Introduction to the Problem of Evil and Book of Job: Sermon 1


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Austin Cline, a self proclaimed Atheism and Agnosticism expert, writes, “Many people who end up as atheists are inspired to take a much harder look at their religion and their theism after being forced to face the problem of evil and suffering in the world.”

MOST COMMON REASON FOR ATHEISM.I have not seen any polls to confirm this, but I would venture to say that the most common reason people lose their belief in God is because of the existence of suffering. It is not common for an atheist say, “I read up on the science and philosophy, and I am convinced that macroevolution, the third law of thermodynamics, and the illogical nature of the teleological and ontological arguments for God’s existence means that there cannot be a God.” No! Most atheists say something along the lines of, “My father was sick with cancer, I prayed to God to help him but he wasted away to nothing and died in pain. I concluded that God can’t exist.”

ARGUMENT FROM EVIL ILLOGICAL.I remember being in a class years ago at Columbia University. It was a course on Islamic Philosophy and Religion. Muslim theologians talk about a lot of the same things as we do, including the Argument From Evil. One of the students, a philosophy student if I remember right, said, “God cannot exist, there is so much evil in the world.” My reply was, “If evil exists and that makes God evil somehow, how does that make God less real?” Think about it. We do not disregard the existence of anything simply because it is bad. Just because the holocaust was really evil, it does not make the holocaust any less real.


HOW COULD GOD BE GOOD BUT THERE BE EVIL.So, the issue for us believers is less superficial. How can God be good but there be evil in the world? Any ideas? Hopefully no one ascribes to the following:

Rabbi Kushner’s “when bad things happen to good people” Open Theism- God is is good, but He is not all-knowing, so He can’t stop evil while it is happening and He has to play catch-up. I’m not quite sure how God can know the future in the Bible and yet have Open Theism make sense, but that’s beside the point. Jehovah’s Witnesses ascribe to God’s “Selective Foreknowledge.” They reason as follows: Jehovah is all-powerful. The only thing more powerful than a god that knows everything is a god that can know everything that selectively chooses not to–Seriously, this is what they teach–This god turned off the camera when Satan deceived Eve and then sin entered the world, forcing Jehovah to make a backup plan with Michael the Archangel in order to save face. How do we know this is not true?

God is greater than our heart and knows all things (1 John 3:20).

There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him (Heb 4:13).

Augustine’s “evil is the lacking of good and therefore does not really exist.” Augustine makes mention of this theory in Book VII of his Confessions. It’s like saying there is no such thing as darkness, there’s just a lack of light. Lucky for him, this was not the only theory he had. You have probably heard it before: “there is no such thing as evil, it is all relative.”

John Piper said, “The people who do not believe in evil sure do when you punch them in the face.”

Quite frankly, it is illogical. If evil is the lacking of good, why can’t good be the lacking of evil?

Liebniz’s “the best of all possible worlds.” Another attempt to explain why there is evil is to say that it could have not been done in any other way. An Enlightenment philosopher named Voltaire wrote a book called Candide to criticize the view. In short, the book is about an illegitimate son of a nobleman who travels the world with a philosopher where really bad things happen to them and the philosopher tries to explain everything away as good. A musical made from the book did a good job summing up the ridiculousness of the philosophy:


Once one dismisses

The rest of all possible worlds

One finds that this is

The best of all possible worlds!



What about war?



Though war may seem a bloody curse

It is a blessing in reverse

When canon roar

Both rich and poor

By danger are united!

(Till every wrong is righted!)

Philosophers make evident

The point that I have cited

‘Tis war makes equal — as it were —

The noble and the commoner

Thus war improves relations!

Christians have made this mistake. Have you ever heard a Christian tell a non-believer in his suffering, in an attempt to console them and sneak a little God in there, that “God works all things for good?” Let me make this clear: if you are apart from Christ, God DOES NOT work all things for good for you. Rom 8:28 states, “God works all things for good for those who love Him that have been called according to His purpose.” How can this be so? Because when Christians suffer or do well, in all of these things God uses this to direct our lives so that we may grow closer to Him and live more obediently in thought, word and deed.

The best example is prayer. Christ said, If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). I don’t know about you, but I have made a lot of prayers in Christ’s name, and not all of them were answered. The reason I think it is so, is because God answers only prayers that work towards our good. James states, You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3). Therefore, when we pray and the prayer is not conducive to “drawing near to God” (James 4:8), God views the motive as wrong. You may not know it at the time, but I am sure that the all-knowing God does. So, our greatest possible good is that we honor God, love Him, and ultimately bring glory to Him.

It is important to remind ourselves that if we live in the best of all possible worlds, it is not the best possible one for people, it’s the best one for God. The Scripture already lays out that before Adam’s sin, that childbirth required no pain and work no sweat. Obviously, these curses make things worse for people. This is an idea which we will develop through these lessons: God in His wisdom knows what is truly best. Man, in his wisdom, does not. Man makes himself the focal point of the universe, and so charges God with wrongdoing when things do not work to his benefit. However, if we make God the focal point of the universe, then man cannot necessarily charge God with wrongdoing for the ordering of things in the present.

Really, the whole question is answered if we properly understand whether we live in an Anthropocentric or a Theocentric universe. Anthropocentric means man is the center of the universe, hence the universe revolves around the creation. This does not make any more sense than the universe revolving around bugs, rocks, or stardust. No one would charge God with wrongdoing because bugs get zapped or whatever, because the universe does not revolve around bugs. Now, a Theocentric universe revolves around God. So, this means the creation serves the purposes of the Creator. That logically actually makes sense, unlike the Anthropocentric view which is arbitrary.

