Salvation is sure…mercy is granted

Romans 11:25-36

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
“and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

A mystery, something to be investigated or searched, this is something that is not clearly understood or apparent. “ Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery,”  Israel’s hardening came and that permitted that the Gentiles, the rest of humanity, could be brought into the family of God.  And Paul maintains that all Israel will be saved through the same provision of mercy:

 “The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
“and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

God made a promise and God keeps his word.  When God speaks it cannot be reversed.  He told Adam the day he ate from the tree he would die.  Death is come to all mankind as the result of disobedience.  The law that was spoken cannot be reversed.  He called Abraham, made a promise to him and kept it by providing for our salvation through Jesus Christ who came through Abraham’s seed.   He provides for our salvation and gives us the gift of life through Christ, a promise to us and he will keep it.

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

As for understanding all this and explaining it, Paul quotes Scripture

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?”

We are given to know in part and that through the Holy Spirit. Take away:  It is sufficient to know that we can be and are reunited with God through Jesus Christ.  And with Paul we can say

 To him be glory forever. Amen. 

The olive tree and its branches…

Romans 11:22-24

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

The sovereignty of God is displayed.  He shows goodness and he shows severity. (other translations state sternness)  The Gentile is grafted into his family because they believe, the Jew has been cut-off from their place because they do not believe.  It has nothing to do with who we are and everything to do with faith.  When we believe, we are grafted in and become a member of God’s family.  That holds for both the Gentile and the Jew.  We are not there by birth, by race, because our parents’ had faith.  The only requirement for being grafted into the olive tree of God’s family is to believe Him.  He took care of the rest.  So the family of humanity all equally have opportunity to enter the family of God.  What is required is faith.  He shows goodness and severity dependant upon our belief.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

“For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.” 

 

We are all branches…

Romans 11:11-21

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. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,  if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.  For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 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,  do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

olive branch

There is hope. That hope is part of faith.  That hope says when we believe and receive the  gift of grace; God’s forgiveness, mercy and redemption, we are grafted into his family.  The illustration of the olive tree gives fair warning.  The branches broken off and removed were broken because of lack of faith and belief.  They were not broken to graft in the new branches.  Paul warns us

do not be arrogant, but be afraid…”  (NIV version)

There is a fear that is proper for it reminds us of who and what God is.

  “Do not be haughty, but fear.”

Remember that if

 “God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either…”  (NIV version)

Again a reminder, the natural branches, those of the Israelites, were not spared due to their lack of faith and belief.  Consider this:

 ” remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.”

Rather we thank him for the privilege of being grafted into his family through faith.  Thank him for the nourishment received from him the root of the tree. There is a proper attitude when standing before Almighty God.

“…you do not support the root, but the root supports you.”

 

The olive tree

Chosen or blind?

Romans 11:1-10

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. 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,  “LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? 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.” Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.  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.

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

And David says:

Let their table become a snare and a trap,

A stumbling block and a recompense to them.

Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see,

And bow down their back always.”

God will have a people.  ““I have reserved for Myself …”   Words of encouragement when we are filled with a sense that there is no one walking in the way of the Lord.  All around us we can hear and see a people who have eyes but cannot see and who have ears but cannot hear.  The message goes forth but is not received, rather it is ridiculed and mocked. But here is an assurance that grace is available and there are still those chosen by grace, not through works.” Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.  And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; …” While we continue to hear the message of works, scripture is plain in telling us we are reunited with God through his grace.  It is a gift.  A gift not to be despised. So take him at his word.  Believe him.  What he says is true, “…I have…who have not bowed the knee.”  It is good to know we are a part of that people, we have accepted the gift of grace.  We can claim to be part of the elect.

He calls…

Romans 10:14-21

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? 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!”

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?”  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

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.”

 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.”

 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.”

But to Israel he says:

“All day long I have stretched out My hands

To a disobedient and contrary people.”

