Thesis:The availability of salvation is wide open when the issue is national heritage.
Introduction:A few weeks ago we addressed what was once called "the lordship salvation debate". In that debate the "heat" was all about whether "faith" was "frontloaded" with the necessity of surrender to the lordship of Jesus or "unloaded" so that there was no necessity at all. The text that brought that to the fore was Paul's declaration that a "mouth" confession of "Lord Jesus" that was in harmony with a "heart" belief that God had raised Him from the dead would result in "salvation". I think the "debate" missed the point of Paul's words altogether.
In a like manner, this evening's text has also been used in a wide ranging debate over a different theological issue. The text promises an indiscriminate richness to all who call upon the name of the Lord. In the light of this promise, there has sprung up a strong debate over the meaning of God's declaration that it is He Who determines if and/or when He shall show the mercy of this salvation. It was Paul's conclusion in Romans 9:16 that whether a person received this mercy was "not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy." In opposition to this conclusion, there has been raised the objection that the Bible teaches "whosoever will", or, as our current text reads, "whosoever shall call".
There are several issues involved here. The absolute first is the meaning of the texts as Paul wrote them. Then there is the issue of the reasons for the "debate". And there is the issue of the attempt to "pit" Scripture against Scripture so that the result is that a person takes his/her understanding of one of the texts to heart and rejects any serious consideration of the other text pretty much altogether.
This evening we are going to attempt to simply understand what Paul meant by his words so that we can "blend" the teaching of Scripture into an integrated, non-conflicting whole.
I. First, the Issue of Understanding is Following Paul's Train of Thought.
A. In chapter ten he has been fixed upon the contrast between two distinct methods of obtaining a right standing before God.
1. This issue is a kind of "ground-zero" theological principle.
2. At issue is the irresolvable conflict between the realities of the righteousness which man seeks to establish as "out of himself" and the righteousness which God seeks to give man "out of Himself".
a. These are not items that can be blended into some kind of "oneness".
b. These are items which arise out of profound character issues.
1) It is profoundly fundamental to the character of unredeemed man that he is a self-promoter.
2) It is profoundly fundamental to the character of God that He is an absolutely willing Servant without reservations in terms of the personal cost to Himself.
c. These are items about which neither "character" is willing to compromise.
B. In chapter ten he has been detailed in his explanation of the fundamental principles between the methods.
1. The man-character is determined to "live by his works".
2. The divine-character is determined to compel "life by faith".
C. In chapter ten he has insisted not that Jesus be recognized as Lord but that our notion of the "Lord" be totally governed by the revelation of Jesus in words and actions.
D. In chapter ten he has declared over and over that there are two elements to the "life by faith" concept.
1. On the most fundamental level there is the "faith" of the heart.
2. On the most relational level there is the "speech" of the mouth.
II. Second, the Issue of Understanding is Seeing Why Paul Presses the Universality of God's Richness into the Train of Thought.
A. The fact is that Paul introduced this universality as an explanation ("for") of his understanding of the Isaiah 28:16 text as a text that he first introduced in 9:33.
1. That text highlighted the everlasting conflict between Sin's mindset and God's.
a. Sin's mindset is to refuse to be humbled.
b. God's mindset is to completely function in humility.
2. That text underwrote God's uncompromising commitment to vindicate everyone who actually, heart-and-voice, buys into humility as a bottom-line principle of true Life.
B. As an explanation, Paul felt constrained to make sure that, not only on the basis of actualpromise but also on the basis of fundamentalprinciple, his readers understood that physical geneology had no part to play whatsoever.
1. First, there is the promise/principle issue.
a. As far back as Romans 4:17 (a quote of Genesis 17:4-5), Paul has argued that it was God's promise to Abraham that his identity would be that of a father of many nations.
b. In addition, the principle of "faith" is not, and has never been, a "genealogically" produced phenomenon ... as Abraham's progeny demonstrated to the max.
2. Second, the twisting of Scripture into a basis for genealogical superiority/inferiority issues is absolutely the outcome of the man-character which is always seeking a way to exalt itself (this is the reason the "race" issue is never going to die in the politics of this country).
a. The Jews were totally absorbed in this error, thinking themselves to be superior because God had chosen them (a pretty good argument could be made that God chose the Jews because they were the lowest of the bottom-feeders just to exalt the reality of grace and glory -- after all, Paul, as a Hebrew of the Hebrews was, by that, the chief of sinners).
b. There is a huge difference between thinking oneself to be "superior" and thinking oneself to be "valuable".
III. Third, the Implications of Paul's Explanation Have Nothing to do With Whether God's Mercy is Extended to Any Particular Individual.
A. The principle that God honors the heart/mouth commitment to humility is "easy".
B. The difficulty is the fact that the man-character never makes such a commitment out of itself.
1. The "out of itself" reality is simply pride's way of inserting itself back into the mix (the old "Humility and How I Achieved It" syndrome).
2. The "out of God" reality absolutely maintains true humility.
C. Thus, the "whosoever will" issue is not whether God will respond to those who "will"; it is whysome will and others do not.