Romans Bible Guide – Day 26
March 11, 2016
Previously, in Romans: Paul has retold the story of Israel, reminding the Romans that God in inclined toward mercy but whether people reject or receive that mercy is unpredictable. So far, both have continued to happen.
30 What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31 but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. 32 Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,
“See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
10 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Points of Interest:
- ‘righteousness through faith’ – Paul is back to the language of Chapters 1-4, when he insisted that for all of human history – or at least since Abraham – God has made people right through trusting him, not through human status or achievement.
- ‘Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it’ – Obviously, given the last chapter, Paul isn’t praising all Gentiles and criticizing all Jews. He is highlighting the irony that people who weren’t looking to be right with God found it, and that others who cared about this so much have missed it.
- ‘a stone that will make people stumble’ – So many Jews missed what God was doing because they got tripped up on this stone that God himself put there. What’s the stone, and why would God do such a thing?Well, the stone is likely Jesus, who is sometimes compared to a stone that builders reject who then becomes the cornerstone, the most important stone in the new building. (Psalm 118:22, Acts 4:11) Here Paul is quoting directly from the prophet Isaiah (28:16 and 8:14), again from contexts that many Jews thought related to God’s promised King, the Messiah. Jesus – a Messiah who dies to redeem and reconcile rather than conquers to restore land and political freedom – is a disappointment, a reject. But he becomes the centerpiece in God’s extension of mercy. On these terms, God isn’t trying to trip people up. God offers himself as he is – sacrificial, compassionate, merciful – and can’t help it if people don’t recognize him.
- ‘not be put to shame’ – Paul echoes earlier themes that trusting in the shameful scandal of the cross means being free from all of society’s honor/shame codes and never again fearing shame.
- ‘they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened’ – Zeal for God, in Jewish history and in Paul’s first century context, was seen as a passion for devoted obedience to God and defending God’s honor against human opposition. Paul, just as Jesus did, sees this zeal in an unenlightened passion for God’s law that is in opposition to the love and sacrifice and peace seen in Jesus on the cross. God is not looking for “fanatical violence”, but “acceptance of grace.” (Jewett, Romans, 131-132) For now, Paul sees many of his fellow Jews stuck in this kind of zealous so-called righteousness that keeps them from God. He prays that they’ll discover God’s righteousness in Jesus and set aside their law.
Taking It Home:
For you – There is nothing you can do to make God love and accept you more than he does today. It is all on the basis of faith. If you believe in Jesus, you will never be put to shame. Meditate on these assurances for you.
For your world – Pray for the religious zealots of our own time, be they Islamic jihadists or Christian separatists or fundamentalists of any stripe. Pray that they would find “righteousness through faith” and set aside their “law of works” and find peace with God and others.