Let’s illustrate this with an example. You and your wife save up to build the house of your dreams... You slave away all day in the widget factory while your wife is an architect, and she works remotely and takes care of the kids. To save money on the designs, you tell your wife to design the new house, get it built, and you will keep slaving away at making the widgets…competition is getting real tough, they are outsourcing everything to Asia. So, two years later the house is built and you move into the house your wife built. You are disappointed to find there is no mancave or extra-large garage to tinker on your car. However, there is a 800 square foot walk-in closet and a gratuitous island in the kitchen that looks like it is out of Rachel Ray. Surprised? Don’t be. You asked your wife to design the house, wouldn’t it make sense that the house would reflect what she values? So, if God designed the universe, shouldn’t it revolve around Him if He values His own glory?

Why is there evil? I’m going to ruin the Book of Job for you and tell you how God can be good yet there be evil. It is going to take a long time to prove it from the Scriptures, so for now I’ll just quote the authority of big names and ask you to keep what they said in the back of your minds. R.C. Sproul in an hour long sermon on the subject summed it up as follows: “Evil is not good, but it is good to have evil.” Augustine wrote in his Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love that, “He judged it better to bring good out of evil, than not to permit any evil to exist.” Who are we to question God in saying that the bringing good out of evil is not as good as simply bringing good out of good? Jonathan Edwards writes, “[God is] the permitter . . . of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted . . . will most certainly and infallibly follow.”

Let’s introduce Job. Now that we know that the existence of evil does not by necessity make God evil, we can begin to understand what sort of good God had in store when He put Job through trials and tribulations. The Scripture states that Job “was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). What does this mean? It depends who you ask.

View 1: Completely without sin. Most commentators throughout history viewed Job as entirely innocent. Aquinas go as far as to say that Job…wished to dispute with God to learn as a student does with a master,” even though Job really sounds disappointed that his family is dead, his fortune is lost, and his health is failing. In the lessons I am presenting, let me make clear that I do not hold to this interpretation. Job himself very clearly states, “You…make me to inherit the iniquities of my youth” (Job 13:26). Job does not claim to be sinless, so I do not think this is a workable interpretation.

View 2: Committed the sin of self-righteousness. John Piper’s interpretation is that Job was a good guy but he had a hint of self-righteousness brewing inside. Surely, as we will cover later, his response to suffering months later was self-righteous. However, was Job self-righteous before the events occurred? I tend to say “no.” God told Satan that Job “still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause” (Job 2:3). This to me plainly states that God caused Job to suffer “without cause,” or in other words, entirely unprovoked. Job did not do something that merited punishment. Rather, God decided to do good for Job by allowing him to go through evil.

Did Job have latent self-righteousness? I had a Pastor who liked to say, “If you take a bottle of water and remove the top and shake it, why does water spill out?” Everyone likes to say, “Because you shook it.” However, that’s not why water spilled out. Water spilled out because there’s water in the bottle. In the same way, if Job is shook and he acts self-righteous as a result, isn’t it likely that there was self-righteousness inside all along and the catalyst simply did not exist to bring it out? Perhaps. The Bible simply does not say this, so I think it is best not to presume this of Job.

An application for us. It is pretty simple, but we must remind ourselves that every time we run into something tough, it isn’t always retribution from God. Let me be honest with you, it usually is. God is always chipping away at our sins with suffering. However, it isn’t a law of nature. God reserves the right to use suffering to do His will even when it isn’t a response to our sin. This, in my opinion, is what happened with Job.

Job’s background What was Job the man like? How did he grow up? What did he do for a living? The book does not dwell on these things, but it gives us clues.

First, Job was a gentile living sometime during the 400 year period Israel was in Egypt. He was a gentile (specifically an Edomite, Lam 4:21) from the land of Uz. One of Job’s friends is named Eliphaz the Temanite, and Teman was a grandson of Esau (Gen 36:15) and another friend is Elihu “of the family of Ram,” who was a great-grandson of Judah (1 Chron 2:9). Because Elihu is ethnically a Jew, but never cites the Mosaic Law in any way, this gives us some indication of the time period in which Job lived–clue, it was before Moses!

Second, Job had a righteous upbringing. Job claims to have helped orphans since his “infancy” (Job 31:18). He says “from my youth he[, the orphan,] grew up with me” (Job 31:18). Simply put, Job likely had adopted siblings who he was very loving towards, as he is with his own children. Back then, unclaimed children were not adopted and made equal heirs with living biological children. Usually, they were brought up to be household slaves. This reflects positively upon Job’s father and Job himself, who appeared not to harbor any jealousy or selfishness. It is perhaps with a touch of irony that even though he has been kind to his siblings, they abandoned him in his suffering (Job 19:13-14, 17, 19).

Third, Job was a herder and a judge for a living. We know Job owned many animals, but what is often not dwelt upon is that Job was an important man in his community, because he judged at the city gate. Job recounts:

When I went out to the gate of the city,

When I took my seat in the square,

…[T]he old men arose and stood.

The princes stopped talking

And put their hands on their mouths;

The voice of the nobles was hushed,

And their tongue stuck to their palate.

…I was a father to the needy,

And I investigated the case which I did not know.

…To me they listened and waited,

And kept silent for my counsel.

…I chose a way for them and sat as chief,

And dwelt as a king among the troops… (Job 29:8-10, 16, 21, 25).

Irony of Job’s Job. Such details may appear unimportant to us, but not when we consider the whole point of the book: justice. Job, the judge, was judging God the Judge’s justice. For all intents and purposes Job was a righteous and fair judge, the fairest of them all. So, when such an esteemed judge known for his Godliness questions God, it makes some waves.

Fourth, Job was a priest. He regularly made sacrifices for others, and thereby presumably himself if the occasion necessitated it. The sacrifices to God in verse 5 are worth some explanation:

Job would send and consecrate them [his children], rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually (Job 1:5).

We can see that Job understood that sins are not merely doing bad things, but thinking them as well. Lusting in one’s heart (Matt 5:28) or coveting (Ex 20:17) are sins where one such thought makes the thinker guilty of breaking the entire Law. Job was aware of this and knew that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22).

