Romans 10:1-4 – Paul’s Desire

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Review and Introduction:

Last week we closed out with Doug Moo’s observation:

  • “Israel’s exclusion from God’s people as a result of the gospel does not constitute a departure from the OT. Quite the contrary, Paul here implies: Israel’s stumbling over Christ was predicted in the OT” – Doug Moo.

 

To help tease this out, we looked at Paul’s personal experience.

  • He witnessed first hand the stumbling of the Jews over Jesus Christ.
  • He witnessed first hand believing Gentiles coming to Christ and being joined to the remnant of Israel.

 

One example was Acts 13:43-48.

  • Acts 13:43–48 (ESV) — 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

 

In today’s text, Paul takes up again his concern for his unbelieving Jewish brother and sisters.

  • His words are a bit of a reprise of his earlier lament.
  • Romans 9:1–3 (ESV) — 1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

 

And though Paul restates his concern of their unbelief.

  • We will see that he doesn’t let his concern belittle the severity of their problem.

 

 

Paul’s Assessment – The Good News:

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God…(vss. 1-2a)

 

Paul expresses his hope for unbelieving Jews.

  • Meaning, as we have seen, the Jews who are vessels of wrath.
  • The Jews who stumbled over Christ.

 

He tells us that his “heart’s desire” and “prayer” is “that they may be saved”.

  • He wants them to be joined to Christ the Messiah.

 

And importantly, Paul actively petitions God on their behalf.

  • He prays for them.
  • Importantly, he hasn’t given up on them.

 

In fact, Paul tells us that he can “bear them witness” – he can testify…

  • They have “a zeal for God” – a “commendable zeal” of the unbelieving Jews (Doug Moo).

 

Paul certainly has first hand knowledge of this zeal.

  • Acts 22:3 (ESV) — 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.

 

But what exactly does it mean to have “a zeal for God”?

 

For starters…

  • Paul really was affirming their zeal.
  • He “…does not dispute the authenticity of Israel’s zeal for God” – Tom Schreiner.
  • It was legit and admirable.

 

Secondly, Paul was acknowledging that the unbelieving Jews were passionately committed to…

  • “…following a venerable tradition of zeal for God that was illustrated in the life of…” many zeal filled Jews of the OT and 2nd Temple period – Tom Schreiner.

 

Elijah is one such OT example:

  • 1 Kings 19:10 (ESV) — 10 He said, “I [Elijah] have been very jealous [LXX – “zealous”] for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

 

Doug Moo sheds more light on this tradition of zeal.

“‘Zeal’ emerged as an especially commendable characteristic in the [2nd Temple] period, when the very existence of the Jewish faith was threatened by foreign enemies and internal unconcern” – Doug Moo.

 

A great example of this is the Hasmoneans found in 1 Maccabees 2:19-27.

  • A Greek ruler, Antiochus, occupied Israel and its temple.
  • He was forcing the Jews to abandon cultic devotion to YHWH.

 

Enter Mattathias:

  • 1 Maccabees 2:19-27 – 19 Then Mattathias answered and spake with a loud voice, Though all the nations that are under the king’s dominion obey him, and fall away every one from the religion of their fathers, and give consent to his commandments: 20 Yet will I and my sons and my brethren walk in the covenant of our fathers. 21 God forbid that we should forsake the law and the ordinances. 22 We will not hearken to the king’s words, to go from our religion, either on the right hand, or the left. 23 Now when he had left speaking these words, there came one of the Jews in the sight of all to sacrifice on the altar which was at Modin, according to the king’s commandment. 24 Which thing when Mattathias saw, he was inflamed with zeal, and his reins trembled, neither could he forbear to shew his anger according to judgment: wherefore he ran, and slew him upon the altar. 25 Also the king’s commissioner, who compelled men to sacrifice, he killed at that time, and the altar he pulled down. 26 Thus dealt he zealously for the law of God like as Phinees did unto Zambri the son of Salom. 27 And Mattathias cried throughout the city with a loud voice, saying, Whosoever is zealous of the law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me.

 

This is the kind of zeal that Paul was commending.

  • And yet, in spite of this commendable zeal, there was a serious problem.

 

 

Paul’s Assessment – The Bad News:

…a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (vss 2b-3).

 

Apparently, not all “zeal for God” is created equal.

  • So, Paul qualifies their zeal.
  • He says it is “not according to knowledge”.
  • Obviously a problem.

 

So, if it isn’t according to knowledge, what is it according to?

 

Unfortunately, their “zeal for God” is according to ignorance.

  • Paul says they are “ignorant of the righteousness of God”.
  • Spiritually speaking, their ignorance is spiritual blindness.

