Video Transcript: A Mercy Mystery
We continue thinking about God's word in the book of Romans, the Gospel power of the Lord. We're coming to the end of a major section of Romans, the last part of Romans chapter 11. And for that whole section, the Apostle Paul's been wrestling with a hard question. Why haven't more Jewish people put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Did God's promise fail? No, that's not it. Has God rejected His people? No, that's not it. He considers various things and shows the importance of putting faith in Christ, whether you're Jewish or non Jewish, or Gentile. And then at the end of the section, he brings it all together. And he helps us to understand God's purpose for both Jewish peoples and for non Jewish peoples. When we think about Jewish people, there are different views of the Jews. One of those is that Jewish people have been rejected by God. And because God has rejected them, so should we, we should despise them and look down on them, and oppose them. After all, they are the Christ killers, they're the ones who murdered Jesus Christ, and they ought to be rejected. Now, the fact that Jesus Christ was a Jew, and that all of his first followers and apostles were Jewish, doesn't come into the picture, that the Jews killed Christ, and we ought to be against them, that the apostle has already said God has not rejected His people. And it would be very foolish for Gentile people to boast over Jews or to think they simply replace the Jews, because they're all part of the same olive tree and the Gentiles are more like wild branches that, by God's grace, were grafted in. But that does not mean that the Jews have been rejected. In fact, the Jewish people and God's work among the Jewish people has supported all of his other work. An opposite approach is that Jewish people are favored, above all other peoples, that politically This means that if a nation sides with Israel, it will never lose. And that religiously, sometimes it may even mean that Israel has an alternate way of salvation be taught besides faith in Jesus Christ, but Israel is so favored, that they're always right in matters of geopolitics. And they're always saved no matter what they do in response to Jesus Christ. And this is a mistake as well. You may want to ask some of the Old Testament allies of Israel, whether being allied with Israel always meant that you want. Sometimes Israel was terribly defeated in battle themselves, and their allies without wisdom. There was nothing automatic, in terms of politics have always being right. If you were on the side of Israel, there was certainly nothing in the Old Testament that indicated that just because you were an Israelite all went, well, the Israelites were judged many times. And individual people who rebelled against God, were not favored by God, just because they happened to be Jewish. Sometimes they were judged more strictly because they were Israelite and had so many advantages. So it's a mistake to think that God has completely rejected Israel, or to think that Israel is somehow God's special favorite as a nation, or that individual Jewish people are always God's special favorites. And there's also another version of that, that, that Israelite people are favored, and that is within the Christian community. It's nice to be a Christian. But if you're Jewish, you're an extra special, superduper, beloved, Christian, and just kind of cut above non Jewish Christians. And I'm not saying that Jewish people take that attitude. Sometimes there are those who have the favored view of the Jews will always see Jewish Christians as somehow more important or more elite than non Jewish Christians. Another view is that Jews and Gentiles have been completely merged, that the Jewish nation produced the Messiah, as Jesus Himself said, salvation comes from the Jews. But now that that's happened, now that Jesus has come all purposes for Israel as a distinct people have been fulfilled. And from here on out, they're kind of like every other nation, one group among the many nations of the world and they're all merged together into God's Church.
