A short series on Romans 8 – 11. Part 7.
The Good News goes out to all the world, bringing salvation to Jews and to Gentiles, to all who entrust themselves to Messiah Jesus. All are invited, all are welcome, but not all will come in.
We hear God’s message of love and redemption, and the Lord draws us to himself. The ongoing process of our salvation begins, a lifetime journey of growth and transformation, all by the grace of God.
“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:16-17 ESV).We hear God's message of love and redemption, and the Lord draws us to himself. The ongoing process of our salvation begins, a lifetime journey of growth and transformation, all by the grace of God. #Grace #Faith Click To Tweet
“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:4-5 ESV).
Clearly, the biological descendants of Israel have a unique and glorious position in God’s plan, even though not all who are descended from genetic Israel are faith-filled Israel. Since the first century, Jewish followers of Jesus Christ have been woven into the tapestry of the church.
“2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.’ 4 But what is God’s reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day‘” (Romans 11:2-8 ESV).
There is always a remnant of believers, chosen by grace.
Grace. χάρις. charis; “A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the lovingkindness of God. . . finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor” [Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.]
Salvation is not by works, a lesson we must learn again and again. Instead, we are chosen by grace, not of our own doing, not at our own instigation, though it may feel that way. Rather, we are sought and pursued by the Savior.
Chosen. ἐκλογή eklogḗ; to choose, select. Election, choice, selection. (II) Election, the benevolent purpose of God by which any are chosen unto salvation so that they are led to embrace and persevere in Christ’s bestowed grace and the enjoyment of its privileges and blessings here and hereafter. In Rom. 11:5, “According to the election of grace” means according to the election which results from grace. (above source, Zodhiates, S.).
The rest were hardened, Romans 11:7b. Yet another controversial term. This means to make hard like a stone, calloused, dull. In the NT it is applied only in a spiritual sense to human hearts or minds.
Sometimes we harden our own hearts. We grow angry at God. We have eyes, but we do not see; ears, but we do not hear. Two examples are recorded from the disciples’ lives in Mark 6:34-52 and Mark 8:14-21.
Here, Jesus explains how we come to have hard hearts.
In Mark 6:34-52, Jesus turned a few loaves and fish into enough food for a massive crowd of 5,000 men, and probably their families. At day’s end, twelve baskets of broken bread and fish were leftover, a basket for each disciple. Jesus put the men and their food onto the boat and remained behind in prayer.
Later, he walked across the Sea of Galilee to join them in the boat. Though they had witnessed Jesus healing and feeding thousands, and they had visual evidence in the baskets of food, still when they saw him walking on water, they were terrified.
Immediately, he called: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mark 6:50b). He got in the boat, the wind ceased, and “They were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:51b).
How did their astonishment betray their hard hearts? The Greek word indicates that they were out of their minds, beyond themselves in their astonishment.
Why? After all they had witnessed, why would this particular miracle astonish them more than the other miracles of the day?
Why? Because “they did not understand about the loaves.“
They hadn’t puzzled through WHAT exactly they had witnessed and WHO exactly Jesus was to be able to perform miracles.
Why? Because “Their hearts were hardened.”
In essence, this is cyclical. The disciples hadn’t even attempted to put two plus two together. These weren’t the first miracles of Jesus that they had witnessed. And yet, they hadn’t discerned that Jesus was no mere man.
When we don’t recognize the mighty acts of God, but merely roll on past an answer to prayer or a saving event without comprehending that God himself acted on our behalf, we expose the hardness of our hearts.When we don't recognize the mighty acts of God, but merely roll on past an answer to prayer or a saving event without comprehending that God acted on our behalf, we expose the hardness of our hearts. Click To Tweet
Soon afterward, Jesus fed a smaller crowd of 4,000 people in Gentile territory, (Mark 8:1-12). Between these two events, the disciples had witnessed Jesus walking on water and healing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the demon-possessed, the mute, and even the sick who merely touched his robe.
And yet, once more, the disciples doubted that Jesus could feed the crowd. Yet, he did feed them, and the disciples had more than enough food afterward.
The Pharisees showed up demanding yet another sign, giving evidence of their hard hearts. Jesus sighed deeply in his spirit — an inward groan expressing intense emotions — and informed the Pharisees that there would be “no sign,” though miracles abounded for those with hearts to see them.
Meanwhile, the disciples boarded the boat, forgetting their bread back on the shore, obviously not impressed by its creation. Once in the boat, Jesus warned them to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod.”
Hearing the word leaven reminded the disciples that they had forgotten the bread, and they began quibbling among themselves. Jesus hadn’t been talking about bread, but about their hearts. Imagine them all bickering as Jesus considered the hard hearts all around him.
Jesus laid the evidence before them. “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17b-18).
Jesus then rehearsed all the facts pertaining to these two significant miracles of feeding the masses, quizzing them on the outcome of each. He finished by asking: “Do you not yet understand?“ (Mark 8:21b).
A hard heart is formed by repeatedly witnessing God’s goodness and even his miracles, but never recognizing that God has acted for us in particular, and so we let it pass, never pausing to thank him. Our merciful God cares, but we’re typically unaware of it.
How often can we do this before our hearts become hardened?A hard heart is formed by repeatedly witnessing God's goodness and even his miracles, but never recognizing that God has acted for us in particular, and so we let it pass, never pausing to thank him. Click To Tweet
God sovereignly works circumstances for our good and his glory.
God hardened Pharaoh to achieve his purposes of freeing Israel and showing his power to the watching world of Canaanites and other tribes, because God’s intention always was to save people from all over the earth. The hardening of Pharaoh moved that intention forward.
“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.‘” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills, “(Romans 9:17-18 ESV).
Mercy, ἐλεέω eleéō, a beautiful word, means “to have pity, be compassionate; extend help for the consequences of sin. Opposite to sklerunomai, to be hardened.” (Same source, Zodhiates, S.)
The mercy of God is one of the greatest gifts we ever receive.
Why harden some? Why show mercy to others?
We aren’t privy to God’s sovereign decisions. All of human history lies open before his eyes. God knows the whys of his plans and his working for our good. God is omniscient. We are not.
All of us are born with sinful natures, hardened hearts. Our natural state is to be hardened, and it is only by the work of the Holy Spirit that our hearts are softened. The longer we are hard of heart, the more our hearts are hardened.
None of us are saved except by God’s grace and mercy.
“So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace“ (Romans 11:5-6 ESV).
When we ponder the state of our hearts, do we remember instances when God worked in a mighty way, and we simply let the moment pass? Did we take it in stride as what was deserved, as a norm, rather than stopping to thank the Lord?When we ponder our hearts, do we remember instances when God worked in a mighty way, and we simply let the moment pass? Did we take it in stride as what was deserved, rather than stopping to thank the Lord? Click To Tweet
I do this regularly. I recognize the answers to “big prayers,” but I often forget the “simple answers to prayer,” like daily provision of our food, just like Jesus’ disciples did.
Examine your own heart. What do you discover? What can you do to address it?
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