Warning the Spiritually Privileged (Romans 9:27-29)
“And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.’ And as Isaiah predicted, ‘If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.’” (Romans 9:27–29 ESV)
Both quotes from Isaiah have the theme of remnant. What is a remnant? Go to a carpet or a fabric store and ask for a remnant. What will you get? A little portion of the original roll of carpet. A smaller section of the entire bolt of fabric. A remnant. We saw this earlier in Romans 9, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” (Romans 9:6)
The first quote from Isaiah 10 says that though there are descendants of Abraham like the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved. That connects because in Genesis 12, God promised his descendants would be like the sand of the sea. It’s a huge number of ethnic descendants. Are they all under God’s grace? No. “Only a remnant of them will be saved.” (Romans 9:27) The revered prophet Isaiah himself said so.
The second quote refers to Sodom and Gomorrah. Why is this compelling? It continues the basic theme of some saved against the backdrop of God’s expansive judgment and wrath. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God for their wickedness, yet in his mercy, God rescued Lot and his family just before it happened.
What’s the point? The Jews were spiritually privileged. They were descendants of Abraham and the patriarchs. They had the Mosaic covenant and the land and the legacy. You grow up thinking you are special in God’s eyes because of your DNA, and then you read the Bible stories like you’re the hero. You’re on the winning team. You’re with Lot, not with Sodom. Yet, even Isaiah agrees with Paul. DNA doesn’t save you even if its Abrahamic DNA. No. God has no privileged children.
The application is an easy one for us here. Are you special? Were you raised in spiritual privilege? Do you still have your perfect Sunday school attendance certificate? Or worse, have you held on to your award for memorizing Bible verses for 40 years, like me (see below)?
If there’s any question about my getting into heaven, I can just hold this up, right? I memorized 500 verses when I was in third grade, therefore, I must be going to heaven.
American evangelicalism drips with privilege as 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation Christian kids grow up in a Christian subculture where everything affirms them as special in God’s eyes.
Yet, what is also true? I think about my own youth group friends. I went a couple years to a Christian school. When I think about who was singing the songs and going to camp back then and who is following Jesus today, what word comes to mind? Remnant.
Northwest Indiana is loaded with residents with Christian legacy who have no current affection for Jesus or the church. I’ve often thought if we could evangelize just a small percentage of the thousands who once claimed allegiance to Jesus, that number alone would be massive.
Paul is issuing a warning to anyone who thinks spiritual family legacy alone saves. Tragically, hell will have many who will quote Bible verses to themselves and remember truth that could have saved them. But they trusted their legacy or their DNA instead of trusting Jesus. Might that be you?
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 See Thomas Schreiner, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Romans, p. 530.
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