Before the advent of Christ, sacrifices had to be made again and again for sins, because there was no final sacrifice. However, because of Christ’s work on the cross His sacrifice was “once and for all” (Heb 9:28, 1 Peter 3:18) for all sins. Job, nor anyone else before Christ’s time, fully understood this. Yet, it was “by faith that the men of old gained approval” (Heb 11:2). So, in many ways he looked to Christ, but he did not have a full understanding.

At the time no Levitical priesthood existed, so Job served as his family’s priest. This is an obscure topic, as there are pre-Israelite priests such as Melchizedek (Gen 14:18) and non-priests who when called to by God executed priestly functions, such as when Abraham sacrificed the ram in place of Isaac (Gen 22:13; it is also worth mentioning that Isaac expected his father to sacrifice a lamb, Gen 22:7, so family sacrifices must have been a common occurrence).

Typology. Job in some ways is a type of Christ, being that he suffered and made intercession for sinners in the final chapter. He is also a type for us! According to Gregory the Great, the first guy in church history to make a commentary about the book, Job specifically represents the “Holy Church” (The Book of Morals, Book XXXII, Chapter 4). The former observation gives us a look into what the so called “priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:5, 9) looks like. One is not a priest because of being born into a family of priests. Job was a gentile who lived before the priesthood even existed! Rather by faith one is a priest and intercedes spiritually for others through prayer.

The Law was given as “our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24). Hence, though Job might have benefited from knowledge of the Law in its nascent form as it pertains to sacrifices, he is being more obedient to a New Covenant understanding of the priesthood. After all, the Levitical priesthood as part of the Law was a mere “shadow” (Col 3:7, Heb 10:1) of the true priesthood, which is that of Christ and His people. We don’t need to be Jews stemming from Levi to be a priest. Rather, all we need to do is believe in God Almighty and present our petitions to Him. In this way, we are all a royal priesthood.

Why did God want Job to suffer? How about us? If we didn’t do anything directly to require the supposed discipline of losing a child, or having cancer, or having marital problems, or depression, or a piece of junk Ford–wait, that is your fault, you reap what you sow–how are we to internalize and cope with suffering?

I love the story of Horatio Spafford. Spafford was a devout Christian and a successful lawyer. He was friends with D.L. Moody in Chicago, the same Moody of the “Moody Bible Institute.” Spafford invested in Chicago real estate and was doing quite well. Then, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 occurred. He did not lose all his fortune, but he lost most of it. Spafford’s family decided to follow Moody on a preaching tour in England, but he got tied up with business so his family left first. The boat that his whole family was on crashed into another boat in the middle of the Atlantic. Communication was slow back then so Spafford’s wife was only able to use a telegraph once she reached England. “Saved alone.” All four of his children died in the accident. This man as a modern-era Job. He was a man who had immense faith. He wrote a hymn called, “It is well with my soul” about the experience. This was his response to suffering:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Saint Paul, though he was imprisoned when he wrote his letter to the Philippians, wrote:

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:8-11).

How could these men respond to suffering by praising God for His mercy? They knew that despite their suffering God was still much kinder than what they merited: He forgave their sins. In fact, they had faith that even if they could not understand why God made them suffer, they trusted that He is righteous and loving. The Scripture says, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds” (Ps 145:17). Let these words sustain you through suffering.

Animal Sacrifice, Leviticus, and Penal Substitution


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For some reason, Catholics reject Penal Substitution. I am not exactly sure why. It was taught by some early Church Fathers (unlike the Satisfaction view) Further, it is the other side of the Satisfaction view. After all, Christ not only satisfied on our behalf God the Father’s need for due honor and righteousness, He also paid the penalty for our sins, which likewise separates us from God.

Not so to Catholics. One Catholic text writes dismissively, “Again, on the theory of substitution, the slaughter of the victim must have been the most important part” to Protestants. However, “[n]othing can be inferred by the laying of hands” because “had the victim been laden with sin, it would have been impure.” This means, the whole Protestant idea of our sins being transferred to the sacrifice would be invalid. “The sin was not transferred to the victim: much less did the latter undergo punishment instead of the sinner.”

This is why Catholics and Protestants differ upon the use of the terms of Expiate and Propitiate. For Catholics, sin is not really ever punished but it is passed over and forgotten, hence the term expiation. The sacrifices of the Old Testament simply prefigure Christ in the way that they are a pledge of a good conscience towards God, something that Christ has done perfectly for believers.

However, this is incorrect in light of what Leviticus says about the sacrificial system. According to Leviticus, the animal sacrifices did bear sin so that sin isn’t merely passed over and forgotten because of the sacrifice, but it is punished in the sacrifice.

There is an episode where Aaron refuses to eat the sin offering in the sanctuary, likely because two of his sons were just killed for offering “strange fire” to the Lord. Moses says, “Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? For it is most holy, and He gave it to you to bear the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord” (Lev 10:17). This directly contradicts the Catholic belief that the sacrifice was not “laden with sin.”

Now that we know a bearing of sin was taking place, what can we gather from the Scripture about the transferring of sin onto the animal? Many Protestants point to the scapegoat in Lev 16:21 because it explicitly speaks of the laying of hands transferring sins onto the scapegoat. Hence, sin is transferred when the believer places his hand on the animal.

However, the Scripture never explicitly makes the same connection with animals that are actually sacrificed. Catholic Nick writes, “Though there is talk of placing hands on the head of sacrifices, there is no mention of this involving the (symbolic) transfer of guilt, nor does this even make sense in regards to sacrifices not involving sin (Lev 3:1-2).”

The problem with Catholic Nick’s argument is two fold:

First, peace offerings make peace with God. In what way are we not at peace with God? Obvious answer: we sin. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate that the laying of hands on the sacrifice transfers sin. In 2 Sam 24:25 it says that “David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the Lord was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel.” If we remember the whole episode, because David conducted a census, God gave him a choice pertaining what punishment he would want. After God started smiting the people of Israel because of David’s sin, we have this episode at the future location of the temple where David offers both burnt and peace offerings in conjunction with a prayer. Afterward, God is moved to withdraw His hand. Obviously, the offerings with heartfelt prayer had the effect of turning Gd’s disposition towards the sinful people of Israel.

