Calvary Road Baptist Church

“GOD IS MERCIFUL”

Romans 9.25-33 

My mother and father were married for four years before I was born. For three of those four years, they were secretly married, which is to say that their marriage was known to almost everyone but my mom’s parents. My paternal grandparents knew of the marriage. My aunts and uncles knew of the marriage. But my maternal grandparents were not told. Why I do not pretend to know.

How my mom’s parents came to know of her marriage to my dad is quite amusing. My mother’s parents went over to visit my father’s parents one afternoon. Knowing the two kids were married, my father’s dad decided to talk about the obvious affection these two lovebirds had for each other and was doing his part to keep the secret. But as he carried on the conversation with both my mom’s parents my paternal grandmother, known to everyone for her tendency to hear only part of any conversation, had no real idea that her husband was playing dumb. Hearing only a portion of the words, “I suppose these two kids will be getting married someday,” my dad’s mother rushed in from the kitchen and shouted, “Ross, you weren’t supposed to tell them that the kids are secretly married.”

From that point on my mother’s parents also were aware that their youngest daughter was married. And although I could preach a series of messages about the foolishness of secret marriages which may cause people who are not in on the secret to thinking you are a fornicator when you are not, I have another reason for relating this bit of family history. Proverbs 18.13 declares that 

“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” 

That verse indicates the consequences of jumping to conclusions and passing judgments and speaking your mind before you’ve heard the entire story, or before you have gathered all the facts.

My sweet and lovable grandmother was known for several things, mostly for her love of God. However, one of the things she was also known for was her tendency to answer a matter before she heard it through. Let us make sure that, in our study of Romans chapter 9, we do not commit the same folly as my dear grandmother. And what would be our temptation to answer a matter before we hear it? Think about it for just a second. After concluding his treatise on the need for and the nature of justification, Paul begins to address the issue of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s rejection, by and large, of the Lord Jesus Christ’s claims to be the Messiah of Israel.

He does so by first identifying and expressing his concern for the Israelites. Then he illustrates the fact of God’s election in Israel’s past and God’s sovereignty in Israel’s past. With just the information that Paul has conveyed so far if you conclude at this point in his presentation, you have committed the same act of folly as my precious, but unwise, grandmother. You have answered a matter before you have heard it out. You see, it is the rather typical response of even Christians to recoil at the concept of election and to become alarmed at the mention of sovereignty. We tend to associate everything we hear with experiences that we have lived through or read about. So, the idea of some other person making choices that affect our eternity, or some other person exercising absolute sovereignty over us, is a difficult pill to swallow.

That is why Paul, in these final verses of Romans chapter 9, specifically points out that God’s exercise of election and sovereignty, not only is not arbitrary, it is merciful. Turn with me to Romans 9.25-33 for the reading of our text. When you find the passage, I invite you to stand with me and read responsively, me reading the odd verses and you reading the even verses: 

25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

26 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.

27 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:

28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29 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.

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 

There are three ways in which Paul shows God’s election and sovereignty to be merciful in Romans 9.25-33: 

THE FIRST WAY IS BY MAKING REFERENCE TO THE PROPHET HOSEA 

25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

26 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. 

These two verses and this reference to Hosea requires explanation:

Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel after the great civil war that divided the kingdom of the twelve tribes of Israel. Hosea’s ministry was to the northern kingdom during a time of great material prosperity and great religious apostasy. Remembering that Hosea’s personal life was an object lesson to the entire nation, God directed Hosea to marry a prostitute whose unfaithfulness to him would picture Israel’s spiritual unfaithfulness to God.

One of the children that Gomer, Hosea’s adulterous wife, bore to him was named “not my people.” So, the whole point of this prophecy of Hosea is that he extended his love to a woman who was unfaithful to him and he took as his child a boy who was an illegitimate child. This, of course, pointed to that future time when God would mercifully save even the Israelites who had been carried into captivity by the Assyrians. Understanding that this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, take note of the fact that Paul takes this prophecy, which is directed to Jews, and applies it to Gentiles as an explanation of why Gentiles have been saved. Read Hosea 2.23: 

“And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” 

See how it can be readily applied to the salvation of the Gentiles? Whether it is the recalling of the scattered Israelites or the salvation of the Gentiles, the principle is the same. As God will be merciful in the exercise and display of His sovereign election of the Israelites in the future, so He is presently merciful in the exercise and display of His sovereign election of the Gentiles now.

Conclusion? God’s present display of mercy is consistent with what was prophesied about Him in the prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, the prophet Hosea. And no one would deny that saving Gentiles is an act of mercy. 

THE SECOND WAY THAT PAUL SHOWS THAT GOD’S EXERCISE OF ELECTION AND SOVEREIGNTY IS MERCIFUL IS BY MAKING REFERENCE TO THE PROPHET ISAIAH 

Isaiah, you will remember, was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah at the time the northern kingdom of Israel was smashed and taken captive by the Assyrians, some three generations after the ministry of Hosea. I read Romans 9.27-29: 

27  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:

28  For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29  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. 

If Hosea’s prophesies were used by Paul to establish the principle that God is merciful in saving Gentiles, Isaiah’s prophesies are used by Paul to establish the principle that God is merciful in saving only a remnant of Israel. Let’s look at each verse individually. 

