Saturday, October 27, 2012

Israel's Salvation 121028

Romans 11:25-36, Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

In this passage the Apostle Paul uses the word, "mystery". He used this same word at least twenty times in his letters. The word means something that is hidden, or, difficult to understand in the light of present knowledge. In first Corinthians Paul viewed himself as a steward of the mysteries of God. In Ephesians the mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs with Israel. In Colossians the mystery is "Christ in you, the hope of glory". To Timothy, Paul wrote of the mystery of the faith, and the mystery of godliness. Here in Romans the mystery is that a temporary hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And then Paul gives a prophecy, "in this way all Israel will be saved".
Blindness, or hardening on Israel.
A veil over the eyes. Listen as I read, 2 Corinthians 3:14-16, But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
The mystery of the temporary hardening of Israel is clearly pointed out in second Corinthians chapter 3. When God wants to point out, or accentuate, his work in a certain situation he sometimes hardens the heart of one or more people so whatever point he wishes can be made.
He hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he could visit Egypt with 10 plagues each one of which would destroy a pagan belief of the Egyptians and prove that there is but one God.
When Jesus sent his disciples away across the lake after feeding the 5000, they were caught up in a fierce storm. You can read the account in Mark chapter 6. After praying up a storm, Jesus walked to the boat on the water, entered the boat, and calmed the storm. An interesting note: Mark does not mention Peter walking on the water to Jesus, sinking, and being helped back to the boat. Mark was Peter's kinsman and as such got his information from Peter who probably was embarrassed to recall his sinking in the water. The point of the story is pointed out by Mark. They had not understood the miracle of the loaves and needed a reinforced lesson. By the way, the disciples never really "got it" until after Jesus' resurrection!
Please remember that everything God does has a purpose!
Jesus used parables to hide the mystery. Listen as I read, Mark 4:10-12, And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
Jesus used parables as a teaching tool. Sometimes we miss the point he makes here. Not everyone was intended to understand what Jesus taught! It just wasn't their time and so the use of a parable caused them to be unable to understand. Parables shed light for those who were intended to understand but they were confusing those who were not ready. I have seen the same thing happen when I try to explain the simple gospel to some people. They listen very carefully but I can tell from the look in their eyes that they have no understanding of what I'm saying. Sometimes they nod and seem to respond but they don't get it! I used to blame myself, and my way of presenting the gospel, but I slowly came to understand that there are people who are just not ready to hear the gospel.
The temporary hardening of the minds of Israel was designed to open the door to the Gentiles so they could hear the gospel and believe. There was, and is to this day, a veil over the spiritual eyes of many in Israel when the law is read. The work of the law was to bring people to the end of themselves so they could know that they could not save themselves by good works. The law was to be a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. As Paul experienced in Antioch of Pisidia, everyone who was appointed to eternal life believed! Remember the hardening was…
Partial, or temporary, to benefit the Gentiles. Listen while I read again, Romans 11:11, So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.
The purpose of the hardening of the hearts of Israel grew out of the fact that they had hardened their own hearts in the past. Just as Pharaoh hardened his heart and later, when he tried to throw in the towel, God hardened his heart because he wasn't finished with him yet. In the same way, God hardened hearts in Israel while Jesus was on the earth, and in the years immediately afterwards, in order to bring the Gentiles into the kingdom. But remember, this was a temporary or partial hardening. It was not intended for the Jews be excluded but rather that the Gentiles should be included alongside their Jewish brothers. The hardening is intended to last only…
Until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Israel had barred the Gentiles. Listen while I read what Jesus said in Matthew 23:13, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in…"
It must've been a heartbreaking experience for Jesus to experience the hardhearted rejection of all non-Jews by the leaders of Israel. He gives us an example in the parable of the good Samaritan.
Samaritans were considered to be one of the lowest forms of human existence by the rabbis of Israel. An Israelite had been going on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was assaulted and robbed by a band of thieves. A priest came by and saw him lying beside the road beaten and bloody. In order to put the best face on the situation, I'm sure he feared becoming "unclean" by coming into contact with a dead body and then he couldn't do his priestly duties. So he went by on the other side of the road. He didn't even call 911!
A little later, a Levite came along and passed by on the other side of the road. Then, according to Jesus' story, a despised Samaritan came along. He not only checked the man out but he loaded him on his own donkey and took him to the Inn and cared for his wounds. Then he left money with the innkeeper to take care of the expenses of this man.
Jesus then ask, "Which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the man?"
Not only did the Pharisees and other religious leaders not enter into the kingdom but they also blocked the door so that the nations could not come in. Well, when man closes the door to the kingdom…
God opened the door. Listen while I read about Paul's experience, Acts 14:24-28, Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.
