Altar Bound (Romans 12v1)

God never condoned human sacrifice, but there are three examples of “living sacrifices” in the Bible.

Isaac willingly put himself on the altar and would have died in obedience to God’s will, but the Lord provided a ram to take his place.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect illustration of a “living sacrifice” because He actually died as a sacrifice in obedience to His Father’s will.

The third example is… You!  You are called upon to “present your bodies a living sacrifice.”

Romans 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

“Therefore” is an appeal to think back on everything that has preceded in the Book of Romans.  It’s a word of application, telling us that what we’ve read should make a difference in how we approach living.

“I beseech you” is not an expression of duty, but one of devotion.  Paul, after all, was an apostle with authority from God.  He could have commanded or demanded.  Instead he appealed to the Roman believers as his “brethren.”

As J. Vernon McGee puts it, beseech is “the language of grace, not the law.”  Since we’ve been saved by grace, we are to walk in it.

That includes how we teach others about walking with God, too.  It seems our default position is always to tell folks what to do.  Sadly, we can do this indirectly by pressuring folks or guilting them.  Let’s tell them what God has done and let them respond out of love.

In the first eight chapters of Romans “the mercies of God” were on display for you.  Paul explained how a holy God is able to justify believing sinners, impute Christ’s righteousness to them, and give them victory over sin.

The “mercies of God” toward you are the foundation upon which to live-out the Christian life.  As we get further into chapter twelve we will see God’s mercies lived-out in various responses we can now have as believers.  We’re told to, among other things, “Show mercy with cheerfulness… Let love be genuine… Give to the saints… Bless those who persecute you… Weep with those who weep… Associate with the lowly… Repay no one evil for evil… Never avenge yourselves… If your enemy is hungry feed him.”

There is a spiritual gift for showing mercy, but every believer is called upon to be merciful.  It’s grounded in God’s mercies towards you.  And not just in the past.  We sing from the psalms that His mercies are “new every morning.”

Even in our troubles God is merciful.  C.S. Lewis called them ‘severe mercies,’ but to the extent trouble and suffering work for us, they are mercies to embrace.

With God’s wonderful, bountiful, mercies in mind, we are told we should “present [our] bodies.”  “Present” is a technical word that was used for the priest’s presenting an offering in the Temple.  It is thus full of rich symbolism for a Jew.

For example, it would speak of continual activity, morning to evening, as there was continual activity going on in the Temple by the various priest.

It would emphasize another common teaching of the New Testament – the priesthood of all believers and not just a special few.  It would remind that we are all ministers of the Gospel of God’s grace, all the time.
By the way, this idea of the priest and his constant duties clears up a huge debate among biblical scholars; at least it does for me.  If you get deep into studying verse one you’ll discover solid, conservative evangelical scholars who insist that the presenting of your bodies is a one-time dedication to Jesus that puts you on the path to holiness.

Others, just as conservative and evangelical, see this as not so much a crisis experience but as a process.  Based on the reference to the constant activity of the priest, I think it best to see this presenting of ourselves as a process.

Those who argue for the one-time crisis say the word is in a verb tense, the aorist tense, that demands we read it this way.  But the other scholars say that the aorist doesn’t demand it!

Why am I bothering to tell you about an obscure verb tense argument?  Because sometimes you’ll hear a Bible teacher say, “this is in such-and-such tense, so therefore it can only mean such-and-such.”  That may or may not be true!!!  Scholars disagree.  While language is critical, so is context.

By “bodies” it’s clear Paul means all of you, every part, body and mind and heart and will.  Just insert your name in place of “bodies” and that’s the idea.

You are to present your body as a “living sacrifice.”  We tend to immediately begin thinking of what we must sacrifice from our lives in order to please God.  We immediately think we must do something to make ourselves “holy and acceptable.”  Or that we must quit doing certain things.  We start talking about the disciplines of the Christian life, about all-night praying and rising so much earlier to have devotions.  About all the things we ought not do that smack of worldliness.

Paul wasn’t suggesting that “the mercies of God” are only yours if and when you are “holy” enough to be found “acceptable to God.”  If that were true, none of us would ever be able to honestly present ourselves.

Seriously, do you see yourself as the Pharisee in the Gospels who came to the Temple thinking he was holy and acceptable to God because he fasted and prayed and tithed?  While the tax collector could only beat upon his breast knowing he was a sinner?

Look at it this way.  Nothing has been said yet about making yourself “holy and acceptable to God.”  The exhortation here assumes you are already “holy and acceptable to God.”  It is not something you must work at to become; it is something you already are.

You are already “holy and acceptable to God.”  You are also, in another sense, to become “holy and acceptable to God” more-and-more on a daily basis.

It’s not double-talk.  It is the Doctrine of Sanctification.  Sanctification is both an act and a process:

The moment you believe on Jesus Christ you are sanctified.  Want proof?  All believers in the New Testament are called “saints” from the moment they are saved.  And some of them, like the saints at Corinth, were pretty carnal, deep in sin.
There is also a daily process of sanctification.  We learned earlier in Romans we are predestined to become more and more like Jesus.  God, Who has begun this work in us, will continue to complete it day-by-day.

Of course there is also final or ultimate sanctification, what we sometimes call glorification, when we are no longer in this body and have gone to be with Jesus.

What we have mostly in verse one is a reminder of the act of sanctification.  Because of what God has done, we are already “holy and acceptable” and, therefore, we can “present our bodies” to the Lord.  More on that in verse two.  Here we are simple told it is our “reasonable service.”

Scholars admit the words, “reasonable service,” are hard to translate.  Here are a few different renderings:

“spiritual service.”
“spiritual worship.”
“the sensible way to serve.”
“the logical Temple worship for you.”
“your intelligent service.”
“the reasonable way for you to worship.”

Maybe the best way of understanding what is meant by “reasonable service” would be to see how the Bible’s first two “living sacrifices” – Isaac and Jesus – were “reasonable” in their “service” when they presented themselves fully to the Lord – even to the point of death.

Abraham was told to offer Isaac.  Isaac was no young boy.  He was a full grown man, probably in his thirties.  He didn’t need to be subdued into getting on the altar.  He presented himself.

How can we say that his presentation of himself was his reasonable service to God?  Well, for one thing, we’re told in the Bible that Abraham “reasoned” (Hebrews 11:19) that since Isaac was the child through which all God’s promises would be fulfilled, then if he was sacrificed God would have to raise him from the dead.

In light of God’s promises, then, it was reasonable for Isaac to present himself a living sacrifice in obedience to God.  He knew he’d be raised; or at least Abraham did.

What on the surface seems a weird, if not cruel, human sacrifice is really the best illustration the Old Testament peoples had of the future death and resurrection of the promised Savior.  The more you study Isaac presenting himself, the more reasonable it seems.

In a sense, Romans 12:1 is telling you to be like Isaac.  To trust God with your very life based on what He has promised you.

You and I are going to be raised one day.  In the mean time Romans chapters one through eight explain that we can walk in the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.  The only reasonable reaction is to serve God with all our life – no matter the consequences or cost.

Let’s face it.  While God may not be asking us to literally offer ourselves as human sacrifices, you only need to read the history of missions and martyrs to know that the consequences and cost of obedience can, in fact, be life itself.

Most Christians know about Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries being killed by the Auca Indians, a group of Ecuadorian indigenous people considered violent and dangerous to outsiders.  We love his famous quote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
It’s sort of a martyr’s creed.  It smacks of presenting yourself a living sacrifice for real, when called upon.

We get inspired by his words, by his life, by his ultimate presentation of himself.  Then we get up from reading Through Gates of Splendor (the literary account) or from watching End of the Spear (the film account), and immediately start being irritated at home, frustrated at work, and start pleading with the Lord to ‘better’ our awful circumstances, when in reality we haven’t gotten anywhere near the altar!

It was infinitely reasonable for Jesus to present Himself a living sacrifice.  It was the only way lost men could be saved.  In eternity past the Son of God determined He would come as a man to die in our place in service to God.  Now He has become the firstfruits of many brethren!  Whosoever will believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!  He can draw all men to Himself.  He is the Savior of all men – especially those who believe.

It may seem a big leap from Isaac and Jesus to you, but the truth is that anything and everything that God asks you to submit to after you’ve presented yourself as a living sacrifice is reasonable.

Looking back at Romans, you’ve been justified.  You’ve been sanctified.  Now we are transitioning into you being sanctified day-by-day.  God is doing it but requires your cooperation.
In the military (and I want to be careful here since I was never military; only that my dad threatened to send me to military school) there is a command, “Present Arms!”  It’s a method of salute.

When armed with a rifle… the rifle is brought to the vertical, muzzle up, in front of center of the chest with the trigger away from the body. The hands hold the stock close to the positions they would have if the rifle were being fired, though the trigger is not touched.

While again we need to be reminded that Paul was beseeching, not commanding, it was like him saying to us, “Present arms!”  “Present feet!”  “Present mouth!”  “Present eyes!”  “Present mind!”

Present your body – all of it, all of you – to the Lord so He can go on sanctifying you til that day you awake in His likeness.

Bold Glory (Romans 11v33-36)

A doxology is an expression of praise to God, usually (but not always) in the form of a short hymn sung as part of a Christian worship service.

Chapter eleven closes with what many call a doxology; and it is, although I think we should hear it as more spontaneous.  It’s like when a worship leader or songwriter gets a lyric directly, immediately, from the Lord.

Paul was overwhelmed by what he’d written thus far in Romans under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit and exploded into this doxology.

He was thinking back, not just over chapter eleven or even chapters nine through eleven, but over the entire first eleven chapters.

It’s a good place for a song, too, in that it ends part one of Romans, the doctrinal section, and anticipates the remaining chapters which are more about the practice of the Christian life in the church and in the world.

Romans 11:33  Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

The “riches” Paul had in mind are “the wisdom and knowledge of God.”

We are not told, specifically, what “wisdom” or “knowledge” Paul meant. William MacDonald has written a pretty reliable Bible commentary called The Believer’s Bible Commentary.  He makes this general observation:

This concluding doxology looks back over the entire epistle and the divine wonders that have been unfolded.  Paul has expounded the marvelous plan of salvation by which a just God can save ungodly sinners and still be just in doing so.  He has shown how Christ’s work brought more glory to God and more blessing to men than Adam lost through his sin.  He has explained how grace produces holy living in a way that law could never do.  He has traced the unbreakable chain of God’s purpose from foreknowledge to eventual glorification.  He has set forth the doctrine of sovereign election and the companion doctrine of human responsibility.  And he has traced the justice and harmony of God’s dispensational dealings with Israel and the nations.  Now nothing could be more appropriate than to burst forth in a hymn of praise and worship.

