September 26, 2021
Let’s summarize the first step in examining the question of salvation from God’s perspective. We have little interest in the divine side of salvation, because it seems that it is not that practical. The Apostle Paul, however, says that this is extremely practical, because it concerns our most important premise of life – who is at the center, who is on the throne. In examining this chapter, we must inevitable come to the main conclusion: God is at the center of everything, and He is rightfully on the throne and governs everything, and He must be on the throne of our heart. Otherwise, this is not salvation!
Today we will take an interesting journey through the Bible to determine the value of one unique phenomenon – the stumbling stone! Children, please, draw this!
Read (Rom. 9:30-33)
Is it possible without a stumbling stone? And what if God did not create such difficulties and simply did everything in such a way that people would not have hard time getting into the kingdom of heaven? Why is there this stumbling stone? Why is this temptation necessary? Why, in many ways, the Gospel does not fit into the way people think? Why is it so difficult to believe in Christ and be a Christian? Again, God’s sovereignty is revealed deeper, but today, we will see once again how it is intertwined with human responsibility and choice. In this we will see that God is right!
I. Who is the “stumbling stone”? (vv. 32-33)
(vv. 32-33) – (Is. 28:16; 8:14) – a stone whose description is wider than stumbling – this is the foundation, this is a tested stone, this is a stone that God Himself puts, and He puts it in Zion (Jerusalem, and a place associated with the temple mount).
In order to better understand this we need a small history lesson…
The story begins when Solomon built the temple, and as soon as he finished it, the glory of God filled it. There was a very interesting room in that temple – the Holy of Holies – what was there? There was the ark of the covenant! This is a kind of box covered with gold, with a unique lid, called, Mercy Seat, where were two cherubim of gold, and their wings were directed towards each other, and God said that He would talk with Moses and in the future will appear to the priests just above the lid of the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:21-22).
But Israel departed from God, and as punishment they were expelled from their land; Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. Just a few years before the destruction of the temple, God gives the prophecies through Isaiah (Is. 8:14; 28:16). There will be a time when God will raise up a foundation stone, a stumbling stone. After a while, Jerusalem was destroyed, at the same time the ark of the covenant disappears, and no one can find it… there are many different theories of who and where it was hidden… But, we are interested in something else. After 70 years of captivity, the people partially return and begin to rebuilt, first of all, the temple! It is very important – this is not their own decision or desire, but God himself says – you must rebuilt it! (Hag. 1:1-10). It was built by Zerubbabel and Joshua, the high priest, and God gave them the prophecy (Zech. 3:6-9; 4:6-7). God tells them about the stone at the base of this temple, but this stone is unique because it has eyes, and it will become the reason that sin will be blotted out in one day, and the people will shout – grace, grace to it, or better, upon it! When they finished building the temple, the glory of God did not fill it, as it was after the completion of the tabernacle in the wilderness, and the temple of Solomon. God commanded it to be built, but He Himself did not fill it with His glory… The most important question – what did the priest put in the Holy of Holies? After all, the ark of the covenant is lost? When the high priest was to enter the Holy of Holies once a year, he had to sprinkle the blood of the slain animal on the edges of the ark of the covenant, but it was gone! What was the high priest doing there? It turns out that the Jews, knowing that there would be no ark of the covenant, followed the prophecies that we just read in Isaiah, and they have put a stone there, which was called, believe it or not, Foundation Stone! This is a very interesting phenomenon! When the priest sprinkled the blood, he sprinkled it on the stone!
Why stone? The Jews followed the prophecies!
This stone was a symbol of closeness to God! This was the place where God was to be found by man.
The enemy of human souls, Satan, knowing about all these prophecies, tried to prevent God’s plan so that the Foundation Stone would not become the source of salvation for people!
Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness… there were 3 of them. First, Satan takes a stone and says – turn it into bread (Luke. 4:3)… Instead of you remaining that cornerstone, that foundation stone, begin serving yourself! No! The second temptation was when Satan placed Jesus on the top of the temple… is this the highest point? Are there no higher places in the world? There is a Half Dome mountain in Yosemite… Why was the temple important? The fact is that Christ, standing on the top of the temple, stood right above the foundation stone in the Holy of Holies, and again Satan is trying to divert Christ’s attention from the main thing – for Jesus be that foundation stone, the stumbling stone of salvation. The third temptation is even more interesting – because Satan offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth in exchange for the fact that Jesus will worship him. When was the last time we saw all the kingdoms of the earth and the promised Messiah together? In the book of Daniel (ch. 2), Nebuchadnezzar sees a dream where there is an idol that represents all the kingdoms of the earth, but at the end of the dream, a stone broke off the mountain and hit the idol, and broke it! (Dan. 2:34-35; 44-45) – a stone that broke off and then filled everything is that promised Messiah! Satan was trying again to distract Jesus from the most important thing – to be the very stone that will become a stumbling for many, and a source of redemption for others!
The foundation stone, or stumbling stone, is God’s sovereign plan of salvation! This is God’s only way to acquire that much needed righteousness!
The stumbling stone is the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, the stone that the builders have rejected, but which has become the cornerstone!
This is important to understand because we are talking about God’s role in our salvation! Throughout ch. 9, the Apostle Paul is committed to explaining God’s role in the salvation of sinners, and at the end of the chapter, he presents a kind of magnificent panorama of God’s plan, thought out to the details, and which undoubtedly points to God’s sovereignty in history. After that, it is very difficult to resist the teaching of God’s sovereignty! We can confidently say that God is right!!!!
And now, our text…
II. How does the “stumbling stone” become a temptation? (vv. 30-31)
(vv. 30-31) It all begins with two groups of people – some do not seek righteousness, while others do! As a result, those who did not seek received righteousness, and those who sought did not receive…
(v. 30) – righteousness is in the focus… Gentiles are generally characterized as those who do not seek righteousness…
(v. 31) – it is about the righteousness acquired through the fulfillment of the law of Moses, and the main problem is not that Israel was looking for righteousness in the wrong place, but how they strove for it. The law was a schoolmaster to Christ through which people acquired the righteousness of Christ by faith. If the Law was understood correctly, then it had to be received and practiced by faith! But Israel used the Law to achieve acceptance with God by their deeds of fulfilling the Law! But, this is self-affirmation, not trusting in God!
Conclusion: if we see righteousness on our own terms, through the works of the Law, or even any other laws, principles and morality that we put at the forefront, and not on the basis of faith, we will stumble against the stumbling stone!
III. How does the “stumbling stone” become salvation? (vv. 32-33)
(vv. 32-33) It’s all about faith! This indicates the uniqueness of Christianity, and salvation by grace!
(v. 32) – Israel did not seek righteousness by faith, but in the Law…
(v. 33) – Everyone who believes in Him will not be ashamed! What is faith? This is knowledge of the truth (I am sinful, God is holy, and Christ died to pay the price that I must pay with my eternal condemnation in hell). Confidence in this truth! Accept this only way of salvation without a doubt! Trust is like a little child who trusts his father and jumps into the arms. In other words, not just from the outside to agree with the truth, but to act in response to the truth – to believe, repent, live for Christ and under His leadership!
God has placed Christ in the midst of all prophecy and human history. It cannot be bypassed, avoided or ignored! He will either be a stumbling stone due to unwillingness to believe, or he will become a foundation stone – the foundation of righteousness, salvation, forgeveness!
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