Hi Guys! Hope and I are back for another conversational interview. Today we talk about this whole coronavirus/COVID-19 dealy-o, and the effect it is having on our church. We look at some biblical responses we should consider and some of the great encouragement I have received over the past few months as the Pastor at Bangor Community Church.
Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 15. If you do not have one of your own or do not own a Bible, please grab one off the back table as our gift to you.
Well, we will finish up Romans chapter 15 this morning. Which means that there is just one more chapter left before we have completed this long journey to Rome. And one of the other things we will see this morning is the Paul harkens back to the very beginning of his letter here.
Again, we see Paul’s heart on display here. We see from him, complete transparency in his heart, his intended actions and more importantly, his submission of all of those to Gods plans and intentions.
Last week, we saw what Pauls calling was, he was both missionary and pastor. He was a missionary, going and spreading the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people who had not yet heard of them. He planted churches in those areas, built them up, pastored the people, raised up elders to be heads over the church and then continue on to the next place to share the Gospel.
And thats important, because Paul is going to talk about that here. His submissiona nd heart for Gods plans for him and how that both fits and differes from Pauls own wants and desires and plans.
Lets go ahead and read this mornings text. We will be reading Romans chapter 15, verses 22 through the end of the chapter, verse 33. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your perferred translation. Romans 15:22-33, Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:
This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected,[b] I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing[c] of Christ.
30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Paul had shared in the section we looked at last week that he was called bring and preach the Gospel to those who who were in the Eastern Meditaranian region, from Jerusalem to Illyricum. That was what God had set out to him. Just like you and I are called to the Bangor, California area, Paul was called to that Eastern Meditaranian area.
He knew that, and he had a heart for it as we saw last week. But we also know that his calling, what God called him to do, prevented him from coming to Rome until now, something he truly and deeply wanted to do. He had a passion and a desire to go see the churches, the believers, his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that were in Rome.
Lets look back for a moment at what Paul wrote as he opened this letter. He started his letter to the Romans, in chapter 1, starting in verse 8:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[c] that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians,[d] both to the wise and to the foolish.15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
We see here that Paul was longing to go spend time with the churches in Rome. Fellowship is so vital to our walk and life in Christ. He says that they would be mutually encouraged by each other. When believers spend time together, in any form, we should all leave each others company being encouraged and uplifted.
Think about this, I know some of you have shared stories in this vein with me and with the congregation before. You are on vacation. You are on a trip somewhere. Hours or days from home. Hundreds or thousands of miles. You just happen to strike up a conversation with someone and Lo! And Behold! They are Christians too! When that happens, how do you feel afterwards? From my experience, thats a great time and you walk away marveling at God, his timing, his providence.
We need companionship and fellowship. We were made to be in community with each other. We are that way because we were made in the image of God. God who himself is trinity. Eternal fellowship, never alone. We were created to reflect the image and nature of God and one of his natures is fellowship.
Paul is excited that he finally gets to come to Rome and fellowship with his fellow believers there. And for good reasons! But we continue to see that Paul gladly and willingly submits his plans and his wants to Gods plans for him. Before Paul can go to Rome, he must make a detour. And when he does think he will be going to Rome, he will be going there on his way to another missionary journey, another job that he is being given by God.
And this is important to see. Gods call on your life, your obedience to him will require you to do things you dont want to do. It will cause to you to speak up when you would rather stay silent. It will require you to stay silent when you would rather speak up. Im not saying who is on which side there, but we each have work to do in one of those areas, I garauntee that. Gods call and our obedience to it will make us step out of our comfort zone. It will make you go places yu dont want to go. Or, in Pauls case, to go somewhere that you may want to go, but want to go less than many other places.
The flip side of all that, Gods call on your life and your obedience to it will delay an/or cancel plans that you have for yourself and things you really want to do. Sacrifices will be made. Plans will change. Other things will come up. Paul can not high tail it straight to Rome.
Paul needs to go back to Jerusalem, personally go back to Jerusalem, to deliver offerings taken up by the mostly Gentile churches that Paul had established, back to the mostly Jewish church in Jerusalem that was poor and struggling.
This is most likely mentioned by Luke in Acts 24:17, where Paul says that “after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings.” And one of the things we see here is there is a two fold reason for why this offering is so important to be brought to Jerusalem.
