Rejecting the Silver Spoon. Have you ever taken a swim in the ocean and, as waves came in, you were lifted up so that you couldn't touch bottom? At that moment you felt rather small, didn't you? Well, that's the feeling you get when you swim in the deep ocean of election. In fact, just the mention of the word keeps many Christians away from the water's edge, and Romans 9 is avoided at all costs. In this series, join Stephen in a deep-sea dive that explores the mysterious depths of God's electing grace.
Rejecting the Silver Spoon
I am so thrilled to have as our guests today, members of the House of Representatives, our own Mayor of Cary and former Cary Mayor, Town Council members, several State Representatives and senators – I echo the prayer of Jim Young and will continue to pray for you as you, we believe according to God’s word that while you have been elected by citizens of this great state, you have actually been appointed by God to serve as leaders, impacting and influencing our city, our county and our state. We’re praying for you as you serve in such a challenging, influential, many times an unappreciated role.
Now we’re gonna do what we normally do around here on Sunday mornings . . . and that is turn to the Book of Romans.
Last Lord’s day I began preaching from Romans chapter 9 and found, by the way, in that text a wonderful platform for any politician to run on. Maybe you can who serve us can build this into your next speech – here it is in Romans chapter 9 verse 1 – I am telling the truth in Christ and I am not lying! Isn’t that a great statement. There’s a distinctive to serve with, especially in our country, right?
“I tell the truth, I don’t lie and the Spirit of God is my witness!” Wouldn’t that be great to be known for?
This is good for any politician and preacher by the way – this land has it’s fill of lying, scheming, money grubbing preachers.
This verse works for politicians and preachers and every citizen to live by. Especially believers. Especially the church . . . we should be known as people who not only follow the truth but tell the truth.
Jeremiah talked about religious corruption in his day when he spoke of “the lying pen of the scribes” (Jeremiah f8:8). Ezekiel also warned about the lying prophets with their fake visions and deceitful, self-serving prophecy. He warned, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing.” (Ezekiel 13:3)
Paul was so concerned that he’d be lumped in with all the deceitful prophets and fake visionaries and corrupt scribes before him that he said, “I am not lying.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d declared this kind of thing:
- He wrote to the Corinthians, “God the Father of the Lord Jesus knows that I am not lying. (2 Corinthians 11:31)
- In Galatians 1:20 he exclaimed, “I assure you before God that I am not lying.”
- Then to Timothy, his young preaching student Paul affirmed, “For I was appointed a preacher and an apostle, I am telling the truth, I am not lying.” (1 Timothy 2:7)
When Paul began writing this passage in Romans 9 he was so convinced that people would think he was lying that declares his honesty more than at any other time. He called to his defense the Lord Jesus, his own conscience and finally the Holy Spirit.
As we discussed last Lord’s day, the nation Israel would have a hard time believing Paul as he goes on in verses 2 and 3 to share his burden.
He says that he would be willing to be accursed from Christ – experience anathema – divine, eternal condemnation, if only his kinsmen, the nation Israel would follow Jesus Christ their true Messiah.
What follows next from Paul is an exhortation for the Jewish people to recognize their unique position and blessing from God.
The Jews would be wondering if Paul thought they were now abandoned by God . . . that God would no longer keep His covenant with them regarding the city and the throne and the kingdom.
So, in this next verse, verse 4, Paul just sort of unpacks Israel’s identity and history and reminds them that God loves them and has a special plan for the nation, still.
You could say that the nation Israel had been born with a silver spoon in its mouth, so to speak . . . great privileges and advantages.
Paul specifically lists 8 things that show how much God blessed the nation Israel . . . these are eight wonderful privileges that belonged to Israel.
I don’t know if I should cover this in 8 sermons, because they are su full of truth, such rich gems of truth, or to cover all this in one sermon with 8 points . . . I opted for one sermon with 8 points – and all the people said . . . amen!
Actually I’m gonna give you two main points – and underneath, these other points will sort of fall in.
The first main point is this; Paul Provides
A. An Irrefutable Summary of Israel’s Divine Blessings:
You can’t argue against it; nobody would ever deny the truth of this summary – Jew or Gentile.
This is truly an irrefutable summary of Israel’s Divine Blessings.
The second main point is Paul’s Irrefutable Statement of Christ’s Divine Being.
Paul writes one of the strongest statements regarding the deity of Christ you will ever find in the Bible.
Let’s begin with Paul’s summary of Israel’s Divine blessings.
Let’s get a running start back in verse 3. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh who are Israelites – now notice – to whom belong the adoption as sons.
- Here’s the first blessing: The nation Israel has a special position with God.
