Notes on Romans (77)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

God’s Not Forgotten to be Merciful (Romans 9 Verses 1-18)

The promise of God stems from the mercy of God (vv14-18). Far from being unjust, God is love (1John 4.8), and in the abundance of his great love (Ephesians 2.4), he extends his mercy and bestows compassion on a people who don’t deserve it (v15). As Paul has previously shown us, just and the justifier of those who believe. When God says he will have mercy, he means he will not demand works, and if that’s not grace then what is? Because if God demanded works righteousness then none would ever have his mercy. Grace (mercy) and works exclude each other (Romans 11.6), it’s either one or the other. God had compassion on us, knowing we could never work ourselves right with him, in our wretched and miserable condition he stretched out his hand and gave mercy. It is because there is mercy in the heart of God that we have a gospel of compassion to declare to others, to a world of suffering, a world of pain and sorrow, a world alienated from it’s Maker, the very conception of the gospel in the divine mind displays for us what is in the heart of God. It is the great mercy of God that is the focal point here, it’s not that he has mercy on only a few of the wretched and lost, and none for the masses, and simply without compassion hurls them into eternal damnation.

God will not allow anyone to restrict his exercising of mercy and compassion, that would be injustice. God in his sovereignty so displays the sweetness of his mercy in the gospel, and in its proclamation desires it be embraced to the utmost amongst the people to whom it is extended. And believe it, his mercy extends far beyond anything your finite mind could ever conjure up, it is extended even to those without the desire for it, or power to run and get it (v16). You limit it and narrow it down to the detriment of yourself, your loved ones, and the world around you. God will exert his sovereign will of mercy to it’s recipients, and no one will hinder him from doing so, not even king Pharaoh, who tried hard to do just that (v17). This tyrant with incredible hardness of heart was simply brushed aside in an awesome display of God’s power (v17), and the story is still told today throughout the world (v17b). In Pharaoh’s hardness and refusal of God’s mercy, he tried to close the door of mercy to others, but God would not permit that (v18). Some things never change (Matthew 23.13). This world needs the love, and mercy of God, let us not keep it from them, but preach it in it’s fullness, without discrimination to all men. The Lord knows them that are his. Our business is to preach the gospel as he has commanded us.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

Facebook
Twitter
Sermon Audio

Notes on the Exodus (12)

“Exposing the Exodus”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

The Deliverer is Born (Chapter 2 Verses 1-4)

Moses is a great character, unequalled in the Old Testament. He of course held the unique status of mediator, in his office he was a prophet, priest and king. But then so to is ever believer. His life has many lessons for us, it is like a roller-coaster, a series of contrasts. As a child he was a slave, and the son of a princess. He was born in a hut, and lived in a palace. He born poor, and lived in wealth. He led an army, but he also kept sheep. He was a warrior, and the meekest of men. He was educated at court, and he lived in a desert. He had the wisdom of Egypt, and also the faith of a child. He was tempted to sin, but live in integrity. He wielded the rod of a shepherd, and of mighty power. He was a fugitive from Pharaoh, and he was an envoy of heaven. He died on top of a mountain, and he appears on top of another mountain with Jesus. No one assisted at his funeral, God himself buried him. This is the history of God delivering his people. The king, Pharaoh, and his afflicting of God’s people, are simply instruments of God’s to accomplish the exodus, the going out of his people.

The birth of Moses, its timing and its circumstances also, all is of God. All men are his creations, the rich and the poor alike (Proverbs 22:2). The Lord makes all things for himself (Proverbs 16:4). All things are created through him and to him (Colossians 1:16b). His sovereign dominion stretches over over every single thing in the world, he works all things according to his counsel (Ephesians 1:11). Every minute belongs to him, he owns everything in all creation, and every facet of life is of him. God declares that, whatever is under the whole heaven is his (Job 41:11). The greatness, the power, the glory, the victory and the majesty are his. God’s sovereign rule extends to the ends of the earth, every soul, every generation. Therefore, the Lord our God and Creator, rules over all (Psalm 103:19). So for such a time as this Moses is born. With the plans of this earthly ruler, Pharaoh, from a human perspective, it’s not a good time to born a male child. Can God’s deliverer, can the church survive this holocaust? God is looking for faith, the faith that overcomes the world (1John 5:4). God is still looking for such faith today.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

