The Two Israels

God's Choice

Pastor Jerry Gillis - May 1, 2022

Community Group Study Notes

  1. Have someone in your group give a brief recap of Sunday’s message, highlighting the primary Scripture passages and main idea of the message. 

  1. Why is it important for us to understand God’s choice of Israel? Why can’t we simply skip over the Old Testament and jump to the parts about salvation from sin?  

  1. What did Paul mean in Romans 9:6 when he said, “Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”? Why does this matter to us?  

  1. If God saves everyone by grace through faith, then no one gets a special “deal” with God. What does this teach you about your own Grace story? 

  1. Interact with this quote said by N.T. Wright: “What counts is grace, not race.” How does this apply to salvation and God’s choice of Israel? How does it apply to the Church today?  

  1. God has chosen us to be bearers of the good news of the gospel. Who are you burdened for? Spend time brainstorming ways you can take action to spread the gospel in word and deed to these people. 


Action Step 

  • Reflection:  Are you currently struggling to understand “why” something is happening in your life? Spend time in scripture reflecting on fulfilled promises of God. Choose a promise to reflect on daily this week.  


Mobilization Challenge 

  • Commit to blessing someone in your life (a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker, etc.) this week. The purpose of this blessing challenge is to lead to a conversation with the person to begin building a relationship with them. Consider the following ideas:  

  • Five-dollar challenge: Buy a $5 gift card for someone in your sphere of influence. Consider – what does this person like to eat? Do they need a pick-me-up? 

  • Take flowers to a single mom and/or elderly neighbor. 

  • Make cookies/brownies for a neighbor. 

  • Free coffee: If you are a regular at a local coffee shop, and you see another regular come in, buy their coffee. Ask them how they’re doing!  

  • Stress relief: Consider someone in your sphere of influence who is stressed out (a friend, acquaintance, co-worker, neighbor). Find out when they have a window of time and take them out to lunch. Spend time listening to them and celebrating them!  

  • Giving out of abundance: Is there something “extra” you have this week? Consider: a side job that paid a bit extra, extra time, extra food, etc. Consider giving away this “extra” to a person in your sphere of influence. Example: Share the extra cake from a gathering with a neighbor or friend. 