Paul and Barnabas probably had more experience with witnessing to Gentiles than any other believer of their age at that time. Peter had gone into the household of Cornelius and had presented the gospel successfully to them but, we know from later experience, (recorded in Galatians 2) that Peter had not been consistent in his witness to the Gentiles. So that, by the time of the writing of the Roman letter, Paul had come to consider himself an apostle to the Gentiles. His job, as he now understood it, was take the gospel to the nations of the world without regard to their nationality, race, or family. Later, while speaking to a hostile crowd in Jerusalem, the crowd listened intently until he said that Jesus had commanded him to "go far away to the Gentiles" and then the crowd closed in on him and would've killed him if it had not been for the Roman soldiers.
After generations of the Jewish system blocking the Gentiles from worship, now, a temporary hardening had come upon the Jews until the fullness of the Gentiles should come in. Paul certainly did not mean that all the Gentiles be saved instead…
"Fullness" does not mean "all" but it does mean many. Listen while I read from John's vision while on the Isle of Patmos, Revelation 7:9, After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Nowhere in Scripture is universal salvation taught. In fact, Scripture is very clear that salvation is reserved for those who come by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
What John saw and recorded for us in the book of Revelation was "the fullness of the Gentiles". A great multitude that no one could number. They came from every nation, they came from every tribe. They represented every language group. And they all worship together around the throne in heaven. That, is what "the fullness of the Gentiles" means.
In the same manner, "fullness"doesn't mean "all" and, "all Israel” doesn't mean every single Israelite. Yet, Paul emphatically states…
"All" Israel will be saved.
Based on Scripture, Israel will return. Let's see what Hebrews has to say about the future of the Jews, here the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, is being quoted. Hebrews 8:8-13, For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
There is no doubt in my mind that God intends, somewhere in the future, to bring into the Christian church a great influx of Jews. I believe that great harvest will represent a vast majority of the Jews who are alive at the time. All throughout history there have been Jewish believers. But in the future there will be a great harvest under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it will begin in the modern-day nation of Israel. Maybe it will begin in New York City where are more than 1 million Jews. I don't know the time or the manner in which this will be done but I do know it will be done.
In that massive gathering of people around the throne that John saw in the book of Revelation there will be millions of Paul's brethren according to the flesh. He rejoiced as he transcribed Romans 11 that…
God's call cannot be revoked. Look back at, V. 29, For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Paul could see that things do not always occur the way we want them but they do always occur the way God wants them. Just as the Gentiles received mercy as a result of the disobedience of the Jews, and just as we Gentiles were grafted into the rootstock of Israel, even so, the natural branches will be brought back to be grafted into the rootstock alongside of us. We should not hesitate to share our faith with a Jew. 
Often times Christians are hesitant to share the gospel with a Jew. There are a couple of ungrounded reasons for not witnessing to Jews. One, is the idea that somehow Jews are covered by the old covenant. Another, is the idea that it is somehow anti-semitic to witness to the Jews. Both these ideas are wrong!
We need a remember that…
Salvation is the same for all people. Listen while I read, Acts 4:8-12, Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Nothing could be clearer than Peter's words, "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Throughout the book of Romans Paul has shown the equality of relationship with God! As I have repeated so often, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. "All", in this case, certainly means every person. Paul tells us in Romans five that sin came into the world by one man and that one man is Adam, the ultimate ancestor. You see, we all inherit who we are from our ancestors. Many of our characteristics can be traced back for generations. Well, the most deadly characteristic, death through sin, goes all the way back to Adam. Not only did we inherit sin from Adam we also voluntarily sinned on our own part. Clearly, we have all sinned and, the wages of sin is death. Wages are, or should be, what we deserve for our work. Paul pointed out that we were dead in trespasses and sins in Ephesians chapter 2. That is the common condition of all mankind.
If that is as far as God went, we would all be in a world of hurt with no hope without God in this world. But the same verse that says, "the wages sin is death", continues with, "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." You see, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) So, God always had a plan for the salvation of a remnant of mankind. Not just a plan to provide a Savior but a plan to provide a Lord.
In Romans 10:9-10, God's Word tells us, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Admitting that one is a sinner and in need of salvation, accepting the fact of the resurrection, and confessing the need for a Savior and Lord, is a prerequisite to salvation. The conditions of salvation are imposed on all mankind without regard to nationality, race or family. All are under sin, all are subject to spiritual death and all must confess Jesus as Lord in order to be saved!
There is coming a day when there will be a great inflow of Jewish people into the Christian church. It is impossible to judge the time, or the manner, of this event. However, it is prophesied in the Old and New Testaments. In the meantime, we should be sharing our faith with everyone regardless of race, nationality or family. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God! The wages of sin is death so all are in trouble! However, God demonstrates his love for us, in that, while we were still sinners Christ died for us. So we need to urge everyone to believe in their heart that God raised Christ from the dead and confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Have you trusted him as your Lord and Savior? If not, do so now!

