Don’t Turn Blessings Into Curses
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 11:5 (Holman) In the same way, then, there is also at the present time
a remnant chosen by grace.
The vast majority of Israel was unrepentant and unbelieving. Nevertheless, some were trusting in Jesus. “Remnant” refers to what is left, a few of many.
Paul was reminding the faithful few they have no right to boast. People who stay true in dangerous times should not brag. Their faithfulness is due to God’s election by grace. It is a gift bestowed on the undeserving.
Romans 11:6 Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases
to be grace.
“Grace” means unmerited favor: “works” refers to rewarded effort. “Grace” says salvation is received only through faith. “Works” say salvation can be earned.
To put grace and works together destroys both. They are mutually exclusive; establishing one necessitates overturning the other. If salvation is by grace, nothing can be done to earn it. If salvation is by works, then it is not a gift of grace. The two are opposites, but people persist in efforts to join the two in an unholy alliance.
Pride wants to mix its own human merit with God’s grace. This is foolish. When climbing a tree, standing on two branches at once is dangerous if one is rotten. Don’t try to mix our self-righteous rags with Christ’s white linen.
Our puny efforts won’t mix with His pure blood. To shine, our sun needs no help from a flashlight; to save, God’s Son does not need our weak help.
Regarding salvation, the issue is ultimately a matter of simple math. Once a debt is paid, nothing is left to be paid. Jesus paid for the full guilt of our sin. As the songwriter said, “I owed a debt I could not pay; He paid a debt He did not owe.” All that remains for unbelievers to be saved is receiving their pardon.
Salvation is so much of grace that it cannot be earned in the first place, cannot be paid back in the second place, and cannot be forfeited in the third place. Grace, grace all of grace – forever let it be our theme.
Romans 11:7a What then? Israel did not find what it was looking for, but the
elect did find it.
Since salvation is of grace, how did Israel fare in receiving it? Most sought righteousness; they wanted to be right with God (9:31), but failed to find it (9:32) because they sought it on the basis of works. The majority missed the prize, but the elect, those chosen and called of God, found salvation. Most said “No,” but some submitted to receiving salvation God’s way, by faith.
Israel’s rejection of God’s grace brought terrible consequences. May the present day unbeliever hear and learn…
Romans 11:7b-8 The rest were hardened, as it is written: God gave them a
spirit of insensitivity, eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear, to
Before we seek to understand these words from Isaiah (29:10) and Deuteronomy (29:4), let’s remember God never pushed anyone away from saving grace. Maliciousness is contrary to all we know of God.
Sin was brought about by Satan and Adam. With the entrance of this alien into our world, God had to establish operable rules controlling and inhibiting sin.
If people choose to live in sin, a Divine mechanism is triggered. Certain laws automatically come into play. Our text refers to certain ones of these laws.
Every sin is punished. Rejecting the Holy Spirit’s call is definitely a sin. Therefore, it must be punished. A sinner cannot fly in the face of God and walk away unscathed. The punishment for saying “No!” to God is that it becomes harder to say “Yes.” Every rejection of Jesus makes the sinner more hardened. Every refusal sends a lost person deeper and deeper into darkness.
“Insensitivity” refers to a callus that covers the skin and causes that part of the body to lose feeling. The skin grows numb and impervious. God has ordained that a person’s stubbornness will be allowed to harden into greater insensitivity.
People sink into a “spirit of insensitivity,” a stupor of unconcern. They seem in a daze, bewildered about spiritual realities.
Neglecting God is a terrible sin. Blindness and hardening are scourges used by God to punish this crime. These are terrible enough alone, but there is more…
Romans 11:9-10 And David says: Let their feasting become a snare and a trap,
a pitfall and a retribution to them. Let their eyes be darkened so
they cannot see, and their backs be bent continually.
This is a frightening picture of what happens to those who reject God. Our text portrayed people sitting together at a banquet totally content, believing all is well. Suddenly, calamity befalls unexpectedly. What had been enjoyable suddenly became a nightmare.
Even so, lost people feel secure. They think all is well, but danger is imminent. Trouble is coming, as David (Psalm 69:22-23) described. “Snare” described meshes in which birds became entangled. It was a source of unexpected destruction. “Trap” was a device that caught wild animals, bringing loss and peril.
A “pitfall” caused one to fall unexpectedly headlong. “Retribution” refers to people receiving exactly what they deserve. “Eyes be darkened” portrays sinners groping in darkness, not knowing where to go. “Backs be bent” pictures life as having become bondage, misery, and humbling servitude.
Let me remind us of the setting in our text. The calamities came while people were at a table. What should have been desirable, a source of joy, turned out to be ruin and destruction.
Israel received many blessings, but had been lulled into a false sense of security. Thus, their ease became the means of their destruction.
For lost people, things that should be advantageous become obstacles. They are made worse by what should make them better. Their comforts become their ruin. They even take God’s mercies and turn them into instances of sin and misery.
God’s words to backslidden Israel apply to sinners today, “I will curse your blessings” (Malachi 2:2). For the wicked, things that would normally bring them closer to God often take them farther away. “The curse of God will turn meat into poison” (Henry).
Absalom was blessed with beauty and personality, benefits that should have evoked gratitude. Instead, he became a vain egotist, despising his own father. His blessing became a curse.
The Lord’s Supper is a blessing to the Church. It commemorates what Christ did for us. However, some look to the Lord’s Supper for salvation. This keeps them from repenting and trusting in Christ. Hence, the blessing becomes a curse.
The same can be said of baptism and a Christian home. Both are blessings, but if one seeks salvation in them, they become curses.
A person I know well was blessed with a phenomenal mind. He earned a doctor’s degree in an extremely difficult and complex field. His brilliance should have been used for the Lord, but instead, he rejected the first eleven chapters of Genesis, and renounced the faith of his fathers. His blessing became a curse.
God gave us a day of rest to be a blessing. However, the Japanese observed that we abused this blessing. They attacked Pearl Harbor on a Sunday morning because it would be a time of hangovers. Thus, our blessing became a curse.
Lost person, what is the greatest blessing in your life? Does it point you to God, or are you abusing your privilege? May that blessing no longer be a curse. Come to Jesus.