But That's Not All
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 Ro 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,
 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
 6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,
 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called."
 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.
 9 For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son."
 (NKJV)

As I listened to this chapter of Romans on a CD this week, one thing really jumped out at me. Paul uses a plethora of Old Testament quotes to make his case. The thrust of his case is to show the Jews that they have shunned Godís grace, that they have hardened their hearts unto damnation, and again, hitting on the major theme of Romans. Justification by faith.
Salvation is not of our heritage or of our works. It is of God!

God elects or chooses us by calling us through His Word and Sacraments, and it is our personal response to His election and the continuing resistable work of the Holy Spirit after our election that determines the pliability or softness of our heart toward God.  

As long as we continue responding to Godís Word our hearts will be fine, but if we become stiff necked and stubborn, we are playing with fire and asking for damnation. God doesnít send anyone to hell, we get their ourselves with our own disbelief!

Ro 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

Oh, the ache in Paulís heart for his brethren. They had so much going for them and now it is for the most part all lost! How can such a thing happen? The Jews had so much of the grace and blessing of God! Just look at the list here in verses 4 and 5. First of all they were adopted by God.

 Ex 4:22 " 'Thus says the LORD: "Israel is My son, My firstborn. (NKJV)

Out of all the nations on the earth, they were chosen to be a special people to God. It all started with Abram hearing the Word of the Lord and responding to it. It started in Genesis 12:

 Ge 12:1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you.
 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. (NKJV)

So Abram believed Godís promise. He acted on it, even though he didnít know where he was going, he packed up the U-Haul and left. The Lord led him to Cannan and in Canaan, the adoption officially took place at the time of his circumcision. It was at this point that God gave him a new name...Abraham, and sealed his adoption with circumcision.  Welcome to the family.

Abraham was the father of the Jews and all his children enjoyed the benefits of adoption through circumcision, and faith.

But thatís not all! They also were privileged to experience Godís glory!  By that we mean His actual presence among them. Remember His presence in the pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night?

His presence in the tabernacle?

 Ex 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (NKJV)

But thatís not all! There were the covenants that He made with the people. These were the progressive repetitions to the patriarchs of promised blessings. If youíve read Genesis, youíve probably heard them repeated over and over again as He spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 ďYou will have more descendants than the stars.Ē ďI will give you this land.Ē ďI will make a mighty nation of you.Ē and so on. These covenants were sheer grace on Godís part. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did nothing to deserve them.

But not only the gracious covenants with the patriarchs, but also the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai! No other nation was privileged to have a hard copy of the Laws of God. They didnít have to guess about the way the Lord would have them live.

The Gentiles did. They had  the Law written on their hearts, but it was dimmed by sin, not so for the Jews, the Ten commandments were clearly written in stone by the hand of God! The Jews were also the only people who were given the oracles of God (His Word) and they faithfully recorded them in the Book called the Old Testament.  

But thatís not all! They also had ďthe service of God.Ē That is they didnít have to dance around in circles, cut themselves, or offer human sacrifices to worship as the heathens did.  God gave them specific instructions for proper worship.

But not only that! The form of worship including the temple and the tabernacle spoke of the precious promises of God, all pointing to the Promise of a Messiah!

But not only that! They had the patriarchs, (the fathers) who were examples to them of the grace of God and the patience of God, and the protection of God!

But not only that!  Christ, the Messiah, would take on the human flesh of a Jew. The Savior of the world would come out of Israel! All of these blessings...all of these benefits, and Paul weeps and groans because, except for the remnant, which we will read about later in this chapter,  all are lost!

As you have listened to these blessings, have any of your thoughts been turned to the United States? We too, started out for the most part as adopted children of God. Our forefathers came over here with the New Testament family seal of baptism. They were baptized believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have been given a land flowing with milk and honey. Our patriarchs (forefathers) came here on fire for God! They gave up everything so they could come to this wilderness to worship!
Sounds a bit like the request Moses made of Pharaoh!  

Ex 5:1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.'" (NKJV)

Our forefathers made basically the same request of their pharaohs as they sought to be free from state run religion. These forefathers established a constitution that was designed to protect us from the sinful nature of man. Thereby protecting ourselves and each other, making sure we did not abuse power. It was meant to allow freedom of religion without government control.

