Where would we be if it weren’t for His grace? That is a question that deserves our consideration each and every day of our lives. Where would we be if it weren’t for His grace? For those of you who have never really given that question much thought I want to encourage you to pay close attention this morning as we take a look at Romans 9:25-33. Let’s jump right in and get started. Turn to Romans 9 with me and let’s read our Scripture for today.
25 As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” 26 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.’ ” 27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. 28 For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” 29 It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.” 30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” 33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 9:25-33 NIV)
This is our fifth lesson from Romans 9. I want to remind you that Paul has been addressing some important questions in Romans 9, namely, “Have God’s promises failed when it comes to the Jews?” The Jews are the “chosen people” of God. They have been blessed beyond belief. In Romans 3, Paul asked, “What advantage is there in being a Jew?” Then he answers his own question. Take a look with me.
1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Romans 3:1-2 NIV)
God’s promises never fail, but Paul says that the Jews have failed to embrace the wonderful advantages that they have been given by God. Instead of embracing God’s Messiah, they have rejected Him.
With the great advantages that the Jewish people have been given you would think that they would be the most grateful and tender-hearted of all people when it comes to the things of God. Yet, throughout Israel’s history, we are told by God that His chosen people have been rebellious and “stiff-necked”—just like the rest of us.
At the time of Paul’s writing, most of the Jews had rejected the message about Jesus while many Gentiles were embracing the message of the followers of Jesus with enthusiasm. The idea that Gentiles, those whom many Jews called, “dogs,” could be considered the people of God was nothing short of blasphemy! Before we are too quick to stand in judgment of the Jews we should take a long look at ourselves. Who are the people that are outside of God’s gracious grasp in your book? Who are those who are not worthy of God’s grace in your mind? Who are those that you have labeled the scum of the earth, the dregs of society, who, even if they did give their life to Jesus would be a black-eye on the Body of Christ, an embarrassment to the rest of us? I pray that this lesson will change your heart concerning those people that you have placed outside of the grace of God.
In Romans 9:25-29 we read where Paul quotes extensively from the Jewish Bible. There are four quotations from the Old Testament listed in the first five verses of our study for today—two from Hosea and two from Isaiah. Paul uses the Scripture from Hosea to show that God’s grace extends far beyond Israel, even to the despised Gentiles. Paul’s quotations from Isaiah shows us that God’s gift of salvation never included all of Israel.
I need to give you a little background on the Scripture from Hosea. Hosea was a prophet of God who was instructed by God to marry a woman who was unfaithful. Our God is a God of purpose and He had a purpose in having Hosea marry an unfaithful woman. The purpose was to show Israel that they, like Hosea’s wife, Gomer, were unfaithful. Take a look at Hosea 1:2-3 with me.
2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. (Hosea 1:2-3 NIV)
The rest of the first chapter of Hosea details the birth of their three children; all of the children are given names with a purpose, a message for the people of Israel. Their first child was a son named, Jezreel. Jezreel is a Hebrew word that literally means, “God sows.” It has to do with the motion of the hand while one is sowing, like a scattering motion. God gave that name to Hosea and Gomer’s first son because this is exactly what God would do to the people of the northern kingdom and in the not too distant future, the southern kingdom. The scattering was because of the people’s sin.
Their second child was a little girl that God named, “Lo-Ruhamah.” In Hebrew, “Lo” means, “No.” “Ruhamah” means, “loved” or “mercy.” God had the little girl called, “no mercy” or “not loved” because during the time of His judgment God would show His chosen people no mercy, no compassion.
The last child born to Hosea and Gomer was a little boy that God said to name, “Lo-Ammi.” “Ammi” means, “My people,” so “Lo-Ammi” would mean, “Not My people.” You have to remember that all of Hosea and Gomer’s children were given names to communicate a message to the people of God. The message to those who believed that they were God’s people was that God’s judgment had come and they were no longer His people.
Many believe that Hosea lived in the northern kingdom of Israel where such great spiritual adultery was taking place. He was a prophet during the time of the collapse of the nation in 722 B.C. when the Assyrians came in and destroyed the nation. The Assyrians took the people as slaves and they were scattered and shown no pity.
