So, join me and we will begin. Verses 1-3 reads,
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 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.
Have you ever felt that deeply about someone’s salvation? Is there a loved one for whom you would be willing to giving up your salvation as Paul was, just so they could know Jesus? I think on the surface, I have thought it, “I would do anything, if so-and-so would come to Christ.” But, I have to question how deep my own conviction goes. How deep is yours? Many of us are not even willing to give up a bit of comfort or pride in order to share the Gospel with someone. If we are not willing to endure a minute of awkwardness for someone I seriously doubt we would be willing to endure an eternity of torment for them. Paul loved the Jewish people very much as did Jesus. But both were often stern and even angry toward them. I can understand Paul’s stance. I love the Jewish people, I am Jewish. I wish with my entire being that they could grasp the simple truth they lost and stop trying to be righteous by following the law and rather attain that righteousness by faith in God.
Israel was given everything she needed to become righteous, yet most of Israel missed the mark. God chose Israel as His own people even before Jacob (who would become Israel) or his father Isaac was born. He made His covenant with Israel. He gave them the Law through Moses. He was with them in miraculous ways and fed them with bread from Heaven and water from the Rock. The Messiah, the Savior came from Judah in Israel and God even told them all about who the Christ would be. Paul wrote it like this in verses 4-5,
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen
If God did all that and still the Jews did not come to salvation, then did the Word of God fail? I mean, did God choose the wrong people? Did He not make Himself clear enough with them? Paul answers the question in verses 6-13.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 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. 9 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.”
You see, some Jewish people did come to salvation. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Paul, every one of the Apostles, me, and many more. There has always been a remnant, a few of the many who answered the call of God and became who God had ordained them to be. God chooses, God calls, salvation is from Him and not from us. It is not the law, not our works or effort which saves, but God.
He could have saved everyone, but where is the love in taking our choice away? That is not a relationship, it is slavery. Esau had every advantage, just like Israel’s descendants would one day have every advantage. Esau had the same parents, the same choices, even more so than Jacob. Isaac favored Esau. But it was Jacob who was chosen by God to become Israel. It was Jacob who answered God’s call. Does it seem unfair? Does it seem like God just threw Esau away before he was even born? It was Esau who sold his birthright to Jacob for the price of a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:29-34). He chose to give his calling away for the satisfaction of his stomach. God gave him freewill and he exercised it. Did the Lord know he would? Yes. Did the Lord want him to do it? Of course not! God doesn’t want a single one of us to choose death (Ezekiel 33:11, 1 Timothy 2:4). If Esau had chosen not to sell his birthright, Jacob still would have become Israel. God always sees to it, that those who follow Him in faith become the people we were created to become.
God knit you together in the womb (Psalm 139:9). He chose your lineage, He added gifts, talents, and aspirations. He made you and chose you for a reason. God didn’t reject Esau, Esau rejected God by caring about food more than his birthright. God didn’t reject Cain, Cain provided an offering that was less than the best, it was not a sacrifice, but easy for him to gather a few of his crops together; Cain rejected the awesomeness of God for his own convenience. God did not reject Judas, Judas chose money over truth and had the opportunity like Peter and all the other disciples to be forgiven; He rejected God and chose death over life. God’s work would still have been done without Judas’ betrayal; it was his choice and he had many chances to change his mind.
In the minuteness of our human brains we don’t see the choice, we see God predetermining who will be saved and who will not. Some use this as a reason to reject God, truth, and love. Verses 14-21 speak on our protestations.
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, 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.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
God is God, He is your creator. He created you for His glory. Ephesians 2:8-10 reads,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 1:3-6 says this,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
God’s will is that all are saved and none will perish 2 Peter 3:9 reads,
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
He calls us all and gives us all the chance to answer but not everyone does. Revelation 3:20-21 reads,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Anyone who opens the door, not wishing any should perish. God chose each of us, He calls each of us. And yes, sadly He does harden some hearts, but not before giving them every chance. Isaiah 55:6 warns us to “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” If a person chooses to reject God repeatedly, He will make them deaf to the call, blind to the truth, and stubborn to the case for Christ. He gives them what they want, though He doesn’t ever withdraw the offer of Salvation, He makes it so they stop hearing the knock on the door of their hearts. After Jesus had raised Lazarus form the dead and done some amazing teachings some Jews believed in Him, but many did not. John 12:36-43 reads,
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
I previously wrote, “We all have the freedom to choose Jesus Christ. So many don’t. God knew from before our birth, before our grandparents’ birth, and at the creation of the world who we would be and if we would choose Him. He knows if Jenny from the block will bow down and proclaim Jesus as Lord. We do not. If He chooses to harden her heart it is not because He is rejecting her, it is for a good purpose for those who have loved him and answered the call to follow Him. He knows who will choose Him. He can harden hearts, soften hearts, make breakthroughs, and build barriers. He can remove stumbling blocks and place them. He is God.
It seems unfair. It seems like He’s playing favorites. It is not He who is playing favorites, it is us! He pursues, opens, and gives. It is up to us to seek, knock, and ask.” God has the whole picture, we only have a tiny fragment of it. We are human, and God is The LORD. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. He is God, His thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Hearts are hardened for God’s glory; it gives Him a chance to reveal Himself more completely, His wrath and His mercy, His justice, and His love. Consider that the Jewish people who rejected Jesus as Messiah, made it so that the Gospel of Christ would be preached to rest of the world. God knew from the beginning that most of the world would not receive Him, He made the way from the beginning for us to be His people, His children, and His beloved bride. God did not condemn the ones who rejected Him to death, they condemned themselves by refusing to answer the call. He, being All-knowing Loving God, used their stubbornness for our good. We are not better than them. We are chosen by God. Our salvation is not from any effort of our own. It is God. God can and will save whomever He chooses. Verses 22-29 say,
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”
God is merciful and wonderful. The Gospel is beautifully straightforward, but most cannot grasp it because of its simplicity. The kingdom of Heaven is backward and upside-down from everything we understand in the world. The Pharisees pursued the law so passionately that they created more rules and rituals to assure that they would not break it. They memorized the Torah, they used all their own power to try and be righteous. Paul said this about it in Philippians 3:2-6.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
In other words, if anyone’s own efforts or credentials could save them, it would be Paul. But, none of that can save. But, what does Paul say about all his righteousness under the law? Philippians 3:7-9 tells us.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith
We cannot reach salvation by our own efforts. Why do we have such a hard time accepting this? It is God, not us. It is a gift, not a salary. We are saved by faith, not works. Verses 30-33 say,
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith;31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Treasured Possession, God chose you and made you before the foundation of the world for His glory. You answered the call, now abide in Salvation, rejoice in victory, and be who God created you to be. God chose you and called you. If you have not answered the call, do so now before it is too late.