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

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Salvation for the Gentiles 121021

Romans 11:11-24, So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
Paul was grieved over the fact that, by and large, the people of Israel in his day, as in ours, had rejected Jesus as their Lord and Savior. If God is all-powerful how can he allow his chosen people to fall by the wayside? Paul is pretty clear, they have not fallen they have only stumbled. As might be said about a boxer who is knocked down, but not knocked out, Israel is down but not out! After all, in every generation, there have been Jews who have followed their Father Abraham in faith. At the same time, there have been those who have turned aside and gone after false religions. God's plan included using the nation Israel as the vessel through which the Messiah would come into the world. The coming Messiah was to be of the nation of Israel, the tribe of Judah and the family of David.
Adam failed to keep God's one commandment. Israel utterly failed to keep God's law. They stumbled at the law. The law was not intended to be kept. It was intended to be a schoolmaster to bring people to Christ. Throughout history God maintained, in every generation, a remnant of the faithful who believed in him. God intended Israel to be an example to all the nations to draw men to himself.
When Israel was delivered from Egypt there was with them a multitude of Egyptians. And once they entered the land of Canaan they mixed with the people already in the land. In fact, a native of Jericho by the name of Rahab, who was also a prostitute, married into the tribe of Judah! She did not marry just any man in Judah. Rahab married the son of the chief of the tribe of Judah. And as such, she is named in the genealogy of Jesus, in Matthew chapter 1.
The laws of Israel given through Moses included many provisions for the sojourner or, "outsider", who lived among them. The people of Israel were instructed by Moses to love the sojourner who dwelt among them remembering that they too had been sojourners in Egypt. These strangers among them were to be included in the celebrations of Israel. (Deuteronomy 16)
With all this, Israel failed in its responsibility to bring the world to worship Yahweh. So…
Israel's trespass means riches for the world. How does this work? Well let's look and see…
Israel continually rebelled against God. In fact they had not even left Egypt before they rebelled. As they came down to the Red Sea to cross over to freedom… Let's read from, Exodus 14:11-12, They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
The curious thing in the history of Israel from the Exodus to the coming of Jesus is a majority rebellion against obedience to God. Again and again in the wilderness they resisted God's commands. At one point, while Moses was spending time with God, they chose to build a golden calf that they should worship.
If you read carefully the account of the conquest of the land, in Joshua, you will see that there were large segments of land still unconquered. This was in disobedience to God's command. After the death of Joshua they spent a period of time ruled by judges. During that time they repeated cycle of rebellion. The cycle is clearly spelled out in the book of judges. A pattern repeats throughout the book: 1) the people abandoned the Lord; 2) God punished them by raising up a foreign power to oppress them; 3) the people cried out to God for deliverance; and 4) God raised up a deliverer, or judge, for them.
God's plan for history was being played out as his people "the chosen" stiffened their necks and "did their own thing". He certainly did not keep them from being destroyed for their sakes he did it…
For his own name's sake, God kept them. Listen while I read what was recorded hundreds of years later, Ezekiel 20:8-10, But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. “Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.
"I acted for the sake of my name," said the Lord. The people of Israel never seemed to understand what they had gotten themselves into. They never accepted responsibility for their rebellion. And, by the way, people have always done that and always will! God kept the nation together for his own name's sake and for the sake of bringing the Messiah into the world. Their rebellion did one very positive thing. Their rebellion…
Opened the door for the Gentiles. Let's see how this played out in Paul's own ministry during his first missionary journey. 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.
This happened in Antioch of Pisidia. Anytime the gospel is successful Satan comes in to disrupt and, if possible, destroy Christian witness. The record in the book of Acts seems to indicate that the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region but the next couple of verses indicate that Paul and Barnabas were driven out of Antioch. But this didn't happen before as many as were appointed to eternal life believed! The two of them then traveled on to Iconium where they had a long time ministry that we would consider very successful. Please remember when God is in charge everything is "successful". God's eternal plan was to get the gospel to all the nations. The rebellion of the people of Israel played into that plan so that…
Salvation has come to the Gentiles.
God has always had a people other than Israel. Listen while I read, Exodus 18:12, And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.
Earlier, Abraham had met Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of the most high God. Now, there's a chance that this really wasn't a man but was instead a theophany, an manifestation or appearance of God himself. Because of that, this was not my first choice as evidence that God had people other than Abraham and his descendents.
Moses father-in-law, on the other hand, was clearly an outsider yet he came, not just as a father-in-law, but as a priest of God. When he brought a sacrifice for God he was joined by Aaron, the high priest of Israel, along with the elders of Israel in worship. Just as Elijah was told that there were thousands that had not bowed the knee to Baal I believe there were thousands in those days who worshiped the Almighty God. While the people of Israel were clearly special to God he still had others who worshiped and honored him. From the very beginning…
God always intended to include all people. Listen while I read God's covenant promise to Abram, later to be named Abraham. 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.”