This is the only place where Paul ever refers to the adoption of Israel. In fact, it’s the only time in the entire New Testament where Israel is said to be the adopted sons of God.
However, in the Old Testament, there are many verses that refer to Israel as a nation being the child of God.
God commanded Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Israel is My first-born son.” (Exodus 4:22)
In Hosea 11:1, the Lord said, “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.”
Paul is simply re-stating the fact that the nation of Israel was still God’s chosen nation.
Now don’t misunderstand. Salvation has always been on an individual basis. One person cannot be saved by another person’s faith. And just because you were an Israelite, didn’t mean you had a personal, saving relationship with God. Paul is not speaking in the sense of personal salvation – he’s speaking in the sense of national election – that God has sovereignly bestowed His special calling, covenant, blessing and protection upon this nation, [for His redemptive purposes].
John MacArthur, Romans: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1994), p. 13
Paul goes on to mention in verse 4, that Israel had also received “the glory.”
The nation not only had a special position with God , but also, secondly, it has experienced the special presence of God.
Paul refers to the glory of God – the doxa.
This word, no doubt in this context, referred to the visible symbol of the presence of God.
- It first appeared at the time of the exodus from Egypt, when it was a great cloud separating the fleeing nation from the pursuing army.
- The cloud guided them during the years of their wandering, protecting them from the sun by day and turning into a pillar of fire at night which would serve as light and warmth.
- Later the glory descended on Mount Sinai along with thundering and lightning as the law was given to Moses.
- Then later, it filled the tabernacle and rested over the Ark of the Covenant.
- Still later the glory settled down as an intense light above the Mercy Seat between the wings of the cherubim.
- Finally, it departed and returned to heaven in response to the escalating sins of the people.
James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume 3 (Baker Book House, 1993), p. 1027
Paul says, you as a nation had this incredible blessing of God’s unmistakable, irrefutable presence.
What a blessing! Can you imagine having a cloud representing God’s presence as you walked through your day. You don’t know which way to turn – and the cloud turns left and you know to go left. You don’t know which college to attend and the cloud just leads you to it – you don’t know whether to go to Duke or NC State and the cloud consistently goes over to NC State, right?
You don’t know which house to buy and the cloud just hovers over the roof of the one God wants you to have. You don’t know the answer on that multiple choice test question and a little wisp of cloud hovers over the letter A.
You never have to wonder where God is – you can just point to the cloud. What a blessing the nation experienced, in their failure to walk by faith, God graciously allowed them to walk by sight.
Third, Paul says in this verse, you also have “the covenants.”
God gave covenants – the word can be translated “agreements.” This was what God would expect of His people and this was what God’s people could expect of Him.
Through Moses, the covenant of law; through David the covenant of an eternal kingdom and throne, and so on.
One author pointed out that “no aspect in Israel’s history pointed out their uniqueness as the recipients of redemptive revelation any more than these covenants.”
Quoted in MacArthur, p. 14
You could say it this way, Israel had received the promises of God.
And Paul implies, God has not abandoned his covenant with Israel. Though for a season, Israel as a nation has been set aside as Christ fulfills a new covenant with His universal church. However, these covenant/promises that specifically deal with Israel – the coming kingdom . . .the coming throne . . . the promise of a New Jerusalem and a restored throne of David . . . these are promises that God intends to keep.
Fourth, Paul mentions in Romans 9:4, that Israel received “the giving of the Law.”
Paul already wrote in Romans 3 that the advantage to being Jewish was the simple fact that the nation of Jews had been “entrusted with the very words of God.” (Romans 3:2)
So, the nation of Israel,
- has a position with God;
- it experienced the presence of God
- it received promises from God.
And fourth, Israel was responsible for propagating the character of God.
And they failed. They hoarded the law . . . they hoarded God’s message. They considered it a treasure to keep for themselves. It was theirs and there’s alone. And they failed to be a blessing to the nations of the world. Primarily because they missed the Savior that was so clearly identified in the words of God.
But what a blessing – to have been chosen to be the recipient of the very words of God.
Fifth, Paul adds that the nation “had received the temple service.”
Here’s the fifth blessing: Israel had received the principles about approaching God.
The temple services refers to the entire system of temple worship with it’s sacrifices, priesthood, ceremony, and principles of atonement that clearly pointed to the final sacrifice of atonement, the Great High priest, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Paul goes on to mention “the promises” at the end of verse 4.
This is the sixth blessing – the Nation had been given prophetic truth from God.
Peter preached about the promised Messiah – the prophecies which had indeed come true. Paul also preach about the promise made to the fathers. These are prophetic statements about the coming Messiah.
