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Sermon #111 — Romans Series


Title:                           A Tale of Two Sinners


Text:                            Romans 9:21-33

Subject:                     The Gospel of God

Date:                          Sunday Morning — March 5, 2017

Reading:       Matthew 11:1-30



The last half of Romans 9 gives us A Tale of Two Sinners. That is the title of my message. Our text will be Romans 9:21-33. — A Tale of Two Sinners (Romans 9:21-33). Let’s begin at verse 21 — Romans 9:21. The two sinners spoken of in this portion of Holy Scripture represent us all. The one represents all who are forever saved by the grace of God. The other represents all who are forever lost. The one represents all who think they are good people. The other represents all who know they are not. The one represents all religious legalists and self-righteous Pharisees. The other represents all poor publicans.


Potter and Clay


Understand this first. — The Lord God, the Almighty, he who is the Creator of all things is the Potter. We are but clay in the hands of the Potter. Learn that, and you will have no trouble with anything else taught in the Book of God. — He’s the Potter. We’re just clay in his hands. He can do with us what he will; and he always does.


God, as our Creator, the Potter, has the absolute right, power, and authority to do with us what he will. He can save us; or he can damn us. It is altogether up to him (v. 21; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-6).


(Romans 9:21) “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”


(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.”


Vessels of Wrath


The next thing Paul tells us is this: — The whole human race is made up of two groups of people, vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy, sheep and goats, wheat and tares, the elect and the reprobate (vv. 22-23). In this tale of two sinners, God the Holy Ghost tells us that one is a vessel of wrath and the other a vessel of mercy. In verse 22, we are told about those vessels of wrath who, ultimately, perish under the holy and just wrath of God in hell.


(Romans 9:22) “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”


The Lord God almighty is a God of justice and wrath as well as a God of mercy and grace in Christ. As such, he is determined to make all men see both the power and justice of his holy wrath against sin in the “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”


I call your attention, again, to the fact that these vessels of wrath are people fitted to destruction. The word “fitted means “thoroughly and completely made up to.” They are people fitted to destruction not by what God has done but by what they do, by their own sin, unbelief, and hardness of heart, just like Pharaoh (1 Thessalonians 5:9; 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4).


(1 Thessalonians 5:9-11) How we rejoice in the fact that God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, (10) Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (11) Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”


(1 Peter 2:8) But Christ crucified is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”


(Jude 1:4) “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”


These vessels of wrath are endured by God with great longsuffering, not for their sake, but for the sake of his elect, the vessels of mercy, whom he has purposed to save (2 Peter 3:9).


Vessels of Mercy


In verse 23, the apostle speaks of the other group of sinners, those who have been saved, those who are  saved, and those who must and shall be ssaved by the grace of God, vessels of mercy.


(Romans 9:23) “And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”


Be sure you catch the difference in wording here. — The vessels of wrath are said to be fitted (fitted by their own evil deeds, fitted in the Potter’s hands, but fitted by their own sin) for destruction. Whereas God’s elect are said to be “the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.” They were from eternity prepared for glory and are by redemption and grace prepared for glory by God’s hands, by what God has done for them and in them through the mediation of his dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Š      Prepared by God’s Purpose (Romans 8:28-30)

Š      Prepared by Christ’s Obedience (Romans 5:19)

Š      Prepared by Christ’s Atonement (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

Š      Prepared by Divine Regeneration (John 3:3-7 — Made “Partakers of the Divine Nature”)


(Colossians 1:12-14) “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (13) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (14) In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”


(Colossians 2:9-10) “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”


Paul is here describing the distinguishing grace and sovereign mercy of God toward his elect (1 Corinthians 4:7). We have not received God’s mercy, love, and grace in Christ because were better, or wiser, or made a better choice than others, but because God chose us in Christ before the world began and revealed his grace in us, to show forth and get praise to his own great and glorious name (Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:4-10).