And another view is that there are destined people and these still have special future purposes in God's plan that doesn't make them elite or more important or more valuable than others whom God has brought to faith. But it does mean that God still has a purpose that he intends to fill in the future for the people of Israel. Now, when you look at these four views, there is at least a grain of truth in all of them. There's a grain of truth that at least part of Israel has been hardened, and that many are not coming to faith in Christ. So that's the grain of truth in the rejected view that we shouldn't take that whole view. There is a grain of truth, certainly, in the view that God treasures, and loves Israel and his love to them with an everlasting love. There are certainly a lot of truth in the merged view that God has made of all peoples, one people through Jesus Christ and made them one people of God. So there's a tremendous amount of truth in that view. But I don't think it's fully correct if that view is taken to mean and therefore God has no further purpose for the Jews as a people. And so the fourth view, as long as you understand that God has brought all people together into the Israel of God, by faith in Jesus Christ, and yet ethnic Israel, or people who are Jewish, by birth heritage, God still has something in mind for them. What does he have in mind? Well, it's a mercy mystery. You sometimes hear of murder mysteries, and you don't know what's happening. And you have to wait and then see how it all turns out. But this is a mercy mystery. And the Apostle Paul says, I'm going to tell you a mystery. And when he says that, He doesn't mean that this is something nobody could possibly understand, or that has never been told anybody. He means that it was secret or unknown for a while. And now God has made it known. And we can understand what God's telling us about that. He says, I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery brothers, so that you may not be conceited. Israel has experienced the hardening in part, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved. In those few words, nearly all of history is encapsulated. He tells us the reason he wants us to know this Mercy mystery is so that we won't become conceited. Why would he say that? Well, he knew how people tend to view Jewish people. He knew that in writing the church of Rome, which was predominantly by then a Gentile church, they might think, Hey, we're the Romans we're in the capital of the empire. What are those Jews, they've already been booted out of Rome a couple times by the emperor, what a bunch of losers. And he's dealing with the opposite problem here, as he would have been dealing with earlier in the epistle, he said, Now you Jews don't go around boasting, thinking that you're great and superior to everybody else, because you've fallen into sin just like everybody else. But now he's dealing with the opposite problem, not Jews, looking down on others, but others looking down on Jews. And both are a problem. Let's face it.
Racism, and despising people who are different from you are runs through and is a great temptation for nearly every group of people. And so he says, I don't want you to become conceited. And then he tells them, the Mercy mystery, he says Israel has experienced a hardening in part. So it's not a complete hardening. It's not a complete rejection. And it's not a permanent one, either, because it's a hardening in part right now. And something's going to happen in the future, all Israel will be saved. He says, the hardening has happened for a while, until the fullness or the full number of the Gentiles has come in. He wants us to understand that God has phases in his plan of salvation. And during a time when Israel's partly hardened, and some are still coming in, like Paul himself, and others are putting their faith in Christ. God is up to something among the nations. And he's bringing in one nation after another after another. what's meant by that fullness of the Gentiles? I think it's what Jesus was talking about. In Matthew 24, verse 14, when he said, this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. God has a plan to reach people from all nations. And that keeps expanding and expanding. And throughout history, that's certainly been the case. Early Jesus had, there was 120 people praying in that upper room before the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost. Today is the Sunday before Pentecost there was 120 people that's it praying. And now, there's not just 120 people, there's more than 120 nations there, there are people from nations all around the world who have come to put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and God has a plan. None of that happened by accident, where 120, people just kind of got lucky, or something just kind of took off as a movement. God had a plan. He had a plan to bring in the fullness of people from every nation. And Jesus said, The End of the World, The End of History, and the complete beginning new of everything isn't going to happen, until that gospel has been preached to all nations, until the fullness of the nations of the Gentiles has been brought in one of the signs of the times one of the markers that you're getting close to the end of history is when the gospel is preached throughout the whole world, and people of every language and people group, are understanding the gospel, and some of them are being brought in the full number is going to be brought in. So God has a great plan for the nations. And he also, in all of that has not forgotten his ancient people whom he loved. He says when Israel after experiencing the hardening in part, and during that partial hardening, when Jews are only a small part of the total people of God, and the nations are being brought in, after all of that, then all Israel will be saved, something is going to happen, something extraordinary. Some people take this to mean just that the Israel of God, which sometimes the church is spoken of as the Israel of God, and we are all the children of Abraham, by faith in Jesus Christ, the Bible teaches that again and again. And yet when it says Israel, will be saved, it's not talking just about the fact that the whole Israel of God, all the nations are going to be saved. It is still speaking about Israel, as the Jewish people there because it's he mentions Israel throughout this whole passage. But every time he does, he's speaking of the Jewish people, it'd be a very strange switch in the middle of explaining the Jewish problem, if you will, to suddenly, at the very last second switch what he means by Israel or the Jewish people.
