John Piper – Together for the Gospel 2014 – Persuading, Pleading, and Predestination: Human Means in the Miracle of Conversion

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John Piper – Together for the Gospel 2014

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Romans 9

The 9th chapter of Romans is the fullest, most forthright, blunt chapter on the freedom  of the sovereignty of God’s sovereign grace in all the Bible. It contains statements like this,

  • For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
  • Verse 6-„But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,
  • Verse 10 „And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”
  • Verse 13 – „ As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
  • Verse 15  „For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
  • Verse 16 – „So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
  • Verse 17 ” 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 
  • Verse 18 – „So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
  • Verse 19 – „You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”  20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?

Statements like that. Most people are shocked when they read Romans 9. Very few people are so steeped in the biblical spirit of the majesty and the freedom of God, that these things make sense. Here’s my main question: Why is this here (Romans9)? I mean, generally, why it’s here, specifically at this point in Romans, why is it here? Why just here? Now, I am assuming this is Scripture and therefore is inspired and infallible, or as Paul says, profitable for teaching, for corrections, for proof, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped for  for every good work, including the work of evangelism and the work of world missions. I am assuming these words are not here to undermine personal evangelism. These words are not here to undermine global missions. They are here to strengthen and empower, and stabilize, and deepen, and make more fruitful your personal witnessing efforts and your corporate evangelism and your global efforts to reach the unreached people of the world. That’s why these verses are here. I am just assuming that in the big picture, because they are Scripture and all Scripture is that. It’s profitable. None of it is there by accident or to undermine  any other part of it, or any duty of the Christian life.

I’m assuming that if Romans 9 was rightly understood and rightly felt, more people would enter the kingdom of God with white hot affection of God, than if this chapter were not in the Bible. So, my main question: Why is it here? Right here in Romans? Why does Paul take us there, into these weighty matters of election and predestination, and the absolute sovereignty and the freedom of God? Why does he go there, here? That’s the main question. I’ll tell you where I’m going after that. I have one main question, then I’m gonna ask 3 short questions at the end. In view of that, what effect does Romans 9 and its truth and reality have on Paul’s relationship to lost people? That’s where we’re going.

Paul has just finished writing Romans 1-8. These are the greatest 8 chapters in the Bible. And they reach a crescendo in Romans 8 with promises that are spectacular, off the charts precious to us. Let’s just walk through it and bullet these unspeakably precious promises:

  • Verse 1 – There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
  •  Verse 11 – If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
  • Verse 16 – The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, thenheirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
  • Verse 18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
  • Verse 21 –  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
  • Verse 28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose.
  • Verse 30 – And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
  • Verse 31 –  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
  • Verse 32 – He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
  • Verse 33 – Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
  • Verse 35 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
  • Verse 37-39 – No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And right here, Paul pours out Romans 9, concerning the freedom of God and the sovereignty of God and election. Why?

The God of Israel has just embraced the world. He sent His Son, He inaugurated a new covenant. He set in motion a global mission to rescue sinners. He promised a glorious consummation for the entire universe. And all of it is totally dependent on the faithfulness of God, totally dependent  on the integrity of God, totally dependent on the righteous promise keeping job. If God is not faithful, Romans 8 means nothing. And as Paul takes up Romans 9, that horrible possibility is precisely the issue. Israel, God’s chosen covenant people with untold privileges have rejected their Messiah and en masse are accursed, and cut off from Messiah Jesus. Gentiles are streaming into the kingdom from east and west and north and south and the sons of the kingdom are being thrown into outer darkness. Matthew 8:11

So, people look and they say, „So, God’s covenant people are lost. What good is a covenant? What good are such promises? What good is a history of Israel? His word has fallen. He’s not faithful to his covenant. That’s what Paul is dealing with now. Why? Because if He’s not faithful to His covenant with Israel, you Christians have no warrant to think He will be faithful to you and Romans 8 falls to the ground, along with Israel. That’s the issue.

Romans 9:1-3 – I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. Paul lives with sorrow and anguish that he says is unceasing because he says that his jewish kinsmen, for the most part, have rejected the Messiah and are therefore anathema. He uses that word elsewhere, accursed, and cut off from the Redeemer. Paul stands ready to be damned for his kinsmen, if it were possible, if God were the kind of God that would damn a person who would love someone so much, they’re willing to be damned. He is not that kind of God, therefore Paul says that  provisionally, it can’t happen. But he’s willing, in that world which doesn’t exist. Of course, not all of them are lost. Paul is an Israelite, and he makes much of that in chapter 11. As a whole, though, the jewish people have turned away from the Messiah, the kingdom has been taken away form them and given to a people bearing the fruits. Matthew 21 This, in spite of spectacular benefits.

Verse 4 –  They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promisesTo them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. In spite of all that, they’re lost. Many, many individual jews are lost, accursed, cut off from Christ. What can this mean? Messiah arrives, en masse rejected, en masse they go to hell, cursed, cut off from Redeemer. What can that mean? 

Paul preempts the objection in Verse 6 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, – God’s covenant people are perishing as a whole. What good is a covenant? And Paul responds: „It’s not that the word of God has fallen. And the rest of Romans 9-11 supports that. So the issue is: Is God faithful to His covenant? Is God faithful to the promises? Is the God of Romans 8 reliable? Oh how we love Romans 8. We could live all our lives in Romans 8. We will live all our eternity in Romans 8, and if Roman’s 8 falls to the ground, cause God can’t keep His covenant, even with Israel, what good is it? That’s why these next 3 chapters are in the Bible (Romans 9-11) and that’s why the verses we’re gonna look at are here. That’s the issue. (I transcribed from the first 21 minutes of the message, there are another 40 minutes of the message remaining)

 

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 from Desiring God on Vimeo

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