THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

I think we miss the boat in attempting to define the Sovereignty of God. In our vain thinking we place on God, our own intellectual definition of what sovereignty is, and in doing so, we define God’s sovereignty within the perimeters of human wisdom.

Sovereignty simply means supreme power, authority, and dominion. Throughout scripture we see that God is supreme, and all powerful, with all authority and dominion belonging to him.

The problem with human wisdom is that it limits God’s sovereignty to what we think a Sovereign God would do. A person may say “man does not have a free will for if man has a free will, God can not be sovereign.”

One who would make such a claim has actually defined the perimeters of God’s sovereignty, for in his futile mind a sovereign God would not allow his creation to have a free will. But what If God wanted to give humanity a free will?

What if, in God’s wisdom (in his sovereign wisdom) he chose to give humanity the freedom of choice, so that he could display his glorious power, and authority, in the midst of opposition and on the behalf of those who set their hearts on him.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul described the cross as the wisdom of God in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians. We know from the whole counsel of scripture that the cross was a display of the sovereignty of God, yet in his wisdom, God displayed his sovereign power by utilizing those who opposed both him and Jesus.

The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. ~ Acts 4:26

Who put it into the hearts of sinful men to condemned Jesus? Was it God?

The scripture says it was Satan who put it into Judas’s heart to betray Jesus, not God (John 13:2). The actions of Judas were foretold in the Old Testament, and played a major role in the crucifixion, but it was Satan and not God who put it into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus.

What if God, in his sovereignty, decided to display his wisdom by utilizing the foolishness of sinful men to carry out his purposes of redeeming them?

What if in God’s sovereign wisdom, he decided to win the hearts of those to whom he gave the freedom to rebel against him, by demonstrating his great love, mercy, and grace to them?

What if God has sovereignly given man the freedom to chose to repent and be saved, or to rebel and be damned? Free will in no way negates God’s sovereignty, if anything, it displays it all the more!

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RETHINKING ESCHATOLOGY

In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes to the believers at Corinth and says the following:

As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are our’s in the day of the Lord Jesus. ~ v.14

Paul writes something similar to the Thessalonians.

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:19

Have you ever anyone teach on who will be your crowd, your joy, and your boasting when the Lord comes? There is so much eschatology in the New Testament that is missed by the end time experts who are preaching from current events rather than the Bible in context.

While many of us have a very selfish view of the coming of the Lord, Paul expected joy and rejoicing because of others who would experience God’s glory at the coming of Christ.

So, who is your crown, your joy, and your rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ, because of your sacrifices of love for their sakes?

Don’t say Jesus, for we all will rejoice to see him, but as Paul had those to whom he had ministered, whose salvation and victory on that day would be as a crown of rejoicing, whose salvation and victory will do the same for you?

Are you looking for the day of the Lord Jesus with others in mind?

GOD IS SAVING THE JEWS BY THE MERCY GIVEN TO THE GENTILE

There is only “one” holy nation in eyes of God. It’s not modern day Israel, and never will be. It’s not the United States, and never will be, nor is it any other physical nation.

The only nation that is holy in God’s eyes is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ: the blood washed, the redeemed.

When God brought Israel out of Egypt, he said the following to them:

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. ~ See Exodus 19:5-6

In his first epistle, the apostle Peter declares to his Jewish brethren (members of the church) who had been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light…” ~ 1 Peter 2:9

To Israel in the wilderness God said, “you will be if…” To the born again Jews (members of Christ’s body, the church), God says, “you are.” Israel’s calling was to be what God has accomplished through Christ, and that is “the church.”

National Israel’s covenant with God was the Law given to Moses, and the Law bound Israel in the flesh with a curse. According to the narrative of scripture, the curse was imforced when Israel refused to obey God and continuously broke his covenant.

This is the reason why Israel in the flesh has been “cut off” by God’s mercy as Paul declares in Romans 9-11. Had the Mosaic covenant continued, Israel would have continued under the curse.

God has cut off ethnic Jews from covenant membership so that he might save some of them (those who would no longer abide in unbelief}. In this way, God demonstrates his mercy on those who will turn from ungodliness to righteousness,

This is the backdrop to Paul’s statement, “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” ~ Romans 11:28 

What was the “gift and calling” of God to Israel, which is without repentance?

It was the call to become a holy nation as God promised to make them “if” they would obey his voice and keep his commandments. Israel was called to be his people, the church. A remnant were, but the rest refused.

