Sermon for 08.06.23 “Grace not Law”

Pentecost 10 (Proper 13), August 6, 2023
Text: Romans 9:1–5 (6–13)
Theme: Grace not Law
Other Lessons: Isaiah 55:1–5; Psalm 136:1–9 (23–26); Matthew 14:13–21

A. In the Name of the Father…Amen.
B. The Epistle lesson serves as our sermon text for this morning.
C. Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our heavenly Father through
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
D. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
Loving God, in the spirit of compassion that Jesus embodied as He
ministered to the crowd, even in His own sorrow, we gather here today.
You see our needs even before we speak them, and You feed us with both
physical bread and the Bread of Life.
Lord, we are awed by Your capacity to take what seems scarce and turn it
into abundance.
Lord, sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the needs around us and within us,
just like the disciples who saw only five loaves and two fish to feed a
In these times, remind us of Your infinite grace and power, which
multiplies and blesses our humble offerings.
God, as we open our hearts to Your Word today, take our “loaves and fish,”
our small efforts, and multiply them in ways that we cannot imagine.
Help us to trust in Your provision and to participate in Your miraculous
work of feeding and healing the world.
We ask all this in the name of Jesus, who demonstrated Your love for us in
the breaking of bread and in every act of compassion.
In the Name of the Father…we pray. Amen.


A. Rick and Ted, two sheep, are having a conversation concerning what Paul
had to say in our Epistle lesson for this morning:

