ROMANS 10:1-4 (2)
(from a manuscript of a sermon preached on 9/26/10 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's go back Romans 10:1-4 where we were last time and read it again:
Romans 10: (1) Brothers, truly my heart's pleasure and supplication to God on behalf of Israel is for [it] to be saved. (2) For I testify to them that they have zeal to God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ [is] the end of Law for righteousness to everyone that believes.
I was debating as to whether or not to preach another sermon from this passage, but I concluded that I should, because this passage is one of the most central, pivotal, decisive passages in the Bible regarding knowledge, and I want to use it as a springboard to preach an entire sermon on the topic of knowledge. Now as many of you know, I've written and preached about knowledge before, and the passages and concepts will be familiar to most of you who have seen and heard what I and others have written and said on the topic, but I wanted to preach an entire sermon on knowledge because this is relevant to where we are in Romans, and it's really one of the key doctrines that distinguishes true religion from false religion. So I hope you'll bear with me, and hopefully what I say will help you remember the key passages and concepts when you're thinking about this topic and discussing this topic with others. This topic really can't be emphasized enough. It's one of the most frequently discussed topics that comes up when we're talking with others, especially with those in Calvinist, Reformed, Sovereign-Grace circles who speak peace to universal atonement advocates. So let's spend some time looking again into the subject of KNOWLEDGE.
We saw in verse 1 that Paul judges certain people to be unsaved. Then, in verses 2 and 3, he gives the BASIS for his judgment. And this is the BASIS for OUR judgment. It's the basis for EVERY believer's judgment. This basis for judgment has to do with what the person we are judging KNOWS. We judge people unsaved because they lack specific KNOWLEDGE. They are IGNORANT of certain things, and their IGNORANCE shows them to be unsaved. This IGNORANCE totally overrides, totally trumps, totally wipes out this person's religious ZEAL, including all his works of morality and religion. That's why KNOWLEDGE is so important. You can take all of a person's zeal, fervency, ardor, dedication, devotion, commitment, sincerity, and earnestness, and THROW IT IN THE GARBAGE if this person does not also have a CERTAIN KNOWLEDGE. And that is so offensive to those in Calvinist, Reformed, and Sovereign-Grace circles who speak peace to universal atonement advocates. As we saw last time, Charles Spurgeon, the prime spokesman for these people, made it very clear that you can hate a person's DOCTRINE, but if his character is one of zeal and self-sacrifice, then you can speak peace to him. This is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what God says. GOD SAYS that you judge a person by his KNOWLEDGE. And that knowledge by which you judge a person is his knowledge of SPECIFIC DOCTRINE.
So starting from this central passage, let's go into other passages in the Bible to see what God says about knowledge. The passage that we ended with last time was Isaiah 45 verses 20 and 21. This time, let's read more verses to give some additional context. Let's read the entire chapter. As we read, pay special attention to where God uses the words "I," "Me," and "My" in reference to Himself:
Isaiah 45: (1) So says Jehovah to His anointed, to Cyrus, whom I have seized by his right hand, to subdue nations before him. Yea, I will open the loins of kings, to open the two leaved doors before him, and the gates shall not be shut. (2) I will go before you and make hills level; I will tear apart the bronze doors, and cut the iron bars in two. (3) And I will give you the treasures of darkness, even treasures in secret places, that you may know that I am Jehovah, who calls you by your name, the God of Israel. (4) For My servant Jacob's sake, and [for] Israel My elect, I entitle you. I name you, but you do not know Me. (5) I [am] Jehovah, and [there is] none else; there is no God except Me. I will clothe you, though you do not know Me, (6) that they may know from the rising of the sun, and to its going down, that [there is] none besides Me; I am Jehovah, and there is none else; (7) forming light, and creating darkness; making peace, and creating evil. I, Jehovah, do all these things. (8) Drop down from above, O heavens; and let the clouds pour down righteousness. Let the earth open and let salvation bear fruit; and let righteousness spring up together. I, Jehovah have created it. (9) Woe [to] him who fights with the One who formed him! A potsherd among the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to its former, What are you making? Or does your work say, He [has] no hands? (10) Woe to him who says to a father, What are you fathering? Or to the woman, What are you laboring over? (11) So says Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, and the One who formed him, Do you ask Me of the things to come? Do you give command to Me about My sons, and about the work of My hands? (12) I have made the earth, and created man on it. I stretched out the heavens [with] My hands; and I have set all their host in order. (13) I raised him up in righteousness, and have made straight all his ways. He shall build My city, and he will release My captives; not for price, nor for reward, says Jehovah of Hosts. (14) So says Jehovah, The labor of Egypt, and the goods of Ethiopia, and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come to you; and they shall be yours. They shall come after you; they shall cross in chains; and they shall bow to you; they shall plead to you. Surely God [is] in you, and there [is] none else, no [other] God. (15) Truly, You [are] a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, the Savior. (16) They shall be ashamed, and also are disgraced, all of them. Together they go into disgrace, carvers of images. (17) Israel is saved in Jehovah [with] everlasting salvation. You shall not be ashamed nor disgraced to the forevers of eternity. (18) For so says Jehovah, Creator of the heavens; He [is] God, forming the earth and making it; He makes it stand, not creating it empty, [but] forming it to be lived in. I [am] Jehovah, and [there is] none else. (19) I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth. I did not say to Jacob's seed, Seek Me in vain. I Jehovah speak righteousness, declaring right things. (20) Gather yourselves and come; draw near together, escaped ones of the nations; the ones who set up the wood of their carved image, and the ones who pray to a god who cannot save; they know nothing. (21) Declare and bring near; yea, let them consult together. Who has revealed this of old; [who] has told it from then? Is it not I, Jehovah? And there [is] no God other than Me; a just God and a Savior; [there is] none except Me. (22) Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I [am] God, and there [is] no other. (23) I have sworn by Myself, the Word has gone out of My mouth [in] righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. (24) He shall say, Only in Jehovah do I have righteousness and strength; to Him he comes; and they are ashamed, all who are angry with Him. (25) In Jehovah all of the seed of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory.
