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Thursday, November 07, 2013

122 - The Remnant and Grace [B]

Romans 11:5-11 by Robert Dean
"Lonely, I'm so lonely." Is this the refrain you're singing when you look around at all the people who reject God in the world today? Listen to this lesson to learn about a time when most of the Jewish people were heading down a path of self-destruction and laughing at God's messengers. At the same time there was a remnant of those who decided to prepare their hearts to follow Him. Even though they were ignorant of many of the commandments, God dealt with them graciously. Learn the difference between grace and works and listen to other examples of the Jewish remnant.
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 3 secs

The Remnant and Grace
Romans 11:5-11

We're in Romans 11 tonight. I thought we'd get here the other night and we touched on it towards the end of last week where we got into the mention of the term "remnant" in Romans 11. I pointed out last time something that's important. I want to go over the passages and the usage of the term because I have heard some people within dispensationalism talk about the Church or at least talking about positive believers in the church as the remnant. Many times remnant in Scripture is not used as a technical term related to spiritual maturity but when it is used that way it is always related to the believers within Israel. It's not a term that is applicable in any way to the Church.

We're going to study through that this evening as well as some other things related to the important aspects of the doctrine of grace and clarify some questions that might not occurred to you but they certainly have occurred to other people. I've heard some objections raised on some of the terminology related to grace over the years. We have one of the great passages on grace here in Romans, chapter 11. We're looking at the doctrine of remnant and the doctrine of grace. Now just a reminder. It's always important to conceptualize what we're studying that Romans is about the righteousness of God. There's a number of things that Paul says about the righteousness of God but in Romans 9 – 11 he's relating the righteousness of God to God's plan for Israel and the Church.

Romans 9 demonstrates the righteousness of God in terms of His rejection of national Israel. It is the rejection not in terms of His plan but because the majority of the leaders of Israel at the time Jesus came rejected Him as Messiah. That rejection, Romans 10, is based upon the fact that they had neglected revelation. They distorted the meaning of Scripture. Even though the truth of God's word was near to them they rejected it, and this is why God rejects them and puts them under divine discipline. That discipline is temporary, according to Romans 11.

In this chapter, Paul shows that God has not permanently cast them away but eventually there will be a restoration of Israel to God. Fundamental to understanding that is to understand the role and significance of the remnant and how that has operated within the history of Israel. So the question that's raised at the beginning of Romans 11:1 is whether God has permanently cast away His people. He answers that in verse 2 that God has not cast away His people that is, not permanently cast away. In Psalm 94:14 David says, "For the LORD will not abandon His people, Nor will He forsake His inheritance."

Now this is important. It's an important reminder for us because the underlying principle here is same for Israel as well as for the Church. It goes back contextually to the end of Romans 8 when Paul said, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." The objection from the Jews is that it seems like God has rejected Israel and they think they're not loved by God any more. Paul is showing that God still loves His people, Israel, even though they are under divine discipline. He has not permanently cast them away.

This was promised in the Old Testament and the point that he is making here in this section is to establish this foundation that God is true to His Word. We can trust Him and that no matter what our experience might be, no matter how horrible our circumstances may be, no matter how dark and despairing things might become at times, that's just our experience. We have to trust in the Word of God over our experience because God is the one who holds us in His hand. God is the one who protects, provides, and sustains us. What usually happens is that things come along in our life and rattle us because they shatter our hopes and dreams of the things we want to do according to our plans and agenda for our life and God has another plan and He's trying to get our attention to recognize that it's not about us. It's all about Him and His plan. But God, no matter how bad things get, God doesn't forsake us. The Lord said He would never leave us or forsake us. He always sustains us. This is true in terms of God's plan for Israel also.


Verse 2 says that God has not cast away His people whom He "foreknew." That is always one of those terms that brings up the whole issue of determinism and predestination and election in relation to eternal salvation, especially as it's articulated within Calvinism. I pointed out that the concept of foreknowledge in Scripture relates to God's knowledge of what will take place in the future. How does He make His choices? The options are really very limited. God makes His choice as to what happens in human history either apart from His knowledge or He takes into account what He knows will happen. Those are the only two options.

