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Summary: The personal pursuit of righteousness is essential for every believer.

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I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3.7-11)

The promises of God do not fail because they are not contingent on mankind’s cooperation. The truth of this point of doctrine is emphatically emphasized in Romans 9.6b-29. However, it is equally true that Israel failed to pursue a righteousness that comes by faith; consequently, they were not prepared to acknowledge Jesus as God’s Messiah. In Romans 9.30-10.21 Paul shifts his focus from the sovereignty of God in salvation to Israel’s failure to respond to prompting of God’s prophets. It is her persistent unbelief that is responsible for her being cut off from the vine. Seeing these two truths in juxtaposition may help the reader to understand that divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not incompatible doctrines. “Paul viewed divine sovereignty and human responsibility as complementary rather than contradictory truths. They are not mutually exclusive but compatible. Paul provides no philosophical resolution as to how they correlate, and it is probably best to acknowledge that they relate mysteriously, in a way that exceeds our finite understanding. In any case, it would be a serious mistake to appeal to divine sovereignty as if it diminished the genuineness of human freedom and responsibility” (Thomas Schreiner, Romans, p. 531). Israel’s problem of unbelief is rooted their ignorance of God’s righteousness. There was no lacking in zeal for God, but it was a zealousness grounded in a distortion of the truth God had revealed to them through the prophets. Unbelieving Jews failed to recognize Jesus as the culmination of salvation history and stubbornly refused to believe the gospel. The Old Testament testimony about the Christ makes their willful unbelief inexcusable. The language of the gospel that governs the earlier part of his letter resurfaces in this section.

Every component of Paul’s “definition” of the gospel in the theme of the letter (1:16-17) is taken up in 9:30-10:21: “gospel” (see 10:15,16); “salvation” / “save” (see 10:1, 9, 10, 13); “all” (10:4, 11, 12, 13); “Jew and Greek” (10:12); “faith” (passim); and “the righteousness of God” (10:3). Matching and often directly related to Paul’s gospel language are quotations of the Old Testament (11 in 25 verses). In this is found Paul’s second key concern: to show that the gospel, as outlined in 1:18-4:25, is in continuity of the Old Testament. Paul shows that the law (10:6-8, 19), the prophets (9:32b-33; 10: 15-16, 20-21), and the writings (10:18) all bear witness to “the message of faith,” the gospel that Paul is preaching. Israel is zealous but ignorant: she has not understood that the gospel of Christ brings salvation history to its climax. And she should have understood, for the Old Testament witnesses to the gospel. Paul neatly summarizes this theme in his conflated quotation from Isaiah in 9:33: Israel has stumbled over the stone that God himself has “set in Zion.” (Douglas Moo, Romans, p. 618)

There was no period in Jewish history when the majority of it leadership believed that the Gentiles would be brought in large numbers into a covenant relationship with God. In spite of the Jews’ hostile reception, Hosea’s prophecy, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved,’” was coming to pass through the apostolic ministry of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. Moreover, Isaiah had prophesied that only a remnant of Jews would return from the first great Diaspora and among them fewer still who would acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. The majority would find him to be a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.

ISRAEL’S UNBELIEF (Romans 9.30-10.4)

Salvation history was being turned on its ear with a great influx of Gentiles into a new covenant community. The Jews who possessed every advantage with respect to knowing God (9.4-5) are being marginalized, while the Gentiles who have no record of God’s revelation in history are being included in the salvific plans of God. Paul indicates the reason for this is based on the difference between doing and believing. Israel used the law as a means for establishing a claim to personal righteousness. What God required of them was to believe in Christ who is the end of the law for righteousness and submit to the saving righteousness that comes by faith. Paul understood very well what the Jews are thinking and feeling, having come from just such a mindset himself: If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless (Philippians 3.4-6). However, such a road can only lead to death and eschatological judgment, because if the law is your master, then every point of the law must be obeyed, an impossible task for anyone related by birth to Adam. The only alternative is to count everything as loss for the purpose of gaining Christ (Philippians 3.7-11).

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