SERMON PREACHED AT THE OPENING SERVICE OF THE SYNOD OF THE DIOCESE OF SAPELE ON THURSDAY, 30TH JULY, 2015
THEME: “JACOB I LOVE, BUT ESAU I HATE: UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT OF THE THEME AND POSSIBLE INTERPRETATIONS”
TEXT: Romans 9:13 and Deuteronomy 10:15.
Welcome all Delegates to the Synod and appreciate the Bishop: The Rt Rev Blessing Erifeta for the invitation to minister at the Synod. Pray God’s blessings into his life and upon the Diocese as a whole.
The theme of your Synod is a subject of an age long question on the lips of many both Christians and non Christians alike as to whether or not God is partial in the ways he deals with people in the exercise of his divine benevolence and judgement. I want to commend the courage of your Bishop for the choice of the theme. It is my prayer that after this Synod, having listened to the words of God on this theme from the Sermons, Bible Studies and the Bishop’s Charge, we will see God more clearly with a resolve to serve him as the unquestionable God who does things the best ways he chooses to manifest his glory on earth. In fact this theme reminds me of the popular song we often sing during our worship: “Unquestionable, you are the Lord, unquestionable…”However, whether or not we believe and accept the wordings of that song is another question.
By the grace of God, we shall be looking at this theme from four different angles today and in the next three days under the following sub themes: First, Understanding the Context of the Theme and Possible Interpretations; second, Divine Preferment as God’s Prerogative; third, the Unquestionable Preferment must not be taken for Granted; and fourth, When Preferred, we must work out our Salvation... Certainly, by the time we come to the end of the Synod, God’s name will be mightily praised; and all the confusions in our hearts concerning this subject would have been removed. Today, we shall look at, “Understanding the Context of the Theme and Possible Interpretations.”
God at different times in history has been found with the practice of choice-making in such a way that no other person but He alone can explain. For example, God speaks of His love for the choice of the Israelites as revealed in Deuteronomy 10:15, “The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.” The reason for his choice to love a stiff-necked nation goes beyond human reasoning. God’s preferment is based on His eternal justice which He alone can explain. He is the same God who raises up one and pulls down another (Psalm 75:6). He is God who knows what is best at the right time. It must however be said that the chosen must not see the non-chosen as worthless or irrelevant.
“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated: The Unquestionable Divine Preferment.” Again as noted earlier, from the theme of this Synod, it will appear as if God is partial; and the way the text reads as if God has destined Jacob to be blessed and Esau to be doomed. As portrayed in 1 John 4:7-8, God is love. Listen to what John says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” How can this God hate? Therefore, crediting God with the hate language will not also be a true reflection of Paul’s thought.
In some quarter, from the context of Romans 9:13 it is believed that this passage is actually talking about the Doctrine of Election and Predestination. That is to say, God has already chosen those to be saved and those who will be lost; and therefore there is nothing anybody can do about it. However, such a conclusion will be far from speaking the truth in view of the context of Paul’s argument here.
In other to resolve the difficulties surrounding this text, there have been various opinions and interpretations on whether or not Jacob and Esau relate to individuals or nations. First, there is the school of thought that believes the use of Jacob and Esau here refers to individuals, no more no less. There is no doubt that Jacob did end up being the progenitor of the Israelites; and Esau gave birth to the nation of the Edomites. Nevertheless, it has been argued that the text in its plain sense here only refers to individual personalities; and these were Jacob and Esau who were at a time in the womb of their mother, Rebecca. It is also to be noted that nations are made up of individuals. So the interpretation of this text will still have implications for individuals in the long run.
In this first school of thought, Paul here was reminding the nation of Israel (the Jews) how God had chosen them as a channel through which his eternal purpose of saving mankind will become realised through Christ (cf. Gen. 12:1–3; Rom. 9:4–5). However, the fact that the nation of Israel was chosen by God does not mean every Israelite is destined or elected to be saved (9:6). The point being made here is that the fact that the Messiah came through the Jewish nation did not mean that every Jew or Israelite would be saved.