 

OK…so what is “the righteousness of God” they are blind to?

  • It is the “activity of God whereby he brings people into relationship with himself” – Doug Moo.

 

Given this, we can say that Paul’s critique of the unbelieving Jew is that:

  • They lack knowledge of how it is that God puts people right with Him.

 

Yet, they certainly knew that they needed to be right with God.

  • So the natural consequence of the need to be right with God…
  • With the blindness as to how God made them right…
  • Is that they came up with their own path to righteousness.

 

Paul puts it this way:

  • They were zealously “seeking to establish their own” way to righteousness.

 

And what was their way?

  • Michael Bird describes it this way:
  • It was a “…a zeal for God’s law, its correct interpretation, its instruction, its preservation under pagan domination, and even its promulgation to the entire world” – Michael Bird.

 

And it included having the badges of membership in the people of God.

  • Jewish ethnicity, circumcision, Sabbath observance, etc.

 

About their way, Bird says:

“It shows a lack of awareness about the Torah’s intrinsic limitations and an accompanying denial of Israel’s own disobedience to the Torah” – Michael Bird.

 

And their way, plus their ignorance (spiritual blindness) of the right way of God’s “righteousing” activity, had devastating consequences.

  • Paul says, “they did not submit to God’s righteousness”.

 

When Paul says this he has a very specific meaning in mind.

  • They did not submit to Christ as Messiah.
  • As Paul said last week, this was their stumbling over Christ.

 

It is Christ who ultimately, is the “righteousing” and saving activity of God.

  • So ignorance of God’s righteousness is ignorance of Christ.
  • Being blind to God’s righteousness is being blind to Christ.

 

Doug Moo puts it like this:

  • “…the Jews have not recognized the manifestation of God’s righteousness in Christ and have sought rather to establish their own…” – Doug Moo.

 

Ultimately, this blindness – this misinformed zeal – leads directly to being an enemy of Christ and His church.

  • Paul would know.
  • Philippians 3:6 (ESV) — 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church…

 

To Saul (Paul before Christ) and any other zealous Jew…

  • Opposition to Christ and His followers was on par with…
  • Mattathias’ opposition to Antiochus.

 

This opposition to Christ, in fact, is directly behind Jesus’ words with the Pharisees in John 8.

  • John 8:41b–44a (ESV) — 41b We [the Pharisees] have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44a You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.

 

Jesus makes the startling claim that:

  • To oppose and reject Jesus – God’s “righteousing” activity…
  • Is to oppose and reject YHWH.
  • Yikes!

 

To finish out his thought, and make a transition to the stuff of verse 5 and following…

  • Paul makes one further assessment about God’s “righteousing” activity in Christ.

 

 

Paul’s Assessment – Christ the Telos:

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes

  • Christ is the “telos” of the law. (Bird)

 

What in the world does this mean?

 

 

Christ and OT:

For starters, Christ’s own words have to be included in any attempts to understand Paul.

  • Matthew 5:17 (ESV) — 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

 

The idea here, according to BDAG is this:

  • Jesus has come to bring the law “to a designed end” not abolish it.

 

In other words, whatever Paul means, he (as we have said before)…

  • Is not throwing the law under the bus.
  • Jesus didn’t and Paul isn’t.

 

The OT was the beginning of what Jesus fulfilled.

  • You can’t have one without the other.

 

So given this quick comparison between Jesus’ and Paul’s words…

  • We can arrive at one clear teaching of Paul.

 

The OT is necessary to “get” Christ.

“Jesus and Paul…caution us against severing Christ from the law. For he is its fulfillment and consummation and he cannot be understood or appreciated unless he is seen in light of the preparatory period of which the law was the center” – Doug Moo.

 

 

Christ and “Telos” – End and Goal:

Doug Moo says:

  • “He is picturing the Mosaic law as the center of an epoch in God’s dealings with human beings that has now come to an end. The believer’s relationship to God is mediated in and through Christ, and the Mosaic law is no longer basic to that relationship” – Doug Moo.

 

Moo goes on to say:

  • “Paul is implying that Christ is the ‘end’ of the law (he brings its era to a close) and its ‘goal’ (he is what the law anticipated and pointed toward)” – Doug Moo.

 

And he continues:

  • “As Christ consummates one era of salvation history, so he inaugurates a new one” – Doug Moo.

 

Whatever relationship righteousness had to the law…

  • It is now found, as God planned, entirely in Christ.

 

The law’s role in this is over.

  • As Paul says, righteousness comes to “everyone who believes” in Christ.
  • This is the new era.

