Saturday, August 25, 2012

The People of God 120826

Romans 9:25-33, As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” And as Isaiah predicted,, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Paul has, just before this, questioned, "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory — even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles." This is an amazing thought for a former Pharisee to have. It was also very offensive to the Jews of his day. I suppose, but do not know, it may be just as offensive to an Orthodox Jew today. The Pharisees believed that one is born into the family of God. Sadly enough, many Christians today seem to hold the same idea. Nothing could be further from the truth. Salvation is entirely a work of God having nothing at all to do with any effort on our part.

Paul has been proving that God chooses out of Israel, but also out of the Gentiles. He does not express his own opinion instead he turns to Scripture to prove his point. This left the Jews very little wiggle room because they were very proud not only of having the Scriptures but also with knowing the Scriptures. By the way, this is always the best process. What we believe must be based on the word of God. Not on verses taken out of context but instead verses consistent with all Scripture.

Paul begins with a quote from the Prophet Hosea. Hosea, contrary to the moral standards of his day, was instructed by God to take a prostitute as his wife. This was a picture for unfaithful Israel to see how they had related, or not, to God. He went so far as to have Hosea name his children symbolic names. A daughter was named "No Mercy", and a son was named "Not My People".

Now, Paul uses this quote to show the Jews that God had a plan that included all people. There would be a remnant of Israel, as well as a portion of Gentiles, who would make up the church.

Not My People — Now My People.

Gentiles, chosen by God. Read with me, Acts 13:44-49, The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.

Paul and Barnabas had gone out from Antioch on the first known missionary journey to share the gospel where it had not been preached before. Their usual method seems to have been to find the synagogue, or at least a place of prayer, in every new location they came to. In this city they were welcomed by the Jewish community and on the first Sabbath Paul preached a sermon based on the salvation history of Israel. Upon seeing how well-received they were, the leaders of the synagogue opposed them. Paul and Barnabas then announced that since they were refused in the synagogue they would now go into the streets and preach to the native people — the Gentiles! Paul quoted from Isaiah that the Lord commanded them to be a light for the Gentiles and to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

This experience must have helped Paul a great deal when he later wrote to the Romans that the Gentiles would be brought into the church on an equal basis with the Jews. To his great sorrow, his people had tragically refused to believe in the only begotten Son of God. From the very beginning of Christ's ministry they had rejected him…

Jews, rejecting Christ. Read with me, John 1:11-12, He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

"He came to his own" refers to the fact that Jesus, as creator, had ownership rights over everything and especially the land where he had chosen to put his name. Jesus was the sovereign Lord of the land of Israel. Yet, when he came to his own property he was rejected by his own people.

During his ministry, Jesus told a parable about a landowner who built a farm and let it out to tenants. After time he sent a servant to collect the rents. Some of these servants they killed. Others were simply driven away. Needless to say, the rents were never collected! Last of all, the land owner sent his son saying, "Surely they will respect my son." Instead, the tenants thought they could kill the son and inherit the property themselves. What a tragedy! They could have enjoyed the favor of God by simply receiving his son and instead they tried to take the kingdom for themselves.

Yet, a remnant remains. Read with me, Romans 11:2-5, God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

Paul was himself an example of the fact that God had not rejected his people. Paul was proud of his Jewish heritage and was deeply grieved that they had rejected his Lord. The problem the Jewish leaders had was they believed that because a person was born a Jew they were all right with God. Repeatedly, throughout the Old Testament, prophets used the term, "remnant", to refer to the people who would be chosen by God. Nowhere in Scripture does God promise that all Jews would be saved. In this passage Paul quotes the very familiar response of Elijah to God, "I alone am left", and God's reply, "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." And then Paul refers to that seven thousand as a remnant. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai and Zechariah all talked about the remnant that would be saved. The rabbis ignored, or explained, each of these references. That way they could hold on to the idea that a person is right with God because of their descent from Isaac.

Considering the fact that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, it is a miracle that any of us are saved. All deserve death and hell. Yet some, selected by God, feel a stirring in their heart to come to him. God is not required to do this but he does it for his own reasons.

Arrogant mankind demands to know why God would do this! What we should be asking is why God does not destroy everyone beginning with Adam because of our rebellion and sin. Everyone is naturally rejected, until some are chosen and brought into the family of God. God does not desire that anyone will perish and calls all to repentance. Let's look at…

A remnant chosen by grace.

The tragedy of the remnant. Read with me please, John 5:39-43, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.

