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Sermon #106 — Romans Series`
Title: Three Things
Worse than Atheism
Text: Romans 9:14-33
Subject: Divine Sovereignty
Date: Sunday Morning — December 18, 2016
Reading: Isaiah 43:1-13
I want to talk to you about — Three Things Worse than Atheism. — That’s the title of my message — Three Things Worse than Atheism.
I stand before you either as a servant of God or as a servant of the devil. I must be one or the other. Our Master said, “He that is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). It is written, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). In another place, Paul says, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
If I do not preach the Gospel that Paul preached, a curse hangs over my head. That puts me in a position of awful responsibility. No wonder the prophets of old spoke of the message they carried and the responsibility of delivering it as “the burden of the Word of the Lord.” God’s servants are set by him as watchmen over the souls of men, responsible to God for faithfully instructing eternity bound sinners in the way of life and salvation by Christ. As we hear the Word at his mouth, so we must speak (Ezekiel 3:17; 33:7). “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). We must add nothing to it and take nothing from it (Deuteronomy 4:2). “He that hath my Word, let him speak it faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28). He who dares to stand in this place and speak to eternity bound men and women, as a steward of the mysteries of God, must be faithful...
Š To the Word of God.
Š To the Gospel of God.
Š To Glory of God.
Š To the Souls of Men.
I call upon you who hear me to compare every word I speak with the Word of God. I urge you, for your soul’s sake to do so. If what I have to say is of God, hear me, bow to his Word, believe it and rejoice in it. If it is not of God, do not hear me, never hear me again, lest you perish in delusion and darkness. That is how serious this matter is.
I make you this promise: — That which I have to preach to you is that which has been inscribed upon my heart by the finger of God, experienced in my soul by the operation of his grace, and proved by the faith God has given me. It is not a theory, an opinion, or a conjecture. It is not Baptist doctrine, Catholic doctrine, Pentecostal doctrine, Presbyterian doctrine, Arminian doctrine, or Calvinistic doctrine. It is Bible doctrine! — It is the very truth of God.
Before look into the Scriptures together, I have a request. Will you here who know Christ, lift up your hearts to God and ask his blessing upon his Word? O that God might speak through this worthless, dirty, empty pipe to your hearts and to the hearts of lost sinners in this house for the glory of Christ, the comfort, edification, and everlasting salvation of your souls, for Christ’s sake! It is my prayer and my heart’s desire to God that you who believe Christ may be instructed, comforted, edified, and strengthened by the Gospel and that you who are yet dead in trespasses and sins may this very hour be born of God and granted the blessed gifts of eternal life and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. — O Spirit of God, come upon us! — Fill us! — Teach us! — Revive our souls! — Refresh our spirits! — Cause these bones to live, for Christ’s sake!
There are certain things about the character of God that are believed and held in common by all conservative “Christian” religions and people. All who profess to be Christians believe, or at least profess to believe, that God has certain attributes which are essential to his Being as God…
Š “God is a Spirit,” eternal, immutable, and independent.
Š God is holy, wise, and good.
Š God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
Š God is just, true, and faithful.
Š “God is love,” merciful, gracious, long-suffering, and forgiving.
These are characteristics of God’s nature, attributes of his Being, that all religious people, to one degree or another recognize and applaud. Both Baptists and Methodists believe these things. Presbyterians and Pentecostals, Episcopalians and Catholics, Campbellites and Russellites, Adventists and Mormons all acknowledge these things to be true. Neither Quakers nor Papists would deny any of those attributes of God. Every man, woman, boy or girl, who professes to believe in God will tell you that these things are so. You believe them; and I believe them.
But there is something else, another attribute essential to the character of God, which most religious people refuse to accept. In fact, they despise it. Though they sing, “O How I love Jesus,” with beaming faces, when a preacher dares tell them that this attribute is at the very core of his Being, essential to his nature, they become enraged.
Here is the one attribute of God’s Being which distinguishes him from all the imaginary gods of men. In fact, if you will read the Book of God one more time, you will find out that it is this attribute of his Being to which God himself most often points when showing the difference between himself and the idols of men that are called gods.
Because God himself has chosen to use this one attribute above all others to distinguish himself as God, when I am asked to answer the question, “Who is God?” it seems most reasonable to me to answer it by setting forth this one distinguishing attribute of his nature. You will find it stated emphatically in Psalm 115:3 and again in Psalm 135:6. — “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased!” — “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places!”
Proposition: He who truly is God is totally sovereign.
The God of the Bible, the one true and living God, the God we worship, trust, and love, is an absolute sovereign, in total control of all things, at all times, always performing his will and pleasure.
