The Problem of Unbelief

October 13, 2019 ()

Bible Text: Romans 9:1-7 |


The Problem of Unbelief | Romans 9:1-7
Brian Hedges | October 13, 2019

Turn in your Bibles this morning to Romans 9. C. H. Spurgeon once said that the first instinct of a saved soul is a longing to bring others to Christ. I think everyone who is a Christian has felt this longing, that if you have found your own sins forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ, if you have been saved from your sins by the grace and the mercy of God, if you’ve trusted in Christ for salvation, and if you have felt that sense of wonder at the amazing love of God, that he would give his Son to die for your sins, and you’ve found that relief of the burden of your guilt and of your sin, knowing that your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake—if you’ve experienced that, if you’ve experienced conversion and new birth, then you have also experienced a longing for others to know salvation. You’ve experienced a longing for others to be saved.

It’s something that we should feel. It’s the burden that we should carry. We lose the burden of sin and we should gain a burden for others. In some ways this morning perhaps what needs to happen in this room and in our hearts is that we leave more burdened than we came in, because I think many of us are believers, and we have let our burden for evangelism grow cold. Maybe we’ve lost the sense of urgency that we should feel when we think about others who do not know Christ in a saving way.

The passage we’re going to look at this morning in the book of Romans confronts us with the problem of unbelief and how we should feel about that problem, and then the answer to that problem from Scripture.

We’re just at the beginning of a new series in Romans 9–11, and last week we did something of an overview of Romans 1–8. We looked at the wrath and the judgment that we all deserve, and then the provision of righteousness that God has made for us through the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then the blessings that come to us through the saving righteousness of God. It gives us peace with God, it gives us hope through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it secures us in God’s love, it frees us from sin and death and from the law. These are the great privileges that are ours in Christ. Paul has exulted in this in Romans 8, but in Romans 9 Paul turns something of a corner, and he begins to describe his burden and his heart for the lost.

This morning I want us to consider this. We’re going to look at three things in this passage: the intensity of Paul's burden, the tragedy of Israel's unbelief, and the certainty of God's saving purpose.  All three of these things are important for us this morning, and I think all three have important application for our lives. Let’s look at these together.

I. The Intensity of Paul’s Burden

First of all, the intensity of Paul’s burden. Just begin in verse 1. Notice that Paul begins here with a threefold affirmation of what he feels. In verse 1 he says, “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit…”

This is as strong language as he can use to attest to the deep burden of his heart. He says, “I’m not lying, I’m speaking the truth, and I’m speaking the truth in Christ, as a Christian, as an ambassador of Christ, as someone who is in Christ and inside of the Lord. I am speaking the truth, I’m not lying,” and then he says, “My conscience bears my witness.” He doesn’t ultimately trust in his conscience, so he says, “My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit.” He is, as it were, almost swearing or vowing or taking an oath before the Lord, saying, “This is the burden of my heart. This is what’s going on in my heart.”

Then listen to how he describes it in verse 2, a double expression of intense emotion. “My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Paul is a burdened man. His soul is rent with grief. He feels this great heaviness of heart.

In fact, it’s a continual, ongoing, unceasing anguish, he says. Unceasing anguish. His heart is anguished. Why is it? Why is it anguished? It’s anguished at the unbelief of his Jewish brethren, his brothers, and his sisters according to the flesh, Israel in their state of unbelief.

That becomes clear in verse 3, where he expresses an impossible wish. He says, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Paul in this passage takes on the persona of a prophet of the Old Testament who wept and expressed grief over the sin, over the unbelief, over the apostasy of the people of God. Remember Jeremiah, the weeping prophet? Well, here you have Paul, the weeping apostle. He expresses this intense emotion, this intense burden in his heart. He’s burdened that they don’t believe. In fact, he says (this is an amazing statement), “I could wish myself accursed and cut off from Christ.”

Now, it’s interesting that this is expressed in the imperfect tense in Greek, and the scholars tell us it’s because this actually couldn’t take place. It’s not that he could be cut off from Christ, it’s not that he could be separated from the love of God in Christ—in fact, he’s just said so in Romans 8. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. It’s not that that could happen, but Paul says, “If it could happen, I could wish myself cut off from Christ in order that they might be saved.”