Did you notice all the "I's," "Me's" and "My's"? What is God concerned about? HIS OWN GLORY. In verse 3, He says that He does things that you may know that He is Jehovah. In verses 5 through 8, He says that He is Jehovah, that there is no other God besides Him, that He and He alone is the creator of all things, including light, darkness, peace, evil, salvation, and righteousness. In verses 9 through 11, He pronounces a curse on all those who would raise a dispute with Him about what He is doing and would tell him what He should and shouldn't do. In verses 12, 13, and 18, He says that He is the one who created the heavens and the earth and orders all of it and put man on the earth and that there is no other God than Him. In verses 14 through 16, He says that He will cause others to proclaim that He is the only God and to be ashamed of following other gods. In verse 17, He says that He saves His people with everlasting salvation. In verse 19, He says that He speaks righteousness and declares the things that are right. Are you getting the sense of the passage? God is concerned for HIS OWN GLORY and is jealous for HIS OWN NAME. He states here and in many other passages that His is the only God, the only sovereign creator and controller of the universe, the only perfectly holy and righteous One, the One who saves His people. Then we come to the passage we saw last time, which is verses 21 and 22. Here He addresses the heathen idolaters. He describes them as those who set up their idols and who pray to a god who cannot save, and then what does He say about their knowledge? He says that they KNOW NOTHING. Now does this mean that they are totally without minds and aren't aware of anything? Of course not. They know how to make idols out of wood, don't they? They know how to pray, don't they? They know a lot of things in the worldly sense. But what does God mean when He says that they KNOW NOTHING? Well, think of what God just said about Himself before this. They do not know God in His glory as the sovereign creator and controller of the universe, the only perfectly holy and righteous One, the One who saves His people. And look at what God says about Himself AFTER this: He rhetorically asks, "Who among you and your gods is like Me, who reveals what is going to happen before it happens?" He then says again that there is no God other than Him, and then He describes Himself in two ways: A JUST GOD and a SAVIOR. So these heathen idolaters do not have the KNOWLEDGE that God is a JUST GOD and a SAVIOR. First, God is a JUST GOD. He is completely, perfectly holy and righteous. He cannot fellowship with anyone who is not as completely, perfectly holy and righteous as He is. He cannot let even the slightest sin go unpunished. Wherever there is sin, He must punish in wrath. Wherever there is righteousness, He must be in communion and fellowship. But He doesn't stop there. Not only is He a JUST GOD, He is also a SAVIOR. A Savior is one who is merciful and loving, blotting out iniquity and transgression, rescuing people who are in bondage to sin, and being at peace with them. Yet these people whom He saves are sinners! How can God be a JUST God, who MUST punish sin and CANNOT fellowship with anyone who is not perfectly righteous, and also be a SAVIOR, who forgives sin and fellowships with sinners? The answer is found in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The sins of God's people were imputed to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ was punished for those sins. And the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to God's people, so God's people are counted perfectly righteous. Thus, God remains JUST while He JUSTIFIES His people, as Romans 3:26 says. This is the heart of the gospel. EVERY SINGLE PERSON whose sins were imputed to Christ and punished in Christ WILL receive the imputed righteousness of Christ and WILL BE SAVED, NO EXCEPTIONS. If it were any other way, then God would not be both a JUST GOD and a SAVIOR. If there are people in hell for whom Christ died, then God is NOT a JUST GOD and a SAVIOR. And all those who believe that there are people in hell for whom Christ died are just like the heathen idolaters who pray to a god who cannot save. They pray to a god who has done all he can do, but he cannot save everyone for whom Jesus Christ died. Their god cannot save everyone whom he has the ardent desire to save. When they pray to their god, they might as well be praying to a piece of wood.
