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? 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.”
Jesus is a Rock of Offense
It is ironic that those who had a pathway to righteousness lacked the faith to walk it as it should be walked. However, those who had no history of faith in the God of Israel gained access to him by faith in Jesus as the Messiah. The Gentiles did not strive to meet God, but now they have met him. Israel has wrestled with God since their namesake wrestled with the angel. They received revelation, laws, and covenants from him. Somehow the Israelites always came up short.
The starting point was all important. The Jewish community has pursued God by working hard. They do not start with God in a loving, fatherly relationship with them. They know that they have Abraham as their father and that they are chosen by God, but after all their striving they are still far from him. Gentiles, in Paul’s day, were receiving a gift. The gift of God’s relationship enables a life of wonder and obedience.
The ease with which Gentiles can claim access to the Holy God must be difficult. It may cheapen the majesty of God. However, as the relationship with God deepens, and holiness floods our lives, we live in ways that might even say to a pious Jew that we have been reconciled with God through our Messiah.
Father, I have compassion for Jewish people who have laboured hard at your law but who still do not know you. May they let go of their striving and see that you have given your son to pay the price.
- What rhetorical question does Paul start with in this passage?
- About what two people groups is Paul talking?
- Why is he telling the Romans these details?
- How have people striven to know God?
- Why would the ease of Christian salvation be offensive to them?
5. The ease of Christian salvation is offensive to the Jews because they had worked and worked and studied Scriptures and memorized verses and spent their lives absorbed in keeping the law. So for Paul to come along and say the Gentiles who were completely unreligious had the same access to righteousness, and the way they had access was through faith alone, was blasphemous. It reduced all their good works to nothing. And that is exactly what the Gospel is: our good works our filthy rags, and through Christ alone we are made righteous.