The Mystery of History – Romans 11:11-17

Alright, take your Bible, turn with me to Romans 11:11, okay, 11:11. So, I’m going to begin in verse 11, reading this through verse 16, if we can get this far.


The Apostle Paul writes, “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make them jealous. For if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be.”


You see how much you need me this morning with this?


“But if I am speaking to you who are Gentiles, inasmuch then as I am an apo…but I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. In as much then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry.”


It’s a little hard to even just read it.


“If somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also. And if the root is holy, the branches are too.”


What on earth does this mean? I mean, what is Paul saying? No wonder Peter said Paul can be hard to understand in 2 Peter 3.


Well, this finds itself in a larger section of Romans 9 through 11, which deals with the salvation of Israel and specifically the sovereignty of God in election and reprobation concerning the nation Israel.


So, that’s the big…that’s our praise band. We’ve gone contemporary. And we’ll have the drama skit here in just a moment. Kent will be dressing up like Amos and doing a dramatic role play of a famine in the land, otherwise known as Herb’s House.


So in Romans chapter 9, which we looked at in detail, Paul addressed individuals concerning sovereign election and sovereign reprobation, which is double predestination. As we come to Romans 11, Paul goes from the micro to the macro, okay? He goes from the minute details of individuals being chosen by God for salvation, he’s now moving to the broad sweep of the flow of history. He’s now opening up the lens, if you will, and giving us the broad perspective, the big picture of really, as I just said, the flow of history, the hardening of Israel, the saving of Israel, and the big, broad brush stroke. So, in Romans 9, he’s painting with a tiny little paintbrush, thin lines. But now in Romans 11, he has a big, broad brush, and he’s painting with broad brush strokes, okay?


So, his focus is still on the sovereignty of God in salvation as it relates to Israel, and what we see here is that God has a master plan for history. So by way of illustration, not only has God foreordained what individuals see on the plane certain people will sit in, but he’s also foreordained the destination of the airplane. He’s also foreordained the trajectory and the speed with which this airplane will be going, as well as the individual seat where everyone is going to sit.


So, in this passage, it’s the big picture of the massive airplane and its destination and the timing of its arrival. So, I want us to walk through this passage knowing that all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable. So, as I set out some headings to help us break out this passage and take this piece of pie and cut it into smaller bits, I want you to note, first, “The Question,” just to make this very simple – “The Question.” Paul anticipates the question that is on everyone’s minds. So, he begins by raising the question, as if to say, “I know exactly what you’re thinking.”


So, here’s the question in verse 11, “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they?” The “they” refers to Israel. The antecedent is up in verse 7, “What then? What Israel is seeking, it is not obtained.” In verse 2, how he pleads with God against Israel. And I just took a ballpoint pen, men, and underlined every time I see “they” or “their,” and it just pulls down “them” in verse 8, “their” in verse 9, “their” in verse 10, and now, “they” in verse 11. It goes back to Israel in verse 11.


So, “They,” Israel, “did not stumble so as to fall,” that’s two separate occurrences. One is “to stumble,” the other is “to fall.” Sometimes, you stumble, meaning you trip your toe but you do not fall to the ground. Other times you stumble and do fall to the ground. So this is an analogy, it’s a metaphor concerning the nation Israel, they have stumbled. The question is, what have they stumbled over? And so, that’s easy if you’ll go, if you’ll look at verse 9, just two verses previous, “A stumbling block,” he mentions.


So, what is this stumbling block? Well, if you go back to chapter 9:33, God says, “I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” We know exactly who and what that is, that is Jesus Christ and the message of salvation exclusively through the cross, and the righteousness that God provides in the gospel. That’s a stumbling block to Israel because Israel is so spiritually blind at this time, they believe that they have to earn their way to God, and merit through self-righteousness their own standing of acceptance before God. They don’t have a category for grace. They do not have an understanding of a free gift that God offers through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, they have stumbled over the gospel.


So, the question is – they have stumbled, but have they fallen? And when he says, “fall,” he’s referring to an irreversible fall. To so fall away from grace, the teaching of grace, as never to be recovered. In other words, to put it in simplest terms, is God through with the Jew? Is God through with Israel? They definitely stumbled in a monumental way in the first century to the point they crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. Pilate would have let Him off the hook in the trial. They brought the political pressure, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” “Well, what about Barabbas? Would you want?” “No, no, no, crucify Christ.” So the Jews in the first century, they truly stumbled in monumental fashion in the first century. So, the question on the table is, if stumbled, have they fallen never to be recovered back to a relationship with God? So, that is the question. Is it one and done for Israel? So, that’s the question.


