Calling Of The Jews & Gentiles
Unfolding Of God’s Plan

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 46c of 83


“… 30 …the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.…” (Romans 9:17-18).

[We have been studying the apostle Paul’s inspired exposition concerning God’s redemptive plans for Jews and Gentiles.

In our first study, we considered God’s plan for the Gentiles: how it has always been God’s plan to incorporate the Gentiles into His covenant body. In the second instalment, we considered God’s plan for Israel and for the Jews. We noted how Israel was special in God’s eye not so much because of their bloodline, but because God chose them to be external covenant people in the Old Covenant. But when Israel apostatise, the privilege is given to Gentile. God’s promises to Israel remain true because they were not made to Israel as a nation, but to Israel as His covenant people.

In this concluding instalment, we shall look at how this plan of God unfolded. —JJL]

3.  The Unfolding of 
God’s Plan

God had ordained that the Gentiles which hitherto did not know the way of righteousness should be saved; whereas Israel which knew the way of righteousness should be forsaken.

How did God’s plan unfold? Verse 30—

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

God’s plan unfolded as planned. Gentiles have attained to righteousness, whereas Israel has not attained.

Gentiles were justified and accepted of God, whereas the majority of the Jews remained in their sin and were rejected of God. Why? Paul quotes from Isaiah to explain:

32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

How is it that the Jews remained in sin and were rejected of God? It is so because the Jews were still trying to obtain salvation by their own effort. God had provided a Saviour, even the Lord Jesus Christ. All who are united to Him by faith would be saved. But the same Saviour became a stumbling block to the Jews.

Notice that Paul is not quoting from a single verse in Isaiah. He is conflating Isaiah 8:14 and Isaiah 28:16.

Isaiah 8:14 speaks of Christ as a stumblingstone—

“And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isa 8:14).

But Isaiah 28:16 speaks of Christ as a precious cornerstone of salvation—

“Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa 28:16).

Paul, —in bringing these two verses together, —is showing us that Christ would both offend and save. The same precious corner stone of salvation to the elect gentiles is also the stone of stumbling to the reprobate Jews. The Gentiles found salvation in Christ, but Christ became a stumblingstone to the Jews.

The Gentiles would find Christ a precious corner stone; but the Jews would find Christ an offensive stumbling stone. Instead of finding salvation in Him, the Jews would find Christ intolerable. They would reject Him, and fall even deeper into sin than they had already fallen!

Why was Christ a stumbling block to them? Because they were too proud.

·  They were too proud to believe that they can attain salvation by their law-keeping.

·  They were too proud to think that they need a lowly carpenter from Nazareth to save them. They were too ashamed to submit to such a lowly king.

·  They were too proud to admit that Christ was right that their heart was wrong and that they were white-washed sepulchres.

·  They were too proud to realise that their ancestry means nothing unless they were united to Christ, the seed of Abraham.

·  They were too proud to see that the Saviour had indeed come. They refused to acknowledge all the miracles that He did and rejected all His authoritative sermons.

Christ the Saviour became a stumbling block to the proud and unbelieving Jews. The apostle Peter says the same thing, when he tells us that Christ became…

“…a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (1 Pet 2:8).

The Jews stumbled at the Word by being disobedient. Instead of repenting of the sin and fleeing to Christ for salvation, they stubbornly refused to believe. God therefore cast them away according to His plan.

But now, we must not gloat over the Jews for we are no better. But nature we would never repent of our sin or believe in Christ. We do not deserve God’s salvation any more than the Jews.  We are saved only by grace. Therefore we must not boast, but gratefully and humbly live for Christ as His covenant people.

Conclusion

What shall we do with these things?

a. First, of all, we must not think that it is unimportant for us to know about the errors of Dispensationalism. Thomas Watson puts it very well when he says “A man may as well damn his soul by error as by vice, and may as soon go to hell for a drunken opinion as for a drunken life.”

Instead of heeding the warnings against apostasy in the Old Testament, many are looking for clues about what will happen in Israel. But to read Old Testament this way is to miss the point altogether.

The Old Testament must be read with the light of the New Testament. It must never be read with some artificial extra-biblical principles, such as when the plain sense make sense seek no other sense.

b.  But secondly let us thank God for what Paul teaches us in the passage. Thank God that as Gentiles we have been given the privilege of being members of the covenant. Thank God that by His providence we are born and raised in these last days in which we can look back and seek the unfolding of God’s plan for His Church.

Thank God that the stone which the builders rejected has become head stone of the corner for the Church (Ps 118:22, 23; Lk 20:17-18). Thank God that by His grace, Christ is not a stumbling stone or a rock of offence to us. Thank God for faith to believe so that we can be lively stones joined to that head stone of the Church.

But let us remind ourselves that the Jews of Old bore the name of God’s covenant people. But that did not guarantee their salvation. They heard the Gospel preached to them, but that did not guarantee their salvation:

“For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb 4:2).

What shall we do but to take heed lest there be in any of us an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God? But let us exhort one another daily while it is called today, lest we be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end (Heb 3:12-14). Amen.

—JJ Lim