Individual salvation has never been and will never be based on a person’s nationality. Therefore, while nations might be implied, as they bear directly on the Jews or Israelites and the Edomites, Paul’s argument had much to do with the individual personalities of both Jacob and Esau; and conversely individuals among the Israelites and Edomites.
Another point that must be made here has to do with the word, “hate.” As noted earlier, the hate language could not have been credited to God since he is love. In other not to credit God with the hate language, scholars have tried to examine the words used for “hate” in Malachi 1:2-3 and “love less” in Genesis 29:30 as coming from the same Hebrew word. It therefore follows to say that in Genesis 29:30 Jacob ‘loved Rachel more than Leah’ cannot mean ‘Leah was hated by Jacob.’ Certainly, when considering the language of “hate” involved in this text there is no denial of the fact that this passage is a very difficult one.
On the other hand, there is the second school of thought that says, by reading this passage carefully; it becomes clearer that the subject is not about individuals, but nations. Taking this further, it is believed that Paul was talking about the role the nation of Israel had played in God’s desire to bring salvation to mankind. It is believed that Paul was quoting from Malachi 1:2-3, in which the context of the usage of the word Jacob refers to the nation of Israel and the word Esau, depicts the nation of Edomites.
This interpretation makes sense when Romans 9, 10, and 11 are interpreted together. Interpreting this passage from nationalistic point of view, it is said that while two individuals have been mentioned in the persons of Jacob and Esau, the intention here within the argument of Paul goes beyond these two personalities, rather he was focusing on the two races that emerged from them ultimately, namely, the Israelites or Jews; and the Edomites or Gentiles.
While we have attempted to look at the two possible lines of interpretations to understand the thought of Paul as contained in the theme for this Synod, it will be safe to conclude that both interpretations can be safely accommodated for our benefits at this Synod. While it is true that two individuals were involved in this passage, the implications go beyond them to the nations which eventually emerged from them. While at the face value, it sounded as if Jacob and all his descendants enjoyed the love of God, it will show that not all keyed into this divine love as many rejected the love of God by not accepting the Messiah that was sent for their salvation.
Thus from John 1 we can see the testimony testimony out how the Jews rejected Jesus, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:10-11). This shall be treated more on Saturday when looking at why we must not take the grace of God for granted.
In a similar way, it would seem as if Esau was permanently hated by God, but within the context of Paul’s argument, it will be seen later that the love of God was also extended to cover all Gentiles, among whom were the Edomites, the descents of Esau. In a way, just as Esau enjoyed a measure of blessings, though he lost his birthright and the blessings of a first child from Isaac, yet he was prosperous and the grace of salvation was also extended to his descendants who embraced the gift of salvation offered by God in Christ.
Beloved brothers and sisters, as we come together at this Synod, God wants us to reflect on our Christian journey. Yes according to theme of this Synod, Jacob was loved by God and Esau hated. But not all who claim to be children of Jacob, the Jews or Israelites in their various generations were ultimately saved. Many have rejected this love of God and have missed the gift of salvation. Though Esau seemed to have been hated by God, but today, many of his offerings, the Gentiles including you and me have today become inheritors of the grace of God and have been saved from eternal damnation.
Brother and sister, nobody is born as a Christian. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. But through Jesus Christ, the free gift of life has been made available to us. God has once again demonstrated his love to us in Christ (Romans 5:8). It is the wish of God to save all. It is not only enough for you to pride yourself in being an Anglican by the facts that you were born by Anglican parents, or you have been baptised or confirmed in the Church.
Have you really encountered Christ? God has not destined anybody to be doomed. His offer of salvation is for whoever will come to him. Yes, God hated sins, and wants sinner to come to him for salvation since there is no peace for the wicked (Isaiah 48:22). As we reflect on the theme of the Synod this year, let us key in into God’s divine plans by calling upon him for our salvation. Salvation is a personal matter. Settle it with God. God has not destined anybody to perish.
Salvation has been made available to all. It is only you who can reject God’s offer of salvation. If you are already saved, ask for the grace to remain in the faith. If you are yet to be saved, call on him today. He will save you from your sins; and your life will never remain the same.
