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Sabbath School Insights
2010 Quarter 3: Jul - Sep
Insight #11, September 11, 2010
Third Quarter 2010 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Election of Grace”
For the week of September 5-11, 2010
My Bible has section headings designed to give the reader a hint as to what to expect in the ensuing verses. There are 2 headings in Romans 10.* For verses 1-13 it says, “Israel needs the gospel.” Verses 14-21 have the heading, “Israel rejects the gospel.”
Paul stated clearly that the gospel is what Israel needs. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Verse 1 of this chapter says that the gospel concerns Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
So, the gospel which Israel needs and which concerns Jesus Christ is the message of the cross. This simple yet profound and multifaceted definition is, for Paul and for us, the foundation of our experience. It is efficacious and sufficient for beginning and sustaining the Christian life. It prevents the apostasy described in Romans 11. “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to pout to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:21-25, 27). Praise God!
Sadly, Paul tells us in Romans 10:20, 21, “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me. But to Israel He says, all day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” Paul’s heart desire, according to verse 1, is that Israel would respond and be saved. Then, in verse 2 he says, “ For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge.” Paul also said that before his conversion he had a zeal like that, so he understands Israel’s problem.
What is the “zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” that Paul originally had, and now Israel also has, and for which the gospel is the remedy? Verse 3 tells us. “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” The simple answer to our question: “…they have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”
This error hits at the foundation of the gospel of God, which concerns Jesus Christ. The righteousness of God has been manifested in the faith of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21, 22). This legal language speaks of God’s justice and mercy which allows Him to be just, and also the justifier of the one who has the faith of Christ (Romans 3:26). All of this is wrapped up in the message of the cross. God sent His Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. We rebelled and refused to believe (Romans 3:3), but Jesus remained faithful to the covenant between Himself and His Father. The faith of Jesus, shown by His “righteous act,” satisfied the requirements of the law and justified the world so that “many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
The divine faith of Jesus – affirms God’s unbreakable love. “God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus is the assurance from God that makes human faith possible. Therefore, Jesus makes righteousness possible.
The zeal that is “not according to knowledge” fails to recognize the righteousness of God as manifested in the faith of Jesus. It fails to see the “righteous act” of divine love for all, that makes our faith response possible. This is the point of Israel’s ignorance. Paul wants Israel to know that the emphasis is on what God did through Jesus Christ. By faith, Jesus “was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Through the resurrection, Christ has constituted the beginning of a new humanity (Romans, chapters 5 and 6). God has “predestined” this new humanity to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Because this manifestation has taken place “apart from law,” through Christ’s action, the new humanity includes Jews and Gentiles. He became “a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written…rejoice O Gentiles, with His people,” (Romans 15:8). Romans 10:4 says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
In the book, Waggoner on Romans, page 164 we find this gem. “We have seen that the end or object of the law is the righteousness which it requires…the law of God is the righteousness of God. But this righteousness is the real life of God Himself and the words of the law are only the shadow of it. That life is found only in Christ, for He alone declares the righteousness of God (Romans 3:24, 25). His life is the law of God since God was in Him. That which the Jews had only in form is found in fact only in Christ. In Him the end of the law is found. The gospel is powerful good news, and it produces a life transforming faith as we begin to understand. Faith comes by hearing the good news. So Paul says ‘how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things’ (Romans 10:15).”
What if we do not obey the gospel? Will God cast us off? “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:2). “The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake, because it pleased the Lord to make you His people” (1 Samuel 12:22). “See I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands, your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:16). Praise God! “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
As we survey the wondrous cross this Sabbath, I pray that we will say with Paul, “But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is from the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).
May we have a zeal for God which is according to true knowledge. Amen
*All scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible