Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Gospel is Inclusive (Romans 9:25-26)

The Gospel is inclusive (Romans 9:25-26). The gospel is inclusive! It is for undeserving Jews and undeserving Gentiles. Since salvation is by grace and not by merit then it is for every people group in the world and not just one ethnicity. God has promised to save some from every tribe and every tongue and every language and every nation.

Here Paul quotes a couple of verses from Hosea to demonstrate that salvation is for undeserving Jews and undeserving Gentiles. In its original context the verses in Hosea applied to the Jews of the northern kingdom who had forfeited their right to remain in the land and who had brought down the judgment of God on themselves. But under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the apostle Paul also made application with it to the Gentiles – I will call those who were not My people, “My people.” These verses then apply to undeserving Jews and undeserving Gentiles.

We need to take a moment and consider the historical context of the prophecy given by Hosea. First of all Hosea was giving a prophetic parable as directed by the Lord. He was told to marry a woman of harlotries and have children by her. The woman of harlotries was Gomer and she was representative of the adulterous nation of Israel. Hosea the prophet was representative of God. The children of Gomer are noted as being children of harlotries. The names that God directed Hosea to give the children represented how God was going to deal with the nation. The first child was a son named Jezreel. Jezreel means to scatter or sow, like a farmer who would scatter his seed. God was going to scatter the nation because of its constant forsaking of the Lord. The second child was a daughter named Lo-ruhamah which means no compassion or not loved – no mercy! The third child was a son named Lo-ammi which means not my people!

So Israel was portrayed as a harlot who had forsaken the Lord just as Gomer was a harlot who forsook Hosea. The children of Gomer were given names by God to indicate how He was going to deal with the adulterous nation. This message would not have been and was not well received by the people. They were sure that they had not forsaken God and that He would not deal with them in that manner (see Hosea 8:2).

What caused Israel to not believe and not receive God’s message of her unfaithfulness through Hosea? They were living in a time of seeming peace when they had recaptured much of the land that belonged to them under king David and king Solomon. It was a time of prosperity with the rich getting richer and a time of palaces with bigger and better homes and houses of worship (Hosea 8:14). It was a time of multiplied altars (Hosea 8:11) and friendship with the world (Hosea 8:8). So it was a time of peace, prosperity, palaces, and political prowess. Israel couldn’t see her waywardness because of her works. She was sure that God was pleased with her and therefore could not see that she was in need of grace. So the majority of the Jews were not going to receive mercy because they did not see their need for mercy.

Also the people in Hosea’s day were constantly misapplying God’s Word and those negative parts must be talking about the Gentiles and not the nation of Israel (Hosea 8:12). So God gave a double meaning to His prophecy through Hosea – “I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’ and her who was not beloved, ‘Beloved.’ 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.’” God was going to include the Gentiles in His offer of free mercy. The gospel is inclusive – it is not just for undeserving Jews but also for undeserving Gentiles.

The Gospel is inclusive – it demonstrates God’s grace and mercy as He saves undeserving sinners and it demonstrates God’s righteousness as He shows no favoritism for any one group of people. For many, many years it seemed as though God didn’t care for anyone except the Jews. They were His chosen people and the majority of the people in the world at that time were separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). While all the nation of Israel wasn’t being saved because not all had faith, most of the people in the world who were being saved were coming from that nation. Very few Gentiles were saved until the Gospel had gone to the Jew first and then it went to the Greek.

Just as the Old Testament prophets had prophesied of the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation, they also prophesied of the reversal of God’s order of salvation. The Jews were going to reject their Messiah and because of this the kingdom of God was going to be taken away from them and given to a people producing the fruit of it (see Matthew 21:42-43). Not only was God going to graciously include the Gentiles in His plan of salvation, He was also going to give them the main responsibility of spreading the Gospel – until the time of the Gentiles be complete (Luke 21:24 and Romans 11:25).

We see the beginning movement and fulfillment of the taking away of the kingdom of God from the Jews and the giving of it to the Gentiles by God’s gracious inclusion of them in His kingdom in the book of Acts. Specifically we see when the Gentiles were beginning to be included when Peter preached to Cornelius. Then a Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, persecuted the Jewish Christians and they were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Some went to Antioch and were speaking the gospel to Jews only. Then some men of Cyprus and Cyrene began speaking to the Greeks “and a large number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21). Saul of Tarsus was saved by the Lord and he became Paul the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9). Paul began his first missionary journey from the church in Antioch (Acts 13). Everywhere Paul went he preached to the Jew first and then to the Greek. The majority of the Jews rejected his message but many of the Gentiles received it. Whenever the Jews would reject the message of salvation by grace Paul would turn to the Gentiles. We read in Acts 13:48 about the Gentiles hearing the good news that God saves by grace and had included them in the plan of salvation – “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

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