It is possible to be a Bible scholar and still reject God's plan. Remember Nicodemus? He was a teacher of Israel and he could not understand the simple truth that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. Of course Nicodemus did not understand! He believed himself to be one of God's chosen people because he was born of the house of Israel. But the Bible is very clear, as are Paul's teaching, that a person is…

Chosen not based on works, or race. Read with me please Acts 15:7-11, And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

On their return from their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas were confronted by some who taught, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” This would have invalidated almost all Paul's work. After a heated debate, the interested parties went to Jerusalem to set the matter before James and the other apostles and elders. What we have here is the basis of Peter's argument for receiving the Gentiles without imposing Mosaic tradition on them. God had put his seal of approval, the evidence of the Holy Spirit, on the Gentiles by cleansing their hearts by faith. Peter understood that the act of circumcision was simply part of the whole law and that the law had failed to bring people to salvation. Now as Gentiles were coming to faith he did not want to see them put under a burden that Israel had been unable to carry out. Peter and Paul both knew that people are…

Chosen by grace. Turn to 2 Timothy 1:8-9, Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

Throughout Paul's letters he reaffirms, again and again, that it is the power of God, not the work of man, that brings a person to repentance. It is God who saves us. It is God who calls us to a holy calling. He did not do this because of good works on our part but because of his own purpose and grace. This purpose and grace were given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.

God is not affected by time as we are. He sees the end from the beginning. It is as though all of time — all of human history were laid out on a table and God is above it looking down and seeing it all at once. Paul told the Ephesians that God chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. The book of Revelation tells us that the Lamb's Book of Life, that contains the names of the people of God, was written before the foundation of the world.

Non-seekers and seekers — who succeeded?

Gentiles — the non-seekers. Read with me Ephesians 2:11-12, Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

The Gentiles were far from being seekers. In our text for today Paul pointed out that the Gentiles did not pursue righteousness but they attained it! Before they came to know Christ they were separated, alienated and strangers to the covenants. They had no hope and were without God in the world. And yet, they attained a righteousness that is by faith.

So much for looking for seekers! They were not seekers — but they were called. Jesus had said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." God puts a hunger in the heart of a person that draws them to Jesus Christ. There is an emptiness in everyone apart from Christ. Only by coming to him, in faith, can that hunger be satisfied and the empty place be filled. If you have never come to him I encourage you to do so now!

Jews — the seekers. Read Deuteronomy 4:4-8, But you who held fast to the Lord your God are all alive today. See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

Moses was giving his final instructions to the people of Israel. He gave them the law and encouraged them to see, in that, the evidence of the blessing of God. The problem is they replaced God with the law. As Paul would say in Romans 9 that they pursued a law that would lead to righteousness and did not attain it because they did not pursue it by faith! The writer of Hebrews tells us that those who died in the wilderness did so because of a lack of faith. The message was good but they did not have faith. What a tragedy! They had the law and believed they were right with God because of having it. And yet, they could not keep it. A large part of the sermon on the Mount, given by Jesus, shows how the rabbis had twisted the law because they discovered they could not keep it! They stumbled, Paul would tell us, over the stumblingstone. The problem becomes…

What do you do with Jesus? Please read Matthew 21:42-44, Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Jesus had just told the parable of the tenants. The people who were listening to him saw immediately how unjust the action of the tenants was. They proclaimed that the landowner would take away the vineyard and give it to others who would pay the rent. Jesus identified himself as the stone the builders had rejected. He also proclaimed that he had become the cornerstone. And then he said that the kingdom of God would be taken away and given to people who would produce its fruit.

The chief priests and rabbis knew immediately that he was talking about them. They understood that Jesus was the beloved son sent by the landlord to claim ownership and they turned away because it did not suit their view of religion.

Today, there are many who have the word of God and rather than believe it and obey it they seek to explain it in the light of their understanding.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Let us be clear about this. The Lord Jesus Christ is one of two things to everyone of us. You either believe in him and rest your faith in him alone, or else he is to you a stumbling-stone and a rock of offense.”

May God grant that when we sing the great hymns of the faith we will really mean what we sing.

When I survey the wondrous Cross, On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were an offering far too small,
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. Isaac Watts

And may our prayer be, “Take it all Lord, you bought it all on the cross and I surrender it to you.”

Many years ago I discovered that I was spending more time explaining the Bible than I was spending time believing it! I determined then that no matter where it led I would simply believe the Bible and let it explain itself. Over the years there has been a gradual change in what I believe because of this decision. I encourage you to believe the word and accept what it says at face value. But remember, it must all fit together. You cannot take part of the word without taking all of the word! Never build what you believe on a single verse of Scripture, or a few verses. At the same time never reject what becomes clear to you as you study the word.

One of the greatest tragedies in human history is the rejection, by the Jews, of Jesus when he came to Earth. These were the very people who should have welcomed him and understood his purpose. They did not because they had been searching the Scriptures with the rules already made up and not allowing the Bible to speak for itself. If we are not careful we will fall into the same trap. Many have done so and the church has suffering as a result. The gospel message is damaged by prejudice. We must be faithful to the word but we must not be proud of it. We must walk humbly with our God and our heart’s desire should be that we become a people of God who can be used for his glory.