The first of course is because of the needs of the poor in the churches in Jerusalem. There are people there who had real needs and those needs had to be met. It is the responsibility of the church body to meet the needs of those within the body. Thats starts local. If we in this room have needs that need to be met, not wants mind you, but needs, than it is the responsibility of those of us in this room to help as we are able.
Scripture makes it clear the order these things are to go. We take care of our own household first. We make sur that our spouse and kids, if they are still at home, we make sure they are taken care of first. Our household is our fisrt priority when it comes to meeting peoples needs.
Second would be our local chhurch family. Again, thats when we look around this room, we share our prayer needs every week, we share life together in fellowship, and we carry each others burdens. When someof us are incapacitated for whatever reason, surgery, sickness, car accident, when one of us gives birth, whatever the reason, we come together and we meet each others needs.
Further out from that, still no less our responsibility is to help the universal church body. This is other churches that are not ours. This is parachurch and missions orginizations. This is believers in other parts of the country, maybe ones that have been hit with natural disasters. This is believers in other countries, maybe ones that are undergoing incredible persecution, or ones that are in incredibley poor regions. This could be local orginizations and ministries like Mt Hope or Caring for Women, the local pregnancy resource center. It could national orginizations like Village Missions, as one example. It could be international missions orginizations as well.
We give when and where we can. We give first to our local home church. Thats what we call our tithe. Above that, as you are able, you give your offerings. The causes and the ministries that God has put on your hearts and when we see needs that need to be met.
Paul saw needs in Jerusalem and as he was on his journies, he was raising money to send back to help meet those needs. And Paul shows that there is a direct connection between our giving and what the Gospel does to us.
John Piper makes this point, writing:
when we go to 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 where Paul gives his fullest explanation of this offering for Jerusalem he explicitly connects the offering with the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 9:13, he says this, “By their approval of this service, they [the poor saints in Jerusalem] will glorify God because of your [the Gentiles’] submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ.”
Piper continues, saying:
In other words, one of the things at stake in this collection for the poor is the demonstration of what the gospel does to people—it makes them generous. It frees them from the love of money.
Paul also tells us that we are to give cheerfully and generously and in 2 Corinthians 8:13 & 14:
For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.
So that is the first reason why it was so important that the churches that Paul had been visiting gave and sent their offerings back to Jerusalem. The second reason why it was so important to Paul that this happened was to bring the church in the 1st century together
Church Unity. This has obviously been a theme of Pauls all throughout the letter to Rome. And most specificallyto what we see here, unity in the church between the Jews and the Gentiles. Starting from back in chapter 1, through out the rest of the book, culminating in chapter 11 and continuing through what we see here, Paul makes the point time and time again that there is no difference, no two people of God, in the church of God, in the Kingdom of God, in Jesus Christ, there are no distinction between Jews and Gentiles.
Now, one thing we do know, is that God did choose to reveal himself and his Son, through whom we can obtain salvation, through the Jewish people and offered it equally to the Gentiles as well. Paul writes in Romans 1:16&17:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,[e] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”[f]
But Paul is just as clear that, in Christ, there is no difference. We are all one in Gods eyes and in status before him. And we see here, that it wasnt always easy and it didnt match their preconcivied notions but Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians were showing love and unity to each other.
Dr Kim Riddlebarger writes:
Those whom the gospel sets free, will find themselves filled with gratitude and desiring to help out their brothers and sisters whenever necessary. Since the blessings of that gospel were first preached to the Jews, and then spilled over on to the Gentiles, the Gentiles are able to show their gratitude by collecting an offering for the relief of the Jewish poor. Having been given spiritual blessings from the Jews, the Gentiles can now share their material blessings with them.
With the gospel, everything changes. Our heart, our attitudes, our actions, even our perceptions of other groups of people. Outside of Christ, Jews & Gentiles were essentially enemies. In Christ, they were brothers and sisters.
Piper again writes:
The spiritual blessings we enjoy—forgiveness of sins, and justification by faith, and reconciliation with God, and escape from hell, and all things working together for our eternal good, and the hope of enjoying the glory of God—all of these are owing to our being connected to the seed of Abraham, namely, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). Jesus said in John 4:22, “Salvation is from the Jews.” Our savior is the Jewish Messiah.
The unity between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians was brought about by their submission to Jesus Christ and by the work of the Holy Spirit, but it took purposeful work on their part.
