Thesis:The "word of promise" eliminates the effectiveness of "the flesh".
Introduction:In Romans 9 the apostle is attempting to make the believers in Rome confident that they can trust the words of God implicitly. This is not important from the perspective of the truthfulness of what God has said and will do, but it is crucial from the perspective of those who are to participate in the benefit of God's activities. Faith and/or unbelief do not have the ability to alter the Plan of God in any respect. The common attitude in our generation that "faith" gets God to do things outside of The Plan is completely contrary to the teaching of the Bible that "faith" gets men to do what God has already decreed in The Plan. It is important for us to realize these two realities: whether men "believe" God, or not, determines only their participation in the blessing of His Plan; and when God is "believed" it is not man's agenda that is served, but God's.
This evening we are going to look a bit further into Paul's argument that "the flesh" is incapable of producing the blessing of the will of God so that we may understand why it is important.
I. The Declaration of the Fact.
A. The opposite origins of the "children".
1. There are, in the text, two "kinds" of "children".
a. There are the "children" of Abraham.
b. There are the "children" of God.
2. There are, in the text, two "methods" of obtaining children.
a. There is the physical, sexual method.
1) This method is not "exclusive" of divine involvement, but that involvement is more a matter of God simply maintaining the integrity of His creation rules than it is a matter of special divine activity.
2) But the point of Paul's distinction is this: that if "promise" is being frustrated by physical-law realities, God will do some special divine activity in order to maintain the integrity of His Word.
a) This is the point of Paul's quote from Genesis 18:10 and 14: "I will come".
b) However, it is highly likely that it was not so much "physical-law realities" that were blocking Sarai's fertility as it was God -- for the specific purpose of creating a crucial illustration (a "sign") of the most fundamental issue in "promise".
i. It is absolutely critical for the people of God to understand the most fundamental characteristic of "promise"; a characteristic that it took Abraham many years to grasp.
ii. The reason for the focus is that a person's grasp of the integrity of the words of God directly influences that person's ability to "believe" (and "faith" is the distinctive issue of participation in Life).
b. There is the method called "regarding" by the NASB or "counting" by the AV.
1) In this method, there are no further physical issues involved (at least initially, lest we overlook the physics of resurrection as a later aspect of the process).
2) This method is applied to some of those who are already someone's "children" by fleshly energy.
3) This is the method of divine "determination".
a) The Bible argues that it is what God "thinks" that creates the final reality.
b) The clearest example is Romans 4:8 where men actually sin but God refuses to recognize their sins as to those sins' ability to dictate His actions toward the men.
c) The conclusion is that God "reckons" those who are the result of His activities in respect to promises He has made as His children.
B. The absolute elimination of "the flesh" as a "contributory" element in regard to the production of "the children of God".
1. Paul is emphatic about the fact that "the flesh" is absolutely incapable.
a. He refuses to acknowledge any contribution of "the flesh".
b. But he does not discount the contribution of "faith".
2. This absolute elimination of "the flesh" means that we must understand what he means by "the flesh".
a. He does not mean "physical creation reality".
1) In Paul's theology "the flesh" is a fundamental Death principle.
2) So, though man existed in physical form before Genesis 3, "the flesh" did not exist.
b. What he does mean is wrapped up in his use of Abraham and Sarai as his fundamental "sign" of Truth.
1) "The flesh" involves human "desire" when it is idolatrous [I've got to have a son in order to have "Life" -- Genesis 15:3].
2) "The flesh" involves human "manipulation" in its attempts to maintain the idol's prominence [Sarai's "Hagar plan" -- Genesis 16:1-3].
3) "The flesh" involves human "clinging" to the idol even when it is more than obvious that God wants something else [Abraham's "O that Ishmael might live before Thee -- Genesis 17:18].
4) In other words, "the flesh" has almost nothing to do with "physical" issues and almost everything to do with "attitude" issues.
a) Here is the reason for Paul's intent preoccupation with the question of whether God's words have "failed": it is impossible to alter the "attitude" when there is no confidence in God.
b) Here also is the reason for Paul's intent preoccupation with the question of whether "the flesh" can have any good effect.
II. The Danger in the Fact.
A. Men have a very dangerous "I will cut off my nose just to spite my face" mentality.
1. This mentality says, in effect, "I will not give up my idols in any case."
2. This mentality says, in effect, "If God attempts to force me to release my grip, I will turn in anger upon Him rather than yield to Him."
3. This mentality says, in effect, "If God does not yield to me, I will refuse to believe Him."
B. Faith in God, which includes yielding up the idols, is impossible to the flesh.
III. The Determination of the Fact.
A. God has an agenda.
B. He will not be denied.
C. He has promises to keep.
D. How we relate to this "steam rolling reality" is the only "variable" in the mix and it only affects the kind of participation we have, not the reality of participation.