All Scripture quotes are fromThe Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001, Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Riches of God's Glory 120819

Romans 9:14-24, What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? 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.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Our passage begins with Paul asking a question in reply to people who are arguing with him about God choosing some and not others. When they say, "it is not fair!", Paul replies, "Is there injustice on God's part?". Then he quickly answers his own question, "By no means!" He then sets out to prove his answer. The Apostle uses God's reply to Moses and then God's treatment of Pharaoh to explain this simple fact, God may do as he chooses with his own creation. And, No, it is not fair! "Fair" would be far worse than reality.

"Fairness" is a human concept based on social standards not on the word of God. In order for God to be fair and all to be treated the same we would be in serious trouble. Because the condition of all mankind is the same! We all deserve death and hell and any variation from that is the mercy of God. If it were not for God's grace and goodness we would have no hope of life and peace. There is no injustice on God's part when he chooses to save some out of lost humanity. Paul begins his explanation with a story very familiar to his Jewish readers. The story was of a time in the wilderness when the people of God rebelled against him and set up an idol to worship. Turn with me to Exodus 32…

Moses was seeking God's glory.

Israel had rebelled. Exodus 32:7-10, And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

As we read this account there are two or three things that stand out. God, instead of calling them his people, calls them Moses' people. Almost like when daddy comes home from work and mama begins her first sentence with, "Your son…" And you know that that is not going to be good for the boy in question. Then God says something very interesting. "Now therefore let me alone," something is going on between Moses and God even before this statement. Moses appears to be appealing to God on behalf of the people. Moses' intercession is an important part of his pastoral leadership of the congregation in the wilderness. A little further on we find Moses interceding for them…

Moses interceded for them. Read with me, Exodus 33:17, And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

God's relationship with Moses is very intimate. First, he directly answers Moses' intercession with, "This very thing that you have spoken I will do," and the reason is given, "you have found favor in my sight," and, "I know you by name." I believe we can safely say that God knows all of us by name. But this is a special "knowing". Moses was chosen by God as part of the grand scheme of salvation. He was allowed to be raised in the house of Pharaoh, then stripped of all his honors, driven out of Egypt, spent 40 years raising sheep, then, and only then, was he called out to lead God's people. Every part of his life was preparatory to his being the leader of the Exodus of millions of people out of slavery into the freedom of God. Moses, like Abraham before him, and David after him was a man after God's own heart. If anyone had the right to ask God for a special manifestation of his glory it would have been Moses. But no one has that right. No one can do any more with God than to request and await his response in his wisdom. But Moses did ask something let's read on…

God's glory. Exodus 33:18-20, Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Moses did say, "Please", and God did respond graciously. Moses was asking for more than a personal vision of God's glory. He wanted a manifestation of God's glory to all the people. He was not going to get that! God had already shown himself with the fire and thunder on top of the mountain. Now, he would not waste his glory on all Israel but he would show favor to his friend. He would show Moses what man can see but that is all. You see, God says here, "Man shall not see me and live." Instead, God had Moses stand in a certain place where he could be shielded from God's glory. Covered with God's hand, Moses would be protected as God passed by and then Moses could see God's "back". Not being a scholar in the Hebrew language, I cannot say exactly what this means, but I have been told it could mean the fading of God's glory.

God shows his glory to whom he chooses. He is God and will be gracious to whom he chooses to be gracious to and he will show mercy to whom he will show mercy. We have no rights to claim nor privileges. God is in charge!

Paul then moves on to another example, Pharaoh! You see…

Pharaoh as an example.

God had a purpose. Read with me, Exodus 9:13-14, Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.

We need to remember that God always has a purpose in everything that happens. Slavery in Egypt was part of God's plan. In speaking to Abram hundreds of years before the Exodus God plainly told him that his descendents would go into a land that is not theirs and be afflicted for 400 years. The land promised to Abram was occupied by the people generally called Canaanites and though they were ungodly people they were not yet bad enough to be removed by God. What he said to Abram was, "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."

So, Joseph was sold into slavery, raised up to be the Prime Minister of Egypt, brought his family to join him and there they settled! Or if you want to think that way God parked them in Egypt until the people living in the promised land were evil enough to be destroyed. Had God been unjust there would have been no reason for Egypt and slavery. He could have just wiped out the people in Canaan and turned the land over to Abram and his descendents. That would have been unjust. He waited until their natural iniquity was evil enough and then called in his people. In the meantime several more things were happening. Israel grew to be a large nation disciplined and organized by slavery. At the right time God called them out. And he did it in such a way that the whole world would come to know about it. In our rebellious human nature we could say that using Egypt and Pharaoh like that was not fair and Pharaoh did not deserve what happened to him. Well, we need to remember that what we all deserve Pharaoh also deserved.

