All Christians Might Not Be Saved (Romans 9)
For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring. (Romans 9:6-7)
St. Paul's words this morning still surprise and astound Christians today. Some here, even in this room, might not live forever in Heaven. Hypocrites abound in the Christian Church today. Just as hypocrites have abounded throughout every age of the Christian Church from Adam and Eve until now. It's shocking to think that there might be people who are very active in their congregation yet who do not truly trust in Jesus. It's easier to point our fingers at those who haven't been in worship with the congregation for years and call them hypocrites. But what about those here in these pews. Hypocrites aren't only those who have fallen away from coming to worship. Hypocrites are more accurately those who are in worship but not in worship. God has said about His chosen people, "This people draw[s] near with their mouth and honor[s] me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men" (Isaiah 29:13). Jesus uses these words about the Pharisees and the scribes, those who knew the Law of Moses backwards and forwards (Matthew 15:8; Mark 7:6).
Hypocrites are truly those who forsake what God has given them in order to please themselves. They don't accept God's gracious gifts for what they are. They turn them down because they're holding out for something better. After the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews saw this prevalently in their worship and society. Paul issues his concerns over his fellow Jews who continue to follow the false doctrines of the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes straight into Hell. The Jews ascribed their lineage to the Israelites whom God adopted from all the peoples of the world (Deuteronomy 7:6). The Israelites had seen God's glory atop Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:16-18) where they received God's holy covenant (Exodus 24:8) and His Law (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). The Israelites were given the right to acceptably worship God and have His presence in their midst in the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34) and the Temple (1 Kings 8:10-11). This right to worship gives the promises of God's presence throughout life. The Israelites were given the Patriarchs, whose lives were recorded by God through Moses to be examples for God's people (1 Corinthians 10:11). Among the promises through the Patriarchs, the Israelites were given the promise that the Christ, the Anointed One, would come from their own people (Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:15-18). The Jews were hypocrites because they forsook these things. They threw away everything that God had given them in their history and culture to replace them with something else that made them feel better.
But the post-exilic Jews don't hold the monopoly on hypocrisy. Those who bear the name of Christ also take over from their Jewish spiritual forefathers in their own hypocrisy. Through Baptism, every Christian bears the name of Christ through the Spirit's adoption as sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:15). As the Spirit comes into our hearts and makes His dwelling there, we have God's glory shining within us (John 14:17). Baptism begins a covenant with God. It marks us as one of His people. It is the covenant of the Gospel of salvation for everyone who believes (Mark 16:16; 1 Timothy 4:10). Christians also have been given the manner of worship that has descended to us from the very earliest points of human history. The liturgy comes to us not from man but from God Himself because the liturgy is chock-full of God's Word. Look at the right-hand side of the page. Most every portion of the liturgy has a biblical reference to it. The biblical references show the great promises God has given to you. Christians have also been given the Patriarchs in that they were the chosen few through whom the Savior of the world would come. These things are what Christians throughout the world and even perhaps in our midst forsake and throw away. Forsaken to replace with something else.
But why? Why do people forsake what God has given to them? They don't worship the true God. Their god is not Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Their god is their belly (Philippians 3:19). They seek what pleases them. Everything that they forsake is replaced by something of their own choosing. They want to be their own god so that they don't have to worry about anyone else judging them because they won't judge themselves for doing what they already want to do. This is why many Christian denominations have gone away from the truth of the Bible. They don't want to have to deal with the truth because it doesn't fit their own ideas and understanding of things. This is why people wink at incidental sins that go along with the way life goes in this world. We don't want the argument so we agree to disagree. This flimsy acceptance forsakes everything we say we stand for and sets itself up as our god. Making us hypocrites because we do these things and still want to call ourselves faithful Christians.
How can this be? If we have an all-powerful God, how can He allow this hypocrisy to happen? How can He allow His people to forsake His gifts? "It is not as though the Word of God has failed," Paul writes (v6). God's Word continues to show that we are sinners who continually "fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Sin causes us to forsake God's good and gracious gifts. Sin gives birth to sin until it is fully-grown in death (James 1:15). God calls us to be righteous in Him. He forgives our sin through the promised Christ our Savior. God makes us righteous through the very things we forsake for our own pleasure.
This declaration of righteousness is the issue that we must contend with. The issue is not that God makes sinners righteous. God makes PARTICULAR sinners righteous in order to fulfill His purposes (Romans 8:28). God chose Abraham out of all the people on the face of the earth to be His people (Genesis 12:1-3). When Abraham had two sons, God chose Isaac instead of Ishmael (Genesis 21:12). Isaac then had two sons. God chose Jacob instead of Esau (Genesis 25:23). This choice is so particular that God Himself says, "I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated" (Malachi 1:2-3). God has particular purposes in mind for everything He has commanded. His reasons are holy and for the benefit of His people (Romans 8:28). God works His salvation through these people. These people bring out His Word to the nations around.
Each of these particular choices come with God's promises of goodwill. God tells Abraham, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). Every family on the face of the earth. There's no greater blessing ever given to a person. Every single family will be affected by Abraham's offspring, Jesus Christ. Every family will have the declaration of righteousness given to them through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. But God's choices and His promises don't stop with Abraham. "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named" (v7; Genesis 21:12). But what about Ishmael? God continues, "I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also" (Genesis 21:13). As her twin sons wrestled with each other in the womb, God told Rebekah, "The older will serve the younger" (v12; Genesis 25:23). Esau will serve Jacob. But what about Esau? Esau's descendants became the great nation of Edom (Genesis 36). When Jacob offers Esau everything he owns, Esau says, "I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself" (Genesis 33:9). God grants His grace and favor even to those He rejected for His saving purposes. Rejection for the ancestry of the Messiah never meant rejection from salvation. Jesus had to descend from someone. He cannot descend from everyone. God made choices and we praise Him for it.
We praise Him and do not forsake these choices. God's grace shows us that we should, like Paul, grieve over those in our families and among our friends who have forsaken God's gifts (vv2-3). Paul wished that he would be cursed. He would rather suffer the torments of Hell and its separation from God if it would mean that his fellow Jews would be saved from that same punishment. How many people do you know who have forsaken God's gifts to them? How many of them do you grieve over their actions? How many of them would you be willing to suffer eternity in Hell if it meant that they would enjoy paradise? As Americans, I'd venture to guess that number would be very small. We don't want to give up our reward for someone else's benefit. Even as Christians who claim to follow Jesus' example, we still buy into American individualism. Everyone has to take care of themselves. That's not the Christian life. The Christian life is the wonderful pleasure of being with your Lord and Savior throughout your life in this life and in eternity. Those who forsake this life forsake their Lord and Savior. A problem for which every Christian should grieve. And in their grief, they should lift up their fellow Christian in prayer.
In these prayers, we pray for repentance. Repentance truly means to turn from hypocrisy. To change from forsaking God's gifts to embracing them with their whole heart. To be among those who share in God's blessings. To be with us, repenting of our own hypocrisy. Bringing forgiveness of sins and salvation to all hearts. Because God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). God wants everyone to repent and embrace the gifts He freely gives to everyone. To acknowledge what we confess in the Lord's Prayer. All God's gifts come to us without our prayer. We pray that we might thank Him for them and use them properly.
Hypocrites abound in the Church. There's no way around it. We have to admit that all Christians might not be saved. They forsake God's gifts. But God continues to give them gifts. All this comes to us so that we might know that God has chosen us to be His people not our own. Repent of your hypocrisy and pray for others to join you in your repentance. This is God's good and gracious will. Amen.