Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

Arrogant Christians (Romans 11:13-24)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

What? If you're able to remain standing, please do and let's give our attention to Romans, Chapter Eleven, verses Thirteen through twenty four. Romans Eleven, verses thirteen through twenty four. This is God's word. Now I am speaking to you, gentiles, inasmuch then, as I am an apostle to the gentiles. I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews Jealous and thus to save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off and you, although a wild olive shoot, we're grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the Olive Tree. Do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in. That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear, for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note, then, the kindness and the severity of God, severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a Wild Olive Tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own Olive Tree? May God bless his word, you may be seated. So the apostle here...

...uses this analogy. He's uses a few, but particularly the analogy of Olive Tree and branches being cut off and branches being grafted in, as a way to explain to us the necessity of faith, that faith is absolutely necessary in order to be saved. Now there are, of course, other things that are necessary, and faith doesn't come all by itself. Faith we know from Ephesians is a gift of God. We know this from our own experience. To where does good faith come from us, except as God's giving it to us? We know, as we thought about in Romans nine and of many other places in Romans, that our salvation is not something that is based on anything good in us. It's not anything that we've conjured up or worked together so that God would say, yes, here is a good one, I will save them. It's all from God's sovereign will and his powerful hand. And yet, nevertheless, God uses faith as an instrument and by which he saves us. He puts it into us. Faith is that instrument by which we receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone, as he is offered to us in the Gospel. And that is necessary. It is something that we exercise, it is a thing that we do. To believe is a verb. It is required we are to believe, and Paul is very clear about that here. He says that we must believe in terms of this Olive Tree. He says that those that did not believe among the Jews were cut off. They were like dead branches on the tree, not producing any fruit, not really being connected visually. Sure they're there on the tree, but obviously not a part of it too. And and to them God's wrath and severity is known, he says in Verse Twenty Two. Note it, pay attention to it, note the severity and the kindness of God, severity to those who have fallen. Jesus talks about this. When those that do those that do not believe and do not produce forth the fruit of righteousness that comes from faith, what happens? The branches are broken off and thrown into the fire. They're burned. But what happens to those who do have faith? Remarkably, he says that even those that do have faith, that are apart from the Olive Tree, are grafted in, that are brought into the whole. There...

...is this great necessity of being connected to that route, not just in an external way, but vitally in one's life. That is what it means to belong to God. It what it means, what it means to belong to him and to live in him. Well, this is the analogy he gives and this is the point he makes. But on the basis of this point he has this very specific application and he directs it to a particular group of people gentiles, he says in verse thirteen. Now I am speaking to you gentiles. Couldn't get much more clear. Right there he is preaching, so to speak, in his letters and he says now I want to talk to some of you in the church, gentiles, and he says something to them. He says it's several times, in several ways. He says don't be arrogant, don't be arrogant, don't be proud, don't be boastful, don't think of yourself more highly than you want to. Arrogance, being prideful is a bad thing. It's a Anti Gospel kind of thing. You know what arrogance is. You've experienced it, you've demonstrated it and you've seen it. Arrogance is that quality that a person has when they puff themselves up but have really no basis for doing that. I'm perhaps you've seen a person who's a complete completely socially awkward in every way, and yet wants to lecture everyone else on etiquette, or maybe someone at work who brags about all the things they've done but can't accomplish the most simple tasks. A lot of times we overlook arrogance, or at least we deal with it when a person is at least somewhat skilled or a good leader and we say well, we don't like it, but the last they're getting the job done. Right. But the worst cases are where that arrogance in the most extreme way doesn't correspond at all to any kind of reality. Right. Well, the worst kind of arrogance of all is Christian arrogance. The worst arrogant of all is an arrogant Christian. I hope you'll really understand what I mean by that and believe that by the time we get to the end, it's a bad thing, a nonsensical thing, to be prideful as a Christian. But we can, if we draw that circle of arrogant Christians, we can take even make an even smaller and...

