Lecture 20: Romans 5-11
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Discussion of life after conversion (reconciliation, sin, sanctification, the Holy Spirit), and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles
A. Righteousness Lived Out (Rom. 5-8)
1. The Christian’s Joy (Rom. 5:1-21)
2. Moral Implications of Justification: Sanctification (Rom. 6)
3. Freedom from the Law’s Condemnation (Rom. 7:1-25)
4. The Work of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1-39)
B. Righteousness Vindicated (Jew and Gentile Question) (Rom. 9-11)
1. The Justice of the Rejection (Rom. 9:6-29)
2. The Cause of the Rejection (Rom. 9:30-10:21)
3. A Future for Ethnic Israel (Rom. 11:25-26)
4. Facts which Lessen the Difficulty (Rom. 11:1-36)
5. Closing: The Unsearchable Depth of God’s Wisdom (Rom. 11:33)
Lecture: Romans 5-11
We are in the second of three discussions of the Book of Romans. Last time we looked at chapters 1-4, covering issues of sin, anthropology and salvation, and today we are going to look at the consequences of those things in chapters 5-11 of Romans.
Righteousness Lived Out (Rom. 5-8)
Starting at chapter 5 in Romans Paul starts off and he says, “1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith”; that’s Paul way of summarizing four chapters. Our justification, our being made right with God is not through what we have done, Rom. 1:18-3:20, but it is rather through what Jesus did for us appropriated by faith, Romans 3:21-4:25. He summarizes it, “1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,” then what he’s going to start doing all the way through chapter 8 is draw out the implications of that fact. Everything in these chapters comes out of the fact that justification is by faith.
The Christian’s Joy (Rom. 5:1-21)
We’re going to start in chapter 5 in the first twenty-one verses about the Christian’s joy. He’s going to talk about some of the benefits of knowing for sure that we are justified, and then he’s going to get into a discussion of Christ’s sacrifice and how we can be confident that it did cover our sins.
Description of the Benefits (Rom. 5:1-11)
The first half of chapter 5 is simply the description of the benefits of one who is justified by faith and hence really justified. “1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, at the head of the list of the benefits that we have received is the fact that we are at peace. What’s important to understand is that theologically, peace is primary an object of reality, not primarily a subjective. It’s not so much in Scripture that you feel at peace it’s that you are at peace. Now when you come to an awareness that you are at peace, it should follow with feelings, but that’s not what is primary in biblical theology. He didn’t say, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, when circumstances are good, we feel like we have peace with God,” he doesn’t say that. Because of the historical fact of our justification, we know that beyond any question we are at peace with God. It means the hostilities have ceased, the war has ceased, the war that was caused by our sin, and so we know for sure beyond the shadow of a doubt, regardless of how we feel, that we are at peace. That’s at the head of the list of the benefits.
In order to emphasize how extreme, how secure, how full our relationship is, Paul goes into one of the most annoying passages in all of Scripture. The basic point is that our peace so secure that it leads us to rejoice, and in fact our rejoicing is so real that we can rejoice even in the midst of difficult times because we know that since we are at peace with God, that God is in work in the midst of the difficult times achieving what he wants in our lives. For those of us that have low pain thresholds, we usually say, “I don’t want to change that much, I’m content.” But he isn’t. He says, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace (2),” so we have access with God, not because of what we’ve done, but because of our faith “into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, we rejoice in the hope, the confidant anticipation, that someday we will possess the glory that God intended us to have. In fact that is so sure he says that we can even rejoice in our suffering, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance (3), and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (4),” so we rejoice in the midst of our difficult times because we know that we are at peace with God, we know that we have been justified, we know we have access by our faith into the presence of God and our hope is so sure that we can rejoice in it, even in the midst of lousy times.
Then he adds in verse 5, “and hope does not put us to shame,” in other words, it doesn’t disappoint us, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Note the source of our hope, again our hope is not some feeling, we have a hope because God’s love, his love for us has been poured into our hearts through the work of the Holy Spirit. These are all objective realities; these are all things that have happened. The Holy Spirit is in my heart I therefore have hope, even if I don’t feel hopeful, I have hope, and it’s all based in the character of God and his love that has been given to us. It’s a heady passage, obviously a very difficult passage for some people.
After my daughter died I use to teach Romans once every other semester in college and we just skipped chapter 5 because I couldn’t get through it and I wasn’t completely sure I believed it, so we just skipped it. It took about 3 or 4 years and then I started teaching it again. This is the same message we get in James of rejoicing in the midst of difficult times, not because we’re masochists, but because we know that God is at work accomplishing things in our lives. Have I told you the story of shallow Shiloh? We were in small group, right at the beginning of this year and we were just going around this small group sharing what had happened in the previous year. I started adding up all the miserable things that I’ve had to deal with. This small group was trying to say, “Well you know you learn best in difficult times and you grow and ….” we got all the way around the circle and we went back a second time and the question was, what do you want for the next year, what lies ahead for you? They got to me and I said, “Shallow, I want to be shallow. I don’t want to learn anything, I don’t want problems, I don’t want to grow, I grew enough last year, I just want to be shallow Shiloh. It went to the person next to me and they said what do you want to be next year and he said, “I want to be consumed by God.” I looked at him and said, “You’re out of the group.” I know somehow that’s how we feel, but the truth is that we rejoice in our hope in the midst of our suffering not because I’m a cheery person, but because God’s love has been poured into my heart through the work of the Holy Spirit. This year does not look like it’s going to be shallow in the least bit. This is a very powerful paragraph in Romans.
He goes on in verses 6-10 to talk about the fact that our hope is secure, that we should know because of what Christ did on the cross, that there is no question that we will get what we hope, that we will get Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 is obviously one of those primary verses that should be highlighted in your Bible, but “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ didn’t die for me because I was doing a good job, Christ died for me while I was a sinner and we know from earlier because he loved me. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If he’s going to die, if he’s going to do the ultimate thing, die for me while I’m a sinner, I can have complete confidence that my hope in him is secure because he’s already done the hard work.