Second, “The Renunciation.” Notice at the end of verse 11 the renunciation that should be somewhat familiar to us now, “May it never be.” It’s just two words in the Greek, me genoito, and it is the strongest, most emphatic negative denial that there is in the English language. And to put it into vernacular it would be, “Absolutely not!” “No way!” “No, no, a thousand times, no!” God is not finished with Israel. God still has an inscrutable purpose for the nation, and there will still yet be a future salvation for the people of the nation Israel.


So, that leads us now to “The Explanation,” beginning at the end of…the second half of verse 11. Paul now gives a careful explanation why this stumbling of Israel is not a permanent fall. That it actually is a part of a larger master plan that God has for history. That God is so wise and so incomprehensible that He uses even the unbelief of Israel to bring salvation on a grander scale to the world. So, he now begins to unpack this. He says, “But by their transgressions,” the “their” refers to Israel, the “transgression” refers to their rejection of Christ, their crucifixion of Christ, their utter denial of the gospel of grace. “By their transgressions, salvation has come to the Gentiles,” and by this he means the message of salvation has now been preached to the Gentiles as a result of Israel’s utter slamming the door shut on the gospel.


So, what a strange occurrence this is in the providence of God, and this really began in Acts chapter 13. You may want to turn back to it just for a second, we’ll just go there very quickly. But Acts 13 begins Paul’s first missionary journey. At the beginning of Acts 13, he is commissioned from the church at Antioch, Barnabas goes with him and they, in verse 14, they come to Pisidian Antioch, and beginning in verse 16, Paul preaches one of the greatest sermons that you would ever want to read in your life, and it extends all the way down to verse 41. This is a major discourse in the book of Acts.


Just so you’ll know, there are some twenty-one sermons in the book of Acts. And the title of the book really should not be “The Acts of the Apostles,” more correctly it really should’ve been named, “The Sermons of the Apostles.” Another footnote, one out of every four verses in the book of Acts is a sermon, and it shows how the first-century church was such a preaching church. They filled up the first century with strong Bible preaching. That’s one reason why they were so dynamic.


And I’ll say one reason why I think the church today is very anemic and weak, we have very little Bible preaching today. We’ve canceled Wednesday-night preaching, we’ve canceled Sunday-night preaching, we’ve shortened Sunday-morning preaching, we no longer have Bible conferences, etc., etc. So…but the first-century church, they filled up the air waves with their preaching.


And so, this is one of the strongest sermons you would ever want to read in your life. I’ll let you read it on your own time. And it was addressed to the Jews, and they utterly rejected the message that Paul brought. And so, in verse 48, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Verse 50, “But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas.” So, as the door was closing for the gospel to Israel, another door was swinging wide open for Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles. That’s so much like God. He closes one door, He opens another door, and that’s the way the gospel goes forward. He shuts down, really, maybe the preaching in one church, He opens up another church to get the gospel out. And so, that’s what Paul is explaining that as the Jews, by their unbelief, are just slamming shut the door in the face of Paul as he’s preaching to the Jews, God by His sovereign providence is opening another door for the gospel to go to the Gentiles.


Well let me just tell you, there’s a whole lot more Gentiles then there are Jews. And this will be the means by which the gospel will begin to go to Europe, will begin to go to Africa, will begin to spread through Asia Minor, and that the gospel will go to the whole world. So, in God’s stunning brilliance, God uses the unbelief of Israel as a launching pad for the gospel to go to the four corners of the world. God’s never boxed into a corner. And what they mean for evil, God means for good. God causes all things to work together for good. And so, this is another example.


I mean, we’ve got…I’m seeing Kevin Joseph right here. God just closed the door in China where you were, and now here you are in the United States. I don’t know how God’s going to work this and what He’s up to, but I guarantee you there are going to be doors opening in China, even if it’s secret underground, as that door was closed, and there’s going to be a door open for you here in the United States. So, God’s in the business of opening doors when men close other doors.