What Pharaoh deserved. Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, & 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These two verses speak to the condition of the human race. All have sinned! Not some — ALL! The Bible says there is none righteous no not one. The standard we are measured by is the glory of God and we fall short of it. Now, by comparing ourselves with someone else we might not look too bad. That is, if we choose carefully who we're going to compare with. But looking good in a human to human competition still leaves us in common danger. We all descend from Adam and Eve and as such we are all sinners. The wages, or pay, for sin is death. That is eternal separation from God. That is what we all deserve and that is what Pharaoh deserved. What he got was a little more complicated and drawn out on his way to death and hell.

What Pharaoh got. Let us look at three passages of Scripture, Exodus 7:3-4a, But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you.; 8:32, But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go. & 14:1-4, Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.

Nineteen times in the book of Exodus there is a reference to a hardened heart on the part of Pharaoh. It is easy to say that God caused Pharaoh to have a hard heart. Nothing could be further from the truth! Pharaoh had a hard heart. God did not have to give him a hard heart he simply worked with what he had. You see, God is over all, he is almighty, all-powerful and rules the universe. He can use evil to display his own glory. Romans 9:17 clearly says that God used Pharaoh to display his own glory. Quoting from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "God took Pharaoh as he was, and aggravated and accentuated what it was; he hardened his heart, in order to serve his own purpose."

The story goes this way. When Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh and asked him to allow God's people go back to their land Pharaoh said, "No". In his hardened condition he made the work harder for the slaves and entered into a contest of wills with Jehovah God. Now, he could have been persuaded to give in at the first level and it would have been an historical event but it would not have been what God intended it to be. Ten times God confronted Pharaoh and the Egyptian magicians. Each time he defeated part of their religion. He thoroughly laid waste the land of Egypt in such a manner that it would have taken generations for them to recover. In the end he destroyed the standing army of Egypt and left the country open to its enemies. In the process he withdrew his people from slavery, molded them into a nation that could conquer their enemies and rule the land he had set aside for them.

Before crossing the Red Sea God called out the Egyptian Army and lead it into the Red Sea behind the nation of Israel. His announced purpose was, "and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord". We need to remember that God has a plan for all occasions. Let us look at part of…

God's sovereign purpose.

The potter and the clay. The example Paul uses in verses 20 and 21 is drawn from both Isaiah and Jeremiah. God sent Jeremiah to the potter's house to watch him work. It was a normal day at the potter's house and in the course of making a vessel from clay it was marred. The potter was not upset he simply reshaped it as he had done many many times before. Then God asked the question, "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?" Then God went on to explain that he could pull a nation down or he could raise one up whenever he wanted to. Then he told that he was shaping disaster against them. He called on them to repent and return to him but they would not. Disaster soon came to pass.

Many have said that unless America soon returns to God a similar disaster will occur here. We need to remember that the events of the Old Testament unfolded over a period of time. God's patience and compassion carried men forward generation after generation. Thousands of years passed before his hand of destruction came upon the world.

Remember, God waited 400 years for the people in the land of Canaan to become sufficiently evil that he would destroy them. America has been a nation for less than 250 years. The rejection of God in our society and in our government, depending on which event you measure from, has only been going on for about 50 years. And for that number I use the Supreme Court case involving Madalyn Murray O'Hair resulting in the end of Bible reading and prayer in the public schools. Ten years later, in Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court opened the door to the approval of abortions resulting in the death of millions of unborn children. I wont even attempt to list all the other evidences of spiritual decline in America. The list goes on and on but the timeframe is very short compared to the biblical accounts of the decline and fall of God's people. God is sovereign and has a plan that includes America but I honestly can say I do not know how America fits into God's plan. In the midst of everything God has a way of taking care of his people. Remember…

God endured with patience. Read with me, 2 Peter 3:8-9, But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Paul reminds us that God endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. And now Peter shows us how indifferent God is to time. One day equals a thousand years; a thousand years equals a day. This is not a math problem or some kind of secret code to help you determine the end times. This is a simple statement of fact. No period of time has any effect on God.

Remember, God is love! In that beautiful description of love found in 1st Corinthians chapter 13 we find the first characteristic of love is this, "Love is patient".

Everything we know about God tells us that he is righteous and just but also loving, patient and kind. He placed man in the Garden of Eden, permitted him to sin and covered that sin. He could have ended it all then, but remember, mankind on earth is not a social experiment of a benevolent God. God had a purpose and a plan.

