Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 4 Study # 3
Thesis: One of the most crucial Theological concepts is that of Yahweh's intention to save as a basic reflection of His character.
Introduction: Last week we considered the fundamental distinction that exists between God's principle of "works" and His principle of "faith". We saw that as opposing principles, the most crucial fact is that "boasting", which has its essential roots in the principle of "works", not only must be eliminated (if Sin is to be defeated), but is eliminated by the principle of "faith". This means that we have to understand how faith eliminates boasting. The only way it can is by destroying the fundamental principle of "works": human capacity to act in a way that satisfies God. If a human being has the personal ability to act in a way that satisfies God, and he exercises it, there is no escape from the fact that, having so accomplished his task, that human being can "boast" of what he has gained in the eyes of God. Boasting simply cannot be eliminated as long as human beings can do what is required of them. Just two verses into his next paragraph, Paul pointedly makes this observation (4:2). Therefore, the principle of faith simply must rest upon a fundamental position that men do not have the capacity to do what is required of them by God. And, it does not matter what that "requirement" might be, boasting will follow on the heels of human accomplishment. The problem most people have is that they take "faith" as a "more simple requirement" than the complex requirements of the Law and think that they are capable of "at least one personal act of faith". Then they live arrogantly as though their "free will choice" of "believing" has made them superior to those who reject Christ. And the arrogance proves the falseness of their understanding. As long as "boasting" exists, misunderstanding of both "Law" and "faith" exists. So, this evening we are going to move into Paul's next major issue: since salvation is a major divine objective as a reflection of a major theological focus on the person of God, to whom is the offer made by God?
August 2, 2005
- I. The Gospel as a Theological Bombshell Among Men.
- A. First, the Gospel compels a totally different "take" on the purpose of the Law.
- 1. By the time Paul wrote Romans, the "Law" was comfortably settled into a totally false position by both Jews and Gentiles.
- a. The "comfort level" is seen in the absolute dominion over the Jewish mind that the principle of "works" maintained and the blasphemous rage that dominated the Gentile mind under the sure knowledge of condemnation. There was not one Jew in a thousand who did not automatically subscribe to the claim that participation in the Kingdom of God was the right of those who kept the Law of that Kingdom's God, nor was there one Gentile in a thousand that did not flaunt his rebellion against God.
- b. The falseness is seen in the resultant boasting that is the fundamental extension of the dominion of sin over one's life.
- 2. Paul's declaration that the Law was not given to justify but to condemn was, thus, a bombshell that everyone who heard the Gospel had to "get over" if there was to be any movement to "faith".
- B. Second, the Gospel compels a totally different "take" on the election of the Jews.
- 1. By the time Paul wrote Romans, "Israel as God's favorite" was comfortably settled into a totally false position.
- a. The "comfort level" is seen in the absolute confidence of the Jewish mind that Yahweh had no use for the nations, and very little interest in them. This comfort level was made clearly manifest by the fact that it took a special revelation from God to Peter to get him to even consider going to a Gentile and explaining "the faith" [see Acts 10 and then the impact in Acts 11].
- b. The falseness is seen in the resultant boasting that so irritated the Gentiles that they were moved to blaspheme Yahweh for "having Israel as His favorite".
- 2. Paul's declaration in 2:29 that Yahweh's election of Israel was not exclusive was, thus, a second bombshell that every Jew who heard the Gospel had to "get over" if there was to be any movement to "faith" [Note the impact of Acts 22:22 in its context], and every Gentile had to embrace if there was to be any movement to faith.
- II. The Gospel's "Take" on the Election of Israel.
- A. It "accepts" the "elect unto primary eternal kingdom participation" thesis, but this is what I will call "acceptance", not "priority focus".
- B. It "sponsors" an "elect unto usefulness in Yahweh's redemptive intent" thesis as the basic focus of attention.
- 1. "Election", as with all of Yahweh's doctrinal precepts, has a "means to what end?" setting that cannot be misunderstood without corrupting the doctrine itself.
- a. Election is not a "final end" issue.
- b. Election is a "means to another end" issue.
- c. As such, election cannot be properly grasped unless the "intended end" is in the picture.
- 2. "Election" shows up in Scripture in various places with a variety of "ends" in view.
- a. Acts 9:15 is a pointed statement of Paul's "election" by God to be an apostle.
- b. Romans 9:11 is as clear a statement as can possibly be made that "election" has a specific divine purpose.
- 1) This text also, however, reveals that the "divine purpose" rests not upon the one who might attempt to qualify himself for it, but upon the one God calls to it.
- 2) And this text clearly makes the same point as Romans 4:16 -- that it is "election" that enables the "purpose" to "stand".
- a) According to Romans 4:16, the divine purpose has no guarantee (which it must have if divine integrity is to stand) if it rests upon human capriciousness.
- b) According to Romans 4:16, the divine promise of the "end" is put into play by the incorporation of the "principle of faith" so that the divine end can be "according to the standard of grace" so that the end can be "sure". All it takes to gum up the works and frustrate the intended "end" is for one link in the necessary process to be broken.
- c) Romans 9:11, coming after 4:16, simply reiterates this fact.
- c. Ephesians 1:6 pointedly says that "grace" is made most clear by "election" (Ephesians 1:4) and "predestination" (Ephesians 1:5).
- 1) The point of "grace" is the elimination of human accomplishment as the foundation for the achievement of the end so that it can be seen that it is divine accomplishment that results in the achievement of the end.
- 2) Nothing puts "human accomplishment" in its "place" as a divine instrumentality rather than an efficient first cause (which allows for boasting) quicker than the union of individual election and predestination. Everyone, at some point in their study of this subject, comes to the thought that "well, it doesn't matter what I do" if predestination is true. This is simply the recognition that human activity has no "first cause" capacities and may not have any other significant capacities either.
- 3) Thus, "election" has, as one of its "ends", the objective of making sure that people can properly understand, and relate to, the grace of God.
- d. Summary: the Scriptures attach several "ends" to the concept of "election".
- III. The Gospel's Argument for Israel's Election as a Means to Gentile Salvation.
- A. Paul's question is just as critical as the one in 3:27.
- B. Paul's question is whether Yahweh has an "equivalent" connection to Jews and Gentiles.
- 1. The enormously controversial issue is not so much the "equivalency" of an accepted connection as it is the nature of the "equivalent connection".
- a. The Jews would have had little to argue with in respect to the all-inclusiveness of Romans 2:6 and 16 if Paul had simply left out the "by Jesus Christ" phrase of 2:16. God is the "God of the Jews and the Gentiles" if we are talking about "judgment".
- b. But, when the nature of the connection is moved from judgment to redemption, an enormous Jewish "howl" set in.
- 2. Paul's argument is that Yahweh is the Redeemer-God of both Jews and Gentiles.
- a. He says that the unity of God demands it.
- b. This set the Jews' teeth on edge because they did not see their election as God's means to the salvation of the Gentiles, but as God's exclusive provision of salvation for Jews only.
- 1) This is most easily seen in the Jewish insistence upon circumcision for salvation. One could only "qualify oneself" for salvation by becoming "Jewish".
- 2) But the issue was not really "Jewish" in the sense of "nationality", but in the sense of "doctrinal unity" on the basis of the central thesis: justification by works.
- c. This undercut the Jewish sense of their special election as a means to their own blessedness as the final end in favor of a different end: the blessedness of the Gentiles.
- 1) Nothing grates harder on the legalist than having his labors result in benefit for someone else [witness the "elder brother" problem in the story of the prodigal son].
- 2) Nothing challenges the selfish concept of divine election more than a concept of special election for someone else's sake.