Unity takes work because we are all different peoiple, from different backgrounds with different experiences. But unity is both called for and worth it. It comes through the changed hearts of the Gospel. It comes through work on our end. It comes through loving each other, remembering love covers a multitude of sins. It comes through setting aside our own preferences for the sake of the good of the body of Christ. It comes through fellowship and serving together.
Paul finished this section with an appeal to prayer. Even in this, Paul is fostering fellowship and unity. He is asking the believers in Rome to pray for his situation. He is praying for his trip to Jerusalem and that he gets to Rome for their meeting up on his way to Spain.
Heres the thing, based on scripture, we never see Paul get to Spain. And we do see him get to Rome, but not for fellowship. He was arrested in Jerusalem in Acts 21. He then appeals his trial and sentence to Ceaser and is brought to Rome in order to be put before Ceaser himself. Pauls motivation was to preach the Gospel to the highest authority in the land. The book of Acts ends with him waiting for that chance, under house arrest in Rome.
Paul knew that there was trouble waiting for him in Jerusalem. He was asking for prayer that that trouble would bypass him. He was also asking for prayer that the gifts he was bringing for the Jewish Christians would be accepted as the gift it was intended to be and accepted with grace and humility. The good news, we see in Acts 21, is that it was indeeded accepted by James.
Paul finishes his prayer, praying a blessing over the believers in Rome. That the God of Peace would be with them all.
Dont miss this as a throw away few verses. Prayer is a vital part of coming together in fellowhsip. It is a vital part of unity within the body of Christ. We cannot come together and grow together if we do not pray together.
This is why our time here on Sunday morning, we have a time of prayer. We have our list in the bulleting that we pray for continually. We also open it up to hear your current requests. We have both our family of the week and we have the Village Missionaries of the week as well, and they list some prayer requests in there. We have prayer meeting Wednesday mornings and we pray for you all specifically and by name. Prayer is connec tive and brings us together in ways that would not happen otherwise. It opens us up to each other and helps us to know each other on deeper levels.
There is no throwaway lines in these 11 verses. Paul lays his heart out and models heartfelt and sacrificial submission to Gods plans and Gods will. And in that, I will leave you with John Pipers 4 takeaways from this passage.
So I close with these summary exhortations:
1) Be vigilant for the reputation of the gospel.
2) Care for the poor. Ask God for that kind of heart.
3) Love the unity of the church and its ethnic diversity, and rejoice that there is one people of God, not two.
Embrace the glorious truth that when you are born again by the Spirit of God and treasure Christ—who died for you—above all else, you begin to change. You delight to do what it is your duty to do, and want to do what you ought. This is holy joy. And it lasts forever.
Good Morning! Please go ahead and grab your Bibles with me, and open up to Romans chapter 13. If you do not have a bible or do not own one, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you.
So, Romans 13. This is a tough section to teach and preach on, and frankly, it’s a tough section of scripture to read for me. This is because of my personal political views, and what I know about some of your guys political views.
To briefly recap, we are in a section of Pauls letter to the churches in Rome where he is talking about living out our Christian Faith. And our living right and acting right, living out our Christian faith is predicated on right doctrine, or accurately knowing what the Word of God says.
We can live right in front of God without knowing what he is telling us. It doesn’t come from our feelings. It doesn’t come from our opinions. It doesn’t come from what we want our think or feels good to us. It comes from what God says and this here, the bible, is his Word to Us.
You know, last week, Ron Sallee was here and he talked about the need for accurately knowing what Gods Word said. He read from Amos and showed us that there is a spiritual famine coming in the land. It comes from not knowing, not disciplining ourselves and nor wanting to know what the Bible says.
And so, we need to make sure that we are submitting our thoughts, views, actions and priorities underneath what the bible says.
To set the scene a little bit here for these 7 verse we will be looking at this morning, There was a lot, and I do mean, ALOT of governmental opposition to the spread of Christianity for the first 300 or years until Constantine, Emperor of Rome, converted to Christianity. We could debate back and forth about whether that was ultimately good or bad for Christianity or whether he really was or was not a Christian, but one thing we can historically see is that this stopped persecution of Christianity for a time.
Before then, well, lets just say it was rough. 11 of the 12 Apostles were violently martyred. The twelfth, John, the one whom Jesus loved, survived being boiled alive in oil and was sent to live in exile on an island.
The book of Acts covers much of the rough time the Apostles had and especially Paul as he simply went to share and preach and teach the Gospel. To really look at what Paul has to go through, check out what he writes in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 showing just a bit about how much He went through, and especially persecuted against.
