THE BASIS OF GOD'S CHOICE: FAITH vs. NO FAITH (30-33)
GOD’S ACTIONS ARE CONSISTENT WITH HIS REDEMPTIVE PLAN VERSES 30-33
- Though they had not actively been looking for it (30a)
- Yet many have attained righteousness through faith (30b)
- FOR THE GENTILES (30)
Once again Paul asked his familiar rhetorical question, What then shall we say? (cf. 4:1; 6:1; 8:31; 9:14) preparatory to his summation of this situation
Ro 1:17; 4:11; 10:20
The unbelief of Israel does not violate the prerequisite of God. And what is the prerequisite of God for a relationship to Him? What does God require from us to be related to Him? What's the one word? Faith.
This section is a welcome balance to the heavy dose of sovereignty we've been exposed to because this section talks about our responsibility, human responsibility, faith, faith. It puts us back in the divine tension where we're more comfortable, right? We get too heavy on the end of sovereignty and we really get confused, we really start bearing some heavy loads. And we need another side of that tension, that human responsibility, that faith. We need that apparent paradox, we need that balance again.
Now these are mutually exclusive things, the absolute and utter sovereignty of God planned before the world began, all worked out according to His plan, and our faith and our responsibility. They're mutually exclusive. They appear to us to be contradictory and opposite. They are in truth, however, not. It's just that our minds are too limited, we can't perceive it. In God's mind they have perfect harmony.
Paul moves from divine sovereignty to human responsibility. Note that Paul did not say “elect” and “nonelect,” but rather emphasized faith. Here is a paradox: the Jews sought for righteousness but did not find it, while the Gentiles, who were not searching for it, found it! The reason? Israel tried to be saved by works and not by faith. They rejected “grace righteousness” and tried to please God with “Law righteousness.” The Jews thought that the Gentiles had to come up to Israel’s level to be saved; when actually the Jews had to go down to the level of the Gentiles to be saved. “For there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:22–23). Instead of permitting their religious privileges (Rom. 9:1–5) to lead them to Christ, they used these privileges as a substitute for Christ.
Now Paul's been saying the Jews have no claim on salvation. . Only a remnant was supposed to be saved. So we're not surprised at that. It's no change in God's promise. It's no violation of His person and it's no alteration of His plan. And now he says what we've been waiting to hear. It was also their own fault. That's right. It was also their own fault. And if you can't figure how those two go together, just be happy that you're like every other person who ever faced this doctrine. We can't figure it out either. We just believe it.
He shows that unbelief was their responsibility and due to their own unbelief and their own rejection, they were guilty and they were judged on the basis of their own guilt. Ro 9:30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
There's no article here, that Gentiles who followed not after righteousness, who didn't pursue it, diōkō, to run swiftly after something, to run earnestly endeavoring to acquire it. That the people who never even chased it, who never even pursued it got it.
"What does he mean by that?" Just this, Gentiles are without God, without hope, without the Word of God, empty, abandoned to their sinful life. Read Romans 1, given over to lust, given over to evil, given over to reprobate mind. You think that the Gentiles, you think the mass of people in the world are pursuing the true God and His righteousness?
How to be right with God is not the main pursuit of the world, is it? The world is not madly trying to get right with the true God. And here is the world, all these Gentiles, who weren't pursuing it and when the gospel came, far more of them believed it than the Jews did.
Paul says isn't that shocking that the Gentiles who never even pursued righteousness as a way of life attained it. Galling to the Jew to hear him say this, by the way. But when the gospel came, that's exactly what happened.
Why? Here's the answer to the question I gave you at the beginning. Because the greatest obstacle to salvation is self- righteousness. You understand that? Because you can't get saved if you don't know you need it, right? And that's what hung up the Jews. They thought they were already righteous. You see, they had spent their whole life pursuing a right relationship with God through their own efforts. So when the gospel came and condemned their sin, it did not compute because they thought themselves righteous. So the Jews rejected, except for a small remnant, small remnant.
The Gentiles who followed not after righteousness have attained to righteousness, How did the Gentiles get saved? How did the Gentiles come to righteousness?" Sovereign election; God chose them before the foundation of the world. That's not what it says. It says, they attained to righteousness, watch this in verse 30, the end of the verse, even the righteousness which is by election. Is that what it says? No. Which is what? Faith. Aren't you happy to see that? Doesn't that relieve some of the pressure? Now you're back in balance again, aren't you?
He says this, "Even the righteousness (should be) which is by faith." Did they get it by works? No. Does he talk about sovereign election? He's now turned a corner and he's talking about human responsibility. He says, "Hey, the Gentiles who never even as a way of life pursued a right relationship with God got one by faith." Believing, that's the heart of the gospel, beloved. That's the heart of the gospel. Go back through Romans, chapter 1 verse 17, chapter 3 verse 21, verse 22, verse 28, verse 30, chapter 4 verse 3, verse 9, verse 10, verse 11, verse 12, verse 16, 17, 18, 19, all the way to 25, chapter 5 verse 1, chapter 10 verses 3, 6, and 10, on Philippians 3:9,
How many places can you read in the Bible where the writer talks about salvation by faith? It's the heart of the gospel. We are justified by faith. And there's the human response. The Gentile got it not because he was elect, but because he believed. That's the balance of human responsibility.
- FOR ISRAEL (31-33)
- Though diligent for the Law, did not have the attitude of faith (31-32a)
31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
Ro 10:2; 11:7; Ga 5:4
Verse 31: "But Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness."