Though God has revealed all this (and more), His “judgments” remain “unsearchable.”

“Unsearchable” means they cannot be fully comprehended.  You should keep searching them out but they will always be deeper than you can fathom.

As for His “judgments,” Albert Barnes writes, “in the case before us, it means his arrangements for conferring the Gospel on people.”  In other words, how people get saved.

Salvation is a simple enough arrangement between God and man, is it not?  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!”  “Whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

But when we start peeling back the layers, looking at the moment the salvation transaction occurs, it remains in many ways “unsearchable.”

For example, think of all the arguing that still surrounds God’s foreknowledge, God’s election, and God’s predestination.  All these are critical to the salvation of a soul; but they cannot be fully comprehended. or we would have an agreement among orthodox believers.

Not everyone would agree they cannot be fully comprehended!  There are those who think they know exactly how those things ‘work’ to accomplish the salvation of a sinner.  I suggest that if you think you’ve got God all figured-out in these areas, you are more than slightly arrogant.

A theologian I’ve been reading lately made the following suggestion.  He was discussing the arguing that exists between two particular schools of systematic theology, Calvinism and Arminianism.  He said,
Both Calvinists and Arminians should admit the weaknesses of their own theologies and not pretend that the other one alone contains tensions, apparent inconsistencies, difficulties explaining biblical passages and mysteries.

I like what J. B. Phillips said when he said, “If God was small enough to figure out, He wouldn’t be big enough to worship.”

None of this is to say we should not study or that there is anything wrong with being systematic.  It’s only to admit some things will not be totally found-out.

Topics like foreknowledge, election, and predestination are important.  What approach should we take to these when faced with a difficulty or mystery?  We should choose according to what we know to be true about God’s nature and character.

If our conclusions are contrary to the nature and character of God, then they are wrong conclusions!  A system of theology that ‘works’ only if I must surrender certain aspects of God’s revealed nature, or certain definite attributes of God, is just bad theology.

“His ways [are] past finding out.”  We’re generally to know God’s “ways.”  They are the ways of grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, acceptance, and the like.

But how He moves the entire universe in order to accomplish His purposes for your life are most definitely “past” our “finding out.”

Think Joseph in the Old Testament!  Who could find-out God’s plan to save the children of Israel from extinction by a famine that was far in the future by using the wrath of Joseph’s brothers to praise Him?

Let me add this.  If God’s ways are “past finding out,” then we should stop trying to discover the definite, final outcome of every circumstance we are in.  The story of Joseph doesn’t teach us that we will always see or know the final outcome.  It establishes that God always has a final outcome and that He who began this good work in us will most definitely complete it.

I just finished a little book that was an apologetic about God allowing suffering in the world – sometimes even on a massive scale.  The author’s conclusion was,

Our faith is in a God who has come to rescue his creation from the absurdity of sin, the emptiness and waste of death, the forces… that shatter living souls… Until that final glory, however, the world remains divided between two kingdoms, where light and darkness, life and death grow up together and await the harvest.  In such a world, our portion is charity, and our sustenance is faith, and so it will be until the end of [these] days.

Reading between the lines, one of the things he was saying is that things won’t always make Joseph-like sense to us this side of eternity.  There will be many things “past finding out.”

Paul thought this praiseworthy rather than a complaint – and so should we.

Romans 11:34  “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?”

This verse is a quotation, with a slight change, from Isaiah 40:13, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?”

The Lord has revealed “His mind” to us to the extent He is able and we have need.  He told the Jews, for example, that His thoughts toward them were thoughts of peace and not evil, to give them an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11).

Nevertheless, God’s “mind” is mostly unknown to me insofar as exactly how what I am experiencing will bring me to the “expected end” of being conformed into the image of Jesus.  I cannot make the connections between His providence and my maturity.  I don’t really understand my trials and exactly how they are tailored to my spiritual growth.

As a brand-new Christian I came across Edith Scheaffer’s description of these unknowns.  She compared the various events of our lives to a beautiful tapestry God was working on, thread-by-thread.  Only on this side of eternity we see the backside of the tapestry.  It seems a jumbled mess!  Only later, when God is finished and we are transformed, will we see it from His side.

“Or who has become His counselor?”  Obviously no one should presume to counsel the Lord.  Why say this here? It reminds me that His “mind” towards me is set and He needs no direction from anyone as to how to bring about what is best for me.

I’m not an experiment to God; there’s no trial-and-error going on in my life, only trials (when necessary) to bring me to the expected end.

The God who saved me is busy sanctifying me and He will one day glorify me.

Romans 11:35  “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”

God was not in debt to us.  We added nothing to Him.  He didn’t need us.  He chose to create us, to enjoy fellowship with us.  But all the initiative was always His.

He even took a big risk, if I can say that without diminishing anything about God.  Creating us with free will ‘risked’ the ruin of creation through the fall of man.

Romans 11:36  For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Keeping with the theme of the salvation God provides mankind, David Guzik writes:

It is all of Him. This plan came from God.  It wasn’t man’s idea.  We didn’t say, “I’ve offended God and have to find a way back to Him.  Let’s work on a plan to come back to God.”  In our spiritual indifference and death we didn’t care about a plan, and even if we did care we aren’t smart enough or wise enough to make one. It is all of Him.  It is all through Him: Even if we had the plan, we couldn’t make it happen.  We couldn’t free ourselves from this prison of sin and self.  It could only happen through Him, and the great work of Jesus on our behalf is the through Him that brings salvation.

We can also read verse thirty-six as a commentary on human history, from the creation through eternity.

“All things” must refer to everything that is not God and, therefore, mean His created universe.  Certainly creation is “of Him” in the sense He is Creator.

Creation is “through Him” in the sense He sustains all things by His power.

Creation is “to Him” in the sense that it exists to bring Him “glory forever.”  We certainly see creation bringing God glory forever in eternity.  But how does it do so right now, in its fallen state?

At the heart of the Gospel, of course, is a triumphalism, a conviction that the will of God cannot ultimately be defeated and that the victory over evil and death has already been won.  We read, for example, in Colossians 2:15 “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

Earlier Paul wrote that though all creation now groans, it anticipates the “revealing of the sons of God,” meaning us in our final, glorified bodies in eternity.

Bold glory indeed!

Paul The Apostle: International Manifester Of Mysteries (Romans 11v25-32)

Who doesn’t like a good mystery?  Paul the apostle!  He is the chief user of the word in the New Testament.  He kept revealing mysteries to the Christians.

You see, in the Bible, a “mystery” isn’t something that is hard to understand.  It is a truth previously unrevealed but which is now being revealed.

One of those mysteries revealed by Paul is explained in this section of Romans.

Romans 11:25  For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

The mystery here is the identification of the fullness of the Gentiles which was not a subject of revelation in the Old Testament.

Paul seemed extremely concerned that Gentiles would “be wise in [their] own opinion” about God setting aside Israel and bringing the Gospel directly to the other nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.  Looking back over history, he was wise to be concerned as you see the prevalence in every generation of anti-semitism.  There is no place for it in the church!

The “blindness” or hardening as some translate it is the aftermath of Israel’s leaders officially rejecting Jesus Christ as their Messiah.  Instead of ushering in the promised kingdom of God on earth, God is disciplining the nation of Israel, having dispersed Jews all over the earth.  Individual Jews can be and are saved; but God is dealing with the nation in a very particular way.

Meanwhile the Gospel goes out to the Gentiles until “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”  As we understand prophecy, this age in which we live will come to an end when Jesus returns in the clouds to resurrect and rapture the church.  According to one commentator, the Greek word translated “fullness” was a nautical term referring to the number of sailors necessary for a commercial ship to set sail.   Also the word translated “come in” meant to arrive at a destination.

Paul used these metaphors to describe the church leaving Earth and arriving at our destination.  With the church in Heaven, God will resume His direct dealings with Israel as a nation by taking them through the Great Tribulation.

One of the arguments we offer that the church will not be involved at all in the Great Tribulation is that the purposes of that seven year period are clearly stated and they have nothing whatsoever to do with the church.

The twofold purpose for the time of the Great Tribulation is this:

To bring to conclusion ‘the times of the Gentiles’ (Luke 21:24); and
To prepare for the restoration and the regathering of Israel in the millennial reign of Christ following the Second Coming.

Gentiles and Jews are all that you read about during the Great Tribulation.  The church is never mentioned.

Many of those who say the church will go through the Great Tribulation say it is because we need to be purged and purified.

Is that how believers in Jesus Christ are made ready to go to Heaven?  Not according to Jesus!

Ephesians 5:26  [Jesus will] sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
Ephesians 5:27  that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

The Great Tribulation has another informative name.  It’s called “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” relating it primarily to the nation of Israel.  The godly remnant that survive the Great Tribulation are pictured as Israelites or as Gentiles who aided Israelites, not members of the Church.

God is, of course, dealing with Israel as a nation today.  Obviously He has preserved them for the past two thousand years.  And He has fulfilled His promises to gather them back to their land.

All of that is preparatory to His direct dealing with them, to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ.

Romans 11:26  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “THE DELIVERER WILL COME OUT OF ZION, AND HE WILL TURN AWAY UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB;

“The Deliverer” is, of course, Jesus Christ.  He will deliver Israel in the sense that “all Israel will be saved.”  Not automatically, simply because they are ethnically Jews.  All believing Jews will be saved.  The prophet Zechariah tells us that the unbelieving portion of the nation will be killed.

Zechariah 13:8  And it shall come to pass in all the land,” Says the Lord, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it:
Zechariah 13:9  I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ ”

What is the “fire” God will bring them through?  It is the Great Tribulation.

Let’s pause and discuss this word “Zion.”  Occurring over 150 times in the Bible, the word “Zion” essentially means fortification.  Zion was one of the hills in Jerusalem.

The first mention of the word “Zion” in the Bible is Second Samuel 5:7, “Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David.”

Zion, therefore, was originally the name of the ancient Jebusite fortress in the city of Jerusalem.  Zion came to stand not only for the fortress but also for city in which the fortress stood.  After David captured “the stronghold of Zion,” Zion was then called “the City of David” (First Kings 8:1).

When Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, the word Zion expanded in meaning to include also the Temple and the area surrounding it (e.g., Psalm 2:6).  Zion was eventually used as a name for the city of Jerusalem, the land of Judah, and the people of Israel as a whole.

