(Read the series so far.)
Considering the justice of God in Romans 9, Paul corrected the presupposition error that people deserve a relationship with God. He addressed the approach error of placing God across from men in an equal relationship. In Romans 9:22-29, he also corrected the limitation of error of seeing God’s agenda as limited to a single people.
But the apostle didn’t think the issue of watching his people slip into darkness was fully explored. He asked and answered two questions:
Paul asked: “Are we saying that the Jewish people, whom I deeply love, have fallen out of a vibrant relationship with the God of Abraham while those who were reached by missionaries (but weren’t looking for God to meet them) are now the recipients of a great and intimate walk with that same God?” Then Paul followed up with another question: “Why is that the case?”
Don’t relegate this discussion to some cold theology of the past. Paul was losing his nation. Have you felt that about your own nation?
He was sensing a rejection of God’s way by the people and he was broken by it—as we all should be if and when it happens. Look at the question again.
If God is saving people who didn’t ask Him to, while rejecting those who for generations pursued Him, what went wrong?
Paul offered one answer in the Spirit: “People made their own standard of relationship—and didn’t follow God’s standard.”
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at [that] law. 32 Why? Because [they did] not [pursue it] by faith, but as though [it were] by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, “behold, I lay in zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in him will not be disappointed.” (Rom. 9:30)
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for [their] salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom. 10:1)
Here is the truth: God doesn’t want us to earn a relationship with Him—He wants us to accept it as a gift based solely on His unmerited favor. When we pursue a relationship based on religious life, personal morality or merit, we rebel and demean His right to be the sole provider of salvation and eternal relationship. Let’s be clear: Any plan that attempts to rival God’s plan is the device of a rebel.
A man in North Carolina bought a new car with a voice-warning system. At first he was amused to hear the soft female voice gently remind him that his seat belt wasn’t fastened. Edwin affectionately called this voice the “little woman.” He soon discovered his little woman was programmed to warn him about his gasoline. “Your fuel level is low,” she said one time in her sweet voice. Edwin nodded his head and thanked her. He figured he still had enough to go another fifty miles, so he kept on driving.
But a few minutes later, her voice interrupted again with the same warning. And so it went over and over. Although he knew it was the same recording, Edwin thought her voice sounded harsher each time. Finally, he stopped his car and crawled under the dashboard. After a quick search, he found the appropriate wires and gave them a good yank. So much for the little woman!
He was still smiling to himself a few miles later when his car began sputtering and coughing. He ran out of gas! Somewhere inside the dashboard, Edwin was sure he could hear the little woman laughing. People like Edwin learn before long that the little voice inside, although ignored or even disconnected, often tells them exactly what they need to know. (Sermon by Gerald Flury, “Sputtering, Stuttering and Shuddering,” Dailysermonillustationsblog.com).
God isn’t failing our country—we are making choices to rebel because we don’t think beyond what we want. It happened before, and it is heartbreaking to watch—but it isn’t a new phenomenon. We have been here before, and the Gospel survived. The message continued. When God’s people don’t get distracted trying to fix problems they cannot and get back to offering their neighbor the Gospel—the message keeps moving forward.
The Resistance of Men to Follow God Isn’t Evidence of God’s Failure, But His Faithfulness.
Don’t misunderstand. You are still here…and you possess the answer to salvation. It isn’t a government program. It won’t start from the White House or Capitol Hill. It is a message from the lips of a stooped grandma to her nine year old grandchild, delivered while they make cookies together. It is a lesson that will cost you investing in the lives of neighbors and your community. It is a message that transforms others, just as it did you.