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Msindisi Newsletter # 129

July 3, 2015

 SALVADOR AND DIANNE’S MSINDISI MONTHLY

 

Number: 129.          July 2015

 

P.O. Box 1481

Vryheid 3100

KwaZulu Natal

South Africa

 

+27 (0) 72 8311008

 

+27 (0) 72 3843786

 

Email:   msindisi@gmail.com

              salv.di@gmail.com

 

KwaZulu Mission Website:

www.kwazulumission.com

 

KwaZulu Mission Facebook Page:

www.facebook.com/kwazulumission

 

 

Well, praise the Lord. Salvador and Di moved into Phumlani’s homestead in April 2009. On Salvador’s heart was the desire to preach the Gospel outside every homestead within. The local areas surrounding the chief’s office. The local clinic at that time claimed it serviced over 10,000 people. This last month saw the completion of that vision and now we will see what is on Phumlani’s heart in terms of continuing to evangelise these areas again. At the moment we are sat by a lake near Sedgefield typing this newsletter on our way through South Africa. More on that later but let us update you on the movements of the last month.

Writing the Newsletter

Writing the Newsletter

We are enjoying the opportunity to share the word in speaking and song at Care Bear preschool and also at an ACE school. Both of these schools are a once a month occasion. But Salvador ministers to the staff of another crèche on a weekly basis. A couple of weeks ago Salvador ministered to the children while Di was able to have some time with the lady running the crèche and be a source of encouragement to her.

Di's Kids Club class

Di’s Kids Club class

Phumlani faithfully teaches the Sunday meetings and Salvador has been encouraging Phumlani and Mandla to share some of the teaching at cell group. Mandla may have to lessen his involvement because of other commitments to his church and his family. Salvador has yet to finish his series on the ministries of Elijah and Elisha but has it on his heart to do a series on the attributes of the Holy Spirit. Di had some opportunity to join the ladies of Bethany Baptist Church in visiting the ladies of Vryheid’s old age home. It was just one introductory visit and they are hoping that opportunities to share the Gospel with them will open up as they visit again. During the first  two weeks of being home we took a young girl called Mbali to the hospital. She was in her late stages of pregnancy and has since given birth to a baby boy. Sadly she is one of many young teenage girls who fall pregnant. The positive side has been that she has been visiting some of the meetings to hear the word of God and we hope that she will desire salvation through the truth of the Gospel.

Phumlani's Bible Study Group at KwaBhekephi.

Phumlani’s Bible Study Group at KwaBhekephi.

During the month we went to a town called Rosetta to meet with likeminded brethren and ministries from other parts of South Africa. We wanted to see if we could start a network of churches and believers which could participate with one another in various ways for the edification of the body of Messiah. There was, understandably reticence from various people who did not know others in the retreat but within 26 hours the Lord brought about a unity. We are just grateful to know other brethren who believe the truth and that we can refer other brethren too. We will see how the Lord leads us from here but already brethren have been networked together.

Morning Tea at the Retreat

Morning Tea at the Retreat

Phumlani with Noelene at the Retreat

Phumlani with Noelene at the Retreat

A week later we had to be in Durban for a wedding of an Indian couple who are saved, Salvador was asked to share at the family function on the Friday evening. He shared on idolatry and the importance of giving thanks and how that works in our relationship with the Lord and with our spouses too. This was the beginning of our trek around South Africa. Alan Mackenzie, from Port Elizabeth, had asked us to visit this year to share at the assembly, so we decided that we should tie it with the trip to Durban. After the wedding we headed to Kokstad on the Sunday morning and stayed with our friends, Jed and Jenna Van Niekerk. Salvador took the opportunity to interview a Xhosa lady who was saved out of ancestor traditions as part of his research for his outreach.

