ST. STEPHEN’S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Striving to speak God’s saving truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School | Beaver Dam, WI | 920.885.3309
Sermon for 13th Sunday after Pentecost on Romans 11:13-15, 28-32
13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Dear elect of God by his mercy,
I recall sometime within the last couple years beginning a sermon by quizzing the congregation on what are the “7 Deadly Sins”. You did pretty well naming these sins or sinful attitudes that many centuries ago perhaps someone in the Roman church listed as “fatal” to faith and righteousness with God and eternal life. In reality, the point is perhaps better stated that these attitudes are attitudes that underlie every possible sin; and every sin is fatal to the soul. One of those “7 Deadly Sins” shows up in today’s lesson from Romans 11, though in this case IT’S NOT A SIN!!!
“Envy” is the attitude in focus here. (In our Evangelical Heritage Version translation in your service folder Paul’s word is translated “jealous”, which is how a few other English translations also translate it. The New International Version, which we’ve gotten used to over the last 40 years goes with “envy”.) They’re similar – one definition for envy is “a desire for others’ traits, status, abilities or situation”. “Jealousy” is also that, but it seems to lean toward attitude of rivalry toward the other; “envy” maybe conveys more of a self-pity when noting the situation of another.
The “envy” or “jealousy” that St. Paul desired to create in his fellow Jewish people is not sinful. What the Roman, non-Jewish (Gentile) believers in Christ had was not something that the Jewish people shouldn’t have. And it wasn’t something that, if the Jews were to get it, they wouldn’t be taking anything from the Gentile believers. GOD WANTS THEM TO HAVE IT!! IT’S FOR EVERYONE!! That’s a main thrust of the other two lessons for today as well: Isaiah 56 … “my house will be called a house of prayer for ALL PEOPLES”, and Matthew 15 – the Canaanite (non-Jewish) woman who told Jesus, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Nothing has changed on this front. Today, 1,960 years later there are still “THE HAVES” and “THE HAVE NOTS”: saved believers and unsaved unbelievers. And God’s will has not changed either, that “God, our Savior wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
As with the Apostle Paul in his ministry to the gentiles (non-Jews), a big goal in our Christian lives is to …
Make Somebody ENVIOUS Today!
To intentionally make someone envious of you means that you first have to understand and cherish who you are and what you do have. So, What Do You Have? You have the greatest of treasures! You are a recipient of the “mercy of God”, made yours through Holy Spirit worked faith in what God does in Jesus. You are His child destined for an eternity of glorious life with him! This is his gift of love to you.
Paul wrote in this section about the “disobedience” of the Roman believers to whom he was writing and of the “disobedience” of the Jews, his own flesh and blood people. We must lump ourselves in with them. We are “disobedient”. We also were unbelieving regarding what God says is right in his sight and regarding HOW to be right in his sight. And we are still disobedient in our daily lives – not always trusting what he says is true and right and therefore disrespecting life in various ways, dishonoring God’s institution of marriage in various ways, disrespecting God through our daily discontent with the earthly things we have in our lives, etc. Our “disobedience” also is in our often-held attitudes that maybe I need to and can improve my living enough to meet God’s standards and to be acceptable to him. YET ALMIGHTY GOD IS MERCIFUL IN JESUS! God gave him to live the perfectly obedient life for us by believing and acting on every command and promise God has given for mankind. God gave this Jesus to then take what our disobedience deserves: physical death and the wrath of God in hell. And then God raised him to life to assure us of his mercy and what it accomplishes for us. THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE BY GOD’S GRACE, Paul emphasized.
Those Gentile believers in Rome had that treasure, as a consequence of the Jews’ disobedience / unbelief / rejection of God’s mercy. When Paul would come to a city, he would first seek out the Jewish community and share the Gospel of Jesus with them in their synagogues. For the most part, he and his message were rejected, though some (“a remnant”) believed. In some of those cities they even sought to kill him. This was the Jews’ “disobedience”. As Jesus had told him he would be, Paul then became the apostle to the Gentiles. Here in his letter
Paul told the Gentile believers in Rome that he “speaks highly of his ministry” to them because it hopefully accomplishes 2 things: 1) Their eternal salvation; and 2) the saving of some of Paul’s “fleshly” people, the Jews. So, Paul made much of his ministry to the Gentiles. He rejoiced in it. He talked about it. He kept doing it with zeal. And he hoped that the joy and peace the Gentiles had with God in Christ, and his joy in being part of that would stir up some envy among some Jews that they, too, might want and receive that great treasure.
Second them, in intentionally making someone envious of you and what you have is to also understand what should be the greatest need and desire of every human being created by God. And What Should Others Want?
That same “salvation” you have in Christ! To be saved for eternal life with God. Remember that Jesus asked, “What good does it do a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his own soul?”
Salvation for eternal life with God IS what the Jews (Israelites) had wanted. BUT, it didn’t take long for them to reject God’s way of receiving that treasure of life. In a statement leading up to our section (Romans 11:7) he wrote how the Jews wanted that “salvation” but many did not obtain it: … “What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did.” Most of them wanted it by their works. Think of the Pharisees. Some of them, the elect among them, received it by grace through faith. In support of this Paul referenced what we heard in last week’s lesson from 1 Kings (19:18), “I have reserved 7,000 in Israel who have not bowed before Baal or kissed him.” So, the vast majority of the Jewish people didn’t have what God wanted them to have; they had rejected it because they had rejected it as God’s gift. BUT NOW A BUNCH OF THOSE GENTILES HAVE IT, AND PAUL (A JEW) IS SPENDING HIS EFFORTS ON THEM!!!!
It was Paul’s hope and prayer that this is how many Jewish people would see things and his ministry. He hoped that many of his Jewish people might see how the Gentiles now have what God had wanted them to have … become ENVIOUS …and seek and receive by faith what God mercifully has for ALL People!
So, how about us? Are we making others ENVIOUS of us and of the greatest of treasures we have? How do you do that? Take a look at Paul, and listen to him: “I speak highly of my ministry.” His life and work motivated by his salvation by God’s grace in Jesus “consumed” him. He wasn’t shy about it. (He also didn’t get sinfully proud of it, either: “Not that we are competent…, but our competence comes from God” – 2 Corinthians 3:4-5.) This is what his earthly life was all about! First and foremost, above being of Jewish blood or of Roman citizenry, man or woman, adult or child, he is by God’s grace in Christ a saved, blood-bought, redeemed child of God for eternity! Whether having some of the luxuries of this life or having the bare necessities, whether healthy or sick, whether left alone to live in peace or harassed for his faith and life; he is that same redeemed child of God! He put it out there for those Gentiles, that they might have the same salvation and confidence. And maybe, just maybe, by God’s grace, some of his own Jewish people might become envious and seek and receive what he and those Gentile believers had.
Do you express the confidence for eternity you have in Jesus? Do you express the confidence you have in God’s good plan for you even when you endure difficult days? Is your “light shining” with joy, confidence and godly living every day?
We’ve said it often, especially with the elderly who may not be physically able to do much anymore – even in a hospital or nursing home bed a Christian can “make someone envious” by calmly and confidently telling what Jesus has waiting for you. What will be your opportunity today to make someone envious? Will it be a struggle you must work through? Will it be enjoyment of some earthly good thing that you credit to your Savior?
YOU HAVE THE TREASURE! WHAT WILL YOU DO TODAY AND EVERY DAY TO LOVINGLY MAKE SOMEBODY YOU KNOW ENVIOUS OF THAT?