God had already taken into consideration Cain killing Abel. He knew Seth would be born and he knew that man would become more and more evil until it was time to destroy the earth with a flood. He knew that he would begin again with Noah, his three sons and their wives. He also knew that man would continue in his rebellion. From the very beginning he had seen a man in the land of Ur, whose father was a pagan idol maker, named Abram. He knew that that man would listen when he spoke and would leave his family and his human heritage to follow the Lord wherever he called. He would rename that man, "Abraham" and he would become the father of the faithful. He knew that Abraham's descendents would become slaves in Egypt and be led out with a mighty hand. He knew that those former slaves would conquer Canaan and build a kingdom. He knew that there would be a shepherd boy named David who would become king of Israel. And hundreds of years later he knew that a baby would be born who would be called "the Son of David". He knew that baby would be God himself, Immanuel, "God with us". He knew that that man would take the sins of the whole world on the cross so that mankind could have the opportunity of salvation. He persisted in patience because he had a plan of salvation. He did this…

In order to show his mercy. Read with me, Romans 2:4, Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

God's kindness is meant to lead man to repentance. There are many reasons why God tolerated evil for so long. One, it demonstrates his long-suffering, his compassion. Ezekiel 18:23, Reads like this, Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? Looking further into Ezekiel we find God saying, Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11)

God's patience takes away man's excuse. The evidence of history is that man cannot save himself and it has been proved over and over again. In the final judgment man has no choice but admit that God was patient and long-suffering with the human race.

We should be amazed when we think that God saved any of us. What we deserve is death and hell! Instead, as Paul wrote to Titus, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7) Who are we to talk back to our Creator who has given us the riches of his glory?

All Scripture references are from, The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

