Well, good morning to you all, and it's a delight to be back with you in Scrabo again. Welcome back to those who were on holiday, and some of you maybe felt you needed a holiday after last Sunday morning! Sorry to those who were meant to be on holiday, and haven't gotten away - but if you needed a better illustration of the sovereignty of God than that, well then, maybe you do need to get the CD of last Sunday morning, I don't know!
Let's turn together to Romans chapter 9, we did leave a number of verses that we didn't deal with - and then we're looking primarily at chapter 10 of Romans. We'll read Romans 9, beginning at verse 30 please - and if you want a title of what I have to share with you from these portions of Scripture, it would be: 'The God Within Reach Of All Of Us'.
Romans chapter 9, then, and verse 30: "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame'. Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, 'The man who does those things shall live by them'. But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, 'Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, 'Who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame'. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For 'whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved'. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!'. But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our report?'. So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God", and we'll end our reading at verse 17.
Now, if you were here last week, you will remember that context is king when we are interpreting the scriptures. We touched upon the fact that the context of the book of Romans has often been understood as a treatise on salvation, how we understand how we as individuals can be made right with God, how we can be saved and delivered from our sins. But I suggested to you last week, and I think it's in keeping with the subject matter of the book of Romans, that the theme is much more than that - it is more like an apologetic, or a defence, of why Christians should preach this message of good news, the gospel, how men can be right with God. It's a defence of why Christians should take this message to the masses, why they should preach the gospel worldwide. That's the reason why chapters 9, 10 and 11 are in the book. If you just read it as a treatise on salvation, you might wonder why Paul all of a sudden is turning to the subject of the nation of Israel, their election, their present blindness because of unbelief in Christ, and their future restoration. You might say: 'Well, what relevance has that?'. But when you understand that God's sovereign dealings with Israel have always been central to the plan of worldwide redemption, you see how it all fits together.
We saw last week in chapter 9 that first the Lord chose Israel as a nation, as a vehicle to bring Messiah to the world. But now He is temporarily setting them aside in order to call Gentiles into faith in Christ, as well as some remnant Jews of course. We saw specifically last week in verses 1 to 29 of chapter 9 that, really, Paul was giving a vindication of God's sovereign justice in His dealings with Israel as a nation: why God has the right, having elected Israel to do this, to set them aside temporarily. This week we're going to look at verse 30 of chapter 9 through to verse 17, but to verse 15 of chapter 10 Paul focuses upon the proclamation of righteousness to all mankind: why this message must be taken to the four corners of the world. Next week, God willing, we'll finish chapter 10 and go into chapter 11, right to the end, where Paul shows there how God foreknew Israel, and used Israel's fall for world salvation - their unbelief and their blindness to bring this message of good news to the whole globe - and how He eventually will restore them again according to His promise and election of them.
Now, having explained in chapter 9 that God was righteous and God was just in sovereignly setting Israel aside, Paul anticipates another possible objection from his hearers, or readers we should say. Verse 30: 'What shall we say then to these things aforementioned? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith'. Now, let me paraphrase what Paul is saying there in this anticipated objection, he's really saying: 'This just doesn't seem fair, does it? That Gentiles, who didn't care about righteousness at all, that they should get it; and the Jews, who lived their history and spend every fibre of their beings in pursuing righteousness, should miss it'. This is his anticipated objection, and you can see it makes sense - it doesn't seem fair! Gentiles didn't care about salvation or being right with God, and yet they seem to get it; and Jews, who existed for the purpose of pleasing God, and they pursue this righteousness actively, they miss it!
