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Israel and the Gospel

Israel and the Gospel

We’re continuing our walk through Paul’s letter to the Roman church. In my last post, we saw how Paul prophesied Israel’s ultimate return to God. He said that all Israel would be saved.

The question is, what does he mean by all Israel. Is the apostle talking about ethnic Israel or true Israel. Will the nation of Israel be restored to faith in the last days?

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Romans 11:28-29

Paul tells us that as far as the Gospel is concerned, the Jews are hostile non-participants. But, as far a selection goes, they’re loved because of the patriarchs. Some teachers use this verse to say that all Jews go to heaven simply because they’re Jews. Is that what Paul’s saying?

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.

Romans 3:9

At the beginning of Romans Paul already made the point that both Jews and Gentiles need to be saved through Christ. However, there’s a special bond with the Lord, which is why the nation of Israel will not be destroyed.

They will always be given the chance for salvation. They will always be protected, just like those with praying parents or grandparents. Because of all the intercessions that have gone up for Israel, they will always be drawn by the Holy Spirit.

According to this passage, there are two things that cannot be turned away from. In context, he’s talking about Israel, but this spiritual principle applies to us as well.

The first is the gifts of God. The Greek word he uses here is charismata. This is an endowed gift from God that He retains authority over. It’s the same word used in the gifts of the Spirit.

That’s actually why we’re shocked when we hear what some of the “spiritual giants” have done. How could they have operated in the power of God, all the while participating in secret sins?

The other thing that God never revokes is His callings – literally, the invitations of God. Once God has invited you to do something, it always stands whether you accomplish it or not.

In Abraham, Israel was called to bring salvation to the earth. So they’re still on hold as God waits for them.

Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.

Romans 11:30-31

Paul tells us that in the past it was the Gentiles who were “Unbelievers.” Now we have obtained mercy (sonship by faith) and the Jews are unbelievers. But, because of the grace active in you, they can be brought to repentance.

So it’s because the Gentiles picked up the torch of salvation that Israel now has hope. They can be saved because the Gospel has not been lost.

For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Romans 11:32

God has bound all unbelievers together, both Jew and Gentile, so that now, whosoever will can enter His salvation. He’s calling all people to sonship in Christ.

That’s why living and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so important. We’ve been entrusted with the Good News. We can’t be selfish with it.

There’s a world of people around us who desperately need this message. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit when He prompts you to give your testimony. Pass on this wonderful gift.

Question: How many people have you shared your story with?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Israel Restored

Israel Restored

As we go through the book of Romans, Paul has been talking about the spiritual condition of Israel. He tells us that many had refused the knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ. Because of that, these persons lost their place in God’s kingdom.

But, there’s a remnant of Jews who have chosen to follow the Messiah. It’s Paul’s desire that Israel as a nation turns to Christ.

And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

Romans 11:23-24

According to Paul, Israel’s unbelief is not a permanent condition. If they come to faith in Christ, God can re-graft them into the tree.

As Gentiles, our very nature was wild. Yet, in Christ, God could graft us into His kingdom. How much more could God bring back those who were a part of the “founding family.”

A Jew coming to Christ has a background of knowledge that the Holy Spirit can draw on. Their eyes can be opened to the truth. They start further along than some Gentiles who have to start from scratch.

Paul now gives us a prophetic look at the future of Israel.

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

Romans 11:25-27

We need to understand what the apostle is saying here. In Scripture, the word, mystery, means something hidden until the time it happens. It’s just like the start of the church. No one saw it coming until Christ rose from the dead.

Paul doesn’t want us to be ignorant of the mystery concerning Israel. He doesn’t want us to become conceited, thinking the church is just a Gentile thing.

What’s happening in the spirit, is there’s a part of Israel that has experienced a hardening. But, it’s only temporary, until the number Gentiles is complete.

Jesus said the same thing concerning the nation of Israel.

They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Luke 21:24

Paul and Jesus use almost the same words – times of Gentiles filled up vs. Gentiles coming in filled up. The times seem to be fulfilled at this point, since Israel has once again become a nation.

The mystery is that all Israel shall be saved. Then he quotes Isaiah who says that the Deliverer will turn away “worshiplessness” from Jacob. It’s a new covenant when their sins are removed. But we know that can only be done by faith in Christ.

Here’s how Jeremiah puts it.

This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Jeremiah 31:33

This is a great description of righteousness as Paul has been teaching it throughout the book of Romans. This is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s why we, as believers, must be constantly praying for Israel’s salvation. That their eyes would be opened to the truth of Christ.

