Romans Lesson 109 - Now Performing: The Original Gospel Choir
Both Israel and the Church claim to be the chosen people of God, so who is right? The Apostle Paul gives us the incredible answer.
“Now Performing: The Original Gospel Choir”
Has it ever occurred to you that when we sing, we are joining in a practice that has been around since the creation of the world?
Job informs us that when God laid the cornerstone of the universe and the foundations of His creation, the morning stars – the angels sang together! (Job 38:6-7)
This is the original gospel choir – a great choir of millions of angels singing praise to God as they watched him create the universe.
Revelation informs us that when the universe is recreated, with a new heaven and a new earth, there will be a saturation of music and we will join with the hosts of heaven in singing to God.
So all we’re doing here is tuning up! Which means that music on Sunday morning is not a prelude to what really matters in the service – music matters!
Martin Luther, the reformer once said that “sacred music is the handmaiden of theology.” No wonder he wrote hymns for his congregation to sing . . . and we’ve been singing them ever since.
It’s no surprise that one Jesuit priest in the 16th century, complained about the lingering effects of Martin Luther’s ministry – and his complaint was interesting; for he said, “Luther has [stolen away] more people with his hymns than with all his sermons.”
The power of music to soothe and to convict and to challenge and encourage the believer is impossible to estimate fully.
Even in the secular world, the power of music is undeniable. Have you notice that they never produce just a movie – they produce a movie theme – an orchestration that moves you . . .
One medical doctor recently said, “Half an hour of music produced in many patients the same effect as ten milligrams of Valium.”
You see that effect in I Samuel 16:23 when David would bring his harp and play it before King Saul and Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.
Are you troubled? Are you anxious? Are you distracted? Are you tempted? What kind of music are you listening to on the way to work – around the apartment – on the way home from work?
Who are your musical counselors?
Someone once said that Country and Western music was inherently depressing. He joked that if you played it backward, you’ll get your girl-friend back, your pick-up truck and your dog back . . . so play it backward.
Who have you given permission to, to move your soul?!
I challenge you to choose music that deepens your affections to God, points your eyes toward heaven, elevates your attraction for spiritual things.
We often ask each other, how’s your prayer life; how’s your Bible study life . . . have you ever thought of asking someone, “hey, how’s your music life?!” Try that one?
A. W. Tozer once wrote, “I say without qualification, after the sacred scriptures, the next best companion for the soul is [sacred music]. Sometimes our hearts are strangely stubborn and will not soften or grow tender no matter how much praying we do. At such times, it is often found that the reading or singing of a good hymn will melt the ice jam and start the inward affections flowing again.”
Is music man’s idea? Did we come up with it because we were bored during winter?
No, it was God’s idea!
Warren Wiersbe pointed out that each member of the
triune God sings!
God the Father sings! The prophet Zephaniah wrote, “The Lord your God is in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness . . . He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
God the Son sings! Matthew recorded that after Christ and His disciples sang a hymn, they left the upper room went to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30)
God the Spirit sings through us! Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18 that we are to “be dominated by the Spirit of God, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.”
Above quotes adapted from Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations and Quotes (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), p. 464
Music is not the idea of man . . . it is the idea of God.
God was the first lyricist . . . the first choir director there ever was.
He is, in fact, the Original composer of gospel music.
Right now, you’re all wondering, what in the world does this have to do with Romans chapter 10?
What I have found fascinating is that the Apostle Paul summarizes his argument about the lost condition of not only the Jews, but the whole world, by quoting gospel music.
This great Jewish attorney, pulls out two songs and uses them to finalize his testimony that the unbelieving world is responsible for their unbelief.
Now, before we dive in, you’ve studied this letter enough with me to observe how Paul often anticipated the objection of his audience, verbalized their objection and then answered it.
He does the same thing in verse 18. Let’s back up, two verses and begin with verse 16 of Romans chapter 10. However, they did not all heed the glad tidings, for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17. In summary, faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (now here comes the objection). 18. But I say, surely they have never heard, have they?
Paul anticipates them objecting by saying, “We didn’t all hear the word of Christ, did we?”
The truth is, the Jewish nation had heard the gospel from Moses, through the prophets, from the Lord himself and, more recently, the Apostles.