God either does it completely apart from His knowledge or He takes His knowledge into consideration. But His knowledge of contingent events in history, what might happen, what could happen, what should happen, that includes also what will happen. He is aware of everything. Just because He knows this does not determine what He will choose on the basis of the merit of what He knows. In other words, it's really clear form Scripture that He doesn't make His choices on the basis of the intrinsic goodness or merit of individual people. He does it for His purposes.

He either does it consistent with His knowledge or He doesn't take it into account. That makes it just arbitrariness. 1 Peter 1:2 says His choice is done in accordance "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father". Now one thing you have to understand is that our background, our framework, is not Calvinist. In Calvinism God doesn't know all the knowable. They say what might happen, what could happen, is all irrelevant. The only thing that matter is what happens. That's determined by God's foreknowledge. God only foreknows what He determines will happen. My problem is that is I think it places a limitation on the omniscience of God. I tried to chart this out on a graph but it made God's knowledge finite so the only way to do this accurately would be to just shade the whole background because we're only looking at a portion of God's Omniscience.

God's omniscience means that His knowledge is infinite and eternal. You can't really diagram the boundaries of His knowledge because it goes without end. There's no limitations to the knowledge of God. He knows everything. He knows everything that could happen, might happen, and would happen if certain other things took place. He knows everything and it is all known to Him immediately and directly. God doesn't learn things. He's always known everything. His knowledge doesn't increase or decrease. He's always known all there is to know and, as part of that knowledge, you have the subset of His foreknowledge. It's defined as God's infinite and eternal knowledge of what will happen before it happens.

That's simply what proginosko in the Greek means. pro meaning before; ginosko meaning knowledge. It means God knows what will happen before it happens. This is a subset of His Omniscience. Omniscience is related to the thinking of God. In God's thinking, which is not like our thinking because our knowledge is always acquired. His knowledge has always been the same. It has always been direct and intuitive. It's different in some ways from our knowledge so it's difficult for us to understand.

What happens is that when we try to compare our knowledge to His knowledge it's a comparison of apples and oranges. They're both fruit. In other words they're both knowledge but we can't extrapolate to God's knowledge from our knowledge because our knowledge operates on finite cause and effect, which God's knowledge does not operate on because His is always eternal and absolute with no acquisition of new information. There's nothing he hasn't not known. So on the basis of that in relation to His foreknowledge God makes choices as to the destinies of certain peoples within history.

As we've seen in our study of election in Romans 9 this choice in the context of Romans 9 to 11 is not a selection of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in terms of eternal or individual justification or salvation. It's not a choice in terms of who will go to heaven and who will go to the Lake of Fire. It's a choice of who He will use, what tribal group He will use in order to reveal His grace and His revelation, His Word, to all humanity. So He chooses within history to function within certain people.

That's His prerogative as a Sovereign but He doesn't do that in any way that negates their volition. It's not a salvation related issue at all. In Romans 9:11 he says, "for though {the twins} were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to {His} choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls." See the children were not born and had not activated any volition at all. It was not related to what they've done; it's not related to the fact that they have or have not done anything of possible merit or goodness.

Why is it operative? It says, "so that God's purpose according to [His[ choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls." Now that's going to be important when we get there because it's not based on works or human merit. God is not doing it because He foresees some element of righteousness within someone. He is doing it for other purposes. Now I've paraphrased this a little bit, "That the purpose of God according to His selection of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for historic purpose might stand, a choice not based on their merits but on God's determination for His purposes in history." In taking into account all of the knowable, this is the best solution that will bring the greatest glory to God in angelic history. So that just gives us an orientation to this issue of election.