Verse 27: 

“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.” 

God’s actions were foretold. More than 600 years before Paul’s letter to the Romans was written God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and predicted that only a few of the multitudes of Israel would be saved. 

Verse 28: 

“For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.” 

Though this verse gives every scholar and commentator fits, the basic thrust of it seems to be that God’s Word is vindicated. He is now doing what He said He would do, and He will do what He said He would do. 

Verse 29: 

“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.” 

But for sovereign, electing mercy Israel would have been as Sodom and Gomorrah. Do you think that God is unfair or unjust in His display of election and sovereignty in such a merciful way? Then think about this: Had God not chosen to sovereignly demonstrate His mercy toward some, all of Israel would have suffered His wrath, as Sodom and Gomorrah did. Therefore, God is merciful in saving Gentiles, and He is merciful in saving a remnant of Israel. No one would question that saving Gentiles is merciful. But Paul shows that even the salvation of only a remnant of the Jews is also merciful. 

NOW WE COME TO THE THIRD WAY IN WHICH PAUL SHOWS THAT GOD’S EXERCISE OF ELECTION AND SOVEREIGNTY ARE MERCIFUL, BY SENDING JESUS CHRIST. 

You will notice that these last four verses of chapter 9 really form a conclusion and a culmination of what has been written up to this point: 

Verse 30: 

“What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.” 

Have Gentiles ever been known, generally, for their pursuit of godliness and righteousness? Even such Greek greats as Plato and Socrates lived in a society which tolerated and eventually promoted sodomy. So, you can’t accuse pagan and promiscuous Gentiles of following righteousness. But Gentiles have attained the righteousness which is of faith. And, of course, faith must have an object, one in whom to believe. That One in whom we believe is Jesus Christ. 

Verse 31-32a: 

31  But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32  Wherefore? 

Israel, on the other hand, since the Babylonian captivity at least, has had a history of seeking after the law of righteousness. But Israel has not attained it. Why? Because they attempted to live up to an impossible standard. They did not realize that the righteousness that they needed is a righteousness that can never be earned but only received as a gift by faith. What irony! Those that did not seek righteousness have attained it, by faith, while those who sought it for centuries have not attained it, because they sought it by incorrect means. 

Verse 32b-33: 

32  . . . Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

33  As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 

Do you see? It all hinges on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Alluding to a building needing a cornerstone, Paul points out that what was intended as a cornerstone by God has turned out to be a stumblingstone to the Jews. The Lord Jesus Christ was not at all the Messiah the Jews imagined God would send. He was, in fact, what God promised, but not what the Jews thought God had promised. So, they objected to Him to the point of refusing Him. Why? Because, first, He offered them a salvation that was not dependent upon their beloved Law. Not that there was anything wrong with the Law. The Lord Jesus extolled the virtues of the Law. But the Law was never intended by God to save anyone. It was misused by the Jews to work out salvation by obedience to the Law. Second, the Lord Jesus Christ always represented something broader in scope than the Jews were comfortable with. His ministry reached and attracted many Jews at first, but it also attracted Gentiles. He offered all men a relationship with God that most of them had never longed for, never wanted, and never thought was possible. If God’s salvation of the Gentiles is merciful, seeing as how they sought not after God’s salvation, and if God’s salvation of a remnant of the Jews is merciful, seeing that they would have ended up like Sodom and Gomorrah apart from God’s mercy, then surely the sending of the Savior Who provides that merciful salvation is, in and of itself, an act of mercy. Such an act of mercy was the sending of Jesus Christ, the Stumblingstone and Rock of offence to the Jews who did not believe, that those who do believe in Him shall not be ashamed. In fact, those who believe in Him shall be saved. 

Ah, it’s a terrible thing anytime someone answers a matter before he hears it. You just end up so many times looking foolish and being ashamed of the consequences of being hasty in your conclusions. But such is especially tragic when you answer a matter before you hear it in a matter of such spiritual significance as this. And even many Christians commit this error.

How many times have you heard someone rail against the Biblical doctrine of election or the Biblical doctrine of the sovereignty of God by someone who hasn’t studied the subject fully? Or how many of you know someone who claims to subscribe to God’s sovereignty but there is nary a mention of mercy in his words or his deeds?

The chapter we have just concluded examining is not Paul’s attempt to fully treat either the doctrine of election or sovereignty. He only seeks to explain the unbelief of Israel considering the present situation. But in his discussion, he does show us that we often ask the wrong question. And remember, you won’t get the right answers until you ask the right questions.

So, rather than ask “Why do so few Israelites believe in Jesus?” one should ask “Why do so many Gentiles believe, and why do any Jews at all believe?” The answer would be “It’s the result of God’s mercy extended to undeserving sinners in a sovereign way.”

Do you hear that my unsaved friend? Your only hope of salvation, as a man or woman who does not deserve anything but Hellfire, is the mercy of God extended toward you. Apart from God’s mercy, you have no hope.

What’s your response? As the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior that our merciful God sent to save our sinful souls, speaks to you and says, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” how do you respond? If your response is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will not be ashamed.

Come to Christ now.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

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