Now, we have to say, it would seem unfair if you didn't recognise that the Jews were, themselves, responsible for missing this righteousness. This is where the emphasis is in Romans chapter 9: the responsibility of the Jews for having missed Messiah and not believed on Him. Now, in the context of what we talked about last week and what we will touch upon this week, we see both the sovereignty of God in chapter 9 and responsibility of man in chapter 10. That's a bit simplistic, but generally speaking that's where the emphasis lies. Marrying those two ideas together, as we sought to do last week, I'm reminded of a statement made by Duncan Campbell, who was used in revivals here in the British Isles in the 1940s, who said, I believe quoting an old divine from Scotland as well: 'We do not believe in any form of God's sovereignty that nullifies man's responsibility'. Let me repeat that: we do not believe in any form of God's sovereignty that nullifies man's responsibility. What we have before us is man's responsibility concerning Israel.
Now, just in passing, let me remark this in the light of what we touched on last week: the sovereign laying aside of corporate Israel does not stop individual Jews being saved. You can see that, in chapter 9 we see God laid them aside as His vehicle for bringing Messiah to the world, that being accomplished, He has laid them aside as a missionary people, as a witness to the world, momentarily - but that does not stop individual Jews being saved. Of course, many did believe and followed the Lord Jesus, and the first apostles, of course, were all Jews. What it does is: it suspends God's use of them for blessing the world. Therefore we are seeing again, as we saw last week, that the election - in this context that least - has got to do with God's purposes and service, not individual salvation of Jews or Gentiles. We see this in the emphasis of how the Jews were responsible to believe, as Gentiles are now too.
How are they responsible? Verse 30: Gentiles attained this righteousness by faith, 'but', verse 31, 'Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness'. Gentiles attained the righteousness of God, rightness with God, by faith; but Israel sought it by law - verse 31 - hence Israel missed it. 'Why?', verse 32, 'Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone'. Why did Israel miss this righteousness? Simply because it is a righteousness by faith, not by works. They sought it by works, and so they stumbled at the stumbling stone and the rock of offence.
Now, as we heard at the Breaking of Bread this morning if you were here, that Rock at which Israel stumbled was the Lord Jesus - but that is not the whole truth in this context. The Jews primarily stumbled at the stumbling stone and rock of offence, not just of Christ, but faith in Christ. Of course, Paul, to the Corinthians, emphasises this when he says: 'It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached', the message of Christ, 'to save those who believe...but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness'. The Jews who sought the righteousness of God sought it by the works of the law, but the Gentiles who never sought it in their history, they gained it because they sought it by faith - and this was the great stumbling stone that the Jews fell at: faith in Christ.
Now the major theme of the book of Romans, of course, is God's gospel, the message to the masses that we are to preach: faith in Christ. That is how men are made right with God, faith in Christ - and if you turn back to chapter 1 you will see the key verses to this book, verse 16 of chapter 1: '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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith''. As the NIV translates it: 'For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last'. Faith, in other words, is the core of the gospel message, because it is faith that appropriates God's gracious offer of salvation. So, if you have some kind of systematic concept of salvation and faith is not at the core of it, there is something systemically wrong with your system. I'm tempted to say something now, but I'll not - it's got to do with five points, and not one of them mentions faith.
Faith is that which appropriates the grace that God offers. Now let me show this to you, it's central to the whole epistle to the Romans, and indeed the gospel. Chapter 5 verse 1: 'Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ'. So it's through faith that we are justified and get God's peace and peace with God: 'through whom', verse 2, 'also we have access by faith into this grace' - that could be translated, I believe, 'through whom also we are introduced by faith into this grace in which we stand'. So faith introduces us to God's grace, faith introduces us to God's grace - there must be faith. There is a responsibility of the sinner to believe in God and Christ, it must be of faith for God's grace to get the glory, it must be. If it is of works, who gets the glory? We get the glory, and we can strut around heaven, if we get there, like a peacock, proud in the fact that we more or less got ourselves there! But if that salvation is by grace, therefore it must be of faith, that God gets the glory - and that's what Paul says in chapter 4, if you go back to it, and verse 16: 'Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace'. It is of faith that it might be according to grace.
