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Sunday, April 12, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "God Always Keeps His Promises"

“God Always Keeps His Promises”
All Roads Lead to Romans
April 12, 2015 :: Romans 11:1-36 

Let’s begin with a quiz.

Don’t worry, it should be an easy for you.

I’d like for you to name 5 promises for Christians in the New Testament. And you get extra credit if the promises are actually in Romans 1-8.

Just five promises. Let’s go.

[Audience Participation]

Thank you. Those are great and precious promises for Christians.

Now, second and last question on this quiz:

How do you know that you can count on those promises?
How do you know that you can take those promises to the bank?
How do you know that you can build your life on those promises?
How do you know that God will make good on them?

I mean, have you considered the problem of Israel?

Do you remember how Paul posed that problem in chapter 9?

Paul had spent 8 chapters explaining his glorious gospel of grace and had reached the pinnacle of joy in saying that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God.

But!
But what about something outside of creation?

What about God Himself?

What if God cannot be trusted?

What if the word of God has failed?

Specifically, to Israel.

God has made a lot of promises to Israel, hasn’t He?  Just read your Old Testament, and you’ll see promise after promise after promise made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve tribes after them.

And Paul says, look around you, do you see those promises coming true?

Do you see where Israel is?

Where are all the Jewish Christians?

There are some here and there, sure, but so many Gentiles are Christians. Where are all the Jews?

Has the word of God failed?

What’s the answer to that one?

No way.

Paul has given basically two answers so far to the problem of Israel.

The first somewhat surprising answer was that it was never God’s plan to save all of Israel in the first place. God never promised that every single Israelite would inherit all of the promises. That wasn’t His plan from very beginning.

So the word of God has not failed.

And Paul’s second answer to the problem of Israel was that Israel had stumbled. Israel as a nation had rejected their Messiah. They had said, “No” to the fulfillment of all of God’s promises when He sent Him.

Jesus held out Himself and all of His righteousness as a gift to Israel, arms wide open, but they wanted to establish their own righteousness and rejected Him.

Israel stumbled. And so the word of God has not failed.

But does that mean then that those promises made to Israel are going to be left unfulfilled?

Or as Paul says in verse 1?

“I ask then: Did God reject his people?”

Is that it?

Is it “Goodbye forever, Israel?”

You missed it. You’re done for. You’re toast.

What is Paul’s answer?

“By no means!”

It’s that old familiar phrase of Paul’s, “may genoita.”

“No way, no how.”

“God Always Keeps His Promises.”

That’s our title for today.

And it’s the assurance that we need today.

All of those promises that you named and every other one that can find in the New Testament can be trusted because God always keeps His promises.

Do you remember how many times we said that back in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua?

That’s like the theme running through those first 6 books of the Bible.

God makes promises. And God keeps them.

And He hasn’t changed.

The word of God has not failed because God always keeps His promises.

Paul begins in verse 1 asking the question that is natural from chapter 10. Chapter 10 ended with Israel stumbling over the stone of Christ and rejecting God’s offer of Jesus.

Does God then reject them? V.1

“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.” Stop there for a second.

#1. GOD IS KEEPING HIS PROMISES.

Right now.

Paul is saying that God has not totally rejected Israel. He himself is an Israelite!

Paul is a Jew.

Paul himself is living proof that God has not totally given up on ethnic Israel.

He foreknew them. That is He established a relationship with them many many years ago and will not be giving them up!

God is still keeping His promises right now.

And He’s doing it through a remnant.

Do you know what a remnant is?

I was taught what a remnant is by Jewish Christian named Louis Goldberg.

This is a picture of him.

Dr. Goldberg was a professor at Moody Bible Institute.

He was a Hebrew translator on the original NIV Bible and the New King James Bible.

And at the time of his death he was the scholar in residence for Jews for Jesus.

Dr. Goldberg was an amazing man. He was Jewish, grew up Jewish and was an engineer. And at age 25, he came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and put his faith and trust in Him.

In every class I had with Dr. Goldberg, he taught us that God always has preserved a remnant for Himself.

Many many may fall away, but God always preserves a section of faithful people for Himself. It might be a very small group, but they are always there.

A remnant. Paul mentioned the remnant in chapter 9, verse 27. But now, he develops that idea more fully. V.2

“Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah–how he appealed to God against Israel: ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me’?”

Do you know that story from 1 Kings 19? We haven’t gotten far yet in our study of the Old Testament in preaching series. But you may know it already. Elijah was really discouraged because he felt alone.

Do you ever feel alone?

Like you’re the only Christian? The last one?

That’s how Elijah felt. V.4

“And what was God's answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too, at the present time there is a remnant [there’s our word] chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”

A remnant.