...a sort of worse circle within that, and that's people, not only Christians that are arrogant, but you know what the worst is, Christians who are arrogant about being a Christian. Then, in particular, just goes against everything that the Gospel says what it means to belong to Christ so how does Paul Address this issue? He dresses it in several ways, three ways in particular. But if you'll I think we'll understand them best if we understand something of, just a little bit of the background that's going on in this church. Use perhaps have assumed it already a little bit. When Paul speaks to these gentiles, you notice that he's singling someone out, and that's because the church is mixed. There are Jews who have converted or who have come into the full, as you might think of it, into Christianity, of put their faith in Jesus, but they're also gentiles who have come out of paganism and if put their faith in Jesus, you have this mixed body there in Rome. It might be helpful for you to understand not only this passage and the arrogance that these gentiles were experiencing or were doing, and really a lot of this section in Romans, if you understand and remember this one thing, that one of the most difficult theological and practical issues in the New Testament church was the mixture of Jews and gentiles. Over and over and over again, throughout the letters of the New Testament, throughout the book of acts, you see this issue coming up again and again and again and again. How are gentiles who have never been a part of the Jewish people who didn't have the glory and the covenants and the worship and the law and all the rest. How are they to be a part of the family of God? How are we to understand them as children of Abraham? Or, to put it more personally, how are we to understand people like you and me, non Jewish people, in connection with the Church of God as it is existed for thousands of years? How do you work that out? And how do you work it out as a Jew? All of this history and all of this culture and all of this revelation in light of Jesus Christ? What is the church now? How does it work? How does it function? What are we to believe? These were very serious issues, but sometimes issues in the church are complicated by issues in the culture, and this is probably what happened in Rome. Interestingly, in Rome we don't really know how the church there got started. Other churches in the New Testament, we know that Paul went and planted...

...them or other people went to these particular cities and established them there. In Rome were not so sure. There are some ancient sources that point to Peter or point to Peter and Paul, but they are not all that ancient. Compared with the old, with the New Testament. And on top of that, both Peter and Paul's lives, is what we know about them, don't really fit with that account. The Bible itself doesn't say anything about that. So one possible scenario, and maybe the most likely scenario, is that the Roman church started at pentecost when Roman Jews came to Jerusalem for the celebration, heard Peter's Preaching and then went back home as Christians, as people believing in the Messiah and telling others about him. And you can see from that how the Church would have grown. First among the Jews, among the synagogues, and there and then also is gentiles are included more and more. But we know from history, both from the Bible and from Roman sources, that this became somewhat of a public controversy in Rome among the Jews. In a biography about claw Audius, we read that the was a that the Jews there was so much public fighting at the instigation of Chrestus, likely a corruption of the name Christ, that Claudius says to the Jews in Rome you're all out of here. To me it sounds a lot like when a parent here's two people, or are two of their children, arguing back and forth, back and forth, and your kind of hearing them from another room. Right, you don't really know what's going on, you don't really know who's right or wrong, but you just sick of the whole thing and you say all of you to your room. I don't care who's right and who's wrong, I just want you all gone. Well, this is what Claudius does. He doesn't say well, let's find out who are the Christians and who are not at all this. He just kicks all of Jews out of Rome. Now I want you to imagine that. I want you to imagine being in a church, a Roman church, that's mixed with Jews and gentiles, probably mostly Jews, and now all of a sudden, let's think of ourselves here. Let's imagine a large portion all of a sudden next Sunday doesn't show up. Why? Well, we all know the reason. They had to pack up their belongings and leave. Their houses are empty, they're gone. There are another parts of the world and here we are sitting, a few gentiles left in the church with all of these others gone. You See why? I see I could say I'm why I'm saying this is a very complicat hated situation. But by the time Paul's writing this letter, these people have come back in. But the gentiles have been in charge for a while now. In a lot of ways, the gentiles had had a lot of privilege, and this...

I hope. I'm trying to bring us around full circle, and you can see why arrogance might have become a particular problem. The gentiles are the newly privileged in the church. God has reached out into the world and brought them in. You can see why the gentiles might have unfairly characterized. The Jews is squabbling all the time about things. Why don't they just believe in Jesus like we do? Not only had they been privileged by God and being brought into the church, but now they're privileged by their own government as well. And now, by the time the Jews returned, there likely the people who are leading the church, who have been running things for a while. And as the Jews come back and return and as that the gentiles who have been in charge, you can see why there might have been some arrogance on their part. But we're in all this. Did the gentiles really have anything to Brag about? was their privilege a result of their working to the top through their righteousness? This surely wasn't the perspective of Claudius. He didn't expel the Jews because it's the gentiles were so great. They were just Romans, so we let him stay. It wasn't because of their devotion to Christ that they were spared. And from God's perspective, the gentiles weren't being rewarded because of their great obedience. Paul tells us about them back in the early parts of Romans. What does he say? He says that they exchange the glory of God for images of creeping things, animals. It's nothing to be proud about. They if the gentiles were some were people who had given themselves over to some of the basest and most immoral acts. The gentiles did have anything to be proud of in their new positions in the church. So Paul speaks to them. He speaks to them and of course to the Jews who are overhearing him, and he says gentiles don't be air against, and he gives three reasons for this. The first reason is a point about their status in God's eyes. If I might put it this way. God's not a hyper egalitarian. God privileges some people and not others. You know this. There are superiors and inferiors, there are people who are rich and there are people who are not. They're people who have nice things and people who don't, and God is sovereign over all of these things. God's goal in his eternal life is not to make us all exactly the same as everyone else. That's not...