Now this doctrine was not a novelty of Paul's, as some modern scholars would try to tell us, because many of the Jews of Jesus' day made the same mistake of buying into a supposed works-based salvation. Some of them, one day, followed the Lord Jesus across Galilee and asked Him the question: 'What shall we do that we may work the works of God?'. Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent'. This is the work of God! If you could paraphrase how the Lord Jesus answered them, it might go like this: 'If you works-orientated legalists want to do something to be saved, just believe in Him whom God has sent'. Faith is the biblical means whereby we enter into the grace that God gives us in salvation - and let me say this: faith is, in the Bible, always set in contradistinction from works, always. You cannot say faith is a work, it's always set in contradistinction to it. Over 150 times in the New Testament, repentant faith is stipulated as the only condition of salvation. Repentance simply means - 'metanoia' - a change of mind, a change of attitude, changing your mind about your sin, changing your attitude about yourself, changing your attitude about Christ and God, and putting faith in Christ.
Now in chapter 10, Paul expands on the reason for Israel's rejection. Why were they rejected? Unbelief! No faith in Christ! They have sought to establish their own righteousness by the works of the law, rather than receiving God's righteousness by faith in Christ. He now, in chapter 10, shows the great difference between the two: seeking righteousness by faith, and seeking righteousness by the works of the law. But before doing so, Paul, in verse 1, again affirms his love for Israel: 'Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved'. He states, note, their need to be saved. I don't know whether you've got The God Channel or not, I don't, but I know that there are certain preachers on it, or at least on satellite television - Christian TV, so-called - who are espousing a new doctrine that Israel does not need to be saved, that Israelites do not need to be born again because they're in the covenant. We're looking at covenants tonight, the old covenant this evening, but this is false: just because they are Jews in the flesh and the covenants pertain to them - Paul says here that they need to be saved, 'My heart's desire for Israel is that they be saved'.
Interestingly, just to cast back to last week, were they elect? Were they? Israel was elect, and yet they still needed to be saved. You'd need to think about that one over your dinner! The reason for this is: this election is corporate, it is not individual or personal to salvation - but equally so, God is sovereign in laying Israel aside, and yet Paul still prays for their salvation. Can I just say this in passing: any understanding of God's sovereignty that dampens your prayer life, particularly your praying for the lost, has got to be a deficient understanding of salvation; because here Paul is praying for elect people who have been set aside, that they might believe. If I could just hammer that one home briefly: in 1 Timothy chapter 2, Paul says, 'Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved' - pray for all men, because God desires all men to be saved - 'and to come to the knowledge of the truth'. He gives the basis of this, verse 6, 'For Christ gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time'.
Let us leave that and look at verse 2, showing the difference between righteousness sought through law and righteousness given by faith, he commends, in a roundabout way, the Israelites, the Jews, because they have a zeal, great zeal - yet it is without knowledge: 'I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge'. Now this deals the death blow to the idea that sincerity is enough to be saved. There are a lot of people, maybe you're one of them and you're here today, and you have this idea that as long as you believe in God, and as long as in your heart you're trying to please God, and be charitable, and be a good upstanding citizen in your community, that you're sincere, you're genuine - and you would love to go to heaven: 'Well, surely God will not shut the door on someone who is sincere?'. The Jews were sincere, of course they were, and they certainly had a lot going for them - not only in their zeal, their sincerity, but in their knowledge. No one knew the scriptures like the Jews did, and Paul is a case in point before his conversion: full of zeal, persecuting the church, and his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures was probably second to none of any in his day.
Yet the Jews who are zealous and full of much knowledge were without knowledge in a certain area, which was most essential, crucial knowledge. Look at verse 3: 'For they being ignorant of God's righteousness' - they were ignorant of God's righteousness and how to get it. So here are two sides to this business: sincerity is not enough, and ignorance is no excuse! So you might be zealous like the Jews were, that's not enough, Paul says. They were zealous. You might be filled with knowledge, even biblical knowledge, concerning the Bible - but if you do not have this crucial, essential knowledge of righteousness of God and how to get it, you're ignorant, and ignorance is no excuse.