Sermon Transcript

Well, good morning to you. So glad that you're here. I wonder if you have ever wondered, like I have, why God chooses to do things the way He does them. Have you ever wondered that before? Like, you've just paused to think like, why does God do and choose the way He chooses about certain things? Like, you could think about that theoretically for instance, if you wanted to. Why did God choose to make the solar system like He made it? Why didn't He make it bigger? Why didn't He make it smaller? Why did He choose that earth was the suitable place for human life, as opposed to Jupiter or Mars. I don't know, 'cause He chooses to do that. But you can also take it outta the realm of the theoretical, and sometimes it just gets into the realm of funny, 'cause you've probably wondered this before as well. Like why mosquitoes? Well, why? Right. Why cats? Kidding, it's a joke. It's a joke. It's a joke. I had a cat, Muffin. Muffins now with. I don't know, she's dead, all right. She's been dead for a long time. I don't know where she is. I don't have that kind of theology. I don't know. Why onions? Now that's real. That's real. I've wondered that many times over, it is the most arrogant vegetable in the vegetable kingdom. It rubs up next to everything, and decides, no, you're gonna taste like me, I don't care what you taste like, you're gonna taste like me. And that's just what it does, and I don't like it, I think it needs to humble itself and be gone, be rid. So I don't know why onions. I have no idea. Some of you are like, I love onions. My wife loves onions too, so just leave me alone after this. So, there's many things that we think of, whether they're theoretical or they're funny, and we wonder to ourselves, why does God choose to do what He chooses to do? But there are choices that God has made that have a significantly more, more impact on our lives, and they matter to us significantly more. You see, when we start reading the Bible from cover to cover, I'm not talking about it in one sitting, but as we get kind of acquainted with the scripture itself, what we find out is it reveals to us the nature of who God is, and how God interacts with humanity. That this is what God does. And it kind of gives us this picture progressively of how God is engaging with human beings, and what that looks like, and how He's revealed His nature, and His character, and His heart. And as we begin to see all of that, we also see how God interacts with humanity, to the place where He says, I can be known by you, and He wants to known by us. And so when we see that, as we read through the scripture, and we begin to understand that a little bit more, we realize that God has chosen the way in which He wants to be known, and that He has made that choice in and of himself. And He has chosen to reveal himself in the person of Jesus, is He's chosen to reveal himself through the apostles, and the writings of the scripture. He's chosen to reveal himself through everything that He has made. There are many things that testify to his nature, and to who He is. And He's chosen a certain way in which human beings can actually be reconciled to him, and experience salvation. This is all God's choice. And these things matter to us when we begin to read through the scripture, in particular, when we get to the book of Romans. The apostle Paul is writing to the Roman church, and what he's doing is he's making an argument from beginning to end about the nature of who God is, and his nature, and really his mercy. And in chapter one he begins in a very high level, Paul does, and he talks about God being the creator of everything and everyone. But he also explains in chapter one that everybody has rebelled and has sinned. And as a result, humanity is kind of overcome by this rebelliousness and this sinfulness, whether it's active, or whether it's passive, everybody has experienced it. And in chapter two, we begin to see that continued to work out, and Paul talks about two differing groups of people. 'Cause remember, when he's writing, Jesus has already died on a cross, he's risen from the grave. The church is being formed. Paul is planting the church all over the place, and now he's writing and he's talking about two different groups of people, he's talking about the Jews, and he's talking about the Gentiles. That God made a choice of a certain people, and that he was working through those people, but the Gentiles have also been chosen to be included in Messiah, that the two become one in Jesus Christ, and this new thing is born. This new creation is born called the church, or called a Christian, right. Called a believer in Jesus. And he begins to talk about all of those things, and he distinguishes between Jews and Gentiles. By the way, the word Gentile just means not Jewish, okay. Everybody who's not Jewish is a Gentile. But as all of this begins to unfold more and more, Paul talks about the nature of God's plan, and what He's doing in the world, and through humanity, and how the sending of his Son has been His plan. So that through the sending of His Son to die on the cross for our sins, to satisfy the justice of God, and to make God the justifier of those who believe in him, so that He continues to remain holy, and not just sweeping away sin, but actually dealing with it, that he dealt with in pouring out his wrath on Jesus at the cross, for all of our sin. But that he rose from the grave, and he conquered death, hell, and the grave on our behalf. And as a result, this has been God's plan all along. And God has been working this from eternity past, and he's worked it through the people of Israel, and he's working it to include the Gentiles, and now this is what's being talked about. And when