Israel had been given these prophecies.
Even while this was happening and after it all happened, the nation to this day, refuses to see how they intersect with stunning accuracy in the person of Jesus Christ.
His birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
His suffering (Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 53)
His pierced hands and feet (Psalm 22:16)
His resurrection (Psalm 16:10)
That the Savior would be a Jew (Genesis 12:1-3)
That the Savior would come from the tribe of Judah – Genesis 49:10
That the Messiah would be directly descended from the family of David (2 Samuel 7:1-17)
That the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
That when the Messiah was crucified, his executioners would cast lots for his clothing (Psalm 22:18)
As a nation yes, but not as individuals. There are Jewish men and women who’ve come to faith in Christ. We call them Messianic Jews . . . or completed Jews. Imagine the double blessing of that! We have a number in this fellowship who have believed in Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Some who came to faith after attending this fellowship. I remember one gentleman who came to our new members class – the GreenHouse – just to find out for himself what we believed and he came to believe in Christ himself.
There’s another blessing Israel has experienced, Paul writes in verse 5 – “whose are the fathers.”
7th blessing: They had descended from godly patriarchs according to the plan of God.
You have the blessing of heritage – men of faith like Abraham and Moses and David.
You ever met someone who’s grandfather fought in the civil war? You go visit them and you’ll probably hear about it.
I’ve been told that General Sherman camped out on this very property – somewhere on these forty acres – on his way back from burning Atlanta, he and his army camped out here. I don’t know if it’s true . . . besides, Marsha, my wife is from Atlanta – she didn’t like that story – fact, she thought of moving her membership when we built here; I had to talk her out of it.
Some of you have a story of godly heritage . . . a lineage of godliness and service . . . a grandfather or a great grandmother who walked with God.
My father told me some time ago that my older brother who is also a pastor and I are the 8th generation of either pastor or missionary in our family line. Eight generations in a row. And now our sons are planning on preparing for the ministry as they head off to Bible college this fall . . . they know they’ll be the 9th generation. If they choose to do something else, by the way, that will be perfectly fine with us . . . there’s no pressure . . . as far as I’m concerned, we’re already beyond the number of perfection anyway.
Maybe you’re here and you know you are beginning that godly heritage. You are the first generation to follow after Jesus Christ. How many are in here like that – you are the first in your family to believe in Christ? Frankly, I think that’s more exciting than being in the 8th generation.
Paul says to Israel, you can talk about your family tree. You are related to people who’ve demonstrated great faith in God. The interesting thing is that it did the current generation little good.
But now, Paul moves to the climax of their blessing as a nation.
It’s the 8th blessing: Notice verse 5b, “and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh.”
In other words, the very Messiah came from your family line!
The Son of God, the Christ – the anointed One happens to have Jewish blood flowing through His veins.
It was through them that the promised Redeemer would come, who happened to be Son of God.
This is the ultimate Prize!
Jesus, the God-man is a Jew! The Messiah came from our family!
You can talk about Moses and Abraham and your grandfather and your great-grandmother and the 8th and 9th generation of whatever . . . big deal.
The nation Israel (number 8) had delivered through them the promised Messiah, the Son of God.
And you know what Paul does here – he just starts to celebrate!
He just starts to wax eloquent about the Messiah. Forget about the nation, for a moment . . . there’s nothing all that exciting about our advantages and our blessings . . . let’s talk about Jesus the Christ!
Paul just sort of stops and begins to worship! He just begins to wax eloquent. It’s as if you mentioned the love of his life and he can’t help but stop and just start talking about his Savior.
And in so doing, Paul actually says something really stunning!
This is the second main point Paul makes in this text.
B. Paul delivers an Irrefutable Statement of Christ’s Divine Being
Paul writes, (5b.) “And from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Listen, there is quite an argument about this text. One commentator said that the interpretation of Romans 9:5 has probably been discussed at greater length than that of any other verse in the New Testament.
Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament (Baker Book House, 1974), p. 188
Part of the reason for it stems from the fact that the early Greek manuscripts didn’t have punctuation.
So liberal translators placed a period after the word “all” and thus the remainder of verse 5 is a simple doxology.
It’s interesting however, that without exception in Scripture, both in the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament, a doxology always placed the word “blessed” before the name of God. But here, Paul [does something found nowhere else in scripture] he uses the reverse form, God blessed, indicating beyond doubt that the apostle intentionally equated Christ with God.MacArthur, p. 16
Look at your text and circle a few words. Circle the word “God” and draw a line back to its antecedent which are the words, “who is;” circle them and draw a line back up to its antecedent which is the word, “Christ.”