 Now at the end of Romans 11:2 Paul gives an illustration from the Old Testament which I developed last time. I don't need to go back through it all again tonight. "Or do you not know what the Scripture says in {the passage about} Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?" This is in 1 Kings 17, 18, and 19. This is the prophet who stood on Mount Carmel and challenged the 400 prophets of the Asher and the 450 prophets of Baal to a contest of who could light the fire. Elijah built a huge altar and they were to see who could call down fire from heaven. That was important because Baal is the god of thunder and of lightning so if their god is a true god, then that should be an easy thing for him to just send down a lightning bolt and incinerate the altar.

So the prophets of Baal and prophets of the Ashera dance around and cut themselves and bleed and go into all sorts of religious histrionics to try to motivate their gods to light the fire. What's interesting is to watch the behavior of the man of God who is totally oriented to divine thinking. See we live in an era today when people are basically spiritual weenies and wimps. We've been cowed by the politically correct crowd in America that you don't act certain ways toward people who have other religious beliefs. But that's not God's way. That's man's way because man wants an equal playing field. All religions are equal they say so you have to respect all religions as being equal. But if you're a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you know that all other religions are shams. All other religions are false so Elijah sits back and tell them to scream a little more. That maybe their god went to the bathroom and can't hear them. Elijah makes fun of them all day long. In our human viewpoint pragmatic culture that's considered wrong but it's only wrong if you don't have an absolute frame of reference from the Scripture. If you have an absolute frame of reference from the Scripture, it's just fine to ridicule the idiots. This is not ridiculing the man on the street; this is ridiculing the Jay Goulds and the Darwins, the leaders, and the false prophets in the country, not the everyday person. That's what Elijah was doing.

He has this fantastic victory at the end of the day. He virtually submerged the entire altar and all the wood and the animals in water. Then he calls upon God to light the fire. A huge pillar of fire comes down from heaven and just incinerates everything and it just turns into vapor. It vaporizes the whole sacrifice, altar, wood, and everything. They all immediately disappear and are consumed. So Elijah is just at the top of his game. No one can feel better. He has had the victory of victories. The only thing you could relate that to is someone who has won every Super Bowl for fifty years and has all the rings and everything. He's just undefeatable and he's won the magnificent victory.

Then, like what happens so often, pride goes before a fall. He runs into the threats of Jezebel. Jezebel threatens she's going to take his life and immediately he just has to run away and so he thinks that God has deserted him. He's all by himself. There's nobody else with him and he heads off into the desert and has a pity party. He's depressed and he's down and this is the scenario that Paul is referring to in Romans 11. He quotes from 1 Kings 19 where Elijah says, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." He's won the big battle but he doesn't think this war is winnable.

In Romans 11 Paul asks what was the divine response to him? God says, "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL." Seven thousand! Elijah wasn't alone. Pick yourself up. Get over the pity party. You're not alone. I'm never restricted to just one person. There's a remnant, those who have not caved into apostasy, have not caved into idolatry, and have not rejected God. They may be secret, hidden believers who are not vocal and that you don't know about, but they are there. You're not the only one. The scenario is not one of defeat. This comes out of 1 Kings 19:10, He [Elijah] said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."

The point here that we have to understand is that it's difficult, especially if you are involved in communicating the gospel in the Jewish community, is that they see this as a sign of arrogance on the part of Christians. The reality is that unfortunately in the Jewish community many Jews are Biblically illiterate. That's not too different from a lot of Christians but they've never read the Old Testament. In fact, when they read through the Torah which they've divided into 52 readings called the perashat and each week every synagogue in the world studies from the same section. It's all from the Torah.

It's developed in Judaism over the years that they never read from the prophets, from Daniel or from Isaiah. They're too Messianic. It raises too many questions when your weekly reading comes out of Isaiah 53 or Daniel 9 or Daniel 7. It's too obvious that this is relating to Jesus so over the years in the 1st millennia after Christ that within Judaism they just changed the readings to get rid of all these Messianic prophecies so there wouldn't be an issue there. When you talk about some of these things from someone from a Jewish background they're ignorant of this.