In order to “come out of Zion” Jesus must first return to Zion.  The Second Coming of Jesus Christ to earth is a principle Christian doctrine.  There are, in fact, more references in the Bible to Jesus Christ’s Second Coming than there are to His first coming.

“And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”  The AV translates this, “He will banish ungodliness.”  It is a description of the righteous rule of the Lord over the earth from His throne in Jerusalem.


The covenant referred to here is called the New Covenant in the Book of Jeremiah.  Here is what God promised the Jews He would do:

Jeremiah 31:31  “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…

Jeremiah 31:33  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Jeremiah 31:34  No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

“After those days.”  We know this is yet future to us because it is a time when “they all shall know [the Lord].”  It can’t be describing any other period of time, when everyone knew the Lord, “from the least of them to the greatest of them.”
God will “forgive their iniquity” and not “remember” their sin because they will receive Jesus Christ.

Romans 11:28  Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.

“Concerning the Gospel” going out freely to the Gentiles the Jews were “enemies” of God’s program.  Paul was a good example.  He was the chief persecutor of the Gospel until he got saved, after which he was the chief target of the Jews to be persecuted!

But the Jews remain God’s “elect” nation, “beloved” by God because of the unconditional promises He made to the “fathers,” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

We always think of the word “elect” as a synonym for the word “saved.”  With regards to Israel, it is God’s “elect” nation, but within it each individual much come to personal faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.
Isaiah refers to the entire nation as God’s “elect” at least three times (45:4, 65:9, 65:22).  He also refers to Jesus Christ as God’s “elect One” (42:1).  Biblical scholar William Klein, in his book The New Chosen People, concludes that election is primarily used in the Bible in this corporate way, not of individuals per se.  He goes on to argue that “Christ is God’s chosen One, and the church is chosen in Him.”

It is a biblical view of election known as “corporate election.”  It presents the scenario in which God’s will is for whosoever will to be saved – not just a predetermined, select, restricted number.  Individuals are actually saved when they receive Jesus Christ as Savior.

It solves the problems raised by those who believe God’s election is unconditional of certain individuals to salvation, namely that certain others are elected by God to damnation.  Corporate election raises a few problems of its own, but in the end they are less injurious to the love of God for lost mankind.

Romans 11:29  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

A lot of time you’ll hear this verse quoted to talk about how once God gives you a spiritual gift He won’t take it away.  That’s not at all what it means!  In context this verse is discussing God’s promises to the nation of Israel.  His “gifts and the calling” to the physical descendants of Abraham were unconditional and He will not, He can not, revoke them.

Romans 11:30  For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience,
Romans 11:31  even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.

This is like a mini history lesson.  When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, he sinned for all of his future offspring as our representative.  God immediately began to explain the way of salvation.  As time went on mankind continued in rebellion against God, not wanting to retain the knowledge of God.  First in the days of Noah, then later at the Tower of Babel, God intervened.

Then history took a critical turn.  God chose Abraham and his descendants as His special people, as His “elect,” through whom the promised Savior of the world would come.

When the Savior came to His own and they rejected Him, because of their “disobedience” the Gentile nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues “received mercy” as the Gospel went to them.

Though disobedient as a nation, individual Jews could see the “mercy shown” Gentiles and “also obtain mercy.”

Romans 11:32  For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

In other words, while the nation of Israel is set aside, God having given them over to their own decision to be “disobedient,” He is extending “mercy on all,” both Jews and Gentiles , whosoever will believe in Him and be saved.

We live at the intersection of these great movements in history.  The time of the Gentiles is nearly full.  Israel is in her land.  The Great Tribulation is within prophetic sight.  The return of Jesus to resurrect and rapture the church is imminent.

“Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!”

The Wild, Wild Graft (Romans 11v11-24)

It is widely understood that the reformer, Martin Luther, was powerfully affected by his reading of the Book of Romans.  He once wrote,

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament.  It is purest Gospel.  It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul.  It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well.  The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.

Sadly, for all his reading of Romans, Luther never ‘tasted’ the importance of Paul’s comments regarding the future of the nation of Israel.  Luther wrote,

For such ruthless wrath of God is sufficient evidence that they [i.e., the Jewish people] assuredly have erred and gone astray.  Even a child can comprehend this.  For one dare not regard God as so cruel that he would punish his own people so long, so terrible, so unmercifully… Therefore this work of wrath is proof that the Jews, surely rejected by God, are no longer his people, and neither is he any longer their God.1

Is the nation of Israel “no longer [God’s] people”?  We’ll let the apostle Paul answer that for us.

Romans 11:11  I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.

The tense of the verb “fall” and its contrast with the verb translated “stumbled” implies the idea of falling beyond recovery.  A paraphrase might read, “Has her stumble caused Israel to fall beyond recovery?  Certainly not!”
They stumbled and fell on the stumblingblock, Jesus Christ.  They refused to recognize and receive Him as their promised Messiah and the Savior of the world.  He just wasn’t what they wanted or thought they needed.

God thus interrupted His dealings with the nation of Israel and “salvation has come to the Gentiles.”  By “Gentiles” he meant all the non-Jewish nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues anywhere on planet earth during the current age in which we are living.

We call it the Church Age.  It spans the time between Israel’s rejection of Jesus and His return to resurrect and rapture all the believers during this period.  The church was a mystery not revealed in the Old Testament.  It is to be kept distinct from the nation of Israel and from the Gentiles.

The Gospel was being preached to everyone and many Gentiles were getting saved.  The saved Gentiles were receiving the fullness of the indwelling Holy Spirit and enjoying direct access to God’s throne of grace and mercy.  Saved Gentiles have all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.

It’s enough to make an Israelite jealous!

Romans 11:12  Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

The word “failure” means to diminish.  It’s another way of saying that because of her fall, having rejected Jesus,  Israel is currently diminished, or as we like to say, set-aside.

Now to anyone who thinks God is through with Israel as a distinct group, this verse demolishes that thought.  Saved Jews and Saved Gentiles were already enjoying “fullness” in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  This verse is saying that one day, in the future, the nation of Israel will experience God’s fullness as well.  It presupposes Israel is treated separately, distinctly, from Gentiles and from the church.

Romans 11:13  For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
Romans 11:14  if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.

Have you ever tried to provoke someone to jealousy by using someone else?  It’s not very cool.

God, however, is ‘cool,’ if I can say that.  A result of ministering to Gentiles was that Jews were “provoke[d] to jealousy,” and individual Jews were being saved, but that didn’t minimize God’s love for the Gentiles.  He wasn’t just using them!

Paul made it clear that his ministry to the Gentiles was ordained by God.  He was an “apostle” and in his service he magnified his ministry, taking it very seriously.

Romans 11:15  For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

The nation “fell,” was diminished, and now we read they were “cast away.”  Their “fall” is not final so neither is their being “cast away.”  Besides, in the same breath Paul indicated that Israel will be accepted and be alive from the dead.

What is “the reconciling of the world?”  It is the doctrine that the death of Jesus Christ has reconciled God to mankind making us savable.  The Moody Handbook of Theology defines reconciliation this way: “God removes the barrier of sin, producing peace and enabling man to be saved.”

There are two parts to reconciliation:
The objective aspect of reconciliation is that in which man is reconciled to God prior to faith and is rendered savable.
The subjective aspect of reconciliation is that in which man is reconciled to God when he believes… God is the one who initiated this reconciliation… [it] has been provided for the whole world, but it is effective only when it is received by personal faith.

Here is a homespun, but informative, way of understanding what it means.
At first God and man stood face to face with each other.  In sinning, Adam turned his back upon God.  Then God turned His back upon Adam.  Jesus dying on the Cross “made Him to be sin for us” (Second Corinthians 5:21).  It satisfies the demands of God and makes it possible for God to again turn His face toward man.  Thus God has reconciled the world to Himself and human beings are entreated by the Gospel to turn from their sin, be saved, and enjoy the face to face reconciliation provided in Jesus Christ.

If something as wonderful as the Gospel spreading out to the Gentile world resulted from Israel’s rejection, how much greater will be the result of Israel’s eventual restoration!

Paul was a master at metaphor.  The two he next employed were the “lump” and the “branches.”

Romans 11:16  For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

The “firstfruit” and the “lump” are describing dough, not fruit.  In the Old Testament Book of Numbers God instructed Israel to take “a cake from the first of [their] ground meal and present it as an offering” (15:20) after they entered the land of Canaan and reaped their first wheat harvest.  This offering was to be repeated each year at their harvests.  The cake made from the first ground meal of the wheat harvest was “holy,” meaning it was set apart for God.

Paul’s point was that if the cake made from the first wheat harvested was set apart, then all the cakes made from the harvest are to be considered set apart to the Lord.

Paul was not saying that individual Jews are all automatically saved.  That would contradict everything he has taught in Romans and elsewhere.  He is saying that the nation of Israel belongs to Him, it is set apart for His purposes and use, because of His covenants with Abraham and the other patriarchs who were like the “firstfruits.”  The nation of Israel is the “lump” and remains set apart for the Lord – even though currently they are set-aside!

The “root” of a tree is the source of nutritious sap necessary for its growth.  If it is sound, pure, and vigorous, we expect the same of the “branches.”
Abraham and the other patriarchs to whom God made unconditional promises are the root and Israel the branches.

Both metaphors establish that Israel is permanently set apart for God.  Next Paul expanded on the root and branches to try to describe what God is doing to and through Israel in the Church Age.

Romans 11:17  And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,

The “branches broken off” refer to unbelieving Jews.  They remain the physical descendants of Abraham, but are not his spiritual descendants.

Part of God’s promises to Abraham was that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed.  Gentiles are compared to a “wild olive tree” that was “grafted” to the root.

Look at it this way.  God hasn’t uprooted Israel and planted a new tree in her place.  No, Israel remains set apart even though set aside and Gentiles are grafted in to the promises He made to Abraham.

Romans 11:18  do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

Gentiles are indebted to the nation of Israel!  Salvation is of the Jews and we are late-comers.  We should not, therefore, “boast” of any superiority.

Romans 11:19  You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”
Romans 11:20  Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.

In verse twenty, “well said” simply means, ‘it’s true branches were broken off that [Gentiles] might be grafted in.”  BUT they weren’t broken off for that purpose.  God didn’t set Israel aside because Gentiles were superior, or so that Gentiles would totally replace Israel.

No, Israel was “broken off” because of their “unbelief.”  Then Gentiles were offered the Gospel without the need to first (or afterward) convert to Judaism.

Our response, “faith,” is not a work and has no merit.  It is all of grace that we are saved.

Do you understand how ridiculous anti-semitism is?  We owe the Jews a great spiritual debt.