Paul gets to chapter number 9, and 10 and 11. He's giving specific attention to the nature of the people of God, that we would call, Israel, and how God's choice matters in that context. So in these chapters, chapter 9, 10 and 11, which we're gonna walk through over the next few weeks, I will confess to you that these chapters are heady. The book of Romans is heady. Like, sometimes when you're reading. The book of Romans is not something that you come to, and you just go. You know, just a little sip of coffee, and you know, take a bite of my little donut, and then have a couple little fuzzy words from Romans. They're not fuzzy words, they're rich and they're deep, and they're theological, and they're profound. The book of Romans is very, very rich theologically. So you can't just kind of slide through it as if it's just some like, quick little Quip devotional thought. You actually have to work toward unpacking what has been said. So in these chapters, Paul begins dealing with the question around God's choice of Israel, and why it matters. And see, the thing for us is that we might not be able to answer all of the questions, even though there'll be questions that Paul will raise in Romans 9, 10, and 11. Questions like this, has God's word failed Israel? Has God set them aside, because of the church being where it is now? Has God said, you know what I'm done with Israel, and I'm not doing anything else with them. Has he done all of those things? Well, some of those questions we'll deal with, and we'll try to answer, because they'll be answered in the scripture itself. But for us, the reason that that matters is not because of a country that's kind of in the Middle East that we think about today. It's because of what it tells us about the nature of God, about what God does, and about who God is. And you see, so what we're going to do in this series, and what we're going to do in day's time together, is we're gonna unpack the first nine verses of the book of Romans 9, okay. First nine verses of Romans 9. I'm gonna split them into two categories. I'm gonna talk to you about God choosing Israel, and then God choosing Israel within Israel. So I'm telling you in advance. You're kind of going, what, what did you just say? Yep. I'm gonna tell you in advance, but listen, then what I'm going to do after we've unlocked that passage and made some sense of what we're reading, then we're going to say, here are three takeaways that we can understand about God, and they're really important to us. They're really important to our lives. Okay? So I want you to stay with me, and I want you to engage because this requires kind of our mind, and our heart, and our soul when we do it. And so, as I told you, the very first kind of differentiation that I'm gonna give for the first five verses is that God chose Israel. Simple enough for us to understand. We know that theoretically already, but what Paul's gonna be talking about, when he begins introducing his comments around Israel, we're gonna find out that this is a people that he has chosen. And then in the second part, we're gonna find something unique that we're going to discover. Here's what Romans 9, beginning in verse number one says, "I speak the truth in Christ. "I am not lying, my conscience confirms it "through the Holy Spirit. "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. "For I could wish that I myself were cursed, "and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, "those of my own race, the people of Israel. "Theirs is the adoption to sonship, "theirs the divine glory, "the covenants, the receiving of the law, "the temple worship, and the promises. "Theirs are the patriarchs and from them is traced "the human ancestry of the Messiah, "who is God overall, forever praised. "Amen." So what Paul is doing here, in the very verses of chapter nine, it feels like it's a really, really quick turn from where we were. If you're familiar at all with Romans 8, you'll realize this is like one of the mountaintop passages in all of the New Testament, right. For nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that has been shown to us in Christ Jesus, not height, or depth or anything, right. It's super profound. It's wonderfully encouraging. That we have been adopted as children, and we can call Him, Abba Father. These are all located in Romans 8. There's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the spirit has set us free from the law of sin and guilt, and all of those things, right. There's no condemnation. And we read all of that and we're like, this is incredible. This is awesome truth. This is super encouraging. And then Paul takes a really fast turn and says, I have unceasing anguish, and sorrow in my heart. It feels like a big turn. Well, it is emotionally, it's not theologically. You see, Paul's turn right here emotionally, is him feeling this overwhelming burden, and sense. He states his case positively, right, in verse number one, he's says, "I speak the truth in Christ." And then he says it negatively, "I am not lying." Have you ever done that before? You wanna make your point really clear? I'm telling the truth. I'm not lying. You're saying it positively and you're saying it negatively, because you're trying to reinforce this. So what is it that he is in great anguish about? His people. Israel. That's what he says, right. He says, for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. You know what's interesting about this? He uses the phrase, the people of Israel, up until now in most all that you read in Romans 1 through chapter eight, generally when Paul is referring to the people of Israel, he's referring to them as Jews. But here he refers to them as the people of Israel. Because what he's