Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, on 7/23/06
"And, It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God'" (Rom. 9:26).
Isn't it just like God to pop in on people who never met Him and call them to be sons? That's grace in a nutshell. Of course, He gave those who believe on Him the power to become sons of God (Gal. 3:6-7, 26; I Jo. 3:1), but the rest? Oh yes, this is why Abraham is a prototype of God's dealings with Gentile unbelievers, and idol worshippers. Abraham had no sterling qualities, strength of character, moral values, educational background, or even good looks that we know of, to cause God to choose him above all the other worshippers of the moon god in Ur of the Chaldees. He was, in fact, both a coward and a liar, even after God called him and promised to bless all the peoples on earth through him (Gen. 12: 2-3; 10-17). I doubt most churches would want him as a member since some Christians I know seem to have the attitude, "Only good people need apply here." God is not like that. I'm not saying, mind you, that God prefers sleaze bags, cowards and liars, but what I am saying is that He depends upon Himself, not man, to accomplish His will. As in the case of Abraham, God chose him based on what He (God) was going to do through him. God always knows what He is going to do with each person, even when we don't have a clue. So take heart if you are praying for someone who is more like the "gypsies, tramps, and thieves" of Abraham's family, than the pure of heart like Joseph and Daniel.
God knows the end from the beginning about every subject, every person, and every circumstance and He is sovereign over them all. That's the essence of grace, by the way, God's choosing people based on His will, not man's actions. Sometimes, I think that all we can do is try to stay out of His way. On Tuesday afternoon, I sat down and wrote this piece, had it all put together from the graphic to the closing prayer. The next morning, when I booted up the laptop, the words I had written had disappeared. There was nothing on the document except the title, my name, and the graphic. Shocked and shaken, I looked all over my hard drive to try to find it and even called Apple computer to see if I had tried all the tricks to locate missing files, all to no avail. The writing had disappeared into the bowels of the computer, never to be found by me. And yes, I did save it as I went along as I always do. Not only that, but the software I use, rather like the Lord, will not let you quit without saving. When Lenny got up, I said, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
It bothered me, especially since the graphic was left, something I had worked on for a considerable time, but the writing itself was no where to be found. Did God not like it? It flowed out as fast as I could write, but apparently, it did not "make the cut." Later that day, I had a doctor's appointment for my back. As I was lying on the table, I asked the Lord if He had taken the writing in just that way to show me He's in control. He replied, "Did you really think I am not in control over the person you're concerned about?" I got it. Lenny is right. God really is in control of everything. Had the entire document disappeared, that would be one thing, but for the title and the graphic to be there, but not the words was like He had used pruning shears to cut out one thing and leave the other.
That's how His ways look to us sometimes. He takes one and leaves the other. That's not a picture of the rapture as some believe, where two will be sleeping in a bed and one will be taken and the other one left (Luke 17:34). No, it's a picture of God's election. Jesus said, "I chose you. You did not choose me" (John 15:16). Treat yourself to a blessing and reread Romans, chapters nine through eleven. In this section, Paul delineates the gospel, the power of God unto salvation. It does not fit into man's idea of things, nor follow religion's rules or doctrine. The Jews, as we know, were God's chosen people. They were the seed of Abraham, about whom Paul said, "Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over ALL, forever praised!" (Rom. 9:4-5). And yet, when the promised Messiah came, most of them received Him not. He didn't fit their "job description" of the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5).
In reality though, it wasn't their fault they missed Him. It was God's fault, (Lenny's terminology, Paul's conclusion). In chapter nine, he makes the statement that God loved Jacob and hated Esau (Vs. 13). Why would He choose Jacob over his twin who was born a few minutes sooner than he and thus entitled to the inheritance of the first born according to the cultural traditions at the time? It certainly wasn't his good character or high moral values that God looked at, for Jacob was indeed a slimy, sneaky fellow, who lied and stole the birthright from its rightful owner, his twin, Esau (Gen. 27:36). Paul doesn't spell out why God chose Jacob, rather than Esau other than to show him as an example of God's sovereign choice (election).
Paul quotes God as saying, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Rom. 9:15-16). That's a huge, freeway sign on the road of life, which shouts that man's efforts (soul power) count for nothing in God's plans. Grace, not works gets us through!
Paul continues the lesson of election, this time using Pharaoh as the example. You'll recall that when God commissioned Moses from the burning bush to go down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to release His people, He also told Moses that He was going to harden Pharaoh's heart so that he would not let the people go. In fact, He told Moses that same thing four different times! (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 14:4, 17). That's a bit of a true "mission impossible" if you ask me, sort of like being sent out to do battle with a rubber sword. I would feel like saying, "Find someone else to go there and fail," but that's the power of God when He decides He's going to do something. You get up, brush yourself off, and do it, because He called you to do it and He will see you through to the end, no matter what. Paul himself knew quite a bit about God's persuasive powers, having experienced them on the Damascus Road. There was no decision for Christ there, no altar call and no hesitation on Paul's part either. When E. F. Hutton speaks, the world may yawn, but when God speaks, men and women listen and comply.
