What can we do with the angry thoughts we have toward those who have wounded us?

“In return for my love they are my accusers, but I give myself to prayer.” Psalm 109:4

In return for his love for them, a group of people caused great pain to King David by falsely accusing him (109:2-5, 20-25). Instead of seeking revenge, David sought the Lord in “prayer” (109:4b). The phrase “give myself to” in verse 4b is in italics which means this phrase is not in the original Hebrew language. So the verse literally reads, “but I am prayer.” David’s life was so filled with prayer he could say his life is prayer. When the apostle Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21), David would probably have said, “For to me, to live is prayer.” We would say he lived, ate, and slept prayer. The centrality of prayer in his life reflected his great dependence upon the Lord.

David asked God to severely judge his accusers (109:6-29). He pleaded with God to return what his enemies were doing to him back on themselves. For example, He asked God to “set a wicked man” over his enemy to oppose and accuse him (109:6). He wanted God to judge him “guilty” and put him to death (109:7-8). He also prayed the Lord would punish his enemy’s “children” and “wife” for his evil doings (109:9-10) so that no one would remember him and so that he would have no descendants (109:11-15). The reason David prayed this way was because his enemy had practiced these things David asked God to do to him (109:16-20, 28-29). David was confident that God would save him from his enemies, so he promised to “greatly praise the Lord” (109:30-31).

Do you ever find yourself at a loss for words when you have been deeply hurt by those whom you have loved? You have these angry thoughts toward them, but you have been taught that anger is sin, so you stuff your feelings down or condemn yourself for having them? If that describes you, follow David’s example and express your anger to God in prayer. God already knows they are there, but He wants you to release them to Him, so He can heal you and work in your life and in the lives of those who have wronged you.

Harboring angry thoughts will hurt you more than your offenders. Instead of trying to get even, get honest with the Lord so He can lift your burdens and deal with those who have mistreated you. It is not wrong to pray for God to punish evil doers because He has promised to do so either in this life or in the future (cf. Acts 17:30-31; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 6:9-10; 16:4-6; 19:2, 11-21). But it is also important to pray for their salvation lest they perish without Christ (John 17:20; Romans 10:1; I Timothy 2:1-7).

How can we treat believers better who differ with us about Christian liberty?

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:4-5

In Romans 14, the apostle Paul admonished the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome to accept and love one another despite their differences concerning their Christian liberty. Beginning in chapter 15, he tells the stronger Christian whose faith permits him to eat all foods and observe every day the same, to “bear with the scruples” or weaknesses of believers whose faith did not permit him to exercise his Christian liberty to the same extent (15:1). Instead of pleasing himself, he was to put the welfare of others before himself like Jesus did (15:2-3a). Paul then quotes King David whose commitment to building up the physical house of God is to be displayed by Christians in their commitment to building up God’s spiritual house (15:3b; cf. Psalm 69:9). 

Notice that when Paul seeks to motivate his readers to treat one another better, he does not refer to some seminar or some promo on Facebook. He refers to the Bible in verse 3 when he quotes King David (cf. Psalm 69:9). By referring to the Old Testament, Paul was showing that Christians can receive from the Bible the instruction (“learning”), perseverance (“patience”),“comfort,” and “hope” they need to bear with one another despite their differences regarding their Christian liberty (15:4). But he does not stop there. 

The reason the Bible can give us everything we need to bear with one another in the family of God is because of the Person behind the Bible: Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus” (15:5). Knowing the Bible is not enough to treat one another better. We must know the Author of the Bible if we are going to treat one another better (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). The more we know God who is love, the more loving we will become toward one another (cf. I John 4:7-8). 

Do you have teenage girls? They must be very careful with internet chat rooms. Teenage girls can fall in love with evil men on the internet because the words they read have a person behind them. As she hangs out with this man on the internet for days and weeks, he eventually says,“Can we meet at the park this Saturday at five o’clock?” She has been trained all these years not to hang out with strangers, yet now she goes to meet this stranger. Why? Because she has fallen in love with someone she has never seen. The reason she has fallen in love with someone she has never seen is because of the power of the written word. Why? Because behind that written word is a real person. If an evil man can take the words of a computer and transform a teenage girl so that she will go meet him in private at a park somewhere and risk her life because she has been overwhelmed with the word, then how much more can the God of the Bible overwhelm us with His written Word so that we change from what we might normally do because we have been overwhelmed with a love relationship with Someone we have never seen.