So we see government opposition in the Early church. We see it throughout the first couple of hundred years of Christianity. We see it through out the Middle Ages when the Roman Catholic church was persecuting any lay person with a Bible, those who were trying to translate the Bible and those who believed and taught that salvation was through grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in the scriptures alone and all to the Glory of God alone. We see it through out the world today, in places like China, where the church is very much illegal and pastors are being arrested. We see it in areas of the Middle East & Northern Africa where people are being imprisoned for claiming faith in Christ and for sharing it with others.
We don’t yet see that in out Country, not to anywhere close to those levels. We are starting to see some of the beginnings of it. We are starting to see the social outcasting of historical, biblical beliefs. We see the legislating of unbiblical and anti biblical ideas, behaviors and worldviews. But we are just beginning to see those in our country compared to around the world today.
So, remember what things were like for Paul, and for the apostles, for the early church, we remember the context of which this letter and this section especially was written. And it with those conditions of governmental persecution against the early church that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write these 7 verses.
So, lets read Romans 13:1-7. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version and please follow along in your Bibles as we read. Romans 13:1-7
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
I don’t know about you, but I know for me, that’s hard to hear and that’s hard to read, especially at specific times and with specific political dynamics.
Heres what we know. God created this world, he created all of his creation with order. He created us and his creation with a natural hierarchy. He created us to submit to the things that are in authority over us.
We know this because we are created in his image and the trinity shows submission. For example, Jesus, God the Son, completely equal in every way to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. And yet, he willingly submits himself to the will and authority of God the Father (Luke 22:42, Hebrews 10;7, 1 John 4:10)
So, being created in his image, we are made to submit to authority. And our highest authority is, of course, God. And we do see, an example of that in Acts chapter 5. Peter and John were arrested for a second time and brought before the high council. We read in Acts 5:27-32:
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
We must obey God rather than men. WE are going to come back to that shortly. But here we are still establishing the point that there is a hierarchy in the levels of authority. And we are all called to submit to all the authorities above us. Scripture shows us that wives are to submit to their husbands in Ephesians 5:22. Christians are to submit to their pastors in Hebrews 13:17 and citizens are to submit to their rulers in 1 Peter 2:12. This is but a very small list of a few of the ways that we are called to submit.
One of the problems is that this goes against the very core of who we are as Americans. We became a nation by rejecting the authority of our sovereign rulers. The individualism we see around us today, the “all about me,” attitude that is becoming more and more prevalent, everyone who is more worried about their rights than their responsibilities, the very thing Paul was teaching against in ch 12, all have grown out of the founding fathers fighting against and rejecting the authority that was governing over them at the time.
Dont get me wrong here, it made us into a great nation. Maybe the greatest nation the world has seen. But as this attitude and mindset grew and morphed, it may well have cost us our soul. See, this is our fleshly natural desire. This is what started with Adam and Eve in the Garden, to throw off the authority over them, to be their own authority. And we have been doing it ever since. Rebelling against the authority over us and trying to be our own authority.
But God says that we are to submit to authority. And verse 1 right here, all authority has been instituted and ordained by God. This is specifically referring to governing authorities, to governments. One of the things that this means is that, in America, whoever is voted in as president, is your president whether you like him or not. That means that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were your presidents. It also means that George W Bush was and Donald trump is your president, whatever you think of them, of their policies, of their religion or of their private lives. What this doesn’t mean is that all governments or leaders follow God and do what is right all the time.
But God puts rulers and governments in place, he puts rules and laws in place for our benefit. We look to the Old Testament and we see the laws that God handed down, the 10 commandments and we see that God did not hand them down, did not institute them to restrict us or to punish us, but he gave them over because he knows whats best for us.
He is not interested in our happiness, but in our holiness. Thats what us submitting to his authority will bring us. Romans 8:29, Paul writes that he brings us through things so that we may be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, as in made Holy and righteous.
But we rebel against that. We rebel against God and his graces by sinning and going against his commandments and his laws. But we also rebel against God by going against Gods ordained and instituted governments. RC Sproul says it this way, “Rebellion against the authority implies rebellion against Gods ordinance.”
Because what Paul says here, as we see that the purpose of the laws that God is for our benefit, so too the purpose of government is for societies benefit. Governments and rulers are put in place to protect & reward the good and to punish and restrain the evil. They are to be a terror to be bad conduct.
