Sunday, March 29, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Israel Stumbled"

“Israel Stumbled”
All Roads Lead to Romans
March 29, 2015 :: Romans 9:30-10:21 

We’re now more than halfway through the book of Romans. This is our twenty-first message in this series that we’re calling, “All Roads Lead to Romans.”

And last week, we saw Paul take his letter in some very surprising directions. Very surprising directions!  Paul went from exultant joy that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord to great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart.

Do you remember that?

Paul dove from the highest of heights to some pretty low depths between chapter 8 and chapter 9.

Do you remember why Paul is so troubled? So tortured?

It’s because of what we called last week, “The Problem of Israel.”

Paul looks around him and sees very few Jewish followers of Jesus Christ.

He sees followers of Christ, yes, but they are now many and mostly Gentiles, non-Jews.

Where are all the Jews?

Paul loves his ethnic kinsmen, and so he’s anguished that there are so few of them who believe in Jesus the Messiah.

And we saw that it’s more than that.

Paul is deeply concerned that his readers (and for that matter us today) will be shaken in their faith because of the problem of Israel.

Because his readers might think that the word of God has failed.

Has the word of God failed?

You might think so when you realize all of what the Israelites were given, all of their great privileges and tremendous blessings and yet so few are saved.

Has the word of God failed?

That’s the question that Paul is answering in these three chapters: 9, 10, and 11.

Because if the word of God has failed Israel, then it might fail us.

And all of the promises we’ve learned in Romans 8 might not make it all the way to us. And what a tragedy that would be!

Has the word of God failed?

The short answer is, “No,” but the way that Paul gets to that answer takes some surprising turns.

The first answer that we saw Paul offer last week is that it was never God’s plan to save every Israelite in the first place.

The first answer was the doctrine of election, God’s sovereign choices of whom He would have mercy on and whom He would harden.

And we won’t rehash all of that this morning except to say that the word of God has not failed because the word of God never said that every single Israelite was chosen for salvation. Not all Israel is Israel.

And, in fact, God has chosen more than just Israel to be saved.

God has also chosen many Gentiles. Many Gentiles like you and I are also objects of God’s mercy.

God has done another surprising thing. He has chosen many Gentiles to be saved.

That’s how Paul sums up where we are at in verse 30 of chapter 9. He says, “Here’s where we are at.” v.30

“What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness [there’s our big Romans word again], have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.”

That’s an unexpected turn of events!

The Gentiles, the pagans, the non-Jews who didn’t have all of the privileges of the Old Testament have surprisingly found their way into [dikaiosunay] righteousness.

But the Israelites who did have all of those privileges and pursued the Mosaic Law with zeal have not obtained righteousness.

Why? V.32

“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.’”

So, this is the second answer to the problem of Israel.

Has the word of God failed?

No, the people of Israel failed.

Israel stumbled.

It’s not a failure of the word of God. If anything, the word of God predicted that this would happen.

It’s the failure of the Israelites. They stumbled.

Paul says that “they stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’”

Who or what is that?  It’s Jesus the Christ. V.33 again.

“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.’”

Where is that found? It’s two verses, actually. One is Isaiah 28, verse 16 and the other is Isaiah 8, verse 14. That Isaiah 8 passage is one that we just studied together right before Christmas when learned about Immanuel, remember?

God has laid in Zion (Jerusalem) a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, BUT if you don’t stumble over it and trust in Him, in that rock, then you will never be put to shame.

That’s Jesus.

Israel stumbled over Jesus.

Now, that stumbling was on purpose. It wasn’t just a mistake.

We have a little stool in our kitchen, so that short people can reach things in the cupboards. It’s a little blue plastic thing, and I’m always stumbling over it.

You’d think I’d learn, but I never see it there and I’m always running into it.

This is not that kind of stumbling.

This is seeing that there is rock in the road but choosing to not believe in it.

It’s telling yourself that that rock can’t be real. If that rock is real, everything changes, and I don’t want everything to change, so it can’t be there.

And then running along and falling headlong over it.

“They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’”

That’s why there is this massive problem of Israel.

Let me try to put that stumbling into a short sentence.

Israel tried to establish their own righteousness through obedience to the Law and rejected their rightful Messiah’s righteousness that comes through faith.

That’s how they stumbled.

Did you see it in verses 31-32?

“Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness [not just righteousness but a law-righteousness], has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.”

Salvation has always been by faith, but Israel had acted as if it were by works.

And what has been the message of this book all along?

Romans 3:28? “We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

And that’s where Israel went wrong.

Israel stumbled.

It’s their fault they are where they are.

Now, some of you will be wondering how this fits together with what we learned last week. Last week, we saw that this was God’s choice.

Now, Paul is saying that it’s on them.

Human responsibility.

Their sinful, unbelieving choices.

Which is it?

