SERMON PREACHED AT THE SYNOD OF THE DIOCESE OF SAPELE ON SATURDAY, 1ST AUGUST, 2015
THEME: “JACOB I LOVE, BUT ESAU I HATE: UNQUESTIONABLE PREFERMENT MUST NOT BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED”
TEXTS: Romans 9:13; Genesis 19:12-26
Welcome all Delegates to the Synod and appreciate the Bishop for his hospitality and friendship. Reflect on the messages on the last two days
From the message yesterday, it became very clear that it is God’s prerogative to bless and have mercy on whoever he chooses; and when he does what he wishes, nobody can query him. The main argument of Paul in Romans 9 rests squarely on not taking the grace and mercy of God for granted. Within the economy of God’s choice, he had chosen the nation Israel to make them instruments of blessings to other nations of the world. He had dried the Red Sea before them, enabling them to go over to the other side on a dry land, while causing the Egyptian army to perish in the same. He had caused the walls of Jericho to fall flat before them without applying any military tactics. God had brought the Israelites into a special relationship that even made him to dispossess other nations of their possessions, and handed them over to his choice people. He had given them the land that flowed with milk and honey without much stress.
The fulfilment of the promise or prophecy to raise the Seed of the woman (the promised Messiah) to save humanity from their sins has been accomplished through his chosen people, the Jews. Indeed, Christ himself confirms that salvation is of the Jews in John 4, “Jesus said to her [the Samaritan Woman], “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:21-22).
Indeed, God has truly loved Jacob in the sense of fulfilling all the covenant promises he made with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). Through Jacob, the twelve tribes that will always be the reference point for God’s direct dealing have been raised. It is through these twelve tribes God will continually confirm his eternal promises to Abraham. The Messiah to be born will eventually be known as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Also Jesus will eventually be known as the Son of David, from the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 20:30-31). Certainly, the Jews were a covenant people.
While the Jews were supposed to remain in the covenant agreement of God to be able to retain their blessings, it would seem as if they made a deliberate choice to reject the mercy God has shown them by not accepting the free gift of salvation which was ultimately brought by Christ. That was the pain of Paul in Romans 9. This is evident in the way the scripture puts it regarding the ministry of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch in Pisidia, having left Paphos and departed from Perga in Pamphylia, “Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth. Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” Acts 13:46-48).
Of a truth, salvation was of the Jews, but the Jews took God for granted thinking that they could be in opposition to the will of God and still be enjoying the grace of God. That is the context in which his messages in Romans 9-11 should be fitted. *** For instance, Sapele Diocese has been created for the benefits of all. The Synod is the highest decision making body. If anybody should be absent, not the Priests. But it will be wrong for any Priest to ignore his responsibilities and commitment to the Diocese and still feel he is part of the instruments of honour God wants to use.
The pain of Paul was that those who have been brought into a covenant relationship to enjoy the mercy and grace of God have rejected his free gift. In their rejection, the free gift of God’s salvation has come to the Gentiles, the offspring of Esau who were previously excluded from it. In the words of Paul, the Gentiles have now become co-sharers of God’s grace and blessings with the Jews.
Those who were once aliens to the commonwealth of promise are now members of God’s family. Paul noted this fact as he writes, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh–who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands– that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11-13). This is a mystery beyond the understanding of the Jews, but which God has made known to the Gentiles.
Now, it appeared as if the new status of the Gentiles was giving them the impression of superior standing in Christ in a way that they were beginning to cast aspersion on the Jews. For Paul, that would be very dangerous and costly for the Gentiles. Thus in Romans 11 Paul’s arguments focuses on the future of the Israelites by quickly cautioning the Gentile Christians not to see the backsliding Jews as if God had forgotten or abandoned them forever. God, by grace has preserved a remnant for his use among the Jews (Rom. 11:1-4). If God had sworn to bless those who came by physical descent from Abraham, he will surely do that, for God is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19).
Now that the Gentiles have become co-inheritors of the gift of salvation with the believing Jews by grace through faith, Paul equally took time to warn them not to take this grace of God for granted. Though, the Jews might have rejected the Messiah, yet God has not cast them away completely (Romans 11:1). The rejection of the message of salvation by the Jews might have been part of God’s plan to bring in the Gentiles into God’s blessings (Romans 11:11). If God had through the disobedience of the Jews wrought the miracle of salvation among the Gentiles, they must not make jest of the Jews because God is able to restore them back to their position of excellence (Romans 11:17-18).
Brethren, the message is very clear here. Just as God disciplined the Jews for taking his grace for granted, the Gentiles will be more severely disciplined if they take the grace of God for granted. In all of this, God is warning us not to take his grace for granted. It may be true that there are people going through terrible experiences because of perceived sins in their life. You may be indulging in the same sins, and yet your sins have not found you out. Be warned, God’s judgement is around the corner! Some people might have been caught hands down because of their sinful actions, and yet it seems as if you have always eescape. God knows your works. He is only waiting for you to repent. He is not slack concerning his judgement about you (2 Peter 3:9). Come out and forsake that ungodly way. God will redeem you. He has promised that he will not cast away whoever comes to him as he says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37).