God's Purpose 120812

Romans 9:6-13, But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 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—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Christians often stumble over Romans 9-11 because they fail to see what it is really all about. They see the word "election" and immediately rush to judgment. God's process of election, or selection, is not based on his looking over the human race to decide who is good enough and/or bad enough. That is a view held by many Christians. That view of God's choosing really grows out of human pride. Since it is proposed by Christians it naturally follows that being a Christian means that God sees something about us that makes us special. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have nothing in ourselves that makes it possible for us to be chosen by God. The reason for election, or selection, is to fulfill the purpose of God.
Paul wants to assure us, in this section of Romans, that, not only does he desire with the deepest commitment that his kinsman be saved but he also wants us to know that God did not fail in regards to Israel. God is not feeble, nor is he unable to fulfill his own purposes! On the contrary, the God we serve — the Creator of the universe – can do anything he chooses, anytime he chooses, without consulting us.
Now, Did God fail in regards to Israel?
He did make a promise to his friend Abraham. Let us read together… Genesis 12:1-3, Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
This is a great promise! He promises this man, who has no children, that he will make him a great nation and will make his name great. He promises to bless those who bless Abram and curse those who dishonor Abram. And last of all, he promises that all the families of the earth will be blessed in Abram, or Abraham as he will later be called.
Most of you know the story. Abram, at his wife's suggestion, takes her servant into his bed and produces a child through her. Then several years later, God causes Sarah, Abraham's wife, to bear a child who was the one God intended all the time. It is easy to see that the child of the servant was of the flesh. Only Isaac, the child given by God as a result of a miracle, is a spiritual descendent of Abraham. At the same time the descendents of Isaac were not all faithful people. In fact…
Israel was faithless. Turn with me to, Judges 2:11-13, And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.
The generation that came out of Egypt, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, had died in the wilderness because of their unfaithfulness. Now, the next generation was faithful to the Lord only as long as Joshua lived. At Joshua's death they turned from serving the Lord the following the Baals. This is so amazing to see! They had seen the result of turning from the Lord when they were children. The generation before them had crossed the Red Sea, been given water from a rock, they were fed manna (the bread of heaven), and when they complained were given meat to eat. Now their children, who had crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, seen the walls of Jericho fall at a shout, and then, in battle after battle had taken the land away from the Canaanites who worshiped the Baals. Now they turned away from the living God to worship idols. Suffice it to say that worship of the Baals and the Ashtaroth had a sexual element that resulted in licentious lifestyles. The book of Judges demonstrates how this kind of unfaithfulness to God recurred generation after generation. The people would fall away, God would allow them to be persecuted, they would cry out to God in repentance, God would send a deliverer. Then, they would soon fall back into flesh centered pagan worship. But, God always retained a remnant…
God retained a remnant. Read with me… Romans 11:1-5, I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
From the days of Elijah, after generations of people had fallen away from God, they were forced to acknowledge that Jehovah is God. Elijah had invited priests of Baal to Mount Carmel in Israel. He had them erect an altar to their God and then ask their God to light the fire. After they prayed for most of the day and nothing happened Elijah built an altar to Jehovah, the Lord of heaven. He had large volumes of water poured over the altar he had erected. And then with a simple prayer fire came from above and consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the water in the ditch around it and the dust! After having seen all that and verbally proclaiming, "The Lord he is God! They turned back to their old way and Elijah felt abandoned. He thought he was the only faithful person left until God told him, “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” You see…
There have always been two Israel's.
Example, Isaac and Ishmael. Read with me Galatians 4:22-28, For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.
It is easy enough to say, in this example that Paul uses, "Of course, Isaac and Ishmael are clearly different!" One Ishmael was born of a slave woman. His inheritance could not be equal to that of Isaac who was born to Sarah as a result of God's gracious intervention. You might even say that this is not even a good example because of the difference between the two mothers. Paul's point is simple, the children of promise are a picture of the church today. We too, are children of promise. We are sons and daughters of Abraham, the father of the faithful. And it does not matter whether we were born Jewish or Gentile. It matters only that we have been saved by grace through faith not depending on works but as a gift of God. So, to make the point even stronger, Paul gives us another…
Example, Esau and Jacob. Please read with me the second illustration, Genesis 25:21-24, And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb.
Isaac prayed for his wife because she was barren. God heard his prayer and soon there was morning sickness and all the other evidences of new life coming into the family. It is very exciting to feel the movement of the baby. Possibly it was very surprising to Rebecca when she felt a lot of movement. In fact, the movement was so violent but she said, "why is this happening to me?" So she went to the Lord in prayer. We do not know exactly how she did this. I assume she brought a sacrifice and after offering the sacrifice waited before the Lord for an answer as to what was happening. God told her in plain words several things: first, two nations were in her and two peoples would be divided from each other. Next, one would be stronger than the other. And then, the older shall serve the younger. It would have been easy enough for God to have used the older of the twins to carry on the godly line. Instead, he chose the younger and weaker of the two showing that it was God's work not man's. Jacob was chosen and Esau was rejected. Unlike Isaac and Ishmael, these two men had the same mother as well as the same father. Not only that, but they were in the womb at the same time. There was no distinction in them except that they were fraternal twins not identical twins.
Read with me… Malachi 1:2-3, “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.”
As Paul would say, in our text for today, "in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls" God does not select based on our good works or faithfulness. He selects based on his own purpose and he does not have to consult with us as to what the selection should be. I do not understand how election works other than God has the right over his own creation to do with us as he will. Somehow, he allows us to respond to him according to his purpose by his grace. I am so grateful that God sent his son to deliver the faithful. Remember the words of Luis Palau, "God has no grandchildren!" No one receives salvation because they are the child, or a descendant of, a believer. Throughout history there have been mixed together, even in the same family, believers and unbelievers. They are…
The faithful and the faithless. Read the words of Jesus in, John 8:31-38, So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Jesus went on a little farther to say, "You are of your father the devil". He was speaking to the Jews who believed in him and showing them that they had no birthright salvation. They could only come the Father through the Son. So there was in the group confronting Jesus believers and unbelievers. All of them were Jews and physically descendents of Abraham. But that physical descent did not make them true children of Abraham. None of this is man's work. Salvation is all of God. You see…
All mankind failed — but God did not!
Adam sinned and we all fell! Read with me please, Romans 5:12, Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Remember, it was not a surprise to God when Adam sinned. We are not a social science experiment being conducted by some great benevolent power. God had a purpose and a plan to fulfill that purpose. Before the creation of universe God had already seen the church, the believers of all ages, gathered in glorious adoration and praise of the living God. His plan was so complete that it included our failure.
But God had a plan that included our failure. Now, let us read from Romans 5:19, 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.
Not by our obedience but by the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ many are made righteous. Not become righteous by our choice but "made righteous". This is God's work not ours.
Do I understand it all? No, but I believe it all. God's word is true and can be trusted in all respects. Please put your faith in him.
I watched some of the Olympics the past two weeks. When athletes from other countries won a gold medal I am impressed with their skill but when athletes from the USA won a gold, as did Gabby Douglas, I am impressed with their skill and proud to be an American. But that pride in America, in our heritage, does not in any way increase my chances of salvation. My only hope of salvation, as is yours, is only by grace, by faith alone, in Christ alone.
Paul the apostle took great pride in his Jewish heritage. He grieved over the fact that his people, by and large, were not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. And, if he could, would be willing to be cast out for their salvation. But he could not do that he can only pray that God would save. His prayer was answered because God has saved some from Israel in every generation of the church.
God's purpose has remained the same. Read with me, 2 Timothy 1:8-10, Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
God purposed to call out a chosen people, a holy nation, a people for his possession. He did this so that we could proclaim his excellence. No one comes to him based on their own merits. His purpose and grace were given to us in Christ Jesus. Please note, "before the ages began". He never promised that all the physical descendents of Abraham would be saved. He did promise that the spiritual sons of Abraham would all be saved..
Many would argue that God's purpose had failed because Israel failed so many times in history. We need to be clear, God's purpose will never fail because of humanity. God does not depend on people, in fact, just the opposite, people depend upon God! Paul's argument is pretty simple. Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and, not all Abraham's offspring are his children. Only those who come to God by faith are Abraham's descendents since he is the father of the faithful. This has always been God's plan and purpose that man should be saved not by works of righteousness but by God's choice of grace.
All Scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Paul's Passion for His People 120805

