19.5 Romans – Time Out

God has not rejected the Israelites.  To think such would be to purport that a loving and committed parent rejects their misbehaving child.  They discipline the child.  They remove the child from a situation where they may continue to harm themselves.  They may even put the child in time-out, but they never stop loving the child nor does the child forgotten.  As the child grows to adulthood and rejects the parent, the loving parent will allow them to go off, as we read in the story of the prodigal son as told by Jesus.  But the ongoing desire of the parent is to welcome his child back and rejoice in their return.

Throughout the old testament we saw this play out with God’s chosen people, the Jews.  They rebelled against God and turn away from Him and He turned them over to their wicked ways.  He brought in conquering armies to carry them off in to exile.  But, when they cried out to Him, He rejoiced in bringing them back home.

Would the situation with the Jews be any different during Paul’s time or today?  God is unchanging and always faithful.  His covenant is solid and true.  He will discipline Israel.  He will cause them to be jealous while they sit in time-out.  He will allow them to turn away from Him and go off.  But He will joyfully welcome them back home, back into sonship, back into His arms.

My Answers:

All Israel is all descendants of the faith of Abraham, not blood alone.

God is not cut off from them, they have God’s grace and mercy

God is merciful. He is also just but He chooses whom He choses and does what He does

God gave His one and only son to die and defeat sin so that He might take away the sins of the entire world, Jew and Gentile, all has been paid for all who believe

19.4 Romans – One Tree

Have you noticed how often trees are used throughout the bible to teach us about God and our relationship with Him?  The 2 trees in the garden of Eden.  The trees of Mamre where Abraham settled.  The tree where Deborah judged.  The cedars of Lebanon used to cover the walls of the temple.  The budded staff of Aaron.  Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, He is like a tree.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  The tree on which Jesus was hung.  The 2 olive trees and candle stands of Revelation and the Tree in the New Heaven bearing fruit. To name just a few.

We know that the truth about God is evident even in nature so that all may see and know about Him.  But trees seem to play a prominent role in that revelation throughout the bible.

I think one message in all of this is the fact that we are all part of the one same tree that is our God.  This is important to understand.  There isn’t a Jewish tree and a Gentile tree.  There isn’t an old testament tree and a new testament tree.  We are part of the same tree.

Some were born into the grace and mercy and provision of the tree.  Others were grafted in, but regardless of origin, we all are connected to and dependent on the living trunk and roots for everything.

Why would one branch fault another or claim superiority, if we are all truly part of the same tree?  That  would be an act of getting tangled upon one’s self instead of the right act of growth and bearing fruit.  Our desire as part of the tree of life should be to grow the tree through all means, including bearing new fruit as well as a desire for other branches to be grafted in.

My Answers:

Salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious

Being grafted in is not a superiority over God’s chosen people – be humble and grateful, have faith and pray for the cut off branches that they may be rejoined

He does not give me what I deserve but shows grace. He gives me numerous challenges and pain so that I remain humble and trust only in Him.

19.3 Romans – Given Over

I was grateful for the verses that we were provided as background to Paul’s discussion of the hardening of the Jews in verses 7-10.  This is a difficult concept to reconcile with what we know of God’s mercy and kindness and love, especially His love for His people.

On one hand, we might conclude that God hardens peoples’ hearts in a way that prevents or precludes them from believing.  But that is not what is consistent through scripture.  Instead, we find that God allows them to be “given over” to their sinful ways.  It is not that God forces them into sin, but that God allows them to continue undeterred in their sinfulness.

The easiest way of seeing this is found in the term “calloused heart” as found in Matthew 13:15, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.”  By definition, the way one receives a callus is from repeated pressure and friction, such as rubbing against something that does not fit correctly.

God did not create us to sin, so when we bring evil and wickedness into our heart we introduce something that doesn’t fit.  We try to push the Holy Spirit out of hearts when we want to hide from God because of sin.  Pushing is a form a pressure.  We were not designed for repeated contact with the forces of evil and when we don’t safeguard our heart from wickedness, we end up calloused and hurt.

God does not desire for us to have a calloused heart, instead He wants to renew us and give us a clean heart, but, God will use all things for the good of the people who love Him.  This even includes using a calloused heart, all allow people to turn from Him, while He then brings new believers into His family, those brought in through faith instead of by birth.

My Answers:

They sought to be holy/righteous through works of the law, but holiness and righteousness was granted to some by grace and others were hardened in disbelief

IS: They approached God with human rules and obligation but not with a contrite heart or true belief. They wanted to earn God
PS: They lack compassion, They believe each deserves what they get
MT: Their hearts have become calloused, they hardly hear with their ears and they close their eyes
JN: That Jesus was the Messiah was evident, He blinded eyes and hardened hearts so they could not rely on knowledge for faith
ACT: Others would not believe, They were not allowed to see or hear fully because of their calloused hearts

19.2 Romans – Rebel Alliance

Theory: God has rejected the Jews.

To reject this theory we would need to show a single example where it was not true.

The opening verses of our lesson today from Romans 11 take this challenge.  Paul poses the question and then uses himself as the defining example that the theory is wrong.  If God rejected the Jews and Paul is a Jew then Paul must have been rejected.  But this is not the case, therefore, God has not rejected the Jews.

Paul goes on to point out that not only has God not rejected the Jews but God is trustworthy and faithful in His promises.  Through many times of rampant sin and turning away from God, God exiled His chosen people.  There were also times of other cleansing of sinfulness through everything ranging from conquering armies to plagues and even the ground opening up to swallow the tents of people.  However, through it all, God has always retained a remnant, a select group of people who, not because of their amazing ability to follow the law more closely than anyone else but simply because of God’s plan, His mercy and His grace, that they were held back or set apart from the rest of the nation.

Since the day sin has entered the world, God has always retained and maintained a small group of people to stand apart and rebel against the sinful ways of the world.  These small groups do not conform to the ways of the world or fall to the pressure to become like everyone else, but instead they are protected and held apart.  From the world’s view these believers are the rebels.

God has never given up on His creation.  The size of His rebel alliance has grown and shrunk at different times in the past.  During Noah’s time it shrunk to 8 people on a boat.  During the time of Elijah, he thought he was the last one, but God had preserved 6,999 others.  In Revelation we learn of a time when there will be 2 witnesses, but even then, God’s rebel alliance is maintained.

To which group do you want to belong?  Do you want to conform to the ways of the world and be like everyone else?  As you look around, how is that working out for others?  Would you rather be part of the remnant, God’s Rebel Alliance?  Would you rather be part of a small group that believes and holds together to fight evil and spread the good news or be another gear in the evil empire that is this sinful world?

My Answers:

Theorem: God rejected them, Proof as false: Paul is a jew and God did not reject Him. God told Elijah that God had reserved a remnant for Himself

A remnant is a scrap or remaining piece of fabric when all else is used. God chose and preserved a remnant for Himself and for His purposes

They were not chosen because they were the best Jews, but because God had grace on them and set them apart for His holy purposes