Father, as we approach Your Word, we are mindful of our need for the Holy Spirit to be our primary teacher and to guide us into all truth. So, I pray that now as we start this study that Your Spirit would work in me to be a faithful secondary teacher and that the Spirit would be at work in each and every man who is here today. And for those joining us on live stream around the world, I pray that You would meet with everyone who is a part of our study. So, give us eyes to see, give us a heart to understand. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.
Okay, we are in Romans chapter 10 and verses 18 to 21 as we are methodically working our way through the book of Romans, and I want to begin by reading the verses that we are going to be looking at today, Romans 10 and 18 and following. And I think I should say this, I am headed to Ireland tomorrow and will be there for a week preaching just all through Ireland and then I fly to London and lead a church history tour throughout London, to Oxford, to Cambridge and various places. Then I fly to Los Angeles for a board meeting with The Master’s Seminary and University. So, I am going to be on the road a bit. I think we meet back here in three weeks, something like that. Maybe someone can go online and look while we are in the midst of our study, so I can make that announcement.
Audience: It is October 16th.
October 16th, okay.
Audience: It is a Wednesday.
And we are going to do it on a Wednesday so this can all fit in. And so, Kent, you are going to have to cancel your other Bible study so you can be here for this.
So, Romans chapter 10, these verses are a little challenging to get the sense of them, but all Scripture is profitable and inspired. So, we just have to kind of hang with this. Beginning in verse 18, Paul writes, “But I say, surely they have not heard, have they? Indeed they have; ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world,’ but I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses said, ‘I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you.’ And Isaiah is very bold and says, ‘I was found by those who did not seek Me, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.’ But as for Israel He says, ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.'”
As you can tell just by my reading through these verses, a little bit of a challenge to gain the sense of what Paul is saying here, but I have entitled this, “Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!” And that is really what is going on here, three big excuses. And so, by way of introduction, I want to say a deeply rooted flaw in our human nature is to make excuses. So, it is a part of our sin nature and it is an attempt really to escape responsibility, human responsibility, for what is incumbent upon us. And it is a refusal to take ownership for the opportunities that are entrusted to us as well as to pass the blame for our sin to others, and it has been this way from the very beginning.
You remember what Adam said? He said in Genesis 3:12, “The woman whom You gave me.” Well, that was a twofold passing of the buck right there. It is the woman, and it is the woman “You gave me.” So, he is accusing not only the woman for his sin, but he is accusing God for giving him such a woman who led him into that sin. So, from the very beginning, from the opening of the Bible, we see this fatal flaw within humanity to make excuses.
And so, that is what Paul is addressing here with specifically the nation Israel, though the principle applies to all of us. He is confronting the excuses concerning why Israel has not believed the gospel, and it really fits in the context immediately after Romans chapter 9, which is all about divine sovereignty and unconditional election, the potter and the clay, etc. And so, it would be very easy for someone to then to say, “Well, if God is sovereign, then I am not responsible for the choices that I make.” And so, Romans chapter 10 intentionally follows Romans chapter 9, that no one can play that card with God, that though God is perfectly sovereign and He is the one who determines the destinies of all those who will be in heaven, nevertheless, every man remains responsible before God for the decisions that he makes. And I will put it this way, everyone in heaven is there by divine choice and everyone in hell is there by human choice. God allowing people to go their own way.
So, how do we reconcile this? Well, there is a sense in which we cannot reconcile this in our finite minds. These lines intersect far above our heads, but we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We can’t play one off of the other. Both are true. God is divinely sovereign, absolutely sovereign, and yet man is absolutely responsible for the decisions and choices that he makes. Someone once asked Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great preacher, “How do you reconcile divine sovereignty and human responsibility?” And Spurgeon said, “I don’t have to reconcile friends. They have never had a falling out.” And so, they have never had a falling out. They don’t need to be reconciled. Both are true, but the fact is none of us can reconcile the mysteries of the Trinity. None of us can reconcile the mysteries of the hypostatic union of Christ, that He is truly God yet truly man. None of us can reconcile the mysteries of the inspiration of Scripture. Is this the Word of God or did Paul write it? None of us can reconcile the mystery of how we even live the Christian life. Do I live it? Does God live it in me?
