Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Rome, and more specifically, is found in verses ten through eighteen. Within this particular set of verses we find the apostle Paul continuing to speak concerning the divine plans and purposes of God. The apostle Paul begins this particular portion of Scripture by expressing a great heaviness and continual sorrow that was present within his heart. The question that must be asked is what was the cause and reason for this great heaviness and this continual sorrow that was found within his heart. If you transition to the third verse of this passage you will find the apostle Paul making a bold statement when he declared to his readers and audience that he could wish that he himself was accursed from Christ for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that something had happened among his people Israel, and it was that recognition and that realization that caused a great heaviness and continual sorrow within his heart. Perhaps one of the most profound truths concerning the apostolic ministry of the apostle Paul was that the ministry appointed unto and ordained for him was one that was entirely and exclusively unto Gentiles. In the third chapter of his epistle to the saints which were at Philippi the apostle Paul speaks of his heritage among the children of Israel, and how he was a direct descendant of the seed of Israel. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation: “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinkers that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:4-6).
It is quite evident and clear from the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi that he was indeed born of the seed of Israel. The apostle Paul was indeed and was in fact of the stock of Israel and therefore had a direct connection unto all that was given unto the children of Israel. In this same passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul speaking of that which separated the nation and people of Israel from the Gentiles and from the rest of the inhabitants of the earth: “…for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever” (Romans 9:3-5). The apostle Paul recognized and understood that it was unto the nation and children of Israel that great responsibility and privilege was ordained and given. The apostle Paul recognized that Christianity had its roots in the history of the Jewish people, for everything that Christianity included had its roots and foundation in the shadows, the types and the patterns that were found within Judaism. It’s absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand that it was unto the children and nation of Israel that the covenants, the promises, the law, the adoption and the glory was given. The nation and people of Israel stood as completely set apart and separated from the rest of the nations and peoples upon the earth, for it was unto the nation of Israel a very special relationship before, unto and with the Lord was given. It was unto the children of Israel the law was given unto and through Moses, as well as the pattern, the type and the ministry of the Tabernacle. It was unto the nation and people of Israel the ministry of the sacrifices and offerings upon the altar of the Tabernacle and later the Temple were given. If we are to truly understand Christianity as we know and have experienced it today, we must first recognize and understand that its roots run deep within the soil of the history of the Jewish people.
When we read the words of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi we learn that the apostle Paul was of this special people who had been given the covenant and the promises of the living God. As you consider the apostolic ministry of the apostle Paul, it’s absolutely astonishing to note that he was not ordained an apostle unto the Jewish people, nor was his ministry ordained and appointed within Jerusalem, or even within the region of Judaea. Whereas John the Baptist and even Jesus Christ Himself engaged in ministry among the Jews within the region of Judaea, the apostle Paul was ordained and appointed as an apostle unto the Gentiles. The ministry that was ordained and appointed for and unto the apostle Paul was not one that would allow him to remain within the confines and comfort of Jerusalem, or even of the region of Judea. Instead, the apostolic ministry which was ordained and appointed unto Paul would send and bring him beyond the borders of Judaea, and even beyond the borders of Samaria. In order to understand the full scope of the apostolic ministry appointed and ordained unto the apostle Paul, it’s absolutely necessary that we turn our attention to the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles. It is within the ninth chapter of this book we discover the words which Jesus. Himself spoke unto Ananias after He had already appeared to him on the road unto Damascus: “And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, name Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:10-16).
The apostle Paul would himself emphatically express how he had been ordained an apostle unto the Gentiles later on in this same epistle to the saints which were at Rome. If you begin reading with the eleventh verse of the eleventh chapter you will find these words: “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:11-15). Later on in this very same epistle we find the apostle Paul one more time speaking of his ordination and appointing as the apostle to the Gentiles, for the apostle Paul recognized and understood that it was not unto the nation and people of Israel he had been called and ordained, but unto the Gentiles. Beginning with the fourteenth verse of the fifteenth chapter of this epistle unto the Roman saints we find these words: “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, that I should be the ministry of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyrcium, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Yea, so have I strived to preached the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand” (Romans 15:14-21).