Paul is clearly saying this - “Christ who is God.”
Now usually in the New Testament, the name God – theos is reserved to a reference to God the Father. Jesus as God the Son, and the Holy Spirit as God’s Spirit.
So whenever the writers of scripture, who understood the existence of the Trinity, and usually distinguished them in some way under the influence of the Holy Spirit – and whenever they didn’t distinguish them, they intended to shore up the defense of the deity of any one of them. Thus, Jesus Christ was not just an additional God, but God Himself.
God incarnate – God in the flesh.
Christ who is God blessed forever.
And does Paul not simply agree with the testimony of scripture?
As in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Does Paul not agree with Thomas who confessed his faith when he said to the risen Lord, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
Did not Paul challenge the Ephesian elders to faithfully “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His blood.” (Acts 20:28)
And did not Paul write to Titus and say, “We wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)
What you have in Paul’s moment of worship and celebration of Christ here in Romans 9 is one of the clearest, most irrefutable statements regarding the deity of Christ’s being.
Christ who is God, blessed forever, Amen.
Let me tie up our study with two observations:
1) It’s possible to have privileges from God and not be a child of God.
Israel had been born, so to speak with a silver spoon in their mouth.
They were incredibly privileged . . . graced with God’s presence and promise.
But think of it:
in spite of their position;
in spite of the promises;
in spite of the prophecy;
in spite of the principles;
in spite of the patriarchs
and in spite of the promised Redeemer being from among them;
They rejected the Savior. They rejected the silver spoon of advantage from God . . . to them it had accomplished nothing.
Secondly, it’s possible to experience the privileges of God and yet not possess the Person of God.
Think for a moment . . . what has God given you?
What silver spoon has God graced you with?
Whether Gentile or Jew, we are all the recipient of irrefutable benefits.
You have food in your pantry and a closet of clothes;
You can get a drink of water any time you want it;
You probably didn’t have to walk to church;
You have been raised in a nation built on Judeo-Christian formula and principle;
You probably have your own copy of the very
words of God;
You have heard the promises of God;
You have read and heard even again today the prophecies of the Redeemer.
We have all, in some measure, been born with a silver spoon in our mouths.
But have you, like Israel, rejected the silver spoon – ignored the blessings of God and refused the Savior?
What have you done with Jesus Christ who is God, blessed forever?
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that says, “Try Jesus.”
Maybe you’ve thought of doing that . . .maybe you’re doing that right now.
My friend, you do not try Jesus. There is no such thing as “trying Jesus.”
- He is not a sweater you put on when it’s cold and discard when it gets hot.
- He isn’t a new recipe you try out and see if He tastes better than the other spiritual flavors you’ve sampled.
- He isn’t some spiritual experiment you’re hoping will pan out and make life better.
- Someone who will keep your problems from ever getting out of hand.
- Someone to check in with now and again as you try to salve your guilty conscience.
- Jesus isn’t something you add to your bag of religious beliefs. He doesn’t share space . . . He doesn’t share His glory with Krishna or with Allah.
It isn’t Jesus and every other god; it is Jesus, who is God, blessed forever, Amen!
It isn’t Jesus and every other way, it is Jesus who is the only way . . . God, blessed forever, Amen.
You do not try Him, you trust in Him!
J. Sidlow Baxter once wrote, “Our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel: He himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the light.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life . . . no one comes to the Father, except by Me.”
Jesus Christ is over all things, God who is blessed forever and ever.
Can I ask you a question? Have the silver spoon of advantage and blessing – the goodness of God and common grace of God – has it drawn you to Jesus Christ as God, blessed forever . . . or do you refuse to believe; refuse to acknowledge Him or thank Him; refuse to give Him your heart?
Maybe you’re a Christian . . . you have even more significant, eternal blessings from God; perhaps you are taking them for granted; maybe you are even beginning to demand that He deliver something more. Perhaps you’ve begun to wander away from your Lord who doesn’t seem to be delivering what you want.
Will you enter into the praise of Paul here in Romans 9:5 as you re-acknowledge the Sovereign, Divine being of Jesus who is God – Your living God – who is over all things.
Even though your heart may be heavy with some burden, will you – by faith in this One who is over all things, God, blessed forever – would you thank Him for what He has given you and trust Him for what He has not?
Trusting, even when He doesn’t deliver.
That kind of trust will lead you to be able to utter this kind of statement . . . whether it’s through shouts of joy or tears of sorrow;
My Lord Jesus Christ is over all things . . . He is God blessed forever and ever and ever and ever, Amen.