Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Nature of God's Election, Part I-B

Last night, I started a series on the Nature of God’s Election with an exposition of Romans 10:1-10. Tonight, I will continue to exposit the text of Romans 10.

Before I get started, I’d like to give a recap from what we’ve been learning about Romans 9-11. First, we’ve studied Romans 9 regarding Augustine’s view of “the merits of faith,” and how wrong Augustine was about faith. According to Scripture, faith cannot be a merit because, if it is, then faith is a “work,” and Scripture would then be contradicting itself—because it would require a WORK in the place of WORKS. And surely, as Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35, HCSB).

Last night, we looked at the first ten verses of Romans 10, which shows us that, according to Paul, faith had ALWAYS been the way of salvation throughout ALL of the canon of Scripture! Leviticus 18:5 proved to us that NOONE could obey every jot and tittle of the Law; we then traveled to Deuteronomy, where we discovered that the message was not too far away for the Jew to obey it (as Moses told them). It was not across the sea or in heaven, so that someone would have to get it for them. Instead, it was in their mouths and hearts—and God gave them this access to it so they could obey it. In the same manner, the message of faith Paul and others preached was VERY NEAR the Jew—in their mouth and heart. If only they would confess the Lord Jesus, and believe that He was raised from the dead by the Father, then they would be saved. Only through confession and belief would the Jews ever receive salvation. Notice that Paul also told them they didn’t need to go to Heaven above to bring Christ down to earth to die, or to go into the grave to resurrect Him. All they had to do was believe in Him and confess their belief, and salvation would be theirs.
Tonight, we continue our study through Romans 10.

11 Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame, (R) (S) 12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, (T) since the same Lord (U) of all (V) is rich to all who call on Him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:11-13, Holman Christian Standard Bible. All references will come from this version unless otherwise stated).

In verse 11, Paul tells us the reason why a person will be saved upon confession and belief: because the Scripture declares it to be so! Paul references Isaiah 28:16, which says,

16 Therefore the Lord GOD said:
"Look, I have laid a stone (M) in Zion,
a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; (N)
the one who believes will be unshakable. (Isaiah 28:16)

So when the Lord spoke of “a sure foundation” and “a precious cornerstone,” He was speaking of His Son, Jesus Christ. We can easily see this with references from Christ Himself in the New Testament. First, let’s look at Christ’s words regarding Himself as “a precious cornerstone”:

42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. [f] This came from the Lord and is wonderful in our eyes ? (AG) (AH) 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its [g] fruit. [ 44 Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; (AI) but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder!"] (Matthew 21:42-44, HCSB)

Matthew 21, in context, concerns Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees. He’s told them one parable prior to this, but now He tells them another: the parable of the vineyard owner. The parable itself concerns a vineyard owner who gave the vineyard over to farmers to cultivate it while he was away. When harvest time came, and the grapes were ripe to pick, he sent some servants out to collect the fruit. But the farmers took the servants and beat them to death. Then the vineyard owner sent more servants, and the farmers did the same thing: they beat the servants to death. Finally, the vineyard owner decided to send his son, supposing that his son would be accepted; but instead, when the son came to the farmers, they decided to kill the son too.

This parable was an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The Pharisees (or rather, the Jews) were the farmers in the vineyard; and the vineyard owner Himself was the Lord God. He allowed the farmers (Jews) to produce the harvest for Him, and then sent His servants, the prophets, to gather the harvest. But what did the Pharisees (farmers) do? They beat the prophets, some were stoned, and all were killed. When God decided to send His Son, the farmers (Pharisees, Jews) took Jesus and killed Him as well. Read more:

40 Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?"
41 "He will completely destroy those terrible men," they told Him, "and lease his vineyard to other farmers who will give him his produce at the harvest." (Matt. 21:40-41, HCSB)

The Pharisees answered the question correctly.

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its [g] fruit. [ 44 Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; (AI) but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder!"] [h]
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, (AJ) they knew He was speaking about them. 46 Although they were looking for a way to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, because they [i] regarded Him as a prophet. (Matt. 21:43-46)

Jesus’ response to them was that, because the Pharisees failed to produce fruit, but killed His servants (the prophets) and even His own Son, He was going to take away the kingdom from them and it would be “given to a nation producing its fruit.” Because the Jews refused to accept Him, He would go to the Gentiles—and they would come, in large numbers, to the Kingdom of God. But then, we see this weird verse:

“Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder!” When the verse talks about “grinding” people to powder, the Lord is telling the Pharisees that His judgment would come upon the Jews for their unbelief; while, for the Gentiles, they would fall on the “stone” and be broken—in other words, they would come to Him humbly, with all sincerity. The Jews had a choice: they could either allow themselves to be broken with a broken spirit and a contrite heart (as David says in Psalm 51), or they could be BROKEN in the sense that the Lord would destroy them, would do away with them.

We also see Jesus referring to Himself as “the sure foundation”:

24 "Therefore, (AA) everyone who hears these words (AB) of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn't collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn't act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!" (Matthew 7:24-27)

The one who “acts” on Christ’s words is the one who “built his house on the rock.” The “house,” then, would be the deeds of the person, while the “rock” would be Christ (for the person would be “building upon” Christ’s commands). We see another instance of this in Matthew 16:

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, (I) [f] He asked His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" [g] 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." (J) 15 "But you," He asked them, "who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!" (K) 17 And Jesus responded, "Simon son of Jonah, (L) [h] you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. (M) 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, [i] and on this rock [j] I will build My church, (N) and the forces [k] of Hades will not overpower it. (Matt. 16:13-18)

Many a Roman Catholic has gotten the meaning of these verses confused. They are quick to say that the “rock” refers to Peter; however, the “rock” refers to the “confession” Peter made. After all, Jesus says “on this rock,” which can’t refer to Peter. Let’s notice this in the Greek. First, notice that Peter is a noun, which requires an article “ho.” The phrase “upon this rock” in the Greek is “taute te petra.” Peter’s name in the Greek is masculine, “Petros,” so he CANNOT be the “rock” of this text.

What is “this rock” of verse 18? It is the “this” that was revealed to Peter in verse 17. And what was the “this” that was revealed? It was Peter’s response to Jesus’ question of His own identity in verse 16:

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”

So the “rock” is the confession that Christ is Lord, Messiah, the Son of God, that is the foundation upon which the church is built. We see this emphasis upon the confession further in the text of Matthew 16:

20 And He gave the disciples orders to tell no one that He was [n] the Messiah.

As we can see from verse 20, His emphasis was upon His own identity, NOT Peter being “the head of the church,” or the first “bishop.” So the Roman Catholic cannot boast of their tradition on the basis of Matthew 16. Matthew 7 also confirms the “rock” being Christ. Ephesians 2:20 talks about Christ as the cornerstone, which further supports the interpretation of Matthew 16.

While we have traveled far in our discussion of Isaiah 28:16, we have done it for one purpose: to show that Christ was the cornerstone and foundation that the Spirit foretold of in Isaiah 28:16. So, when Paul writes that “No one who believes on Him will be put to shame,” he has warrant to use Isaiah 28:16 because the words of the Old Testament verse refer to Christ Himself!

I will continue the Nature of God’s election in my next post.

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