Yellow Balloons Devotional Series: Advent

Romans 9:30-33

The Apostle Paul writes to the world-renowned believers in Rome, the center of the world at that time, in order to answer a slanderous charge made to them against Paul and his message. Paul’s detractors claim his emphasis on faith overturns the law. Paul says that ” just living by the law” does not achieve personal justice before God, while “just living by faith” does. Paul then demonstrates what a just life looks like: harmonious living with Jesus as the leader. Paul also makes clear the choice a believer has: to walk in faith and the power of the resurrection and experience resurrection life, or walk in sin and unnecessarily experience the negative consequences.

In Chapter 9, Paul addresses Israel’s relationship with God. He makes it clear that he is grieved the Israelites have rejected God’s offer of grace through faith, they have rejected Christ. Israel is God’s chosen nation, with whom He has made covenants and promises. So, even though Israel’s fellowship with God is suffering, this is not due to God breaking His word. As humans, we deserve nothing from God, yet He chooses to extend mercy to us. He is our maker, and we have no right or power to demand anything from Him. Yet, He chooses to show mercy to whom He chooses to show mercy. We cannot earn His favor; He gives it to whom He chooses. God does not care about our works apart from obedience to Him, and when He sent His Son to die for the world, all He required from us was faith. The Gentiles have been reconciled to Him because of their faith, but the Jews have alienated themselves from Him by only pursuing works. The fault lies with Israel. God has not abandoned them.

Righteousness can only be gained one way: through faith. The Gentiles (people who are non-Jewish) found righteousness through faith, even though they were not looking for it. Many of the Jewish people pursued righteousness through following rules, not through faith, so they didn’t find righteousness.

These verses tie directly to the theme verse of Romans 1:16-17; righteousness only comes one way, and that is through faith, from beginning to end. Righteousness begins by faith in Jesus, and that makes us righteous in God’s sight, we become a child of God’s just be believing. It continues in our daily living – walking by faith daily brings righteousness into our experience.

Paul has brought up the rhetorical question “What shall we say then” in his letter to the Roman believers four different times already (4:1, 6:1, 8:31, 9:14). He is using this question in verse 30 to answer a potential objection raised perhaps by the competing Jewish “authorities.” The question that Paul is answering focuses on the Jewish people and Gentile believers. The Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; How did the Gentile believers come to righteousness? Paul answers that it is through faith that the believing Gentiles attained God’s righteousness.

The Gentiles did not pursue God’s righteousness, but God made Himself known to the Gentiles (10:20) and they believed. Because they believed, they became righteous before God through faith and were therefore adopted into the family and righteousness of God. As they walked in faith, they experienced righteousness in their daily living. This occurred even though righteousness wasn’t something that they were seeking, but nonetheless God revealed it to them. On the other hand, the Jewish people were pursuing a law of righteousness, deliberately seeking to be righteous in the sight of God. However, the Jewish people sought to pursue righteousness through their own actions, like obeying religious rules, and not through faith. As a result, they did not gain righteousness, because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. No one one can live up to God’s standard, as Paul made clear in Romans 3.

In verses 31 – 33, Paul is telling the Roman believers that both the Jews and the Gentiles must come to righteousness through faith. Righteousness is referring to harmonious and right living, living as God wants you to. This righteousness is tied to justification (believing that Christ died on the cross for our sins) and our sanctification (living as God wants us to, harmonious and right-living). Paul is referring to righteousness as both justification and sanctification, each necessary to live a righteous, harmonious, life. He tells us that the Jews attempted to come to this righteousness through their own actions, like following religious rules. Paul makes it clear in verse 33, where he quotes Isaiah from the Old Testament, that Jesus is the stumbling stone for the Jewish people: Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offenseAnd he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”  In order to attain righteousness, God requires faith in His Son, Jesus. For the Jewish people, who have pursued their own righteousness through the law, Jesus is a stumbling stone. They fall over Him, He is an obstacle in their way, because they have pursued righteousness through their own actions, rather than faith.

Biblical text

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 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 lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,

And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”