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Monday, July 26, 2010

Roaming Through Romans (Romans 9-11)

Roaming Through Romans (Romans 9-11)

Why were so many of the Jewish people refusing to believe in their Messiah, Jesus Christ? God had shown Paul clearly that salvation and righteousness come only through faith in Christ. But many of his fellow Jews did not recognize Jesus as the prophesied Messiah. They were substituting their law-righteousness for faith-righteousness in Christ. Paul was worried about them. In Romans 9-11 he pours out his concerns.

In speaking of his beloved Israel Paul laments: “but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ Romans 9:31-33.

This stumbling stone is also mentioned in Isaiah 28:16 and in 1 Peter 2:6-8. The stone that the builders rejected, the stumbling stone is Jesus Christ, who offers salvation by faith and not works. This stone is described In 1 Peter 2:6 “---Behold I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Peter here contrasts what Christ means to believers and what He means to unbelievers. To the believer Jesus, the Cornerstone, is precious, but to the unbeliever He is a rock of offense to be stumbled over. These passages reaffirm that what we do with Jesus Christ is all important!

Paul continues: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” Romans 10:1. “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Romans 10:3-4.

Paul, the great evangelist continues on in Romans 10:9-13: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

These passages in Romans are so beautiful. Salvation is so simple. Even a child can understand and accept it. No detailed plan, no tedious obstacle course, it’s just one Way. It isn’t earned by good works. It’s a gift that can be received by just believing and confessing. It’s universal, free to all: Jew and Greek. It’s so easy that unbelievers stumble over it.

Paul continues worrying about his Jewish brothers. Since many Jews have not trusted in Christ, Paul believes that they will be lost. How can God keep His promises to bless and save Israel if they continue rebelling? Didn’t God make covenants with the Jewish nation? Didn’t God promise that Israel would be delivered? How can this be if they don’t believe? It doesn’t add up in Paul’s mind. Things aren’t working out the way he thought they should. Paul twists and turns in his anguish.

In Romans 11 the Holy Spirit through Paul begins to address these questions. All Jews won’t be saved but God will save a remnant. A parable is told of a cultivated olive tree that had all of its’ dead branches removed. Then branches from a wild tree are grafted into the cultivated olive tree to replace the dead branches that had been cut off. Paul interprets the parable by explaining that the cultivated olive tree is Israel and the branches that are removed are the Jews who rejected God. The wild tree branches that are grafted into the cultivated olive tree are the Gentiles who accept God’s salvation.

Romans 11:25b-27 tells us that Israel’s blindness to salvation is only temporary. It reads: “The blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”

We read this prophecy of how all along God is working with the Jews and the Gentiles and we shake our heads. Even while they are rebelling He is working. We can’t understand the full meaning of the olive tree and the branches that were cut out and the other branches that were grafted in. Gods’ mysteries are too deep for us to comprehend. We have to trust that He will do what He promises even when it seems impossible to us. Paul seems to be saying that even though things look out of control to us that God is in control. Romans 11:33 reads: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

Even though Paul was dismayed that Israel had not recognized her Messiah, he was learning to trust God to take care of the situation. He still believed that Gods’ promises are sure, even though he couldn’t understand how they would be worked out. We are often like Paul in that we also need to look to God and His promises when we can’t see any way out of our troubles..

When we are new Christians we sometimes assume that God will bless our lives with continuous victories. Since we love God, we believe that our children will turn out to be good Christians and our job will always remain secure and our ministry for God will touch many lives. And then our children rebel and we lose our job and our ministry doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. And we twist and turn and wonder where God is. And that’s when we, like Paul, have to trust God with our impossibilities and just keep on trusting. We need to keep standing on His promises and having done all to stand we just stand. God will help us. Our little faith grows sturdy and tough through all of our trials and all of our standing on the promises and all of our trusting. And the longer we stand and the tighter we hang on, the stronger our precious faith will grow.

Our problems are only temporary. The only thing God asks of us is to trust. Let’s show Him that we can do that. Let’s let go and let God. A day is coming when the Deliverer will come out of Zion and will give us the victory, even though right now we can’t begin to understand how.



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