And it’s as if Paul here says, “Let me answer that question by playing you a song, right out of your own hymnal. It’s on page number 19 . . . there are several stanzas to this great gospel song.
The song goes like this:
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their
expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day
pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not
heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and
and their utterances to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)
This last line is the stanza Paul quotes in Romans 10. “Their voice went out into all the earth.”
The word translated “voice” is a rare Greek word – it’s the word pthong.
It’s a word that was created to sound like that which it was describing.
Pthong . . . pthong . . . that’s the sound you get when you pluck the string of a harp, or guitar . . . it’s a musical word that literally refers to the vibration of a musical string being plucked.
The word only appears 2 times in the Bible. Here in Romans 10, and the other time in I Corinthians 14 where Paul talks about the sounds of the harp and other musical instruments.
In other words, Paul is saying here that the sound of the gospel has been vibrating around the world through the musical instrumentation of creation.
Can you hear the music? Can you read the lyrics?
By quoting David, Paul actually expands the application beyond the Jewish people and the Roman empire.
In other words, everybody can be exposed to the Creator’s musical masterpiece – this collection of voices – this grand gospel choir called Creation.
It’s now playing! Day after day and night unto night – their voice is heard, throughout the whole earth.
Add to the general revelation of creation, the special revelation of the scriptures. The rapid progress of the gospel throughout the first century is an amazement to any historian.
Justin Martyr, in the middle of the second century wrote, “There is no people, Greek or barbarian, or of an other race, by whatever appellation or manners they may be distinguished, however ignorant of arts or agriculture, whether they dwell in tents or wander about in covered wagons, among whom prayers and thanksgivings are not offered in the name of the crucified Jesus.”
50 years later, Tertullian added, “We are but of yesterday, and yet we already fill your cities, islands, camps, your palaces, senate, and forum. We have left alone only your temples.”
You say, but today, in the 21st century there are roughly one and a half billion people who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. That’s true, but there are 3 and a half billion who have. More importantly, you have!
James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume 3 (Baker Book House, 1993), p. 1273
How have you responded to the music?
Go back to chapter 1 for a moment and re-read what Paul says in verse. 20. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22. Professing to be wise, they became fools.
In other words, instead of accepting the truth of a Divine creator, mankind has sought to explain Him away.
Giving the praise to nature, or chance, or evolutionary process.
We hear the music . . . we see the lyrics of beauty and symmetry and order, but we refuse to give glory to a Creator.
So Paul takes the lyrics of David’s old gospel hymn and counters the objection by saying . . . “You can’t say you haven’t heard the music . . . you can’t say you didn’t read the lyrics – the vibration of the created order, like the sound of string that’s been plucked, reverberates around the world!
Today, when you share the gospel of this Creator, what do people say? You believe all this came from Jesus Christ, the Creator? By the way, Colossians chapter 1 informs us that the second Person of the godhead, the Son of God, was the agent of creation – Paul writes, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)
You mean you actually believe that?
You share that with people and you’ll discover one of four different kinds of people.
The Lord spelled it out in Matthew chapter 13 as he talked about the 4 different kinds of soils upon which the seed of the gospel falls.
You have, first of all the defiant. They are hardened people, like a path where the ground is hard – the seed never even gets a hearing.
You have the disillusioned. They seems to receive the gospel until persecution of difficulty comes along and then they abandon the faith.
Third, you find the deviant. These are ones who also seem to receive it until they prosper – and the attraction of the world and lure of money becomes their god and they abandon any desire for the true God.
The defiant, the disillusioned and the deviant.
Finally, you have the disciple. This is the one who receives the word and embraces it, bearing fruit in service and fellowship with Christ and His church.
They all hear the sounds of creation (general revelation) . . . some hear even more – the sound of special revelation – but they all respond with unbelief.
In Romans chapter 9 Paul spells out election – and you’re left with the somewhat uncomfortable truth of God’s sovereignty. They you get to Romans chapter 10 and Paul spells out human accountability to believe.
In Romans 9 it’s all up to God. In Romans 10 it’s all up to man.
Mankind will answer to God for their unbelief. No one will ever stand before God and say, “You didn’t elect me, so You shouldn’t send me to hell.”
No, every person will stand before Creator God and give an account for their disbelief.
