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Sermon #129[i] — Romans Series
Title: “The Goodness
and Severity of God”
Text: Romans 11:17-22
Subject: God’s Goodness and Severity
Reading: John 15:1-17
Divine judgment is painful and sobering to observe, especially when the one openly and obviously judged of God is one you dearly love. I have not often seen the Lord God openly, obviously, suddenly manifest his judgment upon men who once appeared to walk in the light of grace, casting them off, shutting them up in darkness, and in willful, obvious rebellion. When I have seen it, I have been astonished and sobered by it. And the Lord God has graciously used it to awaken in my heart great gratitude and praise to him for his great mercy, love, and grace to me in choosing me as his own in eternal, electing love, redeeming me by the precious blood of his dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, calling me by his Holy Spirit, revealing his Son in me, and preserving me by his adorable grace. — Oh, how I give thanks to God, the God of all grace, for his great goodness to me!
Illustration: A fish swimming around bait, suddenly grabs it and is gone!
That’s what I have witnessed in recent days with some who have been dearer to me than my own flesh. I’m beginning to understand Jeremiah’s words, “Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for (my own sons, my cherished friends are) broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.” I fear they are cast off of God, for whom I would have given my life. I am afraid they have been bewitched by the sorceries of hell and reprobate, whom I had esteemed as God’s choice servants. I prayed for them. I warned them. I pleaded with them. I begged them. But they kept sniffing and swimming around the bait Satan set before them, until finally, suddenly they lunged for it, took it with force, and were snared.
You may ask, “Pastor, what do you think about all of this? How do you respond to it? What are we to do?” I have been asking myself those very questions night and day, with weeping eyes and broken heart. God has given me the answer in the 11th chapter of the Gospel of Romans. And I’ve come here to give it to you. — “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God!”
Proposition: The goodness and severity of God are things to be observed by us and recorded upon the pages of memory, causing us to bow to him in worship with utter awe and trembling thanksgiving and devotion.
As God the Holy Ghost will enable me, I want to speak to you as plainly and powerfully as possible about “The Goodness and Severity Of God.” My text is Romans 11:17-22 — “The Goodness and Severity Of God” (Romans 11:17-22). — We will begin at Romans verse 17.
Cause for Wonder
1st — Here is a cause for great wonder (v. 17).
(Romans 11:17) “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree.”
God has cast off some of the Jews, the great bulk of Abraham’s natural descendents and has graffed in “a remnant according to the election of grace” of both Jews and Gentiles. God casts off some who appeared to be his people and has saved sinners, like you and me, whom no one ever dreamed might be his people. — Behold, what multitudes have been cast off! But…
Š God chose you!
Š Christ redeemed you!
Š God sent the gospel to you!
Š The Holy Spirit called you!
Š God has graffed you into Christ!
Š God has preserved you!
(1 Corinthians 11:19) “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
(1 John 2:19-20) “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (20) But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”
Truly, the fact that God has spared us and preserved us in Christ is a cause of great wonder in our souls. — “I was left!” (Ezekiel 9:8)
2nd — Here is a reason for great humiliation (vv. 18-19).
(Romans 11:18-19) “Boast not against the branches (those who have been cut off [John 15]). But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. (19) Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.”
If you stand it is not because you are strong, but because Christ is your Strength. If you see it is not because you are brilliant, but because Christ is your Light. If you persevere it is not because you are better than the fallen, but because Christ preserves you by the power of his grace.
(1 Corinthians 4:7) “For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”
Don’t miss this. — “Thou barest not the root, but the root thee!”
Š You do not carry Christ. Christ carries you. — Christ does not depend on you. You depend on Christ. — You do not sustain Christ. Christ sustains you!
Š The church of God does not depend on you. You depend on God’s church. — God’s church does not need you. You need God’s church.
Understand this too. — “The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.” God’s judgment upon others, God casting away the reprobate and the heresy spawned by them, is ordained of God for your soul’s good. God uses the wrath of reprobate men against him for the salvation of his elect and our souls’ everlasting good (Psalm 76:10).
Š The crucifixion of Christ by the hands of wicked men was the redemption of our souls by the hand of God (Acts2:23).
Š The casting off of Israel because of their unbelief was the sending of the gospel to and the salvation of God’s elect among the Gentiles.
Š The heresies by which the reprobate seek to divide God’s church and by which they are themselves deceived only unite God’s church and reveal who are his (1 Corinthians 11:19).
Š The messengers of Satan who seek to turn you from the simplicity that is in Christ only cause God’s elect to cling more earnestly to Christ as their All (2 Corinthians 11:4; Colossians 3:11).
When judgment falls upon others and they fall away under it, let us be humbled before God.
3rd — Here is a motive for great devotion, something to inspire great consecration (vv. 20-21).
(Romans 11:20-21) “Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: (21) For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”
“When any turn from Zion’s way,
(Alas, what numbers do!)