In 586 B.C. the same destiny would come to the southern kingdom of Judah as the Babylonians came in and took God’s people into exile. God’s people would be once again scattered and shown no pity just as Hosea had predicted.
I want to show you something that is very interesting about Paul’s use of Hosea 1:10 and 2:23. Many Bible teachers will say that in these two verses the prophet Hosea is writing about the rejection and future restoration of God’s people. In Hosea that is true. Take a look at Hosea 2:23 with me and you can see what I am talking about.
23 I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ (Hosea 2:23 NIV)
When Paul quotes from this verse in Romans 9, he is talking, not about the Jews, but about Gentiles. Paul is not the only New Testament author to use the passage from Hosea in this way. In 1 Peter 2:10 we read,
10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:10 NIV)
You have to ask the question, “Were Paul and Peter misusing Scripture?” If Hosea is speaking about God’s eventual restoration of the Jewish people, then how can Paul and Peter use the same Scripture to illustrate God’s love and compassion being extended to Gentiles like you and me? That is a great question!
We have to realize that sometimes Scripture has more than one application. I remember a couple of years ago when we were going through the book of Revelation and I told you that we have to interpret Revelation from three vantage points: First, what did it mean in the time that it was written? Second, what is the message for our day? Last of all, what does God mean to say to those who will be alive in the future? A great illustration of this is the use of “Babylon” in the book of Revelation.
The word “Babylon” occurs six times in the book of Revelation. There is no question that Babylon was a literal empire. God used Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians as an instrument of His judgment to destroy the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C.
When we come to the book of Revelation we read about Babylon over and over again. Is it Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon that is being referred to? No way. Most people believe that, for those who were reading Revelation in the first century, Babylon was the Roman Empire.
Let me give you another illustration. For thousands of years the Jewish people have celebrated Passover. The unleavened bread and the cups of wine had definite meanings and they still do today for the orthodox Jews who continue to celebrate Passover. Yet, when Jesus gathered with his disciples He took the cups and the unleavened bread and He gave them a new meaning. Jesus said,
15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:15-20 NIV)
Jesus said that He had been eager to celebrate Passover with His followers, yet He gave a new definition to the cups and unleavened bread.
In the Scripture from Hosea we are seeing the same principle lived out. Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit teaches the people that the rejection of God’s chosen people for a time was for the purpose of God’s love and compassion being extended to a people who were not previously called, “His people.” Those people who were not His people are you and me. If you are a Gentile, which means that you are not Jewish, you need to know that God has reached and He is reaching out to you with His love and compassion. If it weren’t for God’s grace where would we be? I want us to stop for a little bit and really explore that question.
When Paul wrote to the folks in Ephesus he addressed those who were Gentiles in the church by saying,
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11-13 NIV)
From this passage we can learn that formerly we were excluded from citizenship in Israel, we were foreigners to the covenants of the promise, we were without hope and without God in the world. Because of God’s love and compassion we who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ! If it weren’t for His grace where would we be!
A little later in Paul’s letter to the folks in Ephesus, he gives us more information about our condition before His grace spilled into our lives. Paul writes,
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV)
Paul tells the folks that they must no longer live as the Gentiles live. What can we learn about how the Gentiles were living in Paul’s day? Great question. First of all, we learn that their living flowed from their futile thinking. They were darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that was in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Paul says that they had become desensitized to the point that they were presently indulging in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more, more, more. Pretty convicting huh?
Let’s take a look at one more. Go back to Ephesians with me for one more look. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1-3.
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3 NIV)
We were dead in our transgressions and sins. What can a dead person do? Can a dead person seek God? Can dead people bring themselves back to life? Not a chance. Maybe that is why Paul writes in Romans 9:30, 30 That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness…
We weren’t pursuing God. We weren’t sitting around and thinking, “What do I need to do to please God?” We were content with only seeking to please ourselves. Where would we be if it weren’t for His grace that came seeking us? I can tell you, but you already know don’t you? We would still be lost, we would still be dead in our sins, and we would still be without hope and without God in this world.