You get down to verse 11 and a lot of people call this whole paragraph from 1-11 a discussion on reconciliation. The problem is the word doesn’t occur until verse 11, but it is most likely what is going on, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” The benefits of our justification by faith is that we are no longer at war with God we are reconciled to him and this series of paragraphs spells out all the benefits of our lives.
Sufficiency of Christ’s Sacrifice (Rom. 5:12-21)
In the second half of chapter 5 then in verses 12-21, Paul gets into what is a pretty convoluted argument and we’re going to hit just some of the highlights. What he wants to emphasize is the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. He wants to emphasize that what Christ did on the cross was sufficient. It was sufficient to do what God intended it to do. God intended that Christ’s death on the cross to pay the price for our sins and so the emphasis is that our sins were completely covered. The sufficiency of the cross, the sufficiency of his sacrifice that the sacrifice was enough to cover our sins, that’s the basic thrust he wants to make.
What he does in verse 12 is that he wants to set up a comparison, and he’s going to compare the first Adam, Adam, and the second Adam, Jesus. He’s going to start a comparison because what he wants to say is everything that Adam did wrong, Christ did right, that Christ did enough to sufficiently cover the sin that Adam brought into the world. He wants to start making this comparison, and he says in verse 12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin,” you notice that death is not a natural thing, death is the punishment for sin, “and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” The dash is because in the middle of his thought he decides, people are going to misunderstand me, and he spends the next ten verses or so trying to point out all the ways in which Adam and Jesus are not alike, because he wants to compare them, but he’s afraid that people are going to take the comparison too far. He talks about all the ways that Adam and Christ are different and then in verse 18 he gets back to the main point, “Therefore,” in other words, 18 repeats a lot of what is in 12, “as one trespass” (that’s Adams)“ led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness” leads to justification and life for all men.” The sin came into the world through Adam, but the second Adam, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is going to sufficiently counter the effects of his sin. “”For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (19).” That’s the basic point of the comparison; everything that Adam did Christ has covered.
Now there’s a lot of technical stuff in this passage that we don’t have time to go into, but let me hit some of the main points. This is one of the primary New Testament passages for the doctrine of original sin. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Wesleyan or Calvinist, both of those guys believe in the doctrine of original sin. The idea of original sin is that when Adam and Eve were created they were created with a morally neutral self. There was not that tendency toward sin that you and I have. In other words, the idea is that they were put in the Garden of Eden without this push towards what is wrong. But when they both sinned, the very nature of what it is to be a human being was changed such that a human being now has an inherited a tendency toward sin. Tendency is too weak of a word, but the idea is that because sin came in, it changed the very fabric of what it is to be a human being such that we have inherited this propensity toward sin, and it is such a strong tendency, it is such a strong propensity, that sooner or later we will act on it, everyone of us, and we will commit sin. The doctrine of original sin is that we have inherited Adam’s sin. Now there are many ways to fine tune this, there are some people who teach that we are responsible for Adam’s sin and therefore we are born guilty. I don’t believe that, but in a general sense, original sin is that we’re not morally neutral, in other words, that we have an inherited sin nature that will take over.
Go back and look at verse 12, you can watch the progression, “just as sin came into the world through one man,” Adam, “and death through sin,” so “death spread to all” people, why? “Because all sinned.” So you see the progression. Now there are other verses that talk about it too, but this is one of the primary passages that talks about original sin. This is why in our statement of faith for the Institute, it says this: “Adam and Eve disobeyed God and died, spiritually and physically, therefore, all people are objects of wrath, sinners by nature and by choice.”
There was a guy named Pelagius who denied original sin and was labeled a heretic for it. We were in Sunday School class once and this question came up, “What happens to babies that die?” and the teacher said, “I believe everyone is born guilty of sin so they all go to Hell,” and then went off on another topic. Well about a third of the class just about shot her because we had all lost children at one stage or another. There is a position called federalism that believes that you and I are born guilty of sin, that we committed sin in Adam, so that position says that infants that die are going to go to Hell because they are born sinners. I don’t believe that, not just because we lost children, I just don’t think the Bible teaches it. The step back from that is that we are born with an inherited sin nature, but I don’t believe you become a sinner until you commit an act of sin, and a newborn simply cannot intentionally, volitionally break a commandment of God, therefore all babies go to Heaven, I think. David was sure that after his baby died that he would see him again and that’s one you hang onto. Ron Nash wrote a good book called, When a Baby Dies, and his position is that all babies that die are elect, which is the standard reformation position as I understand it, but for some of the more 28 point Calvinists, they’re going to elect babies going to Heaven and non-elect babies going to Hell.
The other thing that I wanted to emphasize again is that this is the main passage where the doctrine of the sufficiency of the cross comes through that the cross is sufficient, that Jesus’s death on the cross is sufficient to cover our sins. The next to the last line in Article VI in the Statement of Faith reads, “The cross is sufficient to cover the sins of all who believe,” so that’s where that statement comes from.
The last time we’re together, what we’re going to do is walk through the Statement of Faith, and what you’re going to see is that I’ve been picking the biblical passages to make sure that everything in the Statement of Faith we’ve discussed in context. You’ll see the same material come from different directions. This Statement of Faith I can change all I want to, it’s not the church’s, it’s very similar obviously, but it’s not the same thing.
Sufficiency is a very important doctrine. If you have Catholic friends this will be the word of encouragement they need to hear. Whenever I talked about the sufficiency of the cross, the ex-Catholics in a Sunday School class will brighten up because if they haven’t been around long they haven’t heard this before. In Catholic theology the cross isn’t sufficient, the cross puts a lot of merits in Catholic theology and the church, and so when you die you have the good deeds you do and you borrow merits from the saints and ultimately the merits from Jesus, but that’s why Mass is a re-crucifixion of Jesus every day. If someone who knows Catholic theology and believes it, isn’t going to have this assurance, this confidence in their hope in their reconciliation with God. This is a great place to go and talk to them about it.