Second, we have Lev 19:5-8 which states that those who do not partake in the peace offering properly still bear their own iniquity:

Now when you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, and the next day; but what remains until the third day shall be burned with fire. So if it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an offense; it will not be accepted. Everyone who eats it will bear his iniquity, for he has profaned the holy thing of the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from his people.

From the preceding, we may infer that the peace offering bears iniquity, because the iniquity would have been transferred to the sacrifice such as in Lev 10:17 if the peace offering was conducted properly. Hence, peace offerings literally bear iniquity, even though Catholic Nick would have you believe they have nothing to do with iniquity.

Being that the only time the significance of the laying of hands as it pertains to sacrifices is explained in Lev 16:21, the simplest explanation in light of the preceding is simple. The laying of hands transfers sins. The sacrifices, according to Lev 10:17 bear the iniquity of the people. Those who sacrifice improperly according to Lev 19:8 do not benefit from the sacrifice and bear their own iniquity.

Hence, what we see in the Levitical sacrificial laws are rules that pertain to penal atonement. There is no escaping it and it makes the reading of Leviticus an increasing joy because it helps the book make more sense. It brings the reality of what Christ did for us front and center, and silences critics who wish to rob Christ the  our sins in Himself bodily even when we were His enemies.

Child Rape in Afghanistan Disproves Western Notions of Homosexuality


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Gays are born that way. Keep repeating the mantra. “Born that way.” If it rhymes, it has to be scientific fact, right?

As we have Supreme Court cases, school districts, and other arms of the government enforcing the orthodoxy that homosexuals are a “protected group” under the pretense that “gays are born that way,” society has just gone along with it. “Born that way, born that way,” they chirp.

There’s just a couple little details everyone seems to forget. One, scientists have not concluded that homosexuality is innate. “Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors,” says the American Psychological Association.

Second, they will never, ever find a link between any innate factors and homosexuality because historically, sexuality has been a social construct. Isn’t interesting that as we have seen the post-modernists debate that everything is a “social construct,” we better not lay that claim upon sexuality! Yet, sexuality as a social construct eminently makes sense. No one is born with a foot fetish. Genetics did not play a role in making the majority of ancient Greeks smile upon homosexuality and pederasty, especially when Greeks today are the exact opposite.

Being that the average westerner’s mind has been so deadened to common sense, the preceding might not register more than a, “huh?” Let me help you out with some current events. Eyewitness: US Army Encouraged Soldiers To Ignore Afghan Child Rape.// //

Apparently, it has been a hush-hush policy of the US army to force soldiers to look the other way from the widespread practice of raping young boys in Afghanistan. The fact that this is a policy attests to how widespread it is. For what it is worth, my sister’s husband is Pakistani and he grew up nearby. He has spoken of how widespread boy-rape is in the Pakistani countryside (for those people who do not know, Pakistan and Afghanistan are neighboring countries.) Further, I worked on a car of an War in Afghanistan veteran, and he said that boy-rape is widespread.

The rape of Afghan boys by Afghan men is something of an open secret. If there were more Afghans to actually make ethnic jokes about, it would elicit snide one-liners such as, “How do you separate the Afghan boys from the Afghan men? With a crowbar.”

All of this begs the question in all seriousness: are Afghan men just “born that way?” Obviously, they really like it that they do it, and they have gone as far as killing a US soldier to cover it up. Every generation of Afghan men for eons has been doing it. Is it in the Afghan genetics?

Well, the answer is obviously no! There is no scientific evidence that says if you take an Afghan boy, bring him up in the West, he will more likely grow up to be a pedophile. Furthermore, their society is obviously perverse. Look how they treat women, perform honor killing, and rape boys. Obviously, this is smoking gun proof that really strange social expectations can and do effect individual sexuality. So, the more widespread acceptance any sort of sexual strangeness gets in the society at large, the more you will see of it.

The reason these obvious facts grind the gears of all the “born that way” postmodernists is that it forces them to admit that they are either wrong, or that what is going on is a “coincidence.” Of course, statistical impossibilities have taken place in ancient Greece and modern-day Afghanistan! It’s all just a coincidence.

Think about it, in order for them to argue that gays are “born that way,” they would have to say Afghan pedophiles are “born that way” too. Being that they cannot, they are forced to concede the sexuality is affected, though not completely controlled, by environmental and not biological factors.

And, if this is the case, doesn’t this call into question telling children that think they are attracted to the same gender that this is normal? How would they know that the sexual inclinations are not the result of changeable, environmental factors? They wouldn’t! But let’s not talk that way, that’s hate speech even though it’s the truth!

Hopefully, events such as that in Afghanistan are dealt with appropriately. Furthermore, I pray, that our society can have a higher regard for truth and approach the topic of homosexuality in a more honest way. We cannot divorce ourselves from science and history, even if it makes some people feel good about themselves.

The Synod of Phoenix 2055 AD


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The year is 2055. After several severe economic contractions, a world war, and a deadly consolidation of power between the world’s governments Christianity suffered near annihilation. False brothers turned in brothers, government fiat made it illegal for Christians to do business, and imprisonments and executions were the norm. However, by the grace of God, He has preserved His people during their captivity.

Now with the persecution past, a new and unforeseen problem rocks the evangelical churches of North America: what to do with repentant men and women who have left the faith and now want to return? The following is an excerpt of the minutes of the Synod of Phoenix, where representatives of the continent’s remaining churches and denominations seek to resolve this issue, among others, before a worldwide meeting of Christians the following year.

The former headquarters of the World Federation.

Bishop Clay Theodore: …Amen. I call this meeting now in session, it is the first of November, 2055 AD. Many of you know me here, my name is Clay Theodore, I am an elder of Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. Phoenix has been blessed not to suffer any nuclear strikes back in the 30s, but we experienced persecution just as bitter as everyone else. And, it is because of this persecution that we have called this Synod together. Most of us here represent individual churches, but we have all been selected to speak for our denominations before the Ecumenical Council next year in Australia. We have been called here for several tasks, but first the most important one: The problem of our lapsed brothers and sisters in the faith who are now desire to return. Overseer Nova requests the floor.

