Romans 11 – God's Plan

Reading Romans 11 is difficult for many people, because they think, “How could God possibly blind the Israelites on purpose? What is it with the choosing and the elect and the hardening . . . is God really this unfair?

Well, chapter 11 does start out with a message that seems to say that God has chosen some for salvation and some for damnation. But I don’t think that’s what chapter 11 is saying. Vese 11, of chapter 11, says volumes about God’s character . . .

11So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. (ESV)

I like the way some other versions render this verse . . .

11Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. (NIV)

11The next question is, “Are they down for the count? Are they out of this for good?” And the answer is a clear-cut No. Ironically when they walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in. (The MESSAGE)

11So I ask, Have they stumbled so as to fall [to their utter spiritual ruin, irretrievably]? By no means! But through their false step and transgression salvation [has come] to the Gentiles, so as to arouse Israel [to see and feel what they forfeited] and so to make them jealous. (AMPLIFIED BIBLE)

In other words, God’s plan wasn’t to send them to hell, but His plan was to use their sin to bring Gentiles to salvation. Again, as in chapter 9, He shows us that He uses people where they are to accomplish His purposes. And later in the chapter Paul reiterates that it was not the Jews who believed that were condemned, but the ones who didn’t believe (they had a choice). Those who believed were saved by God’s grace, through faith, just like us. And Paul also says again that the branches that were broken off could be grafted back in! How? Simply by returning to God.

20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

And Paul concludes chapter 11 by saying God wants everyone to be saved.

32For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

So . . . the message is clear . . . if you have faith, you will be saved, no matter who you are.

Romans 10 – The Ball's in Our Court

9because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

This is the crux of our faith – if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved. It is awesome. It means we no longer have to try to work our way to salvation. We simply need to seek a relationship with the God of the universe. We need to believe that He came, lived, died, and rose again. Faith saves. Works don’t. And everyone has the option to believe – not just the Jews. God is sovereign – chapter nine makes that very clear. But chapter 10 puts the ball back in our court. We need to have faith, and we can become vessels of honor. It’s an amazing message for those who choose to listen.

Those of us who possess this knowledge need to share it.

14But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

Do I do this? Do the people I come into contact with know that I’m a Christian? Is my speech having an effect on their lives? Sometimes I know I’m not doing enough. The news is good – and I need to share it. We need to share it.

Romans 9 – Some Hard Stuff to Swallow

Romans 9 is one of those chapters I think we should just rip out. Just toss it. It causes too many people too much consternation. People wonder how God could “make” Pharoah sin. But I don’t think he made Pharoah sin. Paul says in II Timothy that even dishonorable vessels can make themselves honorable.

20Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

And in I Timothy 2, we see that God desires that all be saved . . . and I really do think that “all” means all.

4 . . . who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I think, though, that Chapter 9 makes it clear that God makes decisions, that, at times, seem unfair to us. He chose Jacob over Esau, but not based on what either had done. He chose Pharoah to make His name known among the nations. He uses us, where we are in life – to accomplish His purposes – whether we have made ourselves honorable or dishonorable vessels. He makes His choices – and we live within His parameters.

Chapter 9 reminds me that I’m simply human, a creation of God’s. It is not my place to question His sovereignty – I am but clay.

20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

So much more exists in this chapter – but I am not writing a book here. I love the way it ends – Gentiles can be saved, by faith. That means me!

30What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith . . .

Romans 8 – Some Observations

Again, I note that the law is powerless to save us . . .

3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh . . .

And I’m sobered by the painfully clear message Paul sets forth in verse 6 . . .

6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

For those who live in the flesh, their end is death. But the message is equally exciting, because those who set their mind on the Spirit need not fear death – their end is life and peace.

I especially like the end of chapter 8. If God is for us, who can be against us? We have absolutely nothing to fear in this life. We have God on our side. And if we are His, then we have been set free from the law of sin and death, and nothing can separate us from Him.

38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 7 – We are Dead to the Law

It amazes me that some still believe we are under law. Yes, and these people read the same Bible I read. Paul makes it altogether clear, here and in other places in Romans, that we are completely dead to the law. We belong to Christ! The law no longer holds any sway over our lives.

4Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Verse 6 says it again . . .

6But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

That, my friends, means we possess freedom in Christ. We seek a relationship with Him – not a life of rules and regulations. What an amazing message.

New Testimony at http://truthsaves.org

I’ve recently been sent a testimony that I added to the site. It’s called “My Blessing from God,” and you can read it here.

I’ve also posted another testimony from a woman who tried to run from God, but who was unable to do so. You can read her story here.

I covet your testimony as well. If God puts it on your heart to share your testimony, please do so without delay.

Romans 6 – Slaves

Chapter 6 reminds us, in a rather blunt fashion, that Christians should not sin. Because we’re not under law gives us no excuse to sin . . .

15What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

It also reminds us that we’re slaves of who or what we obey. If we obey God, we’re slaves to righteousness. If we choose to sin and live under its power, we become slaves to sin.

. . . you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Then Paul sums it all up by letting us know what the consequences of our choices will be.

23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5 – Suffering

Last night at Bible study we talked a lot about suffering. It frustrated me somewhat, because that’s not exactly a topic we want to think about. But one guy at our study has cancer in his neck, and next week he has to have a procedure done that may silence him for life. He may not be able to eat without a feeding tube. They found lumps in his stomach and they’re doing a CT scan to see what the lumps might be. But he was talking about how he might be a witness to the hospital staff. He saw his life through an eternal lens. That’s exactly what Paul tells us we should be doing:

3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope . . .

It’s easy to fall into “pity me” mode when things aren’t going well.  Believe me, I know. I do it all the time.  But I’m not facing death.  My troubles are trivial.  Sure, it’s hard to get along with some people at work.  Sure, I don’t make as much money as I’d like.  But to face real suffering – and maintain our joy – that’s a mark of the Holy Spirit within us.

I like chapter five. It causes me to look heavenward. Jesus died, rose again, and death lost its power. We have nothing to fear.

8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

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