People Still Stumble Over Jesus
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 9:30a What should we say then?
Since God in His own pleasure had saved Jews by grace in the past, Paul now asked a pertinent question. What is God’s plan resulting in right now; what is happening in His current economy?
Romans 9:30b Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have
obtained righteousness—namely the righteousness that comes
There can be no salvation without righteousness. This refers not to goodness or morality, but to a legal transaction. In salvation, righteousness refers to that which is necessary to satisfy the demands of God against us.
Gentiles were not concerned about righteousness. They needed salvation, but never considered trying to be right with Israel’s God. His righteousness was something they knew nothing of, and had no desire for.
Nevertheless, God in sovereign mercy came to them. What He had said on another occasion was true now: “I was sought by those who did not ask; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said: Here I am, here I am, to a nation that was not called by My name” (Isaiah 65:1).
The Gentiles found something they were not seeking. They were like the man who grabbed a shrub to keep from falling. He noticed the shrub was very loose. Pulling it up, he found a huge stash of silver buried beneath it,
The Gentiles were not seeking righteousness. This proved to be to their advantage. They heard the message of Jesus with no preconceived notions. When confronted with God’s love in Jesus, many of them melted before the story of the cross. Gentiles immediately knew they had no righteousness. Hence, they welcomed a righteousness freely given by God.
Romans 9:31-32a But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has
not achieved the righteousness of the law. Why is that? Because
they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works.
Oddly enough, the Jews, who were always concerned about being right with God, were failing to please Him. Why? Because they refused to be saved on God’s terms. They wanted salvation based on works. They wanted to trust themselves, not God. A desire to be saved by law reveals an unwillingness to accept God’s righteousness offered through Jesus’ death.
The Jews wanted a concept of salvation that put God in their debt. They wanted to accumulate credit and have God owe them. It was their desire to earn the friendship of God and merit His favor by human effort. They never understood the full extent of human depravity.
Gentiles, on the other hand, were content to be in debt to God. They had no problem seeing their own sinfulness. Gentiles were satisfied with trusting on the things God had done for them. Blessed are the sinners who recognize their own unworthiness and receive grace.
Election is integral to the doctrine of salvation. We must believe God saves solely on the basis of Sovereign choice and grace. To receive God’s righteousness, we must be convinced we cannot save ourselves. Once this is acknowledged, a sinner can turn to Christ in total, absolute faith, but the Jews would not believe this. Their spiritual pride became their downfall.
Romans 9:32b-33a They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is
written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble overand a rock to trip over.
This Rock is Jesus, as the end of verse 33 will reveal. The Rock of Ages became a stone of stumbling to them. What was meant to be their greatest blessing became their utter ruin. Their obstinacy was so strong that they were able to suck poison out of the Balm of Gilead (Henry).
Their rejection did not surprise God. The nation merely did what He predicted they would do. God sent them a Rock of refuge, but they treated it like a Rock of refuse. They were shipwrecked, not saved, at the Rock.
Sadly, the error of the Jews is still repeated today. People continue to take offense at Jesus. Many stumble over Christ due to His holiness. They find His ways too strict. They would become Christ-followers, but refuse to give up sinful pleasures. They prefer wallowing in sin over being washed in Jesus’ blood. Christ disapproves of sin; human nature kicks against this.
Some are offended at God’s plan of salvation. Salvation by faith demeans the value of one’s works. If trusting in Christ is the key, then every person is humbled, no one is good or deemed better than anyone else.
In earning salvation, a preacher has no advantage over a drug dealer; a deacon over a prostitute; a church-attender over one who frequents taverns. This repulses some because it offends their pride. Friend, for the sake of your soul, bury hellish pride; send it back to the pit before it sends you there.
Righteousness is a gift only God can provide. He must give it freely of His grace. If we seek to produce our own righteousness, we have set up ourselves as competitors against God, trying to rob Him of His prerogative.
To seek salvation in us denies everything Christ died for. To disdain God’s righteousness offered in Jesus is a furious assault on God’s designs.
Do not go to war with the Almighty. Avoid trying to overwhelm the Rock of Ages. The end of such folly can only yield disaster, but trusting in Jesus will yield wonderful results.
Romans 9:33b yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.
All who trust in Christ never have to fear their faith will someday prove in vain. This is why we gladly place our complete trust in Jesus.
The world says, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This is wise advice for human things, but the opposite holds sway in spiritual things. They who put all their confidence in Jesus shall never “be put to shame”.
Scoffers may shame us for it now, but someday we will be vindicated. At the last we will not be disappointed. Imagine living in a community of 50 people, with you being the only believer there. The scoffing and ridicule would be devastating; people of culture would call you undignified, people of learning would call you ignorant, philosophers would call you peculiar.
But view the scene 100 years later. The community is a ghost town. All that remains is a cemetery with 50 tombstones marking the final earthly residence of the citizens. Suddenly a trumpet blasts and all 50 are revived. It is Resurrection Day; a voice from Heaven is heard calling, “Where is He?”
The fifty reply, “Who are you looking for?”
Michael replies, “The one who trusted in Christ.”
Imagine King Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then appearing at your side. No more laughter now. All hooting is ended. Your triumph is complete as Jesus Himself escorts you into the very bosom of Heaven itself.
Lost friend, I know this is what you ultimately want. However, if you hope to have Heaven as the result of trying, you will be bitterly disappointed someday. You must trust totally on Christ. You claim you think highly of Jesus, but your words are worthless until you invite Jesus to reign over you. You must let Him wear the crown in your heart.
Give up on self-help, acknowledge your powerlessness, confess your sinfulness. Take the final decisive step and believe on Jesus.