Moral Implications of Justification: Sanctification (Rom. 6)
In chapter 6 then we move into the moral implications of justification. We’re talking here primarily about sanctification. Sanctification is simply our growth towards holiness. In conversion our hearts change and so as we live out that change, we live a changed life, we move towards holiness, we move towards Christ likeness. That’s what sanctification is. This is one of these annoying chapters because it connects justification and sanctification. One of the questions you all need to answer for yourselves is what is that connection between becoming a Christian and living as a Christian? Becoming a disciple, living as a disciple? That’s the connection between justification and sanctification. There maybe some challenging things in chapter 6, but that’s why we’re looking at it.
Chapter 6 is formed around two basic questions and the two questions are in essence asking the same thing: What is the role of ongoing sin in a believer’s life? Is it okay for a believer to live in sin? Paul is going to address that question from two different points of view.
Dead to Sin but Alive with Christ (Rom. 6:1-14)
In the first one he starts in verse 1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound (1)? By no means (2)!” Then Paul is thinking ahead to people’s objections to the doctrine of justification by faith and he’s anticipating someone saying, “Well certainly we should continue to sin, because the more we sin the more grace there is and after all, God’s a God of grace so we’re really doing God a favor by sinning because he gets to show his grace every time he forgives us.” Now it sounds crazy doesn’t it, who would think of something like that? Well it was all over the university where I went to school, “We’re doing God a favor by sinning because then when he forgives us people see his grace.” It may sound weird to us, but it is a real question.
The question is, can we continue in sin? Is it okay to have ongoing sin in the life of a believer? Listen carefully to how Paul answers it, he first of all says, "By no means!" There are about three or four different ways you can say no in Greek and this is the strongest, this is Paul screaming. The Old King James say, God forbid, and the word God doesn’t exist in the Greek and the word forbid doesn’t exist in the Greek, but I think it’s the best of the translations because it’s like what’s the strongest way in English that you can say, under no circumstances. God forbid seems pretty good, but the ESV went with "by no means!"
Then he gives a quick answer, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" That’s a fascinating verse to me because when presented with a question of ongoing sin in the life of a believer, he says don’t you understand what happened to you when you became a Christian? Don’t you understand that you died to sin, that the life that you had that was defined by sin you died to that, that it’s all gone? If we’ve died to a life that is controlled by sin, why would you think it’s okay to keep living in it? Now there are a lot of ways in which we can answer this question differently. We can yell and scream, we can be legalists, we can say there are rules or we can be indifferent, but Paul’s motivation, and I’m beginning to think that this is Paul’s primary motivation for spiritual growth, is an expression of being who you are. Understand who you are in Christ, understand what happened in your conversion and your conversion and baptism experience—that we’ll see in a second. If you understand that, then you will realize that the mastery of sin over your life is gone, it’s dead and you’ve become a different person so you should be living like a different person.
It’s like we this with Hayden the other day—he did something wrong, I know it’s hard to imagine my son doing something wrong, but he did something wrong and I could have said, “That was a bad thing to do,” and there are times I have said that, but what I do with Hayden I say, “Hayden, why did you do that? You’re a good kid, you don’t do that thing,” and with Hayden that works almost every time. See what I’m saying to Hayden is “Be who you are, you’re a good kid so do the right thing,” and Paul is saying here, you’ve died to sin so live like it, this is who you are. That’s the basic gist of the first half of this.
Then what he does in verses 3 and 4 is that he wants people to think back to their baptism. Now when he’s talking about baptism, here you have to understand that in the early church when you became a Christian you got baptized right away. Philip in Acts 8 is talking to the Ethiopian Eunuch about the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 and he evidently became a Christian and he said, “There’s water let’s get baptized.” That’s the way it was done. It’s not like it is today where there are often years and years between our conversion and our baptism. That’s important because what Paul is doing in chapter 6 is that he’s thinking of the conversion-baptism experience. Now you become a Christian in your conversion experience, that’s when the work of the Spirit is done in your soul. The baptism is the proclamation of what just happened, but in the First Century church’s mind it was all one basic event, at least chronologically.
What Paul can do is refer to baptism, but what he’s really doing is referring to conversion-baptism. He’s referring to what happened in the conversion and what you proclaimed in your baptism. With that as background he says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death (3)?” What happened in your conversion baptism experience? You died with Christ. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (4).” Now Paul left out one phrase there and let me reword this so you can see the logical flow, he says, “When we were baptized we were buried with him, we died to our old life and just as Christ was raised, and what I want to add is “to a new life,” “so also you and I were raised to a new life.” It’s a new life specifically where sin is not to have an ongoing role in our life. He’s saying think back to what happened in your conversion, what you publicly stated in your baptism, and then ask the question, is it okay to live in sin, and the answer is obviously not, because I was buried with Christ in my baptism and just as he came out of the grave to a new life so also we came out of the baptismal waters to a new life, specifically a new life in which sin doesn’t have an ongoing role.
For example, when Craig baptized Carolee, Carolee made a profession of faith and she stated what had happened just a few weeks earlier in conversion and it was important and I told Craig and Carolee you’ve got to say it because that’s the whole point. We are the witnesses that you have confessed the conversion, you have confessed the change. The idea in years to come if Carolee stumbles we can say, “Carolee, don’t you remember that, I’ve got it on a DVD if you forget, let’s look at it again.” it’s not just an analogy, yes they understood theologically that the change, the regeneration happens at conversion, but it was so tied in with baptism and it was publically stated in your baptism that Paul’s referring to the visible proclamation part, but he’s thinking of the whole event. It’s hard for us because we separate conversion and baptism so much and we shouldn’t do that. I think it’s because the institutional church has made baptism a sign of entrance not into the church, the real church, they’ve made it a sign of entrance into a non-profit organization. That’s how it’s often used.