 

Michael Bird seems to agree with this take:

“I suggest that the main idea is that the Messiah has brought the law to its intended goal, namely, covenant renewal. By doing so, he terminates the law as the mechanism for relating to God, so that righteousness is now available to all on the basis of faith and not on the basis of performing works of the law” – Michael Bird.

 

Which he then follows up with:

  • “Christ is the end of the law in the sense that Christ is the climax of the Mosaic covenant by being the agent of the covenantal renewal to which the law itself pointed. The Messiah is the new ‘stone’ for a renewed people of God, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles” – Michael Bird.

 

BTW – In next weeks lesson, we will seek to redeem the law from Christian caricatures. And come to grips with Paul’s love of the law.

Romans 9:30-33 – God’s Stone of Stumbling

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Review and Introduction:

Last week we fully fleshed out God’s purpose of election – Paul’s main thought of Romans 9.

  • We now understand how the Jews who rejected the Messiah were part of God’s purpose of election.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Include believing Gentiles with believing Jews.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Preserve a remnant of believing Jews to which the believing Gentiles would be joined.
  • And mold all of them together into “vessels of mercy”.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Use his judging righteousness against the unbelieving Jews to facilitate Gentile inclusion.
  • This included the destruction of the Temple in 70.
  • This included Paul’s call to the Gentile mission after Jewish rejection.

 

In our text today…

  • Paul closes out chapter 9 with another question and answer session.

 

 

Paul’s Question:

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why?

 

Paul’s question here is really an implication of all that he has been teaching about God’s purpose of election.

  • His point is made with 4 separate phrases/sentences.
  • We can tease out Paul’s point with a paraphrase of each.

 

Pauline paraphrase:

  • (1) “Yes…what I’m about to say is accurate.”
  • (2) “The Gentiles were ‘righteoused’ by God through faith even though they didn’t have the law.”
  • (3) “And Israel, who had the law – a tutor to righteousness – failed to reach righteousness”.
  • (4) “How do we make sense of this?”

 

Paul is pointing out that, because of God’s purpose of election…

  • The believing Gentiles have attained through faith (allegiance or believing loyalty)…
  • The very righteousness (made right with God) that Israel had been pursuing for over 1000 years, and yet failed to attain.

 

It is this truth that leads him to ask, using our paraphrase,

  • “How do we make sense of this?”

 

 

Paul’s Answer:

Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

 

To begin with, Paul points out that Israel’s relationship with the law was off track.

  • They did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works” (vs. 32).

 

Michael Bird gives some examples of this wrong pursuit:

“…the Torah prescribes regulations for right conduct and for a right covenant standing before God. But…this could be accentuated to the point that covenant righteousness becomes the presumption of those who think they are adhering to the Torah rightly, whether by sacred violence (Zealots), by promoting priestly purity (Pharisees), by revisioning calendrical regulations and cultic purity (Essenes), or by continual sacrifice and temple purity (Sadducees)” – Michael Bird.

 

And in addition to the above we have also:

  • The idea that righteousness is attained through Jewish ethnicity…
  • Or having the correct badges of membership of the people of God – circumcision, Sabbath observance, etc.

 

All of these were their wrongheaded attempts to:

  • Try and demonstrate that, “…that they were the true children of Abraham” – N.T. Wright.

 

Paul covered this same ground at the end of Romans 3 and into Romans 4.

  • At that time, we learned something about the law that will help us here.

 

 

Law Review:

N.T. Wright helped us understand how Israel’s relationship with the law was “off”.

  • He suggested that the law was taken by Israel and put to the wrong tune – the tune of works.
  • The law, he said, “was always designed to be sung to the tune called ‘faith’.” – N.T. Wright.
  • Sung to the right tune – faith – the law becomes a beautiful song of worship and gratitude.

 

So, Paul is telling us now, that because of God’s purpose of election…

  • The believing Gentiles have been given, and are singing the right tune.
  • Yet the Israelites that rejected the Messiah continue to play the wrong tune with the law.

 

And ultimately, this causes them to stumble.

 

 

Stone of Stumbling:

They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame (vss. 32b-33).

 

With this, Paul now drops yet another brutal truth-bomb.

  • His explanation for why Israel went so off track is itself part of God’s purpose of election.

 

BTW – Here Paul combines two texts from Isaiah.

  • “The wording is drawn from Isa. 28:16, into which Paul inserts the language of Isa. 8:14” – G.K. Beale.
  • And his, “…joining of the two passages appears…to have been without precedent in early Judaism” – G.K. Beale.

 

So what does Paul intend to tell us through his unusual use of Isaiah?