Salvador leading Worship at the Bridal Meeting

Salvador leading Worship at the Bridal Meeting

Salvador and Dianne at the Wedding

Salvador and Dianne at the Wedding

Loren Joseph and Samara Naicker's Wedding

Loren Joseph and Samara Naicker’s Wedding

Conducting an interview concerning ancestors in Kokstad

Conducting an interview concerning ancestors in Kokstad

Then it was 3 o clock start on that Tuesday morning to head to Port Elizabeth. While on the way to Port Elizabeth we stopped off at Grahamstown to visit Mesuli, a young person from our church who is studying Pharmacy at Rhodes University. It is wonderful seeing this young man of God grow in the Lord. The next day he notified us that he had gone out to do some street preaching. Please pray for this young man. After a couple of days of fellowship with the brethren, Salvador did a five part series on Ezekiel’s temple starting on Friday evening and ends on the Sunday morning. The first session was an introduction and the last concerned our adoption as sons, which meant that the Saturday sessions focussed on Ezekiel 40-48. Many of those attended gave good feedback despite there being much information disseminated. On the Sunday afternoon Salvador preached at the Chinese assembly that Alan also leads and spoke of our identity in Messiah transcending our cultural identity.

Mesuli's Student halls of residence

Mesuli’s Student halls of residence

Inside Mesuli's Student Accomodation

Inside Mesuli’s Student Accomodation

Mesuli Witnessing on the Street

Mesuli Witnessing on the Street

At the moment we are in Sedgefield and are staying with a lovely Christian couple Peter and Antoinette. We met up yesterday with a lovely brother in the Lord, John Davy, and hearing of the wonderful testimony of how the Lord is drawing together believers of like mind in Knysna and in George who have a heart for the truth. We will be heading to the Cape tomorrow, visiting some brethren on the way there and around the Cape itself, then going home via Bloemfontein and visiting brethren there.

May the Lord continue to encourage you in His truth and His love.

TEN

 

THE ELECTION OF ISRAEL:

THE CHILD OF PROMISE OVER THE CHILD OF THE FLESH

ROMANS 9

THE IMPORTANCE OF ISRAEL IN THIS EPISTLE

I have adamantly asserted the necessity of seeing this epistle from the perspective of the people of Israel. Israel is the key here but more importantly we have to acknowledge Israel from 2 perspectives. There is Israel under the Mosaic covenant and Israel under the new covenant. If we miss this foundational truth then, I believe, we will totally misconstrue Romans 9. This is by far one of the most controversial passages in all of scripture. It has been interpreted by many within various churches, especially by Reformed and many Reformed Baptist churches as applying directly to individual election; that is the choosing of certain people to salvation. It is said that it is not of a person’s choosing if he will be saved. Salvation is solely down to the choice of God and not on the basis of anything you or I have chosen. Thus, it is also reasoned that though the devil may try to deceive and mislead the elect, it is impossible for him to take them away from God. It is simply and only down to God’s choice because God has already determined that certain people and not others shall be saved. Any influence that man can have on his salvation is therefore completely rejected from this system of theology, as it is considered a denial of God’s sovereignty. They claim it is man determining his own salvation.

A CALVINISTIC ELECTION?

The logical extension of this particular doctrine is that if God chooses some people to salvation, then He must also have chosen not to save others. This is because, in God’s sovereignty, man cannot make the choice. When accused that this doctrine shows God to be unloving and that it makes one set of people more superior to the damned set of people (demonstrating favoritism on the part of God), proponents of this doctrine have stated that it does not make God unloving at all. The whole of mankind has sinned and all deserve hell. God has ‘full rights’ to send everybody to hell. But the point that God has chosen to save a few reveals that He is a God of love. In advocating this view, these proponents also claim that there is no superiority of persons because God does not elect individuals on account of their own righteousness but out of His unbiased will. They also say that it just pleases God to save some and not others.

But think about the whole context of the letter to the Romans thus far. We have seen that we have been predestined on the basis of God foreknowing us before we existed. However, this foreknowing must be based on God’s eternal nature and not merely on God’s decreeing that certain things must come to pass. In this chapter we will spend the bulk of time on verses 1 – 24 and then we will summarize with verses 25 – 33.

