Saturday, September 9, 2017

P2 God's Unchanging Promises And Unthwartable Purposes - Romans 11

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Romans 11:1a "I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!"

Have you ever been frustrated? I have. I remember when I was growing up of having the desire to play on the high school basketball team. The first summer I had signed up for try-outs, I had high expectations. I took to heart everything the coach told us to do. I practiced every drill and even slept with the basketball! When the school year started, I was ready. It didn't take along though for me to figure out my key position on the team - bench warmer! As game after game came and went, my initial expectation turned into frustration. I knew that the reality of the situation versus my expectations were far from looking like one another. In other words, my plans and purposes were thwarted. 

Unlike many of our plans and purposes, God's purposes cannot be thwarted. Job 42:2 states about God and His purposes: “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." The prophet Jeremiah expresses this same idea in Jeremiah 32:17 "Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You." Jesus too affirms how God's purposes are unthwartable in Mark 10:27 "Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

When it comes to assessing God's character and commitment in keeping His promises, we only need to look at the nation of Israel and of course the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul's logic in Romans 11 is that since God has committed Himself to saving the nation of Israel, then the believer in Jesus Christ can rest assured that God will keep His promises to them. 

In yesterday's post, we began considering God's unchanging promises. Today we will consider a second major component of Paul's argument in Romans 11:1-15, namely God's unthwartable purposes. We will show that those who trust in Jesus can rely upon God to complete what He began, since He has pledged Himself to His chosen people – the nation of Israel. Like God’s unchanging promises, His unthwartable purposes are cause for confidence in Him. Whether talking about the past, present or future – we can trust God to come through every time.

God’s Unthwartable Purposes. Romans 11:11-15

As Paul continues to write about the prospect of God restoring Israel, the question is: has God abandoned her? The answer to this question has already been dealt with in the last post: may it never be! But now Paul deals with a second sort of concern: is there any chance that Israel will be saved and restored? The answer to this question is undoubtedly yes. Note Romans 11:11-12  "I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!" Paul is laying out two unthwartable purposes in these verses, both of which demonstrate that God's purposes cannot be frustrated. Let's note the first one...

a). Bring salvation to the Gentiles.     11:11-13,25

Romans 11:25 plainly states - "For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in."  God is the great Missionary. Throughout the Old Testament we see glimpses and hints of God's redemptive purposes reaching beyond the borders of Israel. Important non-Jewish people like Ruth in the book of Ruth, Job (an Edomite by lineage) and Agur in Proverbs 30 demonstrate God's redemptive purposes including all kinds of people from every nation. 

By the days of Jesus, the glimpses of Divine desire for Gentile salvation turned into full-fledged reality. In Jesus' ministry, people that flocked to hear Him were coming not only from the Jews, but the Gentiles. As one follows the thirty year history recorded of the early church in the Book of Acts, Christianity became more and more composed of Gentiles. 

Sometimes when I think of God's desire to save people from every nation, I like to consider what I call the "four 11's" in the Bible. Genesis 11 records the lineage of Abraham from Noah's son Shem following the scattering of the nations from the Tower of Babel. Genesis 11 follows Genesis 10, which records God's setting up of the so-called "Table of Nations". Clearly God's desire to save the Gentiles began before the call of Abraham. The second "11" that details God's program for Gentile salvation is Daniel 11. This highly detailed prophecy deals with how God is going to ultimately bring an end to the sin and wickedness perpetuating on planet earth. God's purposes for the nations not only entail calling forth sinners to saving faith but also exercising judgment upon those who refused His well-meant offer of salvation. The third "11" is found in John 11:51-52, where the High Priest Caiaphas unwittingly prophesies of Jesus' pending death as being on behalf of not only the Jews, but also the Gentiles. Then of course we come to Romans 11, the fourth "11", which outlines God's express desire to save the Gentiles. 

Perhaps some readers of today's post have unsaved loved ones and friends. You have been praying for their salvation - and yet, nothing has seemingly changed. Don't give up! God's purposes cannot be thwarted. This grand picture of His program to save all sorts of people from every nation applies on the individual level. To those whose hearts are open to truth and who are called by the Holy Spirit to respond to the Gospel - such persons will be saved (see John 16:8-12; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:8-10). As Jesus notes in Matthew 19:26 "And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 

b). Bring salvation to the Jews.     11:14-15,26-27,29

As Paul lays out this grand plan of God to save sinners from the Gentile nations and the Jews, He shows how God has arranged each group into an intriguing relationship. We know on the one hand that the salvation revealed by God was first give by God to the Jewish nation (see John 4:22; Romans 9:1-5). And yet on the other hand, God is using the influx of Gentile converts to stir up envy in the hearts of the Jewish people He desires to see saved. This remarkable point is spelled out plainly in Romans 11:11  "I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous." 

The ultimate outcome? Note Romans 11:25-27 

"For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” 

So in the end, God's will and purposes to save His people (as a nation, not necessarily every single Jewish person, but nevertheless a high proportion - Revelation 7:4-8; 14:1-5) will be realized. God's purposes are unthwartable. As we close out, I love what we read in Romans 11:29 "for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."

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