 

Again, Beale can help us out:

“Paul finds in the pattern of God’s dealings with Israel in judgment and salvation a pattern (type) that has come to fulfillment in his eschatological dealings with them in Christ” – G.K. Beale.

 

 

So let’s flesh out Paul’s NT use of Isaiah as a pattern found in Christ.

 

Paul has said the unbelieving Jews have played the wrong tune with the law.

  • This has resulted in severe consequences.

 

One consequence is that they “have stumbled over the stumbling stone”.

  • They have stumbled over Christ.

 

And this stumbling has happened as Isaiah said it would.

  • “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame”

 

God the Father established this stone or rock – Jesus – in Zion (Jerusalem).

  • He did so by raising Christ from the dead and exalting Him to His right hand.
  • And yet, the Jews have rejected Him.

 

And here is Paul’s point:

  • Christ is the “foundation for the new people of God; the keystone in the plan of salvation. Yet rather than building on that stone, putting their faith in it, Israel has stumbled over it” – Doug Moo.

 

But the remnant and the believing Gentiles have given Him their allegiance and trust.

  • They “will not be put to shame”.

 

BTW – “According to the MT of Isa 8:14 God himself will become ‘a stone of offense’” – EDNT.

  • This is yet another instance in the NT where Jesus is associated with the uniqueness of Yahweh.
  • An association that needs an explanation.

 

The reason all of this is so important to Paul is that he witnessed the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

  • That is – the stumbling of Israel, and the belief of the remnant and the Gentile.

 

Paul’s witness:

  • Acts 13:43–48 (ESV) — 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
  • Acts 14:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.
  • Acts 17:1–5 (ESV) — 1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.

 

Moo will close us out:

  • “Israel’s exclusion from God’s people as a result of the gospel does not constitute a departure from the OT. Quite the contrary, Paul here implies: Israel’s stumbling over Christ was predicted in the OT” – Doug Moo.

 

We will follow up on Paul’s train of thought next week, as we begin Romans 10.

 

 

 

Dale Tuggy’s Trilemma – The Tip of the Iceberg

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Jesus died.

Jesus was fully divine.

No fully divine being has ever died.

 

Can an orthodox, creedal affirming Christian (what I call a Creedonian) deny anyone of these? No. All three would have to be affirmed.

 

So what? What’s the problem? All this God stuff is a mystery anyway.

 

The problem is that we’re left with a contradiction. The problem is we have to explain how a fully divine being – who is essentially and necessarily immortal – can die. I suppose we can ignore the problem, but Scripture elevates knowing. It doesn’t favor blind allegiance.

 

We can, of course, avoid the contradiction by denying one of the statements. But then we would lose our Creedonian membership card.

 

So what are we to do?

 

We’ll start with the easy bit. The Bible is clear that God can’t die. God’s divine nature renders Him incapable of death. Call it a perk of the job.

 

How about the “Jesus is fully divine” bit? For sake of brevity, we’ll go with the customary interpretations of all the relevant Biblical passages. Give a nod to Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Augustine, Karl Barth. Affirm this one without the benefit of argument, and move on.

 

So that leaves us with, “Jesus died”.

 

Now we have a problem. Based on what we just affirmed, we’re in a pickle. How do we get out?

 

There are only two ways, as far as I can see. Appeal to mystery, using all the intellectual vigor we can muster. Or, employ the language and concepts of the creeds.

 

We’ll avoid the mystery card and take the second approach. Doing so means we’ll have to make some adjustments to the trilemma. Specifically, we’ll have to rephrase the “Jesus died” statement to accommodate our Creedonian beliefs.

 

This changing of the statement means, obviously, that the trilemma as given will be ignored.

 

So the “right” statement might look something like this – the “One-God’s-eternal-modality-that-is-the-so-distinguished-hypostatic-act-Son’s-assumed-human-nature” died.

 

Now, we can talk about how the hypostatic union both unifies and distinguishes the “hypostatic-act-Son’s” divine and human nature. We can talk about how the concept of communicatio idiomatum demonstrates how the two natures of Christ communicate properties with each other.

 

We can talk about the difference between concrete and abstract natures. We can make “qua” distinctions between human and divine natures. We can talk about the difference between a person in the modern sense and a person in the “hypostatic-act-Son” sense.

 

Now, when I say “we”, I mean somebody else. I’ve been reading on these things for two years and I still can’t explain them.

 

So when the “we” have finished explaining all of this, does it solve our problem? I’ll leave that for you to discern.

 

But I will say this. Each road taken to answer this trilemma seems to always dead end with more questions. And eventually, like-mindedness between scholars evaporates, as we travel further into the weeds. Ultimately…the mystery card comes out.