They heard the music and rejected it. They read the lyrics and refused to sing along.
Paul nowhere tries to reconcile Romans chapter 9 and Romans chapter 10.
And for you today, the message is simple – listen to the gospel choir of God’s creation – and join the choir!
Sign up . . . and sing along.
Paul says, “They heard . . . they heard.” That old gospel song written by David has told the Jewish people, tells us they heard all right.
I remember reading the funny story of the older man who was very concerned with his wife’s hearing loss. He went to their trusted doctor and asked for advice . . . he was convinced she’d never admit to it. The Doctor asked, “How bad is her hearing?” He said, “Pretty bad . . . there are many times when she doesn’t respond when I talk to her.” He said, “Well, let’s experiment.” When you go home, say something to her with her back turned to you . . . if she doesn’t respond, get a little closer and speak a little louder . . . do that until she responds and we’ll be able to determine just how bad it is.” The man said, “Okay,” and went home. His found his wife at the kitchen sink with her back to the door. He stood in the doorway and said, “What’s for supper.” No response. He walked a little closer and said louder, “What’s for supper.” No response. He got right behind her and loudly said, “What’s for supper.” She wheeled around and said, “For the third time, we’re having soup.”
Like that man, the Jewish people especially thought everybody else couldn’t hear God like they could hear God . . . but in reality, their ears were not tuned into hearing the wonderful sound of this universal gospel music.
But now the objection comes, “Well, maybe they heard, but maybe they don’t understand.”
Notice verse 19. But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they?
They didn’t know – ginosko – they didn’t understand it, did they?
And once again, Paul says, “Let me answer that by playing your another gospel song – only this was written and sung by Moses.
Notice verse 19 again. “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you.”
Doesn’t sound like much of a song to me!
Moses sang this after commissioning Joshua. He will die soon after. The song appears in Deuteronomy chapter 32 and Moses is recounting the power of God and the grace of God and history of Israel. He is also prophesying events in Israel’s future.
And one of the things Moses sings is that Israel will become jealous when God embraces Gentile people.
Isaiah sings along with Moses in verse 20 . . . look there, “And Isaiah is very bold and says, “I was found by those who sought Me not (God is being quoted here), I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.
In other words, the Jewish people thought they were exclusively the people of God . . . they were the people of the law . . . they were the people of prayer . . . they had God in their corner only!
But now, we discover, the Gospel goes to the world – which includes a few billion Gentiles, and the Jews become angry and jealous.
Now wait a second. I thought the objection (in verse 19) was that Israel didn’t understand the gospel . . . how does the fact that Israel is jealous of Gentiles answer the objection that they didn’t understand?
If they hadn’t understood the gospel, they couldn’t have cared any less if Gentiles did believe the gospel. Who cares what the Gentiles believe?!
The jealousy and anger indicated that they understood very well what was happening. They knew that the message being received by the Gentiles was a message of salvation by the grace of God apart from keeping the law and that it was being taught, not as fulfillment of Judaism but as a contradiction to Judaism. That’s why they were so angry.
Boice, p. 1274
Their emotion revealed their understanding.
Did both women know which baby it really belonged to? Even though they were both claiming it as their own, as they stood before Solomon?
Solomon said, “Bring me a sword, we’ll divide the baby and each woman can have half.” One woman said, “Sure, why not.” The real mother cried out, “Oh please, let her have this baby, don’t harm him.” And Solomon said, “That woman is the real mother, give the baby to her.”
Emotional response revealed the heart.
Did the Jew understand the gospel? Oh yes they did – that’s why they were so angry that God was offering the gospel of His grace to the Gentile as much as he was offering it to them, and they were livid . . . they were jealous.
God was no longer in their corner alone!
Paul proved his point.
Emotion revealed understanding.
You share the gospel with someone and they curse at you – they get angry with you; they say, “I don’t need that stuff . . . I don’t care about God – my life if fine without you bunch of hypocrites bothering me; I’m fine just the way I am!”
Oh? Their emotion contradicts their vocabulary. Their anger reveals their anxiety.
Was Israel ignorant of the gospel?
There are certain kinds of ignorance that God doesn’t excuse – and neither do we.
- There is the ignorance that comes from neglecting knowledge.
