Summary: Paul teaches that God chooses those whom He will save; to those whom He does not save, Jesus becomes a stumbling stone, but to those He chooses He becomes the Rock of Salvation.
“The Sovereign Stone”
We looked at Romans 9, which records many Old Testament references from God’s Word concerning the Sovereignty of God. We saw how the Sovereign Potter works with mere clay in order to form some vessels for eternal honor and others for eternal wrath. We ended with that verse of HOPE from Romans 9:29: ”And just as Isaiah foretold, "UNLESS THE LORD OF SABAOTH HAD LEFT TO US A POSTERITY, WE WOULD HAVE BECOME LIKE SODOM, AND WOULD HAVE RESEMBLED GOMORRAH."
The entirety of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their rebellion, but because of God’s Mercy, Abraham and Lot were saved. (Even out of this remnant, Lot’s descendants became enemies of God out of disobedience, and SOME of Abraham’s descendants also became enemies of God.) BUT… the entirety of the human race deserves destruction, but out of God’s Grace, He chooses to save some: Those believers in Christ ARE the privileged people who are being saved.
Today we look at Romans 9:30-31: “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by (or “out of”) faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. (SOME Gentiles, who were not even seeking God’s righteousness, received it by faith yet most of Israel pursued A law of righteousness but did not arrive at THE LAW of righteousness…)
Verse 32-33 give the answer: Why ? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, "BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT be put to shame."
Jesus is A Sovereign Stumbling Stone to MOST
1. Because of an intense love for their own SIN instead of love for God, the Sovereign stumbling stone that caused MOST Israelites (and all unbelievers) to stumble and FALL was the Lord Jesus Christ; God placed that “stone” in Israel’s path, knowing full well that MOST of the world, including Israel, would reject the Messiah.
Part of Romans 9:33 is quoted from Isaiah 28:16: “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a COSTLY cornerstone (the BEST) for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed (or dismayed).” (The word “believes” in the Hebrew is “to stand firm”. The word was also used to describe the pillars of support around a doorway. Jesus is THE DOORWAY, the entrance, into the Kingdom of God.)
ALL people do not recognize Jesus as the COSTLY and BEST CORNERSTONE. To SOME, Jesus is a stone that they TRIP over; He is an impediment to their self-rule, an obstacle to their life style or to their recreation. They feel that they can MOVE JESUS, make Him less than God, make Him less Savior and LORD, trying to form Him into their image, but Jesus has been FIRMLY PLACED. He who DOES NOT BELIEVE IN HIM will be disturbed, troubled by this truth that He is THE only Way into the Kingdom of God. Without Him as the only way, they will not have Peace with God.
Another part of Romans 9:33 was from Isaiah 8:14: "Then He shall become a sanctuary; BUT to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
How and why did the Messiah who was promised to them become a stumbling stone and actually become OFFENSIVE to them? (The word for “offensive” is skandalon; we get the word “scandal” from that word. The word actually has the idea of getting caught in a trap!)
2.Unbelieving Israel, like ALL unrepentant people, are offended by Jesus and so he becomes a stone of offense, a trap. When a person “gets caught” in a trap, they become helpless and lose control. Jesus, as God’s perfect WORD in the FLESH, demonstrates our own sinful depravity, our own Unrighteousness, our inability to save ourselves. Jesus shows us that we as sinners are TOTALLY UNQUALIFIED to become citizens of God’s Holy Kingdom. That offends MULTITUDES of people!
Israel rejected Jesus because they loved their own sin, their own SELF-righteousness, their own adulteries, their chasing after gods of their own making. Jesus reveals to most of Israel and to UNBELIEVERS that sinners have the WRONG concept of GOD, the WRONG concept of God’s LAW, an underestimate of SIN, and therefore, the WRONG basis for SALVATION. YOU CANNOT MEET God’s standard and requirement in and of yourselves.
1 Peter 2: 7-8 says: "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone, and, "A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.” The wages of sin? Jesus reminds you that without trusting exclusively in CHRIST and His WORK, YOU are doomed to eternal death. Nobody likes the sound of that!