John Stott in his commentary quotes James Denney, who says that “here we have a spark from the fire of Christ’s substitutionary love.” That’s what’s lighting Paul’s heart. That’s why his heart is aflame with emotion here, because his heart is set on fire by the love of Christ, and the love that he feels for his brothers makes him say, “If possible—if it were possible, I could wish myself accursed.” Anathema [αναθεμα], that’s the word. Anathema. “I could with it upon myself that I were accursed and cut off from Christ.”

The reason he says that is because he knows that his Jewish brothers and sisters, if they do not believe in the gospel, if they do not receive Christ, if they do not embrace the Messiah, that they will be accursed, they will be cut off from Christ.

One of the things this shows us immediately is that Paul certainly did not believe that when someone died they simply ceased to exist. Whatever Paul believed, he did not believe that when someone died everyone necessarily went to a better place. There’s no way that Paul would have said, “I could wish myself accursed from Christ,” if when someone died it was just nonexistence, or if when someone died everybody, regardless of faith, regardless of belief, regardless of their lives, regardless of the state of their relationship with God in this life, if they all just go to heaven, if they all just go to a better place, if they all go to peace, Paul never would have said this!

No, Paul believed in hell. Paul believed that there was an afterlife and there was an afterlife for both those who believe and those who don’t believe, both for the saved and for the lost. He believed that Israel, if they did not respond to the gospel, would face the final judgment of God, they would face the eternal wrath of God, they would face an eternity in hell, separated from God. Because he was so convinced of their plight, he says, “I could wish myself accursed from Christ.”

Brothers and sisters, the first application for us this morning is simply this, that you and I should also feel a burden for the lost. You and I should feel a deep concern for those who do not know Christ.

I’ve been helped, perhaps more than by anyone else, I’ve been helped by Charles Spurgeon. I’ve been reading Spurgeon a lot over the last year, as you know, and I’ve just been struck again and again and again by the evangelistic heart that Spurgeon had. Spurgeon, in a sermon I read a few weeks ago, is reflecting on how he shared the gospel with a 16-year-old boy who was on his deathbed, and he was dying because he had drunk himself to death. He had a drinking problem and he had drunk himself to death.

He shared the gospel with him and he said that he could see the young man trembling, and he had just a slight hope that this young man was converted and had embraced Christ. Then listen to what he said.

He said, “When I came down from those stairs, after praying for him many a time and trying to point him to Jesus, and having but a faint hope of his ultimate salvation, I thought to myself, ‘Oh God, I would that I might preach every hour and every moment of the day the unsearchable riches of Christ, for what an awful thing it is to die without a Savior.’ Then I thought how many a time I had stood in the pulpit and had not preached in earnest, as I ought to have done, and how I have coldly told out the tale of the Savior when I ought to have wept very showers of tears in overwhelming emotion. I have gone to my bed full many a season and have wept myself to sleep because I have not preached as I have desired, and it will be even so tonight. But oh, the wrath to come! The wrath to come! The wrath to come!”

When was the last time you wept over someone? I think all of us, myself included, should feel rebuked and chastened and convicted for our dry eyes, for our cold hearts, and for the fact that we don’t feel this earnestness, this intensity, this urgency in evangelism.

Paul felt it. Paul felt it. He says “great sorrow and unceasing anguish.” It never left him! He always felt a burden for the lost. He always felt it, and it was at least one part of the motivational force in this apostle’s ministry that propelled him out to share the gospel with others.

It’s so important that we grasp that, and it’s especially important that we grasp it right here at the beginning of Romans 9, because if you’re a Bible reader and you know your Bible well you know that Romans 9 is probably the premier chapter in the Bible that talks about the mystery of God’s election. Listen, brothers and sisters, whatever Paul meant by talking about the purpose of God in election, it did not mean that he was not burdened for the lost. There is a kind of coldness in some types of Calvinists and hyper-Calvinists, who hold the doctrines of grace in such a way that they cut the nerve of evangelistic zeal. That’s not Paul. It’s not biblical. We have to learn, like Paul, to hold together the heart of an evangelist with the mind of a theologian. That’s what Paul did; it’s what Spurgeon did.

Spurgeon was a Calvinist through and through in his teaching. He preached on the doctrines of election and the doctrines of grace unashamedly, but it never quenched his evangelistic zeal. He was a greater evangelist than any of us, probably the greatest evangelist of the 19th century, and he was following in the footsteps of the apostle and in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus himself.