The gifts and callings of God for Israel can only be realized in the person of Jesus Christ, and for this reason Jesus died bearing the curse of the law to save both the Jew, and the Gentiles.

Gentiles who are saved are not “step children” of Abraham, nor are physical Jews more the children of Abraham. The “true” children of Abraham are those who are of faith.

God, in his mercy has “cut off” from covenant relationship unbelieving Jews, counting them all as sinners so that he might show them all the same mercy that he has bestowed on the hopeless Gentiles who repent and believe the gospel.

For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. ~ Romans 11:30-32

Notice, that Paul declares that God is saving the Jews who will believe, not because they are Jews in the flesh, but by “the mercy” he has given to Gentiles who were lost in sin and had no covenant with God.

God only has “one covenant family,” and that family is the blood washed church from every nation! And this was God’s plan of salvation all along, even before Israel existed.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love… ~ Ephesians 1:3-4

The salvation of the world was not an afterthought. It wasn’t plan-b. It has always be the plan hidden in Christ, and for this purpose God called the nation of Israel.

Many will cite, “Israel is the chosen people,” yet few of them will tell you to what end were they chosen. They were chosen for God’s redemptive purposes which have come to fruition in his Son: the true Israelite and the King of Israel, Jesus Christ!

In Christ, God has accomplished what his people under the Law could not do. He raised up a Savior from among them by which he has redeemed to himself a family, a holy nation, a sanctified body who worships him and serves him, and this was his eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:11).

Salvation through Jesus Christ comes to the Jew, not through the Law, but in the same way it has comes to the Gentiles – by God’s mercy!

If God had not cut off the unbelieving Jews, destroyed their temple, and put an end to their system of worship, they would have never been redeemed. They would have continued under the curse of the law.

Yet there are eschatological views that claim that Israel will live under the Law in a future millennial dispensation. Those who make these claims fail to understand the Law and Christ’s redemption of his people from the Law.

Because of his mercy, God has cut off all unbelieving Jews and abolished the Mosaic covenant, so that he can have mercy on all Jews who will believe the gospel

And to this Paul declares:

Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. ~ Romans 11:31-36

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9-11 (Part 5)

Chapter 9:14-23 – VESSELS OF WRATH AND VESSELS OF MERCY

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? ~ Romans 9:14-24 

Paul has shown in the previous verses how that not all within Israel are truly Israel, because God’s calling is based on election according to his grace and not based on ethnic status: Not the Calvinist doctrine of election, but God’s purpose which is mercy towards those who believe.

Ethnic Israel had failed to obtain that for which they were called, yet some within Israel (a remnant), had obtained the promises.  They are those with circumcised hearts among those who were circumcised in the flesh only.

Those who were circumcised in heart obtained the promises God made to Abraham, and are the “true Israel within Israel.” The rest were hardened, not serving God from the heart, but relying on their ethnic status and boasting in the law, though they did not keep it.

17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. ~ Romans 2:17-29 

In their hardened and uncircumcised hearts, ethnic Israel is the vessel of wrath fitted for destruction of whom Paul makes reference. Paul appeals to the historical account of God’s dealings with Pharaoh as a scriptural example of God’s sovereignty in hardening whom He wills.

Paul employs the scriptural account of Pharaoh to expound on his explanation of Israel and the remnant within Israel (the true Israel within Israel), for it is through faith, that God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled, and not through the flesh.

In contrast to the vessel of wrath which in the context is national Israel, the remnant of believing Jews along with believing Gentiles are the vessels of mercy whom God has called according to his grace.

What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? ~ Romans 9: 22-24 

Notice that God has called the vessels of mercy from among the Jews. This implies that not all Jews were called as vessels of mercy, even as all Gentiles are not called as vessels of mercy.

Throughout the Old Testament we see many accounts in which God’s wrath was carried out against Israelites who rebelled against him. In the New Testament we also have many examples.

For instance, John the Baptist warned the Pharisees to flee from the wrath to come, and in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 Paul refers to the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and who oppose the gospel as being under the wrath of God.

Paul continues in Romans 9 by saying the following:

As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. ~ Romans 9:25-29

It was because of the righteous seed within national Israel (the remnant with circumcised hearts) that Israel was not destroyed as a nation for breaking the covenant.
Otherwise they would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah when God’s wrath was revealed against them.

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. ~ Romans 9: 30-33

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 4)

Chapter 9:9-13 – HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE 

For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac.