I think I hear my Savior say,
‘Wilt thou forsake me too?’
Oh, Lord, with such a heart as mine,
Unless Thou hold me fast,
I feel I must, I shall decline,
And prove like them at last.”
“Thou standest by faith!”
Š God Given Faith
Š Divinely Sustained Faith
Š Faith in Christ
“Take heed lest he also spare not thee!”
(John 6:66-71) “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (67) Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? (68) Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. (69) And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. (70) Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? (71) He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.”
(Galatians 6:14) “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
Every time we see anyone taken by Satan’s craftiness, snared by the wicked one, we ought to more resolutely cling to Christ and his gospel. Don’t even investigate the nonsense by which Satan would bait you (Deuteronomy 12:29-13:3).
(Deuteronomy 12:29) “When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; (30) Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise. (31) Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. (32) What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”
(Deuteronomy 13:1-3) “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, (2) And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; (3) Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
The Great God
4th — Here is a revelation of the great God (v. 22).
(Romans 11:22) “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”
Here is the great goodness of God. — You believe! You are still clinging to Christ! You have not been moved away from the hope of the gospel!
Here is the great severity of God in the exercise of his great justice and judgment. — Some are fallen, fallen and cut off because they despised the goodness of God in Christ!
“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God!” — The word “goodness” means “kindness, gentleness, goodness.” God is kind, gentle, and good. But God is more than that. He is also severe. The word “severity” means “rigor, sharpness,” even “harshness.” God is both. He is kind, gentle, and good. But he is also rigorous, sharp, and harsh. — “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God!”
Let me wrap this message up by reminding you of some very familiar examples of both the goodness and severity of God given to us in the Book of God.
The goodness of God is illustrated Holy Scripture in the lives of many.
Jacob — You cannot fail to see the goodness of God in the life of Jacob. Jacob stole his brother Esau’s blessing and fled into the land of Haran. There he fell in love with Rachel. But Laban her father tricked Jacob into marrying her sister, Leah, and working for him for many years. Finally, after being tricked and swindled by Laban for many years, God told Jacob to return to his home in Canaan. The Bible says…
“And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, And said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me” (Genesis 31:4-5).
In spite of Laban’s tricks, Jacob was blessed because God in his goodness was with him.
Joseph — God’s goodness is marvelously displayed in the life of Joseph. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him. They threw him in a pit and would have left him there to die. But some nomads passed by. So they pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him as a slave. He wound up in Egypt. There was no human reason that Joseph could succeed under such conditions, but the God says…
“And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand” (Genesis 39:2-3).
God, in his goodness, was with Joseph in Egypt. The goodness of God later made Joseph the prime minister of Egypt for the salvation of Israel.
David — David’s life was an object lesson in God’s great goodness. King Saul was very jealous of David.
Saul became demonized and the demons told him that David would try to steal his throne. So King Saul set out to kill David. On several occasions he tried unsuccessfully to murder David, but the Book of God tells us that…
“David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him” (1 Samuel 18:14).
King Saul was very treacherous and very mean. He persecuted David, and drove him out of the city. He tried again and again to kill David. But each time David was able to escape. Finally, by the hand of God, David overcame Saul completely. The secret of David’s success was the presence of God in his life. The Bible tells us, “The Lord was with him” (1 Samuel 18:14). The goodness of God kept David from being murdered by Saul and made him prosper. Finally, the goodness of God set upon the throne of Israel.
Adam and Eve — In the Book of Beginnings, before he drove Adam and Eve out of the garden in his severity, the Lord God showed them his goodness. They sinned horribly against God. They listened to the voice of Satan. They rebelled against God. They were judged by him for their sins. But even though they lost their former glory through sin, our first parents were not destroyed, as they rightly could have been by God. Instead, God in his great goodness clothed them in coats of skin to protect them from the changed weather patterns that came as a result of man’s sin, and to protect them from judgment as well. We read in the 3rd chapter of Genesis of…
“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).
Actually, the word “skins” is singular not plural. The Lord God made them coats of skin, not skins. Both of their coats were made out of one skin. The Lord Jesus Christ gave one sacrifice, one redemption, one coat of righteousness. That is what is pictured in the one skin with which God clothed the fallen pair. And when God did that, he gave us six lessons…
Behold the goodness of God in the Garden!
But our text also calls for us to behold the severity of God. As I said, the Greek word “severity” means “rigor, sharpness, harshness.” God is not only good, He is also sharp, harsh, and severe.
(Romans 11:17-22 “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; (18) Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. (19) Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. (20) Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: (21) For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. (22) Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”
Oh, may God give you his goodness in Christ! O Spirit of God, give us grace, constant, relentless, unceasing grace, that we may abide in the goodness of God, that we may cling to Christ!
[i] Danville — Sunday Morning — (09/17/17)
Grace Baptist Church, Dingess, WV — (FRI – 09/15/17)