VERSES 1 – 8:

THE JEWS THAT ARE REJECTED

The question that confronts us is this: If the Law cannot save, and only Christ may save, then what happens to those Jews who reject Yeshua? The answer is that they are rejected. If you read Romans 9: 1 – 8 you will notice that in verse 4 the covenants belong to Israel. In these verses Paul is not simply grieving over Israel simply because they are His own people. It is not a proof text teaching that we must desire our own nation’s salvation, though that is a noble thing. The reason Paul grieves over them is because certain blessings rightfully belong to them. That glory that is to come and the service and the promises all rightfully belong to Israel. But look what else belongs to Israel… the covenants belong to Israel. Though the Abrahamic covenant was made with Abraham, it still stands with Abraham’s descendants. But the two covenants made with all of Israel as a nation are the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant. Let us read about the new covenant in Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34.

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

This is the covenant of salvation. Laws are written on the hearts. It is a relational covenant where God knows His people and they know Him. It is a covenant that brings real forgiveness. And this covenant is made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. But look at what it says closely. Verse 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.

God says that they will all know Him. That is a big problem. Why is it a big problem? Because Paul has shown us that not all Jews know God. There are Jews who will go to hell. So does this mean that God was lying in Jeremiah 31: 34? This is the promised covenant and the fulfillment of Genesis 12 where God said that through Abraham’s seed all the nations will be blessed. What Paul does in the rest of the chapter is show us that not all Jews are regarded as sons but only certain Jews. Remember! We must not think Gentile, here. We Gentiles are not mentioned until verse 24 of Romans 9. There are Jews that are saved and there are Jews that are not saved. So how will Paul explain that all Jews will know God? We will see the ultimate fulfillment of this promise in Romans 11. There is a time coming when all surviving Jews will know the Lord. However, in Romans 9, Paul deals with this promise from the perspective of election. Some Jews are chosen and some Jews are rejected. Let us read verses 6 – 8.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.

WHAT IS A JEW?

God’s definition of Jew and man’s definition of Jew are two separate things. It is not physical birth that makes one a true Jew because not all Abraham’s descendants were counted as God’s covenant people. There was a distinction made between the sons of Abraham and the sons of his ‘only begotten’ son, Isaac. They were all part of the same family but only one son became heir of the promise. Paul is not completely doing away with physical descent because he is looking at this issue from within the sphere of the Jewish people. But what he is saying is that if you are Jewish you cannot boast in your physical descent. As John the Baptist said, ‘God can raise up from the stones children to Abraham.’ The ‘promise’ in this passage is one of a spiritual covenant that brings about the promise of salvation by faith in the Gospel. It is not concerning a covenant that calls one to obtain salvation by works of the Law, nor by a covenant that calls a person to maintain their salvation by works of the Mosaic Law. Paul summarizes this passage up in verses 30 – 33 of Romans 9. It is a spiritual covenant with a spiritual birth and that is what God has decreed for the salvation of His people. He has chosen those who come through the new covenant over those who boast in their own physical descent. All of Israel were considered to be God’s people. So in regards to salvation there comes a division within the God’s nation, Israel. Some are rejected and some are chosen. God has rejected the self-righteous ones of His own people. What Paul does in this chapter is a Midrash[1] on certain instances of election in the Old Testament where God made sure that His purpose according to election would stand. He does a Midrash on the birth of Isaac, on Esau and Jacob, on the parable of the potter and clay. He also uses the example of Pharaoh to communicate this truth.

VERSES 6 – 9:

ISHMAEL AND ISAAC

Look at the example of Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was conceived in the power of the flesh. Isaac was conceived in the power of the Spirit. Isaac’s birth is a type of the born again experience of the Christian. Now some people say that this passage teaches that just as Ishmael was rejected and Isaac was chosen, so God Himself chooses to save some and chooses not to save others. Though we agree that election to salvation is a biblical concept, we cannot apply this interpretation to ourselves. This is about the election of Israel and not of individual human beings to salvation. Look, both sons come from the same father Abraham. Both sons have promises from God made to them but only one was counted as heir of the promise. One of the sons is not born of the power and cleverness of the flesh but by God’s spiritual power. Look at what it says in verse 9.