 

Ishmael was born after the flesh (by human effort) and Isaac was born according to the promise when Abraham and Sarah were beyond the age of bearing children. Ishmael was a descendant of Abraham as was Isaac, but Isaac was the child of promise.

Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob.

Esau was Isaac’s firstborn son, yet he did not esteem his birthright as the first born which would have made him the heir to the blessing. Instead, he sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of pottage (stew) ~ Genesis 25:29. Jacob bargained with Esau for his birthright because he desired the blessing. Through a series of events Jacob inherited and possessed the blessing which originally belonged to Esau.

Esau was a descendant of Abraham as was Jacob, but God loved Jacob and hated Esau because Jacob desired the blessing and Esau despised it.

As it was with Ishmael and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob, so it was with the nation of Israel. Within Israel, there were those who were Abraham’s descendants according to the flesh only. They were not heirs according to the promise, they are not the true children of Abraham.

In John 8, Jesus was opposed by some antagonistic Jews who boasted that they were the children of Abraham as they expressed their opposition to Jesus.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. ~ John 8:36-39 KJV

Jesus goes on to tell them that not only were they not Abraham’s children, but they were actually the children of the devil even though they were physical descendants of Abraham.

The family God promised to Abraham is a household of faith – a spiritual family. In his confrontation with the antagonistic Jews in John 8 (referenced above), Jesus identified the true spiritual father of these physical descendants of Abraham.

But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. ~ John 8:40-44 KJV

In this confrontation, Jesus does not dispute the physical descendancy of these Jews. In fact he affirms it,“I know you are Abraham’s seed” ~ (v 37).  However, this physical descendancy did not mean they were God’s children, For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” ~ Romans 9:6-7

Jesus did not define “Abraham’s children” by their physical descent only. Neither did John the Baptist, who warned those who did not repent and follow Jesus that they would be cut off as the people of God.

And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: ~ Matthew 3:9-11

The baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire is not a reference to the same blessing, but rather, a contrast between blessing and judgment. Those who would repent would receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Those who would not repent, would receive the baptism of fire, which is God’s wrath.

In the very next verse, after the baptism of fire is mentioned, John says, “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” ~ Matthew 3:12

The ministry of Jesus and his fore runner John the Baptist, reveal that only those who responded to the gospel from among the Jews, were truly Abraham’s children.

Consider Paul’s words from Romans 9:7-8 again: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

We can see from these words of Paul that not all in Israel were the children of the promise, and therefore were not considered “the true seed of Abraham” in the eyes of God. This is consistent with the words of Jesus and John the Baptist.

Only those who were children of the promise were counted as the seed. Who then are the children of promise? They are those who are the children of Abraham by faith according to the truth of the gospel.

For  the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. ~ Romans 4:13

Notice first that Abraham was promised to be the “heir of the world.” Abraham’s children were to be from “all nations” ~ Galatians 3:8. Secondly, notice that he says that the promise was not made to Abraham or his seed “through the law.” 

The Law was given to Israel through Moses, and served as ethnic Israel’s covenant with God. The Law bound the Jews with the curse if they did not circumcise their hearts to obey God, and serve him only. The Law made a distinction between ethnic Israel and the Gentile nations. It was the rule of law and constitution for the Jewish people. It was the “wall of separation” of which Paul speaks in Ephesians 2, which made a distinction between the people of Israel (who were God’s covenant people) and the nations.

Israel did not obey the Law, and consequently broke the covenant.

When Paul says the promise was not made to Abraham or his seed “through the Law,” he is referring to Israel’s national identity as a covenant nation  before God.  It was the Law which separated Israel from all other nations, for the law was Israel’s covenant with God. The promise was not given to Abraham or his seed because of DNA, or ethnic status. Thus Paul makes the following argument:

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision (Jews) only, or upon the uncircumcision (Gentiles) also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. ~ Romans 4:9-12

The promise was spiritual and pertained to those who would follow Abraham’s faith!

For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.  Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. ~ Romans 4:13-17

The promise which God made to Abraham was that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham believed this promise and was declared righteous in the sight of God.

According to Galatians 3:8, when God made this promise to Abraham, he preached the gospel to him. In the fullest sense of the word, Abraham believed the gospel when he believed God’s promise to make him the father of many nations and was declared righteous!