He calls and we can be a part of it.  The importance of sharing is revealed.  When we share the Word of God, we share His voice.  It is calling to those who cross our paths.  Their response or non-response is not our affair.  Our sharing is our affair, to be found faithful to give glory to God, to tell of His greatness, to offer His love and concern to others.  Be the one whose feet are called beautiful because they take us to those who need to hear.  Hearing begins the process of reunion with the Creator.

Do all who hear our sharing receive?  No.  Time and again, God seeks out and calls to his creation:

All day long I have stretched out My hands

To a disobedient and contrary people.”

He is so longsuffering, so patient.  Can we do any less?

It was stated recently that of all the religions  and all the gods worshipped by mankind, Christianily and Judiasm are the only ones whose God seeks them.  All others are sought by mankind. Our God cares, loves and calls to us.

“I was found by those who did not seek Me;

I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”

And again:

“All day long I have stretched out My hands

To a disobedient and contrary people.”

And we can respond with the poet, David:

    Psalm 63

A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.

Oh God, You are my God

And I will ever praise You

I will seek You in the morning

And I will learn to walk in Your ways

And Step by step You’ll lead me

And I will follow You all of my days – lyrics from Step by Step

 He calls, what is our response?

The heart and the mouth…

Romans 10:1-13

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”  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) or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 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): 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. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

There is man’s righteousness, manner of right living, and God’s righteousness, right living that pleases God. Man outside the knowledge of God will attempt to establish a law for right living.

“…seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”

 Knowledge of God then reveals its lack.  Man’s efforts fail to please God.  With knowledge of God comes true righteousness, right living that leads to eternal life.  Two elements will be engaged; the mouth and the heart.  The mouth confesses that Jesus is Lord and the heart believes that God raised him from the dead.  Living according to a law does not provide salvation from the penalty of sin, belief in Christ and what he did  does.  The promise is given:

 “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The ‘stumbling stone’

Romans 9:30-33

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.  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. As it is written:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,

And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

Do we attain righteousness, which by definition is :

 characterized by, proceeding from, or in accordance with accepted standards of morality, justice, or uprightness; virtuous: morally justifiable or right, the quality or state of being just or rightful,

by what we do?  Can we attain this defined place in self, by our own works?  The early Jews believed so and attempted to follow the law.  If it had been possible in our own strength to abide by the law, this righteousness would have been achieved.  But it wasn’t and so the sacrificial offerings were required.  This is no less true today.  We are not able to achieve this status on our own, by our own works.  Paul is pointing out to us that the Gentiles received this righteousness, but not through their works, since they did not have the law to follow.  They received righteousness because when presented with Jesus and what he had done for us, they simply believed. They accepted his gift on faith and it was counted to them for righteousness, God’s righteousness, not their own.  So Paul is saying here that if we try to achieve righteousness simply by our own good works, we will stumble over the stone, that is Christ.  The mind-set that tries to achieve by doing will find it difficult to simply receive.  Even in the ‘world’ of believers, working under our own strength causes confusion.  We try to achieve an image of righteousness by what we do or don’t do.  But it is just that; an image.  Genuine righteousness that is pleasing to God is given to us, we don’t achieve it.  It comes to us as a result of believing that Jesus is the Christ, that he died for our sins, that his death is an atonement we receive, that he rose from the grave alive, that he paid for our sins in full.  If we believe, we have faith that all of this is true and the truth of it sets us free; free from working to achieve righteousness, free from obligation to work to pay our debt, free to live as he instructed, a life of abundance.

“the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

In the potter’s hands…

Romans 9:17-29

For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”  Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

As He says also in Hosea:

“I will call them My people, who were not My people,

And her beloved, who was not beloved.”

 “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.”

Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel:

“Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea,

The remnant will be saved.

For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness,

Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.”

And as Isaiah said before:

“Unless the LORD of Sabaoth  had left us a seed,

We would have become like Sodom,

And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”

indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?” Another translation says it this way; “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?”  Do we hear many voices complaining that God doesn’t do right, or, accusing God of wrongs.  Do we hear the evils that man commits against each other blamed on God, because He didn’t intervene? We can respond with Paul, who quotes from the Old Testament: Who are you, the creation, to reply to the Creator?  Who are you to require of the Creator what you cannot provide?  This passage puts into perspective who God is and who we are in relation to him.  We are guilty of his wrath.  We, as in all of humanity, commit the atrocities, for whatever reason, but we are the ones responsible.  Yet he has shown mercy in providing forgiveness for repentance, redemption for belief, life for death, atonement for sins.  He is the potter, we are the clay.  How much easier it is to bend and move with the hands that form us.