Do not underestimate what the God of the Bible can do in our lives when we sit down to hear His voice as we read and apply the Bible to our lives. Spending time with Him in His Word can transform us so that we treat other believers better who may differ with us concerning Christian liberty. 

How are Christians to respond to those who differ with them about their Christian liberty?

“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” Romans 14:1

The apostle Paul is writing to Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome who had differing views about how God’s will was to be practiced with regard to nonessential issues (“doubtful things”) such as food, drink, and observing certain “religious” days. Jewish Christians wanted Gentile Christians to observe their Jewish customs and Gentile Christians wanted the Jews to practice their customs. These practices are not wrong in and of themselves. Examples today may include food, drink, recreation, clothing, personal grooming, birth control, schooling, holiday observances, etc., when no sin is involved.  Paul instructs believers to do the following:

1. They are to “receive” or accept one another even though they differ about what their Christian liberty permits them to do because God “receives” them in Christ (14:1-5a). For example, the stronger Christian whose faith permits him to eat all foods and observe every day the same, was not to “despise” or condemn the Christian whose faith did not permit him to exercise his Christian liberty to the same extent. Nor is the “weaker” Christian, who does not believe he has the liberty to eat all foods or view all days the same, to “judge” his more liberal Christian brother because “God has received him” (14:2-3). 

2. They are not to “judge” one another for these differing practices …

a. Because they can observe them “to the Lord” for His approval (14:5b-8). In Paul’s day, Jewish Christians observed the Sabbath and Jewish feast-days while Gentile believers did not. Paul says it does not matter what days you think are sacred, what matters is that you seek to please the Lord.

b. Because only Jesus Christ is qualified to judge them, and He will at “the judgment seat of Christ” (14:9-12; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10).  

Why is singing a new song to the Lord important?

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth.” Psalm 96:1

The Psalmist instructs all the earth to “sing to the Lord a new song” (96:1a) because the Lord has revealed new blessings which are “the good news of His salvation from day to day” (96:2). “All peoples” need to hear this good news about God’s “glory” and “wonders” in creation which show that He is greater than all the lifeless “idols” that people tend to worship (96:3-5). All peoples of the earth are to “give to the Lord the glory due His name” because “He is coming to judge the earth… with righteousness” which will provide “salvation” (96:2) or deliverance from His enemies (96:7-13). The Lord Jesus Christ will fulfill these verses when He returns to earth with His church at the end of the Tribulation period to reign over all the earth during His Millennial Kingdom (cf. Revelation 19:7-20:6). 

I was captivated this morning by the command to sing “a new song” to the Lord. Several times God commands us to “sing a new song” to Him (Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10). As God reveals new blessings to His people, they are to respond by singing a new song which praises God for those blessings. Failure to sing a new song when God is doing something new in our lives is disobedience and can lead to a loss of joy and admiration for the Lord in our worship.

But when God’s people obey the Lord and write and/or sing new songs to the Lord which reflect the new manifestations of His grace toward us, He will reveal more of Himself to us (cf. John 14:21). Also, there will be an increase in our praise to Him and “many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord” (cf. Psalm 40:3). Being sensitive to the new manifestations of God’s grace to us in our songs to Him will increase our “fear” or admiration of Him and lead us to “trust” in Him more in our daily lives, and it can also lead the unsaved to “trust in the Lord” Jesus as their Savior. Hopefully, no Christian wants to hinder unsaved people from coming to faith in Christ because of a music style preference.

Contrary to what many Christians think, music style is not sacred to the Lord, but the words (lyrics) are sacred to Him. God enjoys all music styles (old, new, fast, slow, loud, soft, etc.) because He created them and He loves diversity (cf. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)! Just because we do not like all music styles does not mean God does not like them all. What matters most to God is not the music style, but that the songs we sing are offered up to Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). 