And I understand and many of the scholars who've studied this passage, understand it, to refer to the fact that God is going to bring about a tremendous revival among Jewish people themselves. And they are going to in huge numbers, at some point in history near the end of history, put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that's going to happen when God has gathered in the full number of the nations. And accompanying all this, I don't want to get into that, because Paul doesn't in this passage, accompanying that may come great persecutions and tremendous challenges because just as the as God's plan is reaching its fulfillment and Jewish people as well as Gentiles in their full number have been brought to the Lord, there's going to possibly be tremendous opposition too, but the focus here is on the fact that God has a plan. And it's a plan for all nations. And that does not exclude the ancient nation from which salvation was going to come in the first place. All Israel will be saved, a tremendous bringing in of God's people. And how is that bringing in going to happen, it's not going to be an alternate way of salvation, where all Israel is saved in spite of not putting their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When Israel is saved, it's going to be the same way anybody else can be saved. As it is written, THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins. Paul is quoting the Old Testament to say, now how are they going to be saved? They're gonna be saved by the deliverer who comes from Zion, they're going to be saved, but what the Lord Jesus Christ did in Zion in Jerusalem, and they're going to be saved by repenting the word repent means to turn. And when your heart turns to God, that means God turned you away from godlessness. He's going to turn godlessness away from Jacob, and it's going to happen through mercy through grace through the forgiveness of sins. God's covenant is that this is what's going to happen when I take away their sins. So when all Israel is saved, it is by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is by repenting and God turning their hearts back to him. It is by God forgiving and taking away their sins. So it is a it's an amazing thing to think about that when God sent Jesus, when Jesus called those first disciples when from one angle you'd say That's kind of a ragtag band. They're not very big. They're not very educated. They're not very important. There have been times in history when things didn't appear to be going well, when the church seemed to have gone downhill. Like the person who said, there are at least five different times throughout church history that it appeared the church had gone completed to the dogs. And each time it was the dog that died. Well, that's true the church it may be also said to be true of the people of Israel. Throughout history, there's been a special animosity towards Jewish people and the people of Israel, you see that when Pharaoh tried to have all the baby boys of the Israelite people killed and wipe the nation completely out. You see that at the time of Queen Esther, when the wicked Haman schemed to have all the Jewish people wiped out by the might of the Persian Empire. We've seen it in more recent times when Hitler tried to have his final solution and wipe out the Jewish people completely. And those terrible trials that have come upon the Jewish people have not wiped them out. They're still here. They're still around. Hitler's Third Reich was going to last 1000 years. It lasted 12.
It was a terrible, terrible thing in attempting to wipe out and succeeding in wiping out 6 million Jews. It also triggered the setting aside of the Land of Israel, for Jewish people to live in. So you see throughout history, that it's not so simple, to just hate the Jews, and try to get rid of them. It's not so simple to just look at the latest sociologists ideas about how religion has been going lately. God reigns. God has His plans, the fullness of the nations will come in, and the fullness of Israel, all Israel will be saved when God turns the hearts of people back to him. So you look at these phases of God's plan, just in the big picture. At the Tower of Babel, the people were aspiring to make gods of themselves or bring their own gods down, by means of their tower and God scattered the nations. And he just left them to worship various idols, a terrible judgment on people at the Tower of Babel. But that wasn't over. That didn't mean it was all over after the Tower of Babel. God comes to Abraham and calls Abraham. He chooses one man he chooses one nation. And he left the others in ignorance, he chose Abraham then Isaac then Jacob. And he left other nations in ignorance largely up to that point, and worked with that one nation. But all along, and God made it clear, the one chosen nation would eventually bless all nations. He said to Abraham, through your offspring, all nations of the earth will be blessed. You read about it in the Psalms are all nations are going to come and worship the Lord, you read about it in the prophets, that all the nations are going to rejoice, and come to know the God of Israel. So God chose this one nation. But even when he chose just this one he had in mind all along a plan for all the nations. And then in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, that plan came to fulfillment Christ brings all nations into Israel. But as he's doing that something is happening at the same time. He's