Facebook
Twitter
Sermon Audio

Notes on Romans (76)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Has the Gospel Failed? (Romans 9 Verses 1-18)

The thought may cross your mind from time to time, and especially when there aren’t many folks being saved, does the gospel still work (vv6-8)? Well no says Paul (v6), the problem doesn’t lie with the word of God, it’s the people and what they do with the word of God. Just because people belonged to the Israelite nation didn’t necessarily mean they were God’s children (v7). No, only those who believed God’s saving message, and with them the word of God worked effectively (1Thessalonians 2.13), and very effectively (1Thessalonians 1.9-10). And of course the same is true today, just because you have people in Churches, or people brought up in the cradle of the gospel doesn’t mean they are God’s children either (v8). They too must receive the saving message for themselves (John 1.12), in order to become such. But when that message is not received, when peoples lives are not changed, transformed by God it doesn’t mean the message has failed. No, God’s word is living and active (Hebrews 4.12), and remains for ever so (1Peter 1.23). God’s word is never proclaimed in vain, it always accomplishes his purpose, either saving or hardening, but never returns to him void (Isaiah 55.8-11).

We are given an example here (vv9-14), that of Rebecca’s children, Jacob and Essau (v13). The promise belonged to both of them (v9), having been brought up under the covenant, but only one actually embraces it, Jacob. The birth of Isaac (v10) remember was a supernatural one, he was the child promised to Abraham (Genesis 18.10), the promise of a gift pure and simple, and eventually born to Sarah in old age. Now it’s this promise that was given to Israel which is illustrated here (vv4-5), God’s gracious giving. And the promise is totally unconditional (v11). We know this don’t we from Jacob’s subsequent life, and of course our own, if it were conditional, dependent on our works, both Jacob and ourselves would be blown away. Jacob wasn’t saved because of his faults and sins, but in spite of them. Now Israel should have recognised in all God had given them by way of promise (vv4-5), the exact same grace and love bestowed on Jacob (v13), and ought to have embraced them. But they didn’t (John 1.11). They refused to believe, they hardened themselves, became obdurate and presumptuous. It is this that breaks the Apostolic heart (vv1-2), to have been given such blessings, and just trash them – incredible! But the question comes home, have you received, embraced the promise of salvation through God’s Son?

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

Facebook
Twitter
Sermon Audio

Notes on the Exodus (11)

“Exposing the Exodus”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

The Birth Control Measures (Chapter 1 Verses 15-22)

It’s genocide, stark ruthlessness. The economic measures with the altered employment contracts failed, so now plan ‘B’ kicks in, birth control. It is both secretive and murderous. But cooperation from the mid-wives is necessary for this one. Being summoned by such high powers, it is quite possible to intimidate the best of people. But it’s not hard to see who is behind this fiendish plot, the ‘serpent’s’ hostility to the seed of the woman, Satan. Suppose this effort were to succeed? The channel through which the promised Redeemer is to come would be destroyed. If all the Hebrew males are destroyed, no David, no Jesus, no Saviour. It is the powers of darkness that are the driving force behind Pharaoh here, and the same tactics we see behind the edicts of Herod later on (Matthew 2:16). When men begin to interfere with the process of birth, life and death, albeit in terms of abortion, genetics or euthanasia, they are moving into an area fraught with danger. These developments are usually always without reference to God. The results are incalculable. The effects on future generations will be horrific.