Let me say a couple of things here. One of the things that the churches love to fight over historically is the mode of baptism. I went to a Baptist College and the Systematics professor was telling us stories that his grandparents had told him about the intense persecution based on whether you baptized someone going forward or going back. We hear that and that’s just not part of our culture, but if you talk to someone who is over 80 in the Baptist General Conference they can probably tell you stories of persecution over mode. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I know there were controversies over that, and whether you have to hold them under and say all three, or dunk them three times in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. People fight about these things so there’s a lot of controversy. My position is that the mode of baptism is never demanded in Scripture, it never says you shall be baptized this way, but I think that there’s only one mode of baptism in Scripture and that’s immersion where they go all the way under. All you have to do is look at the words here, “buried therefore with him by baptism, raised, united,” these are all things best illustrated in immersion baptism. You don’t get the power of the language if you sprinkle or if it’s a fusion, if it’s pouring. Now having said that, I don’t think that it matters ultimately, my position is that whether they sprinkled or poured or dunked they’re still baptized. There’s no real question that historically in the First Century church they were all dunked and it most powerfully typifies what’s going on. The word means to dip, baptizo is the verb you’re looking for, and it means to dip, which is again one of the arguments that you dip people under the water.
Slaves to Christ (Rom. 6:15-23)
The second question in chapter 6 starts at verse 15 and it’s a little bit of a different question, but it’s still getting at the same basic thing: What is the role of ongoing sin in a believer’s life? “15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law, but under grace? By no means!” Now we’ve heard this one a whole lot more, I can go sin all I want and I’ll just ask for forgiveness. That’s in essence what verse 15 is saying, “Certainly it’s okay to commit adultery, I’ll just ask for forgiveness when it’s over. It’s okay to sleep with my girl friend; I’ll just ask for forgiveness.” I don’t know how many college kids told me that’s what they were planning on doing. Are we to sin because we are not under the law, but under grace, in other words, God will forgive.
Again Paul says, by no means, God forbid, but he has a slightly different answer this time and the answer uses the imagery of slavery. In fact at one point he apologizes because it’s silly, but it’s making the point and he says verse 16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey,” and then there are two options, “either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Back in the 60’s everybody just wanted to be free, there was a song, I Just Want to Be Free. Is there the possibility in reality of total freedom? No. If you’re talking to someone who says there is, then this is where you go. We’re either slaves of sin that ends in death or we’re slaves of righteousness that ends in life, those are the two options before us. You’re either going to obey the flesh and die or you’re going to obey the spirit and live. That’s his basic answer, you’re either going to be slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness, those are the only two options.
If you will look at the end of your outline, I laid out part of chapter 6 and then part of chapter 8. In the left hand column is who we were and the right hand column is what we have become. I would encourage you to spend some time looking at this. If anybody thinks that there is a third option, that it’s okay to live as a carnal Christian, this passage really takes care of that: “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness (16)? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed (17),” and then the order is inverted, “and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness (18).” It’s really helpful to go back and forth and see these are the two positions, we’re both slaves and all we do is choose what side we’re slaves to. The argument, of course, is that the only real freedom there is in this world is the freedom of being slaves to righteousness. If you’re a slave to sin there is no freedom, you are under its mastery.
The question of perfection is, do we have the ability after we become Christians to live a perfect life? In one sense and it’s very theoretical, 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” At one level there is no sin that you and I commit after conversion that we have to, but the witness, especially Paul at the end of chapter 7, is that it will continue to be a struggle all of our life. If somebody told me that they had stopped sinning I would not believe them. 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If we say we have no sin we are a liar and we make God a liar. In one sense, I think you need to say that through the power of the Spirit there is a way out of individual acts of sin, but no one’s going to take it all the time. Probably because the Christian life is a process, and we are growing in our sanctification and growing in our obedience. There is a position called perfectionism that’s often connected with Wesley, which is unfortunate because he preached against it, but Wesley’s followers taught it, and that is the belief that there is a second work of grace called the eradication of the sin nature, where the Holy Spirit removes your ability to sin. Again that is back in the teachings of the Nazarene and it still is in the Wesleyan Church, the last time I checked. It’s definitely not true. The generation you talk to today may not have ever been taught that, but it’s still on the books.
God didn’t give Satan that power, Adam gave it to us. It was through Adam’s sin that sin entered the world and it’s certainly is a tool of Satan’s. I was trying to walk a tightrope on the question because I don’t want any of us to think we have to sin, you know the saying, “the devil made me do it,” but yet the Christian walk is one of process, it’s a growth, and we move into holiness and we keep succumbing even though we don’t technically have to.
Freedom from the Law’s Condemnation (Rom. 7:1-25)
In chapter 7, Paul again remembers there is a large Jewish audience in the Roman church and so he’s still addressing some issues that are especially important to them. In chapter 7 he talks about how we are now free from the law’s condemnation. The Jews had lived all their lives, if they were non-Christian Jews, under the condemning power of the Law: “thou shalt not.” I guess if any of you were raised in an ultra fundamentalist tradition then you probably feel the same condemnation of law that a Jew would. This is the constant, “You did that and it was wrong, you’re not measuring up to the standards, shame on you, go repent,” that heaviness. The law is not there to condemn us any longer because Christ has broken it; we’ve died to the law is what he is going to say in chapter 7. That doesn’t mean there’s not guilt, but the condemning power that the law has over us is broken.
He’s talking about the law and he goes into a time of clarification that the law is good, but he says the problem isn’t the law, the problem is our sin. Starting in verse 13 he says, "Did that which is good," the law—the thou shalt not, God’s instructions, "then, bring death to me?" In other words, is the Old Testament bad? “By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good,” the law, “in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.” What he’s saying is that the Old Testament is not bad, it’s good, but that there is the power of sin and the power of sin is at work through the law, it’s working inside of me; that’s the problem—it’s the sin that is inside of me.
