Jesus is Lord - Romans 9:30 - 10:21

This is a sermon by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 8th February 2009.

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Sometimes gifted and godly people say and do the most shockingly sinful things.  We’re back in our series in Romans this morning, and as many of us know, Martin Luther’s preface to his commentary on Romans is one of the most important and helpful bits of Biblical commentary ever written.  Luther was one of the 16C’s key reformers who brought the church back to the Bible form some of the idolatry we were looking at last week.   

But Luther also had a massive theological and pastoral weakness.  For those of us who regard Luther as a hero, it was perhaps a major blindspot; a sin that he was unaware of like we all have weaknesses and blind spots.  But for those on the receiving end his injustices, Luther was a complete hypocrite;  a sham;  someone who preached the love of God and yet advocated that Christians should set fire to synagogues and Jewish houses.  A man who advised that Jewish houses be razed and destroyed;  that Jews should be ejected from Germany.  ‘Be on your guard against the Jews and avoid them as far as possible’ he wrote in 1543. 

Shocking words aren’t they.  And it’s no exaggeration to say that seeds of such blatant anti-Semitism prepared the ground for the majority of the German people and even the majority of the German church to acquiesce in Nazi atrocities 400 years later.  Yes only a small proportion of the country actually took part in those atrocities, but as the philosopher Edmund Burke famously said, ‘all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”.

And yet it’s not just the Germans over the last 4/500 years.  Conflict between Jews and Gentiles goes right back to the early church and was a massive issue in Rome.  In AD49 remember, the Emperor Claudius had chucked all the Jews out of Rome because of the arguments that’d gone on between the Jews who’d accepted Jesus and those who hadn’t.  The exile of all Jews from Rome had lasted 5 years.  But even after Jewish Christians were allowed back to Rome, there were continuing splits and division between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians.  Despite all the apostles being Jewish as well as a majority of the early church, overall, the church in Rome was predominantly Gentile.  And as is often the case, the ongoing sinful nature means that the relative balance of power that went with numerical strength bred arrogance.  A sort of spiritual snobbishness against the Jews.  And it’s that arrogance and sense of spiritual superiority by the gentiles that Paul addresses head on chapter 11, which we’ll get to next week.   But in chapter 10 Paul’s taking on the Jews and their arguments against him and the Gospel he’s outlined in chapter s 1-8.    The Jews were basically saying:  Look Paul, you’re being anti-Semitic;  you’re a Jew who’s given up on your Jewish roots;  and with this gospel you’re preaching, you’re undermining the OT;  you’ve binned great big sections of the OT and in the process questioned the very character of our covenant God;  your preaching is basically a completely new religion;  a cult.  Nothing to do with the OT.  And so you’re opposed to the OT, opposed to the Jews as God's people;  in short, Paul you’re anti-Semitic.    Go away and leave us alone.

And Paul’s main point in chapter 10 is to say no I’m not.  I’m not anti-Semitic, I love the Jews so much that I long for them to become Christian, real Christians;  true children of God;  true Jews in fact.  If you’re not already there turn to chapter 10:1 on p [1055/ 1760]. 

“Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”

There aren't 2 ways to God, a Christian way through Jesus and another way through an ongoing Judaism.  If Jews reject Jesus, then they aren’t saved;  their sins aren’t forgiven and so they’re heading for a lost eternity in hell as a just punishment for their sins.  And so it cuts me up to think that the majority of my brothers, the majority of Jews have rejected Jesus, says the Jewish Apostle Paul.  Or as he put it back in 9:3, he would be give up his own place in heaven if it had meant that more of his fellow Jews could be saved.  Paul isn’t anti-Semitic, he loves them so much he wants them to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. 

I’m not anti-Semitic says Paul.  And I haven’t undermined the OT.    The OT itself pointed forward to the Messiah;  to the New Covenant;  to Jesus the suffering servant.  As he puts it in 10:4:  4Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