Sovereign or an Idol
The Lord our God is absolutely and universally sovereign. And I am here to assert in the plainest, boldest terms possible that anything less than an absolute sovereign is not God, but only the idolatrous figment of man’s depraved imagination, an image carved from one of the trees in the dark forest of man’s depraved heart and idolatrous imagination.
When I assert that God is sovereign, I am simply declaring that he is God. God almighty has the right and power to do what he will, when he will, with whom he will, as he will; and he always does. The god of this apostate religious age, this generation of antichrist christianity, is anything but sovereign. This religious generation is well described by the prophet Isaiah. — “They pray unto a god that cannot save” (Isaiah 45:20).
Š Modern religion has set aside the sovereignty of God to make room for the autonomy of man.
Š Today, men everywhere deny the sovereignty of God’s will, in order to exalt the imaginary freedom of man’s will.
The fact is, the god of the “enlightened” 21st century church is a weak, helpless, frustrated, effeminate idol which commands the respect of no one. The god of the modern pulpit is an object of pity, rather than reverence.
Š If God loves everyone alike and some still perish in hell, his love is meaningless and irrelevant.
Š If Christ died for all men alike, shed his blood to redeem all men, and some are not redeemed, his blood is meaningless and irrelevant.
Š If God the Holy Spirit is trying to save all men by the operations of his grace, and some are not saved, his grace is meaningless and irrelevant.
Yet, those are the very things by which the god of this age is most commonly described. They describe your fathers’ god and your neighbors’ god. They may even describe your god. But that is not the God of the Bible. A weak, helpless, frustrated god, is no more God than the totem poles of barbaric tribesmen.
The God of the Bible is an absolute sovereign. It is written of him, — “All things are of God!” You can take those words just as far as your imagination will allow; and when you have gone the full length of your mind’s imagination, you have not even begun to commence to get started measuring the magnitude of those words. – “All things are of God!”
Š God is sovereign in creation. — “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:4).
Š God is sovereign in providence (Matthew 11:20-25; Romans 8:28-30; 11:36; Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 76:10; Exodus 34:24).
Š God is sovereign in salvation. — “Salvation is of the Lord!” (Romans 9:14-33).
That is what Romans 9 is all about — The Sovereignty of God in the Salvation of Sinners! In verse 10-13 the Apostle asserts, in plain, unmistakable terms, God’s absolute sovereignty in election.
Romans 9:10-13 “And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (11) (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) (12) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. (13) As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
In the rest of the chapter (vv. 14-33) he replies to the cavils of unbelieving, unregenerate rebels to the fact of God’s sovereignty in saving whom he will. Let’s look at these verses together. Here God the Holy Ghost shows us three things worse than atheism. — Three Things Worse than Atheism — That’s my subject. Here are three things worse than atheism.
1st — Here is the first thing Paul sets before us (vv. 14-18); and I assert that this is something worse than atheism. — Rather than bowing to God and his sovereignty, unbelieving, unregenerate men and women charge the holy Lord God with unrighteousness!
Paul stated his doctrine in verses 10-13 — Unconditional Election. Here, he (by Divine inspiration) demonstrates the obvious truthfulness of this sweet and blessed Gospel doctrine. — “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you!” — “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation!” — “We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you unto salvation!”
Romans 9:13 “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
Romans 9:14 “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.”
What blasphemy! Dares a man, a fallen, sinful man, charge the holy Lord God, the righteous Lord, with unrighteousness? That is a blasphemy worse than atheism! There can be nothing unrighteous in God’s loving Jacob and hating Esau, choosing the one and rejecting the other, when the choice was made before neither Jacob nor Esau had been born. Being yet in their mother’s womb, they had done nothing, either good or evil. They had no hand in the business. The whole matter was performed according to the sovereign will and purpose of God.
Among the unregenerate and unbelieving, there is nothing that excites the bitter hatred of the human heart like the declaration of God’s sovereignty in the exercise of his grace. Every son and daughter of Adam, while in the unrenewed state of an unregenerate mind, rises up in rebellion against it. Yet, I’ve never met a man or woman, anywhere, who does not demand the right of sovereignty for themselves.
Š The Right to Do with Their Own what They Will.
Š The Right to Choose Their Own Friends.
Š The Right to Choose Their Own Companions.
And this is what God asserts, regarding his own sovereignty in election, in grace, in predestination, in salvation.
Romans 9:15-18 “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (16) So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. (17) For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. (18) Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.:
Thus the matter stands. And thus it must stand, and will stand, to all eternity, in opposition to all the cavils, arguments, and ungodly reasoning of men.
2nd — Here is the second thing Paul sets before us (vv. 19-29); and I assert that this, too, is something worse than atheism. — Rather than bowing to God on his throne, lost rebels, religious and irreligious, charge the Lord God with injustice!