Then he says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (15).” Now there is a controversy on this passage. Some people say the language is so strong that this is Paul, the Pharisee before he became a Christian talking, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think this is Paul the very mature Christian, the sun’s up and he can see the furniture, the major sins that he had at the beginning of his life, but now he sees that sin is much more pervasive in his life, and it’s everywhere he looks and it keeps working to fight him and drag him down. Now you have to be careful with this passage because if a young Christian gets a hold of this, they may think, “Well I’m not responsible I’m not doing anything wrong, it’s sin that is doing it.” But that’s not what he’s saying, he’s saying he’s grown in his Christian walk to the point that he is so cognizant of the power of sin that it is like it is a foreign entity in his body and he knows it, he can feel it. Yes, he still succumbs to it and that’s his fault, but he’s getting a better grip, a better site into the human condition. He goes on for awhile, see verse 19, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing (19). Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me (20).” He’s not excusing himself, but he’s rather isolating the problem and the problem is the power of sin. He says, “I find it to be a law,” a principle, “that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand (21). For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being (22),” he delights in the Old Testament and revelation of God that is in it, “but I see in my members,” I see in the different parts of my body, “another law (23),” another principle, “waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death (24)?” That’s the cry of a very mature Christian who understands the all-pervasive nature of sin.
It’s a good thing that when we first became Christians we weren’t aware of this depth of sin. It would be so depressing and so frustrating, but God reveals sin in the way and in the time that he sees fit for us and we deal with it, usually bigger issues at first. They are the tables and chairs. Because all of us grow in our Christian walk, two things start happening: we start realizing how all-pervasive sin is in us, but we also come to understand that sin is, and I like the phrase, a foreign entity in my body. I talked with someone in church a while back and he was having real trouble with lust, and he had not gotten it under control and one of his issues was that he didn’t understand that temptation wasn’t sin. Every time the temptation came, he felt like he had sinned and so he was utterly defeated and his wife was utterly defeated in the process. What I told him was what this passage is saying. I said, “do you understand that there is a foreign entity at work in your body that when you see a woman it drags your eyes down from her face. Do you understand that’s what is going on?” No one had ever talked to him like this before, I said, “You’re at war and the Spirit is stronger than that foreign entity. Sometimes you will listen to the Spirit sometimes you won’t, but you’re at war, it’s going on inside of you.” I have found that helpful and he found it helpful.
He says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Then he answers his own question (24), “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (25)!” In other words, God through the work of Jesus Christ will ultimately deliver us from this. “Then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Meaning I’m going to keep sinning. It’s Paul saying I’m going to keep struggling with sin; it’s always going to be there, God is going to rescue me at the end and I live in the full knowledge and full hope of that. It’s very powerful. Chapter 7 is a discussion on the power of sin and how it works in our lives.
It’s a big debate, but I think the thing that tipped the scales for me finally is that as I’ve grown in my own Christian walk, it has become more and more true. It’s not at all what I expected. I just thought I would learn to face these issues and life would get better. In one sense it does, because I can generally avoid the dining room table and the sofa and the big sins that I had to deal with when I was younger, but it’s all the other stuff, and realizing that sin lies at the base of almost everything I do, there is something wrong that is mixed in there with something that is good, and that’s the power of sin. When you and I recognize sin for sin, then it’s the turning to Jesus and the turning away from sin that is the victory. I guess I’ve always read this verse as Paul saying, this is going to be a struggle until the day I die, and I understand it, but I understand that more than that, God has rescued me ultimately through Jesus.
Student: What about motivation?
Response: Motivation was the word I was looking for and I couldn’t think of it. I would guess that for most of us in this room, our motivation for most things are Godly, except I have to assume that in the base of all my motivations, there is something that is not pure. I just find that to be a safe way to go through life, to assume and to allow for that. Let’s take this church for example, I believe this church is going to become a certain church. I can give you a million good God-centered biblical reasons. I also have to assume that there is something in my pride and arrogance that wants it to become that. I don’t believe I can be one hundred percent pure and so I have to allow for that. That’s just one of the decisions I made a while back, I find it safe.
The Work of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1-39)
Chapter 8 then is the end of this particular section where Paul is spelling out the consequences of our justification, and in chapter 8 it is not exclusively, but it is largely about the work of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have time to go into detail on this, but I would encourage you again to sit down with the outline and to read through it.
The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1-17)
He starts in chapter 8 by summarizing what he’s been saying the last couple chapters and he gets to end of verse 4 and this is where he wants to go where he says we “walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” He sets up this idea of here’s what we were, here’s what we’ve become, and we who have received the work of the Spirit now walk in according to the Spirit, we walk by his power, we walk by his guidance. That’s the idea.
He’s going to talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Verse 14 is a great verse to define what it is to be a Christian, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (14).” There have been some people in the past who have argued that if you haven’t spoken in tongues you’re not really a Christian because you don’t really possess the Spirit. That’s not possible. If you’re led by the Spirit you are a son of God, you are a Christian. There’s also good verses about assurance, why are you sure that you are a believer? Verses 16 and 17 are one of the two main places where this is discussed. The other is 1 John and we’ll talk about it in more detail there. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (16), and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (17),” in other words, if you were to ask me why am I so sure I’m going to Heaven, there could be a lot of reasons I could give you about a changed life, but ultimately it’s God work in my heart assuring me that I am his child. That is my utter conviction that I am going to go to Heaven. I’m glad for all the other things, but for me this is what it is.