SERMON PREACHED AT THE SYNOD OF THE DIOCESE OF SAPELE ON FRIDAY, 31ST JULY, 2015
THEME: “JACOB I LOVE, BUT ESAU I HATE: DIVINE PREFERMENT AS GOD’S PREROGATIVE”
TEXTS: Romans 9:13-16
Welcome all Delegates to the Synod and appreciate the Bishop and wife for the invitation to minister at the Synod and their hospitality since arrival. Pray God’s blessings into their lives and upon the Diocese as a whole. Reflect on the message of yesterday.
Having considered the context of our theme yesterday and the two possible interpretations, today we shall attempt to understand Paul’s statement as he appeals to the mercy of God in his attempt to rightly position both the Jews and Gentiles in their correct perspectives within the salvation history. It is therefore necessary to see Romans 9-11 as a continuum, with his discussion beginning in Romans 9 and ending in Romans 11. In chapter 9 Paul started by showing his frustration in the ways the Jews had rejected the salvation message; and remarked that it is not sufficient for the Jews to merely glory in being children of Abraham through their physical descent (Rom. 9:6-8). Being Abraham’s children goes beyond ordinary physical circumcision which was the apparent pride of the Jews. For Paul, the true children of Abraham are those who have been spiritually circumcised in their heart. This is the new life attainable through the confession of the Lordship of Jesus Christ by faith, having forsaken one’s sin. It is this new life in Christ that has qualified the Gentiles as children of God (Romans 8:14).
That God has chosen the Jews as his own peculiar people was an act of deliberate choice of mercy by Him. Psalm 136 chronicles the choice, life, activities and achievements of the Israelites and premised them all on God’s mercy. The common phrase in Psalm 136 is, “For His mercy endures forever.” God’s relationship with human beings is principally anchored on His mercy not on anything man has put together to attract God’s attention. This mercy of God flows from His love for mankind in the giving of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son with the mission of restoring the fallen man to his original state (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:18-19).
God’s choice has nothing to do with human inputs. Whatever we are or have become did not come because of our sweat and struggle but simply because we are beneficiaries of God’s mercy. Though Ishmael was born before Isaac, yet he was not the choice of God (9:6). Likewise, both Esau and Jacob were born by Isaac and Rebecca, yet the choice of God to fulfil his promise to Abraham was through Jacob, and not Esau who was the first born (9:11-13). If God had actually promised to bless all the seeds of Abraham (Gen. 22:18), and yet Esau was not; it could only be grace that made the difference; after all the preference for Jacob started from the womb when neither Jacob nor Esau had done any wrong (Gen. 25:23; Malachi1:2-3). But the Bible tells us that all have sinned… (Rom. 3:23). In a way, God knew both Esau and Jacob as born in sin, when the two of them were by nature children of wrath just like others born of women. God had only bestowed on Jacob the prerogative of mercy by choosing to love him instead of Esau, whom he rejected.
The first appearance of the words used in Romans 9 is in Malachi 1:2-3 which says, “I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau,” and this was written between 557-525 B.C., thousands of years after the birth of both Esau and Jacob. Paul in this passage was not showing that God hated Esau and loved Jacob when the two were still in the womb of their mother, but to demonstrate the choice God made before they were born based on the eternal wisdom of God and his foreknowledge of what the two individuals would possibly do (Romans 8:29).
From the scripture it is evident that Esau and his descendants, the Edomites, were in many ways blessed by God (Genesis 33:9; 36:1, 9); just as Ishmael was blessed by God (Gen. 17:20). In a similar way, just as the promise of God to Abraham would not be fulfilled through Ishmael, the ultimate emergence of the nation of Israel would not be through Esau, but through Jacob, who was later renamed Israel by God (Gen. 32:24-28).
Again as we tried to examine yesterday, it is therefore important not to confuse Paul’s language of love for Jacob and hate for Esau with human emotions of love and hate. Rather, it should be understood from the view point of God’s exercising prerogative of mercy to do as he likes or likes.
Although at the point of the death of Isaac, and because Jacob tricked his father to rob Esau of his blessings, the two of them became great enemies (Gen. 27:41); yet later on in life, the two brothers seemed to have reconciled (Gen. 32:1-16). Despite this visible reconciliation between Jacob and Esau in their life time, it clearly showed Hundreds of years after their death that the Israelites and Edomites became bitter enemies. The Edomites on several occasions joined forces with Israel’s enemies in attacks on Israel (2 Chronicles 21:8-9; 28:17; Amos 1:11; Ezekiel 25:12).
