02 Feb Righteousness by Faith
Read: Romans 9:9:30-10:4
Last Sunday, Pastor Ken preached from Romans 9:14-29, continuing our study on God’s sovereign purpose of election. This Sunday, he will preach from Romans 9:30-10:4, where we will see clearly that salvation is not by works but by faith in Christ alone. In preparing our hearts for our corporate gathering, let us continue to pray that the Lord would grant us great humility and understanding of his Word. Further, let these words from Tim Keller continue to aid your understanding of the coinciding nature of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in salvation.
The first half of verse 32 explains what Paul means by his assertion that the Jews have “stumbled over the ‘stumbling’ stone’” in the second half. This stone is Christ, a “stumbling-block to Jews” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Why do
people stumble over Jesus? Because faith in him requires that we lay down any idea of self-righteousness and accept his. He demands that we humble ourselves before we can be raised up. As long as anyone pursues salvation “as if it were by works” (Romans 9:32), they will stumble and fall when confronted with Christ. As Paul shows, by combining two quotations from Isaiah (28:16 and 8:14) in Romans 9:33, Christ is a rock we either found our lives upon, or stumble over. As Paul pointed out in verses 4-5, the Jews had all the light they needed to see that Jesus is a stone in whom “the one who trusts … will never be put to shame” (v 33). Instead, they stumbled over him, tripped by their cloaks of self-righteousness.
Yet up until verse 29, Paul has been attributing that unbelief to God’s sovereign purpose. So when we seek to keep 9:1-29 and 9:30 – 10:21 together, the two sections at first seem contradictory. If unbelief is due to God’s sovereign control, how can any human be held responsible for it?
Now we can, of course, assume that this is a contradiction, but that does not give Paul much credit. Even if we do not believe in the inspiration of the Bible, we must conclude that Paul was a superior intellect. After all, he formulated the Christian faith and strategically spread it in such a way that it conquered the Roman empire and became the single greatest religious movement in history. So it is not likely that a man of that caliber would write an ordered treatise on theology and unwittingly contradict himself within one chapter. But if this is not a contradiction or mistake, then what is going on?!
Paul is showing us that God’s sovereignty and human responsibility stand in relationship to each other as an “antinomy”— as an apparent contradiction. One famous example of an antinomy is the fact that light sometimes behaves as particles and at other times as waves. We don’t understand fully how that could be— it is an apparent contradiction of physics. But we expect to understand it in the future as we get more information. So it is here. The Bible never says: This event happened totally in accord with God’s plan, therefore the human beings were not responsible for their actions. Nor does it say: The human beings were responsible for their actions, therefore the event was not certain to happen according to God’s plan. No. Rather, the Bible holds both of these truths together:
1. The complete sovereignty of God over all history
2. The complete responsibility of every human being for his or her behavior
The following quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones does not explain all of the “antinomy” but it helps us see how God can save people through election, and yet people who disbelieve are still responsible for their behavior.
“In [Romans 9] verses 6 to 29, [Paul] explains why anybody is saved— it is the sovereign election of God. In these verses [v 30-33] he is showing us why anybody is lost, and the explanation of that is their own responsibility … So this is what the Bible teaches. Election alone accounts for the saved, but non-election does not account for the lost … No [one] would be saved were it not that God in a sovereign manner has chosen him, as we have seen abundantly from verses 6 to 29. It is God’s action alone that saves a man. So why is anybody lost? Is it because they are not elected? No! What accounts for the lost is their rejection of the gospel … We are responsible for our rejection of the gospel, but we are not responsible for our acceptance of it.” (Romans Chapter 9, page 285)
Exerpt from Romans 8-16 For You, by Tim Keller
Song List for Sunday
1. “God’s Word Stands Sure Forever,” by North Wake Music
2. “This I Believe,” Arr. by Shane & Shane
3. “By Faith,” by Keith & Kristyn Getty
4. “At the Cross,” by Hillsong Live