Do you ever sit back and say, “We believe a God that we have never seen, by the power of his Spirit whom we’ve never seen, got a dead body out of the grave which we’ve never seen, and he’s now in Heaven which we’ve never seen, and I live my life in obedience…. That’s crazy.” Every once in awhile I think this is crazy that we believe this. Well it’s a supernatural thing that we believe it and part of that whole process is the Spirit of God assuring us in our spirit that we are his children. It is a supernatural thing. Yes, there is a change in life and other tests as to whether you’re a Christian, but for me it is the inner witness of the Spirit that is so strong.
Notice the warning at the end of 17 as I’ll mention this, “Heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” No you cannot cross that out, I don’t think that suffer here means martyrdom. I think if you’d expand Paul’s theology, you probably know what I’m going to say because we’ve talked about this so much, that if you and I are truly changed in our hearts, then our lives will start to change. As our lives start to change we come in conflict with this world—that’s the suffering. The change of life is one of tests that we truly are Christians. I think that’s how I read that particular verse, as the necessity of growth and sanctification. Student: Do you think that Paul would equate suffering with our battle against sin and our sanctification the same way that Christ was dead and buried the way our sinful nature is dead and buried and that’s the suffering we might do? Response: I never thought about that, I don’t know. There’s that verse where Paul says we are filling up the sufferings of Christ. What made sense to me is that we know that we are Christians and then he’s adding this warning that your life better be changing and that’s going to bring you into conflict. I guess your answer is assumed in that because you’re not going to be more cognizant of sin in the battle of sin unless you are a Christian and are growing in holiness.
Future Hope of the Believer (Rom. 8:18-30)
Starting in verse 18 with the future hope of the believer, both creation itself and believers individually have a future hope. We groan in our anticipation of what is to come. This is a powerful passage. You have verses 26 and 27 about as we’re waiting for the end of all things the Holy Spirit helps us: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” This is not some charismatic gift; this is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every true believer that there simply are times in which we do not know how to express what is in the deepest part of our hearts and we can have the assurance that the Holy Spirit is conveying what is in the deepest part of hearts in the deepest heart of God. That is one of the functions of the Spirit, but it is not a charismatic gift.
Verse 28 is again one of those verses that is used a lot and abused a lot and again this is all under the category of the sovereignty of God because Paul is trying to lay out that our hope is wonderful and the Spirit is helping us get there and God is sovereign—God is in control. He says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,” and then he specifies that it was “for those who are called according to his purpose (28).” That God in his kingly and his sovereign rule was in such control of events that he can work in the midst of any situation for good. But never read 28 without reading 29 because 29 defines good, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (29),” that’s the good that he’s at work in any situation in our lives—helping us to look more like Jesus, being conformed to the image of his Son, and hence there most likely will be no shallow Shiloh year for us because we are in the process of being conformed to the image of his Son so even in the midst of difficult circumstances, God is at work and working out his good. It’s obviously a very powerful verse that we could spend a long time on, but we don’t have time. This is a great chapter to read to see the functioning of the Holy Spirit in our lives and what he’s doing.
Summation: The Justification and Love of God (Rom. 8:31-39)
In verse 31, Paul comes to his summation and he’s trying to drive home the point that God is on our side, he is not going to bring a charge against us, he is not going to condemn us, he is in control, he’s in charge and so we can be absolutely confident in our faith.
Verse 37, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers (38), nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (39).” Ultimately that’s what secures us that we know that God loves us and we are in safe in that love. It is a powerful chapter and one worth a lot of reflecting.
Righteousness Vindicated (Jew and Gentile Question) (Rom. 9-11)
In chapters 9-11, I’m only going to have time to be able to summarize some of the high points on this. Again, I will probably introduce more questions than I will answer, but at least you know this is where the answers come from. In chapters 9-11 Paul wants to deal specifically with the Jew/Gentile question. It is a big deal in his original context because there are a couple of questions. One is, how do you explain the Jewish rejection of the Messiah in light of God’s faithfulness to his promises to Abraham? In other words, how can it be that here is God who make a commitment to Abraham, who created a nation of descendants, who raised them up, who worked with them, how could it be that when God finally sent his Messiah they rejected him? Doesn’t that say something about the power of God or the sovereignty of God or the faithfulness of God? For Paul it is really a big issue. The very people that God created rejected his Messiah. How does that thing happen?
The Justice of the Rejection (Rom. 9:6-29)
A Remnant Still Exists, by Election (Rom. 9:6-13)
He introduces the issue in 9:1-5 and then in 9:6-29 Paul wants to say that God is just to have rejected the Jews who do not have faith in Jesus as the Messiah. The emphasis is on God’s justice even though most of the Jews rejected him. It’s all about the justice of God and the argument starts by saying there is a remnant, there is a group of people who did response. Paul says, “I’m a Jew,” but he goes into defining a Jew as an issue not of ethnicity, but an issue of faith. That the true Jew, like we saw in Romans 2, knows inwardly that the circumcision is a thing of the heart and Abraham is the father of people who have faith not just happening to be born of a Jewish mom and dad. He’s saying there is a remnant, there is a group that did respond in faith.
Then in the second half he gets into this whole issue of election and he says, this is God’s right—God’s going to elect some and he’s not going others. Verse 10, “Not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac (10), though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works, but because of him who calls (11)—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger (12).’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated (13).’” What he is saying is that God makes a choice, he elects certain people and the people that he elects respond in faith, and his election has nothing to do with what they did or would do. He chose Jacob or Esau before he was born, before he had done anything. What Paul is saying is God is just even though the majority of the Jews had rejected him, because there is a remnant of faithful people, and after all that’s Gods choice and God chose them.
I know in a lot of circles it’s popular to say I don’t believe in election; I hope none of you say that because you can’t not believe in election. You just can’t. You may struggle with its definition, you may want to work with it, but you can’t read Romans 9 and say, I don’t believe in election. If that’s part of your tradition, I would encourage you to spend some time in Romans 9.