All of us have our music preferences, but as we look back at history in the Old and New Testaments (cf. Exodus 15:1-17; Psalm 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9; 14:3) and in the Church Age, songs changed as the Lord revealed Himself and His workings in new and different ways. Singing a new song to the Lord enables us to experience and express the new manifestations of His grace in our lives in more meaningful ways. 

As I look back at my Christian life the last forty years, some of the most intimate times of worship with the Lord were when I learned a new song which expressed the new things He was doing in my life. I especially enjoyed it when the worship leader in our local church would write and/or lead us in a new song that reflected the new manifestations of God’s grace in and through our local church. Praise Jesus for those who capture the new things He is doing in the songs they write and/or sing! 

When is the last time you sang a new song to the Lord? Take time today to draw near to Him by singing a new song to Him that expresses something new that He is doing in your life. To find a new song, you can use google and search for “New Christian Songs.” Since God continues to create new and refreshing songs for His Church, you should have no trouble finding one to enhance your worship of Him. One of my favorites right now is “Raise a Hallelujah.”

How does God’s mercy impact our ministry?

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1

In view of the great “mercies of God” in the first eleven chapters of Romans…

– Deliverance from sin’s penalty through faith in Christ’s death 1:1-5:10a).

– Deliverance from sin’s power through faith in Christ’s life (5:10b-8:39).

– Deliverance of Israel from God’s wrath through faith in Christ’s death and life (9:1-11:36). 

…the apostle Paul challenges his readers to live a life of surrender (“present your bodies a living sacrifice”) to God (12:1) by being “transformed” from the inside out “by the renewing of” their minds through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit (12:2a; 8:9-11; 15:4) so they may please God by doing His “will” (12:2b). This spiritual transformation will enable them to serve God through the loving use of their spiritual gifts in the body of Christ (12:3-21). 

God’s mercy does not minimize service. God’s mercy maximizes service! When we understand and experience the depths of God’s mercy toward us, we will want to surrender our entires lives to Him as a way of saying, “Thank You, Lord, for being so merciful to me when You saved me from sin’s penalty the moment I believed in Your Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1-5:10a; cf. Titus 3:5-7). Thank You for showing mercy to me when You gave me Your Holy Spirit Who raised You from the dead to empower me to be saved from the power of sin in my Christian life (Romans 6:1-8:39). Even though I do not understand Your wisdom and ways (Romans 9:1-11:36), I do want to surrender my entire being to You for Your use and glory (12:1). I no longer want to be conformed to this wicked world, but I want You to transform me into the likeness of Your Son as I learn to yield to the Holy Spirit and to the holy Scriptures (12:2). Use me in any way You choose to lovingly build up Your church for Your glory (12:3-21).” 

Can eternal life be given back to God or taken away by Him?

“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29

In Romans 9-11, Paul is addressing the need of Jews to be delivered from God’s present-day wrath through justification and sanctification. Paul talks about God’s sovereign use of Israel in the past and His temporary setting aside of Israel in the present due to her rejection of His righteousness through faith in the Messiah (9:1-10:4). God chose the nation of Israel to service and blessings for the purpose of sharing those blessings with others. But since they failed (10:5- 11:10), God saw fit to elect another group called the Church (composed largely of Gentiles) to accomplish this task (11:11-25). Fortunately for Israel, because God is gracious He will again return to them and fulfill His promises to them (11:23-32).

The reason Paul is confident that God will return to Israel and fulfill His promises to them is because “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (11:29;cf. 9:4-5). God will not withdraw His promises from Israel because those promises are irreversible (“irrevocable”). The Lord did not choose Israel for her goodness, and He will not abandon her because of her sinfulness. 

Likewise, God promises eternal life as a free gift to all who believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). Since “the gifts … of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29) and eternal life is a “gift of God” (Romans 6:23), then eternal life is “irrevocable.” When a person believes in Christ for His gift of eternal life, it cannot be given back to Godnor taken back by Godno matter how the believer lives because it is irreversible or permanent (John 3:16; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 11:25-27; Romans 8:31-39; et al.). God did not save us from hell because of our goodness (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7), and He will not abandon us because of our sinfulness (cf. John 6:37; Hebrews 13:5).

