Stumbling Over the Stumbling Stone—Romans 9:30-33

"What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame" (Romans 9:30-33)

What a shock Paul's statement must has been to the Jew steeped in rituals and law. This proclamation comes as an awakening to many of our churches today. The only way to obtain the righteousness that the law prescribes is by faith not works. The gentiles who did not follow after righteousness or seek salvation and relationship to God found it through faith in Jesus by believing the gospel message they heard. They believed in him and God imputed his righteousness to them. This only happens through faith. In the same way, the Jews who sought God through what they did and did not do, never obtained it because they never trusted in God to justify them. They only looked to themselves and their self righteousness to fulfill the law. Paul said they stumbled over the stumbling stone and fell flat.

Jesus is the only way to heaven. He said in John, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" ( John 14:6 ). Jesus is the precious cornerstone that Isaiah prophesied about, "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed" ( Isaiah 28:16 ). He is the rock of our salvation and the basis of our entire foundation. Those who have looked to him have found security and eternal life in Him. However to those who reject him, he is a stumbling stone in the way. They approach God with their works hoping to find justification, but run into this precious stone and trip and fall. Isaiah said, "and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare" ( Isaiah 8:14 ). Meaning that they are so self absorbed in their own virtue that they never noticed God's salvation right in front of them providing the way. He is placed directly in our paths. To those who rely on themselves they find him in the way. To those who trust Him they find he is the way.

Knowing all of this, it makes sense that Paul declares that Israel as a whole did not obtain the righteousness they sought. The reason is that they relied upon their merit and not upon God's grace. Isaiah said, "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD : Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many" ( Isaiah 51:1-2 ). They were always suppose to look to God for their salvation. Through faith they were always suppose to be part of the promise spoken to Abraham. They were fashioned and created as God's people on the earth and he wanted them to be dependant upon him. However because of the law they started looking and trusting in themselves instead of God's grace and mercy and missed Jesus along the way.

This has huge implications for us today. We too are called to belong to the promised of grace. However, many rely on themselves and what they do to find salvation instead of trusting Jesus to save them. Many go to church and go through motions in order to prove their goodness before God and satisfy His requirements. Many look to themselves and their own self righteousness thinking that they are good enough. However we will never be good enough on our own. It is only by grace that we are saved and this is through faith in Jesus and this is a gift from God ( Ephesians 2:8-9 ).

Just as we cannot work our way to heaven on our own merit, we cannot work our way through the Christians life. We may start out by trusting in Jesus as their savior only to put that aside to live a life of works. However this will not cut it either. The Christian life is based upon a heart change through the grace offered in Jesus. Everything else branches out from that. Whatever we do must be rooted and cultivated in love as our motivation and not what we can do for God. When we trust in Jesus as our savior and live out of that gift of grace, we will never be disappointed because our lives are built upon that precious cornerstone and sure foundation.

Today, I am blessed to be "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord" ( Ephesians 2:20-21 ). Through faith in Jesus, you also are counted among this rich heritage. May you live your life by trusting, relying and depending upon Christ for everything. When you do you will find exceeding joy and expression in His grace for evermore, amen!

Posted in Romans 9

Only a Remnant Will Be Saved—Romans 9:27-29

"Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality." It is just as Isaiah said previously: "Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah" (Romans 9:27-29)

God looked ahead and saw the corruption that would befall mankind. Each generation gets more wicked and more evil. Even among Israel, sin's stronghold grew and they turned away from God every chance they got. Isaiah spoke that unless God left them descendants they would have faired like Sodom and Gomorrah and be completely destroy by that corruption. Fortunately for us, we are the descendants that Isaiah spoke about. The true children of God are born again believers who have put their trust in Jesus as their savior. God was not satisfied in letting His descents struggle under the power of sin any longer. So he provided a way for his children to be living children, born again with His spirit sustaining life on the inside. This can only be accomplished through Christ Jesus.

This is an amazing truth, because Paul has been teaching that not all of Israel is truly of the promise spoken to Abraham, only those who are born out of faith belong to it ( Romans 9:8 ). This was the way God provided for us to escape from the corruption in the world. He has given everyone a choice, even the natural line of Abraham which is the nation of Israel. They too have to come into faith and trust in Jesus as their savior, not relying on the Law of Moses and their works to accomplish their justification. Paul is quoting from Isaiah when he said that only the remnant will be saved. "Though your people, O Israel, be like the sand by the sea, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed, The Lord, the LORD Almighty, will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land" ( Isaiah 10:22-23 ). Although they number as great as the sands of the sea only a small number will be saved from perdition. This is a sobering realization, especially since the Jews have a wonderful heritage. However, God calls us by name and has chosen us to be his children. It is a matter of the heart and not a matter of belonging to a natural line. He calls and invites and we have to respond in faith, nothing more and nothing less.