So, that’s what Paul is saying here. He’s given this explanation, “By their transgressions, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” I mean, I think of…what comes into my mind is even liberal denominations. They go off into unbelief and apostasy, that door is closed in those churches, they no longer preach the gospel. Well, God uses that rejection to birth new movements and new denominations and new churches for the gospel to flourish. So, that’s what we see taking place here.


And so, he continues in verse 11, “To make them,” that’s referring to Israel, “To make them jealous.” So, this is almost like you’re back in college, you dated one girl, you broke up with her, she dates your best friend, that makes you jealous, you want to come back and date her again. That’s what’s going to happen with Israel. They had the gospel, they didn’t want it, God sent it to the Gentiles. This now makes Israel jealous, and they want to get back into the picture, and God will use this to save the nation Israel. This is unbelievable how God is at work in history. Israel’s unbelief leads to the salvation of Gentiles which, in turn, makes the Jews jealous to bring them back into receiving the gospel. So, that’s what’s going on here.


And that’s not the first time he’s talked about jealous. Back in chapter 10 and verse 19, God has already said this as he is quoting Deuteronomy 32:21, “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation.” That’s referring to the Gentiles. And this was taught by Moses way back in the book of Deuteronomy. So, this is God’s original purpose and plan. This isn’t Plan B. This isn’t God having to make lemonade out of lemons. This isn’t God being caught off guard. No, this was in the Law back in the book of Deuteronomy from the very beginning. The fact is this was God’s predetermined plan from before the foundation of the world. How inscrutable are the ways of God.


So, let’s pick it up in verse 12, “Now if their failure,” referring to Israel’s sin of rejecting Christ and rejecting the gospel. And this word “failure” is a word, it’s a Greek word that just means “utter defeat.” It means “an ignominious loss.” So, their rejection of Christ was a total failure, and they suffered enormous loss. “Their failure,” notice what it says, “is riches to the world.” Extreme spiritual wealth has come, quite frankly, to us in this Bible study. Dan here is a Jew, the rest of us are Gentiles. Who knows where in the world we would be this morning if it hadn’t been for the failure of the Jews to reject the gospel that has multiplied it and springboarded it and launched it to the world, and it’s come to you and me. God’s always at work. God is always advancing His gospel in ways that we’re not even aware. Now, when he says “riches to the world,” he’s referring to the Gentile world, all around the world.


Now, he says, “How much more will their fulfillment be?” Do you see that? “Their” again refers to Israel, and again, I’ve taken a ballpoint pen and just underlined every time I see “their,” “them,” just to trigger my eye in my Bible here is referring to Israel. The “fulfillment” here is referring to the fulfillment of God’s promise to save Israel. So, there will still yet be a future salvation of Israel, we need to be aware of this.


And just to point ahead, if you’ll look at verse 26 in Romans chapter 11, he says, “And so, all Israel will be saved.” Do you see that? There is still yet, in the future plan and purpose of God, a time of great evangelization and conversion of the Jews at the end of the age before Christ returns. So, God will yet fulfill His promises to save Israel. And so right now, they are, as the end of verse 7 says, “They are hardened by God,” verse 8, “God gave them a spirit of stupor,” meaning, it’s just like they’re asleep. They can’t hear or think spiritually. God gave them eyes to see not, ears to hear not, down to this very day, but God’s not finished. They’ve stumbled, they just haven’t fallen, and there will in the future still be a salvation for Israel. So, that is what he is saying to us at the end of verse 12.


Now, I want you to note, fourth, “The Magnification” in verses 13 through 15. Paul now identifies his specific role that he plays in this unfolding drama of redemption. So, in verse 13, he says, “But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles.” The “you” refers to the church in Rome, hence the name of the book “Romans.” And the church in Rome is predominantly a Gentile church. That makes sense, they’re not in Jerusalem, they’re in Rome. And so, the church in Rome is predominantly Gentile. And so, Paul now says, “But I’m speaking to you who are Gentiles. In as much then as I am an apostle of Gentiles.” And what Paul is setting up to say here is really, he himself is an example of this, that God is using Paul as a Jew to reach Gentiles. God has made Paul to be the apostle of the Gentiles. So, God doesn’t even choose a Gentile to reach Gentiles, God chooses a Jew to reach Gentiles. And so, this is even just a picture of what he just said that God will use Israel to reach the world.