Romans 11:21  For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

This sounds scary.  Let’s think about it in context.  Israel was the “natural branches.”  Those Israelites who remained in unbelief were broken off.

Gentile nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues are now grafted branches.  The Gospel has gone, and is going out, to them.  Those who remain in unbelief will be broken off.

This metaphor is about you as an individual only insofar as it pertains to your response to the Gospel.  You might say it’s about salvation and not about sanctification.

William MacDonald says,

It must be constantly borne in mind that Paul is not speaking of the church or of individual believers.  He is speaking about the Gentiles as [a group].  Nothing can ever separate the Body of Christ from the Head, and nothing can separate a believer from the love of God…

Any person in either group, Jew or Gentile, may believe and be saved or they may remain in unbelief and be lost.

Keep that in mind as we read the next few verses.

Romans 11:22  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
Who were “those who fell?”  The nation of Israel in their rejection of Jesus.  God’s severe discipline upon them resulted in His “goodness” being shown to all the Gentile nations, peoples, tribes and tongues of the earth.

What about the warning, “if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”  Is this teaching that I, as an individual believer, must “continue in His goodness” or I will forfeit salvation?

Let’s unpack this a little.  First let’s ask, what is meant by “the goodness… of God?”  Well, in the context of these verses, the “goodness… of God” refers to His turning to the Gentiles with the offer of salvation.

One thing for sure Paul was saying is that God could just as well set aside any particular Gentile nation, people, tribe, or tongue.  In other words, this verse might have a group application more than an individual one.

Before you think this is a far-fetched explanation of a difficult text, consider the fact that we think this way regarding our own nation!  Do we not believe that God has been extraordinarily “good” to the United States?  Do we not believe we are “one nation, under God?”  And don’t we as Christians within this nation also believe that without revival God will remove His favor from us?  If He hasn’t begun to do so already!

The truth is, our nation is not continuing in the goodness of God as a nation and we do believe it is having severe consequences.

I don’t think these verses, in this context, are about individual perseverance to the end in order to maintain salvation.

One more reason to think that.  Paul said earlier, “I speak to you Gentiles” (v13).  He was not really addressing the church, was he?  No, he was talking to the Gentile world at large about their privilege to hear and respond favorably to the Gospel in light of God setting aside Israel.

Romans 11:23  And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

Israel will be “grafted [back] in, for God is able to graft them in again.”  The condition for which Israel was broken off and cast away was “unbelief.”  The condition for Israel to be grafted back in is to “not continue in unbelief.”
We see this happen at the end of the Great Tribulation, as the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth.

Romans 11:24  For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

It is easier to graft natural branches than wild ones.  It should come as no surprise, then, that God will one day save Israel.

Israel Interrupted (Romans 11v1-10)

We like to keep three groups of people distinct as we read the Bible: the nation of Israel, the Gentiles, and the church.  God has a plan for each of them – for each of us.

God’s plan for the nation of Israel was interrupted when her leaders officially rejected Jesus Christ’s rule over them and His offer of the kingdom on earth.  A new group was born – the church – comprised of ethnic Jews and Gentiles who were being saved in response to the preaching of the Gospel.

One day the Lord will return for His church.  He will resurrect the dead in Christ and rapture the living believers.  He will take His church to the homes He has been preparing for us in Heaven.

Once the church is removed, the interruption in the Lord’s dealings with His people, Israel, will be ended.  He will deal with them for seven years in a time we most often call the Great Tribulation but which is also called the time of Jacob’s trouble since it is definitely a time in which God is working to bring the nation of Israel back to Himself.

At the end of those seven years the Lord will return to the earth, be recognized and received by the remnant of the Jews, and finally rule over them and the whole earth from Jerusalem as the capital of the kingdom of God.

Without the completed New Testament, the future I just outlined wasn’t so clear.  To the first century observer it looked as though God had cast away His own people.  In fact, it looked that way for some nineteen centuries!
Paul took up that issue. God has not “cast away His people,” meaning Israel.  In verses one and two Paul presents arguments to show God has not “cast away His people.”  His first argument is his own understanding of his heritage.

Romans 11:1  I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Even though born-again as a Christian; even though he took the Gospel to the Gentiles; even though he laid the foundation for the church (along with the other apostles); Paul identified himself as a descendant of Abraham, an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin.  He was not just proclaiming his earthly heritage; he was claiming his eternal inheritance!  God made unconditional, national promises to Abraham’s literal descendants.  He made certain unique promises to the tribe of Benjamin.  Paul understood that those promises were still his to one day inherit.

He wasn’t simply pointing out that Jews could still be saved.  He was saying that Israel continued and would continue to exist in God’s plan.

That conclusion is reinforced by what Paul said next.

Romans 11:2  God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying,
Romans 11:3  “LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”?
Romans 11:4  But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

Elijah prayed against Israel because of her apostasy and sin.  They had killed God’s prophets and torn down God’s altars.  Elijah – a Jew – wanted God to cast away the nation!

Nevertheless God did not cast them away as a nation.  He preserved a “remnant” of believers.  There were spiritual descendants of Abraham among his apostasizing physical descendants and God was preserving them to fulfill all of His unconditional promises.

By the way… There may be a hint of God’s future dealings with Israel in Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.  The accounts in the Book of Acts of Paul’s conversion tell very little that resembles the ‘normal’ salvation experience.  Paul saw Jesus revealed in glory, was blinded by the light of His glory, and was thrown to the ground.  Pastor Warren Wiersbe suggests that,

…[Paul’s conversion] is a picture of how the nation of Israel will be saved when Jesus Christ returns to establish His kingdom on earth… The details of Israel’s future restoration and salvation… given in Zechariah 12:10 – 13:1… will be an experience similar to that of [Paul] when he was on his way to Damascus…

Paul understood that God will preserve Israel through the church age and pick-up His dealings with them after the church removed.

Romans 11:5  Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Paul could have said, right here, that there is no such thing as a nation of Israel that we should expect God to preserve.  He could have said Israel is now the church or something similar.  Instead he said that “at this present time,” meaning during this entire age, “there is a remnant.”  In every generation of the church there is a “remnant” of saved Jews.

What does that mean, exactly?  Well, it means that even though it’s the church age, and even though Jews must be saved exactly the same way Gentiles are saved, and even though there is no requirement to convert to Judaism and/or keep the Law of Moses, God still recognizes Jews as a distinct ethnic group.  They are still His people in a special way.

Romans 11:6  And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

This is nothing new.  We’ve established that righteousness is of faith and not of works.  Why say it like this, right here?

It’s to establish that although God has a remnant of Jews throughout the church age, they are not to split-off from the church and think they must keep the law!  God is not through with Israel but, for now, a saved Jew is a member of the church.

Romans 11:7  What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

The majority of the nation of Israel was seeking the righteousness of works and had not obtained it.  The “elect” within the nation of Israel are those individual Jews who have obtained righteousness by grace through faith in Jesus.

The majority, having rejected the Lord, were “blinded.”  It doesn’t mean that they could not have believed; it means they would not believe and, therefore, God gave them over to their decision.

Think, for example, of Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem.  He said that He wanted to gather them to Himself but they “would not” have any part of it.  It was their decision, their response, and, therefore, their responsibility.

If the Jews could not believe because God had blinded them, then Jesus’ lament would have been insincere at best.

Romans 11:8  Just as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.”
Romans 11:9  And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them.
Romans 11:10  Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always.”

These verses describe God’s discipline upon the nation of Israel for their decision to reject Jesus Christ.  Verse eight tells you not to expect national repentance in our day and age.  Verse nine is interesting.  “Table” is a reference to the Temple worship and sacrifices.  Their Temple worship and sacrifices both became, and will become, the things described:

Their Temple worship and sacrifices did become a “snare and a trap” in the sense that they preferred the outward form of worship to the personal worship of Jesus Christ.
Their Temple worship and sacrifices will become “a stumbling block and a recompense to them” in the future Great Tribulation.  In their zeal to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem, the nation of Israel will enter into a peace treaty with a world leader from Europe.  He will be none other than the Antichrist.  He will enter their Temple, defile it by declaring that he is God, then brutally persecute them.

We encountered a couple of terms that believers spar over: “foreknew” and “elect.”  Let’s take a quick look at them, starting with “election.”

The word “election” itself is derived from the Greek word, eklegomai, which means, literally, “to choose something for oneself.”  When used of persons the “elect” are those who are saved.

Exactly how is election accomplished?  That’s the $64,000.00 question.  One popular theological opinion is called unconditional election.  It is the belief that God sovereignly, on the basis of His grace, chose before time certain individuals on whom He would bestow His saving grace.  God chose some in eternity past to save and, when these who are His elect hear the Gospel, they are regenerated and then are enabled to exercise faith and repentance.  With unconditional election, the believing sinner exercises no free will, has no real choice.  God has determined his or her salvation from eternity past.  All who were elected in eternity past will be unavoidably saved.

You know the expression, “the 800 pound gorilla in the room”?  Unconditional election brings an 800 pound gorilla into the discussion of election.  Simply stated, God could have saved everyone but determined to only save a very few.  And those He determined to not save, well, He determined to damn them to Hell.

It’s called by theologians “double predestination.”  If God predestined some to election and salvation, then He also predestined others to reprobation and damnation.

Although some who believe in unconditional election try to distance themselves from this awful conclusion, it is the inevitable result of their view of election as being unconditional, and many, if not most, of those who believe election is unconditional will readily admit predestination is double in this sense.

Those who argue against unconditional election don’t do so because it robs you of free will.  They oppose it on biblical grounds because it robs God of certain of His attributes, i.e., love and justice.

Simply put, if God selects some to be saved unconditionally and irresistibly, why doesn’t He choose all?

Commenting on unconditional election and its inevitable double predestination, one scholar said, “God is thereby rendered morally ambiguous at best and a moral monster at worst.”

Another scholar said, “I believe this so-called double predestination of individuals by God is inconsistent with his love, and the teaching makes it difficult to tell the difference between God and the devil.”

Here is another even stronger criticism: “Only a moral monster would refuse to save persons when salvation is absolutely unconditional and solely an act of God that does not depend on [man’s] free will.”

Is there an alternative to unconditional election?  Yes.  It involves our understanding of the second controversial word, “foreknew,” meaning God’s “foreknowledge.”

The great evangelist John Wesley summarized God’s foreknowledge when he said,

God sees from all eternity who will and will not accept His atoning work.  God does not coerce the acceptance of His offer.  The Atonement is available for all, but not received by all.

