Friday, May 6, 2011

In Search Of Truth, Romans 9:22-33

Paul just established that humans don't have the capacity to understand or the right to demand God's reasons for bringing about blessing or pain. But Paul still offers a glimpse of what is behind the curtain based on his knowledge of God.

Although verse 22 starts out in the form of a hypothetical question, the ideas Paul presents are all present and supported elsewhere in scripture.

When we cry out in frustration for justice against those who have wronged us, or the evils in the world in general, we should remember that justice will come. God is more than willing to demonstrate his wrath against evil, make every wrong right, and in the process make his existence obvious. But for now he patiently puts up with even those who are destined, by their own choice, for eternal anguish. (v.22)

He does this so that his character will be demonstrated to those who will spend eternity with him (his "vessels of mercy") and enjoy who he is (his "glory"). (v.23) Even evil plays a role in showcasing the incredible character of God. In fact, one could argue that there are beautiful, amazing facets of God's character that believers will enjoy for eternity that would never have been knowable if evil was not allowed to exist temporarily.

In verse 23, Christians are called "vessels of mercy" because instead of carrying the inevitable punishment of God on their shoulders, they have been given God's mercy. Christians deserve the wrath of God as much as everyone else. But a true Christian acknowledges this and trusts in the sacrifice of Christ, considering it valuable enough to pay for their entire record of sins.

These are the people God has chosen to have mercy on instead of punishing them. And although this "rescue plan" from God was offered to the Jewish people first, it is also available to everyone else (Gentiles). (v.24)

It was popular among Jews in Paul's day to assume that that God's blessings were only for the Jewish people. But Paul shows that even in the Tanakh (Old Testament) it was taught that non-Jews would be "grafted in" to God's plans for blessing humanity, even into his "family"! (v.25-26)

In fact, scripture indicates that only a small percentage of the Jewish people will be rescued from judgment by God.(v.27-29)

So now non-Jews, who were not raised to pursue obedience to God, are attaining the status of "righteous" through their faith in Jesus Christ. This means that they meet the standards of perfection that God demands. Ironically, many Jews fail to meet God's standards of perfection, even though they are making sometimes obsessive efforts to obey his laws. (v.30-31)

The reason is that they believe they have it within themselves to meet God's standards. This belief either assumes they are better people than they are or assumes that God is less than perfect. In reality, we need to be humble about the reality of our situation and recognize that only God can rescue us from it. We need to trust in him to save us.

Paul said that when the Jews failed to do this, they were stumbling over the stumbling stone. That stumbling stone is Jesus. (Acts 4:11) He divides the world into two groups. One group can't bring themselves to believe in him. In the end, his life on earth will serve as a record of God's offer of rescue to those who refuse to believe in him. Christ is an obstacle to pride. But the other group of people will recognize him as the cornerstone, the foundation of the life they build. And in the end they won't be disappointed by trusting in him. (v.32-33)

Next- How To Meet The Perfect Standards Of God

Coffee House Question- What would some of the pros and cons be for God to come and judge every wrong on the planet instantly as they took place?

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