The Letter to the Romans
COLLEEN MOORE TINKER
33. God's Sovereign Faithfulness
Paul has discussed the absolute sovereignty of God which mortal humanity cannot question. He appoints people for destruction and also for glory. At the same time, God is patient so everyone will have an opportunity to respond to the Holy Spirit and be saved. Now Paul explains how God's promises to Israel in the Old Testament are being fulfilled through Jesus in ways Israel could not have foreseen.
In verse 25 Paul quotes Hosea 2:23, and in verse 26 he quotes Isaiah 1:10. Hosea 2:23 says, "I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one.' I will say to those called, "Not my people,' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.' "
Hosea 1:10 records God saying, "Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'" This promise follows God telling Hosea to name his third child (born to his prostitute wife Gomer) Lo-Ammi, which means "not my people". God used Hosea's private life to illustrate His relationship with Israel. The names of his three children represented God's judgment of Israel for her embracing pagan gods and giving them the credit for God's blessings on them. The first child's name, Jezreel, meant "God scatters". The second child's name, Lo-Ruhama, meant "not loved". Finally, the third child's name, Lo-Ammi, demonstrated a break in God's covenant relationship with Israel.
In spite of these dreadful pronouncements of God's punishment on Israel, He nevertheless extended hope. He would restore His covenant relationship with them. Chapter 1:10 and chapter 2:23 both reveal that God will again demonstrate His love for Israel. He would show love to those He called "Not my loved one," and he would say to those He called "Not my people," "You are my people."
Israel would have understood Hosea's message as God's judgments on them as a nation. They would also have recognized God's eternal faithfulness in not abandoning His people forever on the basis of their unfaithfulness. They understood that they would be punished and lose God's blessings and favor; they also understood that God would ultimately redeem His chosen people.
In Romans 9, however, Paul reveals God's fulfillment of these prophecies in ways the Israelites would never have expected. He is revealing the mystery hidden for generations: that the Jews and the Gentiles would become one in Christ. There would be no division between them (Colossians 1:27 and 2:11). Paul is showing that God fulfilled his promises in Hosea not merely by calling the nation of Israel back to Himself but by calling the Gentiles to Himself. Those who, throughout Israel's national history, had been "not God's people" He now has called to Himself, and they are his loved ones, the "sons of the living God."
Peter also explains that in the new covenant, believers in Jesus are called "God's chosen people" just as, in the Old Testament, that name belonged to Israel. God called all who believe in Jesus out of darkness and into light. "Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy," he writes to both Jewish and Gentile Christians in Asia Minor.
The Gentiles become God's people by grafting them into His children. Romans 11:17-24 explains this phenomenon with a metaphor. The Gentiles are a wild olive shoot which has been grafted into an olive tree and now receives the nourishing sap from the olive root. Some of the natural, domesticated branches have been broken off, and the wild ones have moved into their places. Yet God warns the now-engrafted branches not to be arrogant; if He could graft them into a flourishing tree and tame them, making them part of the tree, He can graft the broken branches in again, too.
The Olive Tree
To understand what Paul means when he speaks of branches being broken and Gentiles being grafted into the olive tree, we must see what that symbol represents in Scripture. The olive tree lives for hundreds of years, unlike most other trees. It flourishes and bears fruit for generations. It is, therefore, a meaningful symbol of permanence and endurance.
In Jeremiah 11:16 God sent a prophecy to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. He warned that judgment was coming on them. "The Lord called you a thriving olive tree," Jeremiah cried to them; their tree bore beautiful fruit. With the roar of a mighty storm, however, He would set it on fire, and its branches would be broken off. In this passage, the olive tree represents the Israelites living in the southern kingdom of Judah where Jerusalem, the city of God's temple, stood. The judgment coming on them was God's response to their apostasy.
Near the end of the book of Hosea, God says, "I will be like the dew to IsraelHis splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon" (Hosea 14:5-6) Again God compares Israel to an olive tree.
Psalm 1:1-3 expands our understanding of the tree metaphor. While it doesn't specifically refer to an olive tree, this passage describes the person who refuses to walk in the way of the wicked, choosing instead to honor God's law, as a tree planted by streams of water. This tree bears fruit in season, its leaves do not wither, and all this person does, prospers.
Again in Psalm 52:8 David uses the metaphor of an olive tree to represent a person planted and nourished in God. He