October 4, 2010 David Balzer

Romans 11: So you think you’re pretty good!

My sons, L and D, love their sport. Soccer and cricket mainly. And they’re good at it. But they’re realistic enough to know they’re never going to become professionals. But they’ve sometimes played with some boys, and their parents, who are SURE they’ll be the next Ricky Ponting, or Harry Kewell. And the parents will spend THOUSANDS of dollars on coaching clinics, and rep team fees, and new gear, to give their boy every chance of making it big. But the reality is/ the soccer world, or the cricket world, is a whole lot bigger than they realise. There are literally THOUSANDS of boys out there better than them. And hardly ANY of THEM will make a career out of sport. There are always 5, 10 or 15 levels of competition higher than the one they think their boy is doing so well in. What they need is a DOSE OF REALITY to bring them down to earth. Because SEEING THE BIG PICTURE TAKES AWAY CONCEIT. And SEEING THE BIG PICTURE is what Paul wants the Romans to do here in Ch 11. In particular, the NON-Jews in the Roman church. He wants them TO SEE THE BIG PICTURE OF GOD’S SALVATION PLAN, so they won’t become proud. You can see it there in v25, which is really the key that unlocks the whole chapter. 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. We’ll get to the second half of the verse in a minute. But in the FIRST half, we see that IGNORANCE leads to CONCEIT. NOT knowing leads to BRAGGING. But, on the OTHER hand, KNOWLEDGE – seeing the big picture – leads to seeing yourself REALISTICALLY. Seeing how you fit into the whole. Which STOPS conceit. But to know what Paul’s talking about here, we need to understand what the MYSTERY is that’s been revealed. What’s this information that will keep them from conceit? It’s the same thing he’s been banging on about through the whole book. That God’s people USED TO BE just Jews, but now Jesus has come along, the GENTILES get a look in as well. God will make right with himself ANYONE who trusts him. Ch 1 v16 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of EVERYONE who believes: first for the JEW, then for THE GENTILE. Or Ch 3 v22 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to ALL who believe. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE, 23 for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. … 29 Is God the God of JEWS ONLY? Is he not the GOD OF GENTILES TOO? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. And it continues all the way through Romans right up to the last few verses. Ch 16 v25 25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, SO THAT ALL NATIONS MIGHT BELIEVE AND OBEY HIM- That’s the mystery. What USED to be a big secret. But not any more. God’s offer of salvation is MUCH too big for only ONE NATION. It’s for the whole world. Which is great news for us. It’s an idea that was there in the Prophets of the Old Testament. God PROMISED it was coming. But it wasn’t CLEAR. And it didn’t happen until Jesus came. And the Jews didn’t particularly LIKE having to share God with the rest of the world. And for the most part, they didn’t want anything to DO with Jesus, God’s Saviour. And the result is that the new people of God, the Christian church, was A MIXTURE. Plenty of Gentiles. SOME Jews. With plenty more Jews on the OUTSIDE not interested at all. And that’s the situation Paul describes in the first part of ch 11. Look there from v1. It’s not as though God’s REJECTED his people. Just because most of them aren’t believers. Back in Elijah’s time (v2), God reserved a remnant of faithful Jews (v4). A fraction. Same thing NOW when you look at the Jews, says Paul (v5). A remnant chosen by grace. Some he CHOSE, OTHERS he HARDENED. But Paul’s hopeful it’s not the end of the road for his fellow Jews. V11. “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!” AT THE MOMENT, they’re not interested, but there’s better things in store. As often happens with God, he uses human disobedience to actually FURTHER his plans. RATHER, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious God uses Israel’s UNBELIEF to bring about his good purposes. Notice the three steps. Israel reject the gospel of Jesus. So Paul takes the message to the Gentiles who accept it and are saved. And Israel become JEALOUS of what the Gentiles have – peace with God. Paul’s talking to the Gentiles now – the ones God’s using to make Israel jealous. V13. I make much of my ministry 14 in the hope that I MAY SOMEHOW AROUSE MY OWN PEOPLE TO ENVY AND SAVE SOME OF THEM. Yes, Paul wants to see Gentiles saved. But his big picture, his end game, is that a GENTILE church of believers will cause HIS OWN