I know that it's been a couple of weeks since the Aber Conference and that posting a report now hardly constitutes live blogging. But with one thing and another it's been a bit busy round here since we returned from our hols, hence the delay. Still, in the olden days before blogging you'd probably have to wait until October's Evaneglical Times for some Aber reportage. If you were there, you already know what happened. If you weren't, then my notes are are poor substitute for the real thing. Hopefully better than nothing, but probably not a lot.
David (Norman) Jones gave the four conference addresses in the morning meetings (Tues-Fri). His masterly expositions of Romans 9-11 & 15 were headed "God's Overflowing Grace". Before the conference the last time I heard David Jones speak was while I was a student at the London Theological Seminary (1988-90) and DNJ was pastor of Grove Chapel, Campberwell. I was looking forward to hearing him again and I wasn't disappointed. I found his ministry insightful, challenging and uplifting. Here are some notes on the first two addresses.
I. Romans 9:1-29: How odd of God to choose the Jews
The church has sometimes been guilty of anti-Semitism. How odd to choose the Jewish God and hate Jews! Did the fact that the Jews rejected their Messiah so that the gospel was preached to the Gentiles mean a change of plan on God’s part?
1. Paul’s distress
Why don't the Jews believe? Why are some saved and others not? Romans 9:1-3. Paul would have changed places with the Jews. At the cross Jesus swapped placed with us, 2 Corinthians 5:21. Paul’s longing for lost sheep of Israel was an expression of the spirit of Jesus. We similarly should have a deep concern for uncoverted loved ones.
2. Paul’s dilemma
Has God's word failed?
If Israel is lost, despite Romans 9:4-5, Romans 8:31-39 is called into question. But salvation is by grace not race Romans 9:6-7. There is no promise that all ethnic Jews will be saved. Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob Esau. Jacob was not more loveable than Esau. All sinners are in the same boat, the Titanic. Only grace can save us.
Are God's ways fair?
Romans 9:14-15. It is not justice, but mercy that is needed, Romans 9:16-18.
Is God's will free?
Romans 9:19. Is God free to do as he pleases? In our thinking God is not in the centre. We hold him to account for his ways. “God in the hands of angry sinners.” But God is free and sovereign in his purposes and acts. Romans 9:21-24 cf. Jeremiah 18.
The Gentiles were called to reshape and remodel Israel. God’s word has not failed, Genesis 22:18.
3. Paul’s delight
His delight was in Christ, Romans 9:4-5. In Christ God became man to pay man's debt to God, 2 Corinthians 5:20. Christ is the mirror of our election. We must look to him for assurance that we are among the elect. Spurgeon, "I looked at Christ and the Dove came. I looked at the Dove and he flew away." Look to Christ and be saved.
II. Romans 9:30-10:21: The Tragedy of Unbelief
Homer Simpson's grace, “We paid for this food ourselves, thanks for nothing!” Wrong attitude. Two truths need to be emphasised: To God be all the glory for salvation and human responsibility.
Why did not the Jews believe?
1. They had a foundation, but they stumbled over it
Romans 9:30-33. On God’s construction site, the Jews tripped over Christ the “stone” and rejected him. The Gentiles stumbled across him and were saved John 1:10. In the race for righteousness, the Jews lost, they did not cross the finishing line, Romans 10:4. Gentile outsiders won, Romans 9:30, 32. Salvation by works is the default setting. But righteousness is beyond the reach of sinners. Saving righteousness is given to us in Christ, Romans 10:4. The law demands obedience and punishment. Christ has fulfilled the law Galatians 3:13. Those who believe in him will not put to shame, Romans 9:33.
2. They had a zeal, but it was misdirected
Romans 10:1-2. Sincerity cannot save. Islamic terrorism. Paul the Bin Laden of his day, the “chief of sinners”. The Jews need to be saved, Romans 10:1.There is only one way of salvation – in Christ.
3. They had a word from God, but they complicated it
Moses: the way of salvation simply explained, Romans 10:5-9. Like the rich young ruler, the Jews complicated God’s word.
Jesus is everything, Romans 10:6-8. Simply believe in him, Romans 10:9. It is not that God helps who help themselves, but that God helps those who can't help themselves, Romans 10:13. Call on the name of the Lord and be saved. A simple act with momentous consequences. Whoever calls shall be saved.
4. They had messengers sent to them, but they refused to listen
Romans 10:14-21. All have heard of God, Romans 10:18 cf Romans 1. The gospel had been proclaimed to the ends of the earth, Colossians1:23. Election and evangelism go together. The unevangelised urgently need to hear the gospel and be saved.
Where are the pioneer missionaries like Robert Thomas, missionary to Korea? His ship was set alight. He was executed as soon as he reached the shore. The Bibles he brought with him were used as wallpaper. People were converted. Now 1 in 4 South Koreans are Bible Christians. Romans 10:21 God stretches out his arms to the Jews. God still speaks through the preaching of the gospel, Romans 10:14.
Belief in sovereign election should be a spur to evangelism, not a hindrance.