Now, let me just back up for a moment and remind us of this. God’s original mission and purpose for Israel as His chosen nation was to be His witnessing nation to all the nations of the world. That God would use Israel to reach the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites, etc. But Israel abandoned this mission. Do you remember when Jonah was called to go to Nineveh? That was a Gentile nation of Assyria, and Jonah doesn’t even want to go to Nineveh because, “God, we don’t want anyone else to be saved. We want to hoard the gospel to ourselves in the nation Israel.” So, Israel just totally went spiritually AWOL in fulfilling their mission to reach the world with the saving message of the gospel.


So God has decided, “I’m still going to use Israel to reach the world. I’m going to use their unbelief then. They won’t do it in faith, I’m going to use them in their unbelief to cause the gospel now to be turned to go to the Gentiles.” And it will be the Gentiles who will now be the mission’s arm to take the gospel to the nations. And when the Jews will see this in the last days that, they now, that Gentiles are in this place of blessing that was once assigned to them, it’s going to give them second thoughts, and it’s going to be used by God to make them jealous to want to come back to the gospel.


Only God could have designed this. His ways are above our ways, and His thoughts are above our thoughts. And we should take great encouragement in this because sometimes when we see the door closed to the gospel, whether it’s in a church or in a denomination, or whether it’s in a country or nation, just know that God is like a hundred chess moves out ahead, and He is already setting in place how other doors are going to be swung open. And it’s going to have a multiplying effect and a far greater outreach. So, that’s what’s going on here.


So Paul, as a Jew, is an apostle of the Gentiles, and he says, “I magnify my ministry.” He glories in this assignment that God has given to him because he knows it will bring glory to God and fulfill God’s purposes to reach the world with the gospel. So look at verse 14, “If somehow I,” Paul, “might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen.” So Paul, you remember he said at the beginning of chapter 10 verse 1, “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is their salvation.” Paul hasn’t given up on the salvation of his fellow countrymen. And in chapter 9 verse 3, he said, “I could wish I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”


So, Paul is still wanting to reach his fellow countrymen, meaning Jews, with the gospel. “If somehow, I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.” That refers to in Paul’s own lifetime. So that’s why for the rest of Paul’s second missionary journey…excuse me, for the rest of his first missionary journey, so that’ll be the rest of Acts 13 and 14. And then for Paul’s second missionary journey, and then Paul’s third missionary journey, and even Paul’s going to Rome at the end of the book of Acts, all of that is Paul going into synagogues and preaching the gospel to Jews. He’s still trying to reach his fellow countrymen with the gospel, so that, as it says in verse 14, so that he may be able to save some of them. So, Paul is just so full of evangelistic zeal to reach his fellow Jews, just like you and I must be full of evangelistic passion to reach our own family, to reach our own neighbors and fellow work associates.


So he says in verse 15, he reexplains this. In fact, verse 15 begins with the word “for,” which introduces an explanation, “For if their rejection,” “their” refers to the vast majority of Israel. The word for “rejection” here is another synonym for unbelief, and it’s a Greek word which means “a throwing away.” That’s what they have done with the gospel. God puts the gospel in front of them, they pick it up and just discard it and put it in the trashcan. They just throw away the gospel. That’s what that word “rejection” actually means.


“For their rejection is the reconciliation of the world.” Only God can have this wired beneath the surface that even the failure of the nation Israel brings about the victory and the triumph of the gospel in greater ways with the world. You know what the word “reconciliation” means? A reconciliation is when two parties are alienated and have had a major, massive disagreement and a falling out and they’re enemies of each other, reconciliation brings the two together. And the Gentile nations are at enmity with God, and God is hostile toward sinners, but in His great love, the gospel is the means of reconciliation to bring the two back together so that the Gentiles may be at peace with God. So he says, “This is the reconciliation of the world,” he doesn’t mean the whole world is going to be saved, but he means the reconciliation of those in the Gentile world who will believe the gospel, and we know that to be the elect within the Gentile world.


So, you’ve got to follow Paul’s logic here now as verse 15 continues to unfold, “What will their acceptance be?” “Their” still refers to Israel. “Acceptance” means their acceptance of the gospel that leads to their acceptance with God. So, it’s kind of a double acceptance, their acceptance of the gospel leads to their acceptance of God. It says, “What will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” So, Israel rejects the gospel, which springboards it to the Gentiles, they receive the gospel. Israel will see this in the future and be jealous, and it will lead to their acceptance of the gospel to find their acceptance with God, which means they will find eternal life and they will be raised from the dead spiritually. That’s what’s going on here as we kind of have to follow the bouncing ball.