So, every great doctrine in the Bible has inherent mystery within it. And if you only believe what you can understand, you are not going to believe anything. It takes a step of faith. It takes trust and faith in God and in the Word of God. And so, here is yet another one of those tension points in theology. So, Romans chapter 9, absolute divine sovereignty, no question. We can play hardball with Romans 9. In fact, we did play hardball with Romans 9.
But we come to Romans chapter 10 and there it is. And it says in verse 13, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” In verse 1, Paul says, “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” Well, that was settled back in eternity past. Yet within time, Paul is burdened for the lost, and he is praying to God for them. So, as we come now to verses 18 through 21, there are three main headings that I want to set before you. And I really believe in simple outlines, so I have reduced this as simply as it can be.
And in verse 18, Paul says concerning the nation Israel and their unbelief. He says, number one, “They have heard.” They have heard the gospel. They have heard the truth, and they cannot play the card, “Well, I haven’t heard.” Oh, you’ve heard. You’ve heard in volumes. So, he says in verse 18, “But I say.” And as Paul says “But I say,” he is anticipating an imaginary objectioner. He is anticipating what is in the minds of certain people, and he did that in Romans chapter 9 as well. He did it in verse 14 of Romans 9, “What shall we say then? Question mark. There is no injustice with God, is there?” Question mark. He addresses that. And then in verse 19 of Romans 9, he does the same thing. He raises the question that people have in their mind before they can actually ask it. It is like a very good courtroom attorney.
So, as we are now in chapter 10, that is what he does in verse 18, “But I say.” And really, that means, “I know what you’re thinking. So, let me just go ahead and say it. Let me go ahead and put it on the table.” “Surely they,” referring to Israel, “have never heard, have they?” Now Paul is not raising this for himself. He is raising it for those who have this question in their mind, especially with many Jews. And so, he will immediately answer this, “Indeed they have,” meaning they have heard. Of course, they have heard the truth. I mean, think about this. Throughout the whole Old Testament, they heard the truth. I mean, it was a Jewish wave of prophets that were sent to address the nation Israel. They heard it throughout the whole Old Testament, but they have also heard it in the New Testament already.
Romans was written in about the year 57 AD, and for less than the last thirty years it has been non-stop gospel preaching to the Jewish people. And so, to make his point, he now quotes Psalm 19 verse 4, and he says, “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” Now, that is from Psalm 19. And in Psalm 19, it is referring to what we call “general revelation” that goes out to every single person who is alive on planet earth. It goes out through creation. Anyone can look at creation and should rightly come to the conclusion there is a Creator. I mean, how simple is that? And that the creation bears witness of what the Creator is like. His fingerprints, His DNA, are seen all through creation. I mean, you can just let look up into the sky and come to the conclusion as you look at the planets above, “This God, this Creator, is transcendent. He is high and lifted up.”
I mean, you can just look at these hurricanes that are blowing into the East Coast and surmise, “He is a powerful Creator.” We can look at the changing of the seasons and the rain that comes and come to the conclusion, “He is a faithful Creator.” The sun comes up, the sun goes down at the predictable time, etc, etc. That is what Psalm 19 is all about. There is not a person on planet earth who does not have the witness from God of the existence of God and that God is there.
Paul now uses Psalm 19 here in verse 18 as an illustration, as an analogy, as a figurative analogy of gospel preaching that goes out far and wide. Now, not everyone has heard gospel preaching. I mean, we know that, but the point here that Paul is making is that just as general revelation has gone out to the ends of the earth, even so gospel preaching has already gone out far and wide and it is loud and clear. And Paul is using this in what we call with “hyperbole,” which is a figure of speech. It is an exaggerated statement in order to make a very profound point. And so, that is what Paul is saying here by quoting Psalm 19. So, when he says, “their voice,” in this context refers to the voice of preachers. Their voice has gone out far and wide to all the earth. And when he says “all the earth” it means all the known world, and at this point it is the Roman Empire. It is the Middle East. It is northern Africa. It is the southern part of Europe, the Roman Empire wrapping around the Mediterranean Sea. That is what is in Paul’s mind here.