This view of foreknowledge led theologian Henry Thiessen, in his classic work, Lectures in Systematic Theology, to write,
Election is that sovereign act of God in grace, whereby from all eternity He chose in Christ Jesus for Himself and for salvation, all those whom He foreknew would respond positively to prevenient grace…”

This type of election, based on God’s knowing beforehand who would receive and who would reject the sincere offer of salvation, is sometimes called “conditional election.”  It is conditioned upon the response of the sinner’s freed will.

How can a dead sinner have a freed will to respond to God?  You might have noticed in the last quote, by Thiessen, the term “prevenient grace.”  What’s that???

Roger Olson defines it this way:

Prevenient grace is simply the convicting, calling, enlightening and enabling grace of God that goes before conversion and makes repentance and faith possible.  [Those who hold to unconditional election] interpret it as irresistible and effectual; the person in whom it works [must] repent and believe unto salvation.  [Those who believe election is conditional] interpret it as resistible; people are always able to resist the grace of God, as Scripture warns (Acts 7:51).

In conditional election, prevenient grace frees the human will to respond to the Gospel in repentance and faith.  No one is forced or coerced to believe; but no one is passed-over because they cannot believe by God’s choice in eternity past.

Conditional election is not without its own issues.  For example it’s hard to reconcile God’s absolute foreknowledge with man’s freed will.

I wouldn’t say it’s an 800 pound gorilla in the room, however.  It’s more like a chimpanzee!  In the end I would rather live with the problem of how God remains sovereign while freeing our will than come to the conclusion that God has predestined most of His creatures, whom He could have saved but determined to not save, to an eternity in Hell.

God is sovereign.  God is also love.  The question becomes, Does God in His sovereignty limit His love so that “love” seems more like indifference or hatred in His predestinating people to Hell?
Or does God in His love choose to limit His sovereignty so that He remains in control of His universe, working out all things to His glory, while simultaneously giving whosoever will believe the prevenient grace to exercise what amounts to a freed will?

I choose the chimp over the gorilla!!

(If you are interested in digging deeper you might enjoy the book,
Against Calvinism, by Roger E. Olson)

O Sinner, Where Art Thou? (Romans 10v14-21)

God is evangelistic.

From the beginning He has been revealing His salvation to the human race.  Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, God came to them in the Garden of Eden and offered them what Iraneaus, in the second century after Jesus, called the proto-evangel, meaning the ‘first Gospel.’  He was referring to Genesis 3:15,

Genesis 3:15  And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

Commenting on this, William MacDonald said,

It predicts the perpetual hostility between Satan and the woman (representing all mankind), and between Satan’s seed (his agents) and her Seed (the Messiah).  The woman’s Seed would crush the Devil’s head, a mortal wound spelling utter defeat.  This wound was administered at Calvary when the Savior decisively triumphed over the Devil.  Satan, in turn, would bruise the Messiah’s heel.  The heel wound here speaks of suffering and even of physical death, but not of ultimate defeat.  So Christ suffered on the cross, and even died, but He arose from the dead, victorious over sin, hell, and Satan.  The fact that He is called the woman’s Seed may contain a suggestion of His virgin birth.

Another writer said, “these words spoken by God contain the first promise of redemption in the Bible.  Everything else in the Bible flows from these words in Genesis 3:15.  As the acorn contains the mighty oak, so these words contain the entire plan of salvation.”

The great English preacher Charles Simeon called this verse “the sum and summary of the whole Bible.”
When Charles Wesley wrote the familiar carol Hark, the Herald Angels Sing he included a verse based on Genesis 3:15.  Modern hymnals often omit this verse, which is unfortunate since it contains excellent theology:

Come, Desire of Nations, come, Fix in us Thy humble home.
Rise the woman’s conquering Seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Adam’s likeness now efface, Stamp Thine image in its place,
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in Thy love,

When we studied the life of Abraham we talked about the Abrahamic Covenant.  Included in that Covenant was a promise that through Abraham’s seed all peoples would be blessed.  They would be blessed because through Abraham’s seed would come the Savior promised by God in the proto-evangel.

We saw, last time, that Jews and Gentiles were saved exactly the same way, by calling on the name of the Lord.  The question that arises from that is, “How does someone call upon the name of the Lord?”

The remainder of chapter ten answers that and more.

Romans 10:14  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
Romans 10:15  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Who are “they” in these verses? In the immediately previous verses Paul explained that everyone – Jew and Gentile – is saved the same way.  “They” are, therefore, Jews and Gentiles.  “They” are all people everywhere.

This, then, is God’s simple, straightforward plan for evangelism.  To quote MacDonald again,

God sends out His servants
They preach the word of faith [i.e., that the believing sinner is declared righteous based on the finished work of Jesus Christ]
Sinners [without distinction as to ethnicity] hear God’s offer of life in Christ
Some of those who hear believe the message
Those who believe call on the Lord.
Those who call on Him are saved

The quote in verse fifteen is from Isaiah 52:7.  It’s original application was the announcement to the people of Judah that their captivity and exile in Babylon had ended.  How much greater is the announcement to sinners of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues that their captivity to sin and death in the kingdom of Satan has ended at the cross!

Romans 10:16  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”

Who are “they” in this verse?  Well, certainly this is a true statement about both Jews and Gentiles.  When the Gospel is preached, not everyone believes.

I think, however, that the “they” in this verse and the following ones is to be understood as being Jews.  There are at least things that point to this being about the Jews:

The overall context of this chapter was set in verse one where Paul said his heart’s desire for Israel was that the Jews be saved.
In verse sixteen Paul quoted from the famous passage in Isaiah fifty-three that describes the rejection of Jesus Christ by His own people, the nation of Israel.
And because the general context of these remaining verses is about Israel and her rejection of the Gospel while Gentiles were, in great numbers, receiving it.

We are Gentiles.  We don’t see why it was a problem that the Gospel was going out to Jew and Gentile alike, and that Gentiles were being saved in great numbers while Jews were, for the most part, hardening their hearts against Jesus.  But if we were Jews and had the whole weight of history and Scripture that indicated salvation was to the Jew first, we’d be severely troubled and in need of a biblical explanation.

Romans 10:17  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

This is similar to the saying of Jesus, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Auditory hearing is necessary, but it is hearing in the heart that makes the difference.  For the most part, Jews did not have ears to hear; and certainly their leaders had stopped their ears, refusing to hear.

So, in verse sixteen Paul quoted the prophecy that Jews would not recognize their Messiah and would not “believe” the “report” about Him.  The “report” might be a reference to the facts of His ministry – that He healed and performed the miracles that were prophesied of the Messiah.

Since the Jews for the most part, and especially the leadership of the nation, did not believe, they were not being saved!  They held on to their own belief that righteousness was of the law and not of faith.

They “heard,” just not with the heart.

I hate to be so repetitive but the issue here was that Jews needed to be shown from their Scriptures that preaching the righteousness of faith to Gentiles was God’s plan.  They needed to come to the conclusion that the apodtle Peter had come to – that Jews needed to be saved the same way Gentiles were being saved, by grace through faith and not by works of the law.

Romans 10:18  But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.”

The Jews had definitely heard the Gospel.  I always marvel that all the first Christians were Hebrew Christians!  The preaching of the apostles filled Jerusalem.

Paul quotes from Psalm nineteen which speaks of the testimony of creation.  Just as the ignorant Gentile had the witness of creation all around him and was without excuse as to the glory of God, in a much greater way the willfully ignorant Jew had the witness of the Gospel all around him and was without excuse.

Romans 10:19  But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”

What was it that “Israel” claimed to “not know?”  In context, they were claiming to “not know,” meaning to not understand how, God could save Gentiles apart from conversion to Judaism.  How He could save them directly, without Jewish intervention.

Paul found a verse in Deuteronomy (32:21) and quoted it to show that this saving of Gentiles was prophesied with the hope that God’s own people would become jealous.

Jealousy is not always a bad thing!  God is sometimes described as jealous over us.  If God can be jealous, then jealousy cannot always be bad.

Sadly, in their jealousy the Jews became angry rather than repentant.  So God went directly to the Gentiles with His offer of salvation.

Paul had something to say about this at the end of the Book of Acts.

Acts 28:25  So when they [the Jews] did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers,
Acts 28:28  “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!”

The next verse in Romans ten, verse twenty, says the same thing:

Romans 10:20  But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”

You and I weren’t attending synagogue.  We weren’t observing the Sabbath.  We weren’t Kosher!  God “found” us by sending someone to us (or something someone had produced to read or watch or listen to) with the Gospel and we were saved.

Romans 10:21  But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people.”

Gentiles who were not seeking God were being found by Him and saved.  Jews to whom Jesus had come offering eternal life and the kingdom on earth had rejected Him.

Do you realize how painful it is to stretch out your hands for any length of time?  God employs this word picture to describe in human terms something of the greatness and strength of His love for Israel.

In His love for Israel, He strove with them right up until the Roman invasion of 70AD.
In His love for Israel, He is saving individual Jews alongside Gentiles during this Church Age
In His love for Israel, He will spare a remnant of the nation during the coming Great Tribulation
In His love for Israel, at the Second Coming of Jesus, at the end of the Great Tribulation, all Israel will be saved!

Some have made the devotional application that the outstretched arms are those of Jesus, on the Cross, reaching out to save His own people, Israel, and all mankind.

All throughout the Bible God is depicted as seeking to save lost sinners.  We saw the proto-evangel in Genesis.  The Bible ends with God seeking sinners in the last chapter of the Revelation where we read that the Spirit and the bride – the church – say “Come,” inviting whosoever will believe to drink of the living water of God’s salvation.

Earlier Paul had stated that, because of sin, no one seeks after God (Romans 3:11).  God, however, is seeking sinners.  His seeking sinners is accomplished by His sending messengers.

You and I are those messengers.  Wherever we find ourselves, that is where we have been sent.  Every believer is a “preacher” according to verse fourteen.  It’s not a formal preaching, although it can certainly include that.  It is simply our sharing the Gospel with others.

It is simply our sharing Jesus with others!
Here is, I believe, what our attitude ought to be.  We ought to believe that the Gospel is a sincere offer of salvation to “whosoever will believe” because the Bible says that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world – especially those who believe.  His death was sufficient to save everyone and it is effective in saving those who, by grace, accept freely the gift of eternal life.

One Salvation Fits All (Romans 10v5-13)

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “the law” with regards to the Bible?

