Romans 9:30–10:21, Lesson 18. The Other Side of the Coin.
Key Notes: Stumbling over Christ. Christ the climax of the Law. The missionary appeal. Short summary of the Love of God.
Romans 9 presses the sovereignty of God in election irresistibly. He has mercy on whom He will, and that is not everybody. We don’t know how many He will have mercy on. He does not tell us. It tempts us to fatalism. It may tempt one to think that God is not very loving. But God is love. An outline discussion of the love of God is in an appendix to this lesson.
Then Romans 10 speaks of human responsibility. It is the opposite side of The Great Puzzle: God’s part and ours. The puzzle runs throughout the Bible, but is sharply contrasted here. It is a fine opportunity to confront this fascinating and difficult problem. We will find four of Israel’s blocks to faith and in the middle, a focus on the responsibility of seekers and believers.
A sketch of the passage:
9:30–31 Gentiles attained righteousness without trying. Jews pursued righteousness based on law and failed because they pursued it by works.
9:32 They stumbled over Christ.
10:1–3 Israel’s zeal for the Law was misplaced because they used it to establish their own righteousness.
10:4–8 Christ is the goal of the Law. He is not far from thoughtful Jews.
10:9–13 Coming to Christ is as simple as confessing Him as Lord and believing that God raised him from the dead. The invitation is universal—“everyone”.
10:14–18 It is fair to ask if everyone in Israel had a chance to hear the message. Paul quotes Scripture to affirm that they did.
10:19–21 They heard and understood but they disobeyed.
“I am laying in Zion a stone
…that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall (Isa.8:14)
…and he who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” Isa. 28:15–16
The full passages read
“I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation. He who believes will not be in haste.” (Isa. 28:16)
“The Lord of Hosts …will become a sanctuary, a stone of offense, and a rock of stumbling, a trap and a snare.” Isa. 8:13,14
In both references, Israel was in jeopardy from Assyria. False refuges were proposed which Isaiah countered with God’s refuge. Isaiah’s solution was not appealing on a political or military basis. He – and God – were rejected.
Jesus spoke of Himself as the rock in a similar combination of references. Lk. 20:17–18; Psa. 118:22
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.”
“Everyone who falls on that rock will be broken to pieces, but when it falls on anyone it will crush him.” Lk.20:12; Isa. 8:14
Peter repeats the message. We are living stones built on Christ. Others stumble over Him “…for they stumble because they disobey the Word, as they were destined to do.” I Pet. 2:4–8
Stumbling over Christ was stumbling over a series of obstacles.
- Christ’s deity was not to be believed in the light of His humanity, and even his paternity was in doubt. However, Isa. 9:6 describes the Divine / human paradox clearly: a Child is born, a Son is given, whose Name is Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
- The leaders denounced Him because they were envious of His power. Matt. 27:18
- Salvation by grace was anathema to a legal culture. Paul had to be rescued from the mob that was inflamed by his rejection of the Law of Moses as the Way to God. (Acts. 21:27–36). But Isaiah 53 plainly describes God’s Servant giving Himself as an offering for sin.
- Jesus did not set up a counter-insurgency against Rome. He was to them a failed Messiah—as many Jews think of Him today. They did not get what they wanted, a political kingdom. Jn.‘:36
10:4 Christ is the end of the Law. The OT Law led the people of Israel to the sacrifices when it was clear that they could not completely obey the commands. There were sacrifices for unintentional sins (Lev. 4). These sacrifices were obviously temporary measures because they had to be offered repeatedly. (Heb. 10:1–4). There was also a new covenant promised which would revolutionize the way people thought and acted. (Jer. 31:31–34 and Heb. 8:8–13). Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Isaiah and the prophets saw dimly what was happening. They could see Christ coming.
10:5 Moses says :
“For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven that you should say ‘Who will go up for us to heaven and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it:’ But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you can do it.” Deut. 30:11–14
What word, what commandment is Moses speaking of?