Abram was chosen by God because of his faith. As a result, God began the process of establishing a new nation. Not just a new nation but a "great nation". God promised Abram that he would be blessed and protected. The final part of the statement is, "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise. Abraham is the father of the faithful and as such he is a direct ancestor of Jesus who will bless all the people of the earth. I'm not saying that everyone will be saved. I am saying that every family has been, or will be, blessed by Jesus at some point in its history. Not only did God include all people in his covenant relationship with Abraham, Jesus, the living son of God, also included the Gentiles.
Jesus included the Gentiles. Among the examples of Jesus' contact with people outside the fold of Israel are a Canaanite woman with a sick daughter and a Roman Centurion with a sick servant. In both these cases Jesus healed them. When he spoke of himself as the good Shepherd he added something about "other sheep". Listen while I read, John 10:14-16, I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
I know, the Mormons say that Jesus was talking about the American Indians when he said, "I have other sheep", but there are lots of reasons why I do not believe that's true. There is no historical or archaeological evidence that there ever was a race of people from the "missing"10 tribes of Israel. In point of fact, there never have been any "missing" tribes. They are all accounted for in the return during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. There is no doubt that in the blessing of Abraham God included all people on earth and in the teaching of Jesus non-Jews are counted as his "sheep"and part of his flock.
Getting back to Romans chapter 11, (You thought I had forgotten didn't you?) Paul compares Israel to the cultivated branches on an olive tree and the Gentiles, that's mostly us, to wild olive branches. In doing this Paul is using an example easily understood in their agricultural age. It is important to recognize that we are both…
Grafted into a common olive tree. There are not two "kingdoms of God" there is only one. One tree, or root, is the unifying force for all people who believe God as Abraham did. And…
The tree, or root, gives life. Jesus used a similar illustration. Listen while I read John 15:5, I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Here he seems to be talking about grapevines but that doesn't weaken the illustration. The processes are the same. A good rootstock is selected and cuttings from similar fruit can be attached to the rootstock to produce a new plant. Today you can purchase from nurseries multi-fruit trees that have up to 10 different fruits because they have been so grafted together.
The root is where the life is at. Because of her rebellion much of Israel was cut off from the rootstock and, alongside of her, we Gentiles are grafted in. Without the graft the branches are dead.
According to Ephesians chapter 2, we "were dead in the trespasses and sins". Until we are grafted into Jesus we have no spiritual life. After grafting both the original branches that remain and the wild branches that God has placed in the rootstock share a common life.
The branches share common life. Listen while I read for you what Paul said to the Ephesians. Ephesians 2:11-16, 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
At one time we were alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise. We were wild olive branches that produced no good fruit. We were separated from the rootstock that could give us life. We were without God and without hope in the world. Now in Christ Jesus we have hope — and peace with God. God has taken people from all over the earth, from every tribe, from every nation to make up a new race of people who serve and honor him. We are both now one in Christ Jesus.
Each of us have a responsibility to…
Be sure the graft takes. John 15:2, Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
How do we know for sure that we are born again? Or, that we are grafted into the vine? Earlier in John's Gospel, Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I will give them eternal life, and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand." Jesus also said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." The Father draws and Jesus, the Son, calls and his sheep hear his voice. Most of the time the sheep being called doesn't understand the calling in the beginning. But there's a hunger for spiritual things. Satan will try to turn them aside to all kinds of "spiritual" things. As time goes by, the one being called becomes more and more aware that it is Jesus who is calling them. If you have not come to faith in Christ, your hearing this (or reading this) could very well indicate something is stirring inside all of you to follow the one whose voice you hear — JESUS!
The example Jesus gave refers to fruit bearing. Later, Paul would write, that, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
When a person is drawn to faith in Christ there begins to be a stirring in their soul toward the things of God. There begins to be evidence of a long-term spiritual growth. Depending on their understanding of the Bible the person will know, more or less, that these urges towards godly living come from God himself. They will feel drawn to a church where the Bible is preached and a godly life is encouraged. They will want to read the Bible but may feel inadequate to the task.
If you're a wild olive branch (and we all are — or were) you need to be grafted into the rootstock. In John chapter 15 Jesus talked about our "abiding" in him, and he "abiding" in us. That is a graft that has "taken"! We can rest in the assurance that, "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6) Not "we" who began a good work, but HE who began a good work. He is faithful and will complete what he begins in our lives. (1st Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Everyone who, by faith, calls on the name of the Lord whether, Jew or Gentile, will be saved. Israel had many advantages, they descended from Abraham, they were rescued from Egypt, they were given the oracles of God and from them came Jesus, the Christ. However, God always intended that people of all nations should come to him. Salvation is not based on family, race or nationality. Salvation is by God's grace alone, through faith alone. Have you received him as your Lord and Savior? Have you publicly shown your salvation in baptism and church membership? Remember, today is the day of salvation. We have no promise of tomorrow.
All Scripture references are from, The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kept by God 121014

