I like meat. I know not everyone can eat meat and many cannot eat certain types of meat. And I will grant you that I enjoy certain types of meat more than others. But I do like meat.
Of course, certain types of meat can be eaten with your hands, such as a hot dog or hamburger or fried chicken or even a turkey leg. But other types need a knife and fork. The meat may be the main course of the meal, but the knife and especially the fork can be used for other parts of the meal as well.
But depending upon the type of meat, a person might choose different types of utensils or even different types of forks. Some forks have two prongs, others have three, and most of the common forks have four. (The prongs are called tines, but I am going to use the term prongs.)
This message is not about forks or food. But the fork does represent something important that we will see in today’s passage. See, the prongs of the fork allow us poke and prod and hold our meat (or other food), but the handle is critical. We focus on the prongs, but without the handle, we may as well not use a fork. The handle is the one part of the fork that is central to our ability to use a fork.
For our purposes today, the handle is the message of salvation. That message centers on faith in Christ. Like the need for us to hold onto a handle to properly use the fork, without faith in Christ, we cannot have any real understanding of what salvation is or what it means.
But once we have a grasp on the idea of salvation, we can then begin to take a multi-pronged approach to understanding it (pun intended). Those prongs are a part of this week’s text and thus make up our message today.
Today’s message has four basic parts.
Jew and Gentile are Equal Before God (v. 12)
I will talk more about this in tomorrow’s video, but we have seen this truth from early in the letter. For instance, Romans 1.16 and 2.10-11 both link Jew and Gentile very clearly. As we now enter the last third of the letter, Paul continues to make this point.
Specifically, the point is that the law does not make someone righteous, faith does. Again, this argument is not new in Romans. It has been clearly stated in Romans 3, and Paul gave a concrete example of the life of Abraham in Romans 4. In this passage, Paul continues to quote the Old Testament frequently, as he does in Romans 10.6-7. The ideas of ascending to heaven and descending into the abyss are from
Deuteronomy 30 (verses 11-14). Paul is quoting Moses, and his purpose is that reaching into heaven or to the bottom of the sea are impossible for mankind. Only God is capable of such actions. Therefore, whether the person is a Jew or a Gentile, the issue is the same – a human cannot do what God can do. Therefore, all humans are equal, making faith the only solution for salvation. In fact, in verse 5, Paul wrote, if someone wants to live by the law, then they better perfectly live by every one of them. Of course, no one apart from Jesus can do so, which makes every Jew and Gentile equal before God.
Jew and Gentile are Blessed by Jesus as Lord (v. 12)
If the first point about being equal was a difficult pill to swallow for the Jews, this one would have made the Jews choke. Consider the position of the Jew. They were God’s chosen people. God CHOSE them. Thus, God would bless them. But Paul is saying that God will bless the Gentile too. But that is not exactly what Paul is saying. Paul said the Lord would bless them.
The word Lord in the New Testament is different from the one in the Old Testament. But the people knew what Paul meant. But in verse 9, Paul made it clear that Jesus is Lord. It is not YHWH who is doing the blessing, it is Jesus. Now, you and I may know that Jesus is God, but this is a slap in the face to the Jew who did not believe. It could have been considered blasphemous. Indeed, in the book of Acts, we see many Jews seeking to punish (and kill) Paul for the types of statements he made about Jesus.
Paul has clearly called Jesus Lord. And it is this Jesus who will bless both Jew and Gentile because He shows no partiality between them (Romans 2.11) – at least when it comes to salvation. Salvation for both comes through faith – and that faith must be in Jesus, as Lord.
And that brings us to the third prong.
Jew and Gentile are Saved by Calling on Jesus as Lord (v. 13)
Verse 13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It is not using the name or the title that saves us, it is the person. But it is not knowing about Jesus that saves us; it is calling out to Him to save us.
It is one thing to call someone something. It is another to call out to the person for who they are. For instance, if you were drowning and a boat was nearby, it would be one thing to know that the people in the boat will not drown, and another thing to talk to the people in the boat (that is to call them), but it is another thing altogether to call on them to save you.