Brethren, what comes out clearly from our message today is the fact that God does not need man’s approval to bestow his favour. He favours whoever he wishes. What can we say about David, whom the Bible described as a man after God’s own heart! (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22). Yet this man was covetous, committed adultery by sleeping with Beersheba, the wife of Uriah; and ultimately committed murder by killing Uriah. Yet the son to succeed him on the throne, Solomon, came from the same woman, Beersheba, the widow of Uriah.
Indeed, God will have mercy on whoever he will. It only requires a genuine repentance like David. Receiving the mercy does not depend on the works of individual, but his divine prerogative. Therefore, what you need is God’s divine mercy to make you the envy of those around you. What you need is God’s mercy to blot out the remembrance of your sins. What you need is a heart cry like the Publican saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). The position you hold will not be the reason for your salvation. The gifts you give to the Church will not be the reason for your salvation. The no of times you go on pilgrimage will not be reason for your salvation. Only the mercy of God will save you as your heart is moved to accept the gift of salvation he has brought to you in Christ Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, we are not saying good works are not good. In fact, any good work coming from a child of God, who is genuinely born again is an attestation to the fact that his life has been approved by God. That is the message of Paul in Ephesians 2, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Beloved, let us pray for the mercy of God to locate us and make us object of mercy in our own generation. When God shows us mercy, we will become the envy of all around us and our lives will never be the same.
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).
SERMON PREACHED AT THE CLOSING SERVICE OF THE SYNOD OF THE DIOCESE OF SAPELE ON SUNDAY, 2ND AUGUST, 2015
THEME: “JACOB I LOVE, BUT ESAU I HATE: WHEN PREFERRED, WE MUST WORK OUT OUR SALVATION”
TEXTS: Romans 9:13; Philippians 2:12.
Welcome all Delegates to the Synod and appreciate the Bishop for the invitation to minister at the Synod. Thank him for his care and hospitality in the last four days. Pray God’s blessings into his life and upon the Diocese as a whole. Recapitulate the messages of the first three days.
As we come to the end of the Synod, thanking God for another year and we think of the message to take back home; it is important to ask the question of why Esau was (loved less) rejected by God. From the scripture, we could infer the reason from Hebrews 12 as the author writes, “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Heb. 12:15-17).
The use of profanity in Hebrews 12:16 is synonymous with being a gluttony, which has been regarded as Esau’s sin as he willingly cast away his birthright. This was a personal conscious effort of a profane person casting away his spiritual privilege just to gratify his momentary need (Genesis 25:34). Ordinarily as the eldest son, Esau had an enormous honour bestowed on him. But he undervalued his birthright. His profanity became evident in the way he treated his right with contempt. He disrespected his day of his birth, living a licentious life, thereby forfeiting all the honour connected with this to Jacob.
He followed his inner corrupt inclinations becoming profane in thought.
The reference in Hebrews 12 to Esau as a fornicator was in connection to his marriage to foreign women which made him stand in opposition to the command of God (Gen. 26:34-35; 36:2). In all of these, the choice was that of Esau. Truly in the latter years, he did weep trying to regain his blessings and entitlements as a first born before his father’s death (Gen. 27:30-38); but it was too late
The fact that an individual dreamed of greatness does not mean the person will be great (Joseph Gen. 37:5-11). The fact that someone came from a cursed family does not mean he will remain cursed forever (Jabez: 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and the people of Nineveh: Jonah 3:5-10). This is where Predestination is different from Fatalism.
The point we want to emphasise here is that there is the need for conscious efforts to grow in personal relationship with God; and that was Paul’s message to the Philippians as he writes, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). On the one hand, this is seen in the life of Joseph. In order that his dreams would be fulfilled, he had a role to play, he shun and fled from sin (Gen. 39:7-23). On the other hand, we can see how Eli ignored the message of God in 1 Sam. 3:11-18; and his inaction resulted in the fulfilment of God’s judgement on him and his family (1 Sam. 4:10-18). Has God been speaking to someone at this Synod? If you turn away from the wicked way, God will have mercy on you.