And we know that even from Colossians 1 verse 6 when he says, “The gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world.” Well, it is understood it hadn’t gone to the Eskimos in Alaska yet by 57 AD, and it hasn’t yet come to the Auca Indians in South America, but it has gone to the known world, the Roman Empire. And so, that is how Paul is using this language. He says, “And their words to the ends of the world,” and that is just a repetition of what he has just said. So, Paul’s point in saying this is that the Jewish person in the first century cannot say, “Well, we haven’t heard the truth. That’s why we still are in unbelief.”
No, you have heard the truth because God has sent out wave upon wave not only of gospel preachers, but even farmers and housewives and what we would say today, “laypeople.” They have gone out far and wide. And I want to show you this. Turn back to the book of Acts, to Acts chapter 2, and this is really worth turning back. It is two verses that are very easy to just overlook in the book of Acts. Acts chapter 2, and I want us to look at verses 9, 10, and 11, so three verses, those who were gathered together on the day of Pentecost when Peter stood up to preach.
I want us to understand that he preached to those far beyond his own zip code, that there was gathered there on the day of Pentecost an international congregation. And after Peter preached on the day of Pentecost and three thousand were converted, they stayed for a short time to be further instructed in the things of the Lord, but then they went back to their hometown and their native land. They took the gospel with them immediately. That is how quickly the gospel spread, and these are all Jewish people. These are not even Gentiles. So, beginning in verse 9, look at this list. “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the districts of Libya, Cyrene, visitors from Rome both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs.” That is who heard the preaching on the day of Pentecost.
And let me just take a moment with you and just outline where all these places are, because I had to look them up because I haven’t been to all of these places yet, okay? Alright, so let us just walk through this list to have a good understanding of how quickly, immediately, the gospel spread into the Jewish community. So, the Parthians, that is present day Iran, present day Iran, and he begins with the Middle East down to Judea. So, the Parthians to Judea, these are very well organized as Luke puts this together. Not this Luke. The first Luke. The Luke who doesn’t sneeze in the middle of my studies, this Luke, down to Judea. This is all the Middle East. So, the Parthians, that is present day Iran. The Medes, that is the Parthian Empire which is in that larger area. The Elamites, that is Southwest Iran. Mesopotamia is the area between the Tigris and the Euphrates River. And interestingly enough, I have learned “Mesopotamia” actually means “between the rivers,” so that is that area there that is flowing through the area. And then Judea is from the Euphrates to Egypt.
So it is covering Palestine. Now he shifts into Asia Minor, and Cappadocia is modern-day Turkey. That is in the central part of modern-day Turkey. Pontus is northern Turkey, and Asia refers to the coastline of Turkey on the Aegean Sea. And then Phrygia is further inland in Turkey, so towards the inland. And then Pamphylia, that is the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. So, it is just blanketing Asia Minor and then we drop down to Africa. Egypt is modern-day Egypt and included the city of Alexandria, which is one of the major, major hubs of Christianity in the first century. And then, Libya and Cyrene is west of Egypt on the North African coast on the Mediterranean Sea. And then Rome, that is in Europe, and that is the capital city really of the known world of the Roman Empire at this point. And then the Cretans, that is on the island of Crete that is in the middle of the Mediterranean Ocean off the south coast of Greece. And then the Arabs probably refers to south of Damascus, but could go even further on the east of the Jordan River.
So, I mean this is like a wide dispersement. And you talk about the infinite genius of God to birth the church on the day of Pentecost with this international contingency there to hear His sermon and for the power of the Holy Spirit to come and for three thousand people to be saved with one sermon and then for them to be dispersed and to go back to their homelands immediately overnight. There is unleashed a force for gospel witness into the known world. So, yeah, we understand what Paul is saying in Romans 10. Yeah, their voice has gone out to the ends of the earth. That was the ends of the earth at that point as it relates to gospel witness.
Now, listen to two quotes I have, one from Justin Martyr who lived in the middle of the second century. He wrote, “There is no people, Greek or barbarian or any other race, however ignorant of arts and agriculture,” meaning they are just scattered way out in the uninhabited areas, “whether they dwell in tents or wander about in covered wagons,” meaning they are just nomads out in the desert, “among whom prayers and thanksgivings are not offered in the name of the crucified Jesus to the Father and Creator of all things,” close quote.