In verse 22, He commands everyone to turn to Him, the only true and living God, for salvation. A piece of wood can't save. A god who sent his son to die for everyone to make it possible for everyone to be saved only to be thwarted by man's will can't save. The only God who can save is the sovereign creator and controller of the universe, the one true and living God who is both a JUST God and a SAVIOR through the effectual work of His Son, Jesus Christ. In verse 24, God shows what every saved person will believe - "only in Jehovah do I have righteousness and strength." There's what the idolaters don't have a knowledge of. There's what they're ignorant of. Whether they are the heathen idolaters who bow before a piece of wood, or they are the idolaters who come in the name of Christianity who bow before a false god who sent his son to die for everyone without exception, they do NOT believe that their righteousness and strength is in God ALONE. They are ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel and are thus not submitted to that righteousness and are going about to establish a righteousness of their own. They believe that it is something they do or are enabled to do that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. They believe that their salvation is conditioned on their own works and efforts to some degree. They cannot truthfully confess, "ONLY in Jehovah do I have righteousness and strength." They boast in their OWN righteousness and their OWN strength as what makes the ultimate difference. They have NO KNOWLEDGE when it comes to the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. Verse 25 says that justification - being declared righteous - is in Jehovah, and that all the seed of Israel - all of the children of promise in Romans 9:8 - WILL BE JUSTIFIED. NOT ONE of those for whom Christ died will die unjustified. ALL of the children of promise WILL GO TO HEAVEN, no exceptions. Those who are IGNORANT of this gospel, this good news of God's promise to save His people based on the work of Christ alone, are not saved.
Let's turn to John 8:32. This is Jesus Christ speaking:
John 8: (32) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
First, Jesus Christ says that His people will KNOW the truth. There's that KNOWLEDGE again. What is that truth that His people will know? The truth of the gospel - His person and His work. Second, Jesus Christ says that this TRUTH will SET His people FREE. What is He saying here? He is saying that the gospel truth is the MEANS by which His people will be set free from bondage to sin. Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION - it is that FREEDOM-WORKING POWER.
Speaking of being set free, let's turn over to Romans 6:17-18:
Romans 6: (17) But thanks [be] to God that you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from [the] heart the form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (18) And having been set free from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness.
This fits right in with what Jesus Christ said in John 8:32, doesn't it? First, before regeneration, God's people were slaves of sin. Then what happened? They obeyed DOCTRINE. And through this obedience to doctrine, which is just another way of saying belief of the gospel, they were SET FREE from sin and enslaved to righteousness. They were given a KNOWLEDGE of the TRUTH, and the TRUTH set them free. Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to EVERYONE BELIEVING. Believing what? Believing the same TRUTH that Jesus Christ spoke about in John 8:32. Believing the same TRUTH that the idolaters were ignorant of in Isaiah 45. Believing the same TRUTH that Paul speaks about here in Romans 6:17. If there is NO BELIEF, there is NO SALVATION. If there is no KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH, then there is no BEING SET FREE. If someone is IGNORANT of this certain truth, then he is NOT SAVED. Romans 1:17 says that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God. And Romans 10:3 says that those who are IGNORANT of the righteousness of God are unsaved. It's simple logic. It's not rocket science. It's the simplicity of the gospel.
Let's go back to the book of John and see something else Jesus Christ said. Let's turn to John chapter 17 and read verses 1 through 3:
John 17: (1) Jesus spoke these things and lifted up His eyes to Heaven, and said, Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may also glorify You, (2) as You gave to Him authority over all flesh, so that to all which You gave to Him, He may give to them everlasting life. (3) And this is everlasting life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.
In verse 2, Jesus Christ says that all whom the Father gives to Him, He gives everlasting life. Once again, we see that NOT ONE of those to whom God the Father gave to Jesus Christ, NOT ONE of those whom Jesus Christ represented, NOT ONE of those for whom Jesus Christ gave His life, will go to hell. EVERY SINGLE PERSON for whom Jesus Christ died on the cross WILL BE SAVED, NO EXCEPTIONS. And of course every believer believes this, because every believer KNOWS that Jesus Christ's work was ABSOLUTELY EFFECTUAL. No believer believes in a christ whose work failed to accomplish salvation for some of those for whom he died. No believer believes in a christ whose work was thwarted by the will of the sinner. In verse 3, Jesus Christ talks about KNOWLEDGE again. This time, He says that everlasting life is KNOWLEDGE of the only true God and of Jesus Christ. Specifically, as we have seen, this knowledge is the knowledge of God as a just God and a Savior through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Now if KNOWLEDGE is life, what is IGNORANCE? Ignorance is death.
