Although we read it as a book, it is important to remember that Romans is a letter, and we should read it as it was written. In substance, it is of course more than a letter—the very Word of God. And so, we read it and study it intently even intricately to glean from God’s special revelation, to know his will. So rich and deep is this divine truth that we dare not rush through it but study it diligently verse by verse. But none of this changes its form: It is a letter.
And this must inform our evangelism. We cannot make someone believe, even those we love most, but we must be faithful to give the gift of the gospel, praying that the Giver of all good things will give the gift of faith. For, God is glorified through the salvation of his people, and through the gift of the gospel “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isa. 52:10). Amen.
God desires that all kinds of people be saved, including those with whom you disagree and differ, and “come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4) of the gospel: “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved…For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (10:10, 13). This is the gospel, good news for you, good news for me, good news for our nation, good news for the world.
You may say, “If I pray believing the lost will be saved, am I not undermining the doctrine of God’s sovereign election? But what has that to do with you? Are you the Lord’s keeper? The mystery of predestination God is revealed in Scripture for the praise of his glorious grace not our decision making. We are called to pray, and we pray believing that God will save the lost, perhaps through us. This was Paul’s heart’s desire and prayer, and it should be ours too.
So, let us humbly give thanks as vessels of mercy that we who were not God’s people have become his people. Let us give thanks that in his mercy and eternal love for us, he calls us his beloved. Let us give thanks that while we did not pursue the righteousness of God, by his grace he justified us as righteous through faith. And let us give thanks that he who is a stumbling stone for many is our rock of salvation. So, let us rejoice, for “The LORD liveth; and blessed be [our] rock; and let the God of [our] salvation be exalted” (Ps. 18:46 KJV).
Let us show compassion and mercy as God has shown compassion and mercy to us. Our standard for mercy is neither our neighbor nor ourselves but God, as Jesus said, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Just as we are not God’s judge, we are not our neighbor’s either. Jesus said being a “neighbor” is defined by showing mercy (Luke 10:36-37), and James taught, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (Jas. 2:13). If we are indeed “vessels of mercy” it stands to reason that mercy will flow from us to others.
If God chose Israel through the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be his people, why did they reject their Messiah, whom God promised and sent? Did God not reveal his glory to them on Mount Sinai, in the tabernacle, and in the temple? Did he not make his dwelling among them? Did God not choose Israel to receive his covenants, to keep his law, to worship him in truth? It would seem that Israel’s rejection of Christ renders God’s redemptive purpose and plan a failure. God chose Israel, but they rejected Christ. Mission failed.
Like a charge of victory, a rallying cry of the elect, Paul exclaims, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). Nothing temporal nor spiritual, nothing today or forever, nothing in or out of time and space, no one or nothing can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ. It is a statement of truth both exhilarating and comforting, celebratory and assuring.
Christian, there is nothing in your past or in your future, nothing that can thwart the preserving love of God. Rest assured that he who foreknew you, who predestined you, who justified you, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And because this is true and certain, we are sure of this: “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39).
It is difficult then to fathom the love of God for us individually and personally before creation, before we were, before anyone was. But he did: God the Father “chose us in [God the Son] before the foundation of the world…In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:4-5). Before “In the beginning” (Gen. 1:1), in love for “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). He really did love us first.