The midwifes here are women of faith, of integrity (Hebrews 11:23), they rightly refuse to obey the king’s edict. No, they don’t speak the truth in answer to Pharaoh’s question v18-19. It is very easy for us to criticise them, but put yourself in their shoes, what would you have done, said? Do remember this is a time in the history of redemption when there is a barrenness of spirituality amongst God’s people, little teaching of God’s ways. The concern of these women is of the higher principle, the saving, the preservation of human life. To tell the truth in order to further the murder of children would be sin. Plan ‘B” fails, so Pharaoh turns to Plan ‘C.’ Enlistment and manipulation of public opinion v22. He gets the public on his side, not hard to do either, especially today. The modern application is obvious. How much happens in the UK today, that back in the day would have been totally unacceptable? Simply because the public’s opinions are now devoid of any biblical teaching, principles. So the king’s edict is seen as acceptable, even Israel had to obey (Acts 7:19). But God frustrates Plan ‘C’ also. God’s patience with vessels of wrath is totally amazing (Romans 9:22). The midwives are blessed of God v20, God declares them righteous, because they acted out of faith, they feared God v21. God is as he promised his people then, to be dynamically, actively present with them, to deliver them. And he will do so in every age, to the end of the age. Trust and fear him alone.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

Facebook
Twitter
Sermon Audio

Notes on Romans (75)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Great Sorrow & Unceasing Anguish (Romans 9:1-18)

The last chapter warranted us taking our time over it, verse by verse, unpacking it, but now we quicken the pace again, and take greater strides. The theme here is salvation by grace, nothing demanded on our part, simply God’s sovereign choosing. We believe because we’re chosen, not chosen because we believe. We are given a glimpse of the heart of this man Paul here (vv1-3), the burden that he bears for his own people, Israel. But it’s a God-given burden (v1b), not just a religious bug, there is a difference. His conscience testifies to the degree of concern the Holy Spirit has given him, that he would exchange places with them himself, if he could. We’re reminded here of the awesome evangelical privileges that are ours, just like Israel in many ways (vv4-5). They were God’s chosen race, the people whom God chose to dwell amongst and reveal his glory. They had the gracious covenant with God, the law revealing his will, not to mention the temple and the glorious salvation promises. They themselves boasted of their pedigree, Abraham, Moses etc., (John 8:48-59), all of which should have enabled them to draw a trace which would have led them to Jesus, and salvation. But sadly it didn’t, and it was all taken from them (Matthew 21:33-45).

But what about the United Kingdom today? What about Britain’s evangelical heritage? What about the preaching we’ve had in the past, the creeds and the covenants, what about the revivals, what about the Bibles, the Christian books we have? What does it profit us as a nation? We have trade unions, we have medical care, hospitals, homes for the elderly, education, sanitation, trace it all back, and you’ll find we have it as a result of the Christian gospel being declared in our land. But look at us now! Utterly godless, a pagan nation, wallowing in the mire of sin. Immorality abounds, unashamed uncleanness (Romans 1:18ff). Has God removed his Kingdom from us, have we been given over by him? Has he had enough? Is it too late? I don’t think so. The gospel is still preached, we have many evangelical pulpits where the word is still proclaimed. But are we making the most of opportunities and resources given? We’ve still have such an opportunity here in our country, the freedom to proclaim the gospel. The fields are still white (John 4:35). How many Christians know what the gospel is? How many Christians can give an intelligent reason for the hope that they have (1Peter 3:15)? Pastors, let’s get to grips with equipping the people of God to defend their faith. People of God let’s get with the word of God prayerfully, with help of the Holy Spirit, equip yourselves. To go out into the world and plead with people to be reconciled to the God whom they already know exists (Romans 1:20f; 2Corinthians 5:20). People around us, some we love very much, but they’re on their way to perdition without a saving knowledge of God. Would you stand back and watch someone walk, unkowingly, towards a precipice and not lift your voice and warn them? Do you have the burden for your nation that Paul had for his own nation? May God grant it to all of God’s people in these dark days.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

Facebook
Twitter
Sermon Audio

Notes on the Exodus (10)

“Exposing the Exodus”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

New Contracts of Employment ( Chapter 1 Verses 13-14)