In the opening chapters of the book of Romans, Paul had gone to great lengths already to demonstrate that by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in God's sight. But Israel's problem not only was one of intellect, Israel had a problem with their will. This is highlighted at the end of verse 3: they are ignorant of God's righteousness, seeking to establish their own righteousness, and they have not submitted - that word is key - submitted to the righteousness of God. Israel's problem was not just theological, about who Messiah was and how to be saved by Him, it was a problem of their will: they would not submit to the righteousness of God.
Now, I touched last week on the fact that doubt is not the same as unbelief. Let me elaborate a little bit about that: doubt is a problem of the mind, and it can theoretically be answered if you get the answers to your problems. But unbelief is a problem of the will, you refuse to believe, and usually it's not a mental problem alone - it is a moral problem, there is a reason that you refuse to believe, and it is that your unbelief, in fact, is a camouflage for a moral sin, a problem in your life that you don't want to let go of. The Jews could not let go of their adventure and their search for righteousness by the law, they couldn't let go of that and admit and submit to the fact that the righteousness of God cannot be achieved by keeping laws, it must be achieved by having faith in Christ alone.
Now, can I ask you - you might be someone here who argues till you're blue in the face about this matter of how to be saved, and you put up red herrings, intellectual problems, supposed ones, as to why you have not trusted in Christ - can I challenge you this morning as to whether in fact you have a problem in the mind, or a problem with your morals. Many great atheists have lain on their death beds, and I could quote them to you, and admitted that their philosophy of belief was only in order to excuse the behaviour of their life. Make sure you don't make the same mistake.
In verse 4 through to verse 8, Paul contrasts between God's righteousness and our attempts at righteousness. In verse 4 he says: 'Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes' - now what does that mean? It does not mean that the law of God is no longer reflecting God's holy standards. God's law in the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments, the first five books of the Bible, do reflect God's holy standard - and we'll look at that in detail tonight. Nor does it mean that God's law is no longer useful in showing us our sin, it does - it amplifies, magnifies our sin, and it's so helpful in showing that we need a Saviour, and we are sinful. But what Paul is saying here, 'Christ is the end of the law', is that obedience to the law no longer is the basis for man's relationship with God. You see, law could only work if men could keep it - but verse 5 tells us: 'Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, 'The man who does those things shall live by them''. Which simply means: if you want to get life from the law, you must obey it perfectly and completely!
So there's nothing wrong with the law, the problem is with us. There is a defect in our system that prohibits our perfect keeping of the law. Paul said that - I'm sure you touched on it, I hope you did - in chapter 8 verse 3. Chapter 8 verse 3: 'For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh', the problem was not with the law, the problem was with us. We are weak in the flesh, and so we cannot live up to the law - and what the law couldn't do in that regard, 'God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh'.
Now look at verse 6 of chapter 10, the contrast between the righteousness of the law which cannot be achieved because of our weak inherent sinfulness and bias towards sin, but 'the righteousness of faith', in verse 6, 'speaks in this way, 'Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, 'Who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)'. The righteousness of faith is based on Christ. We don't have to work to get it! It is not that we have to ascend into heaven, or descend into the abyss to gain Jesus - we simply believe and receive! So what Paul is saying when he talks about 'descending into heaven', it's not to imply that we need to climb into heaven - to insinuate that is to suggest that Jesus didn't come down from heaven, that He didn't condescend, that He didn't take this huge immeasurable journey from heaven to earth to be our Saviour. Or to suggest that we need to descend into the abyss to gain Jesus, is to insinuate that He didn't rise from the grave. What Paul is really saying is that all that needed to be done has been done in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - it is finished! So why on earth would you try to do it all over again? Ascend to heaven, or descend into the abyss? To bring Christ down, to bring Christ up? That's the way people who live, and try to achieve righteousness by law, that's how they exist: a constant attempt to attain by ascending or descending - but what is required of us is to simply believe that He came down from heaven to earth, and He went under the Earth and rose again from the grave.