Question: How often do you pray for the spiritual restoration of Israel?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Prayer, The Gospel

 

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A Call to Remain

A Call to Remain

In my last post we looked at Paul’s illustration of the root and branches. We’re told that as Gentiles, we’ve been grafted into the holy root.

You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.

Romans 11:19-20

Sometimes we get the wrong perspective, as believers. We concentrate on the fact that they were broken off so that we would have a place in God’s kingdom.

The problem is that when I take that view, it makes me the center. In actuality, they were broken off because of their unbelief. It had nothing to do with whether or not I would be grafted in.

On the other hand, we as Gentile believers, remain by faith. So Paul tells us not to have a lofty mind. We’re no better, just because we trusted God. Instead, there should be some holy fear mixed in.

This is how Jesus put it.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

John 15:1-4

The simple fact is that we remain in Christ – the holy Root – by faith. Otherwise we wither and die, spiritually. That’s where this fear comes in. We need to understand that fear is not always a bad thing. The right kind of fear is essential to our Christian walk.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Hebrews 11:7

Scripture is clear that by faith, Noah…feared. This fear came when he was warned about unseen things. Yet by his faith – fearing to miss out on God’s best for him and his family – he obtained righteousness.

In Romans we see the kingdom of God as a living olive tree. That testimony brings condemnation on the withering branches lying on the ground. It’s a sobering call to remain in Him. Please understand, we don’t fear Him, but we fear the possibility of losing out on this life-giving Root.

For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

Romans 11:21

The question is whether I trust Him or not. It’s not about doing or saying the right things. It’s understanding the character of the God we serve.

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Romans 11:22

Throughout the pages of Scripture we see the twofold character of God. One part is His kindness. If you remember, this is one of the fruit of the Spirit. It speaks of the fact that God is good to the undeserving.

The other side of the coin is God’s sternness, or literally, sharp decisiveness. God has the ability to make the hard choices immediately.

Those without faith fell immediately. But, those who trusted in Christ were immediately shown kindness. That’s why there’s a warning for us to continue to remain in Him. This is especially true in these last days.

Question: What does it take to remain in Christ?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Early Church – Holy Dough

The Early Church – Holy Dough

We’re continuing to look at the relationship of Israel to the church. Paul is explaining it in the book of Romans. He gives us his perspective.

For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

Romans 11:15

He literally tells us that their rejection caused the world system to be restored. Since that was the case, then their readmission into God’s kingdom will be life from the dead. So it’s obvious that Paul considers the nation of Israel, without Christ, spiritually dead.

The apostle now give us an illustration.

If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Romans 11:16

He uses a lump of dough as an example. He tells us that because the firstfruits are holy, set apart to God, everything else you make from the crop is holy. In talking about firstfruits, it’s possible that he’s referring back to James.

James wrote his book long before Paul wrote Romans. James wrote his epistle to the saved Jews all over the world.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

James 1:18

At the birth of Christianity, James calls them the firstfruits of God’s created systems of order. He wrote this without even knowing that Gentiles would someday enter the mix. But the salvation of the Gentiles had its beginnings in saved Israel.

Originally, Israel was set apart as holy to God. After the resurrection of Christ, a remnant remained true to the Lord. These original Jewish believers accepted the Good News by faith in Christ.

I believe that these are the firstfruits both James and Paul are referring to. Then the Gentiles are mixed into the batch of holy dough. However, there’s more to this example.

When giving bread as an offering, leaven was allowed in firstfruits and tithes. Then they would hold back a little to leaven the next batch. It wasn’t like now where yeast is its own thing.

In those days it was fermented dough that was added to the new batch. We must ask then; what is the Kingdom of God about?

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

Romans 14:17

Look at what Paul said earlier about firstfruits.

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Romans 8:23

Jesus also said something along those lines.

Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Luke 13:20-21

Yeast, in this context, is the old dough from the firstfruits that’s now fermented. We can look at the large amount of flour as the Gentiles. Now the Holy Spirit has penetrated all peoples. Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit can flow to all races, generations, and peoples.

The fact is that there would be no chance at salvation for the Gentiles without the Jewish nation. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their part in keeping the Word of God pure.

Question: What’s our part in the plan of God towards Israel?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2021 in Israel, The Church, The Gospel

 

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The Trap of Tradition

The Trap of Tradition

We’re continuing through the book of Romans. Paul is talking about God’s dealings with Israel. They’re still a part of God’s plan, but they enter salvation the same as all people. It must be though faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The history of the Jewish people needs to be a lesson to us. We cannot allow tradition and self-righteousness to short-circuit our walk with God.