Finally, let's go to 2 Corinthians 4, and let's read verses 3 through 6:
2 Corinthians 4:3-6 But also if our gospel is being hidden, it has been hidden in those being lost, (4) in whom the god of this age has blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving, [so that] the brightness of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God, [should] not dawn on them. (5) For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your slaves for the sake of Jesus. (6) Because [it is] God who said, Out of darkness Light shall shine, who shone in our hearts to [give the] brightness of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
In verse 3, we see that the gospel is hidden in those who are lost, who are unregenerate, who are unsaved. What does "hidden" mean? It means that they don't know it, they don't understand it. How can I be so sure that that's what it means? Because of what it says in verse 4 - that the THOUGHTS of the unbelievers have been BLINDED. They CANNOT SEE the truth. So once again, we have a description of unbelievers as those who do not KNOW something. What do they not know? Look at the second part of verse 4. The MINDS of unbelievers are BLINDED to the BRIGHTNESS of the GOSPEL of the GLORY of CHRIST. Now there's a whole lot in this little phrase. But before we get into it, let's compare it to the end of verse 6, because Paul uses the same kind of wording. This time, he's describing believers. He says that God shines in our hearts the BRIGHTNESS of the KNOWLEDGE of the GLORY of GOD in the FACE of JESUS CHRIST. Now put those two phrases together, and you have something that really tells you a lot. First, there's the BRIGHTNESS. It's a BRIGHT LIGHT. Think of a little point of light that's not only tiny, but it's dim and far away. Now think of someone who has normal eyesight beside a blind person, and they are both facing in the direction of the tiny dim faraway light with their eyes open. Suppose the person who has normal eyesight says that he can't see the light. Are we going to tell that person that he can't see the light because he's blind? Of course not. It's the problem with the light, not with his eyesight. Now think of this huge bright light that is right in front of both of them. Can the blind person see the light? (I'm talking about someone who is totally blind, who cannot even sense light and dark.) No, the blind person can't even see the huge bright light that is right in front of him. We can tell that blind person that he can't see the light because he's blind. There's not a problem with the light; there's a problem with the blind man's eyesight. That bright light is the gospel. The gospel is not something that is hidden, that is obscured, that is enshrouded in and of itself. It is not something that is hard to understand. It is simple enough for a child to understand. But that bright light of the gospel still cannot be seen, cannot be known, cannot be understood, by a spiritually blind person. There's not a problem with the understandability of the gospel; there's a problem with the person's spiritual eyesight. Unless he is given eyes to see, he will not see the bright light right in front of him. While verse 4 talks about the brightness of the gospel, verse 6 talks about the brightness of a certain KNOWLEDGE. The difference between the two is that in verse 4, that brightness remains out of sight to the blind unbeliever, while in verse 6, God shines that light of the gospel on the believer's heart, and the believer is given KNOWLEDGE. He is given eyes to see the brightness of the gospel. Notice that it is a matter of the MIND. In verse 4, the THOUGHTS of the unbeliever are blinded, while in verse 6, the HEART of the believer, which is where the THOUGHTS come from, is given KNOWLEDGE. The gospel is called "the glory of Christ who is the image of God" and "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The gospel glorifies Christ in His redemptive work and glorifies God the Father as a just God and a Savior in the redemptive work of His Son. And when God saves someone, He does not leave that person in the dark. Immediately upon regeneration, God shines the light of the gospel on the person's mind, causing that person to believe the true gospel that glorifies God in the work of Jesus Christ. The true gospel that glorifies God in the work of Jesus Christ is the good news of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. Any other gospel is a false gospel that does not glorify God in the work of Jesus Christ. Universal atonement is a false gospel that does not glorify God in the work of Jesus Christ. Thus, no one believes such a gospel upon regeneration. God does not shine a false gospel that demeans His glory on the hearts of His people; He only shines the TRUE gospel that gives Him ALL the glory. And when He shines the TRUE gospel that gives Him ALL the glory, He gives that person a KNOWLEDGE of that true gospel. There is no such thing as a believer who remains blinded in his thoughts to the true gospel. There is no such thing as a believer who is ignorant of the true gospel. What it all boils down to is this: Every believer believes the true gospel. How do we make our judgments, so we can find who to fellowship with and who to witness to and who to warn against? We find out whether or not the person believes the true gospel.
May we say with Paul in Philippians 3 that "I count all things to be loss because of the excellency of the KNOWLEDGE of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them to be trash, that I might gain Christ and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness of Law, but through the faith of Christ, having the righteousness of God on faith." Amen.