You might immediately think of the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Jesus referred to these books as the law of Moses in Luke 24:44 when He said, “all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me.”
Obviously those books contain lots more than laws.  The ‘legal’ portions are the last half of Exodus, most of Leviticus, and portions of both Numbers and Deuteronomy.  So that might be what you think of as “the law.”
You might think of the Ten Commandments as a kind of summary of the law.  We know that the two tablets of the law contained, on one side, how and why we are to love God, while on the other side how we are to love our fellow man.  Thus when Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
We’re not done yet, however, describing the law.  The Jews developed a tradition, handed down by rabbi’s, that the law consists of 613 commandments.  This shows up in Jewish writings between the destruction of the Temple in 70AD and the third century.  In the fourth century a rabbi named Simlai declared that there were 365 negative commandments and 248 positive ones, totaling 613.
While we might refer to the 10 commandments, Jews would refer to the 613 commandments!  This may have, in fact, been the background of the question posed to Jesus about which was the greatest commandment.

Although there is nothing in writing prior to 70AD about the 613, this was probably already something the first century Jews were familiar with.

Regardless exactly what a Jew listening to Paul’s letter being read might think the “law” meant, he was aware of verses in the Scriptures that said things like,

Romans 10:5  For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”

On the surface it would seem God was encouraging you to keep the law and thus achieve a right standing with Him.  It would seem there was a “righteousness which is of the law.”

There is!  The problem is that no one could ever hope to perfectly obey and  keep the law. James put it like this:

James 2:10  For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

The law is unforgiving that way.  I’ve often used the example of being pulled over by a cop for speeding.  The fact I am keeping many other laws doesn’t cancel out the fact I broke one law.  I am a lawbreaker.  I am guilty.

There had better be another way of getting right with God or we are all lost.

The other way, the only way, is the “righteousness of faith.”

Romans 10:6  But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above)
Romans 10:7  or, ” ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

Quoted from Deuteronomy, these verses have a dual application:

First read them as you would find them in Deuteronomy without the mention of Jesus in parentheses.  They indicate that the righteousness of the law is impossible.  When he says, “Who will ascend into Heaven?” he is talking about those who seek to be right before God by living saintly lives that would be deserving of Heaven.  It’s an exaggeration – as if you could be so righteous that you would simply ascend into Heaven!  On the other hand, you can’t “descend into the abyss.”  In other words, no amount of suffering for your sin in the next life could ever atone for it sufficiently for you to earn the right to enter Heaven.
Secondly, Paul inserts the Person of Jesus Christ in these verses, applying them to Him.  He both “descended” from Heaven and “ascended” back to Heaven.  Jesus “descended” in His incarnation as God come in human flesh.  He “ascended” after being raised from the dead.

The “righteousness of faith,” then, is to reject any hope you could achieve righteousness by keeping the law and simply receive God’s righteousness, to be declared righteous, because of the Person and work of Jesus Christ – the God-man in His incarnation Who was resurrected from the dead.

What is meant by “faith?”

Romans 10:8  But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):

When Paul says “the word is near you,” he means to link that with the phrase in parentheses, “that is, the word… which we preach.”  In other words, salvation is not hard to find!  It is being proclaimed in numerous ways by God’s servants.

The word was in their “mouth,” that is, their language, their common conversation.

Likewise it was in their “heart,” or we might say mind, meaning it could be understood.

The “word of faith” is the teaching of the righteousness of faith.

The message of righteousness by faith comes to you in a language yoy can understand.  It pleads for a decision.

Romans 10:9  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

“Confess with your mouth” can be rendered profess.  Paul has in mind a public profession of faith.  In other words, you publicly acknowledge the truth about Jesus.

That can be tempered by circumstances, like in communist China or elsewhere you must go underground.  The norm is for you to let others know you have come to an understanding of who Jesus really was and is.

You profess “the Lord Jesus.”  There’s a lot packed in to that title!

Concerning “Jesus,” John 1:14 says,

John 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

“Flesh” doesn’t just mean a human body.  It means He came in the fullness of humanity.  He was fully God but simultaneously fully human in a union we can never totally comprehend.  Jesus was and remains the unique God-man.

It’s not enough for someone to believe that a man, a historical figure, named Jesus once lived.  It’s not enough to believe He was a great teacher or philosopher.  You must believe in the biblical doctrine of the incarnation.

As to the title “Lord,” it is Kurios in the Greek.   A.T. Robertson writes,

No Jew would do this who had not really trusted Christ, for Kurios in the [Septuagint] is used of God.  No Gentile would do it who had not ceased worshipping the emperor as Kurios. The word Kurios was and is the touchstone of faith.

It is also essential that you “believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead.”  This is more than just knowing that Jesus rose from the grave.  You must believe that God raised Him from the dead just as He said and just as He described in the Bible, in a literal, physical body.
Romans 10:10  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Believing this with the “heart” is more than intellectual knowledge.  It implies a trusting in the knowledge.

“Confession” is not a condition but a consequence.  “If on Jesus Christ you trust, speak of Him you surely must.”

Confessing and believing are not two separate or sequential steps to salvation.  They are simultaneously true.  We know that because Paul reversed the order as he wrote about them.  Paul said in verse nine you confess and believe.  Then in verse ten he says you believe and confess.  He is showing you salvation from two perspectives – from God’s and from man’s.

From man’s perspective, you say that someone is saved based upon what they say.
From God’s perspective, He and He alone sees that someone is saved.

There was more going on behind this chapter than an explanation of the righteousness of faith.  The righteousness of faith was being proclaimed widely to Gentiles.

One of the big issues in the first century was whether or not a Gentile must also convert to Judaism in order to be saved.  Certain teachers, called Judaizers, said “Yes!”  The true answer, of course, was “No!”
Another huge concern, and really the reason for chapters nine, ten and eleven, was the question of what God was doing with His chosen nation, Israel.  If the Gospel was going out to Gentiles, was God through with Israel?

These next three verses – eleven, twelve and thirteen – establish that the righteousness of faith was God’s way of salvation for Gentile and Jew alike.  The overall context of these chapters is that God has put His prophetic plan for Israel on hold while He calls out a people for Himself but that He will again turn His attention to Israel in the future.

For now, in this age in which we live, Jews get saved the same way Gentiles get saved.

Romans 10:11  For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

This is quoted from Isaiah 28:16 which reads,

Isaiah 28:16  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.

Jesus, of course, is the “stone.”  Notice in the Isaiah passage the words “act hastily” are used.  This was a prophecy of Jesus Christ’s coming and the Jews were being told to not be impatient for the fulfillment of this prophecy, but to patiently wait for it, knowing that it was for an appointed time.

That time had come!

There is a lot of stuff packed in to this idea of the “stone,” the “foundation,” the “precious cornerstone.”  For one thing, there was a prophecy that the builders would reject the chief cornerstone.  It was a metaphor of how the leaders of the nation of Israel would reject Jesus as the promised Messiah.
To confess Jesus as Messiah was to go against the religious leaders of Israel.  It was to go against your family and, in many cases, to be disowned, dishonored.

So the Holy Spirit updated the words in Isaiah, made them applicable to the first century Jew, by saying, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  They might be disowned on earth, but in Heaven the angels were rejoicing.

Romans 10:12  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.

When Paul says “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek” he means that there is no difference between them regarding God’s plan of salvation.  Salvation is available to both, and is received the same way by both.  He is not saying that there is no such thing anymore as a nation of Israel.  He is talking here about how individuals from all nations receive salvation – not about God’s dealings with individual nations!  Chapter Eleven will make it clear that the literal nation of Israel, the literal physical descendants of Abraham, are still important in God’s prophetic scheme.

Romans 10:13  For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

This is a quote from Joel 2:32.  Proof after proof from the Old Testament is what Paul was offering these Jews.  He was illuminating the Scriptures.

“Whoever” from among Jews and Gentiles who “calls on the name of the Lord,” by faith, “shall be saved.”  One commentator said, “One could scarcely wish for a simpler statement of the way of salvation than is found in these words.”

“All who call,” and “whoever calls.”  The Gospel is a universal call to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The apostle Peter, at the church council in Jerusalem, made a remarkable statement.

Acts 15:11  “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

The Judaizers were wrongly saying that Gentiles must be saved the same way Jews were – by the righteousness which is of the law.  Peter’s statement not only nullifies that, it establishes that Jews need to be saved the same way Gentiles are – by the righteousness of faith!

As a quick, final application: Don’t be taken in by folks wanting you to take up some of the habits and rituals of the law.  It’s big right now; but it’s a step away from the freedom you have in Christ.

Who’s A Whoever? (Romans 10v1-4)

Max Lucado, in his book 3:16 about John 3:16, has a great discussion about the comment people sometimes make that “all roads lead to God.”

You wouldn’t for a moment put up with a statement like that from your travel agent!  If you want to go somewhere specific, you can’t just get on any plane, train or automobile, and follow any road and expect to arrive at your destination.

If that’s true of earthly destinations, doesn’t it stand to reason it would be even more critical to follow the right road to get to Heaven?

You’ve probably heard of the Romans Road to Salvation.  It is a set of verses from the Book of Romans that ‘lead’ a person to faith in Jesus Christ.

The ‘signposts’ on the Romans Road to Salvation are these:

Romans 3:23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 10:9  … if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.


Since we are Gentiles reading the Book of Romans we might miss the fact that the final signpost on the Romans Road to Salvation, is actually a quote from the Old Testament.  It’s from the rather remarkable Book of Joel which, you might recall, was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost when God sent His Holy Spirit upon the disciples and the church was born.

If you were a Hebrew or a Hebrew Christian, this would be an eye opener, to say the very least.  It establishes, from the Old Testament, that salvation was and is by faith and that it is freely offered to Jew and Gentile alike.

“Whoever calls on the name of the Lord.”  Are Jews “whoever’s”?  Are Gentiles “whoever’s”?  Yes on both counts.

What is the one requirement of a “whoever”?  “Calling on the name of the Lord.”  It’s a statement of belief, of trust, in the Lord.  No works allowed!

What is commonplace for us was and still is revolutionary to someone with a Hebrew worldview.  Keep that in mind as we examine the opening verses of chapter ten.

Romans 10:1  Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.

I’ve indicated that in chapters nine, ten, and eleven we are looking at God’s past, present, and future dealings with the nation of Israel.  This, then, is the present – meaning what is happening in the time after Jesus ascended into Heaven until He comes in the clouds to resurrect and rapture His church.

Let’s start at the end of verse one.  Paul did not consider “Israel” to be “saved.”  That means, among other things, that a person was not saved simply by being born a Jew, being a citizen of Israel.  They were sons of Abraham, for sure, but not automatically his spiritual descendants.

