Summary: We receive from the Lord a God-enhanced heart. God takes what we are like and enhances it - some to destruction, like Pharoah, some to incredible compassion and mercy, like Moses. What kind of heart do you have?
Remember Steve Austin – the Six Million Dollar Man? “We have the technology; we can rebuild him – faster, stronger, and a better actor!” Well maybe that last part was beyond the technology of the time – but that fictional story involved giving a man enhanced body parts to make him better than he was.
Today some of that dream has become reality – we now have artificial hips, cochlear implants to give deaf people hearing, and even synthetic eyes to give the blind sight. They’re not perfect but they would seem like miracles only a generation ago. You can also enhance your mind by taking certain herbs that increase memory, supposedly – I can’t remember their names – but…
There is such a thing as the enhanced heart as well. I’m not talking about your cardio-vascular system, but the spirit – and this enhancement comes from God Himself. God takes the way we are and makes it more that way – in the process He reveals things about people only He knew – like: knowing which people would receive His Son before they were ever created, then predestining them to that end.
It’s one of the toughest of philosophical topics, and it presents itself in Romans chapter 9. In theological terms it is the argument between predestination and free will. We even have names associated with the two sides: Calvinism, and Armenianism. Many books have been written on the subject and Christian thinkers of good conscience argue both sides. So we’re not going to fully debate that subject today and as I said a few weeks ago, I can point you to some good resources to do your own study.
I will tell you my position right up front so that you use that as a filter for what I’m going to teach as we make our way through the passage. Basically, Calvinism says that man has nothing to do with his salvation – that God does it all. That’s pure predestination. Armenianism says that man has complete “free will” to choose to come to God and God doesn’t have much to do with it. I’m way over-simplifying it but you get the idea, I hope.
My position, and that of Calvary Chapel, is that neither side is correct, but that the truth is found in the middle between predestination and free will. That’s not a compromised cop-out, but I think is the correct interpretation of the Scriptures as a whole.
It’s important which way you lean because it will affect how you feel about salvation and about how you approach others with the gospel. So let’s walk through this, as Paul starts by making a startling statement about wishes for his brothers who don’t yet know Jesus.
I speak the truth in Christ-I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit- 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel.
That’s a pretty strong statement – Paul saying he would be separated from Christ if his Jewish brothers could be saved. I’m not sure I could say that – but it reminds me of what Moses said to God in Exodus 32 – when God was ready to wipe out Israel, Moses told God to wipe his name out of the book of Life but spare Israel. God didn’t wipe out Israel, nor did He wipe out Moses’ name from the book of Remembrances – instead He used this to prompt Moses’ intercession for the people, then used the intercession to spare them.
Remember – Moses was actually feeling the heart of God as he spoke this deep felt desire – just as Paul did. He felt so much love for the people that he could do anything, the worst thing, to see them saved. This is the heart of God – and God demonstrated it Himself. Think about it – He sent His Son to be accursed to that we could come back into fellowship. It might be a foolish statement, but it communicates his heart. Paul goes on:
Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
You see, the Jews had all the pieces of the puzzle – all they had to do was put them together to see the picture of Christ, the Messiah. All the things Paul mentions speak to Jesus’ coming. But they became blinded due to pride. They thought being Jewish was made them special – when in fact what made them special was being chosen to be the communicators of God’s love through the Messiah to the world. The fact that many of the Jews didn’t recognize Jesus didn’t mean that God blew it when He chose them.