This is the case with all governments. This is especially the case, of course, if the rulers and the governments know God and are following him. But this is true and accurate for non christian governments as well. The only difference being what their view of right and wrong is. But often, when the government is instituting and enforcing laws, the general outcome is that if you act good and follow the rules, it will be good for you, if you do evil and/or rebel against the authority it will be bad for you.
Another part to this is that God is showing that the government has the right to enact capital punishment. This can be a controversial topic, but Paul writes in verse 4 that if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
Now, there are some very clear and important limits on capital punishment in the scriptures. I don’t know if you noticed, but we actually looked at some of them the last few weeks. Romans 12:19, Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. This is showing that it is not for us as individuals to take vengeance into our own hands. So called vigilante justice, despite, I’ll be honest, sounding really good sometimes, goes against what Gods Word says.
We also saw that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 5 addressed the Old Testament teaching of An Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth. Remember Jesus pointed out that this was, again, not for us as individuals to take part of, but it was used in the Old Testament in a legal setting. Not only that, but another one of Jesus big points in this was that we need to be careful that the punishment fits the crime.
Governments are not just given free rein, with no restrictions, no rules. God gives limits to their responsibilities and their powers. Capital punishment is not an across the board thing. It is not for any and all crime. It is not for without due process and it is not for whatever the Government decides to make it for.
Thats part of the thing we need to remember if we want to have a conversation about capital punishment. Yes, the concept is biblical. But we need to make sure that the application and the practice are as well. That is not being done in this country unfortunately. Too many states have too many different parameters and studies show that across the board, different verdicts can get handed down for the same crime.
But again, one of the biggest takeaways is that God has ordained that governments are allowed to administer appropriate punishment for breaking the laws that said government instills.
As we saw earlier, we have the dual responsibility to submit to the laws and authority to the government that God put in authority over us. Paul says here in verse 5, Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
But we also have the dual responsibility to put Gods laws ahead of mans. Again, for the sake of conscience. So, if or when, depending on your viewpoint, the government decides to outlaw the Bible, or make it illegal to hold biblical viewpoints, if government persecution gets to the point where it is in China, in Iran, in parts of Northern Africa, if it gets to the point where it was in Paul’s day, then we have a duty, an obligation to follow Gods laws. We will and are obligated to continue to preach and teach the bible. We are to continue to read our bibles and hold on the truth that is within.
Here the thing we forget though. WE stand up for Gods laws ahead of mans and man has every right to administer appropriate punishment. We break the law, we go to jail. Thats the way society works. Yes, we stand up to unjust laws. Yes we do what the bible tells us to. But if we break the laws, whether just or unjust, we need to understand that we will face the consequences and we should not be surprised to spend time in jail for it. Again, I’m not telling you not to stand up against unjust laws, laws that go against God, I’m saying there are consequences for doing so.
Paul finishes up this section, again, sounding much like Jesus’ teachings. Verses 6 & 7 are not things most of us want to hear. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
It pains me to read this and to say this but God says that we are to pay the taxes that our Government tells us to pay. Stinks, huh? Especially here in California? Now, again, that doesn’t mean that we don’t speak out against what we see as excessive or unfair taxes. Speak out absolutely. Get involved in trying to change things that you think, from a biblical view, need to be changed. Do what you can to ge the leaders, our representatives to listen and put policies, procedures and all that into place that you think are right and fair.
But we pay taxes to whom they are owed. Luke 20:21-25, Jesus addresses this. Remember that Israel was occupied by Rome at that time. The Jews didn’t want to acknowledge roman authority and Rome wanted to take as much money as possible and to exert as much authority as possible. So the Jews wanted to know, would Jesus side with Rome or Israel?
they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality,[d] but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius.[e] Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Now there is also a lot in that passage for a different day, but notice what Jesus says here. Romes authority is legitimate. The money they use is issued by Rome. So give it to them. You are issued by God. Give yourselves to Him.
Rome had authority over them, but it didn’t give them their authority, nor did it own them. If their identity was true, if their faith was real, nothing Rome did to them could take that away.
Who are you? Who has given you your identity? Is it the government? IS that who defines you and is that who you ut your trust in? Unfortunately, for too many today, that is the case. God put the government in place for the benefit of society, but it can not define us, it can not give us our identity and it will not and cannot save us.
