Thesis:For faith to survive, "believers" have to keep the big picture in mind.
Introduction:In Matthew 24:12 Jesus declared a principle that explains why living by faith is, for the most part, simply not done these days: "...because iniquity shall abound, the love of the many shall wax cold." This has always been a problem. It is at the heart of Paul's argument in Romans 9-11. Perhaps the largest theme of this part of Paul's letter is whether God has any integrity. It was first raised in 9:6 by Paul's denial of the notion that God's words have fallen to the ground because of the indisputable fact that those who were known as Israelites were, for the most part, scandalous rebels in the face of the enormous blessing of God. All of the rest of chapter nine was his rationale for why God's words never have, and never will, fail to prove to be true to the last detail (jot and tittle). Then all of chapter ten was written to show how the words of God have been twisted by these scandalous rebels without any effect upon God's underlying Plan and on the heels of that entire presentation, the first verse of chapter eleven again raised this issue: Has God sacrificed His integrity because of Israel's rebellion?
Now, in 11:11 the issue is raised again. Paul again asks whether God's words regarding Israel will prove to be false because of Israel's persistent ungodliness. And, again, his answer is an adamant denial that is followed by his argument that not only will His words prove to be true, He will actually use the scandalous rebellion to implement the very processes that will quell it.
This evening we are going to look again at the larger picture because faith cannot survive in the trenches if "believers" lose sight of the overall Plan.
I. Israel's Overall Place in the Plan.
A. In Genesis 1:26 we are told that the initial creation of man was for the purpose of exercising dominion over God's creation as surrogates of God.
1. This creation of man as a surrogate of God is a fundamental element of God's plan to share His Life with created personalities.
a. The experience of Life depends heavily upon the active participation of the creature with the Creator.
b. This is the reason God seldom does anything directly by Himself.
2. This creation of man as a surrogate of God is also explained by Genesis 2:15.
a. His "dominion" was to be a "servant dominion" as one who uses his stewardship of power to provide benefit to others.
b. His own needs were more than adequately provided so that his labors were for the purpose of extending those provisions for the creatures of God.
3. This creation of man as a surrogate of God was perverted by man's willingness to be led into scandalous rebellion.
B. In Isaiah 2 God revealed His intention to compensate for Adam's failure by bringing a nation into existence that would, ultimately, replace Him.
1. All that Adam was charged to do was effectually transferred to Israel.
2. But Isaiah 2 does not indicate that this transfer was going to be particularly effective until "the last days".
a. The text clearly reveals that, initially, the transfer was not going to go well (2:6-9).
b. Isaiah goes on to make it clear that the transfer was only going to be effective when Israel's greatest faith-based achievement (the Christ) was exalted to the throne of David.
II. Paul's Argument.
A. He initially acknowledges how profoundly God has permitted the nation be corrupted.
B. He vehemently denies, however, the conclusion that those who have been corrupted put forth: God cannot be trusted.
1. The corrupters argue that it is beyond obvious that God's plan for a godly nation to be placed at the pinnacle of God's creation has failed.
a. Not only has history demonstrated that no matter what God does, men twist it into a way to gratify themselves at the expense of others, but there is no demonstration of any process that can counter this perversity.
b. Even Paul's doctrine of an "elect" group within the larger body is a flat-out admission that if there are going to be any who are not scandalous rebels, it will only be a tiny minority.
1) Paul admitted in his doctrine of "election" in the days of Elijah that though "election" was effective (the elect did not bow to Baal) for some, the group was a pitifully small minority group with no discernible impact upon the nation (the impact was so small the Elijah was not even aware of the presence of the group).
2) The prophecy of an entire nation of godly surrogates has been set aside by God as an impossible fantasy.
2. The denial of these arguments rests in the claim that God is actually using the scandalous rebellion to further His Plan and to fulfill His words.
a. At the heart of Paul's Gospel is the claim that God demonstrated in Christ that He is not subject to the perversity or will of men.
1) No body ... not one single person ... believed that Jesus was the victorious Christ when He was crucified, but God was not bound, or limited in any way, by that unbelief.
2) The resurrection from the dead was God's most potent proof that unbelief is never right even when all of the tangible evidence seems to be on its side.
b. Within the details of Paul's Gospel is the explanation of God's methods for triumph.
1) First, there is no demonstrated evidence that what is required by the Isaiah 2 Plan can not be accomplished.
a) It is possible that the "minority" of "the elect" will grow to be a "majority" so that the nation can be godly.
b) It is possible that the "majority" of the wicked will be shrunk to a "minority" so that the nation can be godly.
c) It is possible for both "growth" and "shrinkage" can produce a godly nation.
2) Second, the biblical picture is actually an intensified form of the third possibility.
a) On the one hand, the biblical picture (even in Isaiah 2:10-22) is one of a cataclysmic fulfillment of Jesus' warning to Nicodemus.
b) On the other hand, the picture of our text is that God is going to increase the growth of the elect by using the outcome of the rebellion of the wicked.
i. In Romans 10:19 Paul introduced the process of jealousy as a divine tool to bring up the numbers of the elect.
ii. In our current text Paul again inserts this process of jealousy into the picture as an argument that one cannot rest upon the appearance of things to justify unbelief.
III. The Ultimate Point.
A. On the one hand, it is a bit ridiculous to try to outfox God.
B. On the other hand, it is a demonstrated fact that God can turn any act of rebellion into a tool.
C. And, ultimately, the biblical record is not a record of the "defeat" of the "Plan" but, rather, a demonstration that no matter how far things deteriorate, God has something up His sleeve to counter the success of evil.