In most of the history of Israel, it was characterized by apostasy, by rejection of God, and by hostility toward God. There were a few periods when a majority were believers but in many periods in Jewish believers the vast majority out-paganed the pagans. They completely caved in and assimilated to the gods and goddesses of the Canaanite religions and the Phoenicians and others. So what's left over, what remained was the group called the remnant. This is when the word is used in a technical sense and it referred to that group that were believers and had not succumbed to idolatry.

Now in 1 Kings 19:13-14, again there's another section that is quoted. Elijah repeats himself about Israel having killed all the prophets with the sword and he's the only one left and they seek his life and God reminds him that He's reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal. So what we see is that Paul in Romans 11:3, 4 he's just going back and quoting from this section to make his point that God has a remnant. Verse 5 says, "In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to {God's} gracious choice. [an election of grace]."

This verse and Romans 9:27 are the only two verses in the entire New Testament that talk about a remnant. Both places they're talking about the remnant of Israel. We need to look at the concept of remnant. Last time I pointed out there are four words used in Scripture for remnant. Two are Hebrew Old Testament words and two are New Testament words. In Romans 9:27 we have the word hupoleimma. Hupo is the prepositional prefix and then we just have the root word leimma used here in Romans 11:5. Both have that idea of the remnant, that which remains, that which survives, and that which continues.

Now it's used a number of different ways in the Old Testament. Sometimes it just has a normal everyday usage to refer to the group that's left over. We see this in 2 Kings 19:4 and 30-31 and 2 Kings 31:24. Now these sections come out of the event that occurs when the Assyrian king has invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 and they destroyed the Northern Kingdom and then Sennacherib headed south into Judah and conquered several cities in Judah. Then he surrounded Jerusalem and laid siege to that city. That's the context of these verses and others in 2 Chronicles 30.

But if we look at 2 Kings 19:4 we read, "Perhaps the LORD your God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the LORD your God has heard. Therefore, offer a prayer for the remnant that is left." The Rabshakeh was the herald, the announcer, the chief of staff and he was announcing to the people that your god is not any good. Just give up now. We're going to defeat you. Now this isn't referring to the spiritual remnant believers. It's just talking about the ones that haven't been killed yet. Those that are left who can still fight against the king of Assyria.

Verse 30 talks about the "remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah." See here it is talking about a spiritual sense here. Can you see the difference? It says, "The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the LORD will perform this." Bearing fruit upward here is talking about spiritual fruit so here within that same chapter we see the word for remnant used in an everyday, non-technical sense and then in verse 30 and 31 talking about a spiritual remnant.

Then in 2 Kings 21:14 it says, I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies." There he's not talking about the spiritual of Israel. He's talking about those who have survived the previous judgments. This is a non-technical sense of the word. That's why it's important to look at all the surrounding context whenever you're doing a word study. We're talking about that in our Sunday night Bible Study Methods class." Words aren't always used in a technical sense. Remember for the most part the Apostle Paul and Old Testament writers are just using every day, ordinary vocabulary. Sometimes they'll use it in a technical sense; sometimes not.

That brings us to a parallel passage as the same time as Hezekiah. I want you to turn there. It's 2 Chronicles 30. This is a really interesting chapter where you see the use of the word remnant but it also has a fascinating illustration of God's grace. That's why I want us to read through this. This is probably not in that section of the Bible where the pages are darkened a little because you've been reading it a lot and you may not have been here in the last fifteen, twenty years, if ever. This is a really interesting little episode. This is at the same time when Hezekiah has cleansed the temple and restored the temple and is bringing the people back to obedience. This is a reform period under Hezekiah. He's calling the people back to observe the Passover.

In the initial introduction here we read, "Now Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the LORD God of Israel". Remember the Northern Kingdom at this time had already been defeated and destroyed by the Assyrians. There were still Jews that lived in the north. A number of Jews who saw the invasion coming had gone to the south but there were still those that remained. Of those that remained, some were killed, many were deported by the Assyrians. They became known in history as the ten lost tribes. They weren't lost. God knew where every one of them was. And many of them, as I said earlier, that survived escaped ahead of time so you had members of all of those tribes in the south in Judah, even at the time of Christ. They knew which tribe they were from. Even today there are many Jews today who can identify themselves as being from some of these so-called lost tribes.