Perhaps one of the most intriguing realities that surrounds the subject of what I am writing at this very moment is when you consider the ordination and appointing of the apostle Paul in the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles, and the gospel concerning Jesus Christ being preached unto the Gentiles. In the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts we find Saul of Tarsus being converted by a powerful experienced and revelation he received while traveling on the road leading to Damascus, while in the very next chapter we find the apostle Peter being sent by the Lord Himself unto the house of Cornelius to preach unto him the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. In the ninth chapter we discover the appointing and raising up of an apostle unto the Gentiles, while in the very next chapter we find a powerful example of the gospel being preached unto an entire Gentile household. The entire household of Cornelius not only heard and received the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, but upon hearing the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ, they also experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evident and manifested in and with speaking in tongues. What’s more is that after they had all received the promise of the Father—the person of the Holy Spirit—they would them experience the baptism of John the Baptist in water. Within the tenth chapter we not only find an entire Gentile household hearing the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ, but we also find them experiencing the baptism of water, as well as the baptism of fire. Not only would Gentiles experiencing the preaching of the gospel concerning the kingdom of God and concerning Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, but they would also experience the baptism of John and the baptism of Jesus. The New Testament book of Acts would eventually transition beyond the borders of Jerusalem, and Judaea, and even Samaria, and would eventually expand within and throughout the surrounding region of Asia. What I so love about this first epistle found within the New Testament is that it presents us with the powerful reality that the gospel concerning Jesus Christ had even reached the very heart of the Roman Empire—the capital city of Rome.
When we read the ninth chapter of the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome we begin to notice and uncover the reason for his great heaviness and continual sorrow. Despite the fact the apostle Paul was appointed and ordained an apostle unto the Gentiles, there was still a strong desire within his heart and soul for his people. The apostle Paul would spend his days, his weeks, his months, and his years post his conversion on the road to Damascus preaching the gospel concerning Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles which dwelt in the regions and borders beyond Judaea and Samaria. If you journey to the thirteenth chapter you will encounter that particular moment and turning point within the life of the apostle Paul when the Holy Spirit Himself would separate Paul—along with and as well as Barnabas—unto Himself for the purpose of the ministry of the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ: “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaean, which had been brought up with Herod the terrace, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and preached, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, separated unto Seleucid; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John unto their minister” (Acts 13:1-5). In the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts we find it being revealed unto Ananias how the Lord had set apart and ordained and appointed Saul of Tarsus to be His servant and His vessel unto the Gentiles. Within the ninth chapter of the book of the Acts of the apostles we find this same man who left Jerusalem intending on continuing and furthering the persecution of the Church experiencing Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. It would be this experience that would set Saul of Tarsus on a collision course with an apostolic ministry that would send him beyond the borders and boundaries of Judaea and Samaria, and unto the Gentiles. When we come to the thirteenth chapter of the same New Testament book we actually find the apostle Paul being set apart by the Holy Spirit Himself for the work of the ministry—a ministry that would send him among the Gentiles. How absolutely incredible it is that this Hebrew of Hebrew of the tribe of Benjamin would be ordained and appointed the apostle unto the Gentiles. What’s more, is that the entire reason and purpose for the promise of the Father being made available unto the Gentiles, and the preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ being made available unto the Gentiles was because of the rejection of both by the Jews.
The ninth chapter of the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Rome would eventually transition to a place where the apostle Paul would speak of election as it pertains to the divine purposes and plan of God. If you begin reading with the sixth verse of this chapter you will notice the apostle Paul moving beyond speaking of the special relationship the children of Israel had before and with the Lord of hosts to the tremendous reality of divine election by the Father of lights. “Now as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:6-13). The apostle Paul seeks to set forth unto the saints which were at Rome the powerful reality of election as it pertains to the divine purposes and plan of God, and he does so by speaking of the election of Jacob before he even broke forth from the womb of Rebekah. When Rebekah sought to understand the tremendous conflict and struggle that was taking place within her physical body, the Lord revealed unto her that there were two nations within her womb, and that from her womb two nations would emerge upon the earth. The Lord would go on to speak to Rebekah and reveal how the elder brother would in fact serve the younger—a reality that would later be expressed with Joseph’s own sons, as this word would again be spoken concerning brothers. If we are to truly understand that which the apostle Paul was writing and speaking within this passage of Scripture, it’s imperative that we recognize and understand the concept of election. The apostle Paul—when speaking of the two children that would be born from the womb of Rebekah—would speak of these children as having not yet been born, neither having done any good or evil, yet being ordained and appointed for a specific purpose within and upon the earth. It is absolutely imperative that we understand the concepts of adoption and election, for such concepts are incredibly prevalent within the gospel and message of the apostle Paul.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus, which are recorded for us beginning with the third verse of the first chapter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposes in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation:? In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:3-14).