What does this righteousness of faith say? Verse 8, what does it say? Here's what it says: ''The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith which we preach)'. Instead, Paul says, of having to go to great lengths ascending to heaven, or descending to the abyss, to achieve the righteousness that is by law, we can immediately receive the righteousness of God by faith in Christ. 'The word is near you', that is the word of the gospel, that is the word of this good news that is to be preached to all the world! We get God's righteousness by simply trusting in what God has said! Have you done that? This God that we preach, that Jesus Christ incarnated before us, is the God who is in reach of all of us, if you only believe.
Now in verses 9 through to 13 he explains in more detail how God's righteousness is gained by faith. It is not gained by works, but by faith articulated in confessing - confessing and believing in the Person and work of Jesus is the way that we respond to the word of God that is near us. We don't have to ascend to heaven to bring Christ down, we don't have to go into the abyss to bring Him up, as it were, from the grave; the word that is preached to you just now - that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day, that if you believe in Him you might have life - if you can receive that, and confess Jesus as Lord, and believe Him in your heart, you will be saved.
Now what does this word 'confess' mean? Verse 9: 'That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus'. Well, the idea of this word 'confess' is 'to agree with'. We agree with what God has said, with what God has said about Jesus, with what God has testified through Jesus, and what Jesus said of Himself - and, incidentally, what God and Jesus say about you. Hmmm, that's where the problem lies with many. They'll say: 'Oh, it's not a stumbling block to me, what God said about Jesus, that He is the Son of God. I'm not like the Jews that have a problem with this. I don't even have a problem with the fact that He died and rose again' - but your problem, perhaps, is what God and Jesus say about you.
I'm reminded of the story of the man driving his brand-new Rolls-Royce through the Alps. As he was going along merrily, a spring broke, and the next day a company rep travelled all that distance to replace the spring. When the gentleman who owned the Rolls arrived home, there was no bill to pick up. So he called Rolls-Royce, and they ran a check on their computers, and minutes later a Rolls-Royce manager rang through to him and said: 'Sir, there must be some mistake, there is no such a thing as a broken spring on a Rolls-Royce'. That's often the way the sinner behaves when God's Word tells them, and Jesus speaks, and God comes very personally and says: 'You're a sinner, you're broken, you can't keep the law, you can't achieve righteousness that is satisfying to God through your own efforts. You've got a broken spring!'. The response comes back from those who believe that they can achieve righteousness by the law: 'There must be some mistake! I can't be a sinner! I can't be inherently broken, morally and spiritually!'. So to confess with your mouth has this idea, at least, inherent in it: that you're confessing your need, for only sinners who are in need need a Saviour. That's why Jesus said: 'I came not to call righteous people', that is, people who think they're righteous and don't need a Saviour, 'I came to call sinners, those who know their great need'.
Do you know your need of a Saviour? You need to confess not only your need, but that He is the Messiah, the Promised One of God, that He is the only Saviour of the world, that He is God come in flesh, that He died on a cross for your sins and rose again the third day. But why does it have to be with your mouth? 'Confess with your mouth'. Well, in the Roman Empire you were expected, if you were a citizen, to confess 'Caesar is Lord'. So, to say 'Jesus Christ is Lord', would rank Jesus with the Emperor, and indeed with God, for the Emperor was worshipped as a god. Only a Roman who had repented of Emperor worship and idolatry could say: 'Jesus is Lord'. For the Jew, the Greek word for 'Lord' is 'Kurios', and it's the word the Jews who spoke Greek often used for 'God', 'LORD'. So, for the Jew to confess Jesus as Lord, 'Kurios', was to confess Jesus as God. So for either the Roman or the Jew, it was to confess that Jesus was supreme!
