The Infinite Greatness of God - Part 1
The Infinite Greatness of God - Part 1
The Book of Romans
Sermon by Rick Crandall
(Prepared February 19, 2021)
*Last time in Romans 9, Paul seemed to get sidetracked from his discussion of salvation. That's because in Romans 9-11, God's Holy Spirit inspired Paul to discuss the Jewish nation.
*Warren Wiersbe explained, "It seems strange that Paul would interrupt his discussion of salvation and devote a long section of three chapters to the nation of Israel, but a careful study of Romans 9-11 reveals that this section is not an interruption at all. It is a necessary part of Paul’s argument for salvation by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
*There was also a personal reason for this part of Paul's letter. Christ-rejecting Jews were convinced that Paul was a traitor to their nation, and we can understand why. Paul ministered to the despised Gentiles. He taught freedom from the Law of Moses. And whenever he preached in the Jewish synagogues, there was big trouble from the Jews who rejected Jesus.
*The Jewish Christians in Rome had most likely heard about these things, so Paul wanted to confirm his deep love for his people. And as God let us look into Paul's heart, we saw a man who loved the Jews as much as anybody possibly could." In vs. 3, Paul was even willing to give up his own salvation if that could help the Jews be saved. (1)
*Now, as we go farther into Romans 9, Paul gives us a look at Israel's Old Testament past. And one thing that stands out the most is the infinite greatness of God. As we read vs. 1-9, please think about God's greatness.
*There is no way for us to overestimate the greatness of Almighty God. Just consider the size of the universe the Lord created. Stars and galaxies are so far apart that astronomers use "light years" to measure the distance. And a light year is how far light travels in a year at about 186,000 miles per second.
*Our sun is 93 million miles away from the earth. If we could drive there non-stop at 70 miles per hour, it would take us over 150 years. But in light years it only takes 8 minutes to get to the sun. On the other hand, our Milky Way Galaxy is 100,000 light years across. For comparison, if our sun was the size of a period in your Bible, our one galaxy would stretch all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean!
*That's just one galaxy, and a 2016 study estimated that there could be two trillion galaxies in the part of the universe we can see. Two trillion galaxies! Untold trillions of stars! And God created them all. (2)
*We really have no idea how many stars are in the universe, but God knows! In Isaiah 40:22-28 we find that "the LORD, the creator of the ends of the earth" "sits above the circle of the earth, stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in." He "brings out their host by number. He calls them all by name," and "by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one is missing."
*God's greatness is truly infinite, and tonight's Scripture helps us understand why.
1. FIRST NOTICE THAT GOD'S GIFTS ARE GREAT.
*Paul highlighted this truth in vs. 1-5, where he said:
1. I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
2. that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
3. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
4. who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
5. of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
*In vs. 3-5, I count 8 special blessings the Jews had as God's chosen people. William MacDonald explained that "as Paul wept over his people, their glorious privileges passed in review. They were Israelites, members of God's ancient chosen people. God had adopted that nation to be His son. God also sent His "Shekinah" glory cloud as a visible reminder that He was present in their midst to guide and protect them. It was with Israel, not with the Gentiles, that God made covenants with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Through Moses, God also gave the Law to Israel. They and they alone were given the privilege of serving the LORD at the tabernacle and the temple. God also gave them many promises of protection, peace, and prosperity." (3)
*God gave all of these things and more to the Jews. That shouldn't surprise us, because our God is a great giver! His Word shows us this truth multiple times.
-In John 3:16, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
-In Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
-And James 1:17 says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
*The Lord has been so kind and gracious and merciful to me. In my almost 70 years, He has forgiven countless sins, guided me in miraculous ways, put me in the right place at the right time, kept me from doing foolish things. and protected me in providential ways.
*Every Christian has been blessed in similar ways. I think of Artis Thompson. He was one of our church members at Grayson Baptist. Artis was born in 1920, one of 12 children. They grew up very poor during the Great Depression. In fact, Artis' parents were so poor, they couldn't afford to raise him. When he was 11 or 12, Artis' cousins took him in. And like many children back then, Artis had to pick cotton to help the family out.
*As he approached adulthood, Artis had no idea what he was supposed to do with his life, and how he was going to make a living. He got very worried about his future. Then one day, he had gone to get a couple of buckets of water, and as he walked back, Artis stopped and cried out to God, "Good Lord, -- What am I going to do?" Right then he heard a voice; Artis heard God gently say, "It's alright. I'll take care of you." And God surely did take care of Artis Thompson.
*One of the ways was by giving Artis great athletic ability. He was a tremendous baseball player. Artis tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he made a good showing, but was beat out by the legendary Pee Wee Reese. The family also has two letters Artis received inviting him to try out for the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies, but he opted to stay home with his family. Artis also became a skilled boxer, and he won some trophies for boxing during his Navy years.