 

So where does this leave us?

 

Personally, I think the doctrine of the Trinity is in crisis. I lay the blame at the feet of Trinitarian scholars.

 

The disconnect between a plain reading of the Bible, and the language and concepts employed by Trinitarian scholarship is massive. As lay folk, like me, are compelled to dive deeper and deeper into a Biblical search for the presence and coherent formulation of the Trinity, the disconnect becomes more and more obvious. Trinitarian language is not Biblical language.

 

Only the Trinitarian scholar has the chops to find a better way – to find better and more compelling language – to bridge the divide. But too many spend their energy on defending the continued use of this disconnected language. Too many opt for Latin over lucidity. Too many pride themselves on loyalty to Patristics over pastoring the flock.

 

No doubt, they think this is a false dilemma. They would see their loyalty as a form of pastoring the flock. But this misses the point.

 

Language and concepts like “communicatio idiomatum” are not inspired. They are not, in any Biblical sense, sanctifying. The truth they contain manifests not within a Biblical context, but within a specific historical setting.

 

It might help to illustrate my point. I’m not denying the engine. I’m pointing out that language like “carburetor” is becoming obsolete. Fuel injection is not heresy.

 

I’m suggesting it’s time to employ language and concepts that are more effective at communicating and defending the Doctrine of the Trinity at this time in Church history. This is…after all…what the Church Fathers did so well. They spoke into their historical setting with the tools their setting provided. To honor the work of the Church Fathers, is to do precisely what they did.

 

But sadly, in fact, when some new field does come along to try and do this very thing – like analytic theology – it’s ostracized by many of those in the systematics and patristics fields. It’s smugly labeled as being “novel”.

 

Dale Tuggy’s trilemma is the least of the Trinitarian’s concerns. It’s merely the tip of the iceberg.

 

 

 

Romans 9:22-29 – Corporate Purpose of Election

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Introduction:

Paul’s main point thus far in Romans 9 is:

  • God’s purpose of election explains why God’s chosen rejected their Messiah.

 

This means a main objective of Paul…

  • Is to zero in on the Jews who have rejected their Messiah – the vessel for dishonorable use.
  • And to tell us exactly what God’s purpose-of-election-use is for them.

 

So what is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable vessel?

  • Last week we finally answered this question.

 

And Paul’s answer was quite jarring.

  • desiring to show his wrath…
  • “…to make known his power…
  • “…to make known the riches of his glory…”

 

We saw two really important things in his answer.

  • (1) God’s-Action=God-Knowing.
  • (2) And the basics of God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable “the vessels of wrath”.

 

In short –

  • (1) God gives redemptive knowledge of Himself through His action in history.
  • (2) God’s purpose of election is a giving of such knowledge in specific ways, to specific corporate groups of people, for specific reasons.

 

The peoples are the “vessels of wrath”, “vessels of mercy” and Gentiles.

  • The purpose is to “show his wrath”, “…to make known his power…”, “…to make known the riches of his glory…”.

 

Last week we drilled down into the God’s-Action=God-Knowing principal – number 1.

  • Both in the OT generally…
  • And then specifically in the coming destruction of the Temple in 70.

 

Today we dig into the details of God’s purpose of election – number 2.

  • In other words, the specifics of the peoples and the purposes.

 

 

People and Purpose – Show Wrath to the Dishonorable Vessel:

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (verse 22).

 

 

People:

The Jews who rejected the Messiah from their own flesh…

  • Are the Jews God chose to tear off of the lump and make into “vessels of wrath”.

 

We learned way back in Romans 3 how to understand God’s wrath.

  • God’s wrath is best understood as His “judging righteousness.”
  • This is in contrast to God’s “saving righteousness”.

 

This means then, that “vessels of wrath” are:

  • The corporate group of Messiah rejecting Jews…
  • That will come under God’s judging righteousness.

 

This is huge.

  • Paul is now completing his argument.

 

The Jewish rejection of the Messiah was part of God’s purpose of election.

  • It did not catch God by surprise.
  • And it doesn’t compromise the legitimacy of Jesus as Messiah.

 

And about this wrath…

  • We saw last week that this judging righteousness was the destruction of the Temple.
  • And the resulting fragmentation of the Jewish people.

 

The historian Josephus described the events that accompanied the destruction of the Temple.

  • Speaking about the Jewish rebels, “…so they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city”.
  • And about the crucifixions, “…the soldiers out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.”

 

Judaism would never be the same again.

 

Paul wants us to see, however, that God “endured with much patience” Jewish unbelief (vs. 22).