So, about the middle of the second century what Justin Martyr is saying even if you go out in the middle of nowhere where people are living in tents and covered wagons, they are already giving praise to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ. That is how wide and quickly the dispersement of the gospel was in the first and second century. And then later at the end of the second century and first part of the next century, Tertullian said, “We are but of yesterday.” By that he meant Christianity just got started like yesterday, okay? “We are but of yesterday, yet we already fill your cities, your islands, your camps, your palaces, your Senate, and forum.” We have filled up every city, every building that there is in the Roman Empire with Christians, with their Christian witness. And people, actually historians, have wondered why did the Roman Empire come down, and there are multiple theories as to why the Roman Empire imploded from the inside.
Well, one main reason that is given is because of Christianity and the spread of the gospel. And Tertullian goes on to say in this quote, “The only place you won’t find a Christian in the entire Roman Empire is in pagan temples.” So, if you want to escape Christianity, just go into a pagan temple. Otherwise, 99.9% of the terrain, you are going to run into a believer because the gospel is spread so quickly.
So, for Paul’s first point here, Israel is accountable because you have heard. And human responsibility before God, you have heard the gospel. And I want to say to every man here today, “You’ve heard the truth.” I mean, we are studying the book of Romans. I mean, you have had the ace of spades, the ace of diamonds, the ace of hearts, and the ace of clubs put on the table every time you have come in here. I mean, you have had the truth at the highest level of the Word of God placed before you, and you are responsible for what you have heard.
Now, second, he advances the argument yet further. After saying, “they have heard” in verse 18, he now says in verses 19 and 20, “they have understood.” It is one thing to hear; it is something else to understand. And Paul says, “Not only have you heard with your ears. You have understood with your mind.” And so, he says in verse 19 to take this yet further, “But I say.” And as Paul says that, it is his way of indicating, let me paraphrase it, “I know what’s on your mind. I know what you’re thinking. I’m going to get out ahead of you. You’re thinking, ‘Well, yeah, we have heard, but we just couldn’t connect the dots.'”
So, Paul is going to head that off at the pass before they can go any further with that train of argument. And he says, “Surely Israel did not know, did they?” He puts it in the form of a question. And the answer is, “Of course, they understood! The gospel is very simple. You are a great sinner. Christ is a great Savior. Do I need to go back over that? Christ is a great Savior. You are a great sinner. Great sinners need a great Savior, and there is only one Savior and it is Jesus Christ, and you must repent of your sins and believe upon Him. He is the Son of God, and for Israel He is the long-awaited promised Messiah. I know that you understood our preaching and the witness that was brought to you.”
You know, the word “know,” “Surely, Israel did not know, did they?” I am reading out the New American Standard. The word “know” there in this context really means “understand.” And if you have an ESV, it is actually translated that way, “understand.” The word means to recognize, to perceive, or to take in knowledge and to realize what it is saying. And so, Paul is saying, “Not only have you heard, you’ve understood. You are responsible.” There are a lot of things I hear I don’t understand. I mean, if you tried to explain something to me on how to fix my cell phone, I can hear what you are saying. I don’t understand what you are saying.
But with the gospel, Paul says, “Surely, they did not know, did they?” And the anticipated answer is, “Yes, you did know. You knew about Christ crucified and raised from the dead. You understand justification by faith alone.” And so, Paul now quotes Moses and then he will quote Isaiah. And it just bears our careful attention here to see how he goes from point A to point B. He is underscoring they are responsible for what they have understood, and he will now quote Scripture first with Moses to talk about God’s discipline upon His own people because of their refusal of the gospel. And what is implied is, “You understood, but you didn’t receive the gospel. So, therefore, I’m going to have to punish you for your unbelief.” That is the leap here as we go to the Moses quote. So, he is quoting Deuteronomy 32 verse 21, “First, Moses says.”