It goes on to say, "For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month," Many had not celebrated the Passover in years but Hezekiah is executing a reform that the people are going to get back into obedience to God. So they make this proclamation and verse 6 tells us, "The couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with the letters from the hand of the king and his princes, even according to the command of the king, saying, "O sons of Israel, return to the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that He may return to those of you who escaped {and} are left from the hand of the kings of Assyria." How is remnant used in this verse? Here it's not talking about a spiritual group. It's just talking about those who survived the war, who survived the invasion, and who survived the deportation. It's not talking about their spiritual condition at all as we'll see in a couple of verses.

Do you see any interesting words there other than remnant? Notice twice the word "return" is used. I would hope by now that many of you by now would automatically key on when you're reading through Scripture. It's a theologically pregnant word in that it's the Hebrew word shub. It goes back to Deuteronomy 30 when it says that eventually when they've been scattered to all the ends of the earth, they will return to the Lord. This is a word that is basically a counterpart to the New Testament word repentance which we've studied recently in Matthew 3. It means to turn back to God, to turn away from the idols and the paganism and all of the false ideas and human viewpoint worldview you've been following, and turn back to the Word of God.

Then come some warnings, "Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were unfaithful to the LORD God of their fathers, so that He made them a horror, as you see. And do not stiffen your neck like your fathers, but yield to the LORD and enter His sanctuary which He has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God that His burning anger may turn away from you. For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your sons {will find} compassion before those who led them captive and will return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn {His} face away from you if you return to Him." How do you demonstrate that you've returned to God? You learn His word, you obey His Word, and you serve Him.

Serving the Lord doesn't always take place today in local church ministries. A lot of it does. A lot of it takes place outside the local church in terms of family, where you work, where you play, whatever you do, you have opportunity to serve others. Notice this is an appeal to their volition. They have free will. They can choose not to return to God or they can choose to turn to God. Did you notice that some would still be taken captive? But if they turned to the Lord, wouldn't everything be great and God would make them healthy, wealthy, and prosperous. No, the nation is still under divine discipline. The nation is still being kicked out of the land, out of the Northern Kingdom. The promise here is that if they return to the Lord, their brothers and children would be treated compassionately by those who are taking them captive. If you return to the Lord, it will change the nature of the captivity. See, the decisions we make spiritually change and impact many other things around us. When we're obedient and we're positive to the Word and we're applying it, it affects those around us in terms of blessing by association.

There's a consistent promise through the Old Testament that God is going to restore the Jews to the land that He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The key concept here is that the "Lord your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him." All they have to do is determine to trust the Lord and follow Him instead of the idols. There are three words there that you ought to pay attention to. The first is that they need to return to the Lord. That's the word shub. This is the idea of changing your mind, deciding not to chase after the idols and not be in a frantic search for happiness, deciding not to live your life the way you want to but instead walk in obedience to God. The next word is turn as in God will not turn His face from you. The word is sur in Hebrew and means to turn aside or depart. So God is saying He will not take His grace away from you at this point but He will continue to treat you graciously and compassionately even to the point of changing the nature of the captivity to your brethren and loved ones.

So in verse 10, "The couriers passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them." Look at this response of the people in the north. They laughed at them. They mocked them. See, the choice is to return or not. If you're going to return then live a life consistent with that which means you obey the Mosaic Law and you go to Jerusalem to observe Passover.

But what happens as these heralds went out, like many pastors today and they proclaim the truth of God's word, they get laughed at. They're mocked. Christians are being ridiculed. Do you believe in a recent creation? Do you believe in a God who could become a man? You believe in a virgin birth? You believe in miracles? You believe in right and wrong? You believe there are real evil-doers in the world? They mock all of these.