This can be especially difficult for people to believe if they have experienced rejection by a parent. For example, imagine an adopted child being returned to his orphanage because his adoptive parent says he is too difficult or sinful to raise. That adopted child may conclude that God will do the same to him if he does not live up to God’s expectations. I have met many Christians who think that God’s love is like the love of their parents. If they do not measure up to God’s standards, then He will take eternal life away from them. 

The truth is God’s love is not conditional or temporary like the love of people. God’s love is unconditional and eternal through Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23b; 8:38-39). God accepts us permanently as His children the moment we believe in His Son Who died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead (cf. John 1:12; I Corinthians 15:3-6; Ephesians 1:6). God guarantees to keep us as His children and never let go of us no matter how troublesome or sinful we may be after we are placed in His family (John 6:37; 10:28-29)! This should lead believers to praise God for the depths of His wisdom and knowledge (Romans 11:33-36)!!!

How do I calm my soul when I am overwhelmed with anxiety?

17Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence. 18 If I say, ‘My foot slips,’ Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. 19In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Psalm 94:17-19

The Psalmist seeks the Lord to avenge the righteous on the earth who are being unjustly oppressed by the wicked (94:1-7). Then he scolds the wicked for assuming that God is not aware or capable of judging them for their unjust treatment of the righteous (94:8-11). Even though God does discipline His wayward people, the Psalmist believed the Lord would eventually judge those who oppress the godly (94:12-15). 

After looking every where for “help” to overcome opposition from the wicked, the Pslamist found it only in “the Lord” (94:17a). Had God not intervened for him, he would “have settled in silence” without any hope and died (94:17b). Without the Lord’s “mercy” to “hold” him up, he would have given up  (94:18). “In the multitude of” his “anxieties within” him,  God’s “comforts” brought “delight” to his soul (94:19). 

Where can we turn when anxiety and hopelessness keep us awake at night? Like the Psalmist, we can turn to the Lord Who has the supernatural power to “help” us overcome our anxiety (94:17). Even when we “slip” morally, financially, or socially, the “mercy”of the God of the universe “will hold” us up so we do not give up (94:18). When we are overwhelmed with “anxieties,” the “comforts” of the Lord “delight” or satisfy our souls (94:19). 

What are God’s comforts? Three different sources of comfort come to my mind:

1. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit soothes our soul when we are anxious (94:17; cf. John 14:16-17). His presence and power assures us that God can deliver us from whatever is causing us to worry.

2. The promises of God’s Word give us encouragement and hope (94:18; cf. Romans 15:4). The more we abide in God’s Word, the more we will know the truth of God which can set us free from the lies which produce feelings of hoplessness and anxiety (cf. John 8:31-32). 

3. The protection of God in our past also calms our anxious hearts in the present (94:19; cf. Joshua 4:1-7). Remembering how God has protected us in the past can assure us of His continuing protection in the present.

Some people sit in silence when they are overwhelmed with anxiety and hopelessness. But God wants us to turn to Him so His comforts can satisfy our souls. 

A pastor once said, “Whoever controls your thoughts determines your feelings.” When we give God control of our thoughts, He will determine our feelings. So if God is controlling our thoughts, we will feel the way God wants us to feel. The Bible explains why in Proverbs 23:7, “For as a he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Spend time with God in prayer and listen to His voice of truth as you read the Bible, and your thoughts will begin to line up with His. And as they do, you will begin to feel the way He wants you to feel.  

What can I do as the world gets worse?

“O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!” Psalm 84:12

With at least 31 people killed in mass shootings in Texas and Ohio last weekend, you may ask yourself, “What can I do as the world gets worse?” I would recommend you turn to Psalm 84 to discover the answer to that question.