Let’s ask ourselves this morning, brothers and sisters, do we have a burden, an intense burden, for the lost? When you think about your family members, when you think about your sons, your daughters, your brothers, your sisters, your cousins, your parents, your grandparents who are not believers, do you feel a burden for them? Do you pray for them? Are you moved to evangelism, to share with them, to seek every possible opportunity to steer a conversation towards Christ?

When you think about unbelieving coworkers or classmates, when you think about your neighbors, do you feel a burden? Do you recognize that if they die without Christ they will go to hell? Does it move you to share? Paul felt this burden, and we need to feel it as well.

II. The Tragedy of Israel’s Unbelief

The reason for the burden is given to us in verses 4 and 5, and it is the tragedy of Israel’s unbelief. Notice what he says. He’s already described them as his brothers, his kinsmen according to the flesh. Then he says in verse 4 they are the Israelites, and then he begins to describe the incredible privileges that they have. Notice what he says.

“They are the Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.” It’s a list of six privileges that were uniquely given to the old covenant people of God, the children of Israel.

Now, it doesn’t come through in English, but in the Greek there’s an assonance in the words that makes it pretty clear that Paul here is thinking in terms of two lists, where you have three pairs of words that kind of go together. When you think about these words and what they represent, they actually take us through some of the history, almost, by giving us a single word, or pairs of single words. He gives us something of the whole history of Israel encompassed in those words.

So, the first pair would be the words “the adoption” and “the giving of the law.” Those two words sound alike in Greek, the ending of the words. It refers us to the exodus. You remember the great event of the exodus, when God redeemed his people Israel out of slavery in Egypt?

In Exodus 4:22-23 the Lord is speaking to Moses and says, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son.’” My son! Why does God say, “Israel is my son”? Because he had adopted them in to his family, he had adopted this nation as his children.

Then what did God do after he set them free from Egypt? He gave them the law. In the words of John Stott, “This was the unique revelation of God’s will, spoken by his voice and written with his finger, the very words of God given to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai. To them belongs the adoption as well as the giving of the law.”

The second pair of words are “the glory” and “the worship,” the doxa [δοξα] and the latreia [λατρεια]. The glory. What’s that? It’s the manifest presence of God. When God came down as a cloud of smoke and he filled the temple—do you remember this?—he filled the tabernacle in Exodus 40 and then the temple in 1 Kings 8, it was the very presence of God with the people. That’s the glory. Then also the worship. It’s a worship to the tabernacle worship, the temple worship, to the whole system of worship that was given to Old Testament people of God in Israel.

Then the third pair of words are “the covenant” and “the promises.” The covenants are those sacred agreements that God made with his people, with Abraham, he made this promise to him, “I’m going to give you a son and I’m going to lead you into this land, and through you and your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” Do you remember this? We just covered it in the book of Genesis, Genesis 12. Then the covenant is actually made in this sacred ceremony in Genesis 15, and then the sign of the covenant is given, circumcision, in Genesis 17, and then that covenant is reaffirmed again and again and again with Isaac and then with Jacob and the children of Israel.

Then you have the Mosaic covenant in the book of Exodus, and you have the covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7. These are the covenants, and with those covenants came promises. Perhaps the greatest covenant promise, the promise that encompasses all the other promises, is God’s promise that “I will be your God and you will be my people.” But it also includes the promises of the Christ, the Messiah, the seed of Abraham, the son of David, the prophet like Moses who had come in the last time; the suffering servant, the righteous branch; all of the great promises of the Old Testament were given to Israel.

Paul reflects on this, and he’s thinking of the incredible privileges that the Jewish people have, and it just accentuates the tragedy of their unbelief. They have all these privileges, and yet they don’t believe.

He continues in verse 5, “To them belong the patriarchs…” Patriarchs means the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and then the 12 fathers of the tribes of Israel. Then he says, “...and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ [the Messiah], who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”

Some scholars object that Paul would never have called Christ “God over all,” arguing for a different reading of that verse, but remember that Paul also says that Jesus was in the form of God, in Philippians 2:6, and he calls Christ “the image of the invisible God” in Colossians 1:15. In Titus 2:13 he says that we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” So I think it’s right to read the verse in this way, that Christ is “God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”

You have here a clear Pauline affirmation of the deity of Christ, and once again it heightens the tragedy of Israel’s unbelief. In spite of all the privileges that they had received, in spite of the fact that Christ himself, the Messiah, had come, in spite of the fact that he was not only the Christ, he was God incarnate, he was God in the flesh, they rejected him. They rejected him. It’s because of their rejection, because of their unbelief, that Paul says he has this “unceasing anguish,” this great sorrow of heart.