What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened…

Romans 11:7

We see from Scripture, that what the nation of Israel as a whole intensely craved and sought for, it did not obtain. But, the few who entered by grace obtained it. These are the people who confessed the Lord Jesus Christ and believed that God raised Him from the dead.

According to Paul, the rest were hardened, literally, petrified – turned into stone. The apostle now quotes some Old Testament prophecies.

…as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.”

Romans 11:8

The Greek word for stupor, in this verse is that prickly feeling you get when a body part falls asleep. It’s numb and you have a hard time using it correctly.

It’s what happens to us spiritually, when we get caught up in religious traditions. We have eyes that don’t see what they should see, and ears that don’t hear what they should hear. God rebuked the Israelites for this on many occasions.

Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them: Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.

Deuteronomy 29:2-4

When I read this, it seems that the Lord is almost being sarcastic with them. It’s like He’s asking them, “Did I really have to give you a supernatural mind to understand what I was doing?” It shouldn’t have taken a seminary degree to see that God wanted to work out His plan in the Jewish people.

But this is not just an Old Testament trap. If we’re not careful, we could fall into the same mindset. Isaiah warns us about it.

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

Isaiah 29:13

It’s unfortunate, but this rebuke could be said of many churches throughout the world today. Many people who call themselves “Christian” are merely following a set of rules that have been laid down for them.

It’s clear from this verse that using religious terminology is not enough. Simply saying, “Of course I love God, I go to church every Sunday” is not enough. We have to bow our knees to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Paul goes on to quote David.

And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.”

Romans 11:9-10

The people of Israel got all messed up by what should have helped them. They got tripped up by their traditions. Don’t let that happen to you.

We need to seek intimate relationship with Christ. Spend quality time with the Holy Spirit.

Question: What are your private prayer times like?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Heart for Israel

God’s Heart for Israel

I’m continuing my study through the book of Romans. In my last post, we saw that by opening salvation to the Gentiles, God was hoping to provoke a spiritual jealousy in Israel. Paul now summarizes how this happened.

And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”

But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

Romans 10:20-21

This is how God is working His plan. He started by revealing Himself to those not seeking Him. Then, through the faith of the Gentiles, He’s trying to get Israel interested in following Him. Because of this, it turns out that the Gentiles profited by Israel’s rejection of God’s love.

As I started saying in my last post, the Gentile church started rejecting God’s plan in many instances. They started pushing Israel further away. Many taught that Israel was totally rejected by God.

Listen as Paul speaks to this issue.

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.

Romans 11:1

Paul asks the question; did God cast away His people? The answer – Absolutely not! Paul uses himself as proof that God is still in the business of calling the Jewish people to Himself.

Paul now takes us to the important issues in God’s dealings with Israel.

God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah — how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

Romans 11:2-4

The key words in this passage is that God did not reject His people whom He foreknew. God, in His infinite knowledge, knows beforehand who will turn to Him in faith. There are many of the Jewish people who will look to their Messiah in faith, trusting Him for their salvation.

Paul uses the example of Elijah to make his point. This Old Testament prophet interceded with God against Israel. This occurred right after his victory on Mt. Carmel. His life was threatened by the queen, Jezebel, and he went off and had a pity party.

You can read it in detail in 1 Kings 19:9-14. Even with a revelation of God, Elijah had a one-track mind.

“It’s all their fault. Just be done with them. Destroy them all.”

God’s answer to Elijah is very important. He told the prophet that there were still 7000 people who were faithful to God. The Lord still had a remnant.

Where were they? They obviously weren’t very bold in their service to God. Why weren’t they supporting Elijah while he faced the prophets of Baal single-handedly?

But, that’s not the point. There’s always a front line in this spiritual battle. The fact is that Elijah was not alone in his service to God.

So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Romans 11:5-6

For Paul, this is an example of God’s mercy in the present time. There’s a remnant selected by grace and foreknown by the Lord. That’s why as believers, it should be part of our prayers that Israel should turn back to God wholeheartedly as a nation.

Question: What is your prayer for Israel like?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2021 in Faith, Israel, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Holy Jealousy

Holy Jealousy

Continuing through Romans, chapter 10, Paul is getting back to his discussion of Israel. What exactly is their problem. He gets back to asking a series of questions.

But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

Romans 10:18

The first question is; did they not hear the message? The obvious answer is, “Yes!” The apostle quotes a verse from Psalms talking about a voice heard throughout the earth. What is this voice?

It’s found in the context of Psalm 19.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4a

This Psalm is talking about the voice of the heavens. The entire earth has heard about God through the testimony of the universe. This is how Paul started his discussion in this book. He talked about the entire world seeing the witness of God’s glory.

since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Romans 1:19-20

This brings us back to the verse in Romans, chapter 10, above. Paul makes it clear that the universe isn’t just a passive witness. He literally says that their rhema – their revelation of God – has gone out to the ends of the earth.

