God's Sovereign Freedom of Choice
December 9, 2001
Scripture: Romans 9
After having covered the gospel thoroughly in its process of taking mankind all the way through from depravity to glory in Romans 1-8, we might think Paul has exhausted his case.
But that is not the case here – there is more to learn.
And that is that his people, Israel, must somehow still be included in the gospel.
You see, God still has a covenant concern for them since he is faithful even when they were not.
So the next three chapters, 9-11, almost seem like an aside – a parenthetical insert – into his logic.
But as long as we are on logic; if it is true that Paul has just said in the end of chapter 8 that nothing can separate us from God's love, then what about God's own chosen people? And if Paul has just explained the gospel as the means of salvation for all mankind, then should not his heart burn for his own people?
We are studying the H.S. inspired words of an extremely intelligent man.
Paul is expressing the heart of God.
And what Paul has to say is quite purposeful.
It involves God's mysterious process in ultimately saving his people, Israel.
We must not forget the context in which Paul wrote this letter to the Romans.
He was trying to bring peace to a church divided along the ethnic and cultural lines of Jew and Gentile.
And the church could not accomplish its great commission unless it was working together as the body of Christ.
Remember that it was from Rome that Paul intended to reach as far as Spain, and he needed their help.
Rome was like the Chicago of today in that it was comprised of peoples from all over the Roman Empire, and an effective church could have far-reaching influence if it could reach some of those peoples.
If this church of Jews and Gentiles could not get along, then how could they bring other Jews into it?
So the church had to learn to get along, just like we have to learn to get along.
Paul had leveled them with the gospel and then built them up in the gospel.
Now he was going to unite them by explaining God's ultimate purpose for Israel.
So 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 if he had not addressed the "Jewish Problem."
The overall subject of chapters 9-11 is Vindication - The Wisdom of God Revealed, concerning God's sovereignty in saving both Jew and Gentile.
But today's message is about God's Sovereign Freedom: Israel Selected (PAST).
The next message will be about Human Responsibility: Israel Rejected (PRESENT).
And the third message will be about God's Promises Fulfilled: Israel Accepted (FUTURE).
The title of this message today on Romans 9 is "God's Sovereign Freedom of Choice."
You will find Romans 9 on page 1758 of the pew Bible.
Now, we talk a lot about freedom of choice in our country. We revere it as one of our inalienable constitutional rights.
We would go to war in order to maintain our freedom of choice, indeed we are at war now because of it.
But what of God's sovereign right of choice?
Cannot the Creator of the universe choose how he is going to accomplish his purposes?
We must not forget the sinful state of mankind that tries to thwart every good purpose of God.
So God, being God, being higher and more intelligent than we are, must necessarily accomplish his purpose with an air of mystery.
It is a mystery how God was to choose one people in whom to reveal himself who would then reject him so that he could then choose from among all the others in order that all would be brought together in his Son, Jesus.
Paul wants us to accept the plan of God even though we cannot fully understand it.
We must come to see how this all relates to us as we learn to trust the sovereignty of God in the things we cannot quite understand in our own lives.
I am reminded of what happened outside of St. Joseph Missionary Baptist Church here in Chicago a 2901 W. Monroe on Nov. 10 this year. Choir director, Tamika McFadden-Harris, had just left the church after choir practice with one of her two daughters, 6 year old Jada, at 9:30 p.m. to get in the car and go home to her husband, Dwain, when gang-related gunfire opened up across the street and the bullet started flying her direction. She hunched over her daughter to protect her and was hit in the abdomen. She protected her daughter but she herself died several hours later in the emergency room. The funeral was held at her church Nov. 14th. Her pastor, Rev. Donald McFadden, said that her favorite hymn was "Angels Watching Over Me."
Now how do we make sense of that in God's sovereignty and choice?
Why do some people in your family get saved and others do not?
Perhaps you are wondering some things about your own life in the sovereignty of God?
Let us learn about trusting God as we see how his plan will unfold for Israel.
