Sermon:The Paradox of Grace Romans 9:25-33

The Paradox of Grace

Romans 9:25-33

Truth Taught- The Gospel of God saves all who believe, both Jew and Gentile

 

Introduction

We began Chapter 9 considering the false statement being raised, namely, that God’s Word had failed concerning Israel. If you remember this was due to the fact that very few Israelites were being saved while massive numbers of Gentiles were coming to Christ.

Romans 9:6–7 (ESV)

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

Paul explained very well that it is not Israel but a small part or a remnant that would be saved. He concluded that God’s promises were meant not for Abraham’s physical descendants (National Israel) but Abraham’s spiritual descendants (True Israel) those who share not in Abraham’s lineage but Abraham’s faith.

We looked at Isaac and Ishmael. We looked at Jacob and Esau. We looked at the Golden Calf Hebrews who were shown mercy even though they didn’t deserve it. We looked at Pharaoh who was given what he deserved. We also saw that in each and every case God’s glory was magnified in His divine prerogative to…

Romans 9:18 (ESV)

18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

In our text today we are concluding chapter 9 by revisiting the original statement that God’s Word has failed and see how Paul masterfully refutes that false statement by using two examples. The first, he shows that God’s Word has not failed because His promises are to true Israel, the Israel of faith which includes both believing Jews and believing Gentiles.

Paul uses two quotations from Hosea and two from Isaiah to show that Israel’s unbelief and rejection of the Messiah and His gospel fit what the prophets had predicted.[1]

Romans 9:25–33 (ESV)

25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

       “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”

26    “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

       “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,

we would have been like Sodom

and become like Gomorrah.”

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

       “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

  1. The Gospel of God Saves Undeserving Gentiles

25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

       “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”

26    “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”

The context of Hosea is that the Israelites because of massive unbelief were forsaken by God and literally declared to be Gentiles (not My people). So, by quoting this passage Paul wants us to see that God’s promises have not failed because there is a group, namely Gentiles, who are not God’s people but in fact God will declare to be His people by saving them through the blood of Jesus Christ.

During the time of Christ the Jews had for the most part rejected God’s Son. This was the pinnacle of their unbelief and rebellion against God. God raised up apostles to go to the Gentiles and preach the Good News of salvation through Christ. Many Gentiles were being converted.

Now we should consider who these Gentiles are who were not God’s people but because of the Cross are declared to be God’s people.

Some are Pharaoh’s descendants, some are Ishmael’s descendants, some are Esau’s descendants, some are the scattered Jews that God declared to be Gentiles. In an act of amazing grace, God takes rebellious Gentiles and cuts them to the heart and saves them through the blood of His Son.

  1. The Gospel of God Saves Undeserving Israelites
    27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

 

       “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,

we would have been like Sodom

and become like Gomorrah.”

We see here two very gripping quotes from Isaiah. The first comes from Chapter 10 where Assyria is judged and after all is said and done, only a small number of the Israelites return, a remnant. There is no comparison to the number that went into exile only a small portion returns home. So, here as in Romans, even though there is a large number of Israelites (sand on the shore) only a portion will actually be saved. God’s Word is fulfilled and promises carried out to Abraham’s offspring just as He said.

The second quote comes from Isaiah 1 where we see God’s judgment on His people. God passes judgment because of Israel’s unbelief but will literally guide the approaching armies so that the Jews are not completely destroyed but again a remnant is left so that the Israelites don’t go the way of Sodom and Gomorrah. Through it all, those who believe are shown to be God’s people and here it is the true Israel that will be spared. We also learn the remnant is the true Israel of God and they will receive the promises so the conclusion is that all of God’s promises will be fulfilled exactly as He intended.

  1. The Paradox of Grace

Romans 9:30–33 (ESV)

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

       “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

What shall we say then…is the conclusion to so many Gentiles and so few Israelites coming to Christ in salvation. Why so many Gentiles and why so few Jews?

To explain what is going on here let’s look at a parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector…

Luke 18:9–14 (ESV)

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Tax Collector knew he was a sinner and knew that all he could do was to plead with God for mercy. The Pharisee, on the other hand, believed that he could obtain a certain level of righteousness by obeying various laws and regulations. He trusted in himself and his own righteousness.

Gentiles were receiving righteousness by faith-

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith;

Israelites believed they had their own righteousness-

31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.

Why were the Israelites being rejected and Gentiles brought into God’s people? One group approached God by faith while the others approached God by works.

32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

       “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Why didn’t Israel achieve righteousness by observance of the Mosaic Law? They treated it as if they could observe it to the point of being righteous before God. The Bible is very clear that the Law of God was never meant as a way to be made right with God.

They behaved as if the purpose of the Law was to work harder, do your best, try to achieve complete loyalty to God in all things…but the problem was they were working to achieve an outward perfection but their hearts were dead. Inwardly they were corrupt and rebellious like all people. The law of Moses cannot change us on the inside.

The real purpose of the Mosaic Law was to see God’s perfection and to see their sin and then turn to God in faith and repentance. Literally turn to Christ, in the case of the OT worshipper, turn to the promised Messiah who is to come.