It's not that verbal confession is a condition of salvation, rather it's inevitable that if you believe in your heart all these things about what you are as a sinner, and how you need a Saviour, and who the Saviour is, and what the Saviour has done for you, it will of necessity be expressed verbally in your words! But not only must you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, but Paul says in verse 9 that you must believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. Now that implies that He died for our sins, was buried, and rose again - it's the whole cross work and resurrection of Jesus. You must believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, because the resurrection is proof of who Jesus is. It is the validation of God upon the ministry, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, that He is who He said He was. That's what Romans 1 - we haven't got time to look at it - verse 4 says, that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead.
You see, the resurrection is central to Christian belief. You've not only to confess Jesus as Lord with your mouth, but that is a reflection of the belief that Jesus is who He said He was, and God proved it by raising Him from the dead - and that is the uniqueness of Christianity! During the French Revolution, that not only wanted to depose a monarchy but to depose God, someone said to an Archbishop: 'The Christian religion, what is it? It would be easy to start a religion like that'. 'Oh yes', replied the Archbishop, 'one would only have to get crucified and rise again the third day'. Christianity is unique, for Christ is unique. The empty tomb says to science and philosophy: explain this event. It says to history: repeat this event. It says to you: believe this event! Do you?
It must not simply be an intellectual belief, Paul clarifies this: 'believe in your heart' - and this is a great fear that I have for the subculture of conservative evangelicalism that we have in Ulster. Many young people in particular grow up having an intellectual belief, which is different than the heart belief that Paul speaks of here. The heart belief insinuates the whole of the man is involved in this. There is a mental aspect, which is an understanding in your mind of what of what the gospel is. You don't have to understand an awful lot of it, but you do have to understand that you're a sinner, and Christ is your Saviour, and He died for your sins and is able to save you. To know what to believe, you have to know what to believe in. There's a mental aspect, there is an emotional aspect, where you embrace the truthfulness, the facts of who Jesus is and what He has done; and you sorrow over your sin and realise your need of a Saviour, and with joy you embrace God's mercy and grace. But not only is there a mental aspect and an emotional aspect, but there is a volitional - there is the will - where you subject your will to Christ, and that simply means, as far as the gospel is concerned, you trust Him alone implicitly for the hope of your salvation. You make the choice to depend on Him, not on yourself.
So I like the rendering - how accurate it is I'm not sure - but I like the rendering of 'believing on Jesus', not just 'believing in'. We have this idea that 'believing in' is like 'believing in fairies', or whatever. It's 'believing on'! There was a tract written many years ago called 'Missing Heaven By 18 Inches'. The idea was that you could miss heaven by missing the journey that is 18 inches from your head to your heart, where you have a merely intellectual belief about the facts of the gospel story, but you've never appropriated that by faith from your heart and acted by your will in resting on Christ, depending on Christ, laying your whole weight on Christ. There is not only the belief that Jesus is who He said He was, and Jesus did what He said He would do, and did rise from the grave, there is also within this whole faith in the heart the belief that He will save you, that your eternity is secure, that He will do what He said He would do! There is, with this faith in the heart, a confidence of belief. Do you have that? I wonder how many dear people who are gathered in places such as this this very morning have only an intellectual belief?
Paul goes on in verses 11 and 12: salvation is not a matter of ethnicity, it doesn't matter what blood is flowing through your veins, or what tribe you're born into - even in Ulster! It's a matter of faith in Christ, verse 11: 'For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame'', verse 12, 'For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him'. As I've said: He is the God who is within reach of all of us. It's profoundly simple, verse 13: 'For 'whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved''. The responsibility is firmly and squarely with you, my friend, to believe in Jesus.
'Whoever calls', there are 110 references to the gospel being offered to the 'whosoever will', to the 'whoever will call', without restriction. The apostolic preaching, the preaching of the apostles, proved that unambiguously. Peter, when he stood on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, he quoted this very quotation from Joel's prophecy: 'Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved'. When he was in Cornelius' house in Acts chapter 10, he said the same to him: 'To Christ all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him' - whoever believes in Him - 'will receive remission of sins'. That was Peter, Paul, when he was in Antioch in Acts 13, he preached: 'By Him', by Christ, 'everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses' - believe in Him. John, at the very end of his Revelation, what does he say? 'Let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely'. This is the God who is within reach of all of us!