In this Psalm, the writer describes the blessedness of those who dwell in “the house” (temple) of God (84:1-4). As those who long to worship the Lord in His temple journey to that place (84:5), they find more and more spiritual “strength” and refreshment even though they may pass through arid regions (“the Valley of Baca”) that others found to be disappointing and draining (85:6-7). During their travels to the house of God, they prayed for their king (“our shield” and “Your anointed”) (84:8-9). Their longing to go to the temple is because “a day” in God’s presence (“Your courts”“is better than a thousand” days “in the tents of wickedness” (84:10). 

Instead of encountering the influence of the wicked in God’s temple, they experienced “the Lord God” Who is like “a sun” that gives warmth and light. God is also like a “shield” Who protects them from harm (84:11a). The Lord gives “grace and glory” to them, withholding “no good thing” from them (84:11b). The wicked, however, are the opposite of the Lord. Instead of providing warmth and light, they are hateful (cold) and full of darkness. Instead of protecting the worshippers from harm, they seek to dish out harm to them. Instead of giving grace and glory to others, they are ungracious and dishonoring toward them. The wicked do not give what is good to those who live uprightly, instead they repay them with evil. 

As we live in an increasingly evil world, we will discover renewed strength and refreshment as we draw near to the Lord God of hosts (84:1-7). The benefits of being near to the Lord far outweigh the evil that is growing stronger in the world (84:8-11). When we experience unspeakable joy in God’s presence, we can echo the words of the Psalmist, “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You” (84:12)! 

Psalm 84 is telling us, “When everything is all wrong, Jesus can make everything alright. Draw near to Him because He is more than enough.”

Must I confess Christ to go to heaven?

“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10

Romans 10:9-10 is used by many sincere Christian workers to justify the use of this invitation in evangelism. By using these verses, believers are telling non-Christians they must believe in Christ plus confess He is Lord to go to heaven. Is this what these verses teach?

It is important to understand the argument of Romans before interpreting these verses. The key to understanding Romans is to look at the first use of the word “salvation” in 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” The words “saved” (sōzō) or “salvation” (sōtēria) refer to some type of “deliverance.” The context determines what one is delivered from. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed [present tense] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in righteousness.” The book of Romans is the good news (Gospel) of Jesus Christ which provides the power for deliverance (salvation) from the present-day wrath (displeasure) of God which is expressed in sinners being given over to the downward spiral of their own sinfulness (1:18b-32). This salvation from God’s present-day wrath is two-fold (“faith to faith,” 1:17):

1. Justification-salvation before God through faith alone in Christ alone who died for our sins and rose from the dead (Romans 1:20 – 5:9a). This is what delivers us from the penalty of sin and gets us to Heaven. God wants to bring those back who have been given over to their own sinfulness. God sees all people as unrighteous and in bondage to sin (1:20-3:20). God comes to people and gives them His righteousness on the basis of faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (3:21-5:9a). Twenty-six times Paul uses the words “believe” and “faith” as the only condition for justification (being declared righteous) before God in this section of Romans. Nowhere in this section does he mention the word “confession.”

 2. Sanctification-salvation from God’s present-day wrath (degradation of sin) through Christ living in us by faith (Romans 5:9b-8:39). The next time the word “saved” is used in Romans is in 5:9-10: “Much more then, having now been justified [past tense] by His blood, we shall be saved [future tense] from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled [past tense] to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled [past tense], we shall be saved [future tense] by His life.” The salvation being spoken of here is in the future tense and takes place after we are justified and reconciled to God. We were reconciled to God through faith in Christ’s death (3:21-5:9a). We can be saved from God’s present-wrath or the power of sin through faith in Christ’s life (5:9b – 8:39).  