Just like Dr. Goldberg said there would be.

And it’s a remnant chosen by grace. That is God’s free gift not because of anything good that those who are chosen have. They are not chosen because they are awesome.

Quite the opposite.

They are chose by grace. V.7

“What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. [The remnant did.] The others [the majority] were hardened, as it is written: ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.’ [Hardened.] And David says: ‘May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.’”

That’s the fate of the majority. But God has preserved for Himself a remnant.

He always has and He still is.

God is still keeping His promises to the remnant.

And Dr. Goldberg was a part of the remnant.

The other day, I asked you if any of you know someone who is a Messianic Jew, an ethnically Jewish Christian.

Thankfully, many of you did.

How many for you was it Sam Rotman?

Sam pastored one of our district churches for many years. I heard him speak once at a men’s retreat at Miracle Mountain Ranch.

He is a Jewish pianist who came to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

Sam is a part of the remnant.

At Moody there was a whole major in Jewish studies and evangelism for those who wanted to be missionaries to the Jews. So, I had other friends there who were part of the remnant.

God is still keeping His promises.

Isn’t that good to know?

#2. GOD WILL KEEP HIS PROMISES.

He has a plan.

He has a plan for even more. Not just the remnant. Verse 11.

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? [May genoita!] Not at all!”

Paul is swinging back around now and telling us something new.

He starts with the question about Israel’s stumble.

Was Israel’s stumble a total fall? Was it permanent?

Was it beyond recovery?

It sure looked like it.

It looked like Israel had muffed it bad and there was no coming back from that one.

I mean, they rejected their own heaven-sent Messiah!

But Paul says, “No way. There is a future for ethnic Israel.”

There is a future for ethnic Israel.

God has a plan.

God has made some big time promises, and He’s going to keep them big time. V.11

“Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!”

Their fullness!

Israel has a fullness coming.

That sounds good!

It’s a little hard to follow Paul’s logic here, but he goes over the same ground several times in a row to see that we get it.

It’s that old argument from the lesser to the greater. V.12 again.

“If their transgression [their stumble] means riches for the world [because Jesus gets offered to the world], and their loss means riches for the Gentiles [through the cross], how much greater riches will their fullness bring!”

How does that work?

Apparently, the plan is to make Israel jealous of the salvation blessings that we Gentiles received. V.11 says, “Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”
To make them want something that we have. Paul explains it further in verse 13.

“I am talking to you Gentiles [in Central Pennsylvania]. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry [I work really hard] in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.”

I think it’s kind of like when one kids says they don’t want that food you offered them, but then you offer it to another one of your kids, and they say, “Oh this is so good!” then the first kid says, “Rats, I wished I’d taken it when you offered it to me.”

Paul actually saw his ministry of giving the gospel to Gentiles as a way of reaching out to hardened Jews.

“...in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.”

And it’s going to work. In fact, someday it’s going to work amazingly. V.15

“For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world [at the Cross], what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”

Resurrection!

The resurrection of Israel! The fulfillment of all of God’s promises to Israel.

The valley of dry bones, right? You know that vision from Ezekiel?

All of those bones coming together and forming skeletons and then flesh coming on them and the breath of God?!

Life from the dead!

This is the glorious future that we expect.

God has a plan. God will keep His promises. Life from the dead!!!

Now, the next section gets a little tricky to follow, but the big idea is the same.

He gives two illustrations, one quickly and the other one he develops. V.16

“If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.”

The dough is from the grain offering the Israelites were to do when they entered land. It’s explained in Numbers chapter 15. The point is that the whole bit if holy not just the first bit that gets offered.

And it goes along with the idea that if the root of a tree (here it’s going to be an olive tree) is holy then the branches will be, too.

And the dough-ball and the tree-root both stand for the promises of God that came to the patriarchs so that the bread and the tree are pictures of the true people of God.

Paul really runs with the illustration of the olive tree. V.17

“If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches.”

Do you get the picture?

Olive trees were and are a common thing in Israel and are often used as an analogy for Israel in the Old Testament.

Here the true people of God are an olive tree, holy at the root where the promises are.

And God will keep His promises.

But God has broken off some of the branches [Jewish unbelievers] and then grafted in some wild branches [Gentile Christians like you and me] so that we now share in the nourishing sap of the promises of God.

I don’t think we can really fathom what that means.

How gracious God has been to us that we get to be nourished by the promises that were given to Israel.

So why did that happen? Was it because we are so superior to Israel?

Are you better than the Jews?

Is that why we get the preferential treatment?

Be careful.

This is where anti-Semitism can raise it’s ugly ugly head.

This is where things like the Holocaust come from.

V.18 again.