Romans 11:1-10, 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. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” (Deut 29:4) And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” (Ps 69:22-23)

Throughout Romans 9, 10 and 11, the question of Israel keeps coming up in Paul's mind. In chapter nine Paul was so bold as to say that he would be willing, if possible, to be cut off from Christ for the sake of the people of Israel. He begins chapter ten expressing his heart's desire, and his prayer to God, that Israel may be saved. Now, he asks the question, "has God rejected his people?" Immediately, he answers, "By no means!". God's choosing of a people for himself goes back to Abraham. You see, Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. In every generation he has had a people who "believed God"and are thereby righteous.
We must remember, God is faithful even when we are faithless! Nothing we can do will ever make us right with God. Being made right with God is God's work not ours. The nation of Israel is a problem for any thinking person. There never was a time that all the people of Israel worshiped and honored God. In every generation there were those who fell away and rejected God.
The nation of Israel was chosen by God to be the vessel for bringing Christ into the world. They were not chosen because they were faithful or, because they were better than other people. They were chosen because God chose them. That statement might sound confusing but it's the truth. True Israel has always been the people of faith. They were not saved, or, called by God, because of their goodness but they became good because they were chosen. We need to be very clear on the subject of who is in charge of our salvation. God is — and always has been. And certainly he has not ever rejected his people.

God has not rejected his people.
God does not reject his people for his own name's sake not because they are of a particular race. There has always been, and will remain, a remnant saved by grace.