And let me draw this to your attention, too. It is the present tense “says.” This is still speaking today. It is not just what Moses said, you know, however many years ago, over three thousand years ago, thirty-four hundred years ago to be exact. He is still speaking today through His Word. “First Moses says, ‘I,'” God is the speaker here, “‘I will make you jealous.”’ The “you” refers to Israel in its unbelief and God will make Israel jealous. He will provoke the nation of Israel to jealousy because they will see the blessings that were promised to them if they would only believe. They will see it coming to a people that they considered to be no people whatsoever, referring to the Gentiles. So “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation.” And “not a nation” literally translated is really “not a people,” and it is a very demeaning expression that the Jews had for Gentiles. And it kind of means you don’t even exist, you are a non-entity, you are just not a people. And the Jew will see these Gentiles that they have supposed, “you don’t even exist on God’s map,” now receiving the blessings of salvation that God promised to Israel, but Israel has turned up its nose at the gospel, and so God has brought punishment on the nation and brought grace and favor to the Gentile. It makes the Jew jealous for what they are receiving, not jealous for God, because God is extending His arms all day long to the nation Israel. We see that in verse 21.
No, here is the deal. They don’t want God on His terms. They want what God offers. They want the gifts of God, not God Himself. It sounds like the health-wealth prosperity gospel to me. They want the goodies from God without having to deal with God Himself, and so they are jealous for what is coming to the Gentiles, yet they are responsible for their unbelief. They are suffering for their own hardened heart. They are suffering for their own refusal to believe the gospel. And no one in Israel can say to God, “Well, You didn’t choose me,” or “I wasn’t one of the elect.” Well, that may be true. No one can know that until your last breath. You don’t know that you are not one of the elect, so stop playing that excuse. You may be one of the elect.
If we would have said in the first century, the number one person who is not one of the elect would have been Saul of Tarsus. We would have reasoned and assumed he is the furthest away from God. He will never be saved. No. And even Saul of Tarsus was so self-deceived. But God saved him. So, no one in Israel can say, “Well, it’s just the sovereignty of God for my sin.” No, you are the reason for your sin. God is not the author of sin. You are responsible for your decisions. That is why you are suffering God’s punishment right now for your sins. So, that is Paul’s reasoning and bringing in Deuteronomy 32 verse 21. I hope I have made that as clear as I can make it and it is a little bit difficult to navigate through this section.
So, he then gives the rest of Deuteronomy 32:21. He says, “By that which is not a nation, by a nation,” and the word “nation” just simply means “a people,” referring collectively to the Gentile people. “By a nation without understanding will I anger you.” As they continue in their unbelief, Israel, as they suffer for their own rejection of their own Messiah, rather than it humbling them and bringing them to repentance, it has the opposite effect and only makes them even angrier. That is almost like when someone asks the question, “Will people in hell, will they ever repent? Won’t they finally come to their senses and humble themselves?”
The answer is no. They are only getting angrier in hell. That is why the gnashing of teeth. That is what that means. You are just gritting your teeth in anger and fury against God. So, the hardened heart actually only becomes harder and harder, but Paul’s point here is that you are doing this to yourself. You are the one who is becoming angry with God, who is extending His arms all day long to you to come to Him in repentance and faith. That is what is taking place here.
And when he says, “A nation without understanding,” that was how the Jews referred to the Gentiles at that point, that not only are they not a people, they don’t have any understanding either. They don’t have the prophets. They don’t have the covenants. They don’t have the oral tradition. They don’t have the Scriptures. They don’t have any understanding.
And now, Israel sees what is becoming a Gentile church and Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles. This is making them all the more furious. This is like a child who has a toy, and there is another little baby put in the same playpen and the other kid takes the toy, and now we have got a brouhaha going on because their toy has been taken from them. And so, the blessings of the gospel have been transferred to the Gentiles. And rather than the Jew becoming humbled by this, they are actually more furious and say, “These are the people who don’t know anything. Why would God be good to them?” So, that is what is going on here.