Christ is the promised seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16) through whom the blessing promised to Abraham comes to fruition, for it is only in and through Jesus Christ that a person can be justified in the sight of God. Abraham was justified by God because he believed the promise God made “in Christ”  (Galatians 3:17).

Being an heir to the promise God made to Abraham comes only through faith in Jesus. This applies to Jews and Gentiles alike. Being a descendant of Abraham “after the flesh” is not the same as being “an heir to the promise.”

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. ~ Galatians 3:26-29

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 3)

Chapter 9:6-8 – In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. ~ Romans 9:6-8

Here Paul makes a striking distinction between the Israelites, applying the promise God made to Abraham which says “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (KJV) to those within Israel who are of faith, and not to those who were of natural descent only.

Paul here echos that which he has already stated in chapter 2:

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. ~ Romans 2:25-29

In Paul’s doctrine, one who was a Jew in the flesh (the circumcision) but did not keep the law, was as an uncircumcised person in the eyes of God “if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.” And the uncircumcised (Gentile) who obeyed the law was counted as a Jew in the eyes of God, “So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?”

Abraham’s family has always been a household of “faith” in the eyes of God. Being Jewish (Israel) has never been about race only. In his letter to the Galatians Paul tells the Gentile brethren, “if ye belong to Christ, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” ~ Galatians 3::29.  In the next chapter, Paul tells the Galatians, “For we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.”  ~ Galatians 4:28

Notice that Paul does not say to the Gentiles at Galatia, ye, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise.” Paul uses the pronoun “we” which would include himself, a physically circumcised Jew.

This is where many often stumble over Paul’s teachings. They think that the Gentiles have become the “spiritual children” of Abraham, while the Jews remain as the “true children” of Abraham because of their physical descent. This sort of thinking is out of sync with Paul’s.

The promise God made to Abraham was a family from “all nations,” for the children God promised to Abraham would be those who would follow his faith. They are the heirs of the promise which God made to Abraham. Abraham is the father of all who believe and that is why Paul makes the distinction that he does between the Israelites who sought righteousness through faith, and those who sought it through the works of the Law.

In Romans 9-11, Paul tells us that only a remnant of the people of Israel truly found God’s way of righteousness and that the people of Israel, as a whole, did not obtain righteousness because they did not seek it by faith. Instead, they sought it by the works of the Law, i.e., through their national identity.

In Romans 4, Paul tells us that because of Abraham’s faith, he was declared righteous in the sight of God, apart from the works of the law. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. In Galatians Paul says, “…the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed.” ~ Galatians 3:8

Abraham believed the gospel in advance which was God’s promise to justify all who believe. Therefore all who are of faith (faith in Jesus) are the children of Abraham and heirs to the promise – this is true for the Jew and the Gentile.

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 2)

Chapter 9:4-5 – HAS THE WORD OF GOD FAILED?

Verses 4-6

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoptionthe 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.

In the first installment of this study we saw the reason for Paul’s anguish and sorrow of heart for his kinsmen according to the flesh. Israel, like all other nations are under sin, and consequently under the judgment and wrath of God if they do not turn from their sins. God will not favor the Jew who is unrepentant.

Just as the Jews were to be the first beneficiaries of the blessing of the gospel, even so they would be the first with regards to God’s judgment.

6 He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but
for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 
11 For God shows no partiality.  ~ Romans 2:6-11

That the blessing of the gospel is to the Jew first (Romans 1:16) does not lessen its power or importance towards the Gentiles. The same is true of God’s judgment – the first partaker of God’s goodness, is also the first partaker of his severity.

It is this reality which causes Paul to sorrow over those among his kinsmen who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness. ~ Romans 2:8

In expressing his sorrow, Paul says, “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

Has God failed? Has God deceived his people?

Why are they to whom such riches were given now now subjects to his righteous judgment as all other nations who reject God? How did they get here? How did some of them end up on the outside of the covenant, while Gentiles who did not have the law, now feast at their table? Did they not know that the very gospel which has been extended to outsiders, is their heritage?

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” ~ Romans 10: 18-21

This plight of the Jewish people was agonizing to Paul, yet Paul knew the Word of God had not failed, for he writes the following:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Paul’s understanding of God’s promise in Isaac, which comes through strongly both here and in other some of his epistles, helped shaped much of Christian doctrine.

It is important to understand that Paul’s agony for his kinsmen is not nationalistic, but rather it is sorrow for every Jew who is misses out on the redemption that was provided to save them from their sins. This is the ultimate in lost of inheritance, for the gospel belongs to the Jew first, and if the Jew fails to partake, he has lost all his inheritance.