Overseer Cornelius Nova: Thank you Bishop Theodore. I am Cornelius Nova, I’m the chief Overseer of Terra Nova Church of Greater Albany, Georgia. Many of you already know that I have been appointed to represent the views of the most of the non-denominational churches east of the Mississippi River. By God’s grace we have made it through, and we have seen the position of Christianity restored worldwide with the collapse of the World Federation, World Court, and World Trade Organization. By the hand of God, I do not doubt, Constantin–

Bishop Clay Theodore: Can you identify him for the minutes?

Overseer Cornelius Nova: Sure, Cyrus Constantin was the last President of the World Federation. He has proved to be a modern day Cyrus of sorts, having taken away the charter of the World Court and defanging the World Trade Organization. Constantin saw what we all saw for decades, and though not a believer, God has used him mightily. In rescinding the bestial world government that has not lived up to its purpose, that is to maintain order and prosperity in the face of the Second Global Economic Crisis, we have seen a return of religious freedom. But, we must not forget our reality, it was only a matter of months ago. I make no apologies for this, that the secularists, Chinese, and the Muslims, and others proved to be agents of none other than Satan himself. In fact, they used the opportunity which famine and economic disorder wrought to rid the world of Christianity itself.

Bishop Victor Imus: There were many Chinese Christians that suffered too!

Overseer Cornelius Nova: Indeed, indeed many suffered but there were 300 million self-espoused Christians but a few hundred thousand actually were willing to suffer and scrounge for food instead of getting libelli like not only the Chinese, but most nominal Christians right here at home–I was not trying to impugn Chinese Christians, but rather I was noting the fact that Chinese powerbrokers obviously were using the persecution of Christians as an alternative means, on top of others, to use the power at the disposal of the World Trade Organization to monopolize the American economy; which is still owned mostly by Chinese by the way. But, to be perfectly honest, I am really not interested in politics so my apologies in even bringing it up.

Bishop Clay Theodore: Can you explain what libelli are, for the record, they were different in each country.

Overseer Cornelius Nova: We thought they work the mark of the beast for a time, but then the anti-christ did not seat himself in the temple and the world did not end, so they were not quite that! (Crowd laughs) The libelli were essentially different documents, usually biometric implant though in third world countries sometimes they were still just paper, that showed citizenship in the World Federation. They gave one the ability to buy, sell, get trial by jury, and the use of other immunities of WF citizens. However, in order to get the libelli people had to forswear all divisive religions and philosophies, including Christianity. In the height of hypocrisy, teaching Christianity was viewed as hateful as doubting the Holocaust while Islam and Buddhism were allowed to continue–

Pastor Don Titus: There was not any rhyme or reason to it, that’s for sure.

Overseer Cornelius Nova: For the sake of Clay who is doing the minutes, let me just note that Pastor Don Titus of Fire Chapel in Ontario, California just spoke and a while before Bishop Victor Imus of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod also made a comment. Anyway, those who had the libelli were showing solidarity with the World Federation, but to show solidarity it required a public affirmation of all different religions, sexualities, and the denouncing of complementarianism alongside racism. And this is the problem we have now. The ELCA does not exist. The Methodists do not exist. The Anglican Church only exists in Africa now. Mega Church Christianity, we do not even need to talk about them, they simply just took out the words “Christian” and “Church,” so they can continue their business. Anyway, many former congregants of these churches, all of which took the libelli now believe they see the error of their ways and they want to worship Jesus Christ again.

Pastor Don Titus: Thank you for introducing me. Herein lies the problem, gentlemen. We nearly have been starved into extinction and much of it is to blame on the easy-believeism that has plagued our churches for 150 years. Actually, I used to hear people say it is a problem endemic with Protestantism, but that was when the Catholic Church still existed.

Pastor Nathan Ambrose: Now there are a few thousand people claiming to be the Pope!

Ruling Elder Sid Rikpen: There weren’t 16 months ago when the minor tribulation was occurring.

Elder Clay Theodore: For the minutes, that is myself, Pastor Nathan Ambrose, Austin Theological Seminary of the Southern Baptist Church spoke first and Sid Ripken, a Ruling Elder from First Presbyterian Church Schenectady, NY was second. Dr. Titus, do you care to continue?

Pastor Don Titus: Yes, thanks Clay. Easy-believeism is precisely why the Church almost completely fell away completely, even the elect if that were possible. Now, we can’t just let them back in.

Bishop Victor Imus: And why not? Did Jesus require anything different from us when we accepted Him as Christ? (Crowd erupts in applause) I mean, I am a Lutheran and even though the issues of baptismal regeneration and the Real Presence may come up in the Ecumenical Council, I still for now will affirm baptismal regeneration! I hope some of you are prepared to affirm the Real Presence. That aside, even though I ascribe to baptism more importance than anyone here other than Dr. Nova–Dr. Nova, you also represent the Church of Christ, correct?

Overseer Cornelius Nova: Correct.

Bishop Victor Imus: Even though I affirm baptismal regeneration, I will concede that completely apart from baptism Christ accepts all of us, no matter how grievous our sins, at the instant we believe. (Crowd gives the Amen)

Overseer Cornelius Nova: Yes, of course Jesus Christ accepts us. But, are we prepared to accept those who have taken the libelli without any pre-conditions whatsoever? (Crowd jeers)

Pastor Don Titus: Yes, let’s not lengthen this meeting longer than it needs to be. We are all Pastors, Bishops, Reverends, Elders, and Overseers here. We know this issues. We just survived the greatest persecution there ever was and so many of us that were supposed to shepherd the sheep fell short because we knew more about having positions of prominence in the community and attaining degrees of high learning, but nothing of sacrifice. So, let’s sacrifice the niceties and get to the point. We absolutely cannot allow those with the libelli back into the church, period! (Crowd gives the Amen)

Pastor Nathan Ambrose: I would presume that surely you do not mean this categorically, wouldn’t you concede that there are legitimate repentant believers among the lapsed? I mean, David was faithful and he committed the grievous sins of murder and adultery, who are we to judge?

