by Roger McCay
23 February 2020
Sermon Passage: Romans 9:24-33
Link to Audio Version
Van Crouch, in his book Stay in the Game, makes this remarkable statement: “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.” It’s a good point. Why would you waste your time doing something so utterly futile? It’s a road to nowhere but frustration, anxiety, anger, exhaustion, dashed hope, and failure.
Such is the path of works righteousness towards salvation. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing. It is futile work. Oh, how much better it is to rest in the gracious, finished work of Christ. By God’s sovereign decree and grace, his work ensures the salvation and eternal destiny of his chosen people, who receive that salvation through faith—disciples of Christ—true believers—Christians.
Last week we continued in our journey through Romans 9, looking at how the Lord works in humanity with two groups of people, “vessels of wrath” (the reprobate) and “vessels of mercy” (the elect). We looked at how God has not only told us this is so, but the reality of double-predestination (including the balance of God’s sovereign election and human responsibility) is evident throughout history. We see it from the very beginning, continuing until now, with the revelation of the Lord Jesus’ own words that such will be the reality until he returns in judgment. We further looked at how not only is this divide true in a macro sense among humanity (Jew and Gentile), it is also true in a micro sense within the nation of Israel historically along with the continuation of Israel, (God’s church), with the weeds and the wheat. Indeed, within the remnant of God’s visible church (all the pew-sitters and pulpit-standers, if you may), within that assembly, the ecclesia, is the remnant of true Israel, vessels of mercy, God’s chosen people, the elect, spiritual heirs of the promise (which is God’s covenant of grace, fulfilled in Jesus Christ).
Paul elaborates on this theme in our passage today, illustrating the concept of God’s remnant from the prophets and highlighting the generosity of God extended across all humanity—the gift of righteousness received through faith.
In vv. 9-29, Paul goes back to the Lord’s actions of keeping a remnant for himself has been part of God’s plan all along. He refers to the prophet Hosea first and then Isaiah.
First, from Hosea, Romans 9:24-26
24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”
26 “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”
You may remember that Hosea …
Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, studying the NT without a knowledge of the OT puts you at a serious handicap to understanding God’s revelations in the NT.
Now, you might remember, Hosea was the last prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, just before they were destroyed and taken into exile by Assyria, about 722 B.C. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute (“a wife of whoredom”), by the name of Gomer. She was a symbol of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Hosea then had three children with her. God assigned their names, which were symbols of his Divine judgment on the unfaithful kingdom. Their second child, a daughter, was given the name ‘Lo-Ruhamah’ (meaning ‘No Mercy’). This was because, as the Lord said, “I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all (1:6).” The Lord named their third child, a boy, “Lo-Ammi” (meaning “Not My People”). He said that this was because “you [the northern kingdom of Israel] are not my people, and I am not your God (v. 9).” God rejected them due to their covenant unfaithfulness, nullifying the marital bond made with them at Sinai. Yet, God doesn’t leave it at that. He continues, saying he will eventually reverse this situation (Hosea 1:10 and 2:23, quoted here by Paul in Rom. 9:25-26).
When it comes to OT prophecy, there are three aspects that are important to understand. John Stott summarizes them nicely:
According to the New Testament, Old Testament prophecies often have a threefold fulfilment. The first is immediate and literal (in the history of Israel), the second intermediate and spiritual (in Christ and his church), and the third ultimate and eternal (in God’s consummated kingdom).
What we are concerned with today is the second form of fulfillment, as revealed in Romans 9 by the Apostle Paul (likewise by the Apostle Peter in 1 Pt. 1:10). The Apostles authoritatively tie these verses to Christ and his church. God, in prophecy, has made it clear that those who are not God’s people can become God’s people—anyone, for that matter, whom the Lord calls according to his sovereign will. What might look like divine rejection can be transformed into divine inclusion according to God’s mercy, love, and choice. As such, God’s promise in Hosea’s prophecy is fulfilled in the NT with the inclusion of the Gentiles “those who are not my people” in God’s Covenant of Grace. Gentile believers, disciples of Christ, are now called by God, “My people” and “Children of the Living God.” The Gentiles were part of the covenant promise all along. Our inclusion in the Kingdom of God was always God’s intent (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8).