God’s Sovereignty is Righteous (Rom. 9:14-29)
I’m going to say a few practical things, but let me get through some stuff. In verse 14, Paul is trying to make the point that God is absolutely sovereign, that he chooses people and he’s absolutely just to do so. If you want to struggle with election, this is the chapter, this is the strongest there is. You can take all the other verses in the Bible and put them together and they don’t equal the strength of this particular chapter. “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part (14)?” Well if God chooses certain people to respond to him in faith and not others then that’s not fair, he’s unjust. That’s the human response. Paul says, “By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion (15).’” In other words, I’ll do whatever I want, I’m God you’re not. That’s his answer. As prideful human beings don’t like that answer, do we, but he’s God, I’m not. Look what he says about Pharaoh in verse 17, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up,’” God is saying there is one reason that Egypt and Pharaoh became as powerful as they did. This is leading up to the exodus, “‘that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’” This is the theme all the way through the Old Testament, that God chose to raise up Egypt and Pharaoh for one purpose and that was to illustrate his power and his glory in releasing his children from Egypt. This is a God who is free to do anything he wants to do.
You go on in verse 19 and you’ll say to me then, “Well why does he find fault or who could resist his will?” Good questions. Look at his answer (19), “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God (20)?” That’s the biblical way of saying, “Shut up.” Did Job ever get answered? When Job demanded an answer of God did he get an answer? No. Often in Scripture when people demand an answer of God his answer is “I’m God and you’re not, it’s none of your business. Learn to live with it.” That’s why Habakkuk is such an amazing book because Habakkuk goes to God and says, “I don’t understand this. How come the righteous are being punished and the wicked are succeeding?” I think there was something in how Habakkuk asked the question, there was something in his heart that God chose to answer the question, but the answer here is you just have to believe it because I’m not going to give you my answer. That’s what he says.
Don’t talk back to God, "Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this (20)?' Has the potter no right over the clay," you can hear that, God’s the potter and we’re the clay. One place it gets hard is that clay is your child or that clay is your best friend or that clay is your spouse, then this verse gets much, much harder to deal with doesn’t it. “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use,” that’s the elect, “and another for dishonorable use (21)? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath,” that’s where the Statement of Faith gets that language from, “prepared for destruction (22), in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory?” What if God so chooses to set aside a bunch of clay, a group of people, and I’m not saying this easily because I don’t understand this at all, but God is free to do that even if these people go to Hell if the goal is to show God’s glory and might to those that he has elected. I don’t understand election; I have to believe it—it’s everywhere in the Bible. It’s in John 6, it’s on the words of the disciples in the early preaching in Acts 2, and all the way through Acts. It’s absolutely everywhere. I don’t understand it.
Let me say just a couple general things. Do you know the phrase, double predestination? Predestination is the doctrine from Romans 8:29, that God predestined, or chose, certain people and in choosing them enabled them to respond and they became Christians, those are the elect. Double predestination is a doctrine that says he also chose others to go to Hell. That’s the doctrine of double predestination. I don’t believe in double predestination. I have a problem and I’ll show it to you—Scripture doesn’t generally talk that way. Generally, Scripture says, election is the greatest doctrine of mercy there is in the entire Bible. Because God chose me, not because of anything to do with me, but God chose me because he loved me, he loved me before the beginning of time, before I had done anything good or bad and he said, you are mine. That is pure grace, pure mercy—not works. That’s what election is. It’s the most marvelous expression of God’s mercy and grace there is. That’s how Scripture talks about predestination—of choosing people to be elect. Some people say, “Well that means, logically, that he chooses other people to go to Hell.” I say I don’t believe that because that is not how Scripture talks generally, but it does here doesn’t it. This is the passage that if you get into a discussion of double predestination this is where they will go: “has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,” that’s the non-elect.
I don’t understand it, but there is one thing I think I do understand and let me share this with you. Justice is what God does. Love is what God does as an expression of his character. There is not some external standard of justice or external standard of love that God must come under and obey because then God’s not God, but rather justice is defined in that whatever God does is just. That’s what we believe. Whatever God does is love. What I’ve had to do in my mind in handling this passage, and this is the hardest, the doctrine of election in general, is at a practical level, I have no idea who God’s chosen. I had no idea he chose you. Paul tells the Thessalonians, this is how I know God chose you—you responded in faith. See the doctrine of election is the guarantee that Carolee is going to respond in faith when Craig and Christie presented the claims of Christ to her. It’s a wonderful doctrine in that sense. When the Bible talks about election, predestination, and foreknowledge it almost always does as a way of looking back at our conversion and saying there was more going on than I realized. There’s no way that before your conversion you know that God chose you before the foundation of the world, but you can look back at it now and go, that’s incredible. That’s normally how election functions in Scripture. I have no idea who the elect are. I would never not preach to someone because I thought they were not of the elect.
There are what we call the warm Calvinist and the cold Calvinist—there are the cold Calvinist that don’t think they have to preach anything to anybody—elect or not. These are the people who if they were Peter in Acts 2 and he preaches a sermon and they say what must we do to be saved? My old office mate in graduate school who was a cold Calvinist would say, “Nothing. It doesn’t matter, either you’re elect or you’re damned, it doesn’t matter.” He was a missionary in India for a year. I could never figure that one out. I said, “Why did you do that Henry?” He said, “God told me to.” I said, “You went there knowing that nothing you did would have any affect for the Kingdom of God because everything is robotic and preordained.” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “I don’t see that in Scripture, I’m sorry.”