It shows us the tragedy of the unsaved religious person. Most of us this morning are not Jewish according to our ethnic and racial heritage, but every single person who has been raised within a Christian family or within the church or with exposure to the gospel, with exposure to God’s word, has been given incredible privilege.

You need to know this, that you can have all kinds of privileges and still not be a Christian. You can be raised in the church, you can be read to from the Bible from your mother’s knee, you can go through Sunday school and Christian education and AWANA classes, you can have the Bible read at the family table, you can recite the creed, you can be baptized in water, you can take the Lord’s table you can come week after week after week, you can even give and serve and volunteer and be involved in all kinds of ways, and still go to hell. It is possible to have incredible religious privileges and still not trust in Jesus Christ.

I don’t know what privileges you’ve had, but whatever those privileges are, be sure that the privileges lead you to the Savior, so that you actually trust Christ and Christ alone for your salvation.

Do you remember the end of the first book of The Pilgrim’s Progress, where Ignorance, whose one of the sometimes companions of Christian and Hopeful, Faithful on the road to the Celestial City...they’ve encountered Ignorance along the way, but here’s someone who’s not characterized by a true, saving knowledge of Christ. But he’s been on the road part of the time, and at the very end of the first part of The Pilgrim’s Progress, this is what happens. The Shining Ones, the angels, take Ignorance, who does not have a certificate to get into the city—they take Ignorance right from the gates of the Celestial City, and they deposit him in the City of Destruction.

So Bunyan’s almost final comment in the book is this, “Then I saw that there was a way to hell even from the gates of heaven as well as from the City of Destruction.”

Listen, it is possible to have a lot of privilege, to have a lot of religion, and not be a Christian. The real test is this: have you seen yourself as a sinner? Do you confess yourself utterly lost apart from God’s mercy given to you in Christ alone? Do you trust in him? Do you believe in him? Are you relying upon him? Are you depending on him, not on your works, not on what you’ve done, but on what he has done? Are you depending on him so that you have trusted in Jesus Christ with saving faith and have received the Holy Spirit into your life, who is now bringing transformation into your heart? That’s what it means to be a Christian, and it’s a tragedy when people who have the Bible and have church and have religion don’t have Jesus.

This is what raises Paul’s deep concern, and in some ways this is what introduces the entire burden of Romans 9–11. These five verses, as Paul expresses the deep burden he has for unbelieving Israel, in spite of the massive religious privileges that they have, it raises a question in Paul’s mind, and the question essentially is this, Has God’s purpose failed?

God’s given the Israelites all these great privileges, and yet they’re not saved, in spite of that, “and I’m burdened about that,” Paul says. Has God’s purpose failed?

III. The Certainty of God's Saving Purpose

The answer, which we can only briefly sketch this morning, the answer is found in verses 6 through the end of the chapter. I’m just going to look at verses 6 and 7. The answer is the certainty of God’s saving plan, or of God’s saving purpose. Look at verses 6 and 7. Paul answers the question implicit in his mind.

He says, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed.” Even though Israel doesn’t believe, even though he’s so burdened for them, even though they’ve had so many privileges, yet they reject Christ. That’s his concern. He says it’s not as though the word of God has failed. Why? Here’s the answer. “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring,” and then he quotes from Genesis 21:12, “But through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

Here in a nutshell is Paul’s answer. God’s purpose has not failed, God’s word has not failed, because God’s saving purpose was never to save every individual descendant of Abraham. That wasn’t the purpose; the purpose was to save the promised seed. After all, Isaac was given the promise, while Ishmael was not.

Paul will then go on to appeal to God’s purpose, his mysterious purpose, in election, that God, in the mystery of grace, saves some but not others. He doesn’t save everyone. He has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he hardens whom he will. A full explanation of that will have to wait until next week. We’re going to talk about that next week. What does Paul mean by these things? This is a hard doctrine. This has been called the most hated chapter in all the Bible. It’s a hard doctrine.

But in Paul’s mind, he’s not thinking of this in terms of a hard doctrine; this is the solution to his burden. Paul is burdened that some are not saved, he’s burdened for the Israelites. He’s so burdened that he’s praying for them (Romans 10:1), he’s evangelizing them (the whole of Romans 10). But his hope that there will be salvation for some is found in God’s saving plan which will not fail.