We are back in Romans 10. I am looking at Acts 2. In verse 20, he adds another cross-reference to heighten this responsibility that Israel has: “And Isaiah is very bold and says.” What that means is Isaiah is even bolder than what Moses is, and Isaiah puts it out even stronger. And so, he now quotes Isaiah 65 verse 1. And all I am doing is just following Paul’s train of thought here and Paul’s logic on this. So, we read, “I was.” “I,” God is still the speaker. “I was found by those,” and the “those” refer to the Gentiles, “who did not seek Me.” And this is something of a prophecy really of what was to come. Because remember when Israel had the gospel, what did they do with it? They just hoarded it. In fact, when God told Jonah to go preach the gospel to the lost people in Nineveh, he gets on a ship and goes in the opposite direction. I mean, it is like being at Dallas at DFW Airport. God says, “Go to JFK in New York,” and Jonah goes, “No, I am getting on a plane going to L.A. I mean, I’m going in the opposite direction. I don’t want them to have the gospel. They are just not worth saving.”
And then even after they are saved, you remember Jonah gets under a plant and all he does is pout because they got converted? He just wanted to hoard the whole thing for themselves within the nation Israel, and that is not an unusual attitude. It probably represents the nation of Israel at that time. They didn’t want the Gentiles to get in on this good thing. It is like you know a secret and you don’t want anyone else to get in on this real estate deal. You know you want to keep it for yourself.
So, it is kind of a prophecy of the Gentiles coming to faith in Christ. Israel doesn’t want to share this with the Gentiles. So, “I was found by those who did not seek Me.” Here is the irony. Even Israel didn’t seek the Lord. They wanted their own self-righteous religion, and that is why you have the Pharisees who are just self-righteous up to the top of their head. And that is why you have got the Sadducees who were the liberals, and that is why you have got the scribes and all these different little pockets of people. They weren’t seeking God; they were seeking a self-made religion of their own way to God. “I was found by those who did not seek Me, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
What God is saying is, “I had to make Myself known to the Gentiles or they would have never found Me, but I have been with you all along,” God is saying to the Jewish people. “All you had to do was open your eyes and open your ears. You didn’t even have to walk across the street. I have been with you all along. It is the Gentiles who didn’t even know about Me. I had to go manifest Myself to them. It was under your nose all along. How much more responsible could you possibly be? You heard it, You understood it, and now you are suffering because you didn’t respond to it. “But you can’t lay blame,” God is saying, “with Me. That’s your own doing. Those are the choices you made.” And so, “I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
Now, there is a third heading, and Paul advances this even yet further to stress, and I just want to repeat this, to stress human responsibility. You have the responsibility to act upon what you have heard and what you have understood, and don’t tell me you are not numbered among the elect because you don’t even know that and you couldn’t know that until the day you die in unbelief.
So, here is the third heading, “They have been invited.” So, he is pushing the fence posts out yet further. He starts off with “You have heard.” Then he moves to “You have understood.” Now, he advances this to “You have been invited all day long and you won’t come.” So, notice what he says in verse 21. And he will now quote the next verse in Isaiah. Isaiah 65 verse 2, and we see here what a Bible preacher the Apostle Paul is by the way: “But as for Israel.” And I just want to stress chapters 9 through 11 really deals with the unbelief of Israel as a section. “But as for Israel He,” referring to God, “says.”
Now, that is interesting. Earlier he said “Isaiah says very boldly,” but here it is “God says” for the next verse. It is God speaking through Isaiah. That is the way it is with Scripture. There is a dual authorship for every passage of Scripture. There is the secondary author. That is the human author. There is the primary author that is God. So, “But as for Israel He,” God, “says, ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.'”
“All day long” is figurative language here for “century after century after century.” I mean, Moses lived like 1400 BC. Abraham was 2000 BC. David was 1000 BC. I mean, we can do the math on this. For centuries, God has been calling out and extending His arms, and it is the long-suffering of God. Israel can’t say, “Well, we didn’t hear and we didn’t understand.” God has been calling you. He has been extending His arms to you and beckoning you and summoning you to come to Him by faith. Even Jesus said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! I would have gathered you in as a mother hen gathers in her chicks. I have been calling out to you.”
