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God has Absolute Sovereignty (Romans 9:1-18)

Pastor Heo, Romans: The Righteousness of God, Sermons

God has Absolute Sovereignty (Romans 9:1-18)

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God has Absolute Sovereignty

Romans 9:1-18 (Pastor Heo)

Paul’s Anguish Over Israel

1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

God’s Sovereign Choice

6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” 10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.


Romans consists of 3 parts. Last week, we finished the first part. Today, we start the second part. The theme of this book: the Righteousness of God.

  1. Part 1: chp 1-8 (Revelation / Manifestation of God’s Righteousness)
  2. Part 2: chp 9-11 (Vindication of God’s Righteousness)
  3. Part 3: chp 12-16 (Application / Practice of God’s Righteousness)

In the 3 chapters, 9, 10, 11, Paul is revealing the vindication of God’s righteousness using the story of Israel. In these three chapters, the main material used to reveal the attributes of God = Israel. This is the story of Israel (literal, historic, Israel – located in the Middle East).

So, why is this necessary for us to study the story of Israel at this moment? A careful study of these chapters is necessary to reveal and vindicate God’s righteousness.

Yes, from chp 1-8, we have been strongly persuaded that Once Justification, Once Salvation = Always (it never fails).

Last time, chp 8 closes with great joy and shouting about “no condemnation in Christ and no separation from the love of Christ.”

8:37-39

“37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Someone might challenge this. “Hmm, IF this is true, then, what about the Jews? Israel?” The OT is the story of Israel – the Chosen people in God’s redemptive history. They are set apart from the love of God and God is building his church with a new people – the Gentiles. It seems that the Jews were abandoned and rejected by the love of God. So, did God’s plan fail with regard to Israel?

(This is a very serious question – because the character of God is at stake. If God were unfaithful to the Jews, how can we be sure he will be faithful to us?)

So, through these next 3 chapters, God’s righteousness is vindicated.

  • Chp 9: Israel’s past election
  • Chp 10: Israel’s present rejection (human responsibility)
  • Chp 11: Israel’s future redemption (God’s faithfulness despite human unfaithfulness)

Israel is very small geologically. But spiritually speaking, Israel is the ONLY country that has a history with God – past, present, future.

“All Israel will be saved” – just before the Second Coming of Christ. (not individually, but generally, and nationally returning to Christ)

First, we see Paul’s concern for the spiritual well being of his brothers (Israel):

Paul’s concern for Israel

v. 1-3

Paul’s Anguish Over Israel

1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race,” (Jews)

At that time, Paul was considered a traitor to the Jewish nation – because he was a minister for the Gentiles, not Jews – and he preached of Freedom from the Law of Moses. He preached in many synagogues and “caused trouble” for the Jewish religion.

So at this point, Paul wants to show his love for his brothers and sisters, and his desire for their spiritual well being.

Remember chp 8?

“I’m convinced NOTHING can separate me from the love of Christ.”

Now, chp 9

“I wish that I COULD be cut off from Christ – for the sake of my brothers.”

There is a similar prayer in Exodus 32 –

While Moses was on the top of the mountain receiving the 10 Commandments. At the bottom of the same mountain – the people made idols and ran wild. When Moses came down and saw that sin, God was very ANGRY.

  • God said, “I will destroy / kill all Israel – and I will start again to build a great nation with you – Moses.”
  • But Moses did not say, “Amen.” He said, “No, God, please, forgive them. Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – forgive them. If you do not, remove me from the Book of Life.” (Send me to hell if you don’t forgive them.)

Of course, God forgave all of them, and did not remove Moses’ name from the Book of Life.

Yes, parents here, maybe you have this experience. When your child is sick, sometimes you say, “I wish it was ME who was sick, not this child. I would take your place.”

This is a true heart of love.

If you are really a born-again Christian, we have two opposing attitudes.

  1. 1. When we see Christ, we abound in love and joy at his salvation
  2. 2. When we see the lost, we abound in unceasing anguish for their spiritual loss

May God bless us to be true Christians in the eyes of God.

Next, we see the election of Israel. We have no right to ask God, “Why did you choose Israel?” This is God’s will.