In the surrounding verses of Deut. 30, there are numerous references appealing to their relationship to God.
“return to the Lord your God…obey His voice with all your heart and with all your soul.” 30:2
“…the Lord your God will circumcise your heart…so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart….” 30:6
“...if you obey the voice of the Lord your God…if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul….” 30:10
“If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God…by loving the Lord your God….” 30:16
“…choose life, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and cleaving to Him….” 30:19–20
Moses was pleading for them to seek God and to bond with Him, returning, obeying, loving. In Deuteronomy, the Authorized Version has ten references to loving God and seven to obeying him. Deuteronomy is a repetition of the Law, but the heart of the message is Israel's relationship to God.
10:8–13 Here Paul breaks off speaking of Israel and addresses his Roman listeners.
“…if you confess…you will be saved.”
“…man believes…and so is saved.”
“No one who believes in Him will be put to shame.”
“There is no distinction between Jew and Greek….”
“…[He] bestows His riches upon all who call upon Him.”
“…everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved”
He makes a universal salvation appeal.
10:14–17 Then he changes the subject. Faith comes by hearing the preaching of Christ.
They cannot call on One in whom they do not believe.
They cannot believe in One of whom they have not heard.
They cannot hear of Him without a preacher.
Preachers cannot preach unless they are sent.
The feet of Gospel preachers are beautiful. Feet are a metaphor for a person delivering a message.
He makes a universal missionary appeal.
These two appeals are within the discussion of Israel’s responsibility. Paul shifts from their failure, first offering salvation to everyone else, and then making a plea for missionaries. We Gentiles have a responsibility, too. We must accept Christ ourselves. We must confess Him with our mouths. We must assist in getting the message to the Jews and to all the world. Rom.1:1
He concludes with two questions:
Did they not hear? Did they not understand?
In answer to the first question, he quotes Psa. 19:4, which says that the handiwork of God in nature makes His presence known everywhere.
In answering the second question, he quotes Moses that God will make Israel jealous with a foolish nation (Deut. 32:21). Then he cites Isaiah (65:1) where God offers salvation to the Gentiles while Israel stands by with its back turned—“a disobedient and contrary people.” 10:21
We are responsible to come to God in faith, humility and obedience. Christ is our foundation, the Rock on which we stand, not our stumbling stone. Then we must get the message of salvation out everywhere. __________________________ ___
On the Love of God
A summary of “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” – D.A. Carson; Crossways, 2000.
“The love of God is not merely to be analyzed, understood and adopted into holistic categories of integrated theological thought. It is to be received, to be absorbed, to be felt. Meditate long and frequently on Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14–21.” (p. 81)
The Father and the Son have mutual, holy love. This love is active in salvation.
“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.” Jn. 3:35
“The Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing.” Jn. 5:20
“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again.” Jn. 10: 17
“I do as the Father has commanded Me, so that the world may know that I love the Father." Jn. 14:31
God loves everything He made.
God feeds the birds. Matt. 6:26
The flowers of the field do not toil or spin. Matt. 6:28
God clothes the grass of the field. Matt. 6:30
Psalm 104 is full of God’s providence toward His animal creatures.
God loves the World, as big and bad as it is. [We are not to love the world. – I Jn. 2:15]
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever
believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jn. 3:16
God loves His elect.
“…The Lord set His heart in love upon your fathers and chose their descendents after them, you above all peoples….” Deut.10:15
“Jacob have I loved….” Mal.1:2
“Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her…that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor…that she might be holy and without blemish.” Eph. 5:25–27
“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you.” Jn. 15:9
“…I have called you friends.” Jn. 15:15
God’s saving love for His elect is unconditional.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Nothing in all creation. Rom. 8:31–39
God’s fellowship love for His elect is conditional.
“Keep yourselves in the love of God.” Jude 21
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Jn.15:10
God is love, and we are friends of God, inseparably connected to Him through love.