Thesis:Paul's insistence upon "election" is not arbitrary.
Introduction:After our study last week I was asked if I had ever gotten any serious reactions to my teaching on "election". My response was that as a teaching pastor, I had the experience of losing attenders of the church over two issues: election and the place of women in God's Plan. This serves to highlight the reality that doctrine is a divider of men. Every individual will stand before God to give an answer to what he/she did with what He said. Those who walked away from false teaching will be commended and rewarded and those who walked away from true teaching will be penalized according to the severity attached to the truth of that teaching. This is a kind of "bottom line" reality that surfaces two inescapable facts: individual responsibility and the absolute nature of "Truth".
Those "bottom line" issues line up like this: what is "true" has to be decided by every individual through the careful evaluation of the words of Scripture. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to refuse a doctrine because they "don't like it", or to refuse it without carefully examining the Scriptures to find out what they say about it. Alternatively, it is completely unacceptable for anyone to embrace a doctrine because they "like it" without carefully measuring its truthfulness against the Scriptures.
This evening we are at a place in Paul's letter to the Romans where the cut between truth and error goes very deep. This means that if we want "Life" we are going to have to put our thinking caps on. In Romans 11:6 Paul makes this claim: "And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace." Here he sharply divides "grace" and "works" from each other in a way that isolates them from each other and compels all who would "Live" to move completely into the arena of "grace".
Because of the sharpness of the divide, we are going to look into "the election of grace" once again.
I. What Is At Stake.
1. All "understanding" is governed by the interplay between the big picture and the myriad of details.
2. Any conclusion that is drawn from the details that violates the big picture is nonunderstanding and any big picture scenario that ignores any of the details is nonunderstanding.
3. Romans 1:28 establishes God's part in this reality.
4. Our current text drives the wedge between two opposing "big picture" scenarios too deeply to ignore.
1. Paul's minor "big picture" scenario for Romans 9-11 is his longing for others to be given Eternal Life.
a. His words must be considered under two realities.
1) He would not have written anything if "Life" could not be obtained through the writings.
2) He would not have written anything if "Life" could be obtained without the writings.
b. His words also establish this fact: God's fundamental methodology of imparting "Life" is through verbal revelation.
1) This means that men's "minds" must be engaged if "Life" is going to "happen".
2) This means that "grace" and "works" have to each have a place for a concept of verbal revelation and its impact upon the minds of men.
2. John's verbal revelation of the reality of "consequences" for decisions about what will be embraced as "Truth" hinges upon "Life".
a. In John 6:60-69 there is a record of Jesus declaring something to be true that was not "acceptable" to the many who, then, took a hike away from Jesus as a legitimate teacher.
b. In that text, Jesus asked the Twelve if they were going to take the same hike and Peter's response zeroed in upon the "bottom line" issue: Eternal Life.
3. Romans 4:16 declares that the only way God's promise(s) can stand the stresses of the current reality of a world in rebellion is if "grace" is the exclusive domain.
a. What Romans 4:16 pointedly declares governs the reasons for Paul's invariable appeal to the exclusive nature of grace when the issue is the integrity of the words of God, which issue is heavily involved in Romans 9-11.
b. Being the "exclusive domain" automatically means that we simply have to have a legitimate concept of "grace" governing our understanding.
1) Every group which calls itself "Christian" says that they believe in "grace".
2) The fragmentation of "Christianity" simply proves one thing: "grace" is being defined in ways that are clearly incompatible.
3) No one can simply claim, "This stuff is too deep for me", and then walk away without putting their understanding and experience of "Life" in deep jeopardy.
a) The fact is that no one takes that route when the rewards are sufficiently appealing to them.
b) Those who take that route, then, simply do not sufficiently care about Life.
II. The Meaning of "Works" in Paul's Theology.
A. Is not simply "action taken".
1. There are few parts of Scripture that do not have exhortations for certain kinds of action and for restraint from other kinds.
2. If "works" is simply "action taken", the Gospel would be completely unnecessary.
B. Is not simply "personal responsibility engaged".
1. Nowhere in the Scripture is personal responsibility lifted.
2. The issue in dealing with personal responsibility is not "whether" the responsibility is met, but "how".
3. It is not necessarily a variation of "works" to set personal responsibility before men.
C. Is the engaging of personal responsibility unto action that is specificallydesigned to put God in a "Justice" mode so that He is under obligation.
1. The key issue here is "obligation"; "Justice" is simply the driver.
2. The underlying roots are two.
a. On the one hand, creatures that desire to put God under obligation to them so that they are "secure" are fear driven and, thus, unbelieving.
b. On the other hand, creatures that desire to put God under obligation to them so that they can dictate the terms of "Life" are ego driven and, thus, satanic.
3. The incredible delusion involved also has two roots.
a. On the one hand, those who seek to use justice against God so that they can be "secure" are forcing their own destruction and, thus, their "insecurity".
b. On the other hand, those who seek to use justice against God so that they can dictate the terms of of "Life" are forcing a confrontation between ignorance and omniscience and hate and love so that they cannot achieve "Life".
4. The contradiction of "Love" is apparent: "Love" is not forcing someone to meet "my" needs.
a. The operative word is "force".
b. The issue of "force" is "obligation".
III. The Meaning of "Grace" in Paul's Theology.
A. Fundamentally involves an absolute freedom from "Justice" and, thus, "Obligation".
B. Fundamentally involves an integrated meshing of "action" and "Love" so that actions are taken for only one reason: the eternal benefit of others at the expense of the one taking the actions.
C. Fundamentally involves the effectiveness of "Love's actions": this is the bottom line in Paul's doctrine of an election of grace.