Romans 9:27-33 ESV
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: n “Though the number of the sons of Israel 1 be as the sand of the sea, o only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, p q “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, r we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” Israel’s Unbelief 30 What shall we say, then? s That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, t a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel u who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness 1 v 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 w stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, x “Behold, I am laying in Zion y a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; z and whoever believes in him will not be a put to shame.”
Context and References
Isaiah 8:14, 28:16 Romans 1:16-17
Main point summary
A pursuit of righteousness without faith is vain, and therefore shameful. There is no shame for those who put their faith in Christ, because they obtain righteousness - God gifts it to them!
What have I got a hold of? How? What do I pursue? What works do I still do, hoping to add to God's gift of righteousness? What is my response in realising that, by the mercy of God, I will never be put to shame?
19-29 Paul has emphasised why many among Israel are not chosen – it is God who calls and shows mercy to whom he will to the effect that not all who are ethnically of Israel really belong to spiritual Israel. o While many among physical Israel are excluded, God is calling a remnant of these, in his mercy, unconditionally. o Not only that, in God’s showing mercy to whom he will, God calls and shows mercy to many who are outside of ethnic Israel his people as well – Gentiles! o Meanwhile, God patiently endures those who are not called to mercy – upon whom mercy is withheld: vessels of wrath, prepared for destruction, both Jew and Gentile – because he desires to show his wrath and power. o But God’s ultimate purpose in his enduring vessels of wrath is to intimately share his glory with vessels of mercy – again, both Jew and Gentile – which he prepared beforehand for glory! o God’s election from Romans 9:6-24 is rooted in his glory – the integrity, fame and value of his name and character. 30-31 In the three verses to come, Paul concludes his argument concerning God’s electing a remnant among Israel, in mercy , and also continues his train of thought from Romans 9:1-5 into Romans 10. o Paul begins this pericope with the question What shall we say then? o And while this is rhetorical, in the fact that there is nothing left to say, Paul does answer his own question in a conclusive statement – a pair of terrible, beautiful, contrasting, yet corresponding statements: § Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it… § …but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. o Paul’s almost upside-down conclusion is beautiful in the way it is put. § Gentiles, born outside of God’s people of Israel, who loved sin and their own passions, without the Law (but with the work of the law written in their hearts, cf. Romans 2:15), got hold of righteousness – a righteousness that is by faith ! § This forceful obtaining of righteousness was not because of their human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy (Romans 9:16) § They did not pursue, or exert themselves to obtain the righteousness of God. But were gifted it through faith. § Israel on the other hand, pursued (not righteousness, but) a law that would lead to righteousness or a law of righteousness. § They, to whom belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises…the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ himself, they struggled hard with the Law – forcing themselves to attempt keeping all of it. They exerted themselves and willed themselves to keep it. § But they failed to reach the standard set by the Law – they did not reach their impossible destination – neither the Law that they were pursuing, nor righteousness, which the law led to. 32-33 Why? o “On what basis am I saying this?”, Paul self-asks. o On the basis that Israel pursued the Law (of righteousness) without faith – as if it was based on works ! § Cf. Romans 2:28-29; 4:1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 14-17, 20-21; 7:5-12; 8:1-4 o Israel, instead of acknowledging a need for mercy, pursued the law (which in turn, led to righteousness) with works, hoping to earn wages and the prize for this futile pursuit. o Again, Paul substantiates his conclusion with the word of God, which does not fail. o He quotes two passages from Isaiah and joins them: § (Isaiah 28:16) Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone (Isaiah 8:14) of stumbling, and a rock of offense; (Isaiah 28:16) and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” § The stone is evidently a person – Christ himself. The stone was being laid by God himself in Zion, and yet, it was a stone of stumbling for everyone who did not believe. § At the same time, this same Christ is someone to believe – to have faith in. For what? Righteousness! § Cf. Romans 1:16-17, 3:21-26, 27-30, 10:3-4 § Many in Zion stumbled over it, possibly thinking of the humiliation that came from their works counting for nothing. § But to those who believe – who see the stone as a capstone, or foundation stone (Psalm 118:22; Mark 12:10; 1 Corinthians 3:11), will not be put to shame. So, Paul concludes the previous section while leading into the next – o Israel failed to obtain righteousness, not because God’s word had failed, but because God’s word did not fail. o God’s unconditional election (Romans 9:11,14-18) implies that his gift of righteousness would be obtained by Gentiles who never pursued it. It also implies that no amount of working for it is going to help reach that destination of righteousness. What is sad, is that Israel, in general, pursued and worked for it – to no avail. o This righteousness is obtained through faith (belief) in Christ alone – a righteousness of God, not based on works. A righteousness that will ensure a freedom from shame! o For those who do not believe in Christ, but work, he remains a stone upon which ‘workers’ stumble, resulting in them being put to shame. o Most among Israel stumbled instead of building upon Christ, the cornerstone.
a What shall we say then?
What shall we say based on all of this? What is left to say?
That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness ,
Answer: That those outside the nation of Israel, who did not run after righteousness
attained righteousness ,
got hold of righteousness!
even b the righteousness which is 1 by faith ;
Righteousness! A righteousness which is obtained through faith (in?) - this is what the Gentiles got hold of!
but Israel, a pursuing a law of righteousness,
Contrary to them, Israel did pursue. What did they pursue? A law which led to righteousness.
did not b arrive at that law.
Unlike the Gentiles, Israel didn't come close to reaching the goal of the law they pursued - righteousness.
This is so bizarre! Why?
Because they did not pursue it 1 by faith ,
Because Israel did not pursue (the law that led to) righteousness through faith ,
but as though it were 1 by works.
but instead, pursued it as if it could be reached by doing work.
They stumbled over a the stumbling stone,
In other words, they stumbled over Christ, the stumbling stone -
just as it is written, “ a Behold , I lay in Zion b a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense ,
prophesied by Isaiah - "Behold! I am laying a stone of stumbling in Zion - a rock of offense,
c And he who believes in Him
and the person that has faith in Him , i.e., the stone
d will not be 1 disappointed .”
will not be left shame-faced.