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Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
I thank you for taking the time to be here with us today.
Just so you’re aware I try to publish these lessons for you on a weekly basis.
My goal is to circulate each Bible lesson on Friday. This gives everyone a full week to look them over and study them before I issue the next one in line.
That’s the only announcement I have for the group this week, so if you’ll open your Bible to Romans 9 at verse 30, we’ll pick up where we left off last week.
Let’s read some Scripture together.
30: What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;
31: but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.
32: Why? Because they (the Israelites) did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,
33: just as it is written, “BEHOLD I (the LORD God of Israel) LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” (Isaiah 28:16, 8:14)
Paul starts this paragraph with a question, “What shall we say then?”
Based on what we’ve learned so far, it’s not about fatalism or the Doctrine of Fate, i.e. the philosophical doctrine according to which all events are fated to happen. The theory where God is in control; people are not, so that human beings go about living their lives believing there’s no reason to change because it doesn’t alter their future. The Israelites attempted to utilize this argument while disagreeing with Paul. Many people hold to this belief today. The reality is it comes down to a choice; your choice and not God’s. As Paul has shown his kinsmen (and us) Righteousness is obtained by faith (plus nothing else) and not by works of the law, not by conformity to rules and regulations, and aiming to walk “that” straight line perfectly. Salvation is not obtained by trying to “bank” enough good deeds, hoping God will notice your efforts and then let you into His heaven. It’s also saying that salvation is not based upon one’s heritage or blood-line, but rather by believing in Jesus Christ crucified, whether Jew or Gentile.
Romans 9:30 draws a conclusion from Paul’s preceding arguments and introduces a new section, which we’ll get to in short order. In reviewing Israel’s past, Paul brought God’s sovereignty into focus for his kinsmen and proved that God remains faithful despite their thinking to the contrary. In so doing, he reminded them that it was never God’s intention to save all Israel, but rather only a remnant of true Believers…and God always accomplishes His purposes through a chosen remnant, “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18; Matthew 7:13-14).
The “true” descendants of Jacob have over the course of time shown their weakness, but at the same time shown their desire for the LORD God’s blessing. We find this example throughout Jacob’s life. And this is why the LORD said, “Jacob I loved.” Jacob wasn’t a perfect man, but he believed the LORD and this makes all the difference.
Jacob’s brother Esau and his descendants on the other hand over the course of time revealed that they were not interested in the LORD God’s blessing. Scripture gives us this brief commentary on Esau and it stands as a warning to all: See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God (don’t choose ignorance and don’t be stubborn; or proud); that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. (Hebrews 12:15-16) Unlike Jacob, Esau and his descendants were devoid of faith. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, (Hebrews 11:6a).
…but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works (v31-32).
Earlier in Paul’s letter he stated the only way to be “justified” before God is through faith in Jesus Christ: Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may be accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20).
The Law was a means of righteous living, but it was never meant to provide salvation because man is unable to keep God’s commandments – we’re not sinners because we sin; we sin because we’re sinners! It’s our nature to break the law, whether they are God’s laws or man’s. Who hasn’t added 10 miles an hour to the speed limit while driving their car, who hasn’t “manipulated” a tax return, who hasn’t told a lie, who hasn’t taken a pen, pencil, or notepad home from work that didn’t belong to them, who hasn’t lusted after another person, place, or thing? Get the idea.
The nation of Israel failed in obtaining it’s righteousness before God because they thought God would give His righteousness to them based on their keeping the Law. Israel put their devotion in the Law and their religion.
But Paul, who is the spokesperson for the risen Lord Jesus Christ says, But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested (brought into the spotlight), being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:21-23). Hello…there’s been a change! My how some people resist “change.”
When Jesus Christ came, the Israelites were offended by Him (v32). He revealed their attempts at keeping the Law only served themselves by making them “feel” important. In other words, they were seeking to establish their own righteousness within the religious system they had made. They couldn’t accept this truth or Jesus, and He became A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE (v33). Therefore, the nation of Israel missed God’s “way” of righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.