Overseer Cornelius Nova: Let’s be careful about how we throw David’s name around. Surely fornicating with one’s step mother, though abominable is consensual and not as grievous as taking life and marrying hundreds of women like David did. Yet, Saint Paul was willing to kick the fornicator out of the church, though it was a lesser crime. He handed him over to Satan so that though suffering from his excommunication, that this suffering might be a means to save him.

Elder Clay Theodore: But David–

Overseer Cornelius Nova: Let’s be honest with ourselves, if David were a member of one of our churches, wouldn’t any one of us discipline him and likely be forced to kick him out? (Crowd murmurs in approval) So, I am not saying that none of the lapsed could really be saved, but they are rightly excommunicated from the Church and should remain so.

Pastor Don Titus: Indeed, their inclusion actually puts the sheep at risk, because it allows wolves into the fold. These same lapsed turned in the orthodox among their own families during the last wave of persecutions. How could we, with a good conscience, risk the sheep entrusted to us? The lapsed can just turn them in again. Leave them out! (Amen!)

Bishop Victor Imus: No! This is how the world thinks: the end justifies the means! How can we cut off repentant Christians from the blessings of the sacraments, the blessings of worship as part of the visible body of Christ, the blessings of fellowship? Jesus Christ did not disregard any who came to Him, on what consistent basis can we do the opposite? (Murmurs of approval)

Pastor Nathan Ambrose: The Christian life requires risks and self-sacrifice. We know what love is because Christ laid down His life for us, so we ought to, if we are called to, lay down our lives for one another! I know some of you want to jeer, but we need to be adults here. We are talking about the will of our God. Are we going to let practical considerations get in the way of worshiping Him in truth? (Mixtures of Amens and negative murmuring)

Ruling Elder Sid Ripken: I might be one of the few Elders here that does not have a Pastorate. Our Pastor in Schenectady is physically in very shape due to imprisonment and we are blessed that he can still teach. So myself? I do not teach, but at the PCA’s general assembly they wanted a representative from our church and our Pastor really thought he could make it…but instead I am here. I suppose what I am saying is I believe I have a compromise that can settle all sides on this issue, though I do not come from the position of teaching authority that all of you do.

Elder Clay Theodore: Mr. Ripken, by all means please speak. The Holy Spirit dwells in all believers, God has appointed you an Elder and all of us here are ruling just as you are. Has He not placed you here for that very purpose? What do you propose that we do?

Ruling Elder Sid Ripken: The issue, the way I see it, is that we need to be true to Jesus Christ in forgiving those who have turned to God seeking forgiveness. Yet, out of brotherly love many of us here have lost limbs, jobs, and lives of love ones by not forsaking our Savior or betraying His sheep to the authorities. How could we risk the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ and compromise the dignity of our worship by simply restoring the lapsed? What we need is a visible, tangible sign of repentance among the lapsed! (Murmurs of approval) Saying, “I’m sorry” if heartfelt might be visible to God because He sees the heart, but we already know that not everyone who says “I’m sorry” and “Lord, Lord” is sincere. Right now, assuring sincerity as much as possible is a must. So, when I speak of a visible, tangible sign of repentance I’m speaking of something that only sincere people will do. Insincere people will spend money to save face, so simply going through a membership class and tithing won’t due. In fact, I’d prefer not a single penny from a repentant sinner if he approached the congregation with the utmost humility and remorse. So, a public sign of repentance that requires humility on the part of the lapsed is what is necessary.

Pastor Nathan Ambrose: Exactly what kind of sign of repentance would you think is wise?

Ruling Elder Sid Ripken: Well, it depends. Those who lapsed out of severe torture and they have the marks to prove it, we may presume that their flesh deserted them in the struggle. I think it is fair to take them at their word.

Pastor Nathan Ambrose: And how about those that did so from their free will and not torture?

Ruling Elder Sid Ripken: Well, we cannot simply just assure them that they are in God’s good graces, because not only can we not presume upon it, he who soothes the sinner with flattering blandishments furnishes the stimulus to sin. In this we would be encouraging wrong-doing. Rather, if we rebuke while at the same time instruct a brother, we urge him onward to salvation. So, we must encourage them to repent the way the Bible shows repentance: weeping, fasting, and wearing the equivalent of sackcloth. The humility that it takes to put ashes on one’s hair, especially for women, surely shows that the repentance is indeed true.

Bishop Victor Imus: Isn’t this extreme and ostentatious?

Ruling Elder Sid Ripken: We must not say that this is extreme if the Scripture speaks of it as normal.

Pastor Nathan Ambrose: What can assure them of their forgiveness with God?

Ruling Elder Sid Ripken: We must remind them that God can mercifully pardon the repenting, the laboring, the beseeching sinner. Their acceptance at the Lord’s Table is enough for them to know that they are brothers and sisters again.

Cornelius Nova: Didn’t the Lord say, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven: but he that denies me, him will I also deny.” How can we accept them as brothers?

Ruling Elder Sid Ripken: The Scripture gives all men this promise: “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.” He can show mercy. He can turn back His judgment. But, let not the repentance be less than the sin.

Elder Clay Theodore: Is there a real danger that men will look to their ministers as the ones who assure them pardon and not to God? By repenting publicly their assurance of forgiveness is by being recognized by us.

Ruling Elder Sid Ripken: Let no one deceive himself. The Lord alone can have mercy. Jesus Christ alone can bestow pardon for sins which have been committed against Himself, who bare our sins, who sorrowed for us, whom God delivered up for our sins. Man cannot be greater than God, nor can a minister remit or forego by his recognition of one’s repentance what has been committed by a greater crime against the Lord.