The Election of Israel

v. 4-5

“4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”

God gave the people of Israel a divine promise and also the Tabernacle. God gave the Law to Moses. He gave the Promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, David, etc (these are the Patriarchs). What is the purpose of all these blessings?

Key Point:

  • v. 5b “from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”

Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, was to come through Israel. This is why all the blessings are given to Israel. They were to receive Christ, and then introduce him to all other nations – so that all nations might be saved together.

But unfortunately, when the Messiah they had waited for eagerly, finally appeared on Earth, they did not recognize him, and crucified him.

chp 3 “What is the advantage to being a Jew? Much! They have been entrusted the very Word of God.”

But even the failure of humans is inconsequential to God – who is always faithful.

Question today:

  • What is the advantage to being a Christian today – in this unbelieving world?

Ans:

  • Much in every way. We are entrusted with the very word of God – the gospel message.

This is a very simple message, but has life-giving power. “Believe in Christ and you will be saved – live forever in the presence of Christ.” But who can preach this message except the children of God? (You and me.)

God’s absolute sovereignty / redemptive will in choosing man

v. 6-10

“6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” 10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac.”

What does this mean?

In chp 2, remember that a man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly. No, he must be one inwardly.

There is a difference between:

  • natural, physical seed of Abraham, and
  • the spiritual children of God.

As we know, in the OT, Abraham had 2 sons. Ishmael and Isaac. According to principle, Ishmael was the first-born, so he should have been chosen. But it was Isaac who God chose.

Also, Isaac had 2 sons: Esau and Jacob. Esau should have been chosen, because he was first. But God chose Jacob. These two shared the same father AND mother (unlike Ishmael and Isaac).

This shows that God did not choose based on physical condition (blood first-born), but by God’s absolute sovereignty.

If we are saved, it is not because of our physical condition, but because of God’s will and purpose.

Also, we can see that God’s election was not based on the character of the person. Is your character good? Good enough to be saved?

God’s purpose in Election

v. 11-13

“11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” “

Please do not misunderstand the meaning of this sentence, esp v. 13 “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”. Actually, God chose Jacob before he was born. They had done NOTHING before that. God’s choice is sovereign – and based on nothing from the people themselves.

Malachi wrote this “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What does this mean?

This does not mean Individual Choice, but National Election for World Mission.

  • “Jacob I loved” = I chose Israel as the mission country for world mission and evangelism
  • “Esau I hated” = Not personally, but he did not choose to use Edom for world mission

This means, even though our character and actions are sometimes evil, God remains faithful. He chooses not based on human merit, but on his own will and for his own purposes.

“God has absolute sovereignty” He is God.

v. 14-18

“14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”

Why? Because he is God.

Nobody has the right to say to God, “Why me?”

God is God.

Is God unjust or unrighteous? No, not at all.

The fact that God chose one and not the other seems to indicate that God is UNrighteous. Do not misunderstand.

If we think, “God chose this person, but not that person” we might this “God is not holy.” But, actually, if God acted only on the basis of his own righteousness, NOBODY would be saved at all. All people should go to hell immediately – if God treated each person “fairly, equally, and according to what he has done.”

God’s election is not about personal righteousness, but about God’s mercy.

Paul quoted Exodus 33.

Actually, all the people of Israel committed a terrible sin – idol worship. If God had judged them according to his righteousness, ALL of them should be killed. Rather he just killed 3000 of them – not because some were “better” than others, but simply because he was merciful to the others.

In this passage, Paul is using two examples:

  • Pharaoh and Moses.
    • Actually, before God, they were equal – both murderers.
  1. God raised Pharaoh up to show his power through him.
  2. God used Moses to show his mercy and redemption through him.

Pharaoh was a king, Moses was a slave – but Moses is the one who received God’s mercy. Why? Because God chose this way. God acted according to his absolute sovereignty.

The hardening of Pharaoh:

v. 18 “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”

This “hardening” is reference 14? times in Exodus. Sometimes “Pharaoh hardened his heart” and sometimes “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”. Actually God gave Pharaoh a chance (many) to repent, but he did not.

That’s why the Bible says, “When you hear the Word of God, do not harden your hearts.”

Please, whenever you hear the Word of God, do not harden your hearts. Make your heart soft when you receive the Word of God.

God’s faithfulness is still unchangeable.

Let’s pray.

 

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So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Listen
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