Thesis:God's Large Plan was to pen up everyone in the state of the false persuasion generated by Sin so that He could use "everyone" as a display of His mercy.
Introduction:Last week we argued that Paul's declaration of Israel's contrary identities (enemies/beloved) was for the purpose of attempting to persuade his readers to not take the enmity too seriously. Once "enmity" is taken too seriously, the "heart" begins to pile up reasons for self-exaltation over the "enemy". This is the natural reflex of a wounded heart. It is the reason for all of the self-justifications of ungodliness that, on the face of it, is ungodly. It is also directly contrary to the Love of God which absorbs all wounds without taking them too seriously (if you need to, re-read 1 Corinthians 13 sometime). Paul's point in his declaration was to attempt to persuade his readers to walk in humility before God so that their own lives would not be corrupted by this "wounded heart syndrome".
Tonight we are going to go a step further into this "persuasion" thesis by looking into what Paul said of God's Large Plan in respect to "persuasion".
I. Understanding the Three Major Aspects of "Faith".
A. If we define "faith" as the condition of the mind wherein a concept is considered to be "Truth" without contradiction, we have the essence of what God responds to with the gift of righteousness when that "Truth" is the Gospel.
1. This definition assumes a level of profundity that goes beyond the simplistic superficiality of simple agreement with a prejudice created by one's setting in life.
a. Simplistic superficiality cannot address anything beyond unthreatened comfort (this is why many claim to be "believers" but are terrified by many fears).
b. "Faith" stands against "threat" with serenity.
2. This definition assumes a level of insight that is matched with a level of need in regard to the "Truth" that is "believed".
B. If we ask ourselves, "How does one get to faith?" we are beginning to tread upon Paul's doctrine in Romans 9-11.
1. "Faith" does not just "happen" out of the blue (we have already argued in our definition above that it requires a certain level of insight) as 2 Corinthians 4:6 pointedly declares.
2. "Faith" is the result of multiple actions of "persuasion".
a. The presentation of "arguably true" facts over time so that the "facts" begin to connect (this is the reason for biblical revelation in all of its complexity).
b. A certain pressure upon the mind/heart.
1) This pressure begins with a relatively significant level of perceived threat.
2) This pressure also has the work of the Spirit in view as He "convinces" as Jesus taught that He would (John 16:8-9).
3. "Faith" is the result of this "persuasion".
a. Paul actually uses a term for this "persuasion" four times in the three verses of our text (11:30-32).
b. Paul uses this word in Romans 2:8 in two forms (the word plus the negating "a" prefix, which effectively becomes its opposite -- "without persuasion") and the actual word unmodified.
1) His words were translated, "But unto them that ... do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness ...".
2) The translators opted to focus upon the "outcome" of "faith" (the 'obedience' that naturally flows out of a convinced mind/heart) rather than the "root cause" of "faith" (the active growth of conviction because of persuasion).
3) A careful look into the way this verb was used argues that this was a mistake on the translators' part.
a) Matthew 27:20 and 28:14 both use the verb unambiguously to focus upon its actual meaning: to lay down a persuasive basis for "faith" and its consequent "obedience".
b) Luke 16:31 reinforces this meaning with its words, "... neither will they bepersuaded, though one rose from the dead."
c) That the translators used "persuade" 22 times in contrast to using "obey" only seven times argues that they had a niggling sense that the word is actually two stages prior to overt "obedience".
c. Paul also used this word in Romans 10:21 in an enlightening way: Israel was what the translators call "disobedient and gainsaying".
1) The translation of the word as "disobedient" is, again, an indicator that the translators were not "tracking" with Paul.
2) The facts were being put forward, but Israel was "gainsaying them" -- i.e., throwing up all manner of roadblocks to those facts so that they could not bring any pressure to bear in the creation of "faith".
3) Thus, Israel was not so much "disobedient" as they were "unwilling to let the facts persuade them".
C. If we realize these first two stages, it is only a small step for us to understand that "obedience" is the automatic outcome of "persuaded faith" (this is the third of the major aspects of faith).
II. Understanding Paul's Argument.
A. Paul says that God "penned" everyone up in the corral of "unpersuasion".
1. In 11:30 he says that the Gentiles were once in this "corral".
a. But this once-upon-a-time fact has now been altered by the extension of mercy by God.
b. God determined to extend this mercy because Israel had drifted from faith into the condition of being persuaded by other "facts" to the point that they murderously rejected Him.
2. In 11:31 he says that these currently unpersuaded Israelites will be persuaded as a consequence of God's display of mercy to these currently persuaded Gentiles (this is a brief statement of Paul's extended argument in the preceeding verses).
B. Paul says that God's purpose in corralling everyone in the same pen was so that He could also release "everyone" through mercy.
1. The "all" in our text is "all of the various kinds", not "all of the individuals".
2. The point is that "mercy" is being highlighted by God by this action so that we might better understand it.
a. The "problem" with the display of "mercy" when not "all" are corralled is that it might be misconstrued according to whatever characteristics marked the uncorralled.
b. Thus, God simply corralled us all so that "mercy" might not be corrupted.