J meant the same thing when he said:  “I haven’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfil it.”  And as Paul had put in back in Rom 3:31:  “Do we then nullify the Law by this faith?  Not at all, rather we uphold the law”.   So coming back to 10:4, it’s like in race in the Olympics:  the finishing line is the end of the race;  it’s the goal of the race;  it’s the fulfilment of everything the race it all about.    Yes of course with the coming of Jesus and the fulfilment he brought, certain aspect of the OT needed to change;  Jesus himself said the food laws were no longer relevant under the new covenant.  And as the book of Hebrews reminds us, as members of the NC, that we longer need a temple and the OT sacrificial system, because Jesus has done it;  Jesus is the one perfect sacrifice for sin that the whole OT sacrificial system pointed forward to.    It’s like when a film’s released, you no loner need to watch the trailer, because the real McCoy has arrived.  Or like when a building’s been finished, you take down the scaffolding and the portaloos and everything else that was needed during the constriction stage.  SO yes, some of the OT laws have been superseded, or made obsolete if you like;  in that sense Jesus is the end of those temporary OT laws.  But the main point of Paul’s argument is that Jesus has fulfilled the OT;  Jesus is the finale the OT was waiting for;  the goal of the OT.  Without Jesus, the OT is an unfinished book waiting for an ending, which is why to this day, the non-Christian Jews are still waiting for their Messing to come.  They've rejected Jesus the Messiah, and so they’re still waiting for the real one to turn up.    And so it all comes back to J:  is he real or was he a fake? 

And so with that big picture in mind, let’s get into the detail of the text. 

1.  Whatever your background, Jesus us Lord (9:30- 10:4)

So first of all in 9:30 – 10:4, we see that whatever your background, Jesus is Lord;  whatever your background, Jesus is Lord. 

V30 is flowing on from the argument we looked at in the rest of chapter 9 where the issue was:  if the Gospel is rooted in the OT, then why did the majority of Jews reject it when the pagans didn’t?    Or as he puts in v30:

Why have the Gentiles, who weren’t pursuing godly lifestyles, obtained righteousness, righteousness by faith;

And of course these word, righteousness and by faith are technical terms that should remind us of the opening chapters of Romans, and especially those bits we had in our first reading.  And so it means the gentiles who’ve become Christians, who been saved from God' s just wrath in hell, have done so because they obtained a righteous from God;  they’ve obtained J's  perfect righteousness that is, by becoming united to him by faith;  a faith that’s based in the Identity of Jesus and what he achieved for His people on the cross.  And we saw in chapter 4, that this righteous, this justification that comes by faith is exactly the same as the justification that God provided under the Old Cov.  Christians are justified in the same way that Abraham was justified by faith when he trusted in God’s word.  A word that has now been fulfilled in Jesus.  And so a true child of Abraham, a true child of God, a true Jew even, is someone who is justified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.    It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Jew or Gentile;  whatever your background, Jesus is the Lord;  Jesus is the Messiah and it's only through faith in Jesus, they you can be justified or saved. 

And so why had the majority of Jews missed out on this righteousness then?  Well look at v32: 
Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.

They’d distorted the OT and especially the central covenant with God;  the 10 commandments:  how do the 10 commandments begin?  I am the lord your God who brought you out of Egypt;  out of the land of slavery;  ‘I am the God who has saved you’ in other words. And now as my chosen and saved people, here’s how I want you to live in order to please and glorify me.

But what had the majority of Jews turned the OT into by the time of J?  Well it’s what religious people have always done:  they’d turned God’s covenant into a list of rules to be obeyed in order to get right with God.    And because, of course, God’s rules demand an impossible level of perfection, the rules were adapted so religious people can go through a tick list and say:  yep done all of that: given 10% of my spices away this month.  Forget the fact that I’ve ripped off my next door neighbour.    As Jesus put it in Mk 7:  :  “you have a fine way setting aside the commands of God in order to observe our own tradition’.  

 It was going on amongst the religious elite of J's day;  it was going on amongst pious Jews in Paul’s day;  and it's been going on every since.  People who think they can been good enough for God by obeying a few rules;  of course, no one would be crass enough to claim they were perfect, so we generally make up an arbitrary pass mark;  maybe it’s 80%;  so if you’re 80% good, then you’ll be acceptable to God and make it to heaven.  So Hitler, and maybe Martin Luther, are out, but most of us will make it because we’re generally decent people are we?

And the answer’s no we’re not.  The majority of Jews in J’s day and many people who would claim to be Christians today end up stumbling over the stumbling stone of v33;  they end up stumbling over Jesus himself.  Because J’s whole message was that we’re all dirty rotten scoundrels, every single one of us.  None of us is good enough for God, because God demands perfection.  And there is no difference between Jew and Gentile;  between those born in Christian households and those not;  between those baptised and those not;  between the respectable and the chavs.  We are all infected with original sin;  we’re all affected by what theologians call total depravity.    And that’s always been offensive to respectable people. 