doing is he's setting in everybody's mind that is reading this, that this is the chosen people. Now he's referring here, not to some ethereal group of people, he's not trying to spiritualize this. This is actually about an ethnic group of people, Jewish people born of Israel, that's who he's talking about. He says, people of my own race, some of your translations say, kinsman according to the flesh. That he's literally talking about ethnic Jewish people that make up what he calls this nation of Israel. Now, what is it that he's so in anguish, and the Greek language there is very strong, unceasing anguish and great sorrow in my heart for these people of my own race, the people of Israel, the Jewish people, the chosen people of God. What is it that he is so in anguish about? Well, the text tells us what he desires. Listen to what he says in verse number three and four again. "For I could wish that I myself "were cursed and cut off from Christ "for the sake of my people, those of my own race, "the people of Israel." Now, I want you to see these words here, cursed and cut off. It's in the Greek language there's a word that's used here to express it, it's the word, anathema. Now, some of you have heard that word maybe used in English before, where you say something is anathema, and some of you are going, no, never heard that before in my entire life. What it is, it's directly borrowed from the Greek language and the word anathema, which kind of used here in the New International Version, cursed and cut off, it means literally doomed to destruction, or beyond redemption. Not redeemable. In other words, what Paul is saying here, the great anguish in his heart is for the people of Israel, his own race. He's talking about an ethnic group of people, right. And he says that I, if I could, and he can't by the way, he's already talked about that. Nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. He's already talked about it in chapter eight, but now he's just talking theoretically, if I could, if I could wish, what I would wish for is that I myself were doomed to destruction for the sake of my people. How strong a statement is that. What he is functionally saying here, Paul, is that he would be willing to endure eternal damnation, so that his people might know the Messiah, Jesus. It's startling. Have you ever been so burdened for someone? I can say this, listen, I haven't, I haven't been in that place. Have you ever been so burdened for someone that you were willing to say, I would go to hell for them to be saved? I can't say honestly, that I've ever said something like that. And what Paul is doing is he's demonstrating this incredible burden that he has for the people. He recognizes that that's never going to happen, but he has this burden and he expresses it in these ways. And oftentimes when Paul is reaching for expression, he's often reaching back into the Old Testament to pull that expression out. You see, maybe you don't recall this, maybe you do, but I imagine that Paul was calling back to the time of Moses. You see, the people of Israel, who were chosen for a very particular purpose, were given a covenant through Moses when Moses was on top of Mount Sinai, and he was receiving the Tablets from God, right, written by God's own finger. But while they were at the bottom waiting on Moses, they wanted a god for themselves. And so they gathered up all the jewelry, and what did they make? They made Aaron make them a golden calf. Here is our god. Moses comes down and realizes how gravely sinful this is, particularly when God has just said, "You will have no graven images." And here they are with a golden calf that they're saying, this is our god. And do you know what, listen, do you know what Moses says to God? Listen to it. It's an Exodus 32. "So Moses went back to the Lord and said, "'Oh, what a great sin these people have committed. "'They have made themselves gods of gold, "'but now please forgive their sin, "'but if not, then blot me out of the book "'you have written.'" Moses said something similar in his identification with the people of God, the people of Israel, and I believe Paul is calling upon that same model here. Paul's in great anguish for his people, and part of the reason that he's in such anguish, is because of all the privileges that they've been afforded as people that have been chosen by God, for God's purposes. And he starts to articulate all of those purposes, or all of those privileges in their lives. And this is part of what gave him such great anguish. Listen to what he says. He says, "Theirs is the adoption to sonship." Now pause there for a second. Interestingly enough, Paul in the previous chapter talked about adoption to sonship, but what he was talking about there in that passage, was all that believe in Jesus, and our adoption into the family of God. He's functionally talking about our salvation, right, as being adopted as children into the family of God. Here Paul is talking about the corporate election of a people called, Israel. Because what he's referring to here, in the history of Israel, their adoption to sonship, he's going back to the time where Israel was in the captivity of the Pharaoh. And if you remember what God said to Moses to tell Pharaoh in Exodus 4, he said, "Then say a Pharaoh, 'This is what the Lord says. "'Israel is my firstborn son, "'and I told you, let my son go so he may worship me, "'but you refuse to let him go, "'so I will kill your firstborn son.'" You see, he referred to his corporate people as his firstborn son, as that which he had chosen. And now Paul is saying, theirs is the adoption to sonship. They've been elected. They've been chosen as a people for God's purposes in the world. And then he says, "Theirs