...his goal. God does what he does according to his most perfect wisdom and his absolute sovereignty, and this doesn't make him unjust because we're all sinners and worthy of his condemnation in his wrath, but in His grace and in His mercy, he has looked on some people and some families in the world and blessed them, in particular Abraham and his children. Out of the world. He set his eye on this family and he made promises to them and he gave them gifts and he treated this people, this family and eventually this nation, as his own son. He didn't do this with others. What's the analogy? Paul gives in Romans Eleven, a cultivated olive tree. That's what Israel was like when I grew up, we had an olive tree in our front yard, a cultivated olive tree. It was cultivated by me and my dad. I would go out and cut the little suckers off the bottom. That was my job, as they would spring up every soul often I'd go out and my dad would give me a pair of clippers and cut them off, cut them off the roots as they'd Spring Up, and my dad would, of course, take care of the big branches and it was beautiful and over the years it's become more and more beautiful. It keeps growing and growing and growing and it gets stronger and bigger. The roots of that cool gnarly thing that all of trees do, and it's really a wonderful thing. It's kind of the at my parents home. It's a centerpiece of the yard. It's surrounded by gardens and other trees, but it's the thing that you see when you drive up to the house. It is a cultivated thing. The gentiles were not that tree. That was Israel. Israel, with those the one that God was pruning and caring for in this merciful and gracious and tender way. What were the gentiles? You Gentiles, who are you? Your Secondary. Paul is saying you are not the cultivated all of tree. You are a wild olive branch growing off in the alley somewhere, not producing fruit, not being cared for, not in this way anyway. That's what he says to the gentiles. It's kind of humbling. He doesn't say you're all wonderful and equal in God's eyes. Of course that's true in some ways, but that's not what he's saying here. He's humbling us. He's saying there's a cultivated tree that I've been working on for a long time, and you're not it. You're not it. You are a wild alive shoot going off doing your own thing. Paul compares the gentiles to branches from some other tree, a wild tree, a tree of secondary importance, a tree that did...

...what it's pleat what it pleased and likely provided very little fruit. God could, of course, just let it alone and do what it was going to do. But instead, what did he do with that? He took off those wild branches and he grafted them on to his tree, his special tree, his front yard tree. He went and took something out of the alley and brought it in before his eyes. That's who we are as gentiles. If anyone has room for pride, it's Israel, not gentiles like us. We don't have a right to be arrogant, even if there is a current prominence and number in the church. So that's his first point. He points to our origin. In the second point, Paul humbles us by saying consider the source of your life. The reason they belong to the church, the reason gentiles like us belong to the church, along with the other branches of this great family tree, is because we all share a connection with the root. As he says, we share in the nourishing root. Ultimately, this root is Christ we belong together with the Jews. We live together with them as one family of God, because we share the same nourishing sap, the same life, as all the minerals and nutrients are pulled up into the tree. We live because of our connection with the root. This point should humble even the most prideful Christians. Life in God, which brings forth godly fruit, only happens when one is living in God, and the Bible tells us that that that that's only possible through faith. What is faith? What does faith actually look like? Apart from the analogy of the Olive Tree. What does it look like in our lives? Well, faith is receiving and resting in the salvation of God that is offered to us in Jesus. Faith is believing, it's praying, it's trusting. Think about pride. Pride does the opposite. Pride stands alone. Pride doesn't trust God. Pride does it pray to God. Pride doesn't repent of its sins, because, while I haven't done anything wrong, pride doesn't seek after God in his word. Pride stands on its own. And what happens to a branch that stands on its own? It dies. A branch that says I no longer want to be connected...

...to the root, it dies. That's what happens when we shut off the veins of faith. But what does faith do? Faith takes the ligaments of the branch and it wraps it into the tree. It grabs the tree, it pulls that sap up from the root. Faith is knowing and acting in connection with the tree, knowing that, apart from that connection, I'm dead. Faith lives its entire life knowing that, apart from Jesus, we're gone, we shrivel up, we die, we become prosperone to disease and attack and parasites and all the rest. We don't produce the fruit of godliness, we don't live at all. Well, if our life is lived only in connection to the root, then you see the point. How can you be arrogant about your life and yourself? How can you say what a great Wal Ailed Olive Shoot Tom I? You can't. You have to believe not in yourself but in Jesus, because that's where our life is from, and that's what Paul is reminding us of. This is why he says don't be arrogant. Your life is not in yourself, it's in the root. Well, these first two points are very humbling and perhaps encouraging to you as well. The last one is especially encouraging because it's so hopeful. The last Paul Reason Paul gives to strike a some blows against our arrogance is he talks about the great advantages of US coming in and being grafted into this tree. He puts it in this way. Rather than despise the Jews or Lord it over them or mock them for their Jewishness or their lack of faith, he calls us to seek unitity with them, to pray for them, to long for their salvation, even as Paul has. Why? Here's the reason. Because it's to your own benefit. How's that? For a reason? Don't be arrogant, because in humbling yourself and desiring to be with them, in a part of them, it's to your her own benefit. Where does Paul say this? Well, it's an implicit it's implicit from what he says in the beginning of the passage I read. He says in verse thirteen, he says, I am an apostle to the gentiles. I magnify my ministry in order somehow...

