Sunday, 13 October 2013
…if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. Romans 11:14
The process of how salvation occurs is debated over and strange views have arisen throughout the years concerning it. In Genesis 5 it says, “So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” This verse says little about the process which elicited this favored status, but what it does say is sufficient, “Enoch walked with God.” It is apparent that this was a volitional act of his free will.
Likewise, in the very next chapter the Bible says, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This was a voluntary turning away from God and it is highlighted by the contrasting fact that “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” Noah voluntarily chose the right path.
Here in Romans 11:14, we see this concept fully supported by Paul’s zeal for his own people, his “countrymen according to the flesh.” He just stated in the previous verse that as the apostle to the Gentiles, he magnified his ministry. This was so that, “if by any means” he might “provoke to jealousy those who are” of the Jewish race. Paul’s efforts would be utterly futile if free-will wasn’t a consideration in our salvation, but it is.
What would be the point of God directing the salvation of people, as the Bible records, if free-will is excluded from the process? If free-will is excluded, why have prophets continuously called out for repentance year after year for millennia? Why meticulously record the generations of humanity, the dispensations of time, and the covenants made between God and man? Why would the prophetic word be issued that a Messiah was coming and then provide countless pictures and patterns for us to study so that we could be sure of who He was when He arrived? And why send apostles and prophets after His coming who then called out and begged for people to hear and receive the truth if God is going to exclude free-will in the process? Not only does it make no sense, it makes the entire process out to be a sham. It would be the most ineffective manner one could think of.
If God excludes man’s free will, none of this would have been necessary. But man bears God’s image and he has been given a choice to accept or reject the good news which God has prepared in the sending of His Son. For Paul’s broken heart, his people, Israel, had all but rejected this good news and so he was selected by the Lord to be the apostle to the gentiles. The message would continue on and the banner would be passed from Israel to the gentile nations. Paul knew this, but he also knew that his message could still have an effect on his people. It could provoke them to jealousy “and save some of them.”
The free will of man isn’t excluded in the process of salvation; it is highlighted. The fact that there is a Bible at all shows us that this is so. God hasn’t wasted His time. Instead, He has used the most effective way of all to call His creatures back to Himself. It serves the greatest good for the greatest number and it demonstrates wisdom and love for the creatures who have voluntarily turned from Him and whom He desires to voluntarily turn back to Him.
Life application: Salvation is an offer from God and a choice by each person. After salvation, the choices don’t stop. Will we choose to grow in Christ or stagnate? Will we worship God at church or sit at home and watch football? Will we read our Bible or play on the computer? Use your post-salvation choices wisely; heavenly rewards and losses await.
O God, there was a moment in my life when I received Jesus, but since that time, I’ve not honored that choice as I could have. I’ve spent less time in Your word than I have at my computer. I’ve skipped my times of worship in order to watch sports. I’ve turned down offers to help others in order to do the things I like to do. Lord, today I ask for a new direction and a new heart; a greater desire to honor You. Help me to honor that precious moment when I received Jesus. Amen.