Paul’s message is clear on this point. We must call on the name of the Lord to be saved. We can know that Jesus is Lord. We can want to trust it. But to call on Him is to trust that He is who He is and that He has done what He did. We are calling on Him because He can save us and by calling we are trusting that He will save us. And Paul makes it clear that if we call on Him, Jesus – as Lord – will indeed save us.
But the Lord doesn’t just save a certain group of people, He saves everyone – that is, everyone who calls on His name. Whether the person is a Jew or Gentile doesn’t matter. However, to be saved requires calling out to the Lord.
This calling out is what the Jews had missed. Again, as Paul has been expounding again and again the Jew had put their trust in something that could not deliver them. The Law was important, but it could not save them. Only Jesus could save them, and having faith in that truth is all that truly mattered.
But we have one more prong. And we still have the handle as well. The last prong relates to the Jew and the Gentile (and to us as well), but in this text, it is especially true of the Jew.
God is Sovereign And Man is Responsible
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the majority of Romans 9 speaks of the sovereignty of God. That is, God is in control. As I said then, God is God, and we are not. God can do what He wants because He is God. Nothing we do can affects God’s plan. However, God does give us choice and He invites us to be part of His plan. He gives us responsibility.
Before I talk about our responsibility, let me share what Israel’s responsibility was. They were to share His message with the world. They were to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42.6). They were to be a blessing to the people (Genesis 12.3). But the people of Israel did not do those things. The people of Israel were not those things. They wanted God for themselves and now that God had provided the way to true righteousness, they missed it. They abdicated their responsibility thinking that God would save them as a people. Sure, God loved Israel, but they chose another path. God chose Israel, but few within Israel chose Him.
God is sovereign, but He gives us a choice to choose Him. Our ability to choose is secondary to the sovereignty of God, but it is our responsibility to make that choice. Truly, our ability to choose is a part of God’s gift to us. It is a part of God’s love for us. He gives us the choice because He loves us, and we are free to choose whether or not we will love Him.
And that brings us to the handle.
I mentioned earlier that the handle is what allows us to properly use the fork. Without the handle, the prongs would not be helpful and it would be like eating with toothpicks. Thus, the handle is ultimately Jesus. But before we get to the handle, we have where the prongs (tines) and handle meet. It is a stronger, yet curved, part that is necessary to bring the two parts together.
It reminds me of Paul’s words in Romans 10.14-17. But first, notice what Paul wrote in Romans 10.9-10. Paul wrote says that “if you confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
But then beginning in verse 14, Paul offers a series of questions that relate to process. This process is what allows people who haven’t heard about Jesus and the gospel to be saved. In my mind, it is the connecting point between the handle of the fork (Jesus) and the salvation for the Jew, the Gentile, and any of us that choose to believe and confess.
Here is the process in the reverse order.
- Jesus sends heralds – people who preach under the authority of someone else (Jesus)
- Heralds preach
- People hear
- Hearers believe
- Believers call
- Callers are saved. (1)
In other words, because all people are equal before God, in order to receive His rich blessings, we must call on him in order to be saved. But once we do, He sends us as His heralds to proclaim a message of salvation – the message of Jesus – so that other people can hear, can believe, and call upon the name that is above all other names, so that when they do, they can be saved as well.
That process has continued since before Paul and it continues today as well. But it will only continue tomorrow if we do our part today.
As I said a few moments ago, God is sovereign. He is in control. He does not need us to carry out His plans, but He invites us to be a part of what He is doing. That is a privilege. It is a tremendous honor. And with that privilege comes responsibility.
The Jews had the honor and the responsibility and didn’t do their part. In turn, future generations rejected God, misunderstood God, and misunderstood their place before God. What was true then, is true of our world, and is certainly true within our country today.
But God’s invitation to salvation is still open. And His invitation to serve Him is still offered as well. He has left each of us a choice. The question is, which will you choose?
What’s Next?: “Prayer in the Park” begins on Wednesday, May 12, at 7:00 pm. Meet at the shelter house and invite the community.
(1) Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 211). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.