is the divine glory." He's referring to the fact that God's presence has always been with them, and gone with them. You can remember even back when they were in the wilderness, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, demonstrating God's own presence. The manifest glory of God's presence in the temple. Theirs has been the divine glory. Theirs have been the covenants. And it could be the covenant to Abraham, right, where God said, I'm gonna bless you, and I'm gonna make a people out of you. And through that people, you're gonna see the rescue of the world. Or maybe it was the covenant made with Moses, right, a covenant of how people are to live, and to flourish by this contract that he gave Moses for the people of Israel, so that they would be a unique people, a different people, and show the world the glory of God. Or maybe it was the covenant with king David, where he said, out of your lineage is going to come One who is going to be the true King over everyone. These covenants were all given through the people of Israel. And then he says, the receiving of the law, right. When God made this contract with how the people of God could live and flourish. And then he talked about the temple worship. This was the sacrificial system, right, to make atonement for the sins of the people. But all of that was actually pointing to the Messiah. It wasn't the blood of bulls and goats that could save anyone, this was pointing to the One who would shed his blood on all of our behalves, the Messiah, Jesus, the Christ. And then he talks about the promises, probably referring to the promise made, that through Abraham's seed, the world will be saved. You see, Paul is overwhelmed, because after all of those things have been afforded to his people, Israel, they still have largely rejected the one who fulfills it all, Jesus, the Messiah. And his heart is overwhelmed and he says, I wish that I, myself were a cursed if my people, if my people could embrace Jesus. It's overwhelming. So, that's why Paul finishes with verse number five, by saying this, "Theirs are the patriarchs." You know, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, "And from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, "who is God over all, forever praised, amen." You see, when we read all of this, and we recognize that God has chosen Israel, it makes us ask the question, why did God choose Israel? Why did he choose them? Well, is it because they were just awesome. We're just awesome, so God just looks down and goes, they're the most awesomest. It's not even English. They're the most awesomest, and so I'm gonna choose them. Nope. Was it because they were powerful and strong and mighty? No. Listen to what God said, why he chose them in Deuteronomy 7, "For you're a people holy to the Lord your God." That means, you have been chosen and set apart. "The Lord your God has chosen you "out of all the peoples on the face of the earth "to be his people, his treasured possession. "The Lord did not set his affection on you "and choose you because you were more numerous "than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. "But it was because the Lord loved you, "and kept the oath He swore to your ancestors, "that he brought you out with a mighty hand, "and redeemed you from the land of slavery, "from the power of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, "he is the faithful God, "keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations "of those who love him, and keep his commandments." You know what he said? I didn't choose you because of anything related to you. I didn't choose you because you're awesome. I didn't choose you because you're big. I didn't choose you because you're powerful. I didn't choose you because you're great looking. I didn't choose you because you're successful. I chose you because of my own covenant, and I'm always faithful to myself. I'm always faithful to myself. I chose you out of love. It doesn't mean he doesn't love anyone else, that's not what's being said, but I chose to do it this way because I'm God, and I get to choose how this happens. So you know why Israel, listen, do you know why Israel was chosen? Because of Jesus. God didn't look upon the earth and go, oh man, we've got a problem. How are we, what am I going to do? Jesus, we gotta figure something out. That's not how this went. From eternity past the Omniscient God knew exactly what was going to transpire in human beings that he created in his image, and gave the freedom to be able to walk away from him. He knew how the only rescue was going to be God the Son, listen to this, becoming human to save humanity. God knew this all along now. Now Jesus, by God's grace, Jesus was not just human. Jesus was born of a woman, but he had the Holy Spirit as his Father. So Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time. That's right, a hundred percent God, and a hundred percent man at exactly the same time. He wasn't 50% God and 50% man. And he wasn't 200% anything. He was just a hundred percent God-man. The only one who could save and rescue, and do what he could do. And so Jesus came, not just to save the Jews, but he came to save everybody everywhere, because he is the God-man. But as you can imagine, he had to come through some group of people. God chose for it to be the Jewish people. He could would've chosen anyone that he wanted, but God, in his own sovereign choice chose that. But the reason for the choice was not them, it was Jesus. It's always been Jesus. So God chose Israel. But then I told you that God chose Israel within Israel. That's the second set of verses that we're gonna walk through very briefly. Here's what it says, beginning in verse number six. "It's not as though God's word had failed. "For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel, "nor because they are his descendants "are they all Abraham's children. "On the contrary, it is through Isaac "that your offspring will be reckoned. "In other words, it is not the children by physical descent "who are God's children, "but it is the children of the promise "who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. "For this was how the promise was stated. "At the appointed time I will return, "and Sarah will have a son." See, what Paul's doing here, when he begins by saying, it's not as though God's word had failed, he's addressing a problem. You see, Israel, who'd been given all of these privileges through whom the Messiah has come. All of these privileges have been afforded them, but generally speaking, they as a people have rejected Jesus as Messiah.