Most of us understand that salvation is not inherited.  But many of us do come from religious traditions that teach it is inherited.  And much of the world thinks they are ‘saved,’ or at least on the right path, because of their physical birth into a particular religious or social situation.
Paul wanted Roman Jews to get saved.  His reasoning, his arguments, his explaining of doctrine, his use of Scripture, was all with the purpose of seeing Jews get saved.

We would do well to keep our spiritual focus on that which is most important.  There is certainly a place for believers to debate, or argue about,  nonessential points of doctrine.  But what is most important, what is critical, is that we minister grace to those who are in need of salvation.

I know Christians who spend all their effort and energy trying to get other Christians to believe the nonessential things they believe.  They are always inviting believers to change churches and almost never inviting nonbelievers to church or to Christ.

This translates into their church planting as well.  A lot of new church plants are just down the street from another good, evangelical church.  The new church plant is essentially a split as believers leave other churches to join it.  Some in the church planting movement are referring to these kinds of church plants as ‘splants,’ a church planted that’s really nothing more than encouraging believers to split.

One of the most enlightening books I’ve ever read on Bible doctrine is called Evangelical Theology, by Dr. Robert Lightner.  The content is superb but what I like most about the book is that Dr. Lightner takes a doctrine, like salvation, and he gives a positive statement about what every evangelical Christian must believe about it in order to be accurate and orthodox.  Then he cites major areas of disagreement on the parts of the doctrine that are not essential to believe.

It really opened my eyes and helped me to be able to navigate the turbulent waters of everyone’s nonessential opinions.

The apostle Paul never lost sight of the lost!  Neither should we.

In verse one you also encounter the mystery of prayer in its relation to evangelism.

Does prayer, my prayer, save anyone?  No – only God saves.
Does lack of prayer, my lack of prayer, damn anyone?  No – only their own decision to reject Jesus as their personal Savior damns anyone.

Then why should I pray for anyone to be saved?

There are many reasons we could give.  Paul, after all, prayed for the lost and we are told to follow his example.

One important reason you pray for the lost is that it puts your heart in alignment with God’s heart.  Scripture reveals God as having a heart for the lost.  He is “…longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Churches have a tendency to become a stagnant pool rather than a life flowing stream.  Prayer for the lost helps keep us focused on eternal issues.

I’ve started to pray, and I’d ask you to join me, that the Lord would bring many nonbelievers to our church to be saved.

Romans 10:2  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Paul was the perfect example of “zeal… but not according to knowledge.”  Before his conversion on the road to Damascus he thought he was serving God by persecuting the church.  No one had more zeal, and less knowledge, than Saul of Tarsus!

Zeal and knowledge ought to match one another.

A zeal to serve God that is not based upon His Word is harmful.  It leads to burn-out and bitterness.  People with zeal but without proper biblical knowledge can be combative, cruel, and legalistic.
Those who seek knowledge for its own sake, apart from its value in ministering to others, are sterile and cold in their walk. They can become “puffed up” in their pride and look down upon those they are called to build up in love.
You should be both a serious student of God’s Word and a sincere servant to God’s people.

What “knowledge” did the nonbelieving Jews lack?

Romans 10:3  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

The major doctrine in the Book of Romans is “God’s righteousness,” meaning how you can be righteous before God and have a right relationship with Him.  We’ve seen over-and-over again that God’s way of righteousness is to declare a believing sinner righteous based on faith in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross.

The Jews were “ignorant of God’s righteousness.”  There are two ways (at least) that we can understand this:

The word “ignorant” might be indicating a lack of understanding.  Paul was writing to give them the understanding that God’s righteousness must be received by faith.
At the same time, there were always Jews who understood that God must declare you righteous, that salvation was by grace through faith and not by works.  Paul had shown them from their own patriarchs and from passages of Scripture that God was clear on faith versus works.  And now, with the preaching of the Gospel and the evidence that Gentiles were getting saved, any “ignorance” must be willful.

Plus Paul seems to be saying that they are currently refusing to submit to God’s way of salvation.

Truth is, people start out ignorant because they don’t understand, then after the Gospel is presented to them, many choose to be willfully ignorant thinking they can get to Heaven on some other road, that “all roads lead to God.”

The Jews willfully ignored this and sought to become righteous by keeping God’s law.  They refused to submit to the righteousness that God made available to them in Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:4  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

He is its end in two ways:

He is the “end” can mean He is the goal that the law pointed toward.  The law was never intended to make anyone righteous; it only exposed indwelling sin, it only showed you how very unrighteous you really were before God.  The law was intended to show you your need for a Savior.
“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness” can also mean that His life, death, and resurrection bring an end to anyone thinking they could ever attain a right relationship with God through works.  I mean, seriously, why would God have to become a man and die on the Cross if there were any other way of attaining salvation?

Jesus is “the end of the law for righteousness” for believers in the sense that the law is not to be looked at as a means for becoming more righteous after you are saved, either.  Look to the Lord, not to the law.

This righteousness, both in position and in practice, comes by faith, “to everyone who believes.”

It’s sad to me that so many people read those last four words and then immediately begin to define very narrowly who it is among the human race that can believe.

Some say no one can believe unless God saves them first.  They say that regeneration, being born-again, precedes faith in Jesus Christ, and that only a very, very few individuals will be regenerated by God while the vast multitudes have no choice and no hope.

I see no delimiting in Paul’s thinking.  He started this chapter by sharing his desire that Israel would be saved.  He had every Jew in mind.  There was no footnote in his thinking that only a tiny few among the Jews could ever be saved.  He doesn’t mean, “I wish all Jews could be saved, but I know that most cannot because that’s the way God planned it.”

Regardless you view of salvation, think of everyone as “whoever.”

Stumble Thyself In The Sight Of The Lord (Romans 9v30-33)

Christian radio programs all have a distinguishing name.  Grace to You; Insight for Living; A New Beginning; Focus on the Family; The Connection; The Active Word; Somebody Loves You.

If the apostle Paul had a radio program, I’m pretty sure it would have been called, What Shall We Say Then?

Those are the opening words of verse thirty, but it’s now the fifth time he’s used the phrase in Romans.  It indicates he is about to draw a conclusion but, more than that, an inevitable conclusion.  It means he has done more than prove his position biblically and that there is no other possible conclusion.

And he used the word “we” as if to say that the Holy Spirit, Who had inspired his reasoning and arguments, had brought all of them to this understanding.

What is it Paul had proved?  In a nutshell, he had proved that God was not unrighteous for setting Israel aside and for saving Gentiles directly with the Gospel.

Romans 9:30  What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
Romans 9:31  but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.

“Righteousness” means having a right relationship with God.  There are two, and only two, ways of attaining a right relationship with God:

One way of attaining a right relationship with God is to pursue it by keeping the Law of God as revealed to mankind by Moses.  You can, by the way, be righteous by keeping the Law.  But you must keep it perfectly and not just outwardly, but inwardly.  Only Jesus Christ, the God-man, was ever able to perfectly keep the Law.  And only He among all the human race after Adam and Eve was born without a sin nature.
The other way of having a right relationship with God is to believe God and have Him declare you righteous on the basis of your faith.

The Bible way of righteousness is by faith.  We are accepted as righteous, and treated as righteous by God on account of what the Lord Jesus has done.  He was made sin; we are made righteousness. On the cross, Jesus was treated as if he were a sinner, though he was perfectly holy and pure, and we are treated as if we were righteous, though we are not.  On account of what the Lord Jesus has endured on our behalf, we are treated as if we had entirely fulfilled the Law of God, and had never become exposed to its penalty.  We have received this precious gift of righteousness by faith, not by works.

Paul had already proven earlier in Romans that righteousness was always by faith.  He appealed to both Abraham and David as examples of Jews who believed God and were declared righteous on the basis of faith.

Here in his conclusion to chapter nine Paul was making an application of righteousness by faith.  The Jews, you remember, were wondering how God could set aside the nation of Israel and offer His salvation directly to the Gentile nations.  It wasn’t even so much that Gentiles were getting saved; it was that they were getting saved entirely apart from the Law.  They were not being required to be circumcised or to keep the Sabbath or any such thing.

So Paul reminded them that salvation, even among Jews, was always by faith, never by keeping the Law.  Therefore when the leaders of the nation of Israel officially rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah, they also rejected salvation by faith in favor of keeping the Law.

“But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.”  God, therefore, set them aside, for a time, and was going directly to the Gentiles to call out a people for Himself made up of any from all nations, tongues, tribes and peoples who believe on Jesus Christ.

These people, this group, is the church – born on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two and awaiting the resurrection and rapture at the return of the Lord in the clouds.

Romans 9:32  Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.

Why didn’t the Jews attain “righteousness?”  As we’ve just said, and as we always point out, they thought righteousness came to them because they were ethnic Jews who were keeping, in some measure anyway, God’s Law.

Earlier in chapter nine Paul had established that “they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (v6).  He meant that there were three ways to be descended from Abraham – to be considered Abraham’s “seed.”

All ethnic Jews are “Israel” as the physical descendants of Abraham, but not every Jew is saved.
Those Jews who, like Abraham, believe God are saved because they are declared righteous by God.  These are both physical and spiritual descendants of Abraham.
Gentiles who are saved by faith are also considered the spiritual “seed” of Abraham, but they are not Israel.  They inherit the promises God made to non-Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Jews did not admit their inability to keep the Law perfectly and turn by faith to God for forgiveness.  Consequently they “stumbled over the “stumbling Stone.”

What “stumbling stone?”  The one Isaiah had warned them about.

Jesus Christ is identified as “the stumbling Stone” by the apostle Peter in his letters.

1 Peter 2:7  Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED HAS BECOME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE,”
1 Peter 2:8  and “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

Jesus is also referred to as the stumbling stone in First Corinthians 1:23.

The first century Jews stumbled over Jesus because of many things:

Some were stumbled by the manner of His birth.  They didn’t believe He was born of a virgin but accused Him of being illegitimate.
Some were stumbled by His lowly parentage.  He was only the Son of a carpenter.
Some were stumbled by His childhood residence, thinking nothing good could come from Nazareth.
Some were offended by His plain appearance.  Isaiah 53:2 says of Jesus, “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”
Many were offended by the company He kept.  “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receives sinners, and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2).

The list goes on-and-on, culminating in the fact the Jews were stumbled by the Cross on which He died and by His resurrection from the dead.

Jesus was not at all what they had expected in their Messiah.  So they rejected Him and with Him the offer of righteousness by faith.

Paul quoted from Isaiah 8:14 and Isaiah 28:16, combining the two statements, to indicate the two contrasting reactions by men to Jesus.