Now, to give you a great cross-reference, Ezekiel 37, this is a passage that you’re familiar with. This is the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones. Do you remember that one? “The hand of the Lord was upon me,” verse 1, “and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down the valley in the middle the valley, and it was full of bones,” just dead, sun-bleached bones, just corpses. “He caused me to pass among them round about and behold, there were many on the surface of the valley, and lo they were very dry,” they hadn’t even been buried yet. “Then He said to me, ‘Son of Man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, You know,'” that’s always a good answer.


“Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy,'” meaning preach over these bones, “‘and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”‘” Now, can you imagine anything more illogical than for you to go into a cemetery and begin to preach to dead bones? Though that’s what I do every time I stand up to preach, there are always unconverted people who are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sin, and yet we’re commanded to preach the gospel. You are commanded to preach the gospel to your lost friends, just like Ezekiel here prophesying to the dry bones. And it’s a picture of what God is going to do in the nation Israel. 


So verse 5, “Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you so that you may come alive, and you will know that I am the Lord.'”


Verse 7, “So I prophesied,” that means, “I preached to these dead bones,” “as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling. And the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them and flesh grew and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, ‘Prophecy to the breath,'” breath and spirit are the same word in the Hebrew language, as well as in the Greek. So in other words, he is saying, in essence, “Pray to the Spirit, to the Holy Spirit to now come in power.”


“‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.'” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.” Therefore, prophesy to them.'” Verse 12, “‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves.”‘” There was initial fulfillment of this when Israel returned from Babylon back to the Promised Land in the days after their Babylonian captivity. But there is an ultimate fulfillment of this yet in the future as verse 26 says, “When all Israel will be saved.”


So, here in verse 15, Paul is underscoring how Israel…God is not finished with Israel. It looks like it right now, but yet, isn’t it strange how Israel continues to be in the middle of the headlines and the cause, even this morning. This won’t go away. You cannot buy a plane ticket to Sodom and Gomorrah, you cannot buy a plane ticket to the Canaanites or the Amorites, but you can buy a plane ticket to Jerusalem or to Tel Aviv, and it’s not going to go away. It will be until the end of the age. Israel has a strategic place in the unfolding sovereign purposes of God for history, and God will yet still save all of Israel. We’ll talk about what that means in December when we come to that.


Now, I’m going to give you one more heading, and this will be easy, and I hope you’re able to hang with me, and you’re really not hanging with me, you’re hanging with Paul, okay. I’m just trying to be a mouthpiece for Paul. So number five, “The Illustrations.” Again, Paul the master teacher, he gives us two illustrations of what he’s talking about. Verse 16, he gives us two illustrations to make the point that he’s been making, that God is not finished with Israel, there is still yet a future salvation that will come to Israel.


So verse 16, here’s the first illustration, “If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also.” So, what does this mean? Well, picture a lump of dough. In the first piece, so you just put your hand into the large lump of dough and you pull out the small portion, and it’s holy. “Holy” here meaning “set apart to God,” “chosen by God for salvation.” This first piece is the same Greek word that is used for “first fruits.” And so, when the harvest would come in, a farmer would go out into his field and he would grab a handful of the fruit, and it would be the first fruit, and he would offer it to God as a thank offering. And it was an indication that the whole of the rest of the field is going to be like this first fruit.


That’s actually the same word that’s used here, Paul’s kind of mixing metaphors, but the first fruit, or the first piece, is an indication that just as God has already saved a small remnant of Jews, there will still be the rest of the lump of dough that God is going to save. So, he’s moving from the lesser to the greater and saying that the rest of the lump is going to be made holy one day. And let me just tell you this, this is the sovereignty of God that is causing all this…that will cause all this to happen. God has already foreordained this future history for Israel, and He has foreordained the salvation of individual Jews within the nation Israel on a vast scale. So, that’s the first illustration.


Then the second illustration, he says, “And the root is holy, the branches are also.” So, you can picture how the branches grow out of the root. You tell me what the root is, I’ll you what the branches are because the branches will be of the exact same nature as the root. There’s an inseparable connection, but the branches will be far larger and will be fruit-bearing as they grow out of the root.