Romans 9:1- 8, I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Paul comes now to the justification of the ways of God in relation to man. In the next three chapters; 9, 10 & 11, he demonstrates the consistency of God. We're going to look at what Paul said and then see what it teaches us. Remember, Paul was proud of his Jewish heritage. Whenever he described himself he showed this pride. When he wrote to the Philippians he was of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. Yet, many people take this section of Romans to mean that somehow he rejected his "Jewishness". Nothing could be further from the truth. What he is doing is mourning over the fact that Jesus came to his own and his own people did not receive him. What a tragedy!

When a person receives Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord there is a transition in their life. All relationships change! Old relationships often become less important than the new relationships being made. That's sad because very soon a new believer does not have positive contact with the unbelievers they once associated with. Soon all their relationships are with believers and usually they like it! The problem is, they need to be able to witness to their old relationships whether they are family or friends. Paul did not want his relationship to Israel, his people, to be broken. At the same time, he could not deny his relationship to Jesus Christ.

A few years before, Paul had written to the Corinthians that, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." At the same time Paul has to deal with the sovereignty of God. At the end of chapter 8 he has said that there is no separation from the love of God that's in Christ Jesus. Yet, God's covenant relationship with Israel seems to have been broken. Many Christians believe that the Jews, as a race, have an unbreakable relationship with God. Well, that's not taught in the Bible.

John the Baptist said, "God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham." Jesus said, "If you were children of Abraham, you would be doing the works that Abraham did." In both cases they were speaking to people who were physically descended from Abraham. And in both cases, John and Jesus, state clearly that a physical relationship to Abraham does not count!

But let’s go on.

With the strongest possible words, the Apostle now tells us that he desires Israel's salvation.

The truth is...

In Christ, who is the truth. Read with me, 1 John 5:20, And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Paul tells us, "I'm speaking the truth in Christ", and that's a pretty strong statement seeing that Christ is the one who is true. In fact, Christ is the true God and eternal life. Jesus himself said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life".

At one time, in this country, and in most other countries that were under English common law, a person who was asked to give testimony would lay their hand on the Bible and state that they are telling the truth, “so help me God”. Of course, it's a superstition that somehow having the Bible present would make a person tell the truth. But to say, "I'm speaking the truth in Christ", is a very strong statement. Yet, Paul went on to say, "I am not lying". He wanted his readers, us included, to understand that he was truly grieved that his people, according to the flesh, were mostly not Christians. The same is true today and should be a concern to us. Paul goes on to say that his…

Conscience is guided by the Holy Spirit. Read with me, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee".

Everyone, everywhere, has a conscience. It's not something that we learn. it's something that we know and feel. We are confronted with the knowledge of right and wrong everyday. Our natural conscience has been twisted and damaged by the fall of man into sin but is there none the less. We can harden our conscience, or the circumstances we have been in can harden it. This is especially common in a soldier who goes into combat. At first there is a hesitation to kill and when it happens there are guilt feelings. Later, as the soldier goes on killing to stay alive and protect his friends, killing becomes a part of the job. The people who are killed are no longer thought of as human but as targets or some other object.

When a person becomes a Christian, God puts his seal on that person and gives that person his Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit has a profound effect on a person's conscience. Paul wants us to understand that he is not lying and that his conscience bears witness to that truth in the Holy Spirit.

Having said all that, Paul wants us to know that…

I could wish myself accursed for my people. Moses had a similar experience when the people of Israel returned to idol worship and Moses asked God to forgive them, turn with me to, Exodus 32:31-32, So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”

Paul said that if it were possible he could wish himself accursed for his people's sake. However he knows, and at the end of chapter 8 has proven to us, that he cannot be accursed. He has just told us that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. He could hardly have taught Romans chapter 8 and then stated that he could somehow be accursed for any reason. But, if he could, he would.

What a missionary zeal is displayed in these words! Most Christians are nowhere near that level of commitment to winning their friends and family. Our commitment level is such that we may witness to a person if they ask us to and it's convenient. If there's no TV show that we might miss, or some project we might interrupt, we would stop and say a few words. There need to be more people who desire others to be saved to the point that they're willing to leave their comfort zone and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wanted Israel to be saved because he shared in the…

Heritage of the Israelites.