We are a land that has had very limited enemy action on our shores. We are blessed with a beautiful country, abundant resources, and unparalleled wealth! God has blessed America! Yet I want to weep with Paul as I look around and see the spiritual condition of the land!

We have had every opportunity for the Word of God to flourish. We have been the recipients of the answered prayer of 1 Timothy 2:2 where Paul reminds Timothy to pray for governments so that ďwe may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.Ē

We have been given all these things and more and we have turned our back on our great, gracious and benevolent God. Our national heart has been hardened with sin! We have resisted the Word of God just as Pharaoh did!

There was a vote taken this week to affirm the homosexual lifestyle, a lifestyle that Godís Word clearly calls an abomination. The vote was not taken by the government, but by a body of professing Lutherans!

The delegates to the ELCA convention in Orlando FL on Friday voted 503 to 490 to reject a proposal that would have allowed homosexuals in committed relationships to serve as clergy.  Why would such a vote even need to be taken by a body of believers that held to the inerrancy of Scripture?  

But thatís not all! As a nation, over 3000 daily sacrifices of children to the god of convenience through abortion.  Widespread acceptance of sexual deviation of all kinds. Rampant drug and alcohol abuse, gross materialism, poor money management, a skyrocketing divorce rate, and a tremendous rise in biblical illiteracy!

Oh, pray for America, for we are hardening our hearts toward the God of the Bible. We are resisting His Word and we are re-creating Him in our own image. Weep with Paul over all those who have rejected Jesus Christ in our land as the way, the truth, and the life!

One other very important item to deal with in verse 5. There are many cults out there who deny the Trinity. They do so to their own damnation. You canít just love 1/3 or 2/3 of God! Some cults deny the deity of Christ.
This passage speaks of His deity in the plainest words: And if you ever get in a discussion with someone about the deity of Christ, this would be a good verse to remember,ďChrist, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen!Ē

Paul continues for those who may question the effectiveness of the Word of God as it relates to the lost Jews.

6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. ( In fact, it is because of the effect of the Word of God, insomuch as they have rejected it, that they are lost. For the Word of God that brings salvation is about promise!  Itís about what God promises to do for us and not what we  will do for Him...............................Paul continues:

ďFor they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham;Ē (Paul states the obvious here. Just because you were a physical Israelite or a physical child of Abraham does not mean you are saved. You must become a ďspiritualĒ Israelite, a ďspiritualĒ child of Abraham in order to be saved.

In order to do that, you must believe the promise of God. You must believe Godís Word! ďAbraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. So itís not about being a physical child, but a spiritual child, and this is beautifully illustrated for us with the birth of Isaac.

ď but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called." (It is in the birth account of Isaac that we can see what it means to be a child of promise. We can see what it is to be saved by grace through faith.

 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; (again, physical birth, godly heritage, faithful church attendance, and so on, donít matter in our salvation.

ďbut the children of the promise are counted as the seed.Ē (The children who are born as Isaac was born are the heirs of salvation.

 9 For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son."
Whatís that got to do with salvation by grace?

Sarah was barren, and if thatís not enough, she was in her 90's! The only possible way she could have a child would be through a supernatural work of God.

And so we see what Isaacís birth typifies. It demonstrates that all of Godís true children are born supernaturally through the Word, Jesus Christ! The Word of God , (Godís promise) called Isaac into being, and likewise, the Word of God , creates the people of God and defines the people of God!

If you want to look at the true Israel, you canít look to the Mideast. You must look at Isaac. Thatís where the promise of God was at work. It was not at work in the union of Hagar and Abraham, but in the union of Abraham and Sarah. The union of Hagar and Abraham that produced  Ishmael, was nothing more than a picture of man trying to save himself.

It was flesh seeking to take salvation into itís own hands. And that is the dilemma for the Jew as they seek to find salvation in the Law, rather than in the promise of the Gospel. For if being a child of Abraham was all that was required for salvation, that would make all of Ishmaelís descendants saved as well.

But salvation by the Law or works is very evident in our land today as well. Just ask someone sometime why they think they are going to heaven and 9 out of 10 will respond, ďbecause I have been a basically good person.Ē  

But you canít be good enough! You must be perfect! Perfection only comes from God, not from the efforts of man. Ishmael, the efforts of man, Ishmael, the product of compromise! But Isaac, the effort of God, the result of His spoken promise and uncompromising truth!  