So, the responsibility is laid at the feet of the person. Nobody can blame God, and that is why there will be a final judgment and everyone will give an account of themselves to God. And no one can say, “Well, it was the eternal decree of God and sovereign election and this and that.” Well yes, that is all true, but this is also true, so much so that you are held accountable by God for the decisions that you make. So, “All day long I have stretched out my hands. I have urged you, pleaded with you, to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
Wow! Those are strong words. “Disobedient” means “to refuse to obey.” You just refuse to obey. You are stubborn. You are stiff-necked. It means “to not allow one to be persuaded.” It is what the word literally means. And “obstinate” means you are just resistant to God. You are stubborn, as I have already said, and stiff-necked. And to be stiff-necked means it is like an ox who hunches up his shoulders and refuses to let a master put a yoke around his neck. You just do this when God tries to put His easy, sweet, forgiving, gracious yoke around your shoulders. You just become stiff-necked and refuse to submit to a master who will graciously lead you into green pastures and besides still waters and who will lead you to heaven. You just want to go your own way and to do your own thing. So, therefore this is on you, the consequences of your own sin. And Israel was dispersed to the nations in the year 70 AD. God brought Titus Vespasian from the Roman Empire down into Jerusalem. They leveled the temple. Not one stone would be left upon another, and they dispersed the nation Israel to the corners of the known world. And it would not be until like 1948 when Israel would come back to their land, but they are still dispersed. There are more Jews living in New York City than there are living in Israel today, and they are still suffering for their rejection of the gospel and their rejection of their Messiah when God hand-delivered Him to the nation Israel.
Well, so what is the point for us? What is the application for us? Well, three things, and it is just walking back through what we have said. I give you three words. The first is “know.” You know the truth. I mean, we have been talking about Israel in the first century. We are not talking about each one of us in the twenty-first century. You think about all the people in the world. I just saw something on Instagram from Union Seminary, wherever that is on the East Coast, where they are bowing down in seminary before flowers and confessing their sins. Of course, they have no sins. To flowers lest the flowers be angry with them. I thought this was a joke. People were sending this to me from all over yesterday, and then all of a sudden it popped up on mine.
You think about what insanity and blasphemy is being taught in a seminary like that, those graduates going out and standing in pulpits and pumping out that kind of sewage. Think about what you have heard by contrast. Think about the responsibility that you have before God to have had the pearls and the treasures of the infinite grace of God hand-delivered and set before you, many of you for your whole life growing up in Christian homes and being in Christian churches and certainly in this Bible study. No compliment to me, all glory to God for His Word. It has been a full disclosure of the truth. Every time we walk into this study, we are just heightening our responsibility to God. So that is “know.” You know the truth.
Second, “understand.” You understand the truth. It has been clearly explained to you, literally word by word, phrase by phrase, with great deliberation and even at times depth, unpacking the unsearchable riches of the grace of God. How responsible are each one of us? And you know what? I am even more responsible than you are because I have been living in this to prepare these messages. That is why James says in James 3 verse 1, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.”
The greater exposure to the truth, the greater the accountability to God, the greater will be the judgment on the last day. And so, just to remind us of our responsibility to God, you have heard it, you understand it. It has been explained to you. And you have been invited. Many of you, for years and years and years, you have been invited by the text of Scripture, by gospel preachers, by Bible teachers, by Christian parents, have urged you to follow the Lord, have pled with you to be a follower of Christ and to walk the narrow path.
I grew up in a Christian home and I had everything that I just mentioned laid at my feet. I am a debtor to my parents, to so many preachers who have taught the Word of God to me over the last fifty years. How great is my accountability and my responsibility to God to live up to what has been made known to me!
Well, the same is true for each one of us in this study, and I want you to ponder that, and I want you to think about this. And I am so thankful to God for this study and thankful to God that you are here because of the joy of our fellowship and the joy of being in the Word. But also, we need to be mindful that there is a serious side to this as well of our increased exposure to the truth of the Word of God and the accountability that we will give to the Lord on the last day for what the stewardship of the truth that has been entrusted to us.
So, I am going to stop right here. I admit this to myself these verses were somewhat of a challenge to me. I thought I had it neatly packed on Monday. I thought I had it neatly packed on Tuesday. I thought I had it neatly packed on Wednesday. And I got up crazy early this morning, and I am still trying to get it all into the suitcase, but this is the best interpretation I can give you and the best application on these verses. When you go verse by verse through a book in the Bible, you are not given the luxury of skipping the harder verses to deal with, to move on to the easier ones.
So, may God give you, me, us, understanding of these, even these verses that we have looked at, and I want you to think about how this relates to your life.