I think no matter what else you think about President George Bush what really irritated and hacked off most of the liberals in this country is that he appealed to absolutes when he called the terrorists evildoers. Now you can do all kinds of things but in the minds of a relativists to appeal to a standard of right and wrong is one of the worst sins you can commit. That's why they got so mad at President Bush. He acted as if there was absolute evil in the world and he was going to do something about it. That just really hacked off all the liberals. They don't want to believe that they're answerable to anybody. That's the modern mindset. And it's not just liberals. There are a lot of conservatives that way. They're only conservative because that appeals to their personality. They don't understand from where a lot of these issues ultimately derive. So the runners are laughed at and mocked at and notice the contrast here. Again, for those of you going through the Bible Study Methods class we're talking about structure and different things to look for. One of the things you look for is things that are alike and things that contrast. What we have here is a contrast. There are those that laughed and mocked the runners and on the other hand there were some, the minority, the remnant, who humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.

What is humility? I've taught these so many times. Humility isn't thinking lowly of yourself. Humility is submission to authority. Humility is obedience. Jesus humbled Himself and was obedient to the point of the cross. That's what Philippians 2:5-11 says. Humility is obedience to the proper authority. So this is what they do. They humble themselves, they submit to the authority of God and they came to Jerusalem.

They didn't just say, "Oh, I'm going to do what God says," and then stay home. No, they did what God said to the letter and they went to Jerusalem. Not because it made them righteous but because they were supposed to do so under the authority of God. Verse 12 says, "The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD."

Now here's another one of those passages where people might read this that God was asserting His authority and changing their volition. Not at all. Judah had already committed themselves to reform by following Hezekiah in reform. This is what chapter 29 covers in terms of supporting Hezekiah in the restoration of the Temple, the cleansing of the Temple, and the restoration of the Temple sacrifices. The Southern Kingdom is behind him as almost one person in their obedience to the Lord. There has been a true, genuine, Biblical revival in the Southern Kingdom. What God is doing here is He's just strengthening them in their already committed resolve they have decided upon. So they have a singleness of purpose to obey the command of the king as the Word of the Lord.

They come together at that particular point. Now, what's interesting is what happens after this. There's some from the Northern Kingdom who have come south. That's the remnant from the North. Then almost everyone in the south is oriented to God, oriented to His grace and obedient to Him. In verse 13 we read, "Now many people were gathered at Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, a very large assembly."

Passover is the first day of unleavened bread followed by a week-long feast and all Jews, male Jews especially, are required to come every year to observe Passover, Pentecost, and Yom Kippur, those tree festivals in Jerusalem. Verse 14, "They arose and removed the altars which {were} in Jerusalem; they also removed all the incense altars and cast {them} into the brook Kidron." When you're oriented to God it's not only doing what you're committed to do, it's removing the things that are a distraction to your spiritual life. You get rid of those things which are a holdover from the paganism you held to dearly before you were saved. 

Verse 15, "Then they slaughtered the Passover {lambs} on the fourteenth of the second month. And the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves, and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the house of the LORD." They recognized their sin and so they had ritual cleansing in preparation for serving the Passover. They set themselves apart by going through the proper trespass offerings and guilt offerings so they are ritually cleansed to go into the Temple and to serve God and serve the people.

Then we come to verse 16, "They stood at their stations after their custom, according to the Law of Moses the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood {which they received} from the hand of the Levites." That sprinkling of the blood was part of the whole ceremony. It depicted the fact that real cleansing, not ritual cleansing, ultimately comes from the death of a sacrifice and that perfect sacrifice would be the Lord Jesus Christ." Then in verse 17, "For {there were} many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves; therefore, the Levites {were} over the slaughter of the Passover {lambs} for everyone who {was} unclean, in order to consecrate {them} to the LORD."

This is interesting. These people want to obey God but they are ignorant or for whatever reason, there are many who haven't sanctified themselves. They haven't gone through the ritual that the Mosaic Law required for them to go into the Temple. "For a multitude of the people, {even} many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed. For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "May the good LORD pardon. Everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though not according to the purification {rules} of the sanctuary."