In our next installment in this study we will attempt to unpack some of the truth contained in the verses 6-8 (above) as we look closer at “the true Israel within Israel”.

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 1)

Chapter 9:1-3 – PAUL’S GREAT SORROW AND ANGUISH OF HEART FOR HIS FELLOW JEWS

Verses 1-3 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Paul expresses his deep love for his fellow Jews. This love is expressed in sorrow of heart which Paul describes as “unceasing anguish”, so much so that Paul would rather be separated from Christ than for his kinsmen according to the flesh to perish.

As we study Romans 9-11 we need to keep in mind that Paul is not addressing Israel from the position of 21st century end-time eschatology. At the time of Paul’s writing of the book of Romans, Jerusalem had not yet been besieged by the Romans, the temple which Jesus pronounced judgment upon was still standing, and the temple service continued.

In the opening chapters of the book of Romans, Paul addressed the rebellion of humanity which did not have the written law given to Israel, and in contrast, Paul shows how the Jewish people who do the same things are also subjects to the wrath of God, even though they had been separated as the people of God and given the Law.

Consider the following from Chapter 2:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. 17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

At the outset of Romans, Paul levels the ground between the Jew and the Gentile, giving the Jew who sins and rebels against God not outlet for boasting before God, for the Jew may boast that he has the Law, but if it isn’t written on his heart, he has become as one who is uncircumcised in the eyes of God.

It is this which causes sorrow to the heart of Paul. What he writes in chapters 9-11 is the continuation and outworking of the mystery of God with regards to Israel within the plan of God’s redemption, not only of the Jewish people but the whole world. And Paul’s grief in not that of 2019 eschatology. Paul’s grief is that of sorrow over the hardness and unrepentant hearts (uncircumcised hearts) of the Jewish people who boast in the law, while rejecting Christ.

In the verses which follow Paul, a will make a distinction between “Israel in the flesh” who did not obtain what it had sought after, and the remnant seed within Israel who did.

 

HOW I CAME TO UNDERSTAND THE TRUTH ABOUT TITHING

I had preached tithing as a minister, as a Pastor, and as a youth pastor, but never understood the tithing texts in the Old Testament, until 2006.

I stood in my kitchen and got very honest with God, because I knew I didn’t understand the Old Testament scriptures which have been “re-worked” to teach Christians to give a tenth of their income.

I asked the Lord, “what’s the deal?” I had preached tithing for a very long time, and I was very good at it.

However, I knew in my heart, I did not understand the scriptures in the Old Testament regarding tithing, and that what I was preaching and had preached was only a nicely crafted defense for tithing, with no real understanding of the biblical tithe.

Though I had taught tithing, I was weary because I had never truly experienced the abundance that is supposed to come from giving the required 10% of my income, and I had been practicing this for some 26 years as a Christian at the time (in 2006).

I had been through all the nuances preached and taught by tithe teachers as to why tithing sometimes doesn’t work in bringing the blessings. Preachers are constantly having to come up with excuses when people don’t experience the promised success.

I had convinced myself that because of tithing, I was blessed, but in reality, I wasn’t. It was a constant struggle as me and my wife incurred much debt because we didn’t have much money left over to get through the month.

In 2006, I was set free from the bondage of giving what man told me I was “required” to give – even if I could afford it or not.

It has been 12 plus years, and…

God still talks to me.
God continues to answer my prayers, & receive my worship.
God continues to bless my life.
God continues to minister his presence to my heart and life.
God continues to provide for me and my family financially.

After 12 years, there is still “no sign” of any curse that I was taught and also taught myself would come for not giving a mandatory 10%.

By emphasizing the curse, tithe teachers can motivate people to give a particular amount so that they can insure they will have a certain amount of funds come in. – that’s just the truth!

If ministers made a habit of studying the scriptures so they could teach sound doctrine, rather than studying to get another angle on the topic they want to persuade people to believe, they could teach the curse mentioned in Malachi 3, within its contextual setting.

This is why you will never hear a tithe teacher, take you through the scriptures to teach you what the tithe in the Bible actually was, and what it wasn’t. They will never tell you who was required to tithe, and who wasn’t.

In my time of searching, I only observed one person attempting to do so, his attempt failed, but I do commend his effort.