There is a general unbelief among the people of Israel in Paul's day, and even to this day, in Jesus as the Messiah. And so people were starting to ask the question, has God's word failed? Has God's promise been rescinded from Israel? Has God set Israel aside? And he's saying, Paul is saying, no, no, no, no, God hasn't changed his mind, God's word hasn't failed. God hasn't rescinded his promise. You just need to understand something, God gets to define who Israel is. God gets to determine that. And it's not just who have the genetics of a Jew. Because what God is doing, he not only chose Israel, but he chose Israel within Israel. You see, if God had gone back on his promise, if God has set Israel aside, if God's word has failed, more than Israel has a problem, we've got a problem, because God can't be trusted at that point. God's not faithful to what he said he would be, and he would do. But that's not the case here. God gets to determine who Israel is. His word hasn't failed, because of who he says Israel actually is truly. Did you see it again in verse number six? Here's what he said. "It's not as though God's word had failed. "For not all who are descended from Israel, are Israel." Did you catch it? Not all who are descended from Israel, are Israel. In other words, listen to this, God's corporate election of a people called Israel, does not mean the individual salvation of every one of those people. God corporately elected them as a people for a purpose, for his redemptive purpose in the world, but it doesn't mean that every single one of them individually has faith. He's here talking about the believing remnant of Israel. God's true Israel. Now, sometimes this can be confusing, because Paul will actually use this idea about the true Israel in two different ways. There are occasions where, when he refers to the true Israel, he's actually talking about the church. At the very end of Galatians you see it, Paul is referencing the church. He says, "Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule "to the Israel of God." He's actually referring to the church there. But here in this context, he's referring to the believing remnant in Israel, within Israel. And here's what you've gotta understand. This is a reminder to us that God doesn't show favoritism just based on ethnicity. Just based on physical descent. Oh, you're from Israel, so you've got a special gig. Nope. It's still about grace and about belief, right. In fact, if you back up, you can find that, when Paul is talking about Jews and Gentiles in Romans 2, he makes this really, really clear. Notice what he says, beginning in verse nine, "There will be trouble and distress for every human being "who does evil, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. "But glory, honor and peace "for everyone who does good, "first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. "For God does not show favoritism. "A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, "nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. "No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, "and circumcision is circumcision of the heart "by the spirit, not by the written code. "Such a person's praise is not from other people, "but from God." What he's saying is that, just because you're physically descended as a Jew, does not give you some kind of special deal. He's saying, no, no, no, no. This is not about external appearance, this is not about physical descent, this is actually about God's grace in the midst of it all, because salvation has never been based on human ancestry, ever. In fact, what we know about that is that we can see that illustrated, because he illustrates that in the next couple of verses, talking about Abraham's kids. Look again with me in verse number seven. He says, "Nor because they are his descendants, "are they all Abraham's children. "On the contrary, it is through Isaac "that your offspring will be reckoned. "In other words, "it's not the children by physical descent "who are God's children, "but it is the children of the promise "who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. "For this was how the promise was stated, "at the appointed time I will return, "and Sarah will have a son." Now, the reason that Paul is referencing Abraham, stay with me here, I know this is dense, isn't it. It's like deep and rich. Stay with me because we're about to talk about some practical things that come out of this text, but it's important that we understand this. The reason that Paul goes back to Abraham, is because Abraham is the physical and spiritual descent of Israel. He's both. He's both the physical and the spiritual descent. He's literally the physical beginning of what we talk about, God made a covenant through him and said, through you I'm going to do this. And he's the spiritual beginning, I'm making a promise that through you the