Technically that is an affront and a blasphemy to God. But look at this. They hadn't ritually cleansed themselves, but not in disobedience but out of ignorance. Yet they ate the Passover contrary to what was written. You see Hezekiah prayed for them to pardon them. He's praying like a priest for a people to be cleansed because they're too ignorant to properly do it. This is the difference between ritual purity and real purity. Ritually they hadn't gone through the ritual to be cleansed but they had humbled themselves spiritually and personally confessed their sins. They prepared their hearts to seek the Lord God of their Fathers. This is the grace of God.

The Lord listened to them. God dealt with them in grace in terms of their heart attitude toward Him. "So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people." This is a great example of God's grace and goodness to His people and this is something we lose. As I read this I thought how this is overlooked by the liberal theological crowd who want to say that the God of the Old Testament is a hateful God and the God of the New Testament is a loving God. This is one of the greatest examples of God's love and grace in the Old Testament and is on par with anything you see in the New Testament. This is not some hateful, wrathful God. This just shows that the liberals have rejected the truth of the Scripture and seek to destroy it.

Now all of that had to do with the remnant but it was fun to get off and talk about grace a little bit. Now 2 Chronicles 34:9 also talks about the remnant "They came to Hilkiah the high priest and delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the doorkeepers, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim, and from all the remnant of Israel, and from all Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem." These are those who were the spiritual remnant because these are the ones who came to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. Ezra 9:14 uses the term but more in the sense of the everyday use of the survivor. He's asking a rhetorical question in terms of God, "Shall we again break Your commandments and intermarry with the peoples who commit these abominations? Would You not be angry with us to the point of destruction, until there is no remnant nor any who escape?" That's just a secular use of the term.

 Isaiah 1:9,"Unless the LORD of hosts Had left us a few survivors [a remnant], We would be like Sodom, We would be like Gomorrah." He's using the term remnant here to talk about a spiritual core of believers who because of them the rest of the nation is blessed. Isaiah 10:20, "Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, {Only} a remnant within them will return; A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness." Again, this is talking about a spiritual remnant.

Isaiah 11:11 says, "Then it will happen on that day that the Lord Will again recover the second time with His hand The remnant of His people, who will remain, From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, And from the islands of the sea." The question here is always when was the first time? This is at the end of the Tribulation. When was the first recovery? It wasn't in the Old Testament. The first recovery I think is what we see going on right now, which is the recovery of unregenerate Jews to Israel to establish the nation in preparation for the end time events. So that's not saying it's right around the corner. The events have always been right around the corner. But we're seeing more and more preparation today as we see a little less than 50% of the all the Jews in the world living in Israel. That hasn't happened before. The paper I'm doing for Pre-Trib this year is an analysis of the history of Zionism from the Protestant Reformation to the present showing how God works behind the scenes, orchestrating political events, events within the Jewish community, events within the Christian community and none of them involve people who know what the others are doing. When you look back over history you see the hand of God in working time and time and time again to bring about the restoration of a nation of Jews in the land which He's given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It's not a chance thing. There are many times within that period that people thought it was going to happen in their lifetime and nothing happened. It took 300 to 400 years for that to come about. It's not by chance.

Okay, so Romans 9:27 and 11:5 are the only two passages in the New Testament that uses the term remnant. So Romans 11:5 talks about Elijah's remnant. We have all of Israel, ethnic Jews who are descendants physically from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but the vast majority throughout history have rejected God. They've pursued the Baal, the Baalim, and the Ashera. They have not pursued the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That's always been a minority. That's illustrated by the remnant. At the time of Elijah in the north it's Elijah plus the 7,000. It's a minority position. The vast majority of Jews at any point in history have rejected the God of their fathers. But God's choice or selection of them is based on grace.