For the sake of his name. Listen while I read… 1st Samuel 12:22, For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. This passage comes from Samuel's farewell address to Israel. They have asked for a King and God has given them Saul. Samuel is very unhappy that the people have chosen not to be ruled directly by God. The people became frightened that God might leave them to their own devices since they had committed this sin. Samuel assures them that they are not to be afraid nor are they to turn away from serving God. He told them they can trust God, not because they're good people, but because God chose to make them a people of his own, and therefore he will not forsake them because of his own honor. It would be a reproach upon God if he forsook his people that he had called out of Egypt to become a nation.
Negatively, they were not to be sure of their position because they were born physical sons and daughters of Abraham. Remember, God has no grandchildren! Every generation has to come to faith on their own and God does not choose people because they are of a certain race or family.
Not because they are Israel. Listen while I read… Psalm 106:7-8, Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.
This is an amazing statement made by the psalmist! The people of Israel had been in slavery in Egypt for generations. Moses and Aaron came, confronted Pharaoh, and demonstrated the power of God through a series of ten miracles. Yet, guided by the Holy Spirit, the psalmist could say, "Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea." If I had been in charge, that would've been the time to dump them and find somebody else to make a great nation of. Instead, God saved them for his own name's sake. Part of what he was doing in the Exodus was to let the world know about his power. Over 40 years later, in the city of Jericho, Rahab took in the spies and protected them because, as she said, "I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us,… For we have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt." A generation after the Exodus, hundreds of miles away, people were still talking about the miracles that God performed to bring his people out of Egypt. He did not bring them out because they were Israel he brought them out to make a name for himself that the world may know him and recognize that he is capable of delivering a people.
Later, Peter stood before the early church in Jerusalem to affirm that there is a remnant according to grace.
There is a remnant according to grace. Listen as I read Acts 15:11, "… but we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Peter had been chosen by God to take the gospel to the first all-Gentile group. It wasn't something he was eager to do. He was in Joppa on the roof of the house waiting for his meal and was spending some time in prayer. He had a vision of a cloth being let down from heaven with all kinds of unclean food items on it. He heard a voice from heaven tell him to eat. And he said no! Actually he said, "No, Lord". Somewhere I read, many years ago, an author who was commenting on this story and he said that one can say, "No" or, one can say, "Lord", but, one cannot say in good conscience, "No, Lord". If you can say "No" then you can't say, "Lord".
When Peter had this scene repeated for him three times he was awakened by the noise of people downstairs. He was called down to be introduced to some Romans had been sent by God to bring Peter to the house of their master, a Roman Centurion named Cornelius.
Peter knew this was from God and he went with them. The result was that many Romans were saved by Peter's preaching. So he came to believe, as result of these events, that Israel would be saved through grace just as the Gentiles were.
In every generation…
God always has kept a people for himself. Throughout history there have always been men and women saved by the grace of God. We can look at two examples, one of which is referred to by Paul in our text today. We will look at the remnant…
In the days of Noah. Listen as I read from the account of the flood. God had placed Noah and his family, along with the genetic base all land animals in a massive ark. Genesis 7:23, He (God) blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.
Talk about a remnant! Of all the people on earth there were only eight people who survived the flood. God had promised, in the garden of Eden, that the head of the serpent would be crushed under the heel of the seed of the woman. Then generation after generation mankind became more and more rebellious. Until there literally was only one man who honored God, Noah, a preacher of righteousness, along with his wife, three sons, and their wives. They were the remnant out of which the entire human race comes. And then…
In the days of Elijah. Listen while I read about the account of Elijah when he ran away from Jezebel. It's an amazing story. Elijah had demonstrated the power of God on Mt. Carmel. He had defeated the prophets of Baal and shown the people that Jehovah is God. Then the Queen threatened to take his life and he ran away. As he ran he sunk into a deep depression and that's where we pick up the story line in, 1st Kings 19:9-18, There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Amazing, this man had seen so much and had been so close to God yet he ran away when threatened. I don't think he ran so much from the fear of the Queen as he ran away from the people who had not rallied round him. Oh yes, they had said, "Yahweh is God", but they turned around, went home and the revival was over. Elijah was alone and became so depressed that he asked God to let him die! Well… God sure wasn't through with him! There was still much work to be done and God had a plan for Elijah.
God's words of encouragement swept over Elijah like a warm breeze on a cold day. "I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” I can imagine Elijah's amazement at the words of the Lord. God was not through with him! In fact, no matter what Elijah's feelings told him, he was not God's last hope on earth. He felt all alone and rejected. Not only was he not rejected, he was not alone! A large number of people continued to serve God and had not bowed the knee to the pagan Idols worshiped by their king and queen.
Yes, God had a remnant chosen by grace out of all mankind. All of us, equally, inherit a fallen nature from Adam and Eve and, all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The consequence of our sin is severe. The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Though we all deserve death and hell, God, in his wisdom and kindness, chooses a remnant of the human race for salvation. In some generations the remnant is small, in other generations the remnant is quite large. And it is…
Still true today. Matthew 28:20b, And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” These closing words of the gospel of Matthew should be very encouraging to us. If Jesus is going to be "with you always" then there's going to be a "you" for him to be with! Today, God is in the process of gathering a remnant from all the earth. Someday, there will be a huge crowd gathered before the throne of God worshiping him. That crowd will come from every nation, tribe and family.
As we see a great falling away in Europe and North America we can be very discouraged. It is easy to assume that Christianity is getting smaller and evil forces are growing larger. But when we do that, we are leaving out Africa, Asia and South America where the gospel is spreading in some cases like wildfire. Today, the church is slowly moving away from a European orientation. And that is a good thing because the population growth of the world is in the non-European countries.
We need to take the attitude of the apostle Paul and say that our prayer to God and our earnest desire is that our people be saved. I believe there will be a great revival that will sweep Europe and America in the future.
You see…
God chooses according to grace not of works.
We have no right to salvation. Listen while I read, Titus 3:3-7, 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.
One lesson we should learn from Israel is that God does not choose people based on their ethnic heritage. We can see that God's "chosen people" have largely turned away from him. Scripturally, we can see that God's true chosen people are really the people of faith! The Israel of God are spiritual descendents of Abraham the man of faith.
He saved us, Paul said to Titus, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy. God continues to choose people, as he always has, by grace through faith which is the gift of God. His choosing is not because of our good works but because of his love and compassion.
In fact…
God gives some up. Listen while I read, Romans 1:21-28, For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
Three times in this passage the words appear, "God gave them up", as men and women in rebellion against God descended deeper and deeper into sin. They willfully turn away from God and God gives them up to the lusts of their heart, to dishonorable passions and to a debased mind. Perhaps if they go far enough they will wake up and realize their danger and, like the prodigal son, come running to God the Father. If they do, the Father will welcome them with open arms. God chooses according to grace. We do not deserve salvation nor can we earn it. And, when people continue in rebellion God sometimes gives them up to the consequences of their own sin. We certainly see evidence of that all around us today in North America and Europe. Yet in the midst of all this…
He chooses others for his own purposes. Listen while I read, Romans 11:7, What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened,
Israel did not obtain what it was seeking because it was seeking it by the works of the law. They would not understand that the law was simply given to prove that we could not save ourselves. The law is a schoolmaster designed to bring us to Christ. But the elect obtained what Israel was seeking. People who were not seeking God often find him in the strangest circumstances. Our prayer should be, "Lord soften their hearts and bring them to yourself." We cannot know who he has chosen and quite frankly, I am sometimes surprised at who he calls.
God has a people today of his own choosing. Not based on human decision. Instead, he called them out by grace. No one deserves salvation and no one has ever earned salvation. In some generations the chosen people have been few and far between as in the days of Noah when there were only eight. In other generations there are the thousands as in the days of Elijah. Be grateful to God that he has stirred in you a desire to know him. Respond to him today. Remember, we have no right to salvation and cannot earn it! Remember also, that many people, having rejected God, are given up by him. Oh Lord, never give me up to what I would be without you. Listen to the words of Isaiah, "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near…". Come to Jesus!
All Scripture quotes are from The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Our Relation to Government 121009

Romans 13:1-7, Let every person ‍be subject to the governing authorities. For ‍there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you ‍will receive his approval, for ‍he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, ‍an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also ‍for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. ‍Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

I have moved ahead in Romans because of the upcoming elections. Every election is important and our responsibility to vote should be taken seriously. However, I particularly have struggled with this election. I have never voted for one party only but have almost always split my vote in national elections. The problem with this particular election is what some have called "The Mormon Moment" in history. In fact, I have said publicly that I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a Mormon. I have put a lot of thought into what I am about to say. If we wait for a solid evangelical Christian to run for President before we vote we may not have that opportunity in our lifetime. If I lived in Utah, in most elections, I probably would have the choice of voting for a Mormon or not voting at all. I am not endorsing either candidate. What I have to say applies to both equally.