Jesus Christ is the one who gives us our identity. The term Christian means Christ follower. We obey the government that he gave us, but He is who we follow. Before hand, it doesn’t make any sense, I know. I was there. I am an American. I dont need anybody to save me. I dont need to submit to any authority.
But once we submit ourselves to Gods authority, we surrender ourselves to him, we trust in Jesus Christ and the work he did, dying on the cross and raising from the dead. Then the Holy Spirit comes in and seals us, transforms our heart and opens our eyes. Now we have a new identity. Now we are no longer sinners. We are no longer who others tell us we are. We are no longer who we tell ourselves we are . We are no longer defined by our race, by our ethnicity, by our national citizenship, by our political leanings, by any of it.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t have any of those things anymore. We still are American. We still are white, black, hispanic, asian, Native American. We are still Republican or democrat or other, conservative, liberal or moderate. Those things play into making us who we are, and we can celebrate them, but they do not define us. They are not our identity.
We belong to Christ. Our citizenship is no longer of this world, but in the city which has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10) We are citizens of the Kingdom of heaven, though we do not yet reside there. Jesus prayed that we would be in the world but not of it. (john 15:19) While we are in this world, we have a duty and a responsibility to care for it, to seek to do right and to preach, teach and live the Bible. Jeremiah 29:7 reads: But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Good Morning! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Romans Chapter 9. If you don’t have a Bible, if you do not own one, we have a couple on the back table there that we would love for you to have. If you do not own a Bible, please let that be our gift to you.
Now, as we get into what Paul is writing here in Romans chapter 9, it is easy for us to have the intellectual answers and responses, but it is much harder to have the right, true emotional, instinctual and reactionary answers and responses.
We look at what Paul has been showing us about God, not only over the course of the last chapter and a half, but over the last 9 chapters, building from the beginning of this letter and still continuing to build as he writes chapter 9 here.
Paul is hammering home the point, in many different ways, with many different applications, that God is completely and totally sovereign. That what he has determined, not just seen, but determined before the beginning of time has zero chance of not happening. That God has chosen, strictly in his Goodness, His grace and his Mercy, He has chosen to save some of us from the eternal punishment deserved from our rebellion against him and our sin.
That doesnt always sit well with us. In fact, in our emotions and our human understanding we do whatever we can to reject this idea. We reject what God has clearly taught. We call him a liar. We say that things are not fair because we dont understand them. We attack Gods character.
Ultimately, we dont want to come under authority, and God demands that we submit to his authority. In all this, human objections to Gods authority, to his will, to his goodness and fairness pop up all the time. Romans chapter 9 addresses 3 of those such questions. We addressed the first one last week.
God promised Abraham that his descendants would be the recipients of the promise. Not all of the Jewish people, the physical descendants of Abraham, were saved. So then, has Gods Word failed? No! We, in our human wisdom, see the promises that God makes and assume they will be fulfilled in a certain, specific way. God says otherwise.
In this case, the promise is not made to the physical descendants, though they have many advantages, but to the spiritual descendants, all who believe in Christ. All whom God has called to him, will receive the fulfillment of the promise of God and Gods Word will not have and has not failed.
This morning we will take a look at two more of those objections. Overall, we will end up looking through verse 29. We are going to start with verse 13, which we also touched on last week, some of that overlap I was mentioning. We will start with verse 13 and in this first section and read through verse 18, looking at the first objection. Romans chapter 9, verses 13-18. Paul writes:
As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17 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.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
So, in its essence, the argument here is that it is unfair for some people to be saved and for some to not be saved. The argument usually comes along like this, “It is unfair for God to choose to save some and not choose to save others.”
Now, if you think this as well, if this question, or objection is a struggle for you, or if you hear this objection and want to know how to respond to it, or if you have any other questions and objections, or hear from others various questions and objections, I’m going to show you today how we answer and respond to those questions. It’s the same way Paul responded to those questions and objections.
We look at what the Bible says.
Simple and clearly. What does Gods Word say? If we limit it to that question, we can see the answers to our questions very easily. Paul here, very simply answers this objection. He says, “No, it’s not unfair, nothing about God is unfair!”
And Paul shows that this is what Gods Word says. Many places, in many ways. Now, we see that said very simply and clearly, but, who wants to raise their hand right now and say, “But God…” But you don’t know my situation. You don’t know what I’ve been through. But my brother, but my sister. But my child, but my grandchild…
That answer God gives us through out scripture, the answer that Paul gives us here is simple and clear. We make it complicated. Our sin nature, that we are all born with, makes it complicated. This fallen, broken world makes it complicated. When I read this, I make it complicated. Im willing to wager, more often than your willing to admit, when you read this, you make it complicated.