Right now this call is open but eventually God will conclude his accounts with men completely. At that time, the only thing that will matter is what we have done with Jesus. Do we accept him as our savior and our propitiation for sin? Or do we reject him and rely on our own works to obtain reconciliation with God. Paul is pleading grace with his own people even though most have rejected Jesus. Isaiah prophesied it and Paul is reminding this nation that Jesus is the only way. We too have to accept this message and understand this grace. Once we do this, we are counted among the true children of Israel, God's chosen people on earth through faith in Jesus' atoning blood. We are the descendants that Isaiah looked forward to so that God's people would survive and flourish on the earth.

Today, if you believe in Jesus you have been joined to the remnant of Jews that have been saved. God has called for himself a people that were previously not a people and has called us beloved where previously we were not loved ( Romans 9:24-26 ). All of this is by his grace. Today, it is my prayer that you understand this grace and let it be the foundation of every truth that God leads you into, amen.

Posted in Romans 9

I will Call Them My People Who Are Not My People—Romans 9:24-26

"Even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he says in Hosea: "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one," and, "It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God'" (Romans 9:24-26)

What marvelous grace is this that we should be called sons and daughters of the living God? What a wonderful thing to be called not only from among the Jews but from the Gentiles as well. God's amazing redemption plan has provided a way for us to come to him and receive grace and mercy when we alone were hopeless. Paul started this chapter with a desire that his own people of Israel would recognize Jesus as their Messiah and come to him ( Romans 9:1-3 ). However as a whole they have rejected this and so Paul lays out evidence that only those who belong to Jesus belong to the promise spoken to Abraham ( Romans 9:8 ). Paul shows the severity of rejecting salvation through Jesus and demonstrates Gods patience towards them in turning away from such a gift ( Romans 9:22-23 ).

In today's passage he shows from Old Testament scripture that the Gentiles redemption through faith in Jesus has always been a part of the plan. God has called and chosen a people both from the Jews and from the Gentile nations. Hosea prophesied this very thing, "I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one. ' I will say to those called 'Not my people, ' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.' " ( Hosea 2:23 ). What an amazing truth this is. God calls the nobodies and makes them some bodies. Previously everyone outside of the Jewish nation was disregarded as completely separate and incapable of being part of the promise. But God looked upon us and called us His beloved and then went one step further and called us sons of the living God.

This is a hard thing for the Jews to understand and reconcile in their hearts. They do belong to a wonderful heritage of covenants, promises and patriarchs but this alone does not save ( Romans 9:4-5 ). John the Baptist told the teacher of the Law who questioned him, "And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire" ( Matthew 3:9-10 ). It is not the natural children that are Abrahams seed and heirs of the promise, inclusion in the promise only comes by faith in Jesus ( Romans 9:8 ). And God has opened this offer to all of humanity and has raise a people set apart for himself.

There is a parallel for us today, many people think that just because they go to church and recite liturgies, the Apostles Creed and the Lord's prayer that this is all that God desires from them. Many rest securely in belonging to a church and attending regularly. However Jesus said in Revelation, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth" ( Revelation 3:15-16 ). What an awakening this will be. God does not desire your rituals and obligation, he desires your heart. He looks over the multitudes of people which cannot be counted and says to those who put their trust in him, you are my children ( Hosea 1:10 ). He has redeemed us from and empty way of life such as this, Peter said, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God ( I Peter 1:18-21 ). Our hope is in Jesus not in attending church and responsive readings, belonging to God only comes through faith in Jesus and in a changed heart.

Today, I am blessed to be counted among God's children and among his chosen people in the world. It is my prayer that you understand your position of grace in His kingdom and that everything you do flows out of a heart for the Lord. May you continue to grow in His grace, amen!

Posted in Romans 9

Objects of His Wrath and Objects of His Mercy—Romans 9:22-23

"What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory" (Romans 9:22-23)

Mankind has free will and God will not override our choices in life. Throughout our entire life time we are presented with the opportunity to accept the gospel message, which has the power to save us, or we can reject it. The outcome of this choice is based solely upon us. God does not choose for us, nor does he predestine some to be saved and some to be damned. Predestination rests solely upon His foreknowledge of our acceptance of His grace ( Romans 8:29, I Peter 1:2 ). He knew who would accept his message and so he also chose them based upon that foreknowledge. In the same way, He knew who would reject him and so they were prepared for destruction based upon that foreknowledge of their free will and choice.

In today's passage Paul writes to us that God endured with exceeding patience the objects of his wrath. These are the individuals that have rejected his salvation message and the payment for their sin. These individuals are destined for destruction of their own volition because they have chosen this path for their life and have rejected Jesus. It is easy to struggle over a statement such as this and focus on the wrath of God towards them, but what about his enduring patience concerning them? They are clearly enemies of cross and yet God is patient with them. He tolerates and endures those who have rejected his salvation and forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews says, "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God" ( Hebrews 10:26-27 ). Once we have heard the truth and know that the only way to be reconciled to God is through faith in Jesus' atoning work on the cross, we have to make a decision whether or not we accept this payment for our sins. If we do not, there is no other sacrifice or payment option left to us, only judgment. Hebrews goes on to say, "Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ( Hebrews 10:28-31 ).

