II. The Freedom of God in Mercy: Our Fuel for Evangelism and Missions (Rom 9:14-18)

Following Blake, I spoke from the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 9, a passage which has consumed the majority of my studies this semester. Since Blake spoke on who we, as Christians, are in the world, I wanted to explain what fueled us for our efforts in evangelism and missions. What gives us drive to fulfill our God-given role as salt and light? The answer to this question became clear for me, by God’s grace, after studying Romans 9; namely, we need to get a glimpse of God and his passions.

Quite briefly, I discussed the context of Romans 9:1-13. In summary, Paul is arguing that the reason the word of God has not failed to Israel is because God works according to his purpose in election. Only those whom God unconditionally elects to be the beneficiaries of his promises gain salvation through Christ. God’s purpose was always to save the (elect) “Israel” within Israel. Someone, however, raises the objection that God is unjust to act this way. Beginning in 9:14, Paul utterly rejects such an objection and argues instead that God is wholly righteous to act this way.

Paul then unpacks why this is the case in 9:15-18. In v. 15, he quotes from Exodus 33:19, which gives a clear picture of the revelation of God’s own freedom to have mercy and compassion on whomever he wills. From this text, Paul concludes in v. 16 that since God is free to exercise mercy on whomever he pleases, then surely his gracious election depends not on human exertion, but wholly upon whether or not God chooses to have mercy. God is righteous, therefore, because the bestowal of mercy is based wholly upon his own sovereign will. In v. 17, Paul quotes from Exodus 9:16, which clearly reveals God’s sovereign purpose in raising up Pharaoh. God freely hardened Pharaoh in order that he might display his power and reveal his name in all the earth. Paul’s conclusion of these things comes in v. 18, where he then brings God’s freedom in mercy (vv. 15-16) and God’s freedom in hardening (v. 17) together. In doing so, he remarkably shows the essence of God’s righteousness; that is, God always acts according to his purpose to make his name known in all the earth. What do these things have to do with evangelism and missions? Everything:

1. God’s sovereignty in election is not a hindrance to missions and evangelism; it is the only hope for missions and evangelism. Because of divine election, people will be saved. Jesus has other sheep that will hear his voice (John 10:16). Only those ordained to eternal life will be saved (Acts 13:48). Paul has a warrant to preach the gospel in Corinth because Jesus has many people in the city (Acts 18:9). Paul endures all things for the sake of the elect; that is, he gets the flesh ripped off his back and wears chains in prison that the elect might be saved.

2. Our own election unto salvation is based wholly upon God’s mercy. Therefore, we should be moved to be a people of mercy to others. We do so particularly in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. The freedom of god in mercy must land on us in a manner that obliterates any carnal judgment of the mind that speculates over whether or not one will be saved; that determines who deserves and does not deserve to hear the gospel; that offers God advice on what kind of person is welcome in heaven. God is free to save whomever he pleases, the ethnic Jew and the dog of a Gentile. Our fleshly judgments in sharing the gospel with people are not welcomed.

4. Our passion must be God’s passion. a) If our hearts are not soaring with the truth of God’s passion to see his name magnified in all the earth, then evangelism will become either a joyless obligation or a means of self/institutional exaltation. We must be God-centered in our evangelism. b) If our hearts soar with God’s passion, then there will be motivation for missions. Indeed, God is omnipotent, and he has a passion. Nothing will stand in God’s way to make his name known in all the earth. God is always passionate about evangelism because he is always passionate about his name being praised in all the earth.

Like Blake’s message, we all sang another song over the weekend that was in line with the message summarized above. It is titled, “Save Us”:

Hosanna, save us,
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord
(repeat)

Jesus come, bring hope to the hopeless
Jesus come, bring peace to the restless
Jesus come, and set the captives free

Lord, we’ve heard of your great fame
We stand in awe of who you are
Come bring glory to your name
Lord, we welcome you with praise

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