The answer is simple. The situation, the context, the application can all be complicated. So let’s try to keep this simple.
Hope brought up a point this week. We were watching something together this week, I don’t even remember what it was. But it was a couple of episodes of something in a row. She went to skip one of them. At some other point in time, she had seen the end of the episode, the last few minutes or so. She knew what happened, She had been spoiled to the ending. That ever happen to you? See the end of something before you see the whole thing? Or someone spoils the twist, the surprise of a movie you have been waiting to see? Whats the point of watching it then, right?
God never gets spoiled in that way. He is never surprised by the ending. And it isn’t because he sees the whole picture, it isn’t even because of his omniscience, his knowledge of everything. God does not see the episode or movie all at once and know the future if you will. No, God wrote the script. He wrote it with the ending already in mind. He wrote the ending, and in a way, it is the purpose of the story.
Again, it’s not that God sees all and knows all, but he determines all. He creates all. He has authority over all. He gets to determine what happens, he gets to determine when it happens and he gets to determine who it happens to. He and he alone has the right, the ability and the authority to determine anything, let alone everything.
God says, simply and clearly, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” and Paul again, makes crystal clear that because of this, it is based on God, his mercy and his character, his perfect mercy and his perfect character, and not on anything about us, no human exertion, no human will. His mercy is based on him and him alone.
Paul bring sup Pharaoh. It is interesting to me. We see Pharoah in the beginning of the book of Exodus. Pharaoh was again and again presented with the truth of Gods Word and with Gods plan and Pharoah continually rejected it. It’s very telling, I believe that the language the Bible uses alternates between Pharaoh hardening his own heart, and God hardening Pharaohs heart.
They are both used. They are used interchangeably. And they are used with no difference. The Bible makes no distinction between God hardening his heart and Pharoah hardening his own heart. And I think that’s a key thing to keep in mind when we remember and acknowledge Gods sovereignty and authority. It doesn’t take away our responsibility.
John Piper says, Results are God’s business. Obedience is ours. And this is true obedience that he is talking about here. This is not checklist obedience. This is not righteousness based on obedience. This is an obedience out of love, out of thankfulness, out of passion and out of submission to a greater authority than ourselves.
That means obeying to the best of our ability. That means obey, not just enough, but all the way. That means obey just like we love, with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
That means that we plant seeds. We plant them with love and passion. We plant them anywhere and everywhere. We plant them in all times and places because we don’t know which ones he will water. We don’t know which one will be on rocky ground, on shallow soil, on fertile ground. We don’t know who he is calling to himself. We do not know the end of the movie, who gets saved and who doesn’t. God knows because he wrote the movie. God knows because he determined it.
And He determined it for a specific purpose. Look back at what Paul quotes, what God said 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.”
To the Glory of God alone.
The purpose of Gods revealed will. To show his power in us so that his name might be proclaimed in all the earth. This specifically is not talking about salvation. That would be real easy to take out of context. God shows his power in us, his followers, us healing people and doing miracles so that we can bring people to Christ. That would be a wrong interpretation and application of this text.
God raised up Pharaoh. He made this man the most powerful man in the world at that moment in history. He put him in charge of the greatest nation in the world at that point. And he hardened his heart. Pharaoh was not and would not be a believer. He would not know Gods mercy and grace. And God used him, in his wickedness, in his evilness, in his sin, to show Gods own power. He showed his power for his own glory. He showed us power so that his name would be proclaimed in ALL the earth.
He showed us his power because one day, in the end, all will eventually submit to Gods authority. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is LORD. But not all will bow and confess in time.
God is for God. All of Gods choices, while he works all things together for the good of those who love him, all of Gods choices are made to glorify himself. All of Gods choices are made with the perfect knowledge of a perfect God, who is perfectly good, perfectly merciful, perfectly just, perfectly perfect. There is no unfairness in God.
Just because we can’t see everything he sees, doesn’t mean he is wrong. Just because we don’t see everything he determines, doesn’t mean he doesn’t determine it. Deuteronomy 29:29. The secret things belong to the LORD. He doesn’t reveal everything to us. He is under no obligation to.