(Ephesians 1:3-14) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (8) Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; (9) Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: (10) That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (11) In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (12) That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (13) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (14) Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”


(Ephesians 2:4-7) “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (6) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (7) That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”


(Ephesians 2:8-10) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”


Robert Haldane wrote, “In looking over this passage of Scripture, every man ought to observe that man plays no part in the redemption of his soul; all is done by God. Everything pertaining to the redemption of a sinner is done not through a cooperative effort, but by God. He elected. He predestinated. He called. He justified. And he glorified. God has undertaken for us.”


God’s Elect


In verses 24-29, the inspired apostle tells us that God’s elect, the vessels of mercy, are identified in time and know their election by his call, the irresistible call and efficacious grace of God the Holy Spirit. Here, again, Paul tells us that the promise of eternal salvation is not to Abraham’s physical seed, but to his spiritual seed — Christ and all who are in Christ by the grace of God, both Jew and Gentile.


(Romans 9:24) “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”


Then, in verses 25-28 Paul quotes from Hosea (2:23) and Isaiah (10:22-23), showing us that the Old Testament prophets spoke plainly of a time when God would finish his work with the nation of Israel and call his elect from among the Gentiles. He made a truly short work in the earth, when he destroyed the Jewish nation in righteousness and sent the gospel to the nations of the world. Yet, there is still in that nation an elect remnant who shall be saved. How like our God this is! — In wrath he remembers mercy!


(Romans 9:25-28) “As he saith also in Osee, 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, 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.


Now, look at verse 29.Here Spirit of God shows us something of the glory and majesty of the doctrine of election. Many say, “That is a hard doctrine.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This doctrine is a cause for rejoicing. Election does not shut the gates of heaven. It opens them! Were it not for God’s electing mercy, love, and grace in Christ, we would all perish, both Jew and Gentile. We would all be destroyed, like Sodom and Gomorrah. In this verse, Paul quotes from Isaiah 1:9.


(Romans 9:29) “And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrah.”


Among the fallen, depraved, lost, condemned ruins of humanity “there is a remnant according to the election of grace (Romans 11:5). And God the Holy Ghost here assures us that the “remnant shall be saved (Romans 9:27).


With men, a remnant is something leftover, waste material, material for which there is no plan, purpose, or intended use. With God, it is exactly opposite. God’s remnant is the kernel, everything else is husk. God’s remnant is that for which all things were planned and purposed. Without that elect remnant, everything else would be useless.


It was true in Isaiah’s time and it is true today, that the church and people of the living God are a poor, needy remnant, a remnant scattered among the nations, an elect remnant, a redeemed remnant, a protected remnant, but a remnant still. We are God’s remnant in Christ’s hands, under Christ’s care. — The God of all grace deals with a remnant. He seeks a remnant. He builds his house with a remnant. His treasure is a remnant.


This remnant is Christ’s seed in the earth that shall serve him, the generation accounted to the Lord to serve him (Psalm 22:30), Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.The remnant is God’s elect, all those who must and shall be saved by his grace, the whole church of God, the whole Israel of God, all who have been, all who are, and all who shall be saved in Christ. — Blessed are they who are included in the number of that remnant!


Faith and Works


Verses 30-32 show us the conclusion of this tale of two sinners. This is not my conclusion, or even Paul’s conclusion. This is God’s conclusion. Here is the result of God’s purpose of grace toward his elect and his just wrath upon the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.

Š      The Jews, who had the oracles of God and sought righteousness, not by faith in Christ, but by their works, stumbled over Christ the stumbling stone and perished.

Š      Whereas, the Gentiles chosen by God’s grace, redeemed by Christ blood, and called by his Spirit, though they made no pretense of righteousness or of seeking it, have obtained it in Christ by faith alone.

Š      Thus, the Scripture is fulfilled in us believing Gentiles, where God said, “I am found of them that sought me not” (Isaiah 65:1).


