Ask God to orient or reorient you to Himself. Confess any known sin. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Be still and reflect on Jesus and His sacrifice for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to God’s Word. Pray for others in your life that they, too, would know and love God today.
“30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.'”
Our passage this week begins by asking another question. The question has to do with two different ways of obtaining righteousness, one by pursuing the law—by works—by trying to earn salvation. The other is by simple faith in Christ. Only one of these ways work—it’s by faith. The approach that says righteousness can be earned fails to grasp the enormity of sin. In fact, this is something we see a lot. Think of the person who says, “Well, I’m a good person…at least I’m not as bad as they are.” They’ve missed just how holy God truly is. You see, our separation from God is so great that only He can bridge the gap; there is nothing we can do. Thanks be to God! He bridged the gap by sending His own incarnate Son Jesus who kept the law perfectly and freely sacrificed Himself for us. Jesus fulfilled the law’s requirements. By placing our faith in Him, He becomes our righteousness.
This would have been mind-blowing for the Jews to hear. They were God’s chosen people…they had the word of God, the patriarchs, the covenants. They might have thought: “How could someone who never had what we’ve been given now be righteous before God? They never had the law’s standard of righteousness to guide them.”
Paul’s answer was simply that righteousness comes by faith in Christ. This is what Paul always said. In fact, God’s message never changed; it’s always been about faith. Paul’s gospel revealed a righteousness that is by faith in Jesus’s finished work on the cross—that’s it, nothing more. Paul’s message was this: Jesus is the rock, and justification by faith in Christ was a stumbling block to Israel.
What was true in Paul’s day remains true today. People still reject the righteousness of God because they cannot earn it. It is absolutely free. Why would they do this? Sometimes it is because of pride. Folks can’t believe it could be that easy; they feel they’ve got to do something—to earn salvation in some way. People think that attending church, doing church work, giving lots of money, and being nice to folks will be enough. They’ve played by the rules, done what they were supposed to, so they should be “in”. Other times, it’s because they start to form “opinions” about people they know and play the role of judge. They say and think things like, “There is no way that person can be a Christian, do you know what they’ve done?” Do you see the problem with this way of thinking? They’re looking at God from their own perspective, making Him fit into a box. We make Him conform to what we think He should be like…and that’s a huge problem. We are limited, finite beings, while He is all-knowing, sovereign, and all-powerful.
The truth is we’re broken. I think we’re broken far worse than we can ever know, and this is why we need the gospel! Think back to the first couple of chapters of Romans—that was us before the Gospel! We can never be good enough on our own; our only option is to trust in Christ. Putting our faith in what Jesus has done is the only thing that can save us. In doing this, we’ll never be put to shame!
So what do we do with this? First, I think we should never forget where we came from. We need to reflect on the grace and mercy that has been poured out on us. The good news is that He continues to cover us with grace and mercy.
Second, we need to understand that even as believers, we can struggle with this inclination to want to earn God’s favor.
Think about your life right now. Are there ways you may be stumbling over the gospel? It can happen. Stop and reorient yourself back to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you have a right perspective. If there is anything that needs to change, what is one thing that might help you to narrow the gap between where you are and where you want to be?
*From what you have just read and considered, what is a personal implication/application for your life today?
(Personalize this prayer today; make it specific to the circumstances that face you.)
Ask God to lead you through His Spirit as you go through your day. Ask Him to bring to mind the truth of the Gospel and its implications for what you will encounter today. Tell Him “Yes” to His will and ask Him for His power and protection to live out this “yes.” Ask God to create and reveal opportunities to proclaim the Good News today. KEEP PRAYING THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY.
Inspiration and insight for the devotionals came from the following books: Reading Romans with John Stott; The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today Series), Stott, John; Romans (The NIV Application Commentary Book 6) Moo, Douglas J.; Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey (Encountering Biblical Studies) Moo, Douglas J.; Believers Bible Commentary; The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, Romans through Galatians; NIV Application Study Bible. The Cambridge Bible Commentary, Romans, Best, Ernest; Romans 8-16 For You: For reading, for feeding, for leading (God’s Word For You – Romans Series Book 2, Keller, Timothy.