You neglected to read the fine print of the contract, but you’re still responsible to fulfill the conditions.
Here’s another illustration. You’re driving along, minding your own business, going the speed limit, and suddenly a policeman pulls up behind you with their lights flashing? You ever been pulled over? Raise your hand if you have. I knew it - we’ve got a auditorium full of criminals. He says, “I’m sorry sir, but you were going 10 miles over the speed limit.” “No sir, I was going 45 miles an hour – that’s the speed limit.” “Yes sir, but the speed limit changed just up the road to 35 miles an hour because you were in a school zone . . . didn’t you see the sign?” “Sign? What sign?”
So what happens to me? Does the officer say, “What, you didn’t see the sign? Well, never mind then . . . sorry to have bothered you . . . have a nice day.”
The truth is, I’m still responsible, simply because knowledge was available.
- There is another inexcusable form of ignorance, and that is ignorance which comes from willful blindness.
These points adapted from William Barclay, Letter to the Romans (Westminster Press, 1975), p. 142
We call that, turning a blind eye! We shut our eyes so we don’t see what we don’t want to see. We plug up our ears so we don’t hear what we don’t want to hear.
“I’ve taped the game so I can see it tomorrow . . . don’t tell me what the final score is.”
Purposefully avoiding exposure to the truth.
You remember that old television show Hogan’s Heroes? I’m dating myself to tell you I watched them when they weren’t reruns. If you watched that show, you remember the old German guard named Shultz. As long as one of Hogan’s men, usually the little French guy, baked him some goodies, Shultz wouldn’t see them coming out of the escape tunnel – He’d give his famous line, “I see nothing . . . I know nothing.”
The truth was, he did see it, but he chose to act like he didn’t so he could eat the goodies they had baked him.
The world covers their eyes and says, “I don’t see the lyrics of the gospel.”
Paul pulls out an old hymnal from David’s bestselling collection and says, “Let me sing you this song . . . the one about creation.”
The world covers their ears and says, “I don’t hear the music of the gospel.”
Paul pulls out another hymn, recorded and sung by Moses, which talked about their angry, bitter hearts toward the grace of God, before whom they are accountable, which proved they had heard the gospel all along.
Let me make one closing statement and one closing challenge.
Here’s the statement: The music of the gospel points to a Divine Conductor – so worship Him.
That’s the obvious conclusion.
Paul’s use of music to bring his charge and challenge to a close leaves us little doubt that we have heard from God and we do understand our accountability to God.
There’s only one thing to do! Worship Him.
A couple of weeks ago, I finished reading the biography of Mozart.
When he as two years of age he used to sit on the floor near the piano-forte (a small piano, more like a harpsichord). He would sit there as his older sister received piano lessons from their father, who was a rather brilliant musician in his own right. One day, around the age of two, he stood up after a lesson, toddled over to the piano and, reached up and played a chord – then another chord . . . then another, but struck a wrong note, to which he responded by bursting into tears and he would not be consoled. When he was 4, his father came home one day to find Mozart in a mess – paper everywhere, the ink well turned over; Mozart was in the middle of it, composing his first piano number. He was writing musical notes before he learned to write letters.
By the age of 6 he was playing before Kings and Queens of Europe.
As a young adult he was known to rush into the house after being away, yelling, “Pen, paper . . . pen, paper.” So passionate and single minded was he about writing down the music that constantly played in his head.
His symphonies would be written out completely, without any erasure, without any correction, without ever having to start over again.
Joseph Hayden called his young friend, Mozart the great.
You would never be tempted to listen to Figaro, or some other opera, or a symphony, or a piano sonata and think, what an amazing piece of music . . . without thinking . . . what an amazing composer there must be.
I was riding last evening to a dinner appointment with some of my family, and I saw the sun setting – the sky was brilliant orange and purple. I could do nothing more than gape, and say, “Wow, what a magnificent sight . . . Lord, what a magnificent Creator You are.”
Are you defiant . . . disillusioned . . . deviant . . .
I invite you to become a disciple . . . listen to the gospel choir of God’s creation . . . and join the rest of us in singing praise to our magnificent Savior.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Now that you’re reminded of the words, stand and sing it again like you mean it. He is our audience . . . sing to God this great gospel song!
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