hardening many Israelites. But that still isn't the end of the plan. Because as nations are flocking in and the larger number of Israelites are being hardened, God still has one more move, the final fullness, all Israel will be saved. And when all Israel is saved, all the other nations are going to be blessed, even more than they were, than when Israel was being hardened. So you see these different phases of God's plan? Just want to pause for a moment. Because sometimes you might say, Well, why do I need you know, I got to go to work tomorrow. I got kids got noses to wipe diapers to change bills to pay, what's this got to do with anything? I want something practical. Wouldn't you really like to know God as He is? Do you want him to be whittled down to the size of your little life? I mean, it's nice and wonderful that God is interested in my little life and yours, but he's got some big things going. And he can make you part of those big things, not just by saving you. But by making you an agent on his behalf when he chose Israel. It was not just to be most favored nation. It was to be a light to the nations. When he chooses you. He brings you into this story. He makes you part of something big. And he brings you into relationship with somebody big
so when we think again of the Jewish people, the apostle says as far as the gospel is concerned, they the Jewish people are enemies on your account. Many Jewish people were persecuting those who were coming to Christ at that time. But he says as far as election, Gods choosing is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call our irrevocable. Irrevocable means you can't reverse it. You can't undo it. When God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs, there was no going back. He always from then on, would be faithful to Israel, to the Jewish people. And there was a phase in history where many Jews might be anti Christian in their beliefs. But that does not mean that God has forsaken them. They may be enemies for a time, but God's election cannot be reversed. And that is why Pharaoh failed to destroy them. That is why Haman failed to destroy them. That is why the exile to Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem, and the burning of the temple, and the wiping out of nearly everything that God had done in the exile for the land of promise, everything that had been given them was taken away. And, and yet, when Jeremiah was writing, his lamentations over the collapse and the ruin of everything. He said, Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed for his compassions never fail, they are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness. That was said when everything was burned, and everything was ruined. And that is because as far as the election is concerned, even when everything is ruined, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, and God never takes back his call on that nation. And he never takes back his call on anyone whom he brings to himself God's election of, of a nation for special purposes can't be revoked. God's election of an individual for salvation and special purposes also cannot be revoked. That is the bedrock of faith that when God purposes and covenants and chooses, his decisions cannot be revoked,
just as you who at one time, now he's talking to Gentiles, just as you who were at one time, disobedient to God, have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience. So they too, have now become disobedient, in order that they too may receive mercy, as a result of God's mercy to you, for God has bound all men over to disobedience, so that he may have mercy on them all. That in a sense, is the summary of the book of Romans, God has bound all men over to disobedience, so that he might have mercy on them all. He says, you Gentiles, you had your time when you were far away. And now, when the Jews in large part rejected God, it's the the blessings kind of bounced over to you. And yet, in your blessing, God has yet planned too that the Jews will receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. Now, when God, it says God has bound all men over to disobedience, so that he may have mercy on them all. Some people take that to mean universalism, that God is going to save everybody. And if you were to read just that one sentence, it might sound that way. But you always have to read a sentence. In its larger context. The Apostle makes it clear that when he's saying all, he means people of all groups and nations, everybody, no matter what group you're from, has been handed over to disobedience. And everybody, no matter what group you're from, you can have mercy. And the apostle is basically summarizing what he's been saying, throughout the whole book of Romans. He starts out by saying, I'm not ashamed of the gospel, it's the power of God for the salvation of everybody who believes. First for the Jew, then for the Gentile. He says, there's going to be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil, first for the Jew then for the Gentile, but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good. First for the Jew, then for the Gentile. He says, Jews and Gentiles alike, are all under sin. God gave them over to disobedience. And then he says, This righteousness from God, this right standing with God comes through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe there's no difference. no difference between Jew and Gentile. No difference, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are