Now, yes, there must be conviction of the Spirit that prepares the heart for faith, and I believe that very strongly. The Lord Jesus taught it in John 14, 15 and 16 - it's a greatly neglected subject, by the way, by both camps in apparent arguments: the convicting work of the Holy Spirit of God. But though it is the Spirit of God who convicts, it is man who must exercise faith, it is man who must engage with God in a persuaded trust - that's what Paul means when he says: 'Call'. Have you ever called on the Lord to be saved?
But there is not only a human response to the gospel, Paul tells us in chapter 10 there is human instrumentality in how the Spirit of God draws men through the gospel to God. Verse 14: 'How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?'. Now Paul is returning to his apologetic, to his defence for preaching the gospel to everyone everywhere. How will they hear without a preacher? How will they call if they don't hear? Preachers must be sent. Now, I don't know about you, but I get the perception these days at home here, that fewer and fewer people are being sent. Now, I know the church does the sending in one regard, but I think there is an idea that God is sending preachers to preach this message across the four corners of the globe. Now here's a question for you to consider: has God stop sending? I don't think so. I think we have stopped listening.
What Paul is saying here is: not only is there human instrumentality in belief - that's why Israel has been passed over momentarily, they would not believe in Messiah, and the gospel has gone out to the Gentiles. Now it was foreknown and foreordained by God, but nevertheless they were responsible in unbelief - but we as believers are also responsible that this God might still be the God within reach of all of us. How shall they call on one whom they have not heard? How shall they hear without a preacher? Conceivably, God could have worked directly in men's hearts without any preachers or human instrumentality, and I'm not saying He never ever does that - but generally that is not His way of working. Equally so, God could have sent an angel, and I believe He is sending angels - even to people in the Muslim world where there are no preachers - but that is generally not His way of working. God's norm is preaching through human instrumentality.
In verse 15, this is God's heart about preaching: 'As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!''. Preachers are beautiful to God and those who believe, because preachers are preaching a message of peace - not a message of obedience to a law that no one can achieve, but a message of grace that is simply free for the taking if we will take by faith, because of what Jesus has done. Now I challenge you again this morning as I close: have you believed? Simply believed? Verse 16 - not all have believed the gospel: 'Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our report?'' - we'll look at that next week in the context of the Jews, but how does God inspire faith in the human heart? Verse 17: 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God'. This is what we preach, for this is what inspires faith in the hearts of sinners: the word of God is clearly the means of producing faith in the heart of sinners!
D.L. Moody wrote: 'I used to think that faith would strike me like a lightning bolt, but then somebody showed me Romans 10:17, 'Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God'; and I turned to the word of God and faith came, and has been growing ever since'. There is the human responsibility to believe, to receive - have you believed in your heart? There is the human instrumentality of preaching this message to those who have never heard - and some of them around the corner! William Gurnall, the puritan, said: 'Faith has two hands. With one it pulls off its own righteousness and throws it away, and with the other it puts on Christ' - that's it in a nutshell. Is there someone here today, and in response to God's Word you will pull off your own perceived attempts at being right with God and throw it away, and put on Christ?
Let us pray. If God has spoken to you - isn't it wonderful, isn't it wonderful that God is within the reach of all of us? The word of God is near you now, and if you will just confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, there's no doubt about it: you will be saved.
Father, we thank You for the simplicity, and yet the profundity of it all: that You have made this so for us, we who are Gentiles, that we should call on the name of the Lord and be saved because of who Jesus is and what He has done in His death and His resurrection. Lord, may someone believe, and even someone who has had only an intellectual ticking of the boxes - Lord, may they know what it is for God to come and live in their heart as, by faith, they are introduced to God's grace. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall, Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the tenth recording in his 'The Gospel Explained' series, entitled "The God Within Reach Of All Of Us" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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