...to make my fellow Jews Jealous and thus save some of them. You See, that's Paul's goal. He magnifies his ministry in going out to the gentiles in order to bring the Jews in. That's his goal. He wants he wants everything. He wants everything. He wants Jewish Salvation, he wants gentile salvation, and that's why he's proud to be an apostle to the gentiles. That's why he magnifies it, so that the Jews would be jealous and he would be saved. And here's where he gets to the particular benefit to the gentiles. In Verse Fifteen, he makes this argument from the lesser to the greater. If their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, in other words, if the stumbling of the Jews and God's passing over them to go out to the gentiles means that the gentiles are brought in, in other words, if the rejection of the Jews means that all these other people are reconciled to God. You gentiles, what will their it acceptance mean? But life from the dead? If their rejection meant this really great thing, can you even imagine what their acceptance will mean? He says life from the dead. You know what he's talking about there. He's talking about the resurrection. In other words, Paul is putting the in gathering of the Jews in connection with these at last, with with this, with the resurrection of the dead itself. I can't explain to you all the details of this, but this is what he says. He says that we, as the Jews, are gathered in in this way, you can begin to expect the coming of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead. This is an amazing thing, and you see why he's saying, don't be arrogant, gentiles, it's to your benefit. If their rejection meant this, how much more their acceptance? It means the Lord is coming, it means people will rise from the dead, it means the Kingdom of God is really, really at hand. He says a similar thing in verse twelve, which I didn't read this morning. I'll read it to you now. He says, now, if their trespass means riches for the world and if their failure means riches for the gentiles, how much more will their full in inclusion be? You see, Paul's anticipating a time when the gentiles, or I'm sorry, the Jews, will be grafted back in, when they will be brought these formerly dead branches that didn't believe will be brought back in, connected to the tree, and we will live as this great family of God, and he sang to us as gentiles, pray for that,...

...look forward to that, instead of standing over the Jews and saying maybe you guys are fools and stupid and I can't believe you've done all these things, embrace them. Look forward to this, because it's to your benefit. If their failure means riches for us. How much more will their full inclusion be? You see what he's saying. Saying, can you even imagine? So what does arrogance to? Arrogance goes against that. Arrogance in a way seeks to cut off blessing, cut off riches, keep branches that are meant to be grafted in away. What? It doesn't make any sense. It's all contrary to everything God has given to us, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that by His grace we can be saved from our sins, that through faith in Jesus, who is freely offered to us, we can be included in the family of God and all the blessings that have been promised to Abraham and his children. We say that's me because I'm adopted, I belong to that family. So do we have any room for arrogance and all of that? Of course not, of course not. And, brothers and sisters, I think that if we spend a little time thinking about this, we can expand the applications of this arrogance well beyond Jewish and gentile relations in the church. We think about other ways in which we show partiality. Money, doctrine, privilege, upbringing all kinds of things. There's so many ways in which we have these arrogant attitudes that go so contrary to the gospel of God. So what do we do with that? What do we do with the conviction in our hearts that, yes, we are prideful and we have been prideful? We repent. It's as simple and wonderful and beautiful as that. We go before the God of grace who brought us into this family, and we go to him again and we pull up that sad up. We feel ourselves yet even more in connection with the root, with Jesus Christ. He promises us that in him we live and that when our faith is truly in him, we will never be broken off. Never that in Jesus Christ, when God unites us to that truly and by faith, we're connected...

...forever. If you believe that, which I call you to believe that, because, as I said at the beginning, faith is necessary, then repent in that way, go to Jesus, your God and your savior, and trust him and hope in him and ask him to forgive your sins and produce and you not arrogance but humility and love. And when that kind of fruit begins to appear on your branches, you'll sing glory to God because you'll know the life that is in him is being produced in you, and all the world will see and know what God has done. So let's pray for that. Let's repent of our pride and as that God would bring us to life in him. Let's pray.

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