Paul’s Heart for His People

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Welcome back, study partners!  This week’s study focuses on the Jewish roots of our Christian faith, and we established a foundation out of Ephesians 1-3 yesterday, indicating that we had a need, God had a plan and the Jewish people were given a solution that they shared with us Gentiles!  Praise God for that!

But is God done with the Jewish people?  Absolutely not!  In fact, as we pick up our study today in Romans 9, we find the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles (Paul) lamenting over his people.  In “great sorrow and unceasing grief,” he longs for the salvation of the Jewish people, stating even that he could wish himself accursed for their sake.  (Keep in mind that he just finished chapter 8, where he declared that NOTHING could separate us from the love of Christ.  So he knows he can’t lose his salvation.  He uses that as an expression of the depth of his yearning for his countrymen.)

In verses 4-5, Paul reminds us of those things which belong to the Jews.  (We studied that last week.)  Then, he makes a very important declaration. Don’t speed through these verses, but slowly and intently read verses 6-8:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;  nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.”  That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.

What is Paul saying?  It is not those BORN of Abraham who are Abraham’s descendants (children of God), but those of the promise.  Let’s simplify that with cross references to Galatians 3:6-9, 29:

Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Thereforebe sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.  The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.  So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. …And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.  [Emphasis mine]

My friends, three times in that great passage we are told it is GRACE, not RACE, that saves!  In fact, Paul goes on to say in Romans 9:25-26:

“I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’
And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’”
And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

God calls whomever He wants into His Kingdom, and He uses whomever He wants to accomplish His purposes!  He has a plan for both Jews and Gentiles.  Neither is left out!  But, regardless of ethnicity, righteousness comes through faith alone.  (Verses 30-33).  While the Jewish people stumbled over the stumbling stone (Christ) by trying to do the works of the law, Gentiles attained righteousness through faith.

But rest assured…God is not yet done with the Jewish people, and we Gentiles dare not become arrogant!  We’ll find out why over the next few days.

Israel matters because God’s plan for the Jews benefits Gentiles, and God’s plan for the Gentiles benefits Jews.  Paul yearns for his people, while instructing us Gentiles.  We must not stray from God’s plans for one another!

Stay tuned…it gets better and better!  See you tomorrow!

Week 6 – Why Israel Matters

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Gather round, study friends!  We’re launching week 6 of our study, Why Israel Matters.  Last week we studied “God’s Love Story,” where we concluded that His love story is for both Jews and Gentiles.  Today, we turn our focus toward the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.

Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, and this week we will settle in Ephesians and Romans, two letters Paul wrote to Gentile audiences.  Let’s begin in Ephesians 1.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
~Verses 3-4

Genesis 12:3 tells us that all the families of the earth will be blessed by Abraham and his descendants.  (We know that blessing to be salvation.)  The apostle Paul confirms that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, and that Christ chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…even before God entrusted that blessing to Abraham!  Those who are in Christ were destined for blessing!

But, the tune seems to change when we get to Ephesians 2!  In the first few verses, we find that we were dead in our trespasses and sin, we were doomed and we were dominated by the devil!  Moreover, 1 Corinthians 2:14 puts the nail in the coffin.  As “natural man” (without Christ), we could not understand spiritual things, thus, we had no hope!

But God throws the life preserver our way in Ephesians 2:4-9BUT GOD, being rich in mercy made us alive together with Christ!  We had a need, God had a plan and the Jewish people had a solution!  (Thus, it is important to understand our Jewish roots!)  John 4:22 tells us salvation is from the Jews!

So, we drift toward Ephesians 3.  But, before we land there, let’s talk about mysteries, as that is a theme in Ephesians 3.  In fact, Paul reveals several mysteries in his writings.  Take a few minutes to read some of them that correspond to our study:

Do you get the gist?  Good!  Now, read Ephesians 3:1-6.  What is the mystery?  Did you see it specifically identified in verse 6?  Yes! Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…the gospel that was first preached to Abraham!  (Galatians 3:8)  Glorious!

Israel matters because our salvation is a Jewish thing!

Let’s end on that high note and come back tomorrow ready to dig into Romans 9!

“How Did this Happen?”

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So, I left you hanging yesterday, didn’t I?  We’re studying God’s love story and I set up today’s discussion by asking you what the first question is when you see two people in love.  What’s the question?

