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“The Truth in Christ”
“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost…(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated…So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy…And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God…As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 9:1-33)
The 9th chapter of Romans is, without question, among professed Christians, the most ignored, the most despised, and the most controversial chapter in entire Bible. Most have never heard a sermon from it. Most have never even heard it read in worship service. When it is quoted, religious people immediately start to boil inside and erupt with furious rage. Yet, it is one of the most blessed chapters to be found in the Book of God. No chapter in Holy Scripture more thoroughly exalts and glorifies the Triune Jehovah, our great and glorious God. No portion of Holy Scripture gives more hope to sinners. None give poor, helpless, lost, needy, doomed, damned sinners greater encouragement and reason to trust Christ. No chapter can be found in the Word of God that is more instructive for, more comforting to, or more fully encourages hope in God’s saints than Romans 9. And there is no portion of Inspiration that more inspires or more thoroughly compels saved sinners to give themselves in utter devotion and consecration to God than this chapter. I can think of no passage of Scripture that gives me more excitement and encouragement in preaching the Gospel than this blessed chapter.
A Matter of Great Heaviness
Romans 9 begins with the Apostle Paul expressing a matter of great heaviness and sorrow to his soul. The Jews, the nation of Israel, Paul’s kinsmen, his blood relatives, brothers, sisters, mother, and father, who had been so greatly privileged as to be given the Word of God, the prophets, the ordinances of the law, and even kinship with the Lord Jesus Christ, had utterly rejected the gospel, despised Christ, crucified the Lord of Glory, and brought upon themselves the wrath and judgment of God by their rebellion and unbelief. Their self-imposed eternal ruin, broke the Apostle’s heart! They were going to hell, and Paul was broken-hearted as he contemplated that fact.
“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (vv. 1-3)
Young’s Literal Translation of these verses, is a more accurate translation.
“Truth I say in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing testimony with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart, for I was wishing, I myself, to be anathema from the Christ for my brethren, my kindred, according to the flesh:”
The Jewish people hated Paul intensely. Nothing could surpass the malice they had against the man they looked upon as the vilest apostate in the world, because he had become a follower of Christ, the Nazarene. But Paul’s heart broke for them.
We must not judge Paul’s words merely by strict rules of grammar, but as an expression of a heavy, broken heart. Paul is not here giving arguments of logic, but an expression heartfelt grief. Before he knew the Lord, before God saved him, before Christ was revealed in him, Saul of Tarsus wished to have nothing to do with Christ. Fighting with all his being to sustain and promote Judaism, Paul was an utter terrorist against Christ and Christianity, against Christ, his Church, and the gospel.
But Paul had another great grief and heaviness. He had been, up to this point, throughout his life as a believer, devoted to the salvation of his nation, his people, his family, the Jews. He was willing to die that they might live, and proved it by the things he suffered to preach the gospel to them (Acts 20:20-24; 21:10-13). He loved his family dearly, and was willing to die that they might know Christ and be saved by his grace. I know something about that. Don’t you?
Next, in verses 4 and 5, Paul shows us what wasted, misused, misspent privileges the Jews had. Paul is not asking a question in these verses, but stating a fact. These two verses are a continuation of the sentence beg in verse 3.
“For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (vv. 3-5)
This is the thing that troubled Paul so much concerning the Jews. They had such extraordinary privileges, and were now cast away, reprobate, and damned as a nation.
The Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of men, was one of their race, bone of their bone, flesh of their flesh. Yet they would not have him, or be saved by him. Oh, the terrible hardness of the human heart! What poor, useless things the greatest privileges are unless the grace of God goes with them to give us faith in Christ!
After expressing such great heaviness and sorrow, the Apostle seems to brace himself up, he seems to console his own heart, as he assures himself and us (in verses 6-8) that God’s purpose is sure. God’s elect shall be saved.
“Not as though the Word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (vv. 6-8)
Paul says here exactly the same thing David did, by which he consoled himself upon his deathbed (2 Samuel 23:5). The blessings of God’s grace do not come to anyone according to carnal descent. Yes, God promised to bless the seed of Abraham, but Paul uses that word “seed” in a very special sense. — Abraham’s seed is Christ. And Abraham’s seed is all the host of God’s elect in Christ (Hebrews 2:16). God promised salvation to his elect before the worlds were made. Christ came here to redeem and save God’s elect, taking on him the seed of Abraham (Hebrews2:16). And God’s elect shall be saved.