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,
These verses are the groanings of Paul's own spirit for the concerns of his own heart that he told us about in chapter 8.
And we too groan for those we love who are as yet unsaved – or living it.
We may feel such strong affinity for another that we would take their punishment from God for them, but we cannot because each must stand before God themselves.
We were each bought at a price and do not belong to ourselves in making that choice.
(Moses and the people of Israel; Ex. 32:30-33)
David and Absolom; 2Sam. 18:33)
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.
Israel has rejected the gospel and yet they are still holding their position in the O.T. This is a favored position, an inherited position.
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."
The sons of God will be revealed (Rom. 8:19).
Jealousy vs. Acceptance; Cain – Abel, Ishmael – Isaac, Esau – Jacob, Older Son – Prodigal Son.
The point is that God honors his promises, but the promises are to the "children of the promise."
Every generation produces children of the promise – those who believe God's promise.
This does not include all natural children, only the spiritual children.
It is God's promise that calls the spiritual children – God's sovereign election or choice.
Abraham believed God. He was the child of promise. And it was Isaac that God promised him, not Ishmael. God said, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called."
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."
This was quoted in Mal. 12-4 after their lives were lived, not before they were born.
It is a contrast of comparative love. Leah was hated because Rachel was loved more (Gen. 29:31, 33). Believers hate parents because they love Christ more (Mt. 10:37).
Jacob's life proved he was the child of promise.
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.
God has no reason other than mercy to let any of us live.
This must surely send us to the feet of God, bowing in humble service. We have no case we can plead.
We see a picture of God's mercy in the story of Korah's rebellion where Aaron, a type of Christ, interceded for the people to stop the plague that God sent upon them because of their rebellion.
This action is like the sentinel witness of the cross of Christ that stands between the living and the dead. Even so, 14,700 died – but the rest lived. Why? God's mercy. They all deserved to die.
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.
A continued rejection of God is like hardening of the arteries.
God did not say he made Pharaoh for this purpose, but that he raised Pharoah to a place of earthly power so that God could display his greater heavenly power.
Pharoah continued to harden his own heart by rejecting God's authority over him to the point where God abandoned him to his hardness and pronounced him "hard" (like hard of hearing, he was hard of obedience).
One cannot continue to reject God's counsel and escape. If a person hits the sleep button each day on his alarm clock, saying "I will sleep a little longer this morning," sooner or later he will be late to work.
C. God's freedom not to re-create some in order to display mercy in the re-creation of others.
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?
God made man but he did not make him for the purpose of being the sinner that he is.
God takes the clay as he finds it, and the clay is the man who is already a sinner.
God has the right to pick one man from that mass and have mercy upon him and let the other man go if he wants to.
God did not create man in sin – but he does re-create him from sin.
D. God's freedom not to save some from destruction in order to display mercy in saving others 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? (the Gr. verb here is middle voice which means they prepared themselves 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?
God did not prepare us for destruction, but man prepares himself for destruction. God did not do that. But God does prepare vessels for glory.
If any man goes to hell it is his own fault. He rejected the mercy and longsuffering of God.
But if a man reaches heaven it will not be because he prepared himself but because God prepared him.
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.'"
God cast Israel off because of unbelief, and yet he will pick her up in mercy.
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."
God rejected the entirety of Israel because of unbelief and yet will save the remnant.
V. The Conclusion Drawn: the "stumbling stone" reveals our response (two different responses).
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."
1. It is possible to be humanly numbered among the people of God and not be a child of God.
2. Spiritual life does not come through physical birth.
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."
The cross is like a rock across our path; the Jew has turned and cursed it but the Gentile has turned and praised God for it
Like Simon of Cyrene (Lk. 23:26-31), probably a Gentile, we have been chosen to pick up the cross of Christ and carry it. But what will happen to those who refuse?
And what should our response be to all of this?
We dare not blame God for his sovereign choices on anything, we should weep for those yet unsaved, and if we happen to be the ones he has chosen, we best not be wasting his mercy.