Doubtless this new administration think that they act in wisdom, with no shortage of philosophers, spin-doctors, and political gurus  (1Corinthians 3:19; 1:19). Alas, the more we, God’s people are afflicted, the more we grow (Psalm 119:67). The fire simply serves to refine us. The cruelty unleashed upon Israel is unlimited (v13). But to fight against the purposes of God has been shown again and again to be utterly useless (Isaiah 46:9). That principle is also illustrated here. The times of the severest trials have been the times of the most blessing to the church, not always, but mostly. The fiercer the fire burns the stronger the faith of God’s folk becomes. The opposition throws us back upon God, it separates us from the world which we get too fond of, it restores the antithesis. Are Israel ready to leave Egypt at this point? No way! They are well established in Egypt (the world), married to it. And remember not all of them are truly Israel that are of Israel. Many of them had turned to worship the idols of Egypt (Ezekiel 20:5-8). But there was a remnant according to the election of grace, who would be mindful of the promise of God, and ready to leave at his behest. God promised to deliver a nation, so a nation must be made ready to leave.

So Israel must be made be seen as utterly disgusting in the eyes of Egypt, so the purpose of God can be fulfilled. But then the true people of God have always been a disgust in the eyes of the world, what’s new? The extended duties are designed to reduce and to crush Israel. Also at the same time to provide Egypt with a source of very cheap labour. The repressive policies make life unbearable for Israel. But behind this remember that God is working, compelling them to desire and to seek a better country. Do you see how we grovel here for such trifling toys, how slow our hearts are to turn and go and to seek eternal joys? Some would argue, this can’t be God’s way for his folk, the old prosperity gospel mantra. No sickness, no suffering. But that’s not and never has been the reality. Affliction, poverty, sickness have ever been a part of the lot of a pilgrim in this world. We are given security not immunity. And one reason for it is to remove our hearts from this world, so we look to God and for better (Hebrews 11:10). The bitter afflictions of this world cause us to yearn for, desire to be home with the Lord. Only then will the perfection come, healing be a reality, poverty banished, our unremitting toil at and end.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

Facebook
Twitter
Sermon Audio

Notes on Romans (74)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

No Separation! (Chapter 8 Verses 28-39)

Are you convinced? Paul is, and he testifies so in these last two verses which we must take together (v38-39). He reaches from the depths of the earth to the highest heights of heaven, looking for something that would separate us believers from God’s love in Jesus, and he can’t find a single thing. Nothing! Nothing, will be able to separate those who stand firm in faith (Matthew 10.22), who go on with Jesus. Judas separated himself (Mark 14.10-11), Demas separated himself (2Timothy 4.10), one for money, the other for the world, and no doubt in time many others will too. But Paul is dealing here with God’s love in Jesus to us, it is impossible for God to turn away from us (Hebrews 13.5), he is giving strength to those who need it, we must remain faithful to Jesus Christ, apostasy is a reality. We make too many assumptions about back-sliders being restored, they are not all restored, it must not be taken for granted. Those who have wandered, who’ve grown cold must turn again, they must repent and believe, and do it now! God loves and restores, no mistake (Hosea 14.1-9; 11.8-9). But Jesus Christ as God will not lose one of those given to him by his Father (John 17:12).

The faithful Christian is assured here that there are no conditions, no beings, nothing in time or space, no power nor force, supernatural or otherwise, whether high or low that can put him or her outside of the reach of God’s saving love, nothing in all creation (v39; Psalm 46.1-11). The love of Jesus (v37), is the same as the love of God (v39), perfect harmonious love exists between all three members of the Godhead. The verse and the chapter finish with the full name and title, Christ Jesus our Lord, the one who has made all this possible as a result of our justification (v1), it all stems from there. Now you see perhaps why the teaching of justification by faith, and by faith alone is so vitally important. It is the foundation stone of the gospel, you destroy it, and you destroy the whole thing, all of this glorious, profound, and stimulating teaching that we’ve been treated to in this chapter. So we must defend this teaching, we can’t go with any who teaches contrary to it, it would be another gospel (Galatians 1.6-9), and therefore a departure from that Lord we love and adore. We started by faith, and we will finish by faith (Galatians 3.1-5), because we want all these grand benefits of justification that Paul has laid before us here. I declare is there another chapter like this in the Bible? And just one chapter of one letter to one Church? And it is basic Christian teaching, that we should all be familiar with. We need to saturate ourselves with it.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

Facebook
Twitter
Sermon Audio