Romans 9 Chapel Message
Here’s a sermon I recently preached at Covenant Classical School in Naperville. The school is going through the book of Romans together and I got to preach on chapter 9! The chapel was made up of students kindergarten through high school.
Romans 9 Covenant Classical School Chapel Message
Students, teachers, administration, parents, it is a pleasure to be back at Covenant Classical School. I’m thankful for the privilege of teaching from Romans this morning, and hope that it is helpful for you and that Christ is exalted and honored.
Romans is a wonderful book to study. In it we find a lengthy and full explanation of the gospel— the good news of God saving a people in Christ for His glory. The Bible teaches that God created and loves us, but that we have turned our backs on Him because of sin. The good news is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come to rescue us, deal with our sin, and reconcile us to God. He did this through dying on the cross in our place and rising again. Through repentance of sin and faith in Christ we might be saved from the wrath of God and guilt of sin. Jesus did this not because of anything we have done, but out of sheer grace and love toward us. This is good news!
Today we look at Romans 9 together. Here Paul works through the fact that although the gospel was promised before to God’s people and has come to fulfillment in Christ, many Jewish individuals still reject Jesus. Paul begins the chapter by sharing his heart; we see in 9:1-5 that Paul was deeply burdened to see Jews come to saving faith. In 9:2 Paul speaks of a “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” for Jews who don’t follow Christ. This shows us that Paul had a heart for the lost—an example we would do well to imitate. For this is God’s heart: Ezekiel 33:11 “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked”. Paul repeats this sentiment in Romans 10:1 when he says: “It is my heart’s desire and prayer to God…that they might be saved.” My friends this is the normal attitude for Christians, as we long to see God glorified and sinners saved from hell; this leads us to pray for our non-Christian friends and share the gospel with them. There really is no such thing as a Christian who doesn’t care about the lost—it would be like a Cubs fan who didn’t care that they just won the World Series, an utter contradiction of terms.
After Paul shares his heart with us, we see him consider this question: Does the fact that there are all these Jewish people who never place their faith in Christ mean God’s Word has failed? Have God’s promises to save his people not come true? And the answer is NO, God’s Word has not failed. Why? Paul begins to tell us in 9:6: “Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel”. What he is saying that not everyone who is culturally or ethnically Jewish is actually part of the true Israel, the nation and people of God. Merely being raised in an Israelite family did not make you spiritually part of the Israelite people. This is much like the fact being raised in a Christian home today does NOT make you a Christian. Neither does going to church. Like C.S. Lewis said, ‘Being in a garage does not make you a car any more than being in a church makes you a Christian.” One has to make an individual decision to turn from sin and place one’s faith in Christ. You are not merely a Christian because you are part of a Christian family—you have to own your own faith.
Paul goes on to tell us that actually God’s purposes still come to pass, even with so many unbelieving Jewish individuals. He argues this point by bringing up the doctrine of ELECTION. Now we recently had a political election in this country where we elected a new president. Paul is talking about something COMPLETELY different. The Bible’s concept of election refers to the notion that before we were made, and without regard to anything we have done or could do, God chooses some to be His chosen people. God “elects” some; these individuals are the “elect.” This is where we get the terms election and elect. Another way to speak of it is predestination, which means God predetermines some to be saved. In 9:11 we see that election is not due to anything we do “either good or bad,” but, “God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls.” In other words, it’s ultimately NOT up to us, but up to God who chooses some to be saved: these who are chosen will ultimately believe and experience salvation. To prove this, Paul gives the example of Jacob, who was chosen by God (10-12); he was not chosen because he was the firstborn—he wasn’t born first—or because he was morally good, but He was chosen because of God’s free decision.
Paul continues the topic of election in 9:14-26. Here he addresses a couple other objections. One such objection is this: Why does God still find fault with some people, if He is the one who chooses whom He will save? The answer Paul gives is that God is free to choose whom He will save, and whom He will harden. God has that freedom and He has that right, and as he chooses some and hardens others it is for the purpose of His glory, that His “Name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (17). Furthermore, it is outrageously preposterous for us to question or criticize the Creator of the Universe. Paul says that for us to question God’s wisdom in election is like a piece of pottery questioning the Potter. Can you image how absurd it would be for a piece of pottery to question the Potter? In reality, God is like a Potter and has the freedom to shape all the pieces however he chooses: some to display his mercy and some to show his power and wrath that those who receive His mercy might see even more clearly how rich His mercy is. We read this in verse 22-23 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-–). Thus, the point is this: God is FREE to choose who He will save, and He will be glorified in the way that He chooses, in the salvation of some and damnation of others. God’s Name and Glory will be proclaimed, that is what is ultimate. And when we read the whole of the Bible that is what we see is the point of all of Creation: God’s glory. God made us and everything to manifest his beauty and glory, and this act of displaying His glory leads to our deepest possible joy along with God’s pleasure.
Now election is seen by some to be a troubling fact. As modern people I think many find this particularly offensive. Yet a big reason I think this is the case is not because we are so modern and intelligent, but actually it is due to an old problem rooted in sin. What we really find is offensive is the fact that God is God and we are not! We want to be God, we want to make the decisions, we want to rule over all. How quick we are to forget that we are only here because God has made us and sustains us and has a purpose for our lives. Our place is in God’s story. God doesn’t find His place in our story, we find our place in in His! And His story is about His glory.
Some here may ask, ‘But what about FREE WILL?’ True, God did make us with a free will, but the problem is that sin has entered in the picture. Now we are not free anymore, in fact if it were left up to us, NONE of us would EVER choose God. Without God acting on our behalf, we would all be lost forever. This is the Bible’s account of reality, and what is so vividly taught in Romans 3. Thankfully this is not the end of the story, God has acted in love to save us, and part of this is through ELECTION. We read this in another one of Paul’s letters, in Ephesians 1:4-5 where it says “In LOVE, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” So when we think of election, we have to see that it flows out of God’s outrageous love. This is line with Romans 5:8, which says, “God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”
The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon says it this way: “I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine”
This is true for you believer. If God had not sovereignly worked in your life, you would NEVER have believed in God. You would never have faith. So the right response is to praise God for His love in your life, for choosing you and saving you. Praise God for how he worked through the preaching of the gospel, as your parents or pastor shared it with you and how He opened your heart to the truth of His grace. Praise God that He took the initiative to reach out in love and rescue you.
Perhaps some of you here may struggle with the doctrine of God choosing some to be saved, that is ok. I know that I did too at first, until I studied the Scriptures. I would encourage you to prayerfully examine the Scriptures, ask your pastor for help, talk to your parents and teachers. It is normal and ok to work through the more challenging portions of Scripture, and this is one of them.
In conclusion, we must say that no one goes to hell who doesn’t deserve to go there. Everyone who rejects God has freely chosen to reject God. And everyone who becomes a Christian and lives for Christ, ultimately has done so only because God has first freely chosen them and then freed them from the power of sin to freely to choose Christ. As one hymn writer says, “Freely chosen in the Son, now I freely choose His ways.”
My friends, Romans 9 confronts us our pride and arrogance, and leads us to see the truth of God’s power and glory and grace. God is God and we are not! God’s glory and God Himself are FAR MORE important than you or our I, and the recognition of this fact is freeing and thrilling. You don’t have to write the story of your life, you find your place in God’s story, a God who graciously chooses to save.
If you are not a Christian today, I would exhort you to cry out to God in prayer this morning, acknowledge to Him that you are a sinner, tell Him that you want to trust in Christ and be made alive in Him, ask to change you this morning. And let the rest of marvel at God’s love, which we see in God’s election.