“How did you meet?”

We want to hear about how the love story began!  In God’s love story, how did this happen?

Well, God made His move at a time we were dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2).  In fact, when we go all the way back to Genesis 3, we find that, because of original sin, we (the human race) were doomed and without hope unless there was major intervention!  Faithfully, God intervened!

We were not looking for Him.  Do you know of anyone living in sin, wandering around with all intent and purpose to find God?  No!  God pursues us!  But God used very special means, and here’s a “golden nugget” for today:

The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.
~Galatians 3:8

First, we need to understand we are justified by faith!  Not by becoming Jews.  (Which is what some of the early believers thought.)  Not by works.  (Which is what most Jews thought…and what many people thing today.)  Not by any other means than faith.  Secondly, read that verse again and look for something very peculiar.  Do you see it?

God preached the gospel to Abraham!  What is the gospel, if not Christ’s death, burial and resurrection!?!  God preached the gospel to Abraham!  The gospel is not a New Testament thing, and my dear Christian friends, it is not a “Christian” thing!  (We love to commandeer that theological tidbit, don’t we!)

When God preached the gospel to Abraham, He reminded him that all the nations will be blessed in him.  Hmmm….sounds like God just made Abraham and his descendants the vehicle of world redemption….the conduit through which the gospel was to be shared!

But let’s consider Abraham for a moment.  There were no Jews on the earth.  God was about to do what He does best…create!  (Well, He actually does a LOT of things best, but creation was a pretty grand thing!)  He was about to create the Jewish people from nothing.

Abraham’s family lived in Ur, a pagan land in what we know today as Iraq.  They were idol manufacturers by trade and likely worshiped them!  But somehow Abraham knew that God was speaking to him when He called him out of Ur, and he followed.  Acts 4:9-12 tell us of the transformation of Abraham from a pagan idol-worshiper to a father of many.  (“Circumcised” refers to the Jews, “uncircumcised” refers to non-Jews.)

Read the passage for yourself, and you will find that God made Abraham the father of both the circumcised and the uncircumcised!

“Hmmmm!  I thought he was only the father of the Jews!”

Good catch, dear friend!  Though, indeed, Abraham became father of the Jews, it seems to me that God was opening the door to reveal a plan for us Gentiles to enjoy a gift He was giving to the Jewish people.  We’ll talk more about that in a moment, but just know that God has not “locked us (Gentiles) out” of the blessing that He promised through the Abrahamic Covenant!

So, Abraham was God’s man!  He brought him into a special relationship that was passed down through his descendants.  This became a worldwide, eternal covenant, given to the Jews, but the benefits were not exclusively theirs!

Here is your second “golden nugget” of the day.  Take a look at Galatians 3:29.  After spending a chapter talking about righteousness being attained by faith, and that the law wouldn’t cut it, Paul ends the chapter with this:

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Christian believers, we are Abraham’s descendants!  Not physically.  (We will never become Jews.)  But spiritually, we are heirs according to the promise given to Abraham!

To illustrate: do you benefit by things given to your family or friends?  Of course you do!  I love to go camping.  I have a tent, but with each passing year it becomes harder and harder to crawl in and out and sleep on a cot!  By God’s grace, I have friends with extra space in their trailer, and I’m invited in!  Grace upon grace…I benefit by what is not mine!

Likewise, Christians benefit by the promises God made to the Jewish people.  As Paul states in Romans 9 (which we will get to tomorrow), the promises still belong to Israel, but we benefit from them!

Glory to God!

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
~Isaiah 55:8-9

Come back tomorrow when we examine God’s call upon Abraham!

Jewish Police Officer Finds Messiah

Jew First

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
~Romans 1:16

Though God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, do you realize salvation was for the Jew first?  As Gentiles, God’s grace reached out to us when God preached the gospel to Abraham, then promised that all the families of the earth would be blessed (with salvation) through Abraham and his descendants! (Galatians 3:8, Genesis 12:3)

Unfortunately, a veil covers the eyes of the Jewish people and can only be removed when a person turns to the Lord.  (2 Corinthians 3:12-16)  Hear the testimony of this Jew whose eyes were unveiled when He turned to the Messiah.  Enjoy!