Summary: Lord willing, we hope to shed some light on the mysteries of God’s mercy today. We don’t have all the answers and we won’t this side of heaven. However, we can certainly look into the mysteries of God and continue to receive His mercy in our lives.
The Mystery of Mercy
Intro: People love to solve mysteries. Whether it’s figuring out a John Grisham novel or solving a complicated riddle, people love to try to figure out mysteries. Lots of people enjoy the TV show "Unsolved Mysteries" hosted by Robert Stack. "Unsolved Mysteries" was one of the first internet interactive TV shows. The TV show’s web site boasts that over 270 cases have been solved by viewers of "Unsolved Mysteries."
-People love to look for mysteries in every area of life, and that includes the spiritual life as well. A second century spin off from Christianity called the gnosticism became obsessed with solving mysteries. The gnostics claimed that there were secret truths that Jesus revealed to just an elite few. If you were initiated into the elite, you too could gain access to these mysteries that the rest of the Church was ignorant of. Fortunately gnosticism died out in the late second century, and the Christian faith prevailed. However, as I see so many people try to find secrets and mysteries in the Christian faith through Bible codes and obscure interpretations of the Bible, I’m reminded of just how similar this is to second century gnosticism.
-People love mysteries. You see, the reality is that the reason we like mysteries is so we can try to solve them. We don’t really like mysteries that we can’t solve. How popular would the TV show "Unsolved Mysteries" be if it boasted zero cases solved? We simply can’t put up with things we don’t understand, and the spiritual life is no exception. Some people struggle with this in regards to the doctrine of the Trinity. Bible verses about the Trinity show Jesus being fully God, the Father being fully God, the Holy Spirit being fully God, yet the Bible teaches that there is only one true God. Some would say, "I can’t understand that. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not reasonable or logical that God could be both three and one." But here’s a thought: If we could totally comprehend God’s nature, we’d be equal with God. It comforts me to think that there are things about God that are mysterious and beyond my stunted ability to comprehend. Some simply cannot imagine worshipping a God who is surrounded by mystery, a God who can’t be fully explained or put in one’s own mental box. That’s why some reject the God of the Bible. (Timothy Peck, sermoncentral.com)
-Lord willing, we’re going to shed some light on some of the mysteries of God’s mercy today. We don’t have all the answers and we won’t this side of heaven. However, we can certainly look into the mysteries of God and continue to receive His mercy in our lives. Let’s take a look!
I. The Mystery of the Hard Heart (25)
Romans 11:25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.
-Paul has already warned the Gentile believers not to be arrogant against the Jews who don’t believe. This may have been a common response given by Gentiles in the church at Rome when Jewish believers were pushing for the observance of Jewish laws and customs. Paul’s view was that Jewish people should be Jewish in every way, but be sure that their faith was in Jesus, not in their Jewishness or the Mosaic law. He also believed that Gentiles did not need to become Jewish in their practices, but should be sure that their faith was in Jesus.
-So, his response to their arrogance as they began to berate Jewish people as a whole for not embracing Jesus was, “Don’t boast! Don’t be arrogant. Recognize that without the grace of God we’d all be lost!”
-And now in v.25 Paul guides the Gentiles into a deeper understanding of God’s mercy that will lead to humility – not conceit or arrogance. He explains that Israel has experienced a partial hardening, leaving room for Gentiles to come in to the favor of God. The partial hardening means that not every Jew has rejected Jesus, but many (perhaps the majority) have. And what many Jews rejected because of their hardened hearts the Gentiles received by faith.
-As mysterious as the hardened hearts of the Jewish people was, so the salvation of the Gentiles was a bit of a surprise. No one could’ve predicted that God would set Israel aside for a time, and create an entirely new community called the Church. No one could’ve known that Israel would be broken off from the stem of God’s purposes, and a new community called the Church would be grafted in that wasn’t very Jewish at all. This new community wouldn’t be centered around the law of Moses, but would live by the law of Christ. This new community of the Church would celebrate communion instead of the Passover, worship on any day instead of the Sabbath day, treat circumcision as indifferent and instead welcome people into their community through baptism. This new community instead of Israel would embody and live out Jesus’ great commission to share the good news of Jesus Christ will all people everywhere. No one could’ve guessed that this would happen. It was mysterious! God used the hardening of Israel to open the door of salvation to the Gentiles. But wait! He’s not finished with the Jews! Many of them will still embrace Jesus as the Messiah.