9 For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.” 

God says that He will personally come and as a result of that, Sarah will have a son. The Gospel is the power of God unto Salvation to those who believe. This Gospel is the power that the Mosaic Law could never be. God has chosen those Jews, whom He foreknew, to be heirs. He has chosen those Jews who believe in the Gospel over those Jews who seek a righteousness of their own through the Law. This picture of the two sons also links with the 2 covenants. The covenant under Moses and the covenant under Christ. Moses is rejected as a means of obtaining salvation and Christ’s is the chosen covenant. Moses was forbidden from entering the land but Yehoshua led the people. So also those who remain under Mosaic authority will be forbidden from entering the land and only those under Yeshua will enter. It is the children of promise and not the children of the flesh who are chosen. Isaac is a picture of the Messiah because his father offered him as the only son, whom Abraham loved, on the altar. So God offered His only Son, whom He loved, on the cross. ‘Through Isaac your descendants will be named.’ So through Yeshua shall the children of promise be named. So if this is the case, ‘how can anyone compel the Gentiles to come under Moses?’ would be a good question to ask.

VERSES 10 – 13:

ESAU AND JACOB

Not only this, but Paul draws from another example. Let us read verses 10 – 13.

10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

Some people say that just as Jacob was chosen before he had done anything good or bad so also before the world was created, God looked forward into the future and saw humanity and said ‘I will have you and you and you, but I do not want the rest of you.’ They say that God did this without reference to anything good or bad we have said or done but simply because of His own pleasure. They call this doctrine ‘Unconditional Election’. But these verses do not speak of individual people but of nations. Jacob Prasch and Dave Hunt both have pointed out that when God spoke to Rebekkah, He started off by saying, “Two nations are in your womb.” Thus when God said, ‘the older will serve the younger,’ He was speaking about the two nations and not two individuals. We know that Esau never personally served Jacob. When God says “Jacob I have loved but Esau I have hated” in Malachi 1: 2, He does not arbitrarily hate Esau simply because He felt like it.

God is comparing His treatment of Israel to His treatment of Edom. He makes this comparison to prove that, even though He had judged Israel, yet they still had their land. However Edom’s land had been and would remain desolate. And this is not merely because God felt like doing it, but as Obadiah teaches, it was in response to Edom’s treatment of Israel. And this principle is the same for all nations. How this passage in Malachi fits in with election, is that though Israel had offended God and had gone to the lengths they did, yet God had not cast them off completely. Neither had He made their land desolate forever. God would not completely cut them off because they were God’s chosen covenant people. A chosen people! Paul is not dealing with the election of individuals but with the election of Israel. This is the election of the Israel under Christ and the rejection of Israel who refuse to come under Christ and stay under Moses. Those chosen would gain their inheritance and those rejected will lose their inheritance. It is God’s choosing of the covenant in Jeremiah to be a means of salvation over the Mosaic covenant. When we understand this, each bit of these verses in Romans makes perfect sense. Look at what Paul says.

  • Firstly, Paul says that Jacob and Esau were twins by one man, ‘our father Isaac’. Note here, Paul is expressly speaking from a Jewish perspective. He is speaking about the Jews’ physical father. As the two brothers come from the same father, so the two covenants come from one Father who is God. The Jews under these two Covenants come from the one father too.
  • Secondly, God made His election before the two were born. He had chosen before they had been able to do good or bad because it is not about works. Well this is what the new covenant is about. It is not about salvation by works of the Mosaic Law but about the God who calls. Why is it based on Him? Because we need His righteousness and we cannot save ourselves. He calls and we respond. This is what the Ebionites have to realize. God justifies the ungodly. But also Paul goes on to say that because of God wanting His purposes, according to election, to stand, it was said to her that the older will serve the younger. Is this an election of individuals that Paul is referring to?

Galatians 3: 24 & 4: 1 – 7.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”

 

1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the day set by the father. 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Which of the covenants came first? Was it the new covenant or the Mosaic covenant? Therefore what do you think Paul is meaning when he speaks of the prophecy, that the older will serve the younger? He is using Midrash to say that this prophetically applies to the two covenants. The Mosaic covenant and those under it are servants and the new covenant and those under it are sons. The older will be a servant of the younger. The Law leads to Christ.