So we, who were conceived in sin, came into this world as spiritually dead as Sarah was naturally reproductively dead. Therefore, we needed to be born again. This new birth comes to us in baptism just as it came to the Israelites in circumcision. God uses water and the word to regenerate us, and to adopt us as His children. Itís His doing, not ours.
But, it is not enough to believe that one promise of God concerning new birth in baptism, we must continue believing in His promises, His declarations in His Word, or our hearts will be hardened as the Israelites were and we will lose our salvation!  In other words, we cannot claim that baptism alone saves us....it must be coupled with faith.

And again, we can look around this nation and weep, just as Paul looked around his nation and wept. Every single one of his countrymen were circumcised on the 8th day of their lives.
They started out as adopted children of God, but they ceased to believe in the promises associated with their circumcision. Their hearts became hardened and they were lost.

Most of our countrymen have baptism certificates laying around the house somewhere. They too started out well, but have ceased to believe in the promises given to them in their baptism and are lost.

How about you? Isnít that the bottom line? Are you just coasting along with your baptism certificate in hand, thinking thatís the only ticket you need to get to heaven?

Or are you baptized and seeking to get to heaven by attending church, and doing all the right things as it relates to church?

Or are you baptized and living a life of legalism. Seeking to keep the commandments of God externally, so that God will look on you with great favor,   and condemning others because they donít.

If so, then you are spoken of in this Word today in verse 6. ďFor they are not all Israel who are of Israel.Ē  You have all the outward trappings of religion but no necessary change of heart. You are still trying to make it on your own, rather than relying totally on God.

You have chosen to cast aside the promises inherent in your baptism and have withered and died spiritually. You need to be revived by the Spirit of God because you have squandered your new life given to you at baptism as you have lived your life in resistance to the Word of God.

Everyone born of God shows these evidences: There is a new heart, a new manner of life, and a new relationship to the world. Before the new birth the commandments of God and His Word are given little rightful concern. They are either ignored or used as the means of salvation. Both attitudes are spiritually fatal.

To the spiritually dead or lukewarm, information about eternal life and death may be heard, but if you are not born of God, it is soon forgotten. It is different in the new life in Christ. The Word is given a new and different priority and it becomes a guide for life.

Heaven and hell become very real to the one who is born again. The unregenerate donít like to talk about Jesus or God, except in their vain speculations totally unrelated to what His Word says about Himself. But for the revived and born-again Christian God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are never far from their hearts, minds, and lips.

So what do you do if you have squandered the inheritance of your baptism? Well, what did the Prodigal Son do? He came to his senses. He remembered what it was like living under the promises of his father. He went back to him confessing that he had sinned, that he had erred in his ways.

Did the father reject him? No! He was waiting for him....watching for him to return, and when he saw him, he RAN to meet him. Just as the Father has been waiting and watching for you to return!  

He hasnít been waiting for you to return to church. He hasnít been waiting for you to try and obey His commandments in the flesh. But He has been bringing the Holy Spirit to bear on your heart through His Word as He seeks to convince you of your sin, and help you come to your senses, so that you will humbly come back to Him and receive His forgiveness.

Maybe He is speaking to you today. Maybe today is the day you unharden your heart and return to the Father. If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you right now, calling you out of your useless way of living, I want you to pray this prayer with me right now.
Remembering that itís not the prayer, the prayer is not some secret formula, rather it is the condition and true desire of your heart.

Father, I thank you for the baptismal grace in which you called me and made me your child. But I confess that I have run away from home and made a mess of things. I have neglected your Word and Your great promises. My heart has been hardened by my willful disobedience. I have squandered your bountiful grace and I now humbly ask that you will receive me again as Your child.  Not because I deserve it, but because of your mercy. Not because I have earned it, but because of your mercy. Thank You Father for receiving me, thank You for forgiving me. I believe you have received me again not because of my feelings or emotions but because of still another promise in Your Word.  ďThat whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.'Ē I call on You Lord not by the prompting of my flesh but by the gracious prompting of the Holy Spirit. Thank You Lord for making me Your child again, in Jesus name Amen.