Back in the 18C, the Duchess of Buckingham was invited to an evangelistic address by George Whitfield.  Her reason for declining the invitation to hear Whitfield was this:

“Their doctrines as most repulsive and strongly tinkered with impertinence and disrespect before their superiors, in perpetually endeavouring to level all ranks and do away with all distinction.  It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth.  This is highly offensive”.

Like the Jews of Paul’s day and the Pharisee of J’s day, the Duchess had stumbled on the Jesus the stumbling stone.  A rock of offence.  A bitter pill to swallow.  Because to come to Jesus as Lord and saviour, you need to admit your sin and come face to face with the shame of your wretchedness.  But as the end of v33 puts it :  the one who does so will never be put to shame again.  Because after confession of sin in J’s name, comes the grace of sins forgiven;  of sins wiped clean away.  Justification by grace alone, though faith alone in Christ alone. 

And so the key question for each of us to answer is this:  whatever your background, is Jesus your Lord and saviour, or is he your stumbling stone;  is the Gospel the fragrance of life to your previously wretched soul; or is the Gospel of free forgiveness in J’s name the stench of death in your nostrils;  a  monstrously offensive suggestion that causes you to stumble.  It’s not simply a matter of personal preference.  Because whatever your background, Jesus is Lord.  And he commands everyone everywhere to bow the knee before him and repent of their sins.  

2.      The Gospel is Simple (10:5-13)

And that brings us onto the second main heading in v5-13:  the Gospel is simple;  the Gospel is simple.    Once again Paul is using a string of OT quotes not just to argue his specific point but also highlight that his whole argument is rooted in the OT.  And the irony of v5-8 is that commentators have often tied themselves in knots of complicated explanations.  It’s ironic because the whole thrust of these verses is that the Gospel is simple.  So what’s this simple Gospel.  Well look at v9:

9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The Gospel is for everyone;  for all types of people that is;  Jew and gentiles;  men and women, rich and poor; chavs and toffs.    There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by CJ;  for those that call on the name of the Lord that is.  For everyone v13 tell us,  everyone that calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 

Which leads naturally onto v14: 

14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"[t]

The Bible leaves no room for the idea that just because God has predestined or chosen His people, we can sit back and leave it all to God.  No He’s commanded us to get on with evangelism.  And evangelism involves people being commission and sent to preach the Gospel to those who haven’t heard about J;  and to preach the Gospel in way that can be understood by the hearers.   Evangelism is like prayer:  God is sovereign, but He’s chosen to work through the prayers of His people.  And it’s the same with evangelism:  God is sovereign over the results, but He’s chosen to work through the evangelism of His people; through our proclamation of the Gospel to those out there. 

And so even if the word evangelism scares us to death, it must be high on our agenda as a church.  We must never be content with good fellowship amongst ourselves and simply building each other up with good Bible teaching, good as those things are.  No, we must be thinking and praying creatively about how we can reach out into the mission field that God has put us in the middle of.  And for us as a church that means the 3 estates we call Riverside.  So that’s why we have Jesus Club, ABC and various other events here at Riverside church.  And that why we’re going to have another major evangelistic push in the run up to Mother’s Day over the next 6 weeks.  We’re going to be distributing publicity and beginning some new door-to-door work;  and so if you want to be involved in either of those activities, then pl let me or Paul or Matt know.   

There are [500/ 5000] people living [in the village/ on these estates] but on a good Sunday just [30/ 50] here in church.  Even if some of the others are going to other churches, that’s still a lot of people ignorant about Jesus and currently heading for a lost eternity without Jesus. 

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

The Gospel is simple then.  Simple to understand that is.  But not always simple to get on with proclaiming.  And so we need to pray for wisdom and endurance to get on with the job of evangelism, and constantly review whether we’re getting it right.  The Gospel is simple and unchanging, but our methods and means might need to adapt. 

So if you consider yourselves a true child of God, let me ask you:  are you committed to evangelism;  you might not have the gifts to do the upfront stuff;  your gifts might be elsewhere;  or you might need some training to develop your gifts.  But if you consider yourselves a member here at Riv are you committed not just in terms of your financial giving, but also in terms buying into the church’s vision for evangelism.  It’s a question for all of us isn’t it.  The Gospel is simple then.   