*God surely took care of Artis, especially during the terrible years of World War II. He served in the Navy from 1942-1945, and was very proud of his service as a medic aboard the USS Marblehead.
*It's important for us to hear a little of the history of his ship. The Marblehead was an Omaha class light cruiser almost 2 football fields long, and 20 yards wide. It had a top speed of 39 mph, and a crew of 458 officers and enlisted men.
*On February 4th, 1942, the Marblehead was part of an Allied convoy that headed for a Japanese convoy sighted at the Makassar Straits by the island of Java in the South Pacific.
*At 9:49 that morning, 36 enemy bombers were sighted closing in from the east. In the ensuing battle, Marblehead successfully maneuvered through three attacks. After the third attack, an enemy plane spiraled toward the cruiser, but her gunners splashed it.
*The next minute, a fourth wave of 7 bombers released bombs at Marblehead. Two were direct hits and a third a near miss close to the port bow, causing severe underwater damage. Fires swept the ship as she slowly began to sink. Marblehead, continuing to steam at full speed, circled to port.
*Her gunners kept firing, while damage control crews fought the fires and helped the wounded. By 11:00, the fires were under control, and before noon the enemy planes departed, leaving the damaged cruiser with 15 dead or mortally wounded and 84 seriously injured.
*Marblehead then began a 16,000-mile journey, with several stops and many repairs along the way. That journey ended on May 4th, 1942, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. And it was there in Brooklyn where Artis met his future wife Rose Mary. He was in a park with some of his Navy buddies, and Rose Mary was there with some of her friends. (4)
*On April 22, 1945, Artis married Rose Mary, the love of his life, and they had been married for 69 years when Artis went home to Heaven. He was 94 years old. God had given him an excellent wife, 2 children, 3 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren. The Lord also blessed Artis with a fine career as a mechanic and later as head custodian and bus driver for the local high school.
*God was surely watching over Artis Thompson, and He is watching over us! Every good gift is from God, and He has already given us so much! Best of all, He has given Himself. This is what Jesus did when He died on the cross for our sins.
*No wonder that in Romans 8:32, Paul said: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
2. WE KNOW THAT GOD IS GREAT BECAUSE HIS GIFTS ARE GREAT, AND BECAUSE HIS WORD CAN SAVE OUR SOULS.
*The Bible, the Word of God, does miraculous works in the lives of all who will believe it. This is one truth Paul stressed in vs. 6-7, when he said:
6. But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,
7. nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called.''
*Here Paul was pointing out the difficult truth that all people are not going to be saved. Some false teachers say that everybody is going to Heaven, but that's not what the Bible says. Everybody is not going to be saved. But God has given us His Word, and everybody who trusts in the good news about Jesus Christ will be saved!
*This is why 1 Peter 1:23-25 tells Christians that we have "been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because 'All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.' Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you."
*God's Word and only His Word has the power to give us the new spiritual birth of eternal life. Only God's Word has the power to save our souls.
*Gaylord Kambarami told one of my favorite stories about the life-changing power of God's Word. Gaylord was the General Secretary of the Bible Society in Zimbabwe when he tried to give a New Testament to a very grouchy, hot-tempered man. The man gruffly said he would take the New Testament, but only so he could tear out the pages, roll them up, and use them to make cigarettes.
*Gaylord told the man, "I understand that, but at least promise to read the page of the New Testament before you smoke it." The man agreed and the two went their separate ways.
*Fifteen years later, the two men met at a Methodist convention in Zimbabwe. By that time, the Scripture-smoking atheist had trusted in Jesus and was a full-time evangelist! He told the people, "I smoked Matthew, and I smoked Mark, and I smoked Luke. But when I got to John 3:16, I couldn't smoke anymore! My life was changed from that moment." (5)
*That Scripture-smoking man was saved by the miraculous power of God's Word. He was born-again by the miraculous power of the Bible.
3. AND WE KNOW THAT GOD IS GREAT BECAUSE HIS WORD CAN SAVE OUR SOULS. WE ALSO KNOW BECAUSE HIS PROMISES WILL COME TO PASS.
*This is the truth Paul stressed in vs. 8-9, where he said:
8. That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.
9. For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.''
*Here the Holy Spirit led Paul back to Genesis 18. There, the Lord and two of His angels physically went to visit Abraham and Sarah. The LORD God Almighty sat down for lunch with Abraham on that day! One reason why is because God wanted to reaffirm His promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah. God confirmed His promise, even though it would take a miracle for it to happen, because 89-year-old Sarah was way too old to have children.
*But starting in Genesis 18:10, the Lord said:
10. . . "I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.'' And Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.
11. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.
12. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, "After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?''
13. And the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?'
14. Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.''
*Up to this point, Sarah's faith was weak to say the least. Back in Genesis 16, Sarah gave up on the Lord's delayed promise of a son. And it was Sarah who came up with the terrible idea for Abram to take her servant Hagar as a wife and surrogate mother.