If I may, the point Paul is making here is that God's mercy and grace, ALWAYS overcomes man's objections, and our lack of qualifications has nothing whatsoever to do with the finished product, for God said of those who were not His people, "they will be called sons of the living God'" (Rom. 9:26), and Paul quotes Isaiah as saying, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me" (Isa. 65:1; Rom. 10:20). Certainly, the Gentiles to whom Paul was sent did not ask for God, anymore than Abraham had asked for the Lord when He first showed up. Have you ever considered that even though Abraham was the father of the Jews, he was a Gentile when God tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Come with me to a land I will show you." Amazing how easily the Lord made a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
Paul understood how radical his words sounded, and how offensive they would be to the Jews, who were sure they would be included in the kingdom simply because they were the sons of Abraham. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were "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" (Eph. 2:12). So, how can it be that the legitimate sons of Abraham, heirs to the promise, were set aside by God in favor of the Gentiles? The short answer is, Israel depended on soul power (self effort) to gain God's favor. Here's the verse: "What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone" (Rom. 9:30-32).
The problem, Paul explained, was that they had a zeal for God, even as he himself did when he was heading to Damascus to persecute Christians, but "their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:2-4). I have often wondered why they clung to Law then and why Christians cling to Law today, when no one could/can keep it. Harry Fox's explanation is as good as any. He says that the Jews then and Christians now water down the Law to points they know they could/can keep, in an attempt to help them feel more secure.
Christ is the end of the law, Paul asserts, so that only IN Him can there be any security. The phrase "in Christ" appears 89 times in the New Testament. It is the end product of God's unconditional covenant with Abraham, that in his seed would all nations be blessed. In Gal. 3:8, Paul made the amazing statement that, "The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." The real definition of the gospel appears here, by the way. The gospel is based upon God's unconditional covenant with Abraham, not on man's efforts. The Law proved that we are incapable of keeping the rules. Only Christ in us can do that.
In chapter 11 of Romans, Paul completes his premise that it is God's fault that the Jews rejected the good news of the gospel, and the Gentiles accepted it. He again quotes Isaiah, in his discussion of the "remnant chosen by grace" (Vs. 5). He answers the question posed by this writing, about too much grace: there cannot be too much grace, for it is ALL by grace, though some do not know it yet: "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Vs. 6). This message that God will eventually save everyone has caused a great deal of hostility among Christians, who bristle and get defensive immediately. Shortly thereafter, some brilliant remark comes out like "If I believed all will be saved, then I would go out and _________." You can fill in the blank yourself, but it usually has to do with fornication. If fear of hell is all that keeps you sexually pure, then the depth of your devotion to God has been plumbed, and the plumb line stops in a place that still makes people blush. Love of God doesn't even factor in here, but fear of hell certainly does.
The inescapable fact according to Paul and Isaiah as well is that God does what He does, calls whom He will, chooses the remnant or elect now, always for the benefit of the many. It is God's fault, Paul insists, when people do not serve Him: "What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "GOD gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day" (Rom. 10:7-8). Can you see that when God hardened Pharaoh's heart, it was a shadow of things to come? It was, Moses declared, so that God's name could be "declared throughout all the earth" (Ex. 9:16). He hardened the Jews' hearts so they did not accept Christ, and in fact, had Him crucified. But think of it, had they not, Christ would not have died and the world would still be dead in trespasses and sins. "God works ALL things after the counsel of His own will!" (Eph. 1:11).
But what of Pharaoh? He drowned in the Red Sea. Did he go straight to hell? Isaiah observed: "when your punishments come on the earth, the people of the world will get the knowledge of righteousness" (Isa. 26:9, BBE). This verse is NOT talking about judgment after we die, but while we're on the earth. If death were the end of the story, this verse would be a lie, for God's judgment on hundreds of thousands was death, and yet, Isaiah assures us that through judgment (punishment), "the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness!" (RSV). The Jews who rejected Christ suffered a horrible judgment ON THE EARTH in A.D. 70, when they were slaughtered by plague, famine, crucifixion, fire, and sword. Yet, Paul assures us that "All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26). Many try to squirm around Paul's declaration, but there it is in black and white.
God is neither capricious nor unfair. This was His plan from the foundation of the world (II Tim. 1:8-10; Rev. 13:8). Israel's disobedience allowed room for the Gentiles to come in, and once that happens, the ones who rejected Christ will be brought back into the fold (Rom. 11:30-31). Then the Apostle of "too much grace" makes the most remarkable statement in the entire Bible. "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all" (Vs. 32). The Phillips translation is even clearer: that God has penned up all men in disobedience so He may have mercy on ALL.. What a glorious promise!
Paul finishes this section with a soul rocking comment: "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For FROM him and THROUGH him and TO him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen" (Rom. 11:35-36). This also answers the question of can there be too much grace? IMPOSSIBLE. I love Grady Brown's translation of Rom. 5:20: "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." He translated the verse this way: "Where sin overflows, grace floods in." Wonderful words of life! There can no more be too much grace than there can be too much God!
Father, may we be a flood of grace to a thirsty world, and may Your love be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Amen. Jan Antonsson
TO BE CONTINUED.....
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
When Grace Floods In
Predestined by Grace
Grace for our Children
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 7/14/06
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/08/08.