In Romans 9-11, Paul is addressing the need of Jews to be delivered from God’s present-day wrath through justification and sanctification. Paul talks about God’s sovereign use of Israel in the past and His temporary setting aside of Israel in the present due to her rejection of His righteousness through faith in the Messiah (Romans 9:1-10:4). After being redeemed from Egypt by faith, the nation of Israel sought to obtain a sanctifying-righteousness by keeping the Law (Romans 10: 5). In verses 6-7, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30:12-13 when Moses was challenging the redeemed nation of Israel to believe and obey God’s revelation (the Law) as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. There was no excuse for disbelieving and disobeying God’s Law.  The people of Israel did not need to ascend to Heaven nor descend to the abyss to obtain the Law because God had already revealed it to them through Moses. Paul applies this truth to God’s final revelation found in the Person of Christ who had descended to earth (Romans 10:6) and rose from the dead (10:7). There was no excuse for disbelieving and disobeying the Person of Jesus Christ. In Romans 10:8, Paul prepares the way for Romans 10:9-10 by quoting Deuteronomy 30:14. Just as God’s Old Testament revelation was “near” to the Israelites in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 30:14), so God’s message of faith through Jesus Christ was “near” to deliver Paul’s readers from God’s present wrath when they believed in Christ (which takes place in the “heart”) and obey (which takes place in the “mouth”) His commands.

Paul explains the content of this “word of faith” (10:8) in Romans 10:9: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Verse 9 refers to being “saved” from God’s present-day wrath (Romans 1:16-32; 5:9-10). This type of salvation requires confessing “with your mouth” and believing “with your heart.” God’s people could not ask for assistance (with the “mouth”) from Christ to obey God’s commands without first believing (with the “heart”) in Christ resulting in God’s righteousness. Verse 10 explains (“For”) this sequence: “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” We come to know Christ by believing in Him from the heart resulting in God’s righteousness (v.10a; cf. Romans 3:21 – 5:9a). We make Christ known to others by confessing Him with our mouths resulting both in salvation from God’s wrath on present-day sin (v. 10b; cf. Romans 1:16-32; 5:9-10) and victory in our Christian lives (Romans 5:98:39; cf. Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8). To believe in the heart resulting in God’s righteousness is justification. To confess with the mouth resulting in salvation is sanctification. One does not have the power to acquire sanctifying-righteousness through public confession of Christ without first obtaining justification-righteousness through faith alone in Christ alone. 

Paul quotes Isaiah 28:16, which took place during the Assyrian invasion, to assure his readers that they can openly confess Christ without being ashamed (Romans 10:11). One commentator suggests Paul may have quoted this verse to express “God’s desire to deliver the Jews from the wrath to come at the hand of Rome in A.D. 70.” Deliverance from this expression of God’s wrath begins with believing in Christ (10:11) and culminates in calling upon Him for divine assistance (10:12). The phrase “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (10:13) is a quotation from Joel 2:32. In that verse, the prophet Joel asks God to deliver Israel from His coming temporal wrath (cf. Joel 2:30-31). To be delivered from God’s present-day wrath requires both faith in Christ resulting in justification, followed by calling upon the name of the Lord for divine assistance. 

This sequence is confirmed by Romans 10:14-15a when the verbs in these verses are reversed – “sent …preach…hear…believe… call on Him.” We see that calling on the name of the Lord is done after believing in Christ and is therefore something Christians do after their conversion to obtain divine assistance in living the victorious Christian life (Romans 5:9-8:39; cf. Acts 9:21; I Cor. 1:2). 

In Romans 11, Paul praises God’s wise plans in extending mercy to the Gentiles now and to Israel in the future. In view of God’s great mercy which Paul has declared in Romans 1-11, Paul urges his readers to live a life of surrender to the Lord (12:1-2), which includes serving God by serving others (12:3-16:27).

Conclusion: Going to heaven is based on believing in Christ alone for His gift of righteousness and eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 3:22 -5:10a), not believing in Christ plus confession. It is believing in Christ plus nothing. However, if we want to experience a victorious Christian life and deliverance from God’s wrath on present-day sin, we must openly confess Christ and call upon His name for divine assistance to overcome the power of sin in our lives. 

Does God elect some to go to heaven and some to go to hell?

Some students of the Bible understand Romans 9 to teach that God sovereignly chooses some people to go to Heaven and some to go to Hell. However, this understanding ignores the argument of the book of Romans and the context of Romans 9.

The book of Romans is dealing with salvation from the present-day wrath of God which involves God giving the unrighteous over to the downward spiral of the degradation of sin (Rom. 1:16-32). Because God is holy and hates sin, we must first be delivered from His wrath toward sin through justification which is by faith alone in Christ’s death (Rom. 2:1-5:10a). We can then experience deliverance from God’s present-day wrath and the perversion of sin through faith in Christ’s life (Rom. 5:9-8:39).