Paul was telling his readers, his listeners, that the nation of Israel, officially, reacted to Jesus as an “offense” and, therefore, they “stumbled” over Him.  Meanwhile “whoever believes on Him,” Jew or Gentile, will be saved by the righteousness that comes by faith.

We are all on board with the righteousness that comes by faith.  It doesn’t mean, however, that we are free from the thinking that we still must do something, must keep something, must observe something, in order to really be saved or to maintain our right standing with God.

I was reading a chapter in a book by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum in which he cited Jewish friends of his who think it ironic that Christians accuse the Jews of trying to keep the Law while simultaneously adding their own works of righteousness to salvation by faith.

Baptism is one of those works.  One author noted the following:

There are several religious groups which teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.  Among them are several “Church of Christ” groups, some branches of the “Christian Church-Disciples of Christ,” and many small groups in the Christian tradition.

Of course, the largest and most well-known of the ‘baptismal regenerationist’ groups is the Roman Catholic church.  Such groups teach that water baptism is absolutely essential to the salvation of the soul.

To make it even worse for Roman Catholics, the official Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church goes on to state,

To receive the free gift of salvation, Catholics must until their last breath, maintain the righteousness that they received during the Sacrament of Baptism.  Ongoing righteousness is maintained through the reception of the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist.  While belonging to the invisible Body of Christ, Catholics recognize that they absolutely need the Sacraments of the visible Body of Christ, the Catholic Church, as their assurance of righteousness and salvation.  Hence, believers require the Catholic Church as the “fullness of the means of salvation.”

It’s easier than you might think to fall into thinking that salvation, once received, must be maintained by works.  The apostle Peter went to visit the Gentile church at Antioch.  It was the custom of the early church to share a meal once a week.  They called it the “love feast”; we call them pot-lucks!  Peter, though a Jew, had been set free from Jewish dietary laws.  He could eat anything he wanted, with whomever he wanted.  He enjoyed this wonderful freedom of grace – until some Jews came from the church at Jerusalem.  Fearing their criticism, Peter gradually withdrew from fellowshipping with the Gentiles.  His hypocrisy led others, including even Barnabas, into hypocrisy.  He was causing a serious division in the church between Jews and Gentiles.

The apostle Paul had to openly and publicly rebuke Peter!!!

If Peter could fall back into this kind of thinking and behaving, so can I.  In fact, by default I always fall back to a position of thinking there is something I must do to attain or maintain righteousness.

There isn’t!  The Christian life is by faith from start to finish.

So how do we live it?  By the indwelling Holy Spirit and by walking with God as our Father and with Jesus as our Friend.

The Remnants Of The Day (Romans 9v25-29)

The apostle Paul had made a series of unflattering comparisons regarding the nation of Israel:

He compared them to Ishmael rather than Isaac.
He compared them to Esau rather than Jacob.
He compared them to Pharaoh rather than Moses.

Then, using an illustration, he said they were a lump of clay that was marred on the potter’s wheel and only good to be thrown out into the potter’s field – a trash heap.

In a moment, quoting from the Old Testament prophets, Paul will compare the Jews to the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Talk about a rough sermon!


“I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved,”  is a loose quote of Hosea 2:23.  In Hosea these words refer to Israel and not to the Gentiles.  They look forward to the time when Israel will be restored as God’s people and as His beloved.  But when Paul quotes them here in Romans he applies them to the call of the Gentiles.

How can Paul make such a radical change?  The Holy Spirit who inspired the words in the first place has the right to apply them to the current situation.  He wasn’t saying that Gentiles had replaced Israel.  He simply used the Hosea passage to argue that God is always reaching out to people who do not know Him.  He did it to Jews who were in rebellion and He does it to Gentiles who are lost.

Why should it be so strange that Gentiles would be saved?  In fact, the Jews were charged with spreading the knowledge of God to the surrounding nations.  It was always God’s will that none should perish.  He has always been a whosoever will believe God of salvation.  It should therefore come as no shock to the Jews of the first century that God was saving Gentiles.

Then, too, there was no promise that everyone born a Jew was automatically saved.  Salvation was not by race but by righteousness.  It was not inconsistent to reject Jews who refused to believe.

The second verse is Hosea 1:10, “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”  Once again, in its OT setting this verse is not speaking about the Gentiles but describing Israel’s future restoration to God’s favor.  Yet Paul applies it to God’s acknowledgment of the Gentiles as His sons.  This is another illustration of the fact that when the Holy Spirit quotes verses from the OT in the NT, He can rightfully apply them as He wishes.

By applying these verses to Gentiles, is the Holy Spirit suggesting that Gentiles have replaced Israel in God’s plan?

Gentiles have not replaced Israel but are included in God’s plan.  We know that Israel – ethnic Israel – has not been replaced.  We see this plainly stated later, in Romans 11:25-26,

Romans 11:25  For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Romans 11:26  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “THE DELIVERER WILL COME OUT OF ZION, AND HE WILL TURN AWAY UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB;

There is, however, a teaching called Replacement Theology, also called supersessionism.  Replacement theology teaches that the church is the replacement for Israel and that the many promises made to Israel in the Bible are fulfilled in the Christian church, not in Israel.  The prophecies in Scripture concerning the blessing and restoration of Israel to the Promised Land are spiritualized or allegorized into promises of God’s blessing for the church.

If you want a quick but foolproof way to refute Replacement Theology, it can be found in the New Testament passages that consistently divide the world into three distinct groups with which God has dealings: the Jews, Gentiles, and the church.

For example:

1 Corinthians 10:32  Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks [Gentiles] or to the church of God,

Then there is Acts 15:14-17.

Acts 15:14  Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. [the church]
Acts 15:15  And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

It is biblically clear that there are at least three groups you must keep distinct.  John Walvoord suggests that we look at the prophetic program of God in four divisions, adding God’s program for angels to that of Jews, Gentiles and the church.

Walvoord also provides an important clarification about the distinction between various people who are called “the seed of Abraham.”

The seed of Abraham can in the Bible refer to all of the natural, physical descendants of Abraham.
The seed of Abraham can in the Bible refer to “spiritual Israel,” meaning descendants of Abraham who also are justified by grace through beliving in God.
The seed of Abraham can in the Bible refer to Gentiles who, by virtue of being saved in Jesus Christ, qualify for the promises made to Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant.

Referring to Gentiles as a spiritual seed of Abraham does not usurp the place of Israel at all.  Gentiles do not replace Israel, but we fit in to God’s overall prophetic program that Includes Israel.

One author put your choices like this:

All the different views of the relationship between the church and Israel can be divided into two camps: either the church is a continuation of Israel (replacement/covenant theology), or the church is completely different and distinct from Israel (dispensationalism/premillennialism).

We are dispensational and premillennial.


You recognize “the sand of the sea” as God’s promise to Abraham regarding his descendants.  It refers to multiplied multitudes!

A “remnant” is a much smaller portion of something – in this case, ethnic Jews.

Isaiah anticipated that though there would be multitudes of Jews, only “the remnant” would be saved in the end.

In its original context Isaiah was referring to the Jews in the Babylonian captivity.  Paul was applying it to their present and prophetic history.  We recognize this “remnant” as those Israelites who remain at the end of the Great Tribulation.  They “shall be saved” in the sense that they will be supernaturally preserved through that time of intense global persecution and will recognize and receive Jesus Christ as their Messiah at His Second Coming.

We have the benefit of reading this from the perspective of a completed Bible.  We interpret it through the words of Jesus who said that a time of great trouble was coming upon the earth to test the Jews and that God would shorten those days to save the remaining remnant.

The Great Tribulation that comes upon the whole earth finishes God’s discipline upon Israel.  It’s even called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” by Jeremiah (30:7).


“Sabaoth” means hosts or armies.  It is a reminder that God controls the affairs of men on the earth.  He has vast supernatural resources by which He accomplishes His will on earth as it is in Heaven.  Though earthly armies and enemies may for a time persecute the Jews, they cannot prevail against the forces of the Lord.

Isaiah here mentions a “seed.”  This is even smaller than a remnant.  Remember that Paul’s point in quoting these texts is to show that God is being consistent in His first century dealings with Israel.  If only a “seed” from the remnant was saved, it was consistent with what God had promised them.

The comparison of Sodom and Gomorrah is never one to put a smile on your face.  Paul had compared the Jews to Ishmael, Esau, and Pharoah.  He illustrated their condition by saying they were a vessel marred on the potter’s wheel and tossed out into the potter’s field.  Now he said they were compared to Sodom and Gomorrah!

Paul was definitely not into building their self-esteem!

What Paul was telling the Jews by quoting Isaiah was that they had become so wicked that God must discipline them.  But in the midst of His discipline He would save the righteous, a small remnant.
When will Israel’s national salvation occur?  There’s a hint in Revelation 1:7, which reads “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they [also] which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”

That text points directly to Zechariah 12:10, which reads

“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

It’s at the Second Coming – after the resurrection and rapture of the church and after the seven-year Great Tribulation – that the remnant will be saved.

I happened just this morning to come across a very good article by Dr. Andy Woods.  In it he gives a few simple differences between Israel and the church:

Israel is the wife of Jehovah (Isaiah 54) while the church is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5).
Israel gave birth to Christ (Revelation 12) whereas Christ gave birth to the church (Matthew 16).
Christ will return to rescue Israel upon her national conversion at the end of the Tribulation period (Matthew 23).  He will return to rescue the church at the rapture (John 14).
King-subject imagery is used to depict God’s relationship to Israel (Isaiah 33) while head and groom imagery is used to depict Christ’s relationship with His church (Ephesians 5).
While four-fifths of the Bible pertains to Israel, only one-fifth of it deals with the church.
Israel is a nation (Psalm 147).  By contrast, the church is not a nation (Romans 10) but rather is comprised of people from all nations (Galatians 3).
While Israel will be resurrected at the beginning of the millennial kingdom (Daniel 12 & Revelation 20) Church-Age believers receive their resurrected bodies at the point of the rapture (First Thessalonians 4 & First Corinthians 15).
Israel’s judgment will take place on earth, at the end of the Tribulation period, in the wilderness (Ezekiel 20).  By contrast, the only judgment the New Testament reveals for the church is the Bema Seat judgment of rewards in heaven following the rapture (First Corinthian 3 & Second Corinthians 5).
While Christ’s farewell address to Israel (Matt 24:15; 20) is recorded in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24‒25, His farewell address to the church (John 16:12-13) is found in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13‒17).

There are a few others but suffice it to say you are not Israel!