Notice that he doesn't use the word "Jews" instead he uses "Israel". This is important as he's going to show us further on in the chapter.

The Jews are a chosen people. Turn with me to, Exodus 4:22-23, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” Moses is speaking to Pharaoh and stating how strong God's commitment to the people of Israel really is. The people that were only slaves to the Egyptians are really considered by God to be his children. They were adopted by God. They were going to see the glory of God during their rescue and their wanderings in the wilderness. They were going to enter into a covenant relationship with God and receive the law from his hand. It was a very serious matter for Pharaoh to hold the children of the living God in slavery! These were people who were going to learn from God how to worship him.

Who knew how to worship. There are too many passages in the Old Testament about worship for us to begin to read them. Suffice it to say, with the writer of Hebrews, even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. Instead let's move to Paul's own words in, Romans 12:1, I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Old Testament worship involved many rituals designed to point forward to Christ. An unblemished animal would be brought before the priest, or in the absence of a priest, before the head of the household and after confessing their sins over it, it would be slaughtered and placed on the altar of sacrifice. Depending on the type of sacrifice, part of the meat could be eaten by the family and the priest. The elaborate rituals of the Jews show the compassionate heart of God and his desire to free his people from their blood guilt. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, the wages of sin is death! All those animal sacrifices looked forward to a time when God would send his son, while we were yet sinners, to die on the cross and pay for those sins.

Since Jesus died on the cross for our sins there is no more animal sacrifice. Instead, we are called upon to present ourselves as living sacrifices. That is our spiritual worship! We are to be holy — set apart to God — and acceptable to God. Most of us are not acceptable to ourselves how can we be acceptable to God? Paul answered that question a number of times. He wrote to the Colossians, He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. I submit to you, you do not get more accepted than that! We are not holy because of what we do we are holy because of who he is. We are not acceptable because of what we do we are acceptable because of who he is.

The Israelites had much to be commended for. Because…

From them is the Christ — God over all! Read with me, Colossians 1:16-19, For by him (Jesus Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, …

What a powerful statement! This is what, according to the flesh, came from Israel. The Creator of All Things. Things in heaven and things on earth. Things we can see things we cannot. Every Power that exists came from him. Not only did he create all things but all things belong to him. He existed before all things and he holds everything together. He is the head of the church! He is the beginning! He is the firstborn from the dead so he can be above everything. And, most importantly, in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

No, Paul was not rejecting his relationship to his native people. He gloried in that relationship. But at the same time he grieved that his people were not saved. He could no longer associate with many of the people of Israel because they would not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. And consequently, they rejected Paul.

What does this mean for us?

If this passage is just all about the Jews it doesn't really apply to us. But it is not about the "Jews". It is about "Israel", and we need to remember that the church of the living God is…

The "Israel of God". Turn with me to, Galatians 6:15-16, For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

Being a Jew according to the flesh, or not being a Jew according to the flesh, doesn't mean anything at all. Instead, what counts is the Israel of God. Repeatedly, Paul has stated that what really counts is a faith relationship to God based on grace. Romans Chapter 9 verses 6 to 8 say very clearly that not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. Not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring. The children of the flesh are not the true children of Abraham instead only the children of the promise are his children. The inheritance of Abraham comes to those who have faith because he is the father of the faithful. As a result of that, the true heirs receive…

The promises of God. Read with me, Galatians 3:13-14, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

All mankind are born under a curse — the curse of Adam. For an untold number of generations man lived under that curse. Animal sacrifices were made to atone for their sins and to point them to the true sacrifice of God. Jesus came into the world for the express purpose of becoming sin for us, being beaten, dragged through the streets, and nailed to a cross. In doing so, he atoned for our sins so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. He did this, according to this passage of Scripture, so that in Christ Jesus the blessings of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, (that's us) and that we might receive the promised Holy Spirit. And become…

The people of God. Turn with me to, 1 Peter 2:9-10, But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The Christian church comes from all races and all nations. We are not a people, according to human standards, we are unrelated by blood. Except, God now says that we are his people because we have now received mercy. We have become a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession. He has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We have become children of Abraham because he is the father of all those who come to God by faith.

There are so much confusion in the world today among believers in Christ about the role of the Jewish people and especially the modern-day nation of Israel. We need to remember that the true church today is the Israel of God, the heirs of promise, a holy people and a royal priesthood. Jews who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, saved by grace through faith, are part of the kingdom but are not "the kingdom". We also need to remember that Jesus Christ is God over all and blessed forever. We must put our faith in him and him alone. He is our Lord and the only way of salvation! I hope each of you have trusted Christ alone for your salvation.

All Scripture quotes are from:The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.