PEOPLE to come in and find what all the fuss is about. And the church will be EVEN BIGGER. And THAT means / there’s no reason for BOASTING, says Paul in v18. It’s like God’s people is an olive tree (v17). Some of the branches are snapped off by God because they don’t believe. Then God grafts is some WILD olive branches – the Gentiles. And they’re THRIVING – drawing their nutrients from the roots. It’s not NATURAL, but it WORKS, because God’s done the joining. That’s the HISTORY. But here’s where it gets PERSONAL. Here’s Paul’s message. “There’s nothing clever or special about branches that God’s grafted in. So don’t be conceited. You’re joined BY GRACE, so don’t think you’re better than those NOT joined” That’s Paul’s message to the Gentiles. The WILD branches shouldn’t boast over the CUT-OFF branches. They shouldn’t be ARROGANT (v20). Instead they should be CAUTIOUS. If God was willing to trim NATURAL branches, then he won’t have any problems chopping off some GRAFTED branches. That was the problem the JEWS had – trusting their own position, rather than trusting God’s promise. Don’t be ARROGANT, says Paul. Or to put it the OTHER WAY AROUND. If God can graft in WILD branches like the Gentiles, how much MORE easily could he graft back in NATURAL branches (down in v24). In other words, if the Jews DO turn to Jesus, God can EASILY bring them back in. And so we come to v25. The key that unlocks the whole chapter. 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. God’s plan is for all his elect Gentiles to come to salvation. And then Israel will be made jealous. And THEN, God’s elect Jews will come to Jesus. V26 says And so all Israel will be saved. Which just means the full number of God’s elect Jews. I don’t think we’re to understand this is some sort of large scale, historical, prophetic sense. That for a certain period of time only Gentiles become Christians. And then from that point on, Jews will become Christians. Just that, from Paul’s point of view, when he looks at his countrymen, things are looking fairly discouraging. But it won’t always be that way. He’s confident. Trusting God that in his timing, they’ll start becoming Christians too. Because God’s promises don’t have a Use By date. So what? That’s the historical setting. But for Paul, it’s more than just a history lesson. He’s writing all of this stuff FOR A REASON. It’s got specific relevance in the day-to-day relationships in the Roman church. That people won’t become conceited. That one group wouldn’t think of themselves more highly than another. More worthy. More special. P
erhaps it was A SPECIFIC PROBLEM for the church in Rome. Back in Ch 2 v17, he had to have a word to THE JEWS. 17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God;… 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? And here in Ch 11, he’s warning the Gentiles not to be arrogant and boast at the expense of the Jews. Over into ch 12. Some practical instructions we’ll look at more NEXT week. But one point to notice. V3. DO NOT THINK OF YOURSELF MORE HIGHLY THAN YOU OUGHT, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. In other words. See the big picture. And don’t become conceited. And, ch 12 goes on, that will show itself in using your gifts to build up others. It will show itself in love humbly and sacrificially. And over in Ch 15, he sums up a whole lot of practical teaching with these words. V7. 7 ACCEPT one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the JEWS on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9 so that the GENTILES may glorify God for his mercy, You’ve BOTH got a part. Jew and Gentile. You’re BOTH part of God’s plans. Rejoice, together, in that! And it’s the same message FOR US. Accept one another. Aussie and Other. Young and old. Accept one another. Rich and poor. Married and single. Accept one another. Bible trained and beginner. Wise words and foot in mouth. Outgoing and quiet. Accept one another. Children and adults. Blue collar and white collar. There’s no place for arrogance and judgmentalism in the church. No place for comparing and measuring ourselves against others. We’re not an Amway conference for high performers. We’re a hospital for sick people. We’re not US and THEM. We’re ONE in Christ. We’re not whisperers and back stabbers, we’re speakers of the truth in love. We’re not complainers and critics, we’re humble helpers and servants. ACCEPT one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Do not boast. Do not be arrogant. Don’t be CONCEITED. But think of yourself with sober judgment. And it’s EXACTLY the attitude we need to come to the Lord’s Table.

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