That doesn’t change our responsibility, shouldnt change our obedience. There is quote that is often sourced to Charles Spurgeon that says:If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the street lifting up shirt tails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I’d give them the gospel. But God didn’t do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that ‘whosoever will may come.’” Jesus says, “and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
Results are Gods business. Obedience is ours. To be obedient, we need to submit. To be obedient, we need to acknowledge his authority. In order to rightly obey, we need to forsake any authority that we think we have the right to lay claim to.
We insert what we think is our right to have authority over or in place of God in a number of ways. Lets start with this. What is the name that God has given himself in the Scriptures?
Gods name, Yahweh, translates I AM. I am what? Thats part of the problem. We want to finish what we see is an incomplete sentence, an incomplete description. But for God, I AM is a complete sentence. For us, we try to fill in the blank, we speak for God where he has not spoken.
We try to label God, to conform him to what we want or what we expect. We do what we have no right to do. We do what we have no authority to do. Only God has the authority to define himself. Only he has the authority to declare what is true. And he has. And he has revealed to us what he has declared true. He has given us his inspired word, inerrant, infallible and fully sufficient. He has given us the Bible.
This book, his Word, reveals all that is needed to be revealed for us to do what we are supposed to do. It is fully sufficient for matters of life and faith. And it gives us the answers that we need. It does not always give us the answers we want. That works two ways. Sometimes it is silent, not answering the questions that we ask of it. More likely, more often, it answers the questions we ask. It answers simply and clearly. But it does not give us the answers we want.
We can intellectually and verbally affirm we believe that the bible is true, fully true and completely true, but if we take Gods answers and we change them to fit what we want them to say, then we are not being obedient to God. We are not submitting to his authority.
When Paul answers this objection, that God is unfair because some are saved and some are not, when Paul tells us there is nothing about God that is unfair, and that all his choices, which are not dependant on human will or exertion, but on God himself, when Paul shows us that simply and clearly that God is completely and totally sovereign and has planned all things out before time began, and that ll his choices and decisions and determinations are done for His Glory and His Glory alone… When Paul tells us that, we don’t like it.
It can trigger some fatalism in us. Thats the attitude that, since God has predestined it all, I don’t have to actually do anything. I don’t have to submit. I don’t have to obey. I don’t have to evangelize. I don’t have to repent. I can continue to sin. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, Eat, Drink, for tomorrow we die.
God squashes that pretty hardcore if you read anything in the Bible. Gods sovereignty does not negate man’s responsibility. Gods sovereignty does not negate your responsibility.
This is the next objection that Paul responds to. Dealing with what responsibility we have and why should we bother doing anything. We will dig deeper into that next week.
As we come close to finishing up this week, want to come back and emphasize, we don’t always like what God says in his Word. We don’t have to. We do have to submit to it.
We have to do what he has told us to do. He doesn’t make that optional. And when we are saved by God, when he has chosen to show us mercy and compassion, we want to do what he tells us. Not in order to achieve righteousness, not to earn favor or salvation, not to be worthy of mercy and compassion, but because he has already shown it to us.
We are not saved by obedience or by works, or by human will or exertion. But we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, by Christ alone, as revealed in scripture alone, all to the glory of God alone.
We show that salvation, we show our faith with obedience, with works, with our human will and exertion, powered by the love of Christ which compels us.
That means that we put to death the sins that live inside us. In our salvation, our sins have been crucified and we are new creations. Our sins have been forgiven and we are to pursue holiness and sanctification. But they have not all been driven out.
We still have sin inside us. They can include sins that we are working through, trying to drive them out. They can include sins we don’t want to let go of. They can include sins that we have hidden or denied so much that we don’t recognize them as sins. What sins are you hiding from others, including yourself? What sins are you justifying based off your situation, your circumstances? Or based of what you want the Bible to say instead of what it actually says.
Anger, pride, sexual immorality, apathy, indifference, idolatry, and so much more. But not only killing sin, but also, in the positive, doing the good works that God has prepared for us. Creating disciples, do justice, love kindness, taking care of widows and orphans, sharing the good news of the Gospel, studying the Word, praying and so much more.
Gods word is clear. What he says is often and mostly simple and clear. Allister
Begg likes to say, “The Main things are the Plain things and the Plain things are the Main things.”
Our job, our responsibility is to do all things to the glory of God. And to do that, we need to submit to Gods authority and his will as revealed through his word, the Bible.