So Paul, in his brilliant mind, is painting this picture to let us see that out of the root, and the commentators tell us that the root is actually Abraham and the Patriarchs. As I first read this and just made my own analysis of the passage, I assumed that the root was the remnant in the day of Paul. I guess I’ll have to yield to the commentators and not be the only person in the history of the world to ever think it’s the remnant in Paul’s day. But either way, it still points to the branches that are coming, that are going to grow out of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the remnant in Paul’s day. There will still, in the future, be a growth of salvation in the metaphor of the picture of the branches that is still yet to come.


So, this is a somewhat complex passage that I’m sure has been a challenge to follow. It’s been a challenge for me to break it out and to lay it in front of you. And you may be thinking, “Of all the time to come to the men’s Bible study, I chose to come on this lesson.” But there is some application for us here.


Number one, what gratitude should there be in our heart? You know, if we were a Gentile born in the Old Testament times, we probably would have never heard the gospel. The fact that God in His sovereignty had us born Gentiles in the twentieth century should so humble us that we live in a time of history in which the gospel has come to us. That this is not a strange thing that we’re having this Bible study this morning, but that God has purposed to bring the gospel to us at this time. So, there should be an enormous sense of gratitude in our heart that we know the Lord and it’s really the result of God’s purpose and plan working through the nation, the failure of the nation Israel.


The second point of application is, do we not here see God’s heart for the world to reach the world with the gospel, and that God will work through any obstacle, any hindrance to Him reaching the world with His saving message? If the unbelief of Israel was not an obstacle to God in the first century, neither will be any obstacle that’s put in front of the church today. God can still get the gospel into China, God can still get the gospel into countries that right now, in the Middle East even, that seem to be in a lockdown mode. God still is the God who opens doors that no man can close.


So, we should be triumphant and optimistic and have great trust and great hope that God will get the gospel to the world. And we need to be a part of this, whatever part, whether it’s, “God, I’m willing to go. Send me,” or, “I’m willing to support others whom You send,” “I’m willing to pray for others.” But we see here God’s heart to reach the world with the gospel. This should be a great motivation to us to, in essence, lock arms with what God is doing, to lock arms with God and to be a partner with God in reaching the world with the gospel.


And not to even use me as an illustration on anything, but tomorrow, I’m getting on a plane and I’m flying to Tokyo, and then Tokyo to Manila, and I’m going to be preaching the gospel for a whole week there. Pray for me that God will use that time there to spread the gospel in ways that we are not even aware of right now. But God is doing this all around the globe.


And then, I think there should be great humility in our hearts as we see the sovereignty of God at work. I mean God is hardening hearts, God is opening hearts, God is blinding eyes, God is opening eyes, God is deafening ears, God is opening ears. I mean, the wind blows wherever it wills. What humility this should produce in our hearts that God has chosen to give us eyes to see. He’s chosen to give us ears to hear. What others do not see and what others cannot hear, God by His grace, His amazing grace, has worked in our lives.


And so this passage, yet again, just brings me to a standstill and creates in me a sense of awe that God is the God of history, that history is “His story,” that God is working not only with nations, but with individuals within nations. And that God is, He’s got the whole world in His hands, and He’s never boxed into a corner. He’s never checkmated. He never has His hands tied. He is forever and always working in history to bring history to its appointed end. And nothing will thwart the eternal purposes of God, not even unbelief, not even the rejection of the gospel. God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick, and God can even use sin and unbelief as a springboard to catapult the message of the gospel forward so that others will believe. And then even circle back with those who have rejected it. And He’s a God of a second chance and will give Israel yet a second chance at the end of this age.


So, there are so many wires that are connected beneath the surface here in this passage. And I think we should rejoice that we serve this kind of a God who is so awesome that nothing can thwart Him, that nothing can stop the advance of His gospel. And when one door closes, a hundred other doors open. That’s just the way God works in history.


So, I’m bringing this to an end. I’m somewhat exhausted, trying to go through these verses and get into the mind of Paul and what God has given to Paul to give to the church at Rome, now to be given to us. This is why we have to really, when we come to the Bible, we have to really study. That’s why we call this “the men’s Bible study.” I mean, we really have to study on this and pay attention and connect the dots.