A question that has occupied a lot of people’s attention throughout the history of the church, and I’m sure other religious formations, is the question of who is “in” and who is “out” when it comes to God’s acceptance. I think one of the reasons we seem to like to decipher an answer to that question is because, for the most part, it reinforces our own sense of “in”-ness. It would be the rare person who works hard to identify himself as an outsider. No, we like to differentiate between insiders and outsiders because it usually makes us feel better about ourselves.
God, however, doesn’t seem to validate that quest. At least not so far as the New Testament is concerned.
In the section we’ll be reading in Romans, chapter 9:24-33, Paul will be looking at what God has intended for humanity all along, and what will characterize his intended result.
Paul begins this section with rapid-fire quotes from the Old Testament – from the minor prophet Hosea and Isaiah. The actual quotes are in reference to Israel, how, because of her unfaithfulness, she had been disqualified from being God’s people. Still, the prophet forecast a time when she would return from exile and be His people once more. Paul restructures this to be a picture of God’s plan to include the gentiles.
People who were not God’s people who become God’s people. Based on that quote, what does that tell us about the make-up of the church? What has God’s plan been all along, and who should we expect to be included? How easy or difficult is it for you to accept people who aren’t exactly like you in their beliefs, place in life, ethnicity or culture? How can we pursue God’s intended diversity as the church?
A contrast is made between the gentiles who are made right with God even though they never set out to achieve that, and Israel who worked so hard to get right through the works of the law, who never experienced it that way. What lesson do you think Paul driving home about the nature of salvation as well as the nature of the church?
Who is the rock which makes people stumble in this text? Why would the Jewish people have stumbled over Jesus? How do people stumble over Jesus, even in the church, today, based on v 30-33?
Hope to see you this Sunday – and remember, next Sunday (Aug 26th) we will only have ONE service at 10am – after that we’ll head to the beach for Surf-N-Grill!