Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 4 Study # 6
Thesis: The preparation of the vessels of mercy for the glory that is to come gets its biggest boost at the time of their summons by God.
Introduction: As we have worked through Paul's words in Romans 9 we have been given a Big Picture view of God's purpose. Back in Romans 8:28 we were told that there is a group of people on the planet for whom all things are manipulated into mechanisms of "good". This group is identified as "the called according to His purpose." Then, as a reminder, Romans 9:11 reminds us again of this Big Picture issue, the purpose of God, and ties it once again to "Him that calleth". Now, as we have come to 9:24 in our march through chapter nine, we see that, once again, Paul summons up this issue of God's "call".
In very practical terms out of our own experience we recognize pretty readily that becoming a Christian is not "open to all" in any real sense. The level of information necessary to "faith" is simply not available in every place all of the time, and even where the information is available, the contradictions and challenges to it are already in place to make "faith" in it a difficult, if not impossible result.
So, when we dig a bit below the surface and ask, "How does anyone ever come to faith?", we are compelled to give one of two answers: the superiority of some men over others; or the special work of God on behalf of some and not others. The former answer is arrogant; the latter is where Paul pitched his theological tent. He calls it being subject to the "grace" of an individualized and particular summons.
This evening we are going to look into this Big Picture issue again. For us, the actual "point" is "old hat", but for the first century Roman believers it was a startling foundation for a new approach to living.
January 20, 2009
- I. Paul's Big Picture Issue.
- A. Begins with "Life".
- B. Steps down to the Self-revelation of God as the primary means to "Life".
- C. Includes "faith" as the only legitimate response to Self-revelation.
- D. Moves to the particulars of the Self-revelation.
- 1. Paul calls one of those particulars the existence of "vessels of wrath" who are the means of the revelation of the wrath and power of God (along with longsuffering and the specific particular of wrath known as "destruction").
- 2. He calls another of those particulars the existence of "vessels of mercy" who are the means of the revelation of the infinite wealth of His glory with a focus upon mercy in specific intent: the preparation of such vessels to enter into and participate in that glory forever.
- E. Then moves in a direction that is shocking to both Jewish and Gentile minds in the first century.
- 1. For centuries, the Jews believed two things with rock-firm conviction: their God was the True and Only God (Deuteronomy 6:4 and following and Exodus 20); and they were specially elected by God to the exclusion of all of the other nations (Deuteronomy 10:14-15).
- a. Thus the Jews lived among the nations as the people of Yahweh and they lived with a certain kind of smugness as "superior" people.
- b. Thus also the Gentiles witnessed the Jews among them and were convinced by them that their God was not for them.
- 2. For Paul to come along and say that God's Master Plan was bigger than what He had been doing for the last 1500 years was a shock to both.
- 3. His declaration was that God had opened the category of "vessels of mercy" to all of the nations -- not excluding Israel, but not favoring Israel either.
- II. Paul's Perception of Each Believer's Place in the Big Picture.
- A. According to 9:24, each of us is subject to a special summons.
- 1. This summons is more than ...
- a. What the inhabitants of the world generally get: Romans 10:18 from Psalm 19.
- b. What the inhabitants of the evangelized world generally get: Matthew 22:14 in its context.
- c. What the inhabitants of the local churches generally get: whatever exposure to the words of God that is made available.
- 2. This summons is that one which is couched between predestination and justification: Romans 8:30.
- a. This is the summons that is illustrated by Acts 9:15 in its context.
- b. This is the summons that is declared by Paul in Romans 1:1 and 1:6-7.
- B. According to 9:25-26, there are three driving issues behind this special summons.
- 1. Hosea says God is intent upon making those "not My people" into "My people".
- a. This is an aspect of 9:11 where God's purpose according to election is going to not merely survive, but triumph.
- b. This is a latter day development of that "purpose" that had been hidden in the days of the prophets of Israel: the development of a Gentile bride for the Son.
- 2. Hosea says that God is intent upon making certain ones who were not "beloved" into the "beloved".
- a. This is "bride-selection" terminology and caters to the idea of every man making a choice among women of one.
- b. This is "self-sacrifice" terminology and fosters the "as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her" focus of "love".
- 3. Hosea says that God is intent upon changing the "not my people" into the "sons of the Living God".
- a. This is "focus-on-Life" terminology.
- b. This is "sons", not "children" terminology.
- C. According to Paul's labor in writing Romans, he viewed every believer as having a place in the pursuit of this Big Picture.
- 1. His place was "apostleship": itinerant preaching and the establishment of fledgling local churches.
- 2. Every other "called saint" has his/her own place.
- a. It is only really revealed and developed after Romans 12:1-2.
- b. It is only sham-religion that attempts to take the benefits of the calling without being committed to the responsibilities of it.