God’s mercy…

Romans 9::1-16

I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen  according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

 

A question to ponder before continuing with the passage is this:  Do we feel sorrow and continual grief for our brothers and sisters, fellow countrymen, according to the flesh?  Paul is not speaking spiritually here, he is addressing those born into his race, his nation, his country.  Do we feel this same anguish for our fellow man? If so, what do we do with it, pray, visit, share?  If not, should we?

 

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”

 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),  it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”  So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

God showed mercy and we reap the benefits.  A relationship with the Lord begins with the Lord.  What do we know about those who received God’s mercy?  Abraham – believed God, spoke to God, Moses – reluctantly obeyed God, talked to God, David – a man after God’s own heart, prayed, sang, focused on God, talked to God.  All had in common their conversation with God.  At the start of mankind on earth, Adam and Eve in the garden talked with God.  In each case, God called them, they were listening and heard — are we listening?  They obeyed, believed, worshipped and talked with God.  When God comes  be listening, respond and thank him for his mercy.

  “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” 

God’s mercy makes our relationship with him possible.  It never depended upon anything we’ve done.  God’s mercy sent Jesus to the cross and raised him from the dead to provide for our salvation.  God’s mercy gave pardon for sin, redemption for the penalty of sin.  God’s mercy gives us eternal life with Him.  Thank God for his mercy.

Who are we?

Romans 8:28 – 39

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Are we the called – those called by God?  Have we heard his voice, has the Spirit moved upon our inner being?  Have we responded to the love he extends us, in the place where we are?  If so, then we know that all things – that’s pretty inclusive – work for us.  We also know the calling  we responded to is for his purpose, not ours.  We know we will be conformed to the likeness of Jesus.  Two words used here that need defining; conformed and likeness (some translations use image).

Conformed comes from the Greek word, symmorphos, which means  having the same form as another, similar, conformed to… Taking from this the implication of having the same form as another does that mean we are stamped with his face and body, today we would say cloned?  Rather perhaps, it means when we are in contact with others they will sense the presence of God as those did who had contact with Jesus.  The presence of God, his Spirit, will be so much a part of us others will feel his touch in our touch, hear his voice in our voice. Defining the term likeness or image may help to give us a clear picture of the intent of Paul when he wrote this.

Image in this verse is the word,  eikon, which is defined rather extensively this way:

an image, figure, likeness;  an image of the things (the heavenly things);  used of the moral likeness of renewed men to God; the image of the Son of God, into which true Christians are transformed, is likeness not only to the heavenly body, but also to the most holy and blessed state of mind, which Christ possesses.  The image of one;  one in whom the likeness of any one is seen;  applied to man on account of his power of command; to Christ on account of his divine nature and absolute moral excellence.

From this we can gather that being conformed into his image implies we have been given a mind that is like the mind of Christ.  Our mind is more than brain tissue: we make decisions, we reflect and draw conclusions, we express ourselves, we communicate from the mind.  It can be described as a way of thinking.  We speak of mind-sets.  In the spiritual sense, we differentiate between the world’s mind-set, which is self-based, and the biblical mind-set which is  Christ-centered.

Can we conclude then, that we can become like Christ but it is not of our own doing?

 “…For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,…”

Paul follows this up by assuring us that once we enter into this bonding with the Spirit of God, through Jesus Christ, there is nothing that can reverse the process…we cannot be removed from his presence.  More on that later.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Our take away is:  We are his, we were called, we responded, we were known before we knew or took any action (wrap your mind around that!) and we are conformed to his image with all that entails.  There is no room for depression here.  There is no room for doubt or any hindrance to the work of God for it is all of his doing.  Take on His day!