Part 2

This evening I want to begin with a lengthy reading. I truly want you to read with me. Pay close attention to Paul's thoughts. After we read Romans 9, I want to call some things to your attention. Read with me.

Romans 9:1-33

When understood in context, this is one of the most frightening scriptures in the New Testament for Christians. When you focus on Paul's concepts and take your meaning from Paul's meaning, we Christians should be terrified.

  1. Background and context:
    1. Paul endured major problems as he fulfilled his God given mission because the vast majority of Israelites of his day who rejected Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, actively opposed him.
      1. They resented him, hated him for becoming a Christian.
      2. Right after his conversion, a significant group of Jewish people created a plot to kill him because the man who was supposed to come arrest Christians was now defending Christ (Acts 9:23-25).
        1. They watched for him to leave the city so they could kill him.
        2. If it had not been for Christian Jews lowering him over the Damascus wall so he could escape, his enemies well may have succeeded.
      3. On his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, Jewish Christians again had to come to his rescue (Acts 9:28-30).
        1. Paul was going freely among the Jewish people who rejected Jesus as the Messiah boldly declaring Jesus was the Christ.
        2. The Hellenistic Jews (Jews who adopted the Greek language and some of the Greek culture) resented what Paul said with such fervency that they were determined to kill him.
        3. When some of the Jewish Christians understood the serious intent of some of the unbelieving Jews, they escorted Paul to the sea coast city of Caesarea (also the center for Roman authority in Palestine) and sent him home to Tarsus.
    2. It was not just the Israelites who rejected Jesus as the Messiah, but also many of the Jewish Christians who did accept Jesus who hated Paul and his message.
      1. Many Jews who became Christians fervently believed that the Messiah belonged to Israel.
        1. God loved them more than He loved anyone else.
        2. It was okay for people who were not Jews to convert to Jewish tradition first, and then become Christians.
          1. It was not all right to become Christians without first becoming Jews.
          2. They deeply resented Paul teaching non-Jews that they could be Christians without becoming Jews!
      2. There are two profound evidences of how deeply some Christians resented Paul's message about Jesus to non-Jews.
        1. The first evidence is found in the Judaizing teachers that followed after Paul when he left a new congregation.
          1. This was a group of Jewish Christians who followed Paul and told new converts, new churches that they were not saved.
          2. The writing we call Galatians speaks about the work of these Jewish Christians who opposed Paul and his message.
          3. They told new converts that Paul did not tell them the whole truth.
          4. They told new converts that their baptism was meaningless unless they adopted Jewish teachings and customs.
        2. The second evidence is found in the false rumor they spread about Paul and his message.
          1. We are introduced to this rumor in Acts 21:19-26.
          2. The rumor: Paul (on his mission trips) was teaching Jewish people that they had to abandon Jewish practices: do not listen to Moses; do not circumcise your children; do not follow Jewish traditions.
          3. There were thousands of these Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who heard this false rumor.
          4. Paul never stopped being Jewish; he just did not bind Jewishness on non-Jews.
          5. In his mission work he did not teach Jews they had to stop being Jewish in order to be Christian.
          6. In an attempt to demonstrate the truth to Jewish Christians who believed the rumor, the church leaders asked Paul to sponsor at the Jewish temple some Jewish Christian men who had taken a Jewish vow (likely a Nazarite vow).
          7. All of this happened because of Jewish Christian's opposition to Paul.
        3. If you are tempted to think this Jewish Christian opposition was not strong, consider Galatians 2:6-10.
          1. Paul went to Jerusalem to talk to church leaders, and that included at least some of the apostles.
          2. He wanted them to understand that God sent him as apostle to the Gentiles (people who were not Jews) in the same way that God sent Peter to the Jews as an apostle.
          3. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem agreed God did this, agreed with the gospel Paul taught non-Jews, and gave Paul the right hand of fellowship.

  2. In the text we read, Romans 9, I call your attention to some things.
    1. Why did many Israelites, both Christian and non-Christian, resent Paul's message so much?
      1. They believed they were special just because of their physical heritage--they were special because the were the descendants of Abraham through Isaac.
      2. If what Paul said was true, they were not special in the way they considered themselves special.
      3. In their thinking, if Paul's message to the non-Jews was correct that had to mean that God had not kept His promises to Israel.
      4. They placed their faith in their commitment to their system and its functions, not their God and His purposes--they were special because of who they were and what they did, not because of what their God had done.
    2. Paul said Jewish Christians cannot "explain away" Paul's message to people who were not Jews by saying that "Paul does not love Israel."
      1. Paul said, "I love Israel as a nation and the Israelites as people--so much that I would be willing to be condemned to hell if it would result in their accepting Christ."
      2. The realization that Israel rejected God's son and all the blessings that God wished to give to them caused Paul constant sorrow and grief.
      3. Israelites, of which Paul was one, needed to realize something that could not be changed, not even if Paul went to hell for them: being an Israelite was no longer determined by physical lineage, but by faith in what God did in Jesus Christ.
    3. Paul said to Israelites, including Christian Israelite opponents, "YOU DO NOT HAVE GOD FIGURED OUT, AND YOU SURELY DO NOT OWN HIM!"
      1. They thought their past relationship with God made them special.
        1. They thought because they had scripture and the prophets for hundreds of years, they had God figured out.
        2. They did not just think it; they were sure of it.
      2. Paul said you are so focused on your system, on your procedures, that you have developed a completely mistaken view of God.
        1. God has given you some powerful insights into the way He always does things.
          1. In your earliest ancestors, Jacob and Esau, He did things the exact opposite of what society did--and Jacob and Esau had nothing to do with God's choice because God made His choice before they were born.
          2. Moses understood that was a key part of God's nature. Moses said in God's voice: Romans 9:15, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
          3. God placed Pharaoh in the position Pharaoh occupied for God's purposes: Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." (Exodus 9:16)
          4. The prophet Hosea said this is precisely what God had in mind: Romans 9:25,26 "I will call those who were not My people, 'My people,' And her who was not beloved, 'beloved.' And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, 'you are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God."
          5. Isaiah lso understood God's intention: Romans 9:27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved."
      3. According to Paul, why did Israel have such a huge misunderstanding of the way God works?
        1. They placed their faith that they were righteous in what they did or were doing.
        2. They did not have faith in the fact that they were righteous because of what God did for them.
        3. Their faith was misplaced; they placed their confidence in what they did instead of placing their faith in God.

  3. "David, why do you regard this as such a frightening scripture as far as we are concerned?"
    1. Too many of us make the same mistake--we think we are special to God because we place confidence in what we do.
    2. Too many of us think that God chooses us because of what we do, not because of who He is.
      1. "We were baptized for the right reason, we worship in the right ways, we follow scripture."
      2. Israel of Paul's day said the same thing: "We were cleaned the way God said to be cleansed, we worship in the temple exactly as God told us too, we follow the scripture--and they were given to us!"
      3. They thought they were righteous because of what they did, not because of what God did.
      4. It is too easy for us to decide we are righteous because of what we do instead of because of what God did in Jesus' death.
    3. There is a lot of difference in believing, "We are righteous because we have been baptized for the right reason and do the right things in worship," and saying, "We are righteous because God redeemed us and atoned for us in Jesus' blood."

Israel of Paul's day misplaced their faith and trusted the wrong thing because they misunderstood God. It is very easy for us to make the same mistake.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 10 August 2003
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