As we develop this argument in these studies together, Romans 9-11, what we’re going to see is that there is a tension. There is a tension between Paul’s impulse to pray and to proclaim the gospel to all and Paul’s confidence that God works out his mysterious, sovereign purposes, his purpose according to election. There is a tension between the free offer of the gospel that says, as Romans 10:13 does, that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There’s a tension between that and the certain truth that it is not of works, it is not of him who wills, it is not of him who runs, it is of God who shows mercy. There’s a tension between the call for all to believe and the certainty that those who do believe believe because of God’s grace that enabled them to believe.

We have to learn how to put these two things together, and once again I think Spurgeon helps us. This is from Spurgeon’s Autobiography. Listen to what he says here.

“I do not think I differ from any of my hyper-Calvinistic brethren in what I do believe, but I differ from them in what they do not believe. I do not hold any less than they do, but I hold a little more, and I think a little more of the truth revealed in the Scriptures. The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two, and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at these two lines at once. For instance, I read in one book of the Bible, ‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come,” and let him that heareth say, “Come,” and let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’ Yet I am taught in another part of the same inspired word that it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth but of God that showeth mercy. I see in one place God in providence presiding over all, and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases. That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible are two facts that few can clearly see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory, but they are not. The fault is in our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If then I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is foreordained, that is true; and if I find in another Scripture that man is responsible for all this actions, that is true. It is only my folly that leads to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict one another.”

I think Spurgeon’s right, and I realize that everyone may not agree with Spurgeon or may not agree with me. If that’s where you are this morning, this would be my appeal to you: come back next week, come back the week after that, and give this some time as we really try to expound one of the hardest parts of the Bible, Romans 9, 10, 11. They’re some of the hardest parts in the Bible. Let’s try to expound them, and do it with balance, with exegetical precision, with an eye on what the rest of Scripture says, and let’s do so with both the mind of a theologian and the heart of an evangelist.

Nothing that we believe, if we believe it rightly, should lead us to anything less than a passionate desire to see others come to Christ and an absolute confidence that God will accomplish his saving purposes. We have to figure out how to hold those two things together.

As we draw things to an end this morning, I want to conclude in this way. I want to speak briefly to three kinds of people.

(1) First of all, to the apathetic. Perhaps this is too many of us in this room, that we have grown cold and apathetic in our heart for evangelism. We’re not sharing the gospel regularly, we’re not praying regularly for those who are lost, we’ve lost our zeal. If that’s where you are this morning, my exhortation is seek the heart of Christ for the lost.

You remember that Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, another great evangelistic passage, says that he is an “ambassador of Christ,” and he actually implores people on behalf of God. He says, “...God urging us, imploring you through us, be reconciled to God.” He begged people to be reconciled to God. That was the heart of Paul, that was the heart of Christ. That’s the heart of an ambassador of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, we need to repent of our lack of love. We need to let eternal realities rest with weight on our souls. We need to remember that many who do not know Christ, and not just nameless, faceless people in the statistics, but our friends, our family members, fellow students and coworkers, perhaps even our fellow church-goers, are facing an eternity without Christ in hell if they are not brought to saving faith. Part of our job is to be the instrument, to be the vehicle, to give the message, to bring the message of the good news that God saves sinners for Jesus’ sake. He will save all who believe and come to him in faith.

If you’re apathetic, ask God to break your heart this morning. Ask God to give you the heart of Jesus, the heart of Paul, the heart of Spurgeon. Ask God to give you a new burden for evangelism. We need this, church. This is something that’s needed at Redeemer Church. I know some of us have it, some of you have it; I need it more. I feel convicted myself. I don’t feel like I’m the evangelist that I should be or that I want to be. So pray for me as your pastor, pray for one another, and let’s ask God to give us an evangelistic zeal.

(2) The second group of people; to those who are burdened for unbelieving friends and family members. What do you do if you’re burdened? Some of you are, and I am. I am. When I think about some unbelieving people in my own life that are so precious to me, and the thought of them spending an eternity suffering in hell apart from Christ is enough that I have begun to understand what Paul meant in verse 3, that I could wish myself accursed for Christ that they could be saved. I’m beginning to understand that. It’s an impossible wish, it couldn’t happen; but when I think about some people and I think about what it would be like for them to be lost, and the horror of that, to wake up that moment after death and to realize, “I was wrong! I was wrong about Jesus, and it’s too late.”