IS GOD UNJUST?

Does this election make God unjust? This can be interpreted in two different levels. The first level is concerning the election of Jacob’s descendants over Esau’s before anyone did anything good or bad. Surely that is not fair is it? Should God not rather base His election upon the character of Jacob’s descendants or of Jacob or of the Descendants of Esau? But Paul shows us that God is entitled to be merciful to whoever He wants to. If God wants to show mercy to this person and not that person, it is God’s right and privilege. It sounds harsh but that is what Paul is saying. The question is not, ‘can God give mercy to some and not others?’ That is not the question we should ask. Rather we should ask ‘who does God show mercy to’? ‘What kind of person does God resist’?

1 Peter 5: 5 – 6. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,”

What does it take to become a Christian? We need to accept the conviction of the Holy Spirit, who shows us our own sinfulness. To do this is humility. It is humility to come to God and to display ourselves just as we are before Him. Think of the prodigal son. What did he say to his father? ‘I am no longer worthy of being your son.’ The Jew must become as Paul who realized he was the chief of sinners. As long as the Jew hides behind a pretense of self-righteousness, through observance to the Mosaic Law, then there is no hope for him. Paul continues in verse 16 to say that it is not about the man who wills and runs but on God’s mercy.

Some people take this verse and say that it does not even require you to will or to run but if God chooses to have mercy on you, you will still be saved. But a look at Hebrews 11 and the hallway of faith will show us men and women, from the Old Testament, who by faith conquered kingdoms or suffered or were victorious. They all gained God’s approval by faith. We are justified by faith. Both people before Christ and people after Christ are justified by faith. Those before Christ lived in the expectation of the Messiah and we live in the revelation of the Messiah. Yet what does Hebrews say about those before Christ?

Verses 39 & 40. 39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

They did not receive what was promised. What was the thing promised? The whole letter is speaking about the Messianic covenant being superior to the Mosaic covenant. The promise is contained in the previous chapter where God had promised a coming Messiah who would be the perfect sacrifice. Then comes the quote from Jeremiah 31 that we read earlier of the new covenant, in Hebrews 10: 16 – 17. We have received it and they did not. What is the difference between the two groups? Was it the fact we are of faith and they of works? No, because both groups exhibit faith and both groups exhibit works. Why did they will and run and not get the promise but we will and we run but we have received it? Because it is not our willing and running that makes us partakers. We were simply born after the new covenant came into effect. It is down to the God who gives mercy. But we are all made perfect together because we look forward to that day when Jesus will return. The saints in Hebrews 11 looked forward to that day and to Jesus’ first coming. The focus here is the God who gives mercy. The second level of interpretation (of Romans 9: 14) springs from this and is a question that many people ask in the world today. When we say that a person is justified by faith alone and not by works of the Mosaic Law; they retort, “So you’re saying that an evil criminal, or a thieving paedophile, who accepts Christ before he dies will go to heaven but a good, law abiding Jew who only tries to help people will go to hell because he did not accept Jesus? Where is the justice in that?!

VERSES 14 – 20:

PHARAOH

 

As we have already said, God has ‘full rights’ to give mercy to who he desires and to harden who He desires. Paul proves this further from the example of Pharaoh. God said that He raised him up to show His power through him. The reason God did this is seen from the Philistines’ recollection of the Exodus in 1 Samuel 4: 8.

8 “Woe unto us! Who shall deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness.”

 

God used Pharaoh so that His name would be proclaimed throughout the whole earth. But some people would say, ‘this is proof that God simply chooses to harden some people and not others.’ In response to this interpretation of God’s hardening of Pharaoh I say;

  • Firstly, to believe that God has to harden people’s hearts goes against their doctrine of Total depravity or Total incapability. Total depravity says that, because man is so thoroughly fallen, he is incapable of accepting the Gospel. If that is true than why does God have to harden people?
  • But also, the quote that Paul takes from the Old Testament is from Exodus 9:16. When you read this verse in the Old Testament it is worded differently. Instead of God saying, ‘For this reason I have raised you up’, it says, ‘For this reason I have let you remain’. How did God raise him up? Though God’s punishment was due him and God should have taken him out a long time ago, God kept him alive so that His judgment would be enlarged to a terrible degree. People think that God merely chose to harden Pharaoh arbitrarily. However, when God said these words it was during the 7th plague. For the first four definitely, and possibly also for the fifth, Pharaoh hardened his own heart. It was not until the 6th plague that we see that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart for him. But did God not say in Exodus 7: 3 that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart? Yes He did, but notice that God was speaking in future tense. It was prophetic. God knew what was going to happen and He had His plan. All this proves is that the future is not a surprise to God.

