Thesis:The people of God exist by the action of God.
Introduction:In our studies of Romans 11 we have seen that Paul has returned to the critical issue of the dependability of the words of God raised in Romans 9. Interestingly, in both cases, his argument eventually ends up in the area of the doctrine of election. In 9:11 he argues that it is "the purpose of God" that summons the defining standard (kata plus the accusative), and in 11:5 he again declares the same defining standard: election that arises out of grace. This makes our understanding of the concept extremely critical. It is too close to the "bottom of the pile" of fundamental "Plan" issues.
This evening we are going to go again where Paul takes us.
I. The "Setting".
A. By calling the Scripture's account of Elijah into play, Paul raised one of the first issues: whether "election" is a part-time player in the ways of God, or a full-time controller.
1. This is not a small issue for men in respect to their participation with God, or not.
a. There is little objection from most men to a doctrine of God's choice that is only enforced occasionally: He, like everyone else, is entitled to some enforcement of some choices.
b. The objections arise when what is going to happen to men is entirely subject to God's choices.
1) In 9:15 God is recorded as telling Moses that this is the case.
2) In 9:19 man's typical reaction is recorded and 3:5 tells us how men posture themselves in the light of their exaltation of themselves over God.
c. Historically, men have rejected God's revelation on these things in two ways.
1) The minority way is called universalism: most do not go there because it is too far from biblical revelation.
2) The majority way is to compel "divine election" to be subject to "human election".
a) This immediately compromises the Gospel.
b) The root of the Gospel is what Abraham finally discovered: the one who makes the promise is the one obliged to keep it.
c) All variations of the subjection of God's promise to man's response(s) are denials of this root.
2. The introductory phrase, "Even so then..." gives us the answer.
a. The "even so" translation indicates a word that deals primarily with "the way things are done".
1) This means that we are dealing with a methodological issue rather than some kind of conceptual, or theological, issue.
a) There is a fairly distinct line between purposes and means in the Bible.
b) Purpose issues fall into the category of "love"; means issues fall into the category of "faith".
2) This also means that the same method that was used in the Elijah situation is in play now.
b. In the Greek text we actually have "Even so therefore also...".
1) The "therefore" indicates the drawing of a conclusion from the prior declaration(s).
2) The "also" indicates a continuum from the prior issue into the present one.
3) This means that Paul is arguing for a constancy of action on God's part that spans history.
a) This is not a small issue.
b) It was the change in God's actions in respect to Israel in the first century that raised the "problem" of His integrity in the first place.
i. Those without understanding are often found quoting Hebrews 13:8 as a justification for their insistence that God is in the same "action mode" now as He always has been.
ii. This arises out of an ignorance that "sameness" day after day from beginning to end has to do with essence/character issues and not activity issues.
c) So it is not "automatic" that Paul can say, "In the same manner, therefore, also..." because there may have been a change in methodologies.
d) What decides this? When can one argue that the method has not changed or that it has?
i. Method issues are determined by Plan and Condition issues.
ii. In order to establish sameness, or newness/difference, one has to be able to identify the Plan and the Conditions that directly affect it.
iii. In the days of Elijah, the Plan was the preservation of a group of human beings who would be faithful to Yahweh in the face of enormous pressure toward apostasy, and the Conditions were directly related to the question of human faithfulness, or the ability and willingness of humans to "believe" Yahweh.
iv. Paul's argument is that this is so close to the "bottom of the pile" in terms of God's "Plan" that it never changes.
v. Paul has already argued (9:29) that the critical issues in regard to the Plan are two: man's penchant for movement toward destructive godlessness; and the necessity for God's active involvement in the prevention of such movement.
vi. Therefore, Paul, dealing with unchanging factors at the level of the "bottom of the pile", can argue that what method God used in the days of Elijah is the same method that He is currently using.