The Bible speaks a great deal about subjection to authority: in the church, in the home and with regard to government. We are going to focus on three areas of responsibility. We need to remember that responsibility is a key part of citizenship. We are going to look at the responsibility of government leaders; the responsibility of citizens; and, the responsibility of churches. Now let us look at…
The responsibility of government leaders.
God's servant. Isaiah, writing 150 years ,or so, before the birth of Cyrus the great prophesies about him. Cyrus was the king of Persia who conquered Media creating the Media-Persian Empire. He then went on to conquer several more territories. He was a pagan. In other words, he did not know Yahweh, the God of Israel. Yet, he was used by God in many ways. We need to remember that Yahweh is King over all the earth and always has been. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens on this earth without God's knowing it and guiding it for his own purposes. Here, we are told that a pagan — an evil man — is going to be used by God in the future to punish nations and restore Judah and Jerusalem before they were destroyed. Let's read…
Isaiah 44:28-45:5, who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem,” ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me,

As Paul tells us, in Romans 13, that all authority ultimately comes from God. The Bible affirms that there is no authority except God grants it. Whoever is elected president in November is under the authority of God and has been placed there by God for a purpose that only God might understand. We need to pray for our president and other elected leaders and, if given the opportunity, encourage them to put their faith in the living Lord Jesus Christ. Rulers are not just servants of God they are tools of God to maintain order on earth. Government leaders have the responsibility to maintain the peace and protect the nation. I suspect that Paul wrote this passage in the hopes that the Roman secret police would read it and pass it on to the Emperor. A government leader is…
An avenger bearing the sword. Look back at our text, Romans 13:2-5, Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
I know there is corruption in government. I know that many times there is corruption in the police forces. Paul knew that too! He had experienced being arrested for his faith, being beaten, and having a bribe solicited from him. Nonetheless, we should thank God for the presence of police and courts to help maintain order. Without them the world would be a very scary place to live in. The breakdown of government is a popular theme among fiction writers and has been throughout history. The government leader is a servant of God, an avenger who bears the sword and should…