3.      So why didn’t the Jews accept the Gospel (v16-21)

But in v16-21, Paul returns to the Jewish question.  If the Gospel’s so simple, why didn’t the Jews respond to it?    Look at v16 to see how he puts it:

16But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" 

So why didn’t the Jews accept the Gospel?  Well in v18-21, Paul covers 2 possibilities.    In v18 he asks:  haven’t they heard the Gospel message?    And in v19, he asks:  didn’t they understand it?    And in both cases the answer is:  of course they did.    The whole OT pointed forward to the coming Messiah.  The coming Messiah would be the pinnacle of God’s revelation to His people.  And then Jesus turns up and says:  the waiting’s over:  here I am;  I’m the long-promised Messiah.   And everyone in Jerusalem had an opinion at the time about whether Jesus was the real McCoy or not. 

And so 30 years later by the time Paul was writing this letter, there wasn’t a Jew on the planet who hadn’t heard about Jesus.  Who hadn’t heard about his amazing claims to be the Messiah.    The only issue was what they’d made of Jesus.  Whether or not they’d accepted God’s Word and bowed the knee to Jesus.  And sadly Paul says in v21, they hadn’t;  or at least most of the Jews hadn’t;  they’d wilfully rejected their own Messiah;  just as the majority of God’s professing people had done all through the OT, they’d been obstinate and disobedient.   And so they weren’t saved.  A fact that deeply pained Paul. 

And this should be both a warning and an encouragement to us.   It’s a warning because even if we have all the trapping of church membership, even if we've been baptised, confirmed, on all the rotas going and are giving generously to the church, if we’ve stumbled on the stumbling stone, if we’ve not accepted Jesus on His terms, then we’re no different to these C1 Jews; claiming to be God’s people that is, while rejecting his salvation.   And if that’s you, then you need to do something about it.  You need to submit to Jesus properly before it’s too late.

But there’s also an encouragement for us as individuals and as a church as we engage in evangelism.    C1 Jews had all heard and understood the Gospel.  Just like that 18C Duchess of Buckingham; it’s not that she hadn’t heard or understood.  No, it’s just that she didn’t like what she heard.  she’d rejected the offer of salvation. Why is it that despite all our advertising, door-to-door and other hard work, we mange to get only a [couple of/ few] dozen people in church and yet a single poster will draw hundreds to a car boot sale at the same time up the road? 

Yes we need to consider and review whether we’re evangelising in the most effective way for those we’re trying to reach. But even if we are explaining things clearly and people are hearing and understanding the message, it might be that their hearts are hard and they’ll still reject the Gospel.  It will pain us to see such a rejection, just like it pained Paul to see his fellow countrymen and women say no to Jesus.  But it’s a comfort to remember that ultimately the Lord is sovereign even over evangelism..  And so and so our main priority must be prayer;  we must be on our knees pleading with the Lord to soften the hearts of our friends and neighbours that they might be responsive to the simple Gospel message.  Whatever your background then, Jesus is Lord.  The Gospel is simply;  but many who hear and understand the simply gospel still reject it because their hearts are hard.  So let’s pray both for ourselves and our hearers for soft hearts that respond properly to the Lord of all creation.  Let’s pray. 

Closing Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you thank you’re not some pathetic local deity, but the Lord of all creation and the Lord of all types of people.  Thank you for sending Jesus to explain and provide the Gospel for us, a very simple Gospel.  We pray that each and every person here this morning, would not just have heard and understood the Gospel, but have been moved to respond in repentance and faith; true faith that is in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And we pray for wisdom as we continue to reach out to our community in evangelism, wisdom for us to present the Gospel clearly;  but we also ask for your Spirit to be softening people’s hearts to response properly to the most important message they’ll ever hear.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.

forgive us when we question your character and doubt your Word.  Help us to delight in your sovereignty, praise your mercy and to obey your command to repent and believe Gospel of sins forgiven in J’s name.  For our eternal good, but your ultimate glory we pray, Amen. 

And in case you’re thinking that this verse contradicts the doctrine of election and predestination Paul based his argument on in chapter 9, he’s already covered that one back in chapter 8.  Flip back to 8:30:

And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Those God predestined back in eternity, he calls at a point in time.  And those who are called respond to that call and are saved through their trust in the simple Gospel of grace.  Or more simply, those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified.  And the central point of his argument in chapter 9 was to uphold the promise at the end of those verse:  those he justified, he also gloried;  those who are genuine children of God, in other words, he will keep until the end,;  their glorification in the New Creation is so guaranteed that he can speak of it already in the past tense.    But although God’s promises can be trusted and His election is Just as Paul was arguing in chapter 9, he also argued that at the same time as human beings and not robots, we are still all accountable for the decision and choices we make.  The Bible teaches both these truth at the same time:  God’s complete sovereignty, including over salvation, and human responsibility, including our response to the Gospel.   

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