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Monday, July 8, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 58

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Exhibition of Divine Sovereignty in Election - Romans 9:1-33

The eighth chapter ended with that unforgettable hymn of praise. Paul has now finished dealing with the doctrinal  points of his letter, that is, in the special sense of dealing with the divine provision for salvation.

The apostle might have gone directly to chapter 12 of Romans, to the exhortation answering the question of how a saved man shall conduct his life. Paul has shown how God saves a sinner. And, as in every other epistle he has written, Paul follows the doctrinal portion with exhortation, as in Ephesians: "I ... beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called" (Eph. 4:1).

Notice how nicely chapter 12 would follow. He has finished telling us about the mercies of God. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God" - that is, on the basis of the mercies as dealt with in the first eighteen chapters. - "that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." Then Paul tells them how they ought to live their lives. You may wonder why Paul does not go into this discussion immediately - why does he put these three chapters (the ninth through the eleventh) in the middle of the book? Some teachers have even spoken of these three chapters as a parenthetical portion, which is true in a certain sense. In another sense it is not true at all, because this book would not be complete without these three chapters. While the connection might not appear to be logical, it certainly (as one writer puts it) is psychological.

After Paul has treated in general the issues of salvation, a particular problem arises. It is the problem of the Jewish nation and their relation to the gospel that Paul has been setting forth in the first eight chapters. The Jewish people, as a nation, had not received the gospel. They had rejected the Christ. Paul knew that. Everybody knew it at that time. Only a few Jews were in the church. As a nation, they had rejected the gospel. As time went on, a great deal of opposition had arisen from his "brethren according to the flesh."

The gigantic proportions of this problem now appear. The whole Old Testament was simply packed with promises that God had made to this Jewish nation. They were Messianic promises, promises which went with the Christ, the Messiah. Now notice the paradoxical situation. If the Jewish nation will not accept Jesus as Messiah, then the unbelieving Jew would say that there are two possible conclusions to be drawn. Either the gospel that Paul is preaching is not true, or else, if it is true, then the promises of God to Israel have failed, because the Messiah and blessing to Israel have failed, because the Messiah and blessing to Israel were connected inseparably. The Jew would say in essence that, either Jesus Christ is not the true Messiah or the Word of God has proven false.

That is the problem, and it was a tremendous one! It is still a problem today, with which men are trying to cope. If People would only read these chapters carefully, they would find a clear statement of the problem as well as the ultimate solution. A great many people set aside the Jew entirely. They say the promises have failed as far as the Jews are concerned. But that is NOT true.

Paul's treatment of this problem is daring! He admits the fact that the Jew as a nation has rejected the gospel, and yet he takes his stand firmly and declares that the nation still has a place in the economy of God. There is nothing in all the Word  of God, in logic itself, that can exceed the movement of thought constituting the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters of Romans.

With that by way of introduction, let us consider the subject. And that subject is "vindication." And the question being confronted is this: "Why is Israel rejected?" Paul's answer is marvelous! Let's take a quick preview of these three chapters, to paraphrase what they teach in answer to that question.

The ninth chapter admits to the fact that the Jewish nation has not received the gospel, but it also declares that the Word of God has not failed. Why? Because some Jews have believed, and these Jews, says Paul, are a part of that elect remnant that the Old Testament tells about. So the conclusion is that there is always a continuing line of believers, in whom the promises of God are being fulfilled.

The tenth chapter carries the argument further and lays the blame on Israel. The apostle says that if Israel, as a nation, has been set aside, it is through no fault of God. The reason that God has rejected Israel is because Israel rejected the gospel.

Then in the eleventh chapter, the apostle tells that although the nation of Israel has been set aside, and although that rejection of them as a nation has been richly deserved (because they rejected the gospel), the rejection of Israel as a nation is not final It is temporary only, and through all that (through the election and through the rejection) God is working out a mighty, loving, and gracious purpose. For by the rejection of Israel as a nation, salvation has been brought first of all to the Gentiles. And if Israel's rejection has resulted in the enrichment of the world, how much more blessing will come someday when God receives Israel back in the place where it once was.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 59)

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