“[D]o not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.”

Your entire spiritual heritage depends upon the Jews. Including the Jew Paul and including the Jew Jesus.

There is no room for pride or anti-Semitism.

There is no room for making fun of the Jews and talking about “Jewing somebody” as in bargaining with them.

There is no room for thinking of ourselves as in any way superior to the Jews.

V.19 “You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.’ [That’s replacement theology.] Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.”

Do not boast.

Do not become proud.

Do not think that you are something better than the Jews.

If you get to thinking that way, then be afraid because pride does not mix with faith.

And faith is how we stand. It is by faith that we are saved.

And if we give up our faith, then God will not spare us either.

We need to continue in faith in God’s kindness expressed in Christ. Not believe that we are “all that.”

God is both kind and stern. Both good and severe.

And we do well to remember that.

But here’s the main point. God has the ability and a plan for grafting Israelites back into the true people of God. V.23

“And if they [the Jews] do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. [It’s not permanent!] After all, if you [Gentiles] were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural [Jewish] branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!”

God has a plan. V.25

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited [so you won’t boast, so you won’t get the wrong idea about yourself]: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

And so all Israel will 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.’”

“All Israel will be saved.”

God has a plan to keep His promises to Israel.

Right now, His plan is for the majority to be hardened against Him.

But there is coming a day when the full number of Gentiles will have come in and then there will be a massive ingathering of Jewish believers!

“All Israel will be saved!”

Now, that doesn’t mean every Israelite that ever lived. And it may not even mean every single Israelite living at this future moment in time.

But it will feel like it.

It will amount to the same thing so that anyone seeing it will say, “All Israel has come to Christ!”

What a day that will be!

The hardening is temporary. We Gentiles will give up our center stage and the Jews will step up into the center stage again.

Now, when exactly that’s going to happen is something that many Christians disagree about. Paul hasn’t given us much here to go on for when all Israel will be saved.

So it depends upon how you put together your eschatology.

Some think this will happen during the tribulation.
Some think it will happen at the end of the tribulation just before the millennium begins.
Others have other places on the timeline where they place.

The point I want to make today is that it’s going to happen.

God WILL keep His promises to Israel.

And not just to a tiny trickle of a remnant, but too so many that it will be true to say, “All Israel will be saved.” V.28

“As far as the gospel is concerned, they [the Jews] are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned [God’s choosing of Israel as a nation], they are loved on account of the patriarchs [God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will stand], for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.”

God Always Keeps His Promises.

No exceptions.

Isn’t that good to know?

Everything that God has promised. Those five we came up with at the beginning of the sermon. They are trustworthy and true.

Because God is trustworthy and true.

“God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.”

The word of God has not failed and it never will.

V.30

“Just as you who [Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their [the Jews] disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now 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.”

Jew and Gentile.

Do you see how Paul is bringing those two together?

We said when started Romans that there was some obvious tension between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians at Rome.

Well, Paul has shown all along why they should get along. They’re both under the same penalty. They both need the same gospel of grace.

And now we find out that they are intertwined with each other in bringing each other  salvation through their disobediences. They need one another.

It’s all been a part of God’s plan.

God has been planning all along to bring both Jews and Gentiles (and lots of them!) into His mercy.

God has been planning all along to save both Jews and Gentiles (and lots of them!).

God has been planning all along to keep His promises and include both Jews and Gentiles (and lots of them!) in their fulfilment.

Isn’t that wonderful?

That’s Paul’s last point.

#3. GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES IN HIS OWN WONDERFUL WAY. V.33

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! [As Isaiah 40 say] ‘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?’ [Nobody, nobody, nobody! He stands alone!]  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

God always keeps His promises, but how He does it is mysterious and surprising and unsearchable.

We often have no idea what He’s up to.

And that’s exactly how He wants it.

He wants us to trust Him.

Not to figure Him out.

Not to decide on our own how He must do what He said He would do.

No, God is God and we are not.

We don’t understand, but that’s okay. He does.

He doesn’t need our help.

He just asks for our faith.

Trusting that God IS Keeping His Promises.

Even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Especially when it doesn’t seem like it.

And trusting that God WILL keep His promises. That God has a plan. And it might not make any sense to me how it works out. In fact, it might feel senseless.

The history of the Jews is one of great pain and often senseless violence.

Heather and I went to see the Woman in Gold on Friday night.

And were reminded of the horrors of the Holocaust.

But as terrible as it has been, God still has a plan to bring all Israel to salvation through the deliverer that comes from Zion, the Lord Jesus Christ.

God will keep His promises, every single one of them.

But He will do it in His own wonderful, unsearchable way.

Our job is simply to humble ourselves and trust in Him.

***

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