Yet, in Romans 9:30 we read one of the most remarkable verses in the entire Bible. Read the whole verse with me.
30 That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; (Romans 9:30 NIV)
Both the NIV and the New American Standard versions of the Bible say that the Gentiles did not “pursue” righteousness. The Greek word that is translated as “pursue” is the word, “?????” (dioko) and it means, “to make to run, to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to run after, or figuratively it can be used of one who in a race runs swiftly to reach the goal.” This is what we were not doing. We weren’t pursuing a right relationship with God and yet that is exactly what Paul says we have obtained.
I want to show you one more interesting aspect of this Scripture before we leave here today. Read with me from Romans 9:30-31.
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. (Romans 9:30-31 NIV)
Paul says that the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have “obtained’ righteousness by faith while Israel did pursue a law of righteousness, but they have not “attained” it. The words, “obtain” and “attain” are two very different words. They may not seem very different, but there is a world of difference. It is the difference between a person who inherits a billion dollars and a person who sets out to work and earn a billion dollars.
We’ve not reached out to God, but God has reached out to us and He has given us what could never be earned. Righteousness, or a right-relationship with God, is a gift from God—it can never be earned because God demands absolute holiness, nothing short of perfection. Through God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus, God has paved the way for us to be in a right-relationship with Himself.
God’s chosen people, the Jews, sought to keep the law of righteousness. They looked at keeping the law as visible evidence that they were right with God, when they forgot to take into account that they were still sinners and unable to fully keep the law. Paul alludes to this in Romans 2:17-24. Read along with me.
17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth– 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:17-24 NIV)
The Jews are cut out of the same bolt of cloth as the rest of us. They are sinners just like we are sinners. There is no possible way for sinners to be in a right relationship with God, who is holy, unless God does something about it. He has done just that! Where would we be if it weren’t for His grace?
In Romans 9:32-33, Paul gives us an answer as to why the Jews have not obtained the righteousness that they sought. He writes,
32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” 33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 9:32-33 NIV)
We don’t earn our way into God’s good graces, we don’t prove our value to God, or work our way into a good position so that we “might be” saved one day. We say, “Yes!” to God’s provision. We say, “Yes!” to God’s invitation.
Isn’t it amazing that one man who lived so long ago in a little out-of-the-way country can cause such a fuss today? In His own day as well. There was nobody who got the religious leaders as tied in a knot as Jesus. Paul just said that they “stumbled over the stumbling stone.” In Romans 9:33, Paul quotes from Isaiah and says that the stumbling stone was laid in Zion by God. Jesus is a stumbling stone to some, but to those who put their trust in Him—they will never be put to shame.
Let’s go back to the beginning of our study just for a moment before we leave here today. You remember me telling you about Hosea’s wife, Gomer? Who would want a wife like her? What husband would want a wife who was constantly going after other men? What man would want a wife who was willing to be a prostitute? By the time we get to the third chapter of Hosea, he and his wife are no longer together. You have to believe that she finally left him in her pursuit of other men. What a tragedy. The one who truly loved her is the one whose heart was broken by her. Those that were not her husband, those that she pursued, were the ones who were willing to be with her only to use her. It is at this sad time in Hosea’s life that God comes to him. Read with me from Hosea 3:1-3.
1 The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. 3 Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.” (Hosea 3:1-3 NIV)
God said, “Go get her. Show your love to your wife again. Even though she is an adulteress, show her your love.” Isn’t that our story? Spiritually speaking are we all not like Gomer? Have we served God faithfully all the days of our lives? Have we never been unfaithful to Him? I can only speak for me and say, “I am Gomer. I am a spiritual adulterer.” Yet God has show me His love over and over again. Where would I be if it were not for His grace?
God’s grace has been fully revealed through our study this morning. Will Jesus be a stumbling stone or a Rock of assurance for you this morning? Won’t you invite Him into your heart this day?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
April 8, 2014