  • The idea here with “endured” is that God literally “put up with” them (BDAG).
  • Meaning that God choose to withhold His wrath (show them mercy) until the time (70 AD) of His choosing.

 

 

Purpose:

And what was the purpose for this judging righteousness upon the Jews who rejected their Messiah?

  • make known His power” (vs. 22)
  • make known His glory” (vs. 23)

 

Make known to whom?

  • the vessels of mercy” (vs. 23)
  • the Gentiles” (vs. 24)

 

Paul already hinted at all of this with his allusion to Malachi’s handling of Jacob and Esau.

  • Malachi 1:3–4 (ESV) — 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’ Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!” – Malachi 1:5.

 

And we he referenced Pharaoh.

  • “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16.

 

So God used His judging action against unbelieving Jews for the benefit of two other peoples.

  • And to them we now turn.

 

 

People and Purpose – Make Known Power and Glory to Remnant Jews and the Gentiles:

…even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (vs. 24)

 

This is a remarkable text.

  • Paul says there are a people on a different purpose-trajectory than that of the Messiah-Rejecting Jews…
  • And these are a people Paul calls “us”.

 

The “us” Paul speaks of are:

  • Messiah believing Jews – “a remnant” (vs. 27).
  • And “Gentiles” (vs. 24).

 

It is these – the remnant and the believing Gentiles –

  • Who are the beneficiaries of the God’s purpose-of-election-use of the unbelieving Jews.
  • It is they who know God’s power and glory as a result of this use.

 

Paul cites a number of OT texts to make this point.

  • We will deal with those shortly.

 

 

The Us:

Before we do, we need to emphasize something that will help us solve a puzzle later.

  • When Paul says, “even us whom he has called”…
  • He is being controversial!

 

Paul is not making a distinction between believing Jews and Gentiles.

  • Paul is not making a distinction between the Church and believing Israel.

 

He is doing the opposite.

  • Paul is deliberately redefining believing Israel!
  • And its definition has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion.

 

Believing Israel is now anyone – Jew or Gentile who submits to Jesus the Messiah.

  • Specifically, in context of Romans 9…
  • Believing Israel is anyone who is called by God through His purpose-of-election-use of the non-believing Jews.

 

Here is why this is so controversial.

  • Paul has added the Gentiles to the lump of clay that is Israel.

 

And even more controversial:

  • Paul says they are part of the lump of clay that God worked into “vessels of mercy” – not “vessels of wrath”.

 

Perriman and Bird help punctuate this point:

  • “God choosesnow to destroy and disgrace the larger part of the lump of the descendants of Abraham and to preserve and glorify a smaller part, to which Gentiles have been addedin order that his name and power might be made known to the nations” – Andrew Perriman.
  • “God is not replacing Israel with the church. Instead, God is preserving a remnant within Israel and then expanding it to include Gentiles as well” – Michael Bird.

 

Knowing this hugely important fact…

  • We can continue.

 

 

OT Allusions – Believing Gentiles:

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”

 

Here Paul seeks to reinforce his point about Gentile inclusion in God’s purpose of election.

  • Believing Gentiles are to be God’s people – “sons of the living God” (vs. 26).
  • And this was something God had always planned.

 

We need to see how Paul uses Hosea to reinforce this point.

  • Hosea is speaking of a time when God will bring remedy to a rebellious Israel (as opposed to Judah).
  • An Israel that God says is “not my people”.

 

The remedy (Hosea 2) comes from the “God’s-Action=God-Knowing” principal we hit on last week.

  • I will remove…
  • I will make…
  • I will abolish…
  • I will betroth…

 

The result of these actions:

  • And you shall know the Lord

 

Specifically, the results of these actions as cited by Paul are:

  • They were “not my people” and are now called “my people”.
  • They were “not beloved” and are now called “beloved”.
  • And, from Hosea 1:9, they are now “called ‘sons of the living God.’

 

So Paul’s point is that Gentiles, like Israel in Hosea, had a certain status.

  • They were “not my people”.

 

And by God’s action through the Messiah-Rejecting Jews, the believing Gentiles are now…

  • my people”.
  • beloved”.
  • called ‘sons of the living God.’

 

The oddity with this allusion to Hosea is this:

  • Hosea’s text has nothing to do with Gentiles.

 

So how does Paul’s interpretation here actually work?

  • It appears the solution must have something to do with the “us” we just discussed.

 

In other words, the “us” is so fundamental to God’s “purpose of election”…

  • Paul recognizes its existence within God’s purposes even though not explicitly stated in Hosea.

