gapping hole not addressed - and this is the "Jewish Problem." As we come into Easter we must understand the part Israel plays in the gospel message of the cross of Jesus. In so doing, the outline of the cross can become clearer in our own eyes. This will begin a three part series on Romans 9-11 over the next three Sunday morning worship services. The overall subject is Vindication - The Wisdom of God Revealed, concerning God's sovereignty in saving both Jew and Gentile. Today's message is on God's Sovereign Freedom: Israel Selected (PAST). Next Sunday will be on Human Responsibility: Israel Rejected (PRESENT), and the third Sunday on God's Promises Fulfilled: Israel Accepted (FUTURE).
I. The Problem Stated: the tragic unbelief of Israel.
A. Paul's grief over Israel's separation from Christ.
1. It is real.
1* I speak the truth in Christ-- I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit--
2. It is intense.
2* I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
3. It is sacrificial.
3* For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race,
B. Israel's advantage that should have brought them to Christ.
4* the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.
5* Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
II. The Explanation Offered: God works by election, not by natural generation or works of merit.
A. The vindication of God's Word through the example of Abraham and Isaac.
6* It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
7* Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned."
8* In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring.
9* For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."
B. The vindication of God's Word through the example of Jacob and Esau.
10* Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac.
11* Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad-- in order that God's purpose in election might stand:
12* not by works but by him who calls-- she was told, "The older will serve the younger."
13* Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
III. The Objections Answered: God's freedom to act in His own sovereign right.
A. God's purpose of mercy is not unjust.
14* What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!
15* For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
16* It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.
B. God's freedom to allow hardening in order to display mercy.
17* For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."
18* Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
C. God's freedom not to re-create in order to display mercy in re-creation.
19* One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?"
20* But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"
21* Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
D. God's freedom not to save from destruction in order to display mercy in saving from destruction.
22* What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-- prepared for destruction?
23* What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory--
24* even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
IV. The Proof Given: the truth of Scripture.
A. God's Word of mercy to Israel.
25* As he says in Hosea: "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one,"
26* and, "It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'"
B. God's Word of saving grace to Israel.
27* Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.
28* For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality."
29* It is just as Isaiah said previously: "Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah."
V. The Conclusion Drawn: the "stumbling stone" reveals our response.
A. A stumbling stone of righteousness obtained by faith to Gentiles.
30* What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith;
B. A stumbling stone of righteousness not obtained by works to Israel.
31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.
32* Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone."
C. The lesson of the "stumbling stone."
33* As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."