It is severe to reject Jesus and his incredible gift of salvation. God's wrath was fully satisfied through his redemptive work on the cross. However, if we do not accept this payment for our sins, then eventually those accounts will be called overdue. Payment will have to be rendered and how do you thing that God will respond to someone who has blatantly rejected his very own Son. There will be no acceptable alternative payment and it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God when it is God's very own precious Son that has been trampled and rejected in the process.

The amazing thing about a passage such as this, is that it shows an incredible facet of God's nature when you fully understand it. God is not dealing unfairly with mankind, the opposite is actually true, He is showing incredible mercy and grace in tolerating their rejection of Jesus. He does this to demonstrate to believers His incredible wealth of mercy. It shows us the depth of his love and grace that has no bounds. It is important to get revelation of the this truth because this will change the way we look at life. If we can understand how patient and loving God is towards even those who reject him we will know how accepted and loved we are in Christ Jesus. God even uses his enemies to show his incredible love towards us. When we stand before Christ and see his majesty and splendor we will fully understand how offensive and awful it is to reject such a gift. We will understand the severity of it and the depths of the mercy displayed in patiently enduring His enemies.

Understanding this truth is pivotal in understanding the nature of God. He grace and mercy knows no end and his loving kindness extends to the ends of the earth. Today, it is my prayer that you recognize the awesomeness of Jesus and how he can saved you from destruction and hell. The good news for today is that he also saves us from so much more, he has come to give us eternal life which starts the moment you come to Him and accept his free gift of grace. May you understand how blessed you are in Christ Jesus, amen!

Posted in Romans 9

Pottery Used For Noble Purposes and Common Use—Romans 9:19-21

"One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" (Romans 9:19-21)

Human nature wants to ask why of God? Why do you have the right to blame us? Why do you have the right to judge us? Why do you still find fault with us if you will is carried out whether or not we choose to participate in it? Why is our question? Paul knew we would immediately start asking these questions so addresses these objection before they could even be made. His answer cuts to the heart of mankind's self centered focus, "who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" How can you even consider yourselves above God to question him in this manner? How can you pretend to know something in relation to what God knows? Paul gives a startling reminder of our place in relation to who God is. When asking questions of the Lord, we have no right to criticize, contradict and put ourselves above God. Asking questions and seeking answers is perfectly acceptable and God will answer and reveal these things to us. However, quarreling and accusing God of not being just and treating us unfairly is not acceptable. We have to remember who we are in relation to who God is. We cannot impute God's character for the sake of our own.

Paul uses an illustration of a potter to prove his point. A potter molds the clay into various bowls, plates and vessels. The potter knows what he is making and what purpose it will serve. If the clay is good and pliable he is able to make beautiful pottery from it. Some clay isn't as good and so it is useful for other common things, but quality determines the outcome of many pieces. The potter chooses the right clay to bring about special pieces. He identifies the superiority of clay and that determines what the finished product will be. The same is true for us, our heart determines the outcome of what God shapes us to be. If our heart is right and pliable before him and willing to be shaped he will use it build us into the perfect piece of beauty, distinction and it will be used honorably. However, if our hearts resist him, his will, and further more want nothing to do with him, the outcome does not even compare to what it could be. He can still use it for his overall purpose but our free will determines the type of vessel we become. And many become vessels of common use, so God cannot be blamed for that, nor is He unjust in his dealing with them in this way.

As humans we have our logic backwards. We blame God for a lot of things that fall solely upon our shoulders. Isaiah said, "You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "He did not make me?" Can the pot say of the potter, "He knows nothing"? ( Isaiah 29:16 ). Paul knew that this too would be our argument and so he reminds us that God is not unjust in His dealings with us and that he knows and understands more than we do. Isaiah went on to say, "Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, "What are you making?' Does your work say, 'He has no hands'?" ( Isaiah 49:9 ). Potsherd was fragments of broken pottery, and Isaiah is reminding us that without God that is what we are. When we call God's character into question it is like broken pottery on the ground second guessing the Almighty God. Paul reminds us we have no right to do that.

With God, it is always a matter of the heart. When we seek and ask questions of the Lord based on a pure heart, we can be sure that he will answer us and bring understanding to us. It is important to remember that our value is based in Him. I am confident that even if you look around right not and see broken pottery, a life in ruin because of certain choices in life, God is able to make all grace abound in you. He is able to take those pieces and work them into a beautiful vessel of noble use. The key is to be soft and pliable before him. Remind yourself that he is a master potter and knows how to work beautiful pieces. Remind yourself that He knows how to bring healing and restoration to you and let him begin his work. Today, I am so thankful for His amazing work in my life. I am thankful that he knows incredibly more than I do. Today, may you get a glimpse of the majesty of God in a personal way and submit to it. Become clay in his hand and you will love the beautiful vessel you become, amen.

Posted in Romans 9