If my dear, dear kinsmen perish, if those I love, those for whom I would at this moment lay down my life, if that might be used of God to cause them to trust my Savior, if they perish under the wrath of God, it will be because they have refused to trust the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s word of promise, God’s purpose, God’s decree will not be altered. God’s elect will yet be saved. God, the God of all the earth, will still be right and just, faithful and true, good, and wise, and gracious.
Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. God passed by Ishmael (his firstborn) and chose Isaac. And Abraham bowed to God, worshipped God, and devoted his whole life to God because of his great goodness, mercy, love, and grace heaped upon him. — God, my God, give me grace to walk in the steps of faithful Abraham!
Election and Reprobation
Next, in verses 9-13, the inspired Apostle shows us God’s word of promise, God’s decree that must be fulfilled, his decree of both election and reprobation.
“For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (vv. 9-13)
Here were two children born at the same time, twins, born to the same parents. Yet, Esau was not numbered among the chosen “seed.” Esau was not chosen of God. Jacob was. Why? God himself answers the question with utmost clarity. — “Jacob have I loved., but Esau have I hated.”
It matters not how closely you may be connected with the people of God, unless God saves you, you will not be saved. You cannot and will not be saved unless God the Father chose you to salvation, God the Son redeemed you by his blood, and God the Spirit calls you by his irresistible power, omnipotent mercy, and life-giving grace.
And if you go to hell, you will not, in anyway alter God’s purpose, mar his goodness, or corrupt his righteousness (Romans 3:3-4). Your eternal damnation will be your own fault alone.
As soon as we mention anything about election, predestination, divine sovereignty, limited atonement, irresistible grace, or reprobation, religious infidels scream, “That’s not fair! That’s not right! How can God find any fault with sinners, how can he judge, if he’s already determined everything?” Read verses 14-16, and you will see how to answer the infidel’s objections.
Commonly, we think and we teach others to think that the way to deal with people who despise the gospel is to give up everything to the infidel, console him in his unbelief, and then say he’s beginning to come to see the doctrines of grace. — No! That’s the best way to keep the infidel an infidel.
The only way to deal with people who hate God is to confront them with God’s truth precisely at the point of their rebellion. Give up nothing. If the truth is objectionable, if possible, make it more objectionable to proud flesh. Put the very hardest side it has right in the face of the infidel and to say, “This is God’s truth; refuse it at your peril!” That is exactly what Paul does in verses 14-16.
“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (vv. 14-16)
Vessels of Wrath
And Vessels of Mercy
In verses 17-26, God the Holy Ghost speaks as plainly as possible about vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy, asserting in the clearest, most forceful terms possible both the absolute sovereignty of God and the righteousness of divine judgment.
“For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.” (vv. 17-26)
In verses 27-29, we are again reminded and assured of the fact that there is in this world a chosen remnant who must and shall be saved by the grace of God.
“Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.” (vv. 27-29)
“He will finish the work.” God will accomplish all his purpose. He will “cut it short in righteousness.” He will finish the work speedily. And he will do it in righteousness. He is a just God and a Savior. And he is a just Judge, who must and shall do right. Were it not for God’s election, Christ’s redemption, and the Spirit’s grace, the whole human race would become a world of Sodomites, justly deserving judgment and righteously damned forever in the fire of God’s wrath in hell!
Is Christ and his gospel to you a stumbling stone over which you are stumbling into hell in rebellion and unbelief? Or is the Lord Jesus Christ the Foundation Stone upon which you are built? Read verses 30-33, and see.
“What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (vv. 30-33)
Sinners, who have no hope of righteousness, are made righteous by God’s free grace in Christ, without doing a thing. They are “vessels of mercy afore prepared to glory,” made righteous by redemption, made righteous by regeneration, and made righteous by resurrection in the last day.
Righteous men and women, folks who think they are righteous, go to hell, stumbling over the Stumbling Stone, because they refuse to trust Christ. They are “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” fitted to destruction by their own, obstinate, willful rebellion and unbelief (1 Peter 2:6-10; Isaiah 28:14-22).
Would you have God’s salvation? Hear his Word. — “Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed!” — That is “the truth in Christ!”