Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
The Call to Faith - August 17, 2014 - Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15) - Text: Romans 11:1-2a, 13-15, 28-32
What must I do to be saved? Last week Paul answered that question simply and succinctly, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And he said, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Although this may seem simple, at least to those of us who do confess faith in Jesus with our mouths and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, and who call on the name of the Lord, for many in our world this is a difficult thing indeed, that is why there are so many who have refused and reject this simple gift and remain unsaved. As a matter of fact, the people of the world in which we live today more and more question the authority of the Bible and instead want to believe that the Christian Church is intolerant because of their exclusive claim of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone. In our text for this morning Paul continues expressing his concern for his own people, his own family and friends, his own fellow Jews, those who continue to reject Christ and refuse faith in Him.
As Paul expresses his concern, especially for his own people, he reminds us of God’s faithfulness. We begin at verse one, “1I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew” (v. 1-2). The fact that many of Paul’s own family are condemned to eternal spiritual death is not due to God’s rejection of these people. As a matter of fact, God has not rejected His covenant people and Paul is an example of such. Paul is a member of the children of Israel, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, and one called to faith by God.
Why then are many of Paul’s family condemned? Because many of his own people have rejected and continue to reject Jesus as the Savior. Again this week, as week before last, Paul’s words might be difficult for us, especially as his words call us to think in terms of our own family and friends. God has not rejected anyone, yet how many people, family and friends do we know who continue to reject Him and thus are condemned. And how often do we fail, even to pray for these people, that the Lord might work to give them faith, but instead we consol ourselves thinking that certainly God has another plan, because we simply do not want to think of the alternative. Indeed, we have become as those of the world who question the authority of the Word of God and the exclusive claim of the Christian Church.
Paul goes on to speak to the Gentiles. By the way, if we have not been paying attention, as all of these words of Paul are Words of God to us, but especially here we would do well to pay attention, because we are Gentiles. We pick up at verse thirteen. “13Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” (v. 13-15). Although Paul is praying for us, he is also praying for his fellow Jews. His prayer may be a bit of a selfish prayer. He is praying that his preaching to the Gentiles might make his fellow Jews jealous. In other words, he is praying that our being given faith and being made a part of the Kingdom of God will stir in the hearts of his fellow Jews the desire to be a part of God’s Kingdom as well. Of course, when we use the word “jealous” here we are using it in a positive way. Normally we would say that being jealous is not a desirable thing, but when it comes to faith, we understand that even God is jealous in that He demands that we worship Him and Him alone. Again, thinking in terms of our own situations, perhaps as we live our lives as Christians, enjoying the blessings we are given, the hope that we have, we may hope that all this will bring our unbelieving family and friends to jealousy so that they too might be stirred to faith.
Paul explains his logic in that it was the rejection by the Jews that made it possible for the Gentiles to hear the good news. Remember, the Church started as a Jewish Christian church. Most all the first Christians were of Jewish descent. As these people rejected the message of Jesus, so then Paul was appointed to take the message to the Gentiles.
Paul goes on to explain. We picking up at verse twenty-eight, “28As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (v. 28-32). What Paul describes is a reversal of fortunes. Once the Gentiles rejected God and now they are being given faith. Now the Jews are rejecting God so the Gentiles may be given faith.
At the same time, God’s call to faith is irrevocable. Remember, the promise to send a Savior, the promise of salvation was made back in the Garden of Eden before there was a Jew or a Gentile. In the Garden of Eden there was Adam and Eve. They sinned and God promised to them that He would send a Savior, for all people. Eve thought the next son she bore was that Savior. She did not realize that it would be another four thousand years or so before God would fulfill this promise, nor did she realize how many different cultural groups there would be on the earth.
After the flood as the earth again began to repopulate, and even after the events of the Tower of Babel and the people were separated because of their different languages, God continued to wait to fulfill His promise to send a Savior. As the people who had separated at the Tower of Babel began to grow in families, the various cultures of the world began to emerge. Unfortunately, many of the fathers of the various cultures failed to share the message of the promise of a Savior with their children and so people began to fall away and lose faith in the Lord and His promises. Then, at the right time, God reiterated His promise to send a Savior. At the right time He issued His call specifically to Abraham and to his children. God called Abraham, his son Isaac, and his son Jacob whose name was changed to Israel and from there we have the Children of Israel. This call and narrowing of the promise line from which the Savior of the world would be born did not negate God’s call and promise to all people.
Jesus came to fulfill all God’s promises and He did, perfectly, all of God’s promises. Jesus came to do what all of humanity was created to do but could not do. Jesus came to do what Adam and Eve could not do, obey God perfectly. Jesus came to do what you and I cannot do, live perfectly, without sin, in thought, word or deed. Jesus came to His own people and although many did believe in Him, especially after His death and seeing Him alive, many of His own people also rejected Him. As the Apostles went out into the world to declare the good news of Jesus’, life, death and resurrection, unfortunately too many did not believe. All the while, God’s promise to send a Savior and His call to faith was also and always a call to the Gentiles who were included in His promise and call to all.
And Paul reminds us that God’s promises to all is irrevocable. In other words, God does not go back on His promises. God’s promise was made to all people and so all people are called to believe in Jesus and have a part in God’s Kingdom. Unfortunately, many, even today, continue to persist in refusing and rejecting that call to faith. For too many in our world today we would rather have life our own way, much like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
What does this mean? First and foremost, I want to remind you again, God’s promise to send a Savior was first given in the Garden of Eden and it was given to all. God’s promise was not a promise of compromise, nor a promise of a bargain. God’s promise was not a deal. God never said that there was something which we need to do on our part. As a matter of fact, as you read through the first three chapters of Genesis you will notice that the whole while that God is doing His thing, creating and so on, the whole while God is the actor everything is good and even very good. When we finally get to the man and the women and their actions and what they are doing, that is when sin entered the world. And it continues today. We mess up and God cleans up. God’s promise in Eden is His promise to us today, He will take care of our sin, our broken relationship with Himself, but He will not impose nor force us to believe.
God’s promise was first made in the Garden of Eden. Later God reiterated and narrowed down His covenant, to Israel, the line through which the Savior would be born. This narrowing down of the line did not negate that the promise was to all people. Nor did this negate that the promise was a promise of faith, not a right of birth. In other words, simply being born of a certain descent does not guarantee one’s salvation. Faith is what brings salvation, but only that faith which has Jesus as its object.
God made a promise. God narrowed the line of fulfillment of His promise. God kept His promise and Jesus came and brought us back into a right relationship with Himself. And now, yet today, we continue to have God’s call to all to faith. God calls us to faith through His means of grace, namely through His Word, the Bible and through His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And yet, unfortunately for us, God’s call to faith does not mean that we cannot refuse and reject what He has to offer. At the same time, our refusal or rejection does not negate God’s continual call.
The fact of the matter is, God’s gifts and promises are certain. We are the one’s who are wishy washy. We are the one’s who stray and fall into sin, daily, hourly, every minute. And yet, our sinning does not negate our being given faith. In other words, yes, even as Christians, even as believers in Jesus, we too continue to sin, but as we continue to repent we are given forgiveness and strengthened to face the trials and temptations of the world each and very day.
For God and His part, it is a done deal. For us and our part, we fail miserably time and again. Thanks be to God that we do not need to depend on ourselves, but we continually place ourselves and our faith in Jesus knowing that He always keeps His promises and that His gifts and calling are irrevocable. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.