As I stood there in my kitchen the day I got honest with God about wanting to understand the tithing scriptures, I took a neutral position. I petitioned the Lord with the commitment that if I were required to tithe, I would to continue to do so, but I wanted to understand tithing Biblically, so I could teach it correctly from the Bible.

However, If I were to find that I was not required to tithe, I wanted to know the truth as well.

That day, I purposed to take a neutral position before God, not leaning to the right or the left, but whatever he revealed to me from his word as the truth, I would believe.

I took communion and consecrated my prayer and search to the Lord. That same day, I put a large tithe check in the mail (that was money that my family could have used), but I did so because I did not yet know what God’s answer would be.

I prayed, “If I am required to tithe, receive this as my tithe, if I am not required to tithe, receive this as an offering.”

This was how my journey to find out THE TRUTH about tithing began. In due time, I came to an understanding of the Biblical tithe, it’s purpose under the Law, who was required, and who wasn’t, etc…

I experienced GREAT FREEDOM when I finally took that step of faith to believe the Bible, and that my giving would now be freewill offerings from the heart, and no longer a “required” amount that would bring a curse on my life if I didn’t.

I now know what that tenth was in the Bible – It was part of Israel’s welfare system to provide food for the priests and their servants, the Levites (who were given no land inheritance) and to provide food for the widows, orphans, and strangers.

While many have been taught to focus on the “percentage” of the tithe because churches need revenue (even though the tithe under the law was not revenue, but food), it’s the purpose for the tithe that believers should learn from, and that purpose is amplified in the New Testament as generosity which ministers to the needs of the poor.

God commanded the tithe from the herds and crops which were raised from the land of promise so that the poor would be taken care of and not go hungry. The lesson we should learn from the Old Testament tithe is God’s compassion to meet the needs of the poor.

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For a Biblical perspective on tithes and offerings follow the link below:

https://michaelbattle65.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/tithes-and-offerings/

 

THE HOUSE THAT GOD WANTED

Jesus saith unto them, did ye never read in the scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. ~ Matthew 21:42-43

Jesus is the stone, which the builders rejected. Who then are the builders who rejected Jesus?

They are the leaders of Israel (the chief priests and Pharisees ~ v. 45). They had corrupted the temple and had made it a den of thieves rather than a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13). Now their house was desolate (Matthew 23:38) and the Kingdom was being taken from them and given to another. Consequently, “there would be not one stone left upon another” of the temple they had defiled (Matthew 24:2).

The stone they rejected is the cornerstone which God himself has placed in Zion (1 Peter 2:6). This stone, Jesus, is the foundation of God’s true temple as testified of by the prophet Isaiah.

Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. ~ Isaiah 28:16

Jesus had asked the chief priests and Pharisees concerning this stone, “Did ye never read in the scriptures…?”

The scriptures given to Israel had testified that God would lay the foundation for his true temple (not the end time, man made temple, which modern Christian Zionists claim) but God’s true temple, the temple he has always wanted.

God personally laid the cornerstone for this temple he desired to inhabit.

It is said that the stone would be laid “in Zion”. Under the Old Testament Zion (earthly Jerusalem) was a type of the Heavenly Jerusalem to which the true people of God belong: ” you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God,  heavenly Jerusalem…” says the writer of Hebrews.

When the temple authorities rejected Jesus, they rejected the cornerstone which God himself had established as the foundation for his true temple

For this reason, the Kingdom of God was taken from them and was given to another nation (a chosen generation, a holy nation, with a royal priesthood, a special bought people, who were purchased by the blood of the lamb, and would demonstrate the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light ~ 1 Peter 2:9).

They would bring forth the fruits of the Kingdom! For they would be inhabited by the Spirit of the Living God. The temple made with human hands would no longer serve as the residence of God among his people.

When Jesus breathed his last on the cross, and surrendered his spirit into the hands of the Father, the curtain (veil) of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50-51) and a new an living way was opened for the people of God (Hebrews 10:19-22).

God’s presence now abides in the temple of which his people are living stones, built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, and who offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

God will never again make his abode in a man-made temple. God’s plan, revealed in Jesus Christ, was to unite Jews and Gentiles into one family in Christ. This is God’s house!

For through him we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye (Gentiles) are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints (the Jewish remnant who trust in Jesus), and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye (Jews and Gentiles) also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. ~ Ephesians 2:18-22

This is the temple of the Lord, for it is his doing and it is marvelous in our eyes!