Now here's what's interesting. The contrast here is between grace and works. We have to think in terms of what works mean. Now there are some people and I've talked to some of these pedantic types in seminaries who try to think that anything you choose to do is a work. Sometimes the Bible uses the term work as the basis for a decision. But that's not what the context in these passages is talking about. It's talking not just about doing something or even making a choice. It's talking about doing something or making a choice that is considered to be meritorious that brings righteousness to the one who does it because the act or the choice itself is considered meritorious.

 What Paul sets up here is a contrast between grace and works. It's either one or the other. This is one of the great passages. Grace excludes works one hundred percent. Works is trying to impress God by anything that we do. That some choice we make or some act we perform somehow brings us meritorious righteousness. It's either grace, which means God does all the works and we accept it, or somehow what we think or what we do impresses God. It's one or the other.

Paul thinks very clearly here. It's not a little bit of this and a little bit of that. God's not fuzzy-wuzzy up there in heaven and saying, "Well, he mostly wants to do the right thing." No, it's either one or the other. Grace excluded works. Works excludes grace. In the last part of the verse it says if it's works at all, one millionth of one percent, it's no longer grace. If just one little speck of works is in there, it destroys grace completely. That's why Paul says that if someone preaches a different gospel than ours, a different one that's not based on grace, let them be accursed. This term there is very strong. He's basically saying to let them rot in hell because they're teaching a false gospel. So it's one or the other. This is the issue with Israel as stated earlier in the previous chapter in Romans 10: 3-4 where Paul indicts the Jews of Jesus' generation who rejected His message of grace because the Pharisees thought they could merit God's favor by doing this external religiosity.

Paul summarizes this in Romans 10, "For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." This is what makes "works" works. It's not just doing something or thinking something or making a choice, it's thinking that what you're doing brings righteousness to a person. It establishes their own righteousness as apart from Christ. Verse 4,"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."

So how do we conclude this? I've got about six points here that I'll run through real fast. I want to hit them again next week. Point one: grace and works are contrasted. They're mutually exclusive. It's either one or the other.  Second point: Grace means the honor and the merit and the effort belongs to God, not to the individual. The recipient has done nothing whatsoever, no choice, no action, and no mental attitude to cause God to give it to them. Within Calvinism they want to make faith meritorious. They say faith is what God gives the elect so only the elect can have the right kind of faith. But that's not what Scripture teaches. Faith is non-meritorious. It's like a tube. It's what's at the other end of the tube that has the merit. The merit comes through the tube because the tube is grace and the believer has trusted in God and put that tube in place.

Third point: works is not to be understood as simply doing something but doing something that's considered meritorious in and of itself and producing some righteous quality in the one who does the act. This is what works does. If they go to church, if they get baptized, if they repent in sackcloth and ashes, if they pray seven times a day, if they do something, it's bringing merit to the individual.

The fourth point is that in God's plan, sin destroys the ability of the sinner to ever perform anything whatsoever that creates meritorious righteousness in the unbeliever. It's impossible for a human being, who is a descendant of Adam, who has inherited sin and committed sin to ever do anything that's going to have any merit.

Fifth point: the Bible says that all humans are sinners and fall short of God's character. Their best is as filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6). That's our works of righteousness, not our works of unrighteousness. Also Isaiah 53:6, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him." In Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Point six: only God can provide the merit. This is done through the crediting of righteousness in justification. The key verses are Isaiah 53:11 where God says, "God shall see the labor of His [the servants'] soul and be satisfied." God is propitiated by the work of Christ on the cross, by His knowledge [God's knowledge] My righteous servant shall justify many for He shall bear their iniquities." Genesis 18:6 says Abraham wasn't declared righteous because of what he did; he was declared righteous because he believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. The New Testament says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "He made Him who knew no sin {to be} sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 

Then Titus 3:5 says, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." It's God's grace. It removes all of that guilt, everything from us that's not based on who we are or what we've done but is based upon what God did in His love for us in sending His Son to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. It's a free gift. So God's righteousness is freely given to us who believe, not because we believe but it is through our faith that we receive the grace of God.