The argument of Romans up to the end of chapter 8 is a direct challenge to the commonly held belief of first-century Jews that because they were God’s chosen people they would be saved from hell simply by being of Jewish descent and by keeping the Law (cf. Rom. 2:17-3:20). This assumption, says Paul, is absolutely false. The problem is that the Jews were confusing election to service with election to salvation (cf. examples of election to service: Jeremiah – Jeremiah 1:5; Paul – Gal. 1:15-16; John the Baptist – Luke 1:13-17; John 1:23; the disciples (John 15:16). They assumed that because God chose them as the means by which “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3), He also chose them, simply as Jews, for salvation. But now they hear Paul saying, “No! Jews do not have a unique path to heaven; on Judgment Day they will be treated like everyone else.” So now they are thinking, “That’s not fair! God has just been leading us on, giving us promises He never meant to keep. He is going back on His word! Where is the justice?”

So in Romans 9 Paul is defending God’s righteousness in His dealings with the Jews and the Gentiles. The Word of God has not failed (Rom. 9:6a). When God says that only those Jews will be saved who trust God’s promises, like their father Abraham did, He is not breaking His original promises to Israel. His choice of the nation as a whole was not a guarantee of any individual Jew’s salvation. God graciously and sovereignly chose Israel to be the nation from which “Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God” (Rom. 9:5). God’s choice of the nation of Israel to bring the Messiah-God into the world was not based upon their natural descent or works (Rom. 9:6-11), but upon His merciful and sovereign choice (Rom. 9:11b-16). And God certainly has the sovereign right to use any individual or group that He chooses for such a purpose, without any promise of personal salvation from Hell being attached.

An example of God choosing someone for service without providing individual salvation from Hell for him is Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17; cf. Judas whom Jesus chose to bear fruit in ministry even though Judas never believed in Jesus – John 6:64; 13:10-11; 15:16; 17:12). God both “had mercy” on Pharaoh by choosing him for an important role in birthing the nation of Israel, and He also “hardened” him in order to accomplish the same purpose (Rom. 9:18). An example of a nation being chosen for service and not salvation is Israel at this present time (Rom. 9:31-10:4). The nation of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah which led God to show mercy to Gentiles by including them in the church. An elect person or nation is never guaranteed justification. In the Old Testament, God chose the nation of Babylon to discipline Israel (see Habakkuk). Likewise, He chose King Cyrus of Persia to help Israel and to subdue the nations (Cyrus is even called God’s “shepherd” and “anointed” in Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1). But neither of these sovereign choices proves anything regarding individual or corporate salvation from Hell.

If God chooses individuals and nations to service based upon His merciful and sovereign will, and not human behavior, “Why does He still find fault?” Paul’s listeners would ask him (Rom. 9:19). Paul responds by saying that people are not in a position to criticize their Judge because He is the standard by which we measure justice (Rom. 9:20-30).

God chose the nation of Israel to service and blessings for the purpose of sharing those blessings with others. But since they failed (Rom. 9:31-11:10), God saw fit to elect another group called the Church (composed largely of Gentiles) to accomplish this task (Rom. 11:11-25). Fortunately for Israel, because God is gracious He will again return to them and fulfill His promises and plans (Rom. 11:23-32). How unsearchable is God and His ways (Rom 11:33-36)!?

Conclusion: God’s election relates to His merciful and sovereign choice to choose individuals and/or nations for service (not salvation), especially as it relates to sharing His blessings with others, including the gospel. Just as the nation of Israel was chosen by God to bring the Messiah-God into the world (Rom. 9:5) and be a channel of blessing to all families/nations (Gen. 12:3), so believers (both Jews and Gentiles) in Christ today, are sovereignly chosen by God to be His mouthpieces of blessing to others (cf. Luke 6:13; John 15:16; Acts 1:2, 8; 9:15; 10:41; 15:7; 22:14-15; 26:16-18; James 2:5; I Pet. 2:9).