SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9
OUR HISTORY – OUR FUTURE: SO OTHERS MAY LIVE
by David Fletcher
During the waning years of the Great Depression and the Second World War, believers living in Tuscaloosa County North of Northport began to get a vision and a heart for reaching their area. At the time there was no Southern Baptist congregation north of what is now known as US Highway 82 (along the highway 43 corredor). Nineteen of these visionary believers began meeting in homes with the intention of chartering a new congregation as the Lord opened the doors.
This dream was realized in November of 1944 as Chapel Hill Baptist Church was chartered and soon thereafter was able to finally meet weekly as they moved into their first building a year later. Of the chartering member families, all gave sacrificially to see that the congregation continued to reach people with the life-saving Gospel of Christ. From land and homes, to money and time, much was given to the Lord for His glory and His plan. Without the sacrifices of that charter generation and those who have come after them, Chapel Hill would not have continued to grow and reach more people for the Kingdom of God.
The history of this congregation is one of giving now so that others may benefit tomorrow or some future day. None of our current 1200 members or 350 plus families where among the first nineteen members who looked beyond themselves to a future they couldn’t see but that God certainly could and did see. Because of their faithfulness, members of Chapel Hill today may look around them and give great glory to God.
Likewise, the members of Chapel Hill today now have the opportunity to take their eyes off of themselves and to trust God with His resources by giving sacrificially for the sake of those who are not yet present in the congregation. Why would anyone sacrifice now so that others as yet unknown could benefit in the future? Because, it is the very example that has been demonstrated by God himself. Yes, God knew everyone that would ever be saved when Christ willingly went to the cross. However, all the saved of eternity were not standing in the midst of the disciples who witnessed Christ’s crucifixion on Golgotha. Rather, Jesus died for millions not yet born. Moreover, the scripture assures us that this was God’s plan from before creation. 2 Timothy 1:8-9 says, “Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began….” And again in Titus 1:1-2 scripture says, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began….”
So, it is that through Chapel Hill’s history, believers of the day have given of their time, talents, and resources so that future believers could be reached. A perfect example of this type of mindset can also be found outside of scripture. To be a rescue swimmer for the United States Coast Guard, requires weeks of intensive training. The training prepares courageous men and women for the task of jumping from helicopters to rescue those in danger at sea. The challenges they face include hypothermia and death by drowning. Why would people risk so much for strangers? The answer is found in the rescue swimmer’s motto, “So Others May Live.”
In “Fox’s Book of Martyrs”, we read of a different kind of rescue that demanded extreme commitment and sacrifice. This book records the stories of Christians who suffered and died because they proclaimed the love and life of Jesus. Knowing it could cost them their lives, these individuals made the Savior known to a world in desperate need of Him.
Himself a martyr for Christ, Paul expressed his passion for the hearts of people this way: “I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3). Paul so longed for his fellow Jews to come to Christ that he was willing to sacrifice all, “so others may live.” May we likewise embrace this sacrificial attitude for the eternal souls of men and women who are not yet present in our congregation. As we study Romans 9:1-8, let us keep one eye to the past and all that God has done through His people at Chapel Hill. Likewise, let us keep our other eye to the future and be open to whatever God lays on our heart to sacrifice so that others may live!
To get an understanding of all that our focal passage begins to convey, teachers should review the entire chapter and outline below in order to give clarity to verses 1 through 8.
God’s Sovereign Plan
I. Paul’s concern for his brethren of Israel (9:1-5)
A. His great concern (9:1-3)
1. His conscience and the Holy Spirit bear witness to his great sorrow and grief (9:1-2)
2. He would even be willing to be cut off from Christ for their sakes (9:3)
B. For Israel, recipients of many blessings (9:4-5)
1. Including the covenants, the Law, the promises (9:4)
2. Of whom are the Patriarchs, and of course, Christ himself (9:5)
II. The True Children of God (9:6-29)
A. Are children of promise, not children of flesh (9:6-13)
1. They are not all Israel who have descended from Israel (9:6)
2. As illustrated with Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau (9:7-13)
3. According to God’s purpose, whose choice was not based upon works (9:11)
B. Are the objects of God’s mercy (9:14-23)
C. Are of both the Jews and the Gentiles (9:24-29)
III. The Basis of God’s Choice: Faith vs. No Faith (9:30-33)
(9:1) Paul states that he is being truthful and serious about his heartache for non-believing Israel. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is his witness that what he is about to say is true.
(9:2) Paul has unending sorrow and anguish of heart for his people the Jews.
(9:3) Paul could wish that he was cut off from Christ and cursed (damned) if it would mean that the unbelieving Jews (his kinsmen according to the flesh) would come to Christ. Note that it is understood here that they will not do so, therefore, Paul is not frivolously devaluing his own salvation and relationship with Christ. Paul understands that the Jews have the prophets, the Law, and most importantly, the visitation of Messiah himself. If then the Jew chooses not to believe, then not even Paul sacrificing his own salvation would suffice to make a difference.
(9:4) These physical descendents of Abraham have all the witness possible and necessary: the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the law, the worship, and the promises….
(9:5) To this physical Israel belong the patriarchs and from their race (according to the flesh) comes the Messiah – Christ himself. Still, through their hardness of heart and their lack of faith, they have proven to not be true descendents of Abraham as the apostle is about to explain.
(9:6-7) God’s promise and His word have not failed, Not all who are physically descended from Israel belong to Israel. As is stated several times prior in Romans, Abraham and his promise were determined by his faith in God, not by any works he had done. Isaac’s promise and Jacob’s (Israel’s) promise where not determined because they were Abraham’s son and grandson. Rather, because of their faith they were recipients of the promise. Just because one is a Jew – and Israelite, does not make him or her a recipient of the promise. God’s choice through faith alone determines who is an heir of the promise (see Galatians 3:26-29).
(9:8) It is definitely not being descended from Abraham physically that makes one an heir of the promise, but rather it is the children of faith, those who believe, who are the children of the promise. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abraham believed God, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” The promises of God belong to those who believe, not to those who are born into a race or even into a Christian family. Each person must come to Christ with belief.
Note, the thrust of this focal passage is that Paul was willing to give whatever it took so that his countrymen could come to faith in Christ Jesus the Messiah. The question becomes, what are we as believers willing to do and give in order for our countrymen to come to Christ Jesus the Messiah. If the five mile radius around Chapel Hill’s buildings are inhabited by 23,000 souls as the census indicates, and if just 50 percent of these are without saving belief as LifeWay researches studies also indicate, then what are you and I willing to do and to give so that 11,500 of our immediate friends and neighbors (men, women, and children) will not spend eternity in a godless Hell?
Are we willing to inconvenience ourselves so that more people can be accommodated in our facilities? Are we willing to give the best parking spaces to the guests, the mothers of infants, the elderly? Are we willing to leave our comfort zone in our class and serve in the nursery or children’s Sunday School? Are we willing to be missionary class planters and help start another Sunday School class so that there will be room for “One More?” Are we willing to give of our time, our talents, and our wealth? By the way, the wealth really isn’t ours- scripture says it belongs to God and that we are His stewards. Are we willing to relinquish our hold on God’s wealth so that Chapel Hill Baptist Church can be His vessel in reaching the lost around us?
In 1944, nineteen believers had a vision. Look at what God has accomplished through His people on this hilltop. I wonder though, how much more God has wanted to accomplish – if only his children would have trusted him with his gifts. The real question now becomes, how much will his children today, you and I, trust God and move forward expanding God’s Kingdom through Chapel Hill.