They should have responded like Job, I know that my redeemer lives. They should have responded like Abraham who believed God and his faith was credited as righteousness, not his works.

Throughout the centuries Israel had such a works mentality that when Jesus came and called them to repentance what happened? They stumbled.

32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

       “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Here is Paul’s idea again of faith with appropriate works to prove faith is genuine. The Jews worked but lacked faith many others think they have faith without any works.

When you offer free grace to a worker they look at you really odd. It goes against everything they’ve been taught. Many believe salvation is gained through good works. Many sitting right here today have a level of this embedded in our brains. When free grace is offered a righteousness worker rejects it because it does not compute.

Here’s what happened…the Jews were offered salvation in Christ alone by faith alone and it was an offense to them. They stumbled over Jesus on their way to do more works. They missed salvation when it was handed to them.

They found the treasure in the field, covered it back up and went on their way.  They found the Pearl of Great Price and scrapped it.

1 Peter 2:6–10 (ESV)

For it stands in Scripture:

       “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,

a cornerstone chosen and precious,

       and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

       “The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone,”

and

       “A stone of stumbling,

and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Much of the Romans quote and Peter’s quote comes from Isaiah 8. In Isaiah 8, safety is only found in trusting in the Lord…I will put my trust in Him vs17.

God has set His Savior as a cornerstone to tie Jews and Gentiles together by faith. For all who trust in Him they will receive God’s forgiveness and God’s righteousness but for all who don’t place their trust in Jesus, He will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.

This is a clear and vital warning for all people.

If I think I can gain God’s favor myself then I will stumble over Jesus Christ. If I see my sin for what it is and realize there is nothing I can do to gain God’s favor then when offered free grace I will see it as the treasure worth all that I have.

1 Corinthians 1:22–24 (ESV)

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
But the good news of the gospel is that, unlike those who reject Him, he who believes in Him—the one who has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the divine stumbling stone and rock of offense—will not be put to shame.

The issue on the human side is faith, which alone can bring the salvation that God’s grace provides. Man is justified by grace through faith. But Israel’s unbelief, her lack of faith, did not surprise the Lord or nullify His plan. God’s prerequisite of faith has always been the same, and His choosing a remnant in Israel for salvation was in perfect harmony with His omniscient awareness that only a few would believe in His Son and be saved. That is the way God knew it would be and planned it to be, and that, of course, is the way it turned out to be.[2]

Application

Religious people would say they are seeking God or at least seeking His approval when in reality, like Israel they are seeking to be noticed by others. We must get rid of the false idea that people are basically good and are seeking God. This is our world’s lie. Somehow people are seeking God but cant find Him or that they can find Him on their own terms and in their own way.

What Paul has taught us is that no one seeks God. The Jews were religious and were not seeking God but seeking their own righteousness. They were working but had no use for faith, they could do it on their own without Jesus. God was not in the least bit impressed.

Here’s how God viewed those who thought they could work their way to heaven…

Isaiah 1:2–15 (ESV)

   Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;

for the Lord has spoken:

       “Children have I reared and brought up,

but they have rebelled against me.

   The ox knows its owner,

and the donkey its master’s crib,

       but Israel does not know,

my people do not understand.”

   Ah, sinful nation,

a people laden with iniquity,

       offspring of evildoers,

children who deal corruptly!

       They have forsaken the Lord,

they have despised the Holy One of Israel,

they are utterly estranged.

   Why will you still be struck down?

Why will you continue to rebel?

       The whole head is sick,

and the whole heart faint.

   From the sole of the foot even to the head,

there is no soundness in it,

       but bruises and sores

and raw wounds;

       they are not pressed out or bound up

or softened with oil.

   Your country lies desolate;

your cities are burned with fire;

       in your very presence

foreigners devour your land;

it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.

   And the daughter of Zion is left

like a booth in a vineyard,

       like a lodge in a cucumber field,

like a besieged city.

   If the Lord of hosts

had not left us a few survivors,

       we should have been like Sodom,

and become like Gomorrah.

10    Hear the word of the Lord,

you rulers of Sodom!

       Give ear to the teaching of our God,

you people of Gomorrah!

11    “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?

says the Lord;

       I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams

and the fat of well-fed beasts;

       I do not delight in the blood of bulls,

or of lambs, or of goats.

12    “When you come to appear before me,

who has required of you

this trampling of my courts?

13    Bring no more vain offerings;

incense is an abomination to me.

       New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—

I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.

14    Your new moons and your appointed feasts

my soul hates;

       they have become a burden to me;

I am weary of bearing them.

15    When you spread out your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you;

       even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen;

your hands are full of blood.

The bottom line is this you cannot be good enough to be saved. No one can. So, if God offers you Jesus Christ don’t stumble and say I’ll get to God my way. If Jesus Christ is offered to you in the Gospel run to Christ because He truly is the treasure and the Pearl of Great Price.

In Paul’s day Gentiles were flocking to Jesus. I pray God would work and people today would see their sin and run to Jesus.

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 9:25). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Ro 9:30). Chicago: Moody Press.

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