 

Also, Paul knows his OT – where there are many OT texts that do speak to this:

  • Genesis 12:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • Isaiah 2:2–3 (ESV) — 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

 

Not to mention Paul knows this first hand!

 

Paul’s own ministry was part of God’s purpose of election for the Gentiles.

  • Acts 13:46–47 (ESV) — 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you [Jews]. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”

 

So given what Paul has been teaching in Romans 9…

  • And the OT teaching on God’s desire to include the nations…
  • Paul seems to be, under inspiration, showing us just how deep the “us” thread runs.

 

OT Allusions – Believing Jews:

Then after alluding to the OT to emphasize how the believing Gentiles were part of God’s purpose of election.

  • He does the same for the believing Jews – the remnant.

 

He does this by quoting Isaiah 10:22-23 and Isaiah 1:9.

  • “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.

 

These allusions are straightforward.

  • God always purposed to pull off from the lump that is Israel a believing remnant.
  • A remnant that would be known by its belief in God’s Messiah.
  • This remnant is the “vessel of mercy”.

 

Paul, through Isaiah, refers to them as:

  • a remnant” who “will be saved
  • And an “offspring” that would not have existed if God had not purposed it.
  • Paul is such a “remnant” and “offspring”.

 

The remnant, like the believing Gentiles…

  • Were always part of God’s purpose of election.

 

So there was never a time when the entirety of Israel was in jeopardy.

  • God’s purpose of election took care of that.

 

 

Conclusion:

So with this we have concluded Paul’s main thought in Romans 9.

  • We now understand how the Jews who rejected the Messiah were part of God’s purpose of election.
  • We now understand what this purpose of election was.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Include believing Gentiles with believing Jews.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Preserve a remnant of believing Jews to which the believing Gentiles would be joined.
  • And mold them into “vessels of mercy”.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Use his judging righteousness against the unbelieving Jews to facilitate Gentile inclusion.

 

Romans 9:21-24 – God’s Action Equals Our Knowing

Introduction:

Last week we unpacked verses 19-21.

  • In these verses, Paul was answering the charge that God’s “purpose of election” was unfair.
  • If God is doing all the choosing, how is anybody responsible?

 

Paul gave a two-pronged answer to this charge.

  • (1) The Jobian Beatdown.
  • (2) An Answer to a Better Question.

 

See last week for the details of the above.

  • For now, we need to know that an important element of Paul’s answer was this:
  • The lumps aren’t individuals – they are corporate Israel.

 

With that in mind, we need to dive deeper into verse 19.

 

 

Honorable and Dishonorable Use:

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

 

As with Paul’s previous arguments in Romans 9…

  • Here too, he alludes to the OT.

 

One allusion is to the prophet Jeremiah.

  • Jeremiah 18:3–6 (ESV) — 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

 

God has always reserved the right to mold Israel, as He sees fit.

  • And Paul is telling us that this is happening right now – as he writes.

 

In fact, Paul makes a shocking claim.

  • One lump would be for honorable use.
  • One lump would be for dishonorable use.

 

Michael Bird says this of Paul’s claim:

“God has decided to create from one ‘lump of clay,’ that is, from ‘Israel,’ one group for special purposes like a wine decanter (i.e., a remnant of Christ-believing Jews) and another group selected for lesser ends like a chamber pot (i.e., the remainder of ethnic Jews). The choice is rooted in divine purposes and in the freedom of the divine prerogative” – Michael Bird.

 

So what exactly are these two uses, honorable use and dishonorable use?

  • How do they relate to or reveal God’s “purpose of election”?

 

We noted last week that answering these questions…

  • Would finally lead us to Paul’s explanation of how to understand God’s “purpose of election”.
  • Which would, in turn, explain why God’s chosen people rejected the Messiah.

 

Michael Bird already provided some clues for their meaning.

  • A special use, “like a wine decanter”
  • An ordinary use, “like a chamber pot”.

 

His phrases capture how the Israelites may have taken Paul’s words.

  • They convey how scandalous and shocking Paul’s words are.
  • A lump of Israel would be molded into something akin to a chamber pot!
  • But they don’t really tell us what Paul means.

 

Greek Lexicons will help steer us toward the answer.

  • The BDAG says these words concern, “the use to which [the lumps] are put”.
  • Similarly, the TDNT says they concern, “the use for which [the lumps] are destined”.

 

So from this we can see where Paul is headed.

  • Each lump has always been destined for a specific use in God’s “purpose of election”.
  • Something Jeremiah tells us has always been God’s prerogative.

 

So the meaning of what Paul means by “honorable” and “dishonorable”…

  • Is tied directly to the specific use of each lump.

