Peace Lutheran Church’s Latest Sermon
Romans 9:1-5 (Matthew 14:12-21)
August 6, 2017
After a section of chapters about how incredible the Good News really is… we come to chapter 9, where things get… a little confusing.
Just to catch you up on where we’ve been in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christ-followers in Rome (who are both Jew and Gentile), we find him explaining the great truth that we are justified before God by faith and not by our own merits. Paul uses the Old Testament examples of Abraham and David, and brings clarity to the practices of circumcision and following the Law. He introduces us to the GRACE in which we now stand, all because of the sacrifice that was paid in the blood of God’s only Son.
Paul goes on to show us that we are now “dead to sin” and freed to live a life pleasing to God. All this, he declares, is a free gift, as is “life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (6:23)
And, the reason this is such “GREAT”, Good News is that, by ourselves, we can never approach the holiness of God. Our efforts to keep the Law handed down from God, will only lead us to death. We all need a savior! And, God has provided One!
So, Paul tells us: “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! (8:1) The Spirit of God dwells in those who trust in Jesus (8.11) and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING can separate us from the Love of God (8:39). We have confident hope that through the Spirit’s intercession for us, ALL THINGS will work together for the good to those who love God (8:28)
Now, we come to the ninth chapter of Paul’s letter. Some commentators raise questions over where this section came from, because of its dramatic contrast to all that comes before it. Dr. Tom Wright writes that “Romans 9-11 is as full of problems as a hedgehog is full of prickles.” (N.T. Wright) “Everything in Romans 9-11 is controversial!”
What Paul does, is shift his attention in these next three chapters to the relations between Jews and Gentiles, and particularly with the unique position of the Jews in God’s purpose. We will only dive into the first 5 verses that were read this morning, where we find the Great Apostle, whose dramatic conversion from a bully of Christians to a believer of Christ (persecutor to protector of Christians), we find him agonizing over his “kinsmen”. Over those who share the same heritage as ‘God’s chosen People’, but who have rejected Christ.
“You need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. It’s an enormous pain deep within me, and I’m never free of it. I’m not exaggerating—Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It’s the Israelites . . . If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute. They’re my family. I grew up with them. They had everything going for them—family, glory, covenants, revelation, worship, promises, to say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always.” (Romans 9:1-5 The Message)
The plight of unbelieving Israel causes Paul so much distress, that he wishes to be cursed by God, “cut off from Christ” if only his fellow Israelites would respond to this “Good News” and share in eternal life with God. Paul was willing to sacrifice himself for his people!
Martin Luther said of these prayers: “It seems incredible that a man would desire to be damned, in order that the damned may be saved.”
Paul knows that while this wasn’t possible, it exposed the tremendous burden he carried for the people he loved. The apostle’s anguish over unbelieving Israel is even more distressing because of her unique privileges that are explained in the Old Testament: their adoption as sons and daughters, the splendor of God they have known, the divine glory which filled their places of worship. Theirs too are the covenants, to Abraham and the multiple renewals with Isaac and Jacob, Moses and David. They received the Law, the unique revelation of God’s will spoken by His voice and written down by his finger, which taught them how to live.
Instructions and practices and places for proper worship; the many promises and patriarchs – fathers of faith that can be traced to the human ancestry of Jesus Christ whose genealogy Matthew traces back to Abraham and Luke to Adam. God has given the Israelites countless opportunities to know Him!
This raises all kinds of questions, which Paul proceeds to ask, and answer, in the rest of chapter 9 and the subsequent two chapters. Which, I won’t get to this morning!
But, this Godly Passion of the Apostle is exemplary for us all.
- Do we even care about those who have no knowledge of the saving news of Jesus Christ?
- Are we willing to sacrifice some of our comforts, so that others don’t have to go without?
- Are we concerned about others who have rejected this Good News?
- Are we willing to put in the time and effort so that we are able to give a defense of our faith?
- Are we willing to risk embarrassment to bring up the subject of our faith in the Jesus that we believe saves us from eternal separation from the Heavenly Father and makes life worth-while?
These are the questions that we have to deal with when confronted by someone of Paul’s passion for those who are facing a Christ-less eternity.
We certainly should celebrate as we have confidence in what it ours in Christ! But, not at the cost… of those who’ve yet to have heard this Great News!
Jesus’ words to His disciples when they were confronted with the needs of others are, “you give them something to eat.” When we are willing and provide others something to ‘chew on’, no matter how little, and, in His compassion, GOD will bless it, and all will eat and be filled!