Be subject to God. Now we come to the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, 150 years later, found in Ezra 1:1-4, In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
In this proclamation of Cyrus he recognizes some interesting things. Yahweh, the God of heaven, "gave" him all the kingdoms of the earth. If Yahweh gave him the kingdoms then Yahweh is the King of kings and Lord of lords. As such, Cyrus, who considered himself the ruler of the earth, was subject to the God of heaven. He conquered nothing that God didn't give him. It was God that subdued nations before him. In this proclamation he recognized that he was subject to God. Remember, the Bible teaches that government leaders are God's servant, an avenger bearing the sword and as such is subject to God's rule. They should be careful how they act because the God who set them up can take them down! Now, what about…
The responsibility of citizens.
First of all citizens are to Be subject. to government. Read with me, 1st Peter 2:13-17, Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Notice how we are instructed to be subject, not for our sake, but for the Lord's sake, to every human institution. Whatever level of government we come in contact with is designed by God to punish those who do evil and reward those who do good. This is God's will for government. I know, this doesn't always happen, at least not the way we think it should. Remember, GOD IS IN CHARGE! So, wherever possible, we are to be subject to government.
In the next section of the sermon I will give you a basis for dealing with governmental iniquity.
Citizens are to be subject to the government and they are to…
Do what is good. Turn with me to, Philippians 2:14-16, Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
All of these passages we are using today are filled with truth that we need to make our own. This particular passage is written by Paul from prison! In one form or another, he had been held prisoner for more than two years. That imprisonment was unjust. Yet God used it for his glory. It was in God's plan that Paul preach the gospel in Rome. It was also God's plan that Paul not be killed in Jerusalem. So, before the crowd in Jerusalem could kill Paul for preaching the gospel, God had the Romans arrest him. To keep him away from his enemies God kept him in jail until it was time to go to Rome. Then God let the Roman government pay for his transportation to Rome. After that, Paul was kept in captivity and guarded by the Emperor's private guard. Paul witnessed to them and led some to Christ so that at the end of the Philippian letter he could say, "All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household."
Getting back to the subject in hand, Paul gives instructions to the Philippians (and to us) to do all things without grumbling or questioning. To be blameless and innocent unblemished children of God in the midst of a crooked and twisted world. Wow, that sounds like good marching orders for us today! We certainly live in a crooked and twisted world! So, we are to be subject to government by doing what is good. And we also are to…
Pray for those in authority. Let's look at 1st Timothy 2:1-3, First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
Our prayers, of all types, are to be made for all people. And Paul begins at the top. We are to pray for kings and those in high positions. I really wonder over the past years how much evangelical prayer has been offered for President Obama. I must confess I don't pray often enough for him. What should be the purpose of our prayers? To influence foreign policy? To influence economic policy? That God would surround him with godly men and women who would influence him? Well, I'm sure that's all good but that's not what Paul talked about! We are to pray for them so that we can live peaceful lives — so that we can be godly in the midst of this world. So apparently our prayers for government leaders should influence government leaders to treat us better. That should improve our prayer life.
We've looked at the responsibility of government leaders and we looked at the responsibility of Christian citizens. Now let's look at…
The responsibility of the churches.
Church is not just a place to go and enjoy yourself. Nor is church an organization that the government should bow down to. The church, any church, or every church, should be a responsible part of the community. As a church there are certain things we should do. We should…
Keep the peace. Let's look at Hebrews 12:12-14, Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
"Drooping hands and weak knees" is not a medical diagnosis. It's a spiritual diagnosis that probably is representative of most Christians. Lethargic, apathetic, dull-minded are all identifiers of the average Christian. Weak kneed, namby-pamby wimps would characterize most Christians. If we will make straight paths for our feet, remember God's word is a light to our path and a lamp to our feet, then we can strive for peace with everyone. We should make every effort to honor the God of peace by being peacemakers wherever possible. Too often Christians are thought of as being cantankerous complainers rather than diplomatic peacemakers. We need to change that! Let's focus on keeping peace and…
Honor government. Return with me to 1st Peter 2:13-17, Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
I don't hear Christians speaking about the government in an honorable way very often. In this passage Peter tells us to be subject to the government for the Lord's sake. We're to live as free people and not use our freedom wrongly. In fact we are to honor everyone but especially the Emperor. In our case, The President! Remember, Peter was asking them to honor the Emperor that in due time would have him executed along with the Apostle Paul.
All of these passages have made a pretty strong emphasis on being subject to government and being at peace. It's not always possible to do that. In fact, there are times when we have to…
Resist evil. Let's see what Peter and John did in Acts 4:18-22; So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
What was their crime? They were preaching to a crowd of people in the vicinity of the Temple. They had the attention of the crowd because they had healed a man who had been lame from his birth. Peter, taking the opportunity, explained to the crowd what happened and who had done the healing. It was the name of Jesus that had made the man well. For that they were taken before the religious court and instructed not to speak or teach anymore in the name of Jesus! Their answer was simple, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." I don't believe that they expected to get away with it. They were willing to bear the punishment but they were not willing to be silent. They were determined to speak what God had shown them.
After that, the Apostles became much more active in their preaching. They simply prayed for boldness knowing that it would get them into trouble with the authorities. And very soon they were arrested again. Read with me Acts 5:27-32, And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The religious leaders of their day were jealous of the success of the gospel. They thought they had the power to stop them. These religious leaders had no idea what they were dealing with. These men who stood before them were men who were willing to die for their Lord. In fact, all of them, except John, would die a martyr's death. Not only did they refuse the instructions to no longer preach they took the opportunity to share the good news with their judges that this Jesus whom they had crucified was now exalted by God as leader and Savior. If they would come to him, in repentance, even they could receive forgiveness of sins. Never miss an opportunity to tell the truth about Jesus.
Not only are we to resist evil wherever we see it and be bold in doing it we must also act when we observe wrongdoing. Paul instructed us as to what to do when we observe wrongdoing. Let's read Ephesians 5:11-13, Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,
First, we are to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness. If we are not careful we can find ourselves drawn into the wrongdoing going on around us. To avoid that, second, we need to expose the wickedness for what it is, SIN! There is way too much compromise in the Christian life today. Too often we excuse sin because we're afraid to speak out, or worse still, because it is occurring in our own family. We should expect our governmental leaders to oppose evil and we should set them the example. The early church prayed for boldness we need to pray for the same thing in our lives, in our families, in the church and community.
Since we do not live in a theocracy, and won't until we get to heaven, we simply have to follow the light that we have. I certainly am not qualified to tell anyone how to vote. However, I would encourage everyone to do some research, find out which candidate comes closest to your own core values, and then go to the polls and cast your ballot. Whatever we do on election day we do need to remember to be subject to government, to do what is right, to pray for those in authority and resist evil wherever it is found no matter what the cost. Pray, wait on God, and then follow the light God gives to you. We must always remember that God is ultimately in control. For those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. "All things" include government! Though we are citizens of earthly nations, ultimately we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven,

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