The answer is, “Yes.”

There is no conflict in Paul’s mind between God’s sovereignty and our human responsibility. We don’t understand how that works, but it doesn’t bother Paul in the slightest. It doesn’t bother any of the biblical writers in the slightest.

And they don’t try to answer all of our questions about this mystery. They just hold the two things up as true and believe them both.

The great Baptist preacher of the 19th century Charles Spurgeon was asked how he reconciled God’s sovereignty and our responsibility, and he said that he never tried to reconcile them because you don’t have to reconcile friends.

It’s a mystery, but they are both true.

The second answer to the problem of Israel is that Israel stumbled.

And that fact tears Paul’s heart out. Chapter 10, verse 1.

“Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”

So many are not. The focus of Paul’s heart and the focus of Paul’s prayers were for his brother Jews to believe in Jesus.

And notice again that there is no contradiction between God making His sovereign choices in salvation and our prayers for someone’s salvation. The two go hand in hand. I don’t completely understand how but there they are right next to each other in Romans.

Paul prays and prays and prays that his kinsmen would be saved.

Do you know that this the only place in the New Testament that records a prayer for someone to be saved?  A prayer for someone’s salvation?

Most of the prayers about evangelism in the New Testament are prayers that Christians would be bold share the gospel. Surprisingly, there aren’t many that say that we should pray for others’ salvation.

But this one does. And it’s very good thing to do.

Wally Kephart has an idea for a new prayer meeting for Lanse Free Church.

I’m sure he’ll be telling others about it soon. But he wants to establish a monthly prayer meeting just for praying for outreach.

He wants to meet once a month for one hour and pray for the lost and for our ministries that are reaching out to the lost: the Ladies’ Tea, the Pittsburgh Ministry Trip, Family Bible Week, the Good News Cruise, and next year’s Wild Game Dinner.

I think that’s a great idea and an application of Romans 10:1.

I invite you to get involved in this new prayer initiative.

And I invite you to turn Romans 10:1 into your own prayer for people. Put someone you love who is not yet a believer in the place of “the Israelites” in verse 1.

Fill in the blank: “My heart's desire and prayer to God for [your loved one] is that they may be saved.”

Use this verse as a prayer pattern in your own prayer times.

Paul was praying for the Israelites. He wanted more for them than they wanted for themselves. He wanted Jesus for them. V.2

“For I can testify about them [the Israelites] that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge [right understanding]. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.”  Stop there for a second.

Do you see how Paul is saying the same thing but in a different way?

Israel has stumbled.

They have zeal. They have passion towards God.

But they are ignorant about the way that righteousness really comes.

Now that ignorance is willful ignorance. It’s a choosing to be ignorant.

It’s seeing stone in the middle of the road and not believing in it.

“I don’t want righteousness that way. That’s not right! I won’t have it. I’m going to do it my way!”

Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.”

They stumbled.

That’s the stumbling of self-righteousness. They wanted to establish their own righteousness.

That’s pride, plain and simple.

Self-righteousness, a do-it-yourself righteousness is pride, plain and simple.

And self-righteousness is ugly.

Don’t you just hate it when you encounter a self-righteous person?

The problem is that we often don’t recognize our own self-righteousness.

Our own attempts to justify ourselves.
To think better of ourselves and how good we are.

That’s a problem that religious people have.

That’s a problem that conservative people have.

It’s a problem that orthodox people have.

Self-righteousness is a problem that many professing Christians have.

I think it’s true that we are much more prone to being Pharisees than we think we are.

It’s easy to look down our noses at the Pharisees as we read the gospels. They are just pathetic and pitiful.

But I think that many good, upstanding, churchgoing people would be the Pharisees, if we had a chance.

When was the last time you recognized your own self-righteousness?

The last couple of weeks, I’ve caught myself smugly to myself, “I’m glad I’m not like that. I’m glad I’m not like them.”

Have you said that recently? Maybe not out loud?

I’m glad I’m not like those Muslims.
I’m glad I’m not like those Democrats or those Republicans, depending on your political persuasion.
I’m glad I’m not like those gays.
I’m glad I’m not like those hicks or those city-folk, depending on what you look down on.
I'm glad I'm not like those black people rioting in Missouri.
I'm glad I'm not like that guy who cut me off in traffic.
I’m glad I’m not like those stupid people I see on the Internet.

I’m glad I’m a good person.

In fact, we sometimes give God the credit but it’s still pride.

Remember that Pharisee in Jesus’ parable from Luke 18?

"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified [righteous] before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”

Israel had not and would not humble themselves, so they stumbled. But verse 4.

“Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Christ is the end of the law, meaning it’s termination and it’s goal. The 2011 NIV translates it, “Christ is the culmination of the law.”

That is the law was always leading up to Christ and when Christ finally came, the Mosaic Law had reached its fulfillment. It’s no longer binding as the Law for Christians because what it was trying to do has been fulfilled.