So, Israel heard God’s message to them. Was there another problem?

Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

Romans 10:19

Maybe they didn’t understand the message they heard. No, that’s not it. Compared to Israel, the Gentile world has no understanding. But that’s the point. God is trying to do two things through the opening of salvation to the gentiles.

First, it says that the Lord wants to make them envious. That word means to stimulate alongside. God was trying to start a spiritual rivalry between Israel and the church.

Now, because of God’s great mercy, Gentiles are pursuing the God of Israel. By bowing their knees to Christ, they’re receiving the blessings of Abraham. This all happened because we’ve learned the lessons of righteousness by faith.

God is trying to provoke Israel to pursue Him in this same way. He wants them to turn in faith to Jesus Christ in order to restore their place in the kingdom of God.

The second thing that the Lord is doing…He wants to make them angry. Remember, anger is not a bad thing. It can be a strong motivating force to get us to do what we need to do. God is trying to work this in Israel.

The problem is that, throughout the centuries, the church has been short-circuiting God’s plan. Instead of seeking to restore Jews into God’s salvation, we’ve shown ridicule, anger, and prejudice against them.

In many instances so-called “Christians” have pushed Israel away from God’s grace. Because of the history of violence against them, many Jews will not even look into who Jesus really was.

The heart of Paul, and the Lord, is to see Israel restored to right relationship with God. Gentile believers need to understand that God still loves Israel and wants them saved. We need to be a part of God’s restorative work.

Question: What’s your view of the Gentile-Jew relationship?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2021 in Israel, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Zeal is not Enough

Zeal is not Enough

In our journey through the book of Romans, we now find ourselves in chapter 10. Paul is continuing to explain the place of Israel in God’s plan. However, a lot of what he says can be applied to us. He’s speaking out against self-righteousness.

He starts chapter 10 with a brief summary of what he’s been saying.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.

Romans 10:1-2

Here we get a look into Paul’s heart for Israel. Paul’s greatest prayer is for Israel’s salvation. That’s an important statement. The assumption is that they’re not saved. They have no spiritual exemption simply because they’re the physical seed of Abraham.

We need to take that to heart. Our children are not saved simply because they grew up in church. There are some who call themselves “Christian” merely due to the fact that they attended Sunday School throughout their childhood.

That’s not enough. Every individual has to choose to serve Jesus Christ for themselves. I’m a prime example.

I grew up in a Christian home. I was a third generation Italian Pentecostal. From my earliest recollection, I never missed church on a Sunday. My parents even took us to church when we were on vacation!

I knew all the Bible stories. I memorized all the verses I was given. I never rebelled against church. But, that wasn’t enough – I was still not saved.

There came a day when I had to make the decision for myself to serve Jesus Christ. In July of 1966 I was sent to a Christian summer camp. It was called Camp Woodhaven in West Boylston, Massachusetts.

They would have a service every night and a prayer meeting directly after it. We were in the boy’s bunkhouse. I was kneeling next to my bed. My counselor came over to me and asked if I had ever made Jesus the Lord of my life.

He then explained to me God’s plan for salvation. He tailored it to my level. That’s when I said “Yes” to Jesus Christ and my counselor led me in a prayer that forever changed my life.

Even before that day, I was zealous for God. But, as Paul says in the above verse, zeal for God is not enough. I had to know and agree to God’s plan for my life.

That’s also how it is for the Jewish people. They need to recognize and follow God’s truth. What is it that they need to recognize?

Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Romans 10:3-4

They needed to come to an understanding of God’s righteousness. It’s a righteousness that’s by faith in Him. They zealously sought to stand in their own righteousness. While at the same time refusing to put themselves under God’s righteousness.

Here’s the problem with that kind of thinking. The second verse literally says that Christ is the end of the line for the law. The law stops with Christ – He’s the focal point of everything in the Old Testament.

Think of it as a train ride. All who believe get off at this station. The station is righteousness by faith in the finished work of Christ. But, there are some who refuse to leave the train. Among them are the Jews, and some who call themselves Christians.

That’s why we need to constantly be on guard against self-righteous legalism in our lives. It can destroy our walk with God. We need to be aware of God’s work in us – the only way to true righteousness.

Question: How did you choose to follow Christ?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Pursuing By Faith

Pursuing By Faith

Going through Romans, Paul has been talking about the place of Israel in the plan of God. He has been using Old Testament prophecies to explain it.