God wants individuals to take their destiny in their hands: God had told both Moses and Joshua that everything opposing them on their way and in the land of Canaan should be destroyed. Yet, Rahab was spared (Joshua 6:22-23); and the Gibeonites were spared (Joshua 9:3-15). God does not compel anyone to be saved, and inherit the gift of eternal life. This is a matter of individual choice.
When we talk of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, there is always the question of the relationship between doing a good work and inheritance of eternal life. This is where Christians are getting it wrong today. We are not saved by good works, but good works done as a saved soul become a sure proof of the fact that we are chosen vessels of God (Eph. 2:10). Christians are much more interested in rendering services to God and Christ with an unconverted hearts. It is much easier to build Churches, Vicarages, buying Buses, and doing Endowment Fund for Churches. But they are very carefree about their spiritual life.
While the Jews could not be saved by works (the keeping and observance of the Law), the Gentiles who were not direct children of Abraham based on physical descent have become his children by faith through their confession of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Since Christ is the Seed of Abraham through whom all who believe in him will be saved, the Gentiles who have confessed the Lordship of Christ are now inheritors of all the blessings promised to Abraham and his children. And we see how the good works of the Corinthians positioned them as evidence of new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 8 & 9).
Indeed, Jesus Christ has bridged the gap between the Jews and the Gentiles. The fact of these exemptions shows that indeed God is merciful; and truly whoever calls on his name will be saved, “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls” (Joel 2:32 cf. Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:11-13). It is the wish of God that all men be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). That is why God cannot be blamed by anybody for missing heaven. He has once again given the free offer of salvation to anybody who cares to accept same.
What we are saying here as we come to the end of the Synod this year is that in God’s divine preferment, there is a place for the exercise of man’s free will. Man has a choice. God is not a task master. He will show you all the available options. He will put before you the blessings if you obey him (Deut. 28:1-14); and the curses if your disobey him (Deut. 28:15-68). That has always been his method of operation from the foundation of the world (Gen. 2:8-9, 15-16).
Man has the capacity for choice. He can accept or reject. He can accept salvation or reject it. He can accept blessings or reject them. He may choose to obey God or disobey him. That is why man is a moral agent. When 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/away” (John 6:37); man may come to him and be saved or reject the call and perish. That is why Prophet Micah says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good, And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Esau was responsible for the choice he made to sell his birthright. In the same way, God cannot be said to be behind the sins any man commits. Everyone who misses heaven does so by willingly rejecting God; and choosing hell. The point here is that every man who loses heaven gives it up himself; and every man who loses everlasting life rejects it himself.
The Lord who chooses a man is also capable of throwing him into immediate or eternal pain if such an individual is found living contrary to His will. The Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land and they began to fiddle with strange women and by so doing committed whoredom. God did not hesitate to destroy at least 24,000 of them until the evil was over (Numbers 25:1, 9).
Even though He is the God of mercy, love and grace, He is also a consuming fire. He can kill and make alive (1 Samuel 2:6). Christians need to be reminded of the need to live right and be obedient to God without relenting. There is no other way to God other than holiness within and without (Heb. 12:14). It is important to say that anyone who misses heaven cannot miss hell and that no man is too favoured to perish.
Beloved, God’s way cannot be fathomed by mere mortals. From the human point of view, Esau was not more sinful than Jacob. The only reason why God loved Jacob must have been because of his own grace. Jacob was a supplanter (Gen. 27:36), and he tricked Laban to have more of his sheep (Gen. 30:25-43), yet God loved him! This is the mercy of God at work; and the essence of Romans 9:14-15. What we need is mercy, and amazing grace of God in our lives. Surely, salvation is not by work, but by grace. If you will call on him today, that grace will also be given to you. Yes, your background does not matter. Whoever calls on him shall not be cast away, but shall be saved. But remember, even if preferment comes from heaven above, you also have a part to play. Every man could be preferred, but he needs to accept the free gift of God. Therefore, work out your salvation with fear and trembling! Be determined to be on the Lord’s side always. His mercy over you shall endure forever.