(Romans 9:30-32) “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.”


The point that Paul is making here is that our only hope is in the gospel of God’s free, sovereign, saving grace in Christ. The gospel we preach is the power of God unto salvation. The Jews, who sought righteousness by the law, by the works of the law, those who sought to make themselves righteous by doing good, missed it. They have not obtained the righteousness required by the law — Perfection (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).


(Deuteronomy 10:12-13) “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, (13) To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”


But the Gentiles, those who have been called of God, have attained the righteousness of the law, the righteousness God demands in his holy law, because they sought it not by works but by faith in Christ. That is the difference between works righteousness and gospel righteousness.


That is the difference between the saved and the lost. That is the difference between you who are born of God and you who are not.

Š      Saved sinners are people who do not try to make themselves righteous, but trust Chris alone for righteousness.

Š      Lost sinners are people who are trying to do good, trying to make themselves good and righteous.

Š      Saved sinners are sinners who have peace with God, because they have perfect righteousness, outside themselves, the righteousness of God in Christ.

Š      Lost souls have no peace, because the righteousness you have is nothing but filthy rags.


The Gospel


Now, let’s look at verse 33, and I will wrap my message up by showing you what Paul tells us here about the gospel of God.


(Romans 9:33) “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”


Proposition: The gospel of God proclaims righteousness, righteousness done, righteousness brought in, the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, the Lord.


The gospel does not tell you what you must do to be righteous. The gospel of God tells sinners about One who is made of God unto us righteousness. The gospel is not

Š      The plan of salvation.

Š      God is love.

Š      Love your neighbor.

Š      Love God.

Š      Do good.

Š      Keep the commandments.

Š      An altar call.


What is the gospel? The whole Book of Romans is a divinely inspired declaration of the gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” In this last verse of Romans 9, the Lord God himself tells us seven things about the gospel.


1.    It is written.”


The gospel is something written out in the Book of God. — “As it is written.” — Obviously, Paul is here referring to the Old Testament Scriptures. The gospel of God is the old, old story of redemption and grace in, by, and through the Christ of God.

Š      Genesis 3:15

Š      Noah’s Ark

Š      Mt. Moriah

Š      The Tabernacle

Š      Psalm 22


(Isaiah 53:4-11) “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (5) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (8) He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. (9) And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (11) He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”


(Daniel 9:24) “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”


The gospel is the testimony of God, written out in Holy Scripture, concerning his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


2.    The gospel is news.


As it is written, Behold!” — Behold, listen up. Hear ye, hear ye. I am making a statement. I am making a declaration. The gospel is news. The word gospel, means announcement. It means news. The gospel is news.


We do not live the gospel. We cannot live the gospel. That is foolishness. You don’t live news. For me to say I am going to live out the gospel is like me saying I am going to live out the front page story in the newspaper yesterday. If I came to you and I said, “I am going to live out the yesterday’s news,” what would you say? You’d think I had popped my cork! The news happened yesterday. You can’t live it out today. All you can do with news is tell it. You can’t live it. And you can’t live the gospel.


I know the famed papist, St. Francis, said, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” That is the talk of a man who didn’t know the gospel, the talk of a man seeking the righteousness of the law by works.


You have to use words to preach the gospel, whether they are written words or spoken words, you have to use words. Why? Because the gospel is news. Are you following me? Is it beginning to register? — You can’t live out the gospel. The gospel is news that must be spoken. We live because of the gospel; but you can’t live the gospel. Our lives are to be ruled, governed, regulated, and motivated by the gospel; but you can’t live the gospel. For me to think that I can live the gospel is to put myself in the place of Christ and make the news. That is blasphemy! — “You don’t need to hear the news about Christ, just watch me.” What arrogance! What presumption!


