Heavenly Father, You are the sovereign God. Yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever! We pray You will cause us to find our confidence in Your righteous rule over this world, remembering that nothing happens apart from Your sovereign will. May that confidence give us boldness to give our lives for the advance of your gospel. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Romans 9-11
In Romans 9–11, Paul addresses questions about God’s relationship to His old covenant people, Israel. Specifically, he addresses what has changed and what remains the same now that Christ, the promised Messiah, has come and accomplished what Israel was unable to do. It’s always been about God and His mercy toward people. All of salvation history exists to magnify the mercy of God.
Romans 9 Having laid out God’s wonderful plan of salvation in the first half of Romans, Paul now addresses some apparent confusion and objections related to God’s plan for Israel. If salvation is through Christ alone, then what was the point of the nation of Israel, the temple, the covenants, and all the rest? Has God somehow failed in His promises to Israel?
To answer these difficult questions, Paul points to God’s sovereignty in salvation. Even for the patriarchs, family relationship alone is not sufficient for God’s grace; rather, it depends on God’s merciful choice in election. This was true with Isaac, and this was also true with Jacob.
At this point Paul asks: does this not make God unjust? Far from it! Paul explains this is the very definition of what it means for God to be God. And so, in Paul’s day and in ours, the words of the prophets are being fulfilled when ethnic Israel rejects the Messiah promised in the prophets. But even in the face of this, we know God has graciously saved for Himself a people from among all nations.
Romans 10 Notice that God’s sovereignty over the hardening of Israel doesn’t mean Paul no longer cares about them or their salvation. By all means, Paul desires the salvation of His fellow countrymen because he knows the free gift of righteousness is available to them if they would only believe.
Moses himself declared this good news of righteousness by faith, the very same message Paul has devoted himself to preaching. He knows preaching is necessary because apart from the proclamation of the gospel, people won’t call upon the Lord. And yet, Paul is grieved as he saw what Isaiah had seen: Israel’s rejection of the Word of God.
Romans 11 But even now, God hasn’t rejected ethnic Israel. There remains a remnant within ethnic Israel who is faithful. Throughout the Old Testament, God has always preserved for Himself a remnant, even while the rest of Israel hardens themselves by rejecting God.
God may choose to restore the Jewish people if He wishes, just as a gardener is able to graft natural branches into a vine. In part, Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles is motivated by the desire that Jews will see the salvation of the Gentiles and repent.
In the meantime, Gentiles ought to be humbled, not proud, by the hardening of the Jews, because this is all part of God’s plan in bringing about the salvation of His people. God still has great compassion on the Jewish people and is ready to save them, in spite of their rejection.
In the end, both Jews and Gentiles will be saved in a way that highlights God’s incredible mercy. Paul writes, “For the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (10:12). He concludes this portion of the letter by praising God for His unsearchable judgments, ascribing to Him all glory forever.
13 For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’
- God’s plans in salvation history are both glorious and difficult for us to understand. After all, God has not revealed everything to us, only what He’s chosen to record in the Bible. This is no reason to doubt God, and Paul still praises God for what He has revealed.
- Romans 10 is clear that the reality of God’s sovereignty doesn’t cancel the reality of human responsibility. How have you seen the Lord use you in helping others come to know Jesus? What would it look like for you to be a part of taking the gospel to those who have never heard? For more on this, read what the BFM says about Evangelism and Missions.
- Reflect on the fact that you’re a follower of Jesus only because God has been merciful to you. Recount the ways you have received God’s mercy, blessing, and kindness.
Choose one of the following:
- If God is sovereign over salvation, then one of our most basic responses should be to join Paul in praying for the lost. Find a group of brothers and sisters this week and pray for the lost, beginning with your existing relationships (your “oikos“) but also broadening to those who are lost in your community, your city, and even around the world.
- In Romans 10, we see the unbreakable chain of how God brings about salvation in this world. How are you and your church playing a role in sending people to evangelize those who are nearby or far away, either culturally or geographically?
- What role might the Lord want you to play in announcing the gospel to the lost? Who are the lost around you right now?
(Summary of Tom Wolff’s ideas on Oikos Evangelism and Outreach)
An oikos is a social system composed of those who relate to each other through common ties and tasks. The New Testament oikos included members of the nuclear family, but extended to dependents, slaves, and employees. Oikos members often lived together, but always sensed a close association with each other. And note this carefully, the oikos constituted the basic social unity by which the early church grew. Sometimes people today also talk about tribes as any group connected to one another through an idea or a leader—kind of a voluntary oikos, if you will.
As Michael Green reminds us, an oikos for the New Testament church consisted of “blood relations, slaves, clients, and friends. Christian missionaries made a deliberate point of gaining whatever (oikos) households they could as lighthouses, so to speak, from which the gospel could illuminate the surrounding darkness.”
OIKOS EVANGELISM, then, is one God-given and God-ordained means for naturally sharing our supernatural message. The early church spread through oikos evangelism. It’s about evangelizing family members who saw the old sinner become the new saint; it’s about sharing with the neighbor who questioned how such a difference had come over his old friend or reaching the guys in the local trade union or the oikos that played tennis together.
An oikos corresponds to what contemporary anthropologists define as the three universal social systems of common kinship (extended family, though in urban settings the extended family might live far away); common community (might be neighborhoods, not in urban settings); and common interests (also referred to as a “clan” below, these are affinity groups with mutual interests and usually networks of relationships where trust is expressed).
These three natural social groupings include:
The (urban) clan has developed into social units which are basically extensions of the local group—voluntary associations based on common interests ranging from trade unions and medical associations to bridge clubs and parent-teacher associations. Each of these groupings is held together by a common interest, an interest arising from mutual participation in the same trades, the mutual enjoyment of a game, or mutual problems in relation to a set of children.
ADJUSTING OUR TACTICS FOR THE URBAN SETTING
If you expect neighborliness or extended family in urban settings, you’ll probably be disappointed. In looking for persons or households (oikos/oikoi) or peace, in urban settings you will want to aim for clans or affinity groups or clubs or societies rather than your apartment neighbors. You will need to “insert” yourself into some clans or urban social groupings. Urban outreach is different.
Check out Meetup.com below to find ways to find oikos groups in urban and not-so-urban areas.
Consider these questions:
- What am I doing to learn about the variety of urban social groupings in my city? (Examples: Cooking club, hiking, kite flying, poetry reciting, soccer, sewing, walking, exercise, yoga, retirees, urban tea houses, false religion groups, etc.)
- When do these groups get together? Where? Are they mostly men, women, young, old, mixed?
- Are they free, or is there a charge? Is there an orientation? How does one “enter” the club/group? Do I need a sponsor?
- How can I learn more about them?
- How can I (and my family) get involved in one or more of these clans (urban social groupings)?
- What can I do to intentionally approach one or more of these groupings and try to get involved?
- How can being a part of a clan help me find a person/oikos of peace?