Notice why God said He would harden pharaoh’s heart. So that he would MULTIPLY His signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. He did not say He would harden the heart of Pharaoh so that he could DO some signs. To multiply means to increase. That is exactly what happened after the fifth plague. The signs increased and became more terrible. It is on this premise God says that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy and He will harden whom He will harden. But, as always, Paul’s words get misconstrued. The opposing argument seeks, using Paul’s reasoning, to place blame on God for his own resisting of God. In reality the opposing argument is saying, “I am not guilty for resisting God because I did not choose to be hardened. God hardened me and I cannot resist His will.” This is fatalism, which is claiming that man has no choice in life. Everything is limited to the bounds of fate and has already been destined.

IS GOD’S WILL IRRESISTABLE?

Paul does not reply in saying that this opposing argument is wrong. He does not say ‘God’s grace is resistible and it is the individual that rebels’. It seems from first glance that Paul does not see anything wrong in the proposed truth of the opposing argument.  So does this imply that Paul actually agrees with the statement, that man cannot resist God’s choice of damning some men to eternal hell? Is Paul agreeing with this fatalistic philosophy? No he is not.

20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the moulder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?”

Look at verse 20, what does Paul say? He says ‘On the contrary’. How can God find fault because His will is resistible, right? Wrong, on the contrary, (rather) you are resisting God’s will right now by trying to pin the blame on God. Look at the scriptures Paul quotes from. Paul paraphrases Isaiah 45: 9 & 10. He uses this scripture to show that God has complete authority to make us into what he wants. Is this arbitrary or is it in relation to our response to him? Look at how the passage of Isaiah 45: 9 starts. “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker”.  Paul is not agreeing or disagreeing with the truth or error of the previous opposing argument but he is attacking such arrogance in questioning. Paul is attacking the opposing of God’s decisions and actions, which in fact is the questioning of God’s justice. Who is man that he should demand anything of God? God made man; He is the judge and not man. How dare man cast a moral judgment on God and decide that God is either right or wrong!

The objection that Paul has imagined is not a proposed intellectual difficulty. It is simply another excuse and attempt at justifying man’s sin. It is that ‘voice of doubt’ speaking once again. This attempt at justification protests against receiving punishment for rebelling against God since it argues that God willed them to rebel. They had no choice, as it was God’s election.

VERSES 21 – 24:

THE POTTER AND THE CLAY

By looking at the next piece of paraphrasing we can see that God’s choice is not unconditional at all. This paraphrase is taken from Jeremiah 18 v 1 – 10, where a picture, distinct from the Calvinistic picture is portrayed. In Jeremiah 18, God stated that when the clay is spoiled, God would choose to make Israel into a vessel of wrath. But if Israel repented of its evil God would relent. God promised to make Israel into a nation for uprooting if they continued to rebel and to do evil. Israel had a choice. They could either conform to God’s ways in obedience or they could rebel against God and disobey Him. Israel had this choice but they could not choose the consequences of their own decisions and actions. God decides what He will make a man into but He does this on the basis of the man either accepting or rebelling against Him. This factor finds its outworking in the gospel message. One may believe the gospel and obey, or he may rebel against the truth presented. Yet it is God who sanctifies a person or hardens him so that he might ‘believe the lie’. It is God who judges and determines the outcome of one’s decisions.