1. Not only are our lives to be lives of prayer, we also live by the law.
2. We rely on the “rule of law” to have an ordered society.
3. We play by the rules, and we call out the cheaters.
4. We believe in cause and effect because that’s how the world works.
5. We look for principles and laws that allow us to understand, predict,
and to some measure gain control over things.
6. We expect to find them too.
B. The law keeps things together and in line.
1. Without the periodic table of the elements, there is no chemistry.
2. Without Newton’s laws, there is no physics.
3. Without the universal constants, there is no universe.
4. And as we’ve discovered in most recent times, without laws and the
enforcement of those laws, there is no ordered society.
5. The law is so much a part of our lives that the Gospel:
6. the good news of God’s grace in Christ, which is:
A. undeserved,
B. unmerited forgiveness,
C. love to the loveless,
D. grace to the undeserving
7. This grace is a strange foreign language.
8. You can’t run a business, a family, a corporation, a society on grace.
9. Old Adam will take advantage of it each and every time.
3. Israel rejected its Messiah because not all Israel is Israel.
A. The problem comes in when we take the horizontal rules of the road and
try to run them vertically.
1. God doesn’t deal with us by the same set of rules that we use to deal
with one another.
2. The Law works horizontally:
a) That is, before men, coram hominibus.
3. But the Law does not work vertically:
a) That is, coram Deo, before God.
4. That was the problem with Israel.
a) Israel tried to live by the law before God rather than by grace through
faith in the promise.
5. So what happened?
a) When the promise God made to Israel came true, when Israel’s Messiah,
Jesus Christ, came, most of the Jewish people rejected him.
b) Here was pure grace in the flesh, and Israel instead continued to cling
to the law.
B. For the apostle Paul, the issue is deeply personal.
1. It likely involved his own family.
2. He speaks of:
a) his great distress,
b) his anguish of heart,
c) his sorrow over his fellow Israelites,
d) his brothers according to the flesh.
3. In terms of religion, they had it all:
a) the Torah,
b) the prophets,
c) the promises,
d) the covenants,
e) the worship,
f) the status as God’s favored nation, his chosen people, the apple of his
4. And yet they did not believe.
a) Paul was willing to be damned in their place if that were possible:
Romans 9:3 (NASB95)
For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the
sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
1) But that’s not possible.
2) Or necessary.
3) Christ has already done that for all of us.
C. It appears as though the Word of God had failed to deliver the goods.
1. The seed had failed to sprout.
a) The Word returned empty.
b) The Gospel, which Paul called the power of God to salvation to both Jew
and Greek, seemed to fail in the synagogue.
2. But that’s simply not the case.
a) Faith is not hereditary.
b) Most of you know that through experience. Christian parents don’t
necessarily bring up Christian children.
c) Yes, we bring them to Baptism,
d) we bring them to church, often against the protests of the old Adam.
e) We teach them the Word and the Catechism.
f) And yet many don’t stay with it.
3. Like the Israelites of old, they had gifts, but faith didn’t appear to
take hold, or, if it did, it withered like the seedling in shallow soil or
was choked by the weeds of this world.
4. Paul’s way of expressing this is revealing:
Romans 9:6 (NASB95)
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all
Israel who are descended from Israel;
5. Taking an test from and tracing your family history back to
Abraham doesn’t make you an Israelite.
2.True Israel is of faith (grace) not works (Law).
A. To underscore this, Paul reminds us of Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and
1. Ishmael was the legal firstborn by Hagar, Sarah’s servant.
a) He was entitled to the inheritance of the firstborn.
b) The law said so.
c) But Ishmael was conceived out of unbelief, Abraham instead trusting in
the law of fertility over the outrageous promise of God that a barren woman
in her nineties could conceive and bear a son.
2. The promised Seed of salvation did not fall upon Ishmael but Isaac, the
son of the promise, the son born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age.
3. God throws out the rule book and runs things by grace:
a) faith in the promise, not the laws of biology.
B. The same holds for our Lord in his incarnation.
1. A virgin named Mary conceived and bore a son.
a) That violates everything you learned about the facts of life.
b) But God doesn’t save by the law.
2. God doesn’t even act according to the law.
a) He throws out the law and does his own Gospel thing where old women and
virgins conceive by the Word and sinners are justified for the sake of
Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross and his resurrection from the
b) Ishmael and Isaac remind us that salvation is not hereditary;
c) we must be the second born in order to be children of the promise.
C. Another example: Jacob and Esau.
1. Rebekah was carrying twins, and no one knew it except the Lord.
2. Before the twins were born, though, before they had a chance to do
anything either good or bad, in order that the world would understand that
God operates by grace and not by the law, God revealed to Rebekah that he
had chosen Jacob over Esau, the second born over the firstborn.
Romans 9:13 (NASB95)
Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”
a) This was before Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew, or before
Jacob tricked his blind father into blessing him as the firstborn.
b) Why?
Romans 9:11 (NASB95)
for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or
bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because
of works but because of Him who calls,
c) In a word, grace.
D. Does this mean that Jacob was saved and Esau damned?
1. Does this mean that God elects some to be saved and others to be damned?
a) No! That reeks of double predestination!
2. Christ came to be the Savior of the whole world, not select portions of
the world.
a) This is where our love for rules and principles betrays us.
b) We read these verses in Romans in terms of eternal election to
salvation, whereas Paul is actually speaking of temporal selection in
salvation history.
c) It’s like a play where everyone gets assigned a part.
d) Some play the good guys, some play the villains, some are background
actors, but they are all essential to the plot.
e) Esau is as important to salvation history as is Jacob.
f) Ishmael is as important as Isaac.
g) And even if Ishmael and Esau weren’t the sons born of the promise, or
didn’t have the roles in salvation history to be in the line of Christ, if
they believed the promise, they were just as surely saved.
3. Esau and Ishmael are reminders that God works through grace and not law
and that salvation is not about what you do but about what God does in
E. Jacob and Esau remind us that God’s election is all grace, pure gift,
without any merit or worthiness in us.
1. And again, to be treated as firstborn, we must be born again:
a) born from above by water and Spirit, as Jesus tells Nicodemus in John
1.God has chosen us in Christ by grace, too, through faith.