 

 

Purpose-of-Election-Use:

So what is the destined use of the Israelite lumps for God’s purpose of election?

 

Paul’s introduction to the answer is found in verses 22-24.

  • Before we unpack it, we need to remind ourselves of Paul’s main point thus far in Romans 9.

 

Paul’s main point thus far is:

  • God’s purpose of election explains why God’s chosen rejected their Messiah.

 

With this in mind, we need to be aware that:

  • Paul’s aim is to zero in on the Jews who have rejected their Messiah.
  • The lump made for dishonorable use.
  • And to tell us exactly what God’s purpose-of-election-use is for this dishonorable lump.

 

So what is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump?

  • What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

 

His answer is pretty jarring.

  • desiring to show his wrath…
  • “…to make known his power…
  • “…to make known the riches of his glory…”

 

There are two really important things going on here.

  • (1) An incredibly important principal on how knowledge of God is obtained – God’s-Action=God-Knowing.
  • (2) The details of the purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump – “the vessels of wrath”.

 

For the remainder of this lesson…

  • We will contend with the first.
  • Next week, we will contend with the second.

 

But, we do need to appreciate that Paul has finally given us the answer to our question.

  • What is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump?

 

His answer is that this lump – the lump that has rejected their Messiah…

  • Has done so in order that God’s power and glory are made known via their judgment.
  • Again, we will unpack this next week.

 

For now, lets wrestle with the important principal on how knowledge of God is obtained.

 

 

God’s-Action = God-Knowing:

So why does what Paul just told us make any sense at all?

  • How is it that His wrath upon “vessels of wrath” leads to knowledge of Him, His power, and His glory?

 

We need to be aware that, as usual, this is nothing new.

  • Israel’s knowledge of God has always been experiential, not just propositional.

 

And interestingly:

  • In the OT we find actions that were beneficial and detrimental to Israel.
  • Both of which served to make Him known.

 

Let’s look at some beneficial actions of God that made Him known:

  • Exodus 6:7 (ESV) — 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
  • Joshua 3:10 (ESV) — 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
  • 1 Kings 20:13 (ESV) — 13 And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Isaiah 49:26 (ESV) — 26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

 

Let’s look at some detrimental actions of God that made Him known:

  • Exodus 7:5 (ESV) — 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”
  • Exodus 14:18 (ESV) — 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
  • Ezekiel 6:14 (ESV) — 14 And I will stretch out my hand against them and make the land desolate and waste, in all their dwelling places, from the wilderness to Riblah. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 7:4 (ESV) — 4 And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
  • Ezekiel 15:7 (ESV) — 7 And I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them.

 

So God’s merciful action toward Israel made God known.

  • And God’s judgment upon the wicked of Israel made God known.

 

How so?

 

It appears that in the ancient Near East a particular mindset was in operation.

  • The history and destiny of peoples and nations was in control of the gods.
  • This was obviously true of Israel as well – they were Yahweh’s inheritance, His people.

 

This dynamic meant that when Yahweh exercised control over the fate of other nations – in real time history…

  • He demonstrated His unique and superior “Godness” for all to see – Israel and the Nations.

 

Likewise, when Yahweh judged his own people for their wickedness…

  • He demonstrated his holiness and justice for all to see – Israel and the Nations.
  • He was not a capricious god like the gods of the nations who could be bribed.

 

To put another way:

  • Yahweh’s actions within the history of Israel and the Nations brought order to chaos.
  • The wicked oppression of Israel by Egypt was chaos.
  • The sin of His very own inheritance, Israel, was chaos.

 

Both, God’s historical actions of deliverance, and judgment were restoring order.

  • So, His universal actions on all these fronts demonstrated to all that He was God over all.

 

Now we can come back to Paul in Romans 9.

  • The same God’s-Action=God-Knowing principal applies.

 

Andrew Perriman gets at the details for us.

“There is a crucial premise to grasp here, which is that Paul believed that the God of Israel was about to reveal himself to the Greek-Roman world, about to demonstrate his power, concretely, historically, and imminently, through the judgment and restoration of his people. To this end, he has chosento destroy the ‘vessels of wrath’, with which his patience has run out, and to glorify the ‘vessels of mercy’”.

 

In other words, what we need to get here is that Paul isn’t talking theology.

  • Paul is talking history – imminent history.
  • God is about to act through the dishonorable lump, at their expense, and make Himself known.
  • Just as He had done in the past.

 

What action was God about to bring upon the dishonorable lump of Israel to make Himself known?

  • Mark 13:1–2 (ESV) — 1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

 

And this action in history by God is evident today!

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