freely justified through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. So there's no difference. Jew and Gentile need to be saved by the same Christ. He says, Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles? Yes of the Gentiles too because there's just one God. And then he goes on to say, now if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved for there's no difference between Jew and Gentile. He says that again. And again and again. If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth, you're going to be saved. There's no difference between Jew and Gentile, because the same Lord is Lord of all, and richly blesses all who call on him for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. And then he says this, God has bound all men over to disobedience that he might have mercy on them all. You remember how Romans one got Rolling? After saying the Gospel is the power of God, it says God gave them over? God gave them over. God gave them over. And he's talking about just God giving people over his judgment on their sin is just let them be themselves and get more and more messed up in their thinking, because they won't glorify God get more and more messed up in their sexual behavior, where they're promiscuous where men are with men and women are with women that God doesn't have to judge that is a judgment, to just be given over to yourself, and all kinds of antisocial behavior. There is a giving over but is it is it for the purpose just of God rejecting wiping everybody out. God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he might have mercy on them all.Have you ever gone through a turnstile. Those little things that click. And once you're through, you can't really go back through the same thing. That's what God has done in giving people over to disobedience, when you walk through that gate of disobedience, it clicks behind you, and you cannot undo what you've done. You can't get yourself back out. If you want an exit from being locked in that prison of disobedience, you're going to need a different way out. And God handed people over. And that turns that click behind them. But that did not mean that clicked behind them. And now they're headed for hell forever.
It just means the way in was your own sin and you just can't undo it but the way out is marked mercy that God might have mercy on them all. So to just to review what Paul says in chapters nine through 11, he says, Has God's promised failed? No, the promise was for the chosen among Israel. Is God unfair? No, he's free to show mercy or judgment. Can God blame unbelievers? Well, yeah. And his purposes will prevail. He'll accomplish things even through unbelieving people. And what's the main issue? Well, you're right with God by trusting in him not by trying to undo your own problems. When you look at the fuller picture, people are responsible to accept the gospel, you have to believe with your heart and confess with your mouth, you're responsible to spread the Gospel, how can they hear unless someone preaches to them? Israel's not totally rejected. There's a Jewish remnant chosen by grace, there's an era of Gentile conversion. And there is this vast future conversion of Jews that the apostle tells us about, no group can claim superiority. It's only through humble faith that we're saved at all. Paul says, I'm telling you this mystery so that you won't be conceited. He knows people. He knows me we get conceited. The moment anything good happens to us, we think it's because we deserved it, we had it coming. And the apostle says, it's all mercy don't get conceited. And don't think that your group is the one that God cares about. He's got to plan for all of them. And so in light of all that, he says, We should adore God's mystery and majesty, you hear about a God like this. You hear about a plan like this. You hear of his hand over all of history over all the nations and what he's doing through Jesus, and helping people who are locked up in their own disobedience to be saved, to live forever, to have the mind of Christ, to be filled with the riches of Christ, to enjoy eternal life. And what do you say, Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God, How unsearchable His judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor who has ever given to God, that God should repay him, For from him and through him and to him are all things to Him be the glory forever? Amen. That's how the apostle ends his great. Teaching section of Romans. And there's a hint for us. Sometimes we think about these things, you come to a sermon and you listen to a talk and you try to try to file away a little information or the preacher tries to express certain things in some bullet points and help you understand these things. You haven't actually grasped anything, if it's only doctrine. When doctrine becomes doxology, when it becomes praise, when it becomes adoration, when it becomes amazement and marveling, then finally, the message of God is having the impact it was intended to have. God is awesome. God is great. And the apostle cannot speak of all this without just erupting in praise to God. You can't really take the Word of God to heart until it sets your heart singing. The Apostle began this particular section of Romans, with a lament, when you read the Psalms, there are some of them that are really, really sad. And Paul starts this section saying, I wish I could be cursed myself, because I have such heartbreak over my