“Wrestling With Romans”
Faith, not Works (Chapter 9 Verses 30-33)
The promise and the mercy of God, the means by which God pursued Israel and sought to win them, but didn’t, what do we make of it all then (v30)? There’s only one answer. It’s a question of faith. The gentiles had the word of God preached to them and through faith, believing what they heard received the righteousness of God. They weren’t looking for it, it came to them in the apostolic preaching of the gospel and they believed it, simple as that. But then that’s how it was with so many Christians, the Lord laid hold upon them, when they weren’t looking for him, and a people who weren’t the people of God, like Israel, become the people of God (v25). It’s not that Israel weren’t pursuing righteousness, O yes they were, but not God’s way, by faith. They sought it their own way, works righteousness, through the law, but as hard as they tried, running and running, all they succeeded in doing was running themselves into the ground, they never caught up with the law (vv31-32). The standard required by the law is perfection (Romans 3.20), one transgression and you’re out (James 2.10-11; Romans 3.23). In God’s appointed way there’s no work involved (Romans 4.4-5), grace requires no work, simple reception, a received righteousness by faith (v32; Romans 6.23b). So who wants to work?
The point of their falling short, ultimately? A stone. A stone over which they stumbled (v32b). The stumbling spoken of here is not that of someone tripping over, then picking yourself up, and dusting self down and then carrying on. No, it’s a stumbling which is fatal, you fall and smash yourself to pieces, you totally ruin yourself. The stone is Jesus Christ (v33; 1Peter 26-8; Isaiah 28.16). This is the ultimate consequences of Christ rejection, of unbelief. The will of God is that people should be saved, and sending his Son into the world for that purpose demonstrates that will, and his love for humankind (John 3.16; Romans 5.6-8). Do not doubt that will. Paul finishes the chapter on a high, a positive note (v33b), those who believe, in faith receive Jesus, will be gloriously justified. So the reason why the Jews were rejected? Not a failure of the word of God, no, no! They had the promise, they had the assurance of God’s mercy, no fault in God whatever. The fault was theirs, unbelief, hardness of heart. But be assured, faith will never be disappointed. His word stands, believe it!
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)