Perhaps the single greatest truth that is found and contained within this passage of Scripture is the incredible supremacy of the divine will—the divine plans and purposes—of the true and living God. There is a dangerous tendency to raise our fist in anger—and perhaps even rage—before and against the living God because we somehow disagree with his methods, or perhaps even his plans and purposes. If there is one thing this passage of Scripture reveals it’s that the Lord has His own plans and His own purposes, and the Lord has never and/or will never consult with men regarding His plans and purposes. Despite how many times we may think we can get away with arguing with and even disputing the divine plans and purposes of the living God, it is absolutely imperative that we understand such an attempt is incredible futile and completely fruitless. I do not know of any individual who has ever successfully argued with or against the Lord concerning His will, His plans and His purposes. I do not know of any individual who has every successfully debated and/or even disputed the divine plan and purposes of the Lord and has done so effectively. If you continue reading this passage of Scripture you will find the temptation to argue with the divine plans and purposes of the living God. Consider if you will the words and language that is found in this same chapter beginning with the nineteenth verse: “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not believed. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: for He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth” (Romans 9:19-28).
This reality is further expressed and can be further explored in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah beginning with the eighth verse of the forty-fifth chapter. Beginning with this verse we find these words written by the prophet Isaiah concerning those who would dare strive against and resist their divine Maker: “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioners it, What makes thou? Or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? OR to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and His Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward saith the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 45:9-13). Within this particular passage of Scripture we not only read of questioning the purposes of the creator and maker, but we also find the concept of striving with our Maker. I can’t help but read the words of the prophet Isaiah in this passage of Scripture and consider how many men and women make it a regular and routine habit to strive against their Maker, and to argue with, debate, and even dispute the plans and purposes of the true and living God. I can’t help but wonder how many times I myself have argued with, debated with, and disputed with the plans and purposes of the living God. How many times have I attempted to argue with the plans and purposes of the Lord, and have even dared to question Him within my heart. How many times have our complaints, our grumbling and our murmuring gone unheard—at least audibly—because we have voiced and expressed them within our hearts and minds alone? How many times have we silently argued with the living God because we perhaps think we somehow know better than He does? We play an incredible dangerous game when we attempt to argue with and against the living God and attempt to strive against and resist His will. The question that must be asked is what would even give us the right to perceive within ourselves that we are even fit and qualified to strive with the Lord—much less attempt to argue with, fight against and resist His divine will.
When we speak of adoption, when we speak of election, when we speak of predestination we attempt to engage in something that is far beyond ourselves, for we attempt to get into the actual heart and mind of the Lord of hosts. When we speak of such realities we attempt to engage ourselves in the divine will, the divine plan, and the divine purpose of the Lord that is far beyond our understanding and our comprehension. Even the concept of “many are called, but few are chosen” is a reality that is so far beyond our comprehension, for we cannot fully understand or comprehend the divine plan and purposes of the true and living God. It’s worth noting how in this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul writing that it is not of him that willet, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. When writing and speaking of Pharaoh, the apostle Paul carefully considered the fact that even in the role Pharaoh played in the history of the children of Israel, he served his role and played his specific part in that history. It was said of Pharaoh that the Lord raised him up for His own purpose in order that He might shew His power in him, and that His name might be declared throughout all the earth. The question I can’t help but engage in when reading this passage is what purpose the Lord has for my own life, and what the Lord desires to do within and through my life. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand it’s that which the Lord has declared and decreed for our lives and to surrender ourselves to it. It is absolutely imperative that we spend our time and our days seeking to understand the divine plan and purpose of the living God for our lives, and to not only accept it, but also run with it. We have absolutely no ground or standing in making any attempt to strive against and resist the divine plan and purpose of the living God, and instead of attempting to strive with and against our Maker we must recognize and understand that which He desires to do, and what He has purposed, and to bring ourselves into alignment with it. We dare not be that one who raises their fist in anger before and against the living God and arguing with His divine plan and purpose. The question you and I must ask ourselves is whether or not we are bringing ourselves into alignment with the divine will, the divine counsel, and the divine plan and purpose of the living God, and choosing to move forward with it without striving against, fighting against, or even revisiting it.