Tag Archives: rock of offense

Romans 9:30-33 – God’s Stone of Stumbling


Review and Introduction:

Last week we fully fleshed out God’s purpose of election – Paul’s main thought of Romans 9.

  • We now understand how the Jews who rejected the Messiah were part of God’s purpose of election.


God had always purposed to:

  • Include believing Gentiles with believing Jews.


God had always purposed to:

  • Preserve a remnant of believing Jews to which the believing Gentiles would be joined.
  • And mold all of them together into “vessels of mercy”.


God had always purposed to:

  • Use his judging righteousness against the unbelieving Jews to facilitate Gentile inclusion.
  • This included the destruction of the Temple in 70.
  • This included Paul’s call to the Gentile mission after Jewish rejection.


In our text today…

  • Paul closes out chapter 9 with another question and answer session.



Paul’s Question:

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why?


Paul’s question here is really an implication of all that he has been teaching about God’s purpose of election.

  • His point is made with 4 separate phrases/sentences.
  • We can tease out Paul’s point with a paraphrase of each.


Pauline paraphrase:

  • (1) “Yes…what I’m about to say is accurate.”
  • (2) “The Gentiles were ‘righteoused’ by God through faith even though they didn’t have the law.”
  • (3) “And Israel, who had the law – a tutor to righteousness – failed to reach righteousness”.
  • (4) “How do we make sense of this?”


Paul is pointing out that, because of God’s purpose of election…

  • The believing Gentiles have attained through faith (allegiance or believing loyalty)…
  • The very righteousness (made right with God) that Israel had been pursuing for over 1000 years, and yet failed to attain.


It is this truth that leads him to ask, using our paraphrase,

  • “How do we make sense of this?”



Paul’s Answer:

Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”


To begin with, Paul points out that Israel’s relationship with the law was off track.

  • They did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works” (vs. 32).


Michael Bird gives some examples of this wrong pursuit:

“…the Torah prescribes regulations for right conduct and for a right covenant standing before God. But…this could be accentuated to the point that covenant righteousness becomes the presumption of those who think they are adhering to the Torah rightly, whether by sacred violence (Zealots), by promoting priestly purity (Pharisees), by revisioning calendrical regulations and cultic purity (Essenes), or by continual sacrifice and temple purity (Sadducees)” – Michael Bird.


And in addition to the above we have also:

  • The idea that righteousness is attained through Jewish ethnicity…
  • Or having the correct badges of membership of the people of God – circumcision, Sabbath observance, etc.


All of these were their wrongheaded attempts to:

  • Try and demonstrate that, “…that they were the true children of Abraham” – N.T. Wright.


Paul covered this same ground at the end of Romans 3 and into Romans 4.

  • At that time, we learned something about the law that will help us here.



Law Review:

N.T. Wright helped us understand how Israel’s relationship with the law was “off”.

  • He suggested that the law was taken by Israel and put to the wrong tune – the tune of works.
  • The law, he said, “was always designed to be sung to the tune called ‘faith’.” – N.T. Wright.
  • Sung to the right tune – faith – the law becomes a beautiful song of worship and gratitude.


So, Paul is telling us now, that because of God’s purpose of election…

  • The believing Gentiles have been given, and are singing the right tune.
  • Yet the Israelites that rejected the Messiah continue to play the wrong tune with the law.


And ultimately, this causes them to stumble.



Stone of Stumbling:

They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame (vss. 32b-33).


With this, Paul now drops yet another brutal truth-bomb.

  • His explanation for why Israel went so off track is itself part of God’s purpose of election.


BTW – Here Paul combines two texts from Isaiah.

  • “The wording is drawn from Isa. 28:16, into which Paul inserts the language of Isa. 8:14” – G.K. Beale.
  • And his, “…joining of the two passages appears…to have been without precedent in early Judaism” – G.K. Beale.


So what does Paul intend to tell us through his unusual use of Isaiah?


Again, Beale can help us out:

“Paul finds in the pattern of God’s dealings with Israel in judgment and salvation a pattern (type) that has come to fulfillment in his eschatological dealings with them in Christ” – G.K. Beale.



So let’s flesh out Paul’s NT use of Isaiah as a pattern found in Christ.


Paul has said the unbelieving Jews have played the wrong tune with the law.

  • This has resulted in severe consequences.


One consequence is that they “have stumbled over the stumbling stone”.

  • They have stumbled over Christ.


And this stumbling has happened as Isaiah said it would.

  • “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame”


God the Father established this stone or rock – Jesus – in Zion (Jerusalem).

  • He did so by raising Christ from the dead and exalting Him to His right hand.
  • And yet, the Jews have rejected Him.


And here is Paul’s point:

  • Christ is the “foundation for the new people of God; the keystone in the plan of salvation. Yet rather than building on that stone, putting their faith in it, Israel has stumbled over it” – Doug Moo.


But the remnant and the believing Gentiles have given Him their allegiance and trust.

  • They “will not be put to shame”.


BTW – “According to the MT of Isa 8:14 God himself will become ‘a stone of offense’” – EDNT.

  • This is yet another instance in the NT where Jesus is associated with the uniqueness of Yahweh.
  • An association that needs an explanation.


The reason all of this is so important to Paul is that he witnessed the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

  • That is – the stumbling of Israel, and the belief of the remnant and the Gentile.


Paul’s witness:

  • Acts 13:43–48 (ESV) — 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
  • Acts 14:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.
  • Acts 17:1–5 (ESV) — 1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.


Moo will close us out:

  • “Israel’s exclusion from God’s people as a result of the gospel does not constitute a departure from the OT. Quite the contrary, Paul here implies: Israel’s stumbling over Christ was predicted in the OT” – Doug Moo.


We will follow up on Paul’s train of thought next week, as we begin Romans 10.