Friday, August 12, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 14, 2016

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(Living under GOD’s mercy)
(Romans 9)

   Here in Romans chapter 9, the Apostle Paul lays the foundation that will support his argument, that, post-CHRIST Israel consists not just of the Jewish descendants of Abraham, but rather, of both Jews and Gentiles, who together, form the chosen covenant community of GOD.
    In this passage, Paul speaks of Israel while making a distinction between being a “descendant of Abraham”, and being a member of “the Covenant Community of GOD”. Here Paul seeks to show that the covenant community of GOD has always been composed, not of Abraham’s “natural” children, but rather, of his “spiritual off-springs” who share Abraham’s strong faith. It is those who believe GOD’s promise about HIS SON, CHRIST JESUS, who, share in the Covenant promise, not those who share Abraham’s physical genes. 
    In verses 6-13, Paul shows how GOD made promises to Abraham, and then chose who HE wanted to inherit those promises. Though both Ishmael and Isaac were Abraham’s natural sons, only Isaac would inherit the promise. GOD chose Isaac to inherit the promise, even though both boys were Abraham’s son. And even when Isaac grew up and married Rebecca, and she gave birth to twins, before either child was born, GOD had already chose Jacob over Esau to inherit the promise.
    In GOD’s Word, we see set forth, on the one hand, HIS sovereignty over all things. On the other hand, however, we see that GOD has given to man, the freedom to choose the way that he wants to go in life. And out of that privilege of “freedom to choose”, man automatically inherits the responsibility to “make right and GODly choices” before the LORD. Abraham chose to be faithful to GOD, and GOD, chose to bless Abraham and “the inheritors of his faith” with the Covenant promise.
    GOD also makes HIS OWN choices freely and sovereignly, and HIS decisions are not bound by our understanding, and nor are they bound by our lack of understanding. GOD is clearly subject to no one’s will, but HIS OWN, and, unless GOD chooses to be merciful to us, none of us could be saved from sin and death (permanent separation from GOD).
    And so we see that, GOD, WHO is the Potter, or, Creator of all things made, both, freely makes HIS OWN choices, and, HE gives man to ability and authority to do the same, to a lesser degree (Romans 9:20-21). GOD has every right to select who HE sees fit, for what HE sees fit, when HE sees fit. And HE will always exercise HIS judgment and power, even to be patient with those who are the object of HIS judgment, and, are only fit for destruction (Romans 9:22).
    GOD also has the right to pour out the riches of HIS glory on those who are the object of HIS mercy (Romans 9:23). Who receives GOD’s promise is not up to us, and we can’t receive it by doing good works. GOD will show mercy to anyone HE chooses, even to an ungodly person if HE sees fit. Remember when GOD told the ungodly Pharaoh of Egypt that, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying MY power in you, and so that MY fame will spread throughout the earth”.
    And so we see, GOD, shows mercy to some just because HE wants to, and HE chooses to make some people who display a huge amount of stubborn pride, like the Pharaoh, and who HE knows will refuse to listen, to play a role in HIS plans for others. And this does not mean that GOD is responsible for our sinful condition. Those who are “prepared for destruction” have already chosen to do evil. And despite the fact that their evil deeds cry out for judgment, GOD remains patient with them, giving them every opportunity to change for the better. GOD always uses HIS sovereign power, by choosing to go the route of “love”, “patience”, and “grace”. 
    If a man’s heart goes out in love and submission to JESUS, then JESUS represents for that man, salvation. But if a man’s heart is entirely unmoved or angrily rebellious, JESUS represents for that man, condemnation”. In Romans 9, verses 30-33, the Apostle Paul once again hits his readers with the, now familiar, rhetorical question, “What then shall we say?”
    Here, Paul draws a stunningly vivid contrast between the Jewish way, and the Gentile way, of viewing GOD. The Jews set out to try and earn their way to Heaven through deeds, and, by trying to follow the letter of the Law, while the newly admitted Gentiles in the church, tended to seek GOD the correct way, which is of course, by faith.
    When we try to earn our way to heaven the way the Jews sought to do, we are, in effect, attempting to put GOD into our debts. But man, because of his imperfections, can never satisfy the letter of the Law. He can never walk “according to the light of GOD”, but rather, he can only seek to walk “in the light of CHRIST”. And even that can’t be done without his or her obedience to the power of the HOLY SPIRIT in them, to guide and counsel them in the right direction.
    We can never stack up enough brownie points, that GOD will owe us salvation in return for our good deeds. Salvation is the gift that keeps on giving through faith, and it cannot be purchased by money, or, by deeds. JESUS CHRIST never did conform to the Jews’ expectations from HIM, and as a result, they rejected HIM rather than to respond to HIM by faith. They ultimately delivered HIM into the hands of Pilate, and in order to save himself from his own, self-imposed, troubled career, Pilate was compelled, to sentence CHRIST to death.
    Driven by their hatred for JESUS, the Jewish leaders lost all sense of proportion, and they totally forgot about the mercy, that they themselves had so often preached about in the temple every Sabbath. In fact, they forgot all about justice, and in the end, as it is recorded in John 19:15, they denounced GOD, and professed Caesar as their king.
    And to show how GOD had anticipated this kind of action from HIS “chosen people”, Paul reminds them of a couple of contrasting quotes from the prophet Isaiah, some 750 years earlier (Isaiah 8:14 & 28:16), in verse 33. Here, we are forced to accept one great eternal truth about CHRIST JESUS. HE was sent into this world to be both a SAVIOR of men, and, the living human example by which all men are judged.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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