seed of Abraham is going to rescue the world. He is the physical and spiritual beginning of Israel. And if you remember, he didn't just have Isaac. There was a child born before that, to a maidservant named, Hagar. God had made a promise to he and Sarah that you're going to have a son, and it's going to be great. And of course they got really old, so old that like super old, like way past having children old, like her biological clock had detonated decades before. Right. That's what it felt like. They're really, really old people. And Abraham was like, I know you've made this promise, but I don't know if I can wait on this. Like, I mean, maybe I'm supposed to just fulfill it. I, you know. And so his maidservant, Hagar, he has a child with her. This child's name is Ishmail. Ishmail, listen to this, is physically descended from Abraham. He is Abraham's physical descendant. And then God reminds him, you know, I made a promise to you, and I'm going to fulfill that promise. And he did. And in their old age they had a son, and they named him Isaac, which means laughter. And if you're 90 some, and having a baby, maybe that's what you call it. Or you may just name him pain. I don't know what you would say. They called him laughter, Isaac. That was the child of promise. And God had said that he was going to do his redemptive work through his promise. But both Ishmail and Isaac were physical descendants of Abraham, but only one of them was the child of promise. Why? Why did God choose Isaac? Because he is God, and he is sovereign. And in his sovereign grace he chose. And he wanted to remind us that it wasn't about physical descent, it is about his grace. N.T. Wright, who's probably the most, the foremost scholar on Paul that's still living today. He said, when he was summarizing this portion, he said, when it comes to salvation, what counts is grace, not race. I couldn't say, amen, anymore heartedly than that, because this isn't about physical descent, this is about the grace of God. So, given that we've talked about that, what are some takeaways we can take? Well, here's the first one. Whatever God's choice, he is always faithful to his promises. Whatever his choice, he's always faithful to his promises. He can't help himself. Have you had some circumstances in your life before, we all have, we all have. Circumstances in your life where you wondered, why? Why am I going through this? Why is this happening now? Why am I having to endure this? Why am I experiencing this? And maybe the circumstance is, because God has brought it directly into your world. Or maybe it's because you brought it into your world, or I brought it in my world, but God is taking it and using it. You see nothing, nothing that we do, nothing that happens to us, is outside of the realm of the sovereignty of God, nothing. Everything is under, because if it's not, then God's not sovereign. See, everything exists under God's sovereignty. He's in control. He sees what's happening. It doesn't mean that he's making us like robots, and doing, it's not that. It's just that there's nothing that escapes his ability to utilize for his purposes, nothing. Good, bad, exciting, not exciting, depressing, fired up about, none of it. But if you had those times in your life where you've kind of asked the question, why? Why am I going through this? Why am I having to deal with this? Why this time? Here's the thing. You may never know the answer to that question, but here's what I can tell you, even when you don't know why, God can't help himself, he will be faithful to every promise he's ever made. You may think to yourself, why am I going through this? And you may not have the answer, but God will promise, I will not leave you. I will not forsake you. God, I don't know why this is happening at this point. I know you may not understand, but I am actually working all things for good of those who love me and are called according to my purpose. God, I'm not sure what to do. I don't even know why this is happening. I know, but if you will ask for wisdom, believing and not doubting, I will give it to you. But God, I feel alone and I feel desperate, and I feel in despair sometimes, because the circumstances happen. I know, I know, I know. I know you don't understand why, but you will always be loved with an everlasting love. You see, even when we don't understand God's choices, God will always be faithful to his promises. The second truth that we can take away is this, God saves all people by grace through faith, nobody gets a special deal. God saves all people by grace through faith, and nobody gets a special deal. Let me tell you why that's important. Being born into a Christian family is a real blessing, is a wonderful, wonderful blessing, but it is not a guarantee that you will be saved. Being born into an unbelieving family is a tremendous hurdle, but it is not a guarantee that the grace of God won't find you. Being born in a nation that has the freedom to be able to preach the gospel is a tremendous blessing, but it is no guarantee that you will come to faith in Jesus. Being born in a nation that is much more closed to the gospel is a tremendous hurdle, but it is no guarantee that people will not hear and see and meet Jesus. You see, ultimately nobody gets a special deal, no matter where you come from. Yeah, but my dad was a pastor. So. Yeah, but I was born in a nation that was kind of founded on Christian principles. So. Yeah, but I'm Jewish. So. Nobody gets a special deal. Everyone comes by grace through faith. God has made this initiation to the world, and you know why that's such great news? 