A. What role in salvation history do you wish to play when the casting call
1. Do you want the part of Ishmael or Isaac?
2. Perhaps Esau or Jacob?
3. Maybe Pharaoh or Moses?
4. What about Adam or Christ?
5. Do you want your life to be an example that encourages others to
believe, or one that’s a warning to others of the perils of resisting God’s
B. That you and I are here this morning:
1. alive,
2. upright,
3. breathing,
4. taking in food and water,
5. gathered in God’s name,
6. hearing the Word,
7. and receiving the gifts of Christ,
8. All of this is entirely gift.
9. It’s called grace.
10. You were destined to be here just as you were destined in Christ for
salvation before the foundations of the world.
11. You can no more boast of being here and believing than clay can boast
of becoming a vase or a cup.
12. The Potter did this, not the clay.
C. So what about Israel, which brought Paul so much anguish of heart?
1. Consider it a work in progress.
2. A majority were hardened and did not believe, but a remnant did believe.
3. That’s how it went with Old Testament Israel.
4. The same is true today in the Church.
a) When times get tough, as they are becoming now, many are hardened and
fall away, but there always is a faithful remnant.
5. And God uses even unbelief for His own good and gracious purpose to
a) The hardening of Israel meant a place for the Gentiles in Abraham’s
family tree.
b) And if a wild branch can be grafted onto Israelite rootstock, how much
easier to restore native wood?
c) God isn’t done yet.
6. Watch and see what He does in our day.
a) He’s calling,
b) He’s gathering,
c) He’s enlightening,
d) He’s sanctifying,
e) He’s keeping,
f) He’s doing His master potter thing, forming our clay into the image of
his Son.
D. He calls “Not My People” His people.
1. He loves the unloved and the unlovable.
2. He embraces the whole world in the death of His Son.
3. The rule of law works fine in this world, but the rule of law cannot
bring you the kingdom of God.
4. That is entirely by grace through faith in Jesus, who bore the sin of
the world on the cross, the sins of Ishmael, Esau, Pharaoh, you, and me.


A. It’s become a popular trend and fascination to trace one’s ancestry
through genetic analysis.
1. Companies like and 23andMe provide detailed genetic
analysis of your connection to the past.
2. Knowing your connection to your fraternal and maternal ancestors can
give a sense of meaning and purpose to your life.
3. It can also alert you to inherited medical issues.
4. Sin is an inherited condition.
5. It doesn’t lie in our genetics but in the spiritual core of our beings,
our “hearts” in a spiritual sense.
6. Faith, however, is not inherited.
7. Faith is given to us as gift!
8. We must be born again “from above” into faith through Baptism as Jesus
declares to Nicodemus in John 3:3.
B. The Israelites of Paul’s day took pride and comfort in their ancestry as
blood descendants of Abraham.
1. But Abraham had two sons:
A. Ishmael and Isaac.
B. Only one was an Israelite.
2. Isaac had twin sons:
A. Jacob and Esau
B. But only one was the forerunner of the Christ and the son of the promise.
C. In God’s eyes, a true Israelite, a true child of Abraham, is not one by
natural birth but by faith in the promise of Christ (Romans 9:6–8).
1. You can’t prove that with a genetic test.
2. You can only trust your Baptism, which tells you who your spiritual
Daddy is.
D. Salvation Is through Faith in the Promise of Christ, Not in Works of the
E. “You are my beloved Son,” the Father said at Jesus’ Baptism.
1. You are my beloved child, said the Lord to you in your Baptism.
A. Joined to Christ in baptismal faith, you are born into the “right side
of salvation history.”
B. That is, the side of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus.
C. Amen.
F. Let us pray:
LSB 580:1,6 The Gospel Shows the Father’s Grace
The Gospel shows the Father’s grace,
Who sent His Son to save our race,
Proclaims how Jesus lived and died
That we might thus be justified.

May we in faith its message learn
Nor thanklessly its blessings spurn;
May we in faith its truth confess
And praise the Lord, our righteousness.
Text: Public domain
G. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts
and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
H. In the Name of the Father…Amen.