Religious people become hard when they live in self-righteousness and not by grace. This message explores the meaning and application of this truth.
Romans:The Glory of the Gospel Part 26
Chosen by Grace – Romans 11:1-10
Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – April 8th, 2018
- In the last paragraphs of chapter 10, Paul continues to build the theological understanding that in order to be declared righteous there are only two ways. One, to be perfect according to the law by your own merit, or two, by calling on the name of the Lord in recognition of our inability to save ourselves because of the sinfulness of our hearts and receive grace through faith in the righteous one who takes away the sin of the world. These two ways are radically different from each other, one is self-justification through striving and earning, while the other is being justified through receiving grace and believing in faith by calling upon Jesus, who is both just and the justifier, the one who took the penalty for our sin and gives us new life through Him. The way of law is based on our own merit, the way of grace is based on the merit of another. The good news is that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.
- Paul then addresses the functional reality that in order for people to call on the name of the Lord someone needs to tell them. So therefore, we urgently need to send people to do so, even though not all people will respond with belief and give themselves over to obey the gospel, which also includes some of the people of Israel who reject the invitation and grace of God.
- In the next chapter we are looking into this morning, Paul continues to explain how God’s plan of salvation through grace interacts and intersects with the nation of Israel who God “foreknew” and how some responded to grace while others rejected it. We will see in this passage our own hearts and our own choices and see the reasons why people either reject or receive the grace of God. Knowing these things will help us in effectively communicating the gospel and to effectively pray for people to receive the grace and truth of God.
A remnant chosen by grace
Rom 11:1-6 ESV
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
- I want you to remember the over-arching purpose of this letter is “to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the nations” (Rom 1:5).Paul is fulfilling his calling as an apostle by writing this letter to the believers in Rome, a place that he had not yet gone, to give them a firm foundation of understanding of the work of God in the world with the focal point of faith in Christ. This congregation in Rome was made up of both Jewish and non-Jewish people who were in need of knowing how in the gospel God has called and blended them into one family.
- These were people who, by and large understood and were raised in the Old Testament Scriptures. Paul uses these Scriptures to explain the gospel and God’s plan in conjunction with how God interacted with the people of Israel and their role in His plan. So then after reading the book of Romans to this point and gaining understanding of theological truth about our nature, God’s wrath and God’s redemption through Christ and the grace that is offered in Him, they needed to understand how this worked in the people God “foreknew” – the nation of Israel.
- So, they ask, has God rejected His people? And Paul replies, “by no means!”. Then Paul uses himself as an example, saying that he is an Israelite, he is a descendant of Abraham, that he is of the tribe of Benjamin. He himself is evidence that God has not rejected His people because he has not been rejected.
- Then Paul goes on to give biblical evidence of God’s plan of including His people by grace in His plan by citing an account of Elijah from I Kings 19. Elijah was a true prophet of God and he was in a battle with the evil king of Israel Ahab and his wife Jezebel. Elijah predicted there was going to be a drought for 3 ½ years and this is what happened. Then Elijah came to the king and they had a contest to prove who the true God was – either the Lord or the “god” Baal they had chosen to serve. The God of Elijah was victorious, and the priests of Baal were destroyed. Jezebel was furious and vowed to kill Elijah, so Elijah fled.
- God met with Elijah in the wilderness and in the conversation, Elijah complains to God saying that His (God’s) people have rebelled against Him, killed all His prophets, destroyed all His altars and that he was the only one left. God responds to Elijah by giving him some specific things to do along with informing him that there are 7,ooo men that have not bowed their knee to Baal.
- The point to Elijah, the point to the Romans and the point to us is God always will have a remnant of people who are chosen for Himself by His grace, even in the midst of a fallen, and apostate and religious world. These are the people who know and acknowledge they need God and they need His grace, these are the people who are not trying earn God’s favor or who think they are good people and are “better than others” but those who know they don’t have what it takes and know they need a savior and ask for God’s grace and receive it because they ask and have faith in God. The self-reliant, and the self-righteous and the self-made, the strong, the proud, the arrogant and the rebellious all say they don’t need God, they want to do things on their own – they want to do things their way on their terms and become hard.
- Be a person of grace by coming to the end of yourself, by calling upon the Lord and receiving His grace and then living in the grace of God and giving the grace of God to others. You cannot earn grace – you can only receive grace, if you could earn it then it is not longer grace. We are called to grace and we are called to give grace to others.
A people hardened by self-righteousness
Rom 11:7-10 ESV
What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”
9 And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.”
- This section starts with a question and a statement. The question comes at the end of the section that states that God chooses a remnant of people by grace for grace – there was nothing that they did to earn it. So, then what about the others? The other people failed to obtain what they were seeking. So, what were they seeking? They were seeking their own righteousness, their own worthiness, by their own effort and merit. There are people who still do this today in two main groups.
- The first group are the religious self-righteous. These are the people who do more, serve more, give more than other people and they think they are better than others because of it and that God owes them because of their “godliness”. These are the legalistic, loveless, joyless, graceless Christians who think they are better than everyone else. These are the walking dead.
- The second group are the secular self-righteous. These are the people who think they are good and better than others and don’t need God and look down on and criticize those who think and act differently then them. These are the liberal, loveless, joyless, graceless secularists who think they are better than everyone else. These are the dead walking.
- Both groups have been hardened because of their self-righteousness, thinking that they don’t need “grace” but are good enough on their own. God gives them a “spirit of stupor” – like being drunk – they have eyes, but they can’t see, they have ears, but they can’t hear – if this is what you want, then this is what I will give you. Paul next quotes a prayer of David in Psalm 69 where it is talking about being pursued by people who think they are doing right but are God’s enemies. David calls out for grace from God while the others are justified in their “righteousness” by condemning and persecuting him. He asks God to deal with them according to their hearts, that their fellowship and worship would become a trap to stop them and a stumbling block to slow them, for blindness to confuse them and a burden to humble them.
- So, what is the application for us?
- Understand that it is grace that you are saved through faith – you have not and can not earn salvation but only receive it by calling on the name of the Lord.
- Be careful that you don’t live your life as a “Christian” who is hardened in heart because of your own self-righteousness. Receive grace, live in grace and give grace to others.
- Pray for those who are living by their own merit to come to the end of themselves, to see the truth about who they are, ask God to have mercy on them and open their eyes to their need of grace in and on their lives. Don’t fight them but fight for them.
Questions for the week ahead:
- Are you living your life by grace or by your own merit?
- How can you pray for those who have been hardened?