How could you know that and think about someone that you love and not want to do anything possible to see them saved? That’s what Paul felt. That’s what we should feel.

I tell you, when you begin to feel that burden and you begin to see the hardness of heart, you begin to see an impossible situation, and you begin to see someone who seems so antagonistic to the gospel, so hardened against Christ that you wonder, “How will their heart ever break? How will they ever come to faith?” There can be moments where you start to feel hopeless. The exhortation for us this morning from Scripture is don’t feel hopeless, but be like Paul: keep praying, keep evangelizing, keep sharing, don’t give up, and especially trust in God’s sovereign mercy.

I want to tell you, the greatest thing about the sovereignty of God, the greatest thing about the doctrines of grace, is that it means nobody is outside the scope of the possibility of salvation if God so wills, if God so works. Nobody is outside God’s reach, not one person. There is hope for the worst of sinners. The most hardened person that you know, if God shows mercy, can be saved. God loves to answer prayer, therefore let’s pray. Let’s ask him and let’s trust him, let’s believe that God will show mercy according to his good purpose. Let’s trust that purpose and let’s ask him to bring people to Christ.

(3) Finally this morning, a word to the unconverted. It may be today that you are here and are beginning to realize that you’re not a Christian. You might be thinking, “I’m not sure! I don’t know if I’m a Christian!” Or maybe you do know and you know, “I’m not. This is not me. This does not describe me, this description of faith, this description of salvation, this description of a Christian, that’s not me!” and you’re beginning to feel concern for your soul.

If you feel concern this morning, praise God for that. Praise God for every slight movement of your heart closer to the Lord. The good news for you this morning is that you can be saved, and you can be saved today. You can be saved right now if you place your trust in Christ.

The reality is that as much as I or the apostle Paul or anyone else might wish to be able to have ourselves cut off from Christ so that you can be saved, we can’t do that. But do you know what? There is someone who was cut off from fellowship with the Father so that you could be saved. Jesus loves sinners so much that, in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “He was cut off from the land of living.” He died for the salvation of every sinner who would place their faith in him.

But he was not only cut off from the land of the living, he was cut off from fellowship with God the Father himself, when he hung there on the cross for those hours on that first Good Friday afternoon. You remember that he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Do you know why God forsook him when he hung on the cross? He forsook him so that you could be saved if you would believe. There is salvation through Jesus Christ.

I can’t be cursed in your place, but Paul says in another passage, Galatians 3:13-14, that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” He was cursed in our place! “...for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree,’ so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham,” these great Old Testament promises, “might come to the Gentiles,” that’s you, “so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

My friend, won’t you believe in Christ today? Won’t you believe this morning? If you don’t believe and you die in your sins, you will face an eternity without God; but if you believe, if you trust in Christ, the judgment, the wrath that you deserved has already been satisfied on the cross. Jesus paid for your sins, he’s paid for them fully. He will forgive you, he will send his Spirit into your heart, he will create you anew, he will give you new life, he will give you new hope, he will secure you in his love, so that no one will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ. May it be so. Believe in Jesus today. Let’s pray.

Oh Lord, we come before you this morning and our hearts are burdened as we think about those who do not know Christ. Lord, there are specific people in my heart, right now at this moment. Lord, I know that it’s not in my power to save them, but I can pray, and I can point them to Jesus, and you are the God who saves. You have mercy on whom you will have mercy, so I pray, Lord, that you would be merciful to them, that you would bring them to yourself, that you would give me the heart for them and for their salvation that I should have. Give me that heart for all who are lost, and do that for our church. Do that for every Christian this morning. May the instinct of our hearts be a longing that others would come to Christ. May it become the consuming burden and passion of our lives. May we know the heart of the apostle Paul in this.

For those who are without Christ this morning, would you bring them right now into your kingdom through saving faith? Help them, Lord, to humble themselves, to confess their need for salvation, to confess that they are sinners, and then to believe the good news and to trust in Christ, to close with Christ this morning. May today be the day of salvation for many.

Lord, as we come to the table this morning, may it be a reminder to us of what Christ has done, so that our sins could be forgiven, so that we could have eternal life, so that we could have access into this grace in which we now stand. Lord, meet with us through your Spirit in these moments, help us in our heart of hearts to take the bread and the juice, and as we take it to take Christ himself with the hands of faith. May we feast on Christ, who is the living bread. Lord, be glorified in our worship as we continue. May your Spirit work in these moments that follow. We pray it all in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.