*Now, 13 years later, Sarah laughed inside with disbelief that she and her 99-year-old husband could have a baby. And this was crucial, because the Lord's promise didn't just concern her own son. It concerned the promise of the coming Messiah, who would die on the cross for our sins.
*Sarah had given up on the Lord's promises. But again, in Genesis 18:14 God asked that great question: "Is anything too hard for the LORD?"
*Is anything too hard for the LORD? -- The God who humbled Himself to be born as a baby on the first Christmas? The God-man who worked countless miracles during His perfect life on earth? The God-man who died on the cross for our sins, and rose again forever in victory over death? Is anything too hard for Him? No! Never! And the sooner we figure this out, the better!
*The Lord's promise seemed too good to be true, so Sarah laughed to herself in disbelief. It's no wonder that back in Genesis 17:19 God had said, "Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac." That name "Isaac" means "God made me laugh."
*God made Sarah laugh at first, because the promise seemed too good to be true. Then God made her laugh again, when the promise did come true. And it surely did, because nothing is too hard for God!
*God demonstrated this truth to Sam Cathey in a miraculous way. Sam became one of our Southern Baptist evangelists in 1967. That first year, Sam had to rush back from a revival, because his daughter Nola had been admitted to the hospital. She had acute appendicitis, and they thought it might be ruptured.
*Sam got on a plane in Los Angeles about 2:30 in the morning and headed back home to Detroit. He was overwhelmed with doubts and fears.
*Sam's seat was right behind first class, and he could see through the curtain that no one was up there. So, he asked the stewardess if he could go up there to get some rest. She turned him down because it was against the rules and they didn't have a stewardess up there.
*But just as she walked away, another stewardess walked through those curtains. This one invited Sam to come up to first class and sit with her. She brought him a sandwich, olives, chips, and a coke. Then they sat facing each other, as she began to talk.
*She went on and on about the Lord and Scripture and grace. She talked to Sam about God's sovereignty, His love, His care, and His protection. Sam just listened, never even mentioning the problem with his sick daughter, Nola.
*When they passed over Chicago, she stood and said, "See all of those lights down there? Put your hands like so."
*Sam cupped his hands. Then she held them out and said, "See, from way up here, it looks like you cover up the whole city of Chicago, doesn't it?" -- Sam agreed.
*"Now cup them like so." Sam did, and she said, "From up here, it looks like you've got the whole city of Chicago in your hands, doesn't it?" Again, he agreed. Then she put her hand on his shoulder and said, "Man of God, Nola will be all right."
*Then she turned and went through the curtains into coach. Sam never saw her again, and the first stewardess thought that he had been dreaming, until he showed her the left-over food in first class.
*When Sam got off the plane, his wife was grinning from ear to ear. The hospital had just called. Nola's fever had broken, and she was perfectly well. (6)
*God wanted Sam Cathey to see that God's got the whole world in His Hands. And He wants us to see it too. "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" -- No! And we should never give up on the promises of God.
*He has made hundreds of wonderful promises to us, as in Psalm 32:8 where God promised, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye."
-In Jeremiah 33:3 God promised, "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know."
-In Philippians 4:19 Paul promised, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
-And Hebrews 13:5 tells us that Jesus has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you.''
*God kept His promise to Abraham and Sarah, and He will keep all of His promises to us! We can count on Him completely, because nothing is too hard for the Lord!
*Praise the Lord for His greatness as we go to God in prayer.
(1) Adapted from "Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament" by - Warren W. Wiersbe - Published by David C. Cook - Colorado Springs, CO - Romans 9:1-33
-Adapted from "EXPLORING JOHN" by John Phillips - pp. 18-19
-Houston Chronicle, 101716, p. A2 - Source: "In Other Words" - November 2016 #2 produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - www.iows.net)
-2016 Update - How Many Galaxies Are There in the Universe? Posted on November 1, 2016 by Fraser Cain - https://www.universetoday.com/30305/how-many-galaxies-in-the-universe/
-Galaxy size - Heard on the History channel 09032007
-Adapted from BELIEVER'S BIBLE COMMENTARY by William MacDonald - Edited by Arthur Farstad - Thomas Nelson Publishers - Nashville - Copyright 1995 - Romans 9:1-33 - "Israel's past" - Downloaded to e-Sword by Rick Meyers - Copyright 2000-2019
-Adapted from EXPLORING ROMANS by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "How Paul Sees the Problem" - Romans 9:4-29 - Downloaded to "Bible Study 6" from Olive Tree Bible Software, Inc.
(5) American Bible Society Record, March 1990 - Source: Raymond McHenry - STORIES FOR PREACHERS AND TEACHERS
(6) Edited from the story told by Sam Cathy in "SBC Life" Monthly Magazine - Source: Cross & Crown Sermons - "Touched by An Angel" by James McCullen - Daniel 8:16-19