However, looking back at Paul’s statement in verse 21, it is important to observe that Paul’s phraseology is different to the phrasing used in Jeremiah. In Jeremiah God determines to make one lump of clay into either a vessel of wrath or a vessel of honour. Yet in Romans, Paul says that God has the right to make one lump of clay into both a vessel of honour and a vessel of dishonor. What is Paul speaking about? Paul is speaking regarding the two covenants again. The vessel for ‘honorable use’ is speaking of those under the new covenant, and the vessel for ‘common use’ is speaking of those under the Mosaic covenant. After defining what the two vessels represent it must then be asked, what does the lump of clay represent? As Adam was made from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2 v 7), so clay represents humanity, (Genesis 3 v 19). Yet for one to assert that the lump of clay represents all of humanity presents us with a great dilemma; namely not all of humanity was under the first covenant but only the physical descendants of Israel.

Therefore, it must be concluded that Paul is using this parable to contrast the Jews under the old covenant to the Jews under the new covenant. As Jeremiah 18: 6 states that the lump of clay is Israel. Hence, even though the elect may be defined as those under the new covenant, it specifically refers to Israel under the new covenant as opposed to Israel under the Mosaic covenant. In other words, it must be concluded that God had all along chosen to save Israel under the new covenant, of faith, and not Israel under the old covenant, of works.

VERSES 25 – 33:

CONCLUSION

And so Paul, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, not only wanting to look at the election as referring to the Jews only, states that the Gentiles are also included in the election. The Gentiles, according to Paul in Romans 11:18 – 20, have been grafted into the olive tree (Israel). This view of election finds support from Romans 9: 6, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel”. The elected Israel consists not only of Jews but also of Gentiles too. Those who were formerly excluded from being in covenant relationship with God are now included in the new covenant. Has God changed His mind regarding the acceptance of Gentiles and thus proved not to be immutable? Not in the slightest! This is what God had chosen before the foundations of the earth. The covenant delivered through Moses was never intended to bring about salvation as it was only for the Jews and also was powerless to save anyone. But God desired salvation to come through the new covenant to save men from all nations.

Continuing from the theme from verse 6, it is to be recognized that the chosen Israel are those under the promised new covenant. Thus, sadly, only a remnant of the sons of Israel will be saved.[2] Paul’s heart bleeds for the salvation of his people. But could it be argued that Paul bleeds any more for the Jews than God’s heart does? Is God trivial about the destruction of Israel because of His election? Of course not! God, who desires all men to be saved, does not simply elect people to eternal hell simply because He desires to. So why is there only going to be a remnant of Israel that will be saved?

Verse 30 – 33. 30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

These verses show that the difference between those under the new covenant and those under the old is that the Gentiles in the new, even though not initially seeking righteousness, obtained righteousness through faith. The Jews under the old did not obtain righteousness because they were trying to earn it. Does this mean that Paul has done away with Israel in this statement? Not at all, but as Romans 11: 1 demonstrates; Paul himself was Jewish, of the tribe of Benjamin. What Paul is doing is contrasting the Gentiles under the new covenant to the Jews under the old in order to convince his readers of something. He is proving that subjecting oneself to obtaining salvation through works of the Law will not lead to righteous standing before God. This is simply because God never ordained salvation to be attained in that way. He had purposed from the foundation of the world that salvation would be attained by faith, as a free gift. This is at the very heart of the new covenant.

What Paul has done at the end of the chapter is show that this covenant is not only for Jews but also for us Gentiles whom God has called. It is down to God’s mercy and not our obedience to the Mosaic Law. Why do Jews reject their own Messiah? It is because it is an offence for them to accept Him. To accept Jesus means that they have to admit their own sinfulness and failure. As Paul concludes, it is not by works but it is by faith. The way for salvation for the Jew is the same way of salvation for the Gentile. Both necessitate admitting that we are poor in Spirit. We have failed to attain to God’s standard of righteousness and need the provision and grace given by Christ.

[1]               For a brilliant example of Midrash see the teaching, ‘Leviticus 21: The living, the dead and the priests of the Lord.’ Available from www.moriel.org

[2]               This is not to be confused with the great end time Jewish revival which will immediately precede Jesus’ return in which, as Romans 12: 26 tells us, all Israel will be saved.

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