'Cause you don't have to sweat now thinking, is there any hope for me. There absolutely is for you. The world has been opened to you, because God so loved it that He gave His only Son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish, but would have everlasting life. You've got that kind of hope, but it only comes because God has initiated his grace, and through the activation of your faith, trusting in what God has done through Jesus to save you from your sins, through his death on a cross, and his resurrection from the dead, and the hope that he gives you of eternal life. But there's a third truth that I'd have you take away as well from this passage, that God's burden compels us to action. God's burden compels us to action. So when we read Paul at the very beginning of that passage, and he's saying that, I'm experiencing unceasing anguish and great sorrow in my heart for the sake of my people, so much so that he was willing to go to whatever extreme, to be able to make sure that they could know Jesus, even if it meant he was cut off from Christ. I'm not suggesting that you and I can carry that same level of burden. What I am suggesting is this, is that the burden that we have for our people should motivate us to action, it did with Paul. You know what Paul, every time that Paul showed up to a city, do you know the first place he went, the synagogue. You know why? 'Cause his burdened for his people. He knew he's one of them and he knew what privileges they had been afforded, and he shows up to the synagogue, and he reasons with them from the scripture, from the Hebrew scriptures about who Jesus the Messiah is, and he pleads with them to know Christ. And he was persecuted by them, but his heart wasn't just only for them. His heart was for everyone, because Paul was really ministering to mostly Gentiles. He would start with the Jews, because his heart was so burdened for them, but he was ministering to the Gentiles, and he faced shipwreck and abandonment and prison, and being bit by spiders, and being naked and cold and hungry. He experienced all of that, because his burden compelled him to action for the sake of the gospel. Does ours? Does God's burden compel us to action for our people? I don't know who you consider your people. Paul was talking about his people, Israel, but he wasn't just defining those as a people, he had that heart for everyone, but he was specifically in a moment saying, I'm really burdened for my people. Who are your people? Maybe you're from Asia, and your heart beats for the Asian people that are here in the States, and you have a burden for them that should compel you to action. Maybe you're Indian and your heart is burdened for Indians in your midst. Maybe you're African-American and your heart beats for other African-Americans to know Jesus. Maybe you're Greek or your Italian or whatever. Who's your people? Maybe it's those in your neighborhood, remembering that everyone is our neighbor, according to Jesus, but maybe the specific people that are in your neighborhood. And you're saying, those are my people, and I've got a specific burden, and it should lead me to action. Maybe it's Buffalonian, maybe it's Canadians. I don't know what it may be, but the question is whether or not we are going to allow the burden that God places on our heart for the lostness that's all around us, that Paul was sensing and knowing, and feeling, because we live in a nation where people have plenty of access to the gospel, but have by and large rejected it. And that you and I's heart beats in such a way that we say we want our family, or our friends, or our people. However, we designate them, we want them to know Jesus. And we need to share with them the truth of Christ, in word and in deed. Why? Listen, why? Because God chose us to do it. That's why. God gets to choose. And he's chosen you and I to be the people that bring the good news of the gospel to those that are around us. Let's bow our heads together. We'll be dismissed in just a moment as we take an opportunity to pray, but you may be here, and have never before entrusted your life to Jesus. You may be here and have never before surrendered your life, and experienced the forgiveness of your sins, and a changed life. Good news for you. You've got that option. By faith, in what God and his grace has done for us, that while we were yet sinners Christ still came, and died for us. He loves you. And if you've never before entrusted your life to Jesus, then I would encourage you in a moment when I dismiss you, that you come straight across the atrium, into the fireside room, it's clearly marked. We'd love to take moment and talk to you about what it means to know Jesus, to be born from above, to have a new life, to have your sins forgiven, to experience eternal life. Not only in the now, but in the life to come. Maybe you're watching online. You can go to We'd love to talk to you, and connect with you there. Father, you've said much to us by your Spirit, and I pray that we would be people who receive. That we would receive these truths from a really rich passage of scripture that teaches about your heart. I pray that our hearts would beat like your heart, and that we would have a sense that whatever it is that we are going through, even if we don't understand the why of your choice, we know you're faithful to your promises. And we know that no matter what, you save all people the same way, it is by grace through faith, nobody gets a special deal, which means we all come because of your grace. And I pray as well that we would, we would allow your burden to compel us to action for the people that we love, and desire to see and know Jesus. So, would you write these things on our heart, and help us to walk in their truth. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.

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