“Wrestling With Romans”
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)