And because Christ has now come, the Jews should stop trying to use the law to achieve righteousness. Misusing the law! Christ is the end of misusing the law for righteousness.

That way won’t work but the way of faith in Jesus will.

“Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Everyone! Including you and me. V.5

“Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’ [Sure. If you perfectly kept the law, you would be saved. But we learned already that nobody does that!] But the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or 'Who will descend into the deep?'’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:”

Paul is saying through his creative use of Deuteronomy 30 that the stumbling gospel is spelled D-O.


Do these things, and you will live.

Be a good person and you will be saved.

Do, do, do.

But the gospel of grace is spelled: D-O-N-E.


Nobody needs to ascend to heaven to bring Christ down. Why?

God already did it for us.  We call it Christmas.

And nobody needs to descend in the deep to bring Christ back from the dead. Why?

God already did it for us. We call it Easter! Resurrection Sunday is next week.

You don’t have to do things. You need to believe.

‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: [v.9] That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

That’s going to be our text for next week’s sermon and our next “Hide the Word” verse to memorize together.

We’ve got 5 young people who are going to confess their faith in Jesus next week and take the step of water baptism.

And verse 11 says that they will never regret it.

“As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”


Because Jesus has DONE it for us.

Jesus paid it all on the Cross. And we get, when we believe in Him, His righteousness  reckoned to our account.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Have you called on the name of the Lord? V.14

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

Paul is pointing out how important it is to this gospel of grace, this gospel of DONE shared with others.

Because if we don’t share it, if we don’t have those beautiful feet that run with these words to the world, then how will they believe?

This is one of the strongest passages in the Bible on the importance of missions.

We need to be SENDING. Sending. V.15.

“And how can they preach unless they are sent?”

I love that we have a missions minded church that sends people to share gospel.

We need to honor those who take the gospel to the world. They have beautiful feet.

But Paul is bringing this up because the Israelites have heard the gospel yet haven’t accepted it. V.16

“But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. [They stumbled.] For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ [So few, so few.] Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. [The stumbling stone.] But I ask: Did they not hear? [Is the problem of Israel the fault of no preaching. Did they not heart? V.18] Of course they did: ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.’ Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? [They don’t understand because they don’t want to understand.] First, Moses says, ‘I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.’ And Isaiah boldly says, ‘I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.’ But concerning Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.’”

Israel stumbled.

That’s what happened.

It was a part of God’s plan, but it was their fault.

God has given the gospel to the Gentiles. Those who did not ask for him.

And He has offered the gospel to Israel, but they have refused Him over and over and over. “A disobedient and obstinate people.”

They should have chosen Christ, but they rejected Him.

Today is Palm Sunday, when we remember how Jesus triumphantly rode into Israel on a donkey.

On that day, it looked like Israel was receiving their Messiah.

But by Good Friday, we see that they, in the main, certainly did not.

God held out His gracious hands to them in the Messiah, and they said, “No thanks.”

And Jesus was crucified.

“They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’”

Four quick points of application before we go to the Lord’s Table together.


Where do I get that?

Don’t worry because the word of God has not failed.

Remember the problem of Israel? Paul is concerned that we will worry that God’s word has failed because so few Israelites are saved.

But he’s answering that. Not only is all a part of God’s plan, but it’s Israel’s own fault for rejecting her Messiah and trying to establish their own righteousness.

It’s not the fault of God’s word. So you can trust that all of those promises we’ve learned about will be true for you if you believe.

Don’t worry.

God’s got this.


Don’t got it on your own.

Don’t try to impress God with your goodness, with your good deeds.

And don’t get all prideful when you are good.

Humble yourself or God will humble you.

Repent of saying, “I’m glad I’m not like them.”

Because that’s actually stumbling over Jesus.


The gospel is spelled D-O-N-E.

Jesus has done it all.

Don’t trust in your own works, your own keeping of the law, even your own law.

Trust in Jesus and what He did for you on the Cross.

That’s where the gift of righteousness comes from.

Justification is by faith alone in Christ alone.


“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


Fill in the blank of 10:1 with your loved-ones names and don’t stop praying for them.

And get some beautiful feet.

Faith comes from hearing the gospel message, so we need to tell people about Christ.

They don’t get saved unless they hear.

You can’t be responsible for whether or not someone else stumbles like Israel did.

But you can tell them about the stone that God has laid in Zion and that anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.


Messages in this Series

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel
03. The Bad News
04. Hope for Holy Sexuality
05. The Even Worse News
06. The Worst News
07. Justified
08. Father Abraham
09. The Blessings of Justification
10. How Much More
11. New You
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ
14. No Condemnation
15. If the Spirit Lives in You
16. The Spirit of Sonship
17. We Know
18. For Us
19. Who?
20. God's Word Has Not Failed