Pastor Nathan Ambrose: Then how should we communicate this to the nation’s pastors?

Ruling Elder Sid Ripken: We should warn them that if any one rashly thinks that he can give remission of sins to all, or dares to rescind what the Scripture teaches contrary to such a notion, not only does it in no respect advantage the lapsed, but it does them harm. Hence, cheap grace is not grace at all and none of us should feel tugged by our consciences to give assurance where there is none. Our assurance is that Christ died for sinners and that sinful men like us attain salvation by faith in Him. This faith has fruits, for the Holy Spirit will not desert any faithful Christian. So, we are to point the repentant to their fruits and in this they may take comfort. (The crowd gives the Amen)

Elder Clay Theodore: Do we wish to adopt brother Ripken’s idea? (The crowd approves) Very well then, we will make this the rule for all of our North American churches and propose the idea again next year during the Council. Now, let’s move on to the issue of councils…

A “Catholic” Flavored Commentary on Romans: Chapter 9


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We finally cover the famous “predestination chapter” of the Bible. With the help of Augustine, Chyrsostom, and Aquinas we exegete how God has stayed true to his promises to Israel even though much of ethnic Israel has not been predestined.

For Previous Chapter Click Here

9:1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises,5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

The latter part of Romans 8’s discussion on predestination begs the question that Paul anticipates in Rom 9: if God works all things for good, why are things not working out so good for the Jews? They are not saved by their works, and very few are coming to the Savior. Are God’s promises void?

Paul is pained in his spirit that so few Jews are coming to Christ and in verse four he acknowledges that they should be. After all, they received God’s promises and He adopted them as their God. If He promises that He shall lose none, why is He losing Israel?

It is worth noting that verse 5 is a plain affirmation of Christ’s deity.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel

As Paul explains elsewhere:

Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer (Gal 3:7-9).

So, God did not fail in His promise to Israel, because He has assured the perseverance of the true Israel, the faithful. When we see those who descend from Israel not attaining immortality, it is not that God failed, but that they were not truly Israel all along.

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. 9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.”

We know that God’s promises are not void, because those He has called love Him, and not everyone who is from ethnic Israel loves Him. So, they are not the true Israel.

Who is? Those who were called/predestinated. How do we know this? Look at the rationale that Paul uses in quoting the Old Testament. “Nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants.” Why? “Through Isaac your descendants will be named.”

One may wonder what this has to do with predestination. Paul immediately explains in verse 8: the children of the promise are through Isaac. So, while biologically both Isaac and Ishmael are descendents of Abraham, Ishmael is not the true descendent. It is the one (Isaac) who is heir according to God’s promise (that He selected Sarah’s offspring, Verse 9), that is, by predestination.

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.”

“And not only this” means “in the same way as Abraham and Isaac.” We now see how Paul teaches that God’s predestination of Jacob is similar to Isaac’s. Before Jacob or Esau did anything good or bad, God had selected who the child of the promise would b. Likewise, He also selected who wouldn’t be that child, because “the older will serve the younger” (Rom 9:12). Why? “So that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand.” It is in this context we must understand verse 13.

Augustine observes:

This is the house of the children of promise—not by reason of their own merits, but of the kindness of God. For God promises what He Himself performs: He does not Himself promise, and another perform; which would no longer be promising, but prophesying. Hence it is not of works, but of Him that calls, lest the result should be their own, not God’s; lest the reward should be ascribed not to His grace, but to their due; and so grace should be no longer grace which was so earnestly defended and maintained by him who, though the least of the apostles, laboured more abundantly than all the rest—yet not himself, but the grace of God that was with him (On the Spirit and the Letter, Chapter 40).

Aquinas concurs:

[B]efore birth and before doing anything one of Rebecca’s sons is preferred to the other. This also corrects Origen’s error who supposed that men’s souls were created when the angels were, and that they merited different lives depending on the merits they earned for the good or evil they had done there. This could not be true in the light of what is stated here, namely that they had done nothing either good or bad… [H]e shows what could be understood from that promise by which one of the twins in the womb was chosen over the other. He says: In order that God’s purpose, by which one would be greater than the other, might continue, i.e., be made firm: and this not by reason of merits but of election i.e., inasmuch as God himself spontaneously forechose one over the other, not because he was holy but in order that he be holy, as it says in Eph (1:4): “He chose us in himself before the foundation of the world that we should be holy.” But this is a decree of predestination about which the same text says: “Predestined according to the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:15).

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!

Paul’s anticipated opposition could fairly ask, “If God is gracious to one and not the other, isn’t that unfair?” This question would not make sense if we viewed God’s predestination of Jacob over Esau as merely showing the God “knows which is the wicked and which not such” as Chrysostom speculated concerning verse 11. If God simply predestinates those who are not exceedingly wicked, then there wouldn’t be any voices raising up calling God unfair for letting the wicked get their just deserts.

However, if we go with both Augustine’s and Aquinas’ interpretation, the theoretical opposition that Paul answers to in verse 14 actually does make sense. “No, God is not unfair,” says Paul. “God cannot possibly be unjust, or how would He judge the world?”

15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Man thinks it is unfair that God is not equally gracious to all the people who as we know are not righteous by default (Rom 3:10). What is God’s view of what’s right and wrong? Must He be equally gracious to all? Let’s look to the Scripture: “Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine” (Job 41:11).

God owes no one anything. “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps 135:6). So, there is no unfairness with God when He declares that He will have mercy on whomever He so desires to have mercy upon. Grace is not grace if it is compelled.

Connecting all the dots is verse 16: only God’s called are the true Israel of God. Their calling is not dependent upon their will, or their efforts, but on God’s mercy. Clearly, this is Paul’s point. And so, if Paul makes it clear that the righteous shall live by faith, and only those with faith are the true children of Abraham, then our faith is a matter of God’s calling and not our own willing and running.

Sure, you have free will. You can decide any route you want on your way to Hell. But, irrespective to your will, God chooses to elect some to salvation. This is why the Scripture says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44).

