Thesis:In God's plan, the "last" have become "first" and the "first" have become "last".
Introduction:In our studies of Romans 9 we have been shown that God has a "Plan" that exceeded the expectations of both Israel and the Gentiles in respect to His development of a group called "vessels of mercy". For Paul and first century people (both Jews and Gentiles) the twists and turns of the inscrutable will of God were becoming more and more clear in terms of the broad outlines. He had opened the doors of mercy in two highly significant ways. On the one hand, He was bringing the ministration of the Law to an end so that its condemnation was to be muted by the provision of a Redeemer Whose actions could both fulfill the Law and set it aside. And on the other hand, He was bringing an end to His deliberate focus upon Israel in terms of isolating Himself from the inhabitants of the nations. The first action actually opened the doors of mercy by offering forgiveness on the basis of faith rather than flawed performance, and the second action opened those doors to all of the inhabitants of the world by the creation of a cadre of missionaries who would take the message of the open doors to the uttermost parts of the earth. These are the things that Paul declared by his focus upon the "vessels of mercy" and his claim that they consist of "the called, not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles".
In our most recent study we saw that the extension of the open doors to the Gentiles had two Old Testament precedents. One was Hosea's prophecy that God was going to call those "My People" who had not formerly been His people. The other was Isaiah's frank acknowledgment that Israel was substantially no different from the Gentiles even after 1500 years of a special divine focus of effort, except for a "remnant" that God Himself had preserved. If Israel was not going to be especially "godly" as a result of God's Self-revelation in the Law, there is really no rationale for God's "focus" upon it, and if there is no special rationale for a focus upon only one nation in the world, God might as well release His Word to all of the inhabitants of the world.
This evening we are going to look at Paul's "conclusion" to this matter. In Romans 9:30 he calls his readers to a significant "conclusion" and we are going to turn our attention to it for a few minutes.
I. The Conclusion as Significant.
A. In our studies of Romans we have seen that Paul deliberately used this summons to a conclusion on a regular basis.
B. We have also seen that he used it after he had made his case for some particular "truths".
C. And we know by observation that whatever is taken to be "truth" has a double result.
1. On the one hand, it sponsors corresponding behavior that sets certain consequences in gear.
2. On the other hand, it lays a stone into the foundation of our "faith" that, once set, makes backing up difficult.
3. The result is that not only are we underwriting a certain type of experience by any initial actions that we take, we are also making relatively certain that that type of experience is going to become a norm by reason of the repetition of its causes.
II. The Conclusion as HardtoSwallow.
A. The focus of 9:30-33 is upon Israel.
1. This is important from the vantage point of the entire chapter: Israel and its reaction to the Gospel is the focus of Paul's heart in this chapter.
2. This is important from the vantage point of the Israel's theological heritage in the first century: apostate.
B. The "conclusion" that is being summoned would be particularly difficult for a "Jew" to swallow.
1. On the one hand, it grated on the legal mind of Judaism that anyone could be said to have obtained a right standing before God without any serious effort.
a. To understand this, one simply must understand what was driving the apostasy of Israel.
1) Apostasy is always driven by man's determined effort to wrest control from God.
2) The "bottom line" of apostasy is two-fold.
a) It is a determined intent to be "the One" who determines what experience is going to finally prove to be: this is the "control" issue.
b) It is a determined intent to "get the credit" once the experience is in place: this is the "legalism" issue.
b. Thus, for anyone to say that people can get the "right" to call the shots and get the credit without any effort on their part is high treason and worthy of death.
c. But this is precisely Paul's claim: the Gentiles "got" the position before God that lays the foundation for "rule" and "glory" without any effort.
1) The Gentiles received "righteousness" from God by divine fiat.
2) It was a special kind of "righteousness", but it garnered the same end objective.
a) It was the "kind" that is granted in response to "faith".
b) But the objective was still "to be received by God into His Kingdom for the purpose of participating".
3) It was given in the face of "no effort": they, Paul declares, do not "pursue" righteousness.
2. On the other hand, it grated upon the legal mind of the "Jew" that all of his/her efforts would be judged as worthy of being flushed down the commode.
a. Paul's theological mentor, Isaiah, sponsored this "odious" theological doctrine in 64:6.
b. Paul's own history traced this reality: Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:6; and 1 Timothy 1:15.
c. Paul's words are emphatic: what Israel sought it did not obtain.