So, make no mistake the emphasis is on human responsibility and sin. God is dependable. He is sovereign. He is trustworthy. His wisdom is shared with those who look to Him, lean on Him, and rely on Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). However, a person cannot receive wisdom from God apart from a relationship with Him. This was Israel’s problem then and it’s Israel’s problem today. Jesus said, “THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’” (Matthew 15:8-9; Romans 11:25)
Jesus made it very clear it’s the condition of one’s heart that matters and not their rote religious practices: after Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”(Proverbs 21:2; Matthew 15:10-11; Luke 16:15)
Jesus Christ’s own people rejected Him because they were proud, obstinate, and disobedient (Romans 10:21). This fits the description of anyone who attempts to please God on their terms. These people are blind to their sinfulness and they are destitute of faith (Genesis 4:3-7). Jesus used the parable about the Pharisee and the Publican to teach people it's wrong to trust in self righteousness.
9: And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
10: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11: "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12: 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'
13: "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'
14: "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
It’s hard to miss the “prideful” comments coming from this Pharisee. In case you’re unaware, the sin of pride is the “sin of sins.” This is the sin that transformed Lucifer, an archangel, into Satan, the devil, the father of lies, from whom arose the origin of sin, and the one for whom the Lake of Fire was created. It was the sin of pride that led the woman in the Garden of Eden to disobey God’s command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil for she believed the devil’s lie that she would be, like god.
The sin of pride = preoccupation with self. It’s fitting then that the middle letter in SIN is the letter “I.” Read the Pharisee’s comments how many times did he say, “I?”
God detests pride because He loves people and pride prevents them from receiving His Word and His free gift of grace: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)
But God loves the humble “heart,” Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” (James 4:6b)
Jesus Christ is a “stumbling block” for the proud and a Rock of offense in Zion (v33).
He came silently and simply, born of a virgin, in Bethlehem Ephrathah (Micah 5:2).
He lived the life of a poor, Jewish carpenter, in Nazareth, an area despised by the local Jews. That was a stumbling block for them….”Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” His message (gospel) was one that humiliated the religious elite. This became their stumbling block and one of the reasons Jesus was crucified. His gospel was that of salvation apart from works (religion) and that was a stumbling block to the self-reliant Jews who believed themselves good enough to be saved based on their merit system. But this same gospel was then offered to gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, (but) attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith, (in Jesus Christ), which again was a stumbling block for the Israelites who, because of their national pride, were prejudiced against non-Jews.
When people hear the gospel today, God’s message of love and grace, they stumble because their pride blocks His message: Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient (Apeitheo in the Greek, meaning: not to allow one’s self to be persuaded, to refuse or withhold belief; proud), the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And 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 Peter 2:7-8; 1 Corinthians 18-28)
I want to look at one passage in particular. Please turn to Psalms 118.22 - The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.
There is much debate as to who the author of this Psalm is and when it was written.
However, quite a few people give King David the credit. Who wrote the Psalm is not the issue at hand. It’s the message it conveys that matters.
This Psalms falls into two halves: from verses 1-18, the psalmist and the worshippers are on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for one of the seven feast days. From verses 19-29, the worshippers have arrived at the Temple, where their worship continues. And so Psalm 118 was a song which was included in their festive corporate worship.
For example, when the Jews returned to the land, the singers in Ezra’s day sang a variation of Psalm 118:1 when the builders laid the foundation of the second Temple (Ezra 3:11), “They sang, praising and giving thanks to the LORD saying, ‘For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.’ “
When Matthew records that Jesus Christ and His apostles sung a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives, they were following the prescribed Passover tradition instructions for performing “Hallel” (Matthew 26:30). The Hallel (pronounced: hah-leyl) consists of Psalms 113 through 118 and is a central prayer in Judaism.
Psalm 118:14: “The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation,” is taken from the song of Moses, sung after the Exodus (Exodus 15:2). This is the last song after the Passover, so this would have been the last song that Jesus sang with His disciples before going out to the Garden of Gethsemane.
The gospel accounts of Palm Sunday and the Passion Week cite from Psalm 118 in reference to Jesus Christ. When He entered Jerusalem, the crowds cried out the words of verses 25-26 with regard to Jesus. “Do save” in Hebrew is hosanna. (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9-10; Luke 19:39; John 12:13)
Later that week, as Jesus debated with the Jewish religious leaders, He referred to Himself as the “stone” which the builders rejected, which becomes the chief corner stone (Genesis 49:24; Job 38:4-6; Isaiah 28:16; Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45; Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20).
Here’s what Jesus meant by this statement: the nation of Israel would reject their Messiah, but He becomes and remains the Stone which holds the whole structure of God’s plan of salvation together.
To approach God through our works will cause us to stumble over Christ and be lost; to approach God through faith in Jesus Christ results in justification, righteousness, and salvation.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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