Issues in Election
Here are two root issues in election. There are two things that get in trouble. First is the idea that if I can’t say no, then I really didn’t say yes. That’s something that’s inside of us I think, isn’t it? How can my conversion be real if I had no other choice, but to say yes? I must have had the ability to say no, and that’s one of the issues. It’s not scriptural—you’re dead in your trespasses and sin, and God quickens your heart, he gives you new faith, he enables you to respond and the only way that you’re going to respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ once you’ve been enabled to respond is by saying yes! Why wouldn’t you? I made a choice when I was 7, I chose to become a Christian, I made a choice. As I look back on it I realize, yes Mom had read me Bible stories, I had listened to Dad preach, but God enabled me to respond. It’s called the doctrine of irresistible grace. (It’s the I in tulip). God’s grace draws irresistibly that when we’re enabled to respond, we’re going to respond. That’s the other side of that argument, but there’s something inside of us, and it’s not Scripture, that says “I did not make the choice and it’s not a real choice.”
The other thing that is hard on this is that it chaffs against our doctrine of justice, doesn’t it? That’s not fair God; it’s not fair that you chose me and didn’t choose my cousin or someone else; that’s just not fair. There are several answers. One is that what’s fair is that he condemns everyone. The greatest act of injustice in the history of reality is that Jesus forgave my sins. There’s nothing more unjust than that. There’s nothing more unjust than that Jesus died for me. By human standards, that’s terrible. It’s a good thing that justice is what God does and he doesn’t have to submit to our standards of justice. It’s hard especially when that clay takes on shape, and it’s a spouse or a sibling or a child or a good friend, and ultimately I think what you have to do is say, “I don’t understand it, but I’m thankful that I was chosen as an act of mercy, and that I did not have to do anything to earn it, and that no one can snatch me out of the Father’s hand.”
One of the other counters to this is, and this is why Henry was wrong in saying, “You know it wouldn’t matter,” do you see any example of conversion in Scripture where there wasn’t apparently a choice being made? No. What must we do to be save, Peter says, “Repent and be baptized.” You have to respond. It’s wrong in discussions, I believe, of evangelism if we bring election into it. It’s not there in Scripture except for some very unusual places. When it comes to evangelism, we cast our nets wide. If you read Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology on this, he does a good job saying, “We have no idea who’s elect or not, that’s not the issue. Election, Wayne says, is the guarantee that people will respond.” We just don’t know who they are. We preach and we share and we talk in the supermarket line and we talk to our neighbors and all these things, and election is the guarantee that in God’s grace he will draw some people to himself. That’s by the way Jesus’s description of the doctrine of election. “No one can come to me unless the Father’s draws them.” We’ve talked about that.
There’s obviously a lot there that we can’t go into, but that’s what’s going on here. Justice is what God does. The people that God created to receive his Messiah didn’t receive him. You cannot question God’s justice because some have received; there has been a remnant and God is absolutely free to do whatever he wants. I’ve been told and I’ve not done a lot of work on this, but that the Book of Job is not so much about the problem of pain as it is about the freedom of God to do what he chooses. Election is never an excuse and that’s why if you meet a cold Calvinist they are wrong, because there is no cold theology in Scripture.
The Cause of the Rejection (Rom. 9:30-10:21)
Let me just real briefly summarize and you can read through the outlines. Having introduced this topic, and this was the hardest part of this discussion, Paul’s going to talk about why the Jews rejected Jesus. The answer is that they pursued righteousness by works, not by faith; their whole way of reading the Old Testament was wrong and so that’s why they were rejected. Then he points out the rejection is partial and that there are some Jews who responded, but they responded in faith; aren’t you Gentiles glad that the Jews rejected the Gospel so the Gospel would then go to the Gentiles?
A Future for Ethnic Israel? (Rom. 11:25-26)
There is an important verse just to mention in closing, chapter 11:25-26, is there a future for ethnic Israel? If you’re a dispensationalist or a non-dispensationalist you may answer that question differently, but in verses 25-26 you don’t have to be a dispensationalist (if you don’t know what that means don’t worry about it), you can still believe there’s a future for Israel. It’s really remarkable that Israel’s still here right? There are not a lot of Moabites running around, not a lot of Ammonites, but the Jews are still here. Based on these verses, many people believe that there is a future for Israel, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (25).” God hardened, that’s another term that is used in election discussions, Israel like he hardened Pharaoh so that they would reject the Gospel. The message should go to the Gentiles and then in this way all Israel will be saved. Now one way to read this is that “all Israel” means “the Jews and Gentiles together make up Israel,” and I’m fifty-one percent/forty-nine percent on this. Right now I’m fifty-one percent that that’s what it means, that all of Israel is the Jews and the Gentiles, that all people would come under God’s mercy and be saved.
Most people say when it says “all Israel will be saved,” what Paul is doing is prophesying that at the end of time right before Jesus comes back again, tribulation issues aside, that God will do a work in the hearts of Abraham’s physical descendants and there will be a great revival in Judaism where they become Christians, and it’s just like all of Israel got saved. This is certainly possible and I hope it’s true. In old dispensational thought, it was taught that this would happen without the work of the Holy Spirit, and thankfully in dispensationalism today that’s all gone. I haven’t heard anyone say that in decades, but the idea is that God will do a great act of mercy at the end of time and will draw all of Abraham’s physical descendants to himself in a great act of mercy, and in that sense all of Israel in that point in time is going to be saved. By the way those are the pivotal verses.
Closing: The Unsearchable Depth of God’s Wisdom (Rom. 11:33)
Paul gets through all of this, he has explained it and explained it and I’m going to close where he closes, verse 33, Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! You say, “Paul, this is a great eleven chapters of theology” and he goes “yeah, but you know what, I still don’t get it.” Ultimately it’s simply too deep and that’s why I’m willing to throw my hands up on election. I believe it with all my heart; it doesn’t have a single piece of impact on my call to sanctification and evangelism. “
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 (34)?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid (35)?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (36).” That’s Paul’s summation of his main theological discourse that we have today. Ultimately when it gets to the end of it, God’s so much more than we are, he’s so much deeper, his thoughts are not our thoughts, his ways are not our ways, and we by faith have to be willing to say, “I believe what it says, and if I can’t fit everything together I don’t have to because I’m not God. That’s how he concludes chapter 11.
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