people, the Jews, and by the end of thinking it through adkd knowing, God's plan he says Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God, sometimes weeping endures for a night. But joy comes in the morning, when we really understand what God is up to. Then we again say what a God, Oh, the depth of the riches. And when he speaks of the depth of the riches, he's really impressed by the wisdom of God, the knowledge of God. He says, in another place, that God was doing this plan for the church, and bringing Jews and Gentiles together, he was doing it all, also as a display to the principalities and powers to show something to the angels, the angels long to look into these things, says the apostle Peter, God was showing such wisdom in how he dealt with the nations and his plan of doing various things, that even the angels who have been in God's presence for many, many 1000s of years longer than we will have known him. Even the angels long to look into these things. And God does these things, so that they can understand certain things about God that they wouldn't have understood just by being angels. I said earlier, what's the practical value of this? What's it got to do with me? Well, even
if it had nothing to do with you, directly, and personally, this is your father. This is your God, don't you want to know what he's like? Don't you want to know what he can do? The angels are watching God do things for humans that he's not even doing for angels. And the angels are praising him day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God, Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory. They're looking at the Earth that God made, and the peoples of the earth and what God is doing, and they're saying, The whole earth is full of his glory. And it wants it. They're not even the beneficiaries of it. But they're beneficiaries just because they know God. And because God is so great. Sometimes, you kids may grow up with a parent, and you know what they do for you. And that's all very nice. They do a lot for you, they love you very much. But they have a life. And some of them have a life that goes quite a ways beyond you. And some of them have accomplishments that are not totaled up just by what they've done for you. If that's true, just as ordinary people, it is certainly true, the great and living God, if God has come to you and loved you, personally and individually, rejoice in that, be glad in that and love him. But realize that he's been up to a few more things than just you. And it is a marvel that he is and so adore him, Be amazed at him that you belong to him the wisdom of God. And the apostle says now who's known the mind of the Lord, who's been his counselor? Did God say, Oh, that one really stumped me. I'm not sure what I should do. I think I'll go ask Dave for his input. He's got some excellent advice. Sometimes we almost act that way, that God sure could use some good tips from us on how to run things. The Apostle says, Hey, God, doesn't go ask advice, and doesn't need advice from anybody? And does God owe anybody who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? Can anybody go up to God and say, God, I did this for you. And I gave that to you. You owe me something. Once again. That's one of those things that can seep into our thinking, where we think, Boy, God, I have done my part. And it's about time you came through and gave me what I have coming. Well, the great news of the gospel is God does not give you what you have coming. And the great news of the gospel is, God doesn't owe anybody he doesn't have to pay. He says from him through him to him. Is everything. Okay? Everything that you would give to God already came from him. Okay. You're, I've mentioned before, the gifts that little children give their fathers on Father's Day. Isn't that wonderful? They're such generous little children. They bought a gift for dad with dad's money. Boy, that was nice. The apostle say, you know, another pastor says, What do you have that wasn't given to you? Anything you have to offer? God already came from him. So the best we can do is just give him glory, forever and ever. Because it all comes from him. It's all pointed towards him. And that was his plan all along from Him, through Him, to him are all things. That's the explanation for all the mysteries that we might not understand. For all of his plans of history. He's bringing it all back to himself. It all comes from Him. And so praise, a wisdom that's beyond our thoughts. Praise the generosity that is well beyond our means to purchase, and praise God for His mercy. Lord we do praise and thank you for being the Great and Majestic and mighty God, the Lord of history, the one who rules the nations who directs all the affairs of every nation according to your wisdom. We praise you, Lord, for the work you did among the ancient patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the people, the Jews who have come from them. We praise you, Lord, that You have sent your salvation to all nations and that you have a great plan, that the fullness of the nations will come to you that Israel will be saved. And we pray, Lord, that you'll hasten that day, and that in the meantime, those of us who know of your great plans may not only rejoice in them, but become agents, people who are involved in your plans, and shining for you and encouraging others to know the Lord Jesus Christ and his saving grace. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.