Augustine comments on this verse:

Because he is drawn to Christ, he is given to believe in Christ. Therefore the power is given that they who believe in Him should become the sons of God, since this very thing is given, that they believe in Him. And unless this power be given from God, out of free will there can be none (Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, Book I, Chapter 6).

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”

It is interesting that many interpreters will handwave away the idea that God hardened Pharaoh by pointing out that he hardened himself (Ex 8:15, Ex 8:32). However, this does not address three simple points the Scripture makes. First, the Scripture explicitly pointed out that God hardened Pharaoh as well (Ex 4:21, Ex 7:3, Ex 9:12, etc.). Second, Paul when defending God from charges of unfairness says that He can harden whomever He wants. Third, verse 17 tells us the purpose. Just as God calls the people of Israel and forgives their sins for His own name’s sake, He in effect hardened Pharaoh for His name’s sake. God did not say He allowed Pharaoh to raise himself up in order to demonstrate His power. He Himself rose Pharaoh up and He himself humbled Him.

18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

“So then” indicates that Paul is going to tell us the meaning behind the Scripture he just quoted. Obviously, he uses the example of Pharaoh to show that God hardened Pharaoh. This is why the Scripture says, “He hardens whom He desires.” “He has mercy on whom He desires” pertains to those called to salvation, such as Isaac and Jacob.

This begs the question: Is God a puppet master that forces man to do evil? By no means! For man out of his own heart, apart from grace, is continually inclined towards evil (Gen 6:5). Man desires evil on his own, God merely permits the activity of Satan to tempt man and provide the opportunity for man’s own evil to earn its just deserts (2 Sam 24:1, 2 Chron 32:21).

Augustine observes:

When, therefore, you hear the Lord say, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, Ezekiel 14:9 and likewise what the apostle says: He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens, Romans 9:18 believe that, in the case of him whom He permits to be deceived and hardened, his evil deeds have deserved the judgment; while in the case of him to whom He shows mercy, you should loyally and unhesitatingly recognise the grace of the God who renders not evil for evil; but contrariwise blessing. 1 Peter 3:9 Nor should you take away from Pharaoh free will, because in several passages God says, I have hardened Pharaoh;or, I have hardened or I will harden Pharaoh’s heart; for it does not by any means follow that Pharaoh did not, on this account, harden his own heart. For this, too, is said of him, after the removal of the fly-plague from the Egyptians, in these words of the Scripture: And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go. Exodus 8:32 Thus it was that both God hardened him by His just judgment, and Pharaoh by his own free will (Chapter 45, On Grace and Free Will).

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

Just like the first time when Paul’s theoretical opposition asked something along the lines of “if God is gracious to one and not the other, isn’t that unfair?,” the opposition now asks another question: If God can so harden a man using methods in which He is not the cause of the actual evil in the man, and this is in accordance with His will as are all other things (Eph 1:11), then why does God find fault? The man could not resist God’s will and could not do anything to have stopped himself from committing the evil, for God ordained it.

20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

Paul’s answer recapitulates verse 15 and 16, but with a twist: yes, God does as He pleases, but He does so with a purpose. He as the potter has the freedom to make pots for whatever purpose that suits what He knows is best. A created being cannot question the Creator as to why they were designed like so, for only the Creator appreciates the true purpose behind why he was made the way he was.

22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

What is the purpose that Paul alludes to in verses 20 and 21? To make known the riches of His glory upon those whom God has called from both Israel and the nations to make up the true Israel of God. Therefore, though no one deserves mercy, God is merciful to some and punishes the rest as they deserve. This punishment makes known to those who have been spared what they have been spared from, so God’s kindness is magnified.

Though they deserved the punishment, God adopted them as sons. If God did not do this, we would not know the true depths of His love and greatness. Oh, how glorious is God’s manifold wisdom in doing these things. Man in his narrow-mindedness would never do so, and thereby commit injustice. God is just, kind, fair, and merciful. God is love and His election makes this visible to all.

25 As He says also in Hosea,

“I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’

And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’”

26 And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’

There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

Here Paul goes to the Old Testament to show that God’s calling (i.e. predestinating grace) would fall upon a people that were not literally from Abraham. So, God is not failing in His promise to Israel, in fact His promise was that He would make people not literally of Israel part of the true Israel of God (i.e. “My people.”)

27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved;

Isaiah’s prophecy makes clear that God’s intention is to save only a remnant of ethnic Israel. This implicitly means that the fullness of God’s promise is not fulfilled in ethnic Israel alone, but it includes those from the gentiles that God has called.

28 for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.”

Chrysostom has a Gospel-based exegesis for this verse:

There is no need of fetching a circuit, and of trouble, and the vexation of the works of the Law, for the salvation is by a very short way. For such is faith, it holds salvation in a few short words. For if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. Romans 10:9 Now you see what this, the Lord shall make a short word (LXX. lit.) upon earth, is. And what is indeed wonderful is, that this short word carries with it not salvation only, but also righteousness.

29 And just as Isaiah foretold,

Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity,

We would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.”

Again, Paul quotes Isaiah to show that God’s intention all along was only to save a remnant of Israel. It is obvious that unless the Lord was merciful in even leaving a remnant, Israel would have deservedly gone the way of Sodom. Paul is obviously building up the conclusion that God is not falling short of His promises when we see that much of ethnic Israel is unsaved. Rather, Paul is showing us that we misunderstood God’s promises all along, as only a remnant of ethnic Israel are really children of the promise.

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.”

Why is only a remnant of Israel saved? Why are gentiles brought in to fill in the ranks? Paul asserts that Is 28:16 is a prophecy that most Israelites will stumble because they prefered to pursue a Law of righteousness. A foundation of faith in Christ is to them, in their self-righteousness, a Rock of offense. Yet, those who believe in Him, the gentiles, will not be disappointed because they did not pursue self-righteousness. Instead, they lived by faith and thereby built their foundation upon the Rock. Faith never disappoints.


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