It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”

Romans 9:29

Here Paul quotes another prophecy from Isaiah (Isaiah 1:9). This verse tells us that Israel is not totally gone. There remains a seed. This seed was protected by God. And, from what I can see through history, they remain protected.

So in talking about the Jewish people, they have a special place in God’s heart and in Paul’s as well.

However, their salvation is the same as ours. It can only be through faith in Christ. Right now, their calling and ours is the same. We are called to salvation in Christ, then, we submit to the Holy Spirit to as He brings us to mature sonship.

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.

Romans 9:30-31

Now Paul summarizes what he said so far. The Gentiles did not pursue righteousness, yet, when given the chance, they eagerly seized and possessed it. But what kind of righteousness is it? It’s a righteousness that has its origin in faith.

Israel, on the other hand, pursued a law of righteousness, yet never arrived at it. The Gentiles grabbed righteousness as it was springing out of their faith. But, if you chase it by law, you can never catch it.

Here’s the reason…

Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Romans 9:32-33

Their righteousness was not coming from faith. They were pursuing as if it could spring up from their works.

This is also a problem many Christians have. We expect the blessings of God to spring from our works. If I just try harder, then God will notice my efforts and reward them.

That’s what tripped them and it trips us as well. It’s what Paul refers to as the stumbling stone.

In Paul’s quote of Isaiah, he actually uses two verses (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16) The first gives us an interesting word picture. He literally says that it’s a stone of stumbling and a rock of trapping.

The picture of a trap is of a bent tree with a rope trap. The rock holds the tree down until the trap is sprung.

The second verse deals with a perfect foundation stone. I believe that Paul put these two Old Testament verses together by the Holy Spirit. He’s actually giving us three choices.

It could be a little rock that causes you to trip and fall, making you embarrassed. Or, it could be a large rock that traps you and you’re hanging upside down, again embarrassed. Finally, it could be a foundation stone that you stand on, secure, and never put to shame.

The real question before us is; what is he talking about? It’s all about pursuing a righteousness that originates in faith. That’s the only way to please God.

Any other way brings shame and disappointment. When I try to please God with my own efforts, I end up frustrated and without hope. I have to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about change in my life.

Question: How have you tried to serve God in your own strength?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Call to Everyone

The Call to Everyone

We’re continuing through Paul’s letter to the Roman church. He’s talking about Israel’s rejection of the Messiah and the calling of the Gentiles.

As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'”

Romans 9:25-26

Here Paul quotes a prophecy from Hosea (Hosea 2:23, 1:10). In context it’s about Israel being called to repentance. At that time, Israel joined with the Gentiles in their unbelief and caused judgment upon themselves.

Now, this same spirit of unbelief opened the call of salvation to us as Gentiles. Because, as Paul said, not all “Israel” is true Israel. The call to “not my people” can apply to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike. We can all go from “not His people” to sons of the living God.

That’s the journey that Romans, chapters 1-8, was all about. It’s the path to mature sonship in Christ.

At this point the path is the same for Jew and Gentile. It must be through faith in Christ. There are no special exemptions for the Jew. Actually, that’s why the book of Hebrews was written.

At that point many Jews were being saved. They came under intense persecution for following Christ. As a result, many wanted to go back to the old way under the law of Moses. Hebrews was written to let them know that there was no going back.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Hebrews 10:15-18

The call to sonship in Christ is for all, both Jew and Gentile alike. Now we turn to the prophet, Isaiah.

Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”

Romans 9:27-28

Here the prophet is clearly speaking to Israel. In this quote there are some interesting things. First of all, the Old Testament verse (Isaiah 10:22-23) says they will turn around. Paul quotes the verse by saying they will be saved. (Actually, I’ve found many times where Paul quotes an Old Testament verse with a New Testament twist.)

But the real question before us is; what is true Israel. He said that Israel would be like the sand of the sea, but only a remnant saved. Right now you can find Jews in every part of the world. Yet how many are saved?

Some teach that they go to heaven simply because they’re Jews. That’s not what Paul, or the writer of Hebrews preached.

Verse 28 is the key. It’s not really a part of the Isaiah verse. I believe that it’s Paul’s comment on the subject. It literally says that the Lord will fulfill this word with a short cut.

How did He do that? The short cut is through Jesus Christ. Salvation through the Messiah, Jesus is much easier than the Old Testament law of Moses.

Through Jesus Christ, both Jews and Gentiles have been given a great gift. We have the ability to be saved simply by believing that Jesus is the Christ and accepting Him as Lord and Savior.

Question: How did you hear about the grace of God in Christ Jesus?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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