3.    The gospel is news about God and his work.


As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion.” — The gospel is news about what God has done in the Lord Jesus Christ, his Son. The gospel is not something we live. The gospel is news from, about, for, and through God, because the gospel is God centered. The gospel is not just news, but it is news about God and what he has done. It is not about you and what you have done or should do. It is not about me and what I do, what I should do, or what I have done. The gospel is all about God and what God has done. Let me say that again. The gospel is news from, about, for, and through God.


Hear me, now. — The gospel is not just news. It is news about God. The gospel is not man centered. The gospel doesn't begin with God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. The gospel is not about you. The gospel is about God. The gospel is about sin and redemption, ruin and restoration, the fall and deliverance, redemption, restoration, and deliverance from God, by God, and to God. The gospel is about God and his work.


What role does man play in the gospel? The role that man plays in the gospel is the fall. Man is the problem; but preachers everywhere make the gospel all about man. Sinners are told, — “You are so important and valuable to God that he made the world just so that he could have you. God sent his Son to die because he couldn’t imagine life without you in eternity. And so, he stands here right now pleading with you, begging you, because he just cannot imagine his life without you. Would you please do God the favor of accepting Christ so that he can finally be at peace because he has got you?”


That is not the gospel. The gospel is God centered, not man centered. The gospel is not about how special you are. The gospel is about how sovereign God is. The gospel is not about how much God needs or wants you. The gospel is about much you need God. The gospel is not about how bad things are going to be for God if you don’t come to Christ. The gospel is about how bad thing are for you and will continue to be for you throughout eternity if you do trust his Son. — “Behold, I lay in Zion.” That is the statement. “Behold, I lay in Zion.” It is about God and what God has done. It is about who God is. It is not about you.


4.    the gospel is all about Christ.


As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone!” — That statement is a reference to what the Lord God declares in Isaiah 8:14 and Isaiah 28:16. The stumbling stone is Christ (1 Peter 2:6-8).


(1 Peter 2:6-8) “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. (7) Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, (8) And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”


The gospel is all about Christ. As Martin Luther put it, “Gospel is nothing else than a discourse or story about Christ.”

Š      His Eternal Godhead

Š      His Suretyship Engagements

Š      His Incarnation

Š      His Obedience unto Death

Š      His Accomplishments

Š      His Resurrection

Š      His Intercession

Š      His Dominion

Š      His Glorious Second Advent


5.    The gospel is a scandal.


As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offence!” — To the unbelieving, self-righteous sinner, Christ is a stumblingstone, a rock of offence. The word translated “offence” is scandal. Christ crucified is a scandal to proud sinners.


What is the scandal in the gospel? What is it that makes the gospel scandalous news? It is the cross that makes the gospel scandalous news, the fact that the God of the universe killed is only begotten Son, pouring out his wrath on upon him in the place f sinners, the fact that the only way a sinner can be made righteous is by the sin-atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the sinners’ Substitute. The scandal of the gospel is the glory of God, the glory of the gospel, and the glory of all who are saved by his grace (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).


(2 Corinthians 5:17-21) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (18) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. (21) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”


(2 Corinthians 6:1-2) “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (2) (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)”


6.    The gospel is grace, all grace.


As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him…” — I love that word, “whosoever!” That means the gospel is a matter of pure, free grace. God is no respecter of persons. He cannot be bribed by your gifts (works) to him.

Š      Whosoever,” that’s anybody!

Š      Whosoever believeth,” that’s trust, faith, reliance.

Š      Whosoever believeth on him, God’s dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the crucified Lamb of God.


7.    The gospel is prophetic.


As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth shall not be ashamed!” — Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall never be ashamed (confounded, confused, put to shame) before God!

Š      For as long as you live in this body of sin!

Š      Not even when you have fallen!

Š      When you come to die!

Š      In the Day of Judgment!

Š      In eternity!


Where do you fit in this tale of two sinners?

Š      Seeking righteousness by something you do?

Š      Resting on the Rock, Christ Jesus?


(Romans 9:33) “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”








Don Fortner








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