Romans 9:19-20 “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? (20) Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”
Here is the impudence of fallen rebels at its utmost height. With these words, the Apostle was inspired by God the Holy Ghost to display man’s utter contempt for God. Dare any man charge God with injustice?
Job 4:17 “Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?”
Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”
Psalm 89:14 “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.”
I cannot emphasize this enough — God is always just in everything he does.
Read verses 21-24, and watch Paul’s inspired response to man’s brazen impudence.
Romans 9:21-24 “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (22) What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: (23) And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, (24) Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
Nothing could be more satisfactory as an answer to man’s blasphemous cavil than the similitude of the potter and the clay given here. The potter is the sovereign. The clay is in his hands. He forms the clay into what he will, to use as he will. That is the picture we are given in the Book of God, as God the Holy Ghost displays God’s glorious sovereignty (Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-6).
Isaiah 64:8 “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”
Jeremiah 18:1-6 “The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, (2) Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. (3) Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. (4) And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. (5) Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, (6) O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”
God’s sovereignty stands just where it did from everlasting. Despite all that has been said and written against it, God is not accountable to his creatures for his conduct. It is enough to know that God cannot do wrong. He is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
God’s sovereignty is one of his distinguishing attributes, by which he identifies himself as God. The perfect rectitude of his holy Being makes his sovereignty right. Let the pride and arrogance of men or devils cavil at it as they may, God’s reply is the same. — “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10).
Reason to Rejoice
In verses 25-29, Paul refers us back to the prophets of old (Hosea and Isaiah), and gives saved sinners reason to rejoice and give thanks to our Triune God for his free and sovereign grace, by which he has made us his people.
Romans 9:25-29 “As he saith also in Osee (Hosea 2:23) I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. (26) And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. (27) Esaias also crieth concerning Israel (Isaiah 10:22-23), Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: (28) For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. (29) And as Esaias said before (Isaiah 1:9), Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.”
Here is a clear and obvious distinction between believer and unbelievers. — When a believer sees something in God’s providence that appears to him confusing, or even wrong, he concludes that the defect is in himself, not in God, and bows in silent submission before the throne of God (Psalm 39:9).
Psalm 39:9 “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.”
Whatever comes to pass is by God’s decree, God’s appointment, and God’s providence. It is right; and all is well. I will bow to my God. I may not be able to see God’s path; but I know that his ways and his works are right. His sovereignty is my peace and my security.
But, when we see men and women who profess to be worshippers of God rejecting the sovereignty of God with the Scriptures of God in their hand, we discover how far our nature must be sunk in rejecting the counsel of God against their own souls. The very truth of God, when brought before such people, only stirs their wrath and exposes their enmity against the Almighty. — The natural man confers only with flesh and blood. — The heaven-born soul, immediately upon being taught of God and having Christ revealed in him, confers not with flesh and blood (Galatians 1:15-16).
Doctrine of Godliness
God the Holy Spirit tells us in verse 29 that the blessed Gospel doctrine of God’s sovereignty in election, predestination, and grace is the doctrine of godliness. He tells us that had it not been for God’s sovereign grace in choosing us to salvation by Christ, we would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah. Grace one makes chosen, redeemed sinners different from the reprobate (1 Corinthians 4:7).
3rd — Here is the third thing Paul sets before us (vv. 30-). This this, too, is something worse than atheism. — Rather than trusting Christ for righteousness, lost rebels, religious and irreligious, seek righteousness before God by their own works!
Romans 9:30-33 “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. (31) But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (32) Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; (33) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
The only way for a sinner to obtain that righteousness that is revealed in and demanded by the holy law of God (perfection) is by faith. It is “the righteousness which is of faith.”
There is only one way for a sinner to meet the doctrine of election. There is only one way for a sinner to approach the God of all grace, God who sits upon the throne of absolute sovereignty. There is only one hope for your poor soul, but, oh, what a good hope it is! You must come to God by Christ, on your knees, on your face, in the dust, bowing before his sovereign majesty, pleading for mercy through the blood of his dear Son.
“Come humble sinner, in whose breast
A thousand thoughts revolve;
Come with your guilt and fear oppressed,
And make this last resolve.
‘I’ll go to Jesus, though my sins
Like mountains round me close;
I know his courts, I’ll enter in,
Whatever may oppose.
Prostrate I’ll lie before his throne,
And there my guilt confess;
I’ll tell him I’m a wretch undone
Without his sovereign grace.
I’ll to the gracious King approach,
Whose scepter pardon gives;
Perhaps He may command my touch,
And then the suppliant lives!
Perhaps He will admit my plea,
Perhaps will hear my prayer;
But if I perish, I will pray,
And perish only there.
I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away, I know,
I must forever die.
But if I die with mercy sought,
When I the King have tried,
This were to die (Delightful thought!) —
As sinner never died!’”