Did they do that? The word "law" means principle, or standard. They pursued the principle of righteousness. It was a way of life, we must be righteous, we must be righteous, we've got to do this and not do that and do this and not do that. And they had all this countless prescriptions pursuing the principle of righteousness, pursuing the standard of righteousness incessantly as a way of life they did that. And they did it all by what? By works. Proud-hearted legalists pursuing self-righteously a right relationship to God and it says they went after the law of righteousness and they did not attain it. They didn't get it.
32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law
You say, "They weren't elect, weren't chosen." It's not what it says. You say, "Why didn't they get it?" Verse 32, that's what Paul says, why? Why didn't they get it? Because they sought it not by what? By faith." That simple. There is salvation by seeking with faith, not pursuing by works. I'm going to get better, I'm going to do better, I'm going to act better, I'm going to think better, I'm going to talk better and God will like me better and then I'll be okay with Him.
No, it's saying, the only thing that you can do to be saved is to believe that you can do nothing to be saved and cast yourself on the mercy of God.
Some of the Gentiles did that, great numbers of them. A few Jews did. But Israel, who all their life had pursued a standard of righteousness, never got it because they sought it not by faith. But it says, as it were, "by the works of the law." They tried to get it by law keeping, by their own abilities. In fact, a gracious, merciful salvation given as a free gift was an offense to a self-righteous Jew, because it said none of your works matter, none of your works count and he couldn't handle that. That's why they rejected Jesus with such anger, such bitterness, such hatred because they were so offended that all their life-long of all these righteous deeds added up to Zero and when they looked at the cross and they were told this man is dying for your sins, the cross was to them what? First Corinthians 1, foolishness, foolishness, it offended them, it offended them.
Paul says, "Well, they didn't get it because they didn't believe. And the Gentiles got it because they believed. And that's how you get it, by believing." And that's the perfect balance to the sovereignty of God.
Now Paul wants to sort of affirm his point so he does what he's done through the whole chapter, he quotes two Old Testament prophetic texts. One prophet, two texts. He quotes from Isaiah 8:14 and Isaiah 28:16. Verse 32, the end of the verse, "For they stumbled at that stumbling stone." That's drawn from Isaiah 8:14. Isaiah predicted that they would stumble on a stumbling stone. That's right. He predicted it. So we're not shocked. We're not surprised that the Jew didn't believe because Isaiah said they stumbled at the stone. And that's what they did. Jesus came and said He was the cornerstone, didn't He? The chief cornerstone, but for some He was a stone of what? Stumbling, a stone of stumbling.
The Isaiah 8:14 passage directly refers to God. God is the stone in Isaiah 8:14. In the New Testament, Christ is the stone. What does that tell you about Christ? He's God. Another affirmation of His deity. For 1 Peter 2:8 affirms that Christ is that stone over which the Jews stumbled.
- And therefore stumbled over Christ, as foretold by Isaiah (32b-33)
32bFor they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
Lu 2:34; 1Co 1:23
33 As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
Ps 118:22; Isa 8:14; 28:16; Mt 21:42; Ro 10:11; 1Pe 2:6-8
Paul closes out the chapter with a reference to one other text in Isaiah, Isaiah 28:16, and he combines it with his Isaiah 8:14,15 passage. He just puts them together. "As it is written from Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14 to 15, Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of offense and whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed." He puts those together. Jesus Christ for some is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense. He offends. He causes people to fall over. And the stumbling stone can have, I think, the primary imagery of they trip over Him. They don't notice His significance. That's one element of it.
The other one is that He gets in the way of their pursuit. He's bothersome. He's an irritant. The rock of offense, He offends them. Christ came and He caused them to stumble in their self-righteous pursuit. He confronted them and they tripped all over the place and He offended them.
But whoever believed on Him shall not be ashamed. What does that mean? Well, a better way to translate that, comparing it with Isaiah 28:16 would be "shall not be fearful." I like that. Shall not be fearful. Whoever believes, whosoever believes, how did this get in Romans 9? Whosoever believes... Did Paul convert to Methodism at the end of the chapter? Did he get Arminian? Whosoever? That's the balance. Whosoever believes has no reason to fear. He'll cause some people to stumble. He'll cause some people to be offended. And He will be a crushing and a smiting stone in judgment. But for those who believe on Him, whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed.
The issue then is faith. Do you believe or don't you believe? That's the issue. You must decide about Christ. You're going to run along saying, "I'm okay, I'm okay the way I am, I'm okay." And Christ is going to get in the middle of your road and going to say, "No you're not. You're a vile, wretched sinner and all your righteousness adds up to is filthy rags and you can't get to God by your own works." And He's going to make you stumble in the path. And He's going to offend you. And you can just be offended and call it all foolishness and try to get around it and pursue it and then He's going to be a smiting stone, the Bible says, in judgment. Or, you can say, "Hey, I believe it." And if you believe it you have nothing to what? To fear, no judgment to fear.
So justification by grace through faith is true. And the unbelief of Israel doesn't in one sense violate God's promise, His person, His plan or His prerequisite. His prerequisite has always been the same. We're saved by Faith. There is a remnant because God chose a remnant. There is a remnant because it is only a few who believe. And that's the way God knew it would be and that's the way He planned it to be and that's the way it works out, so it doesn't do away with the truth of the gospel.
- You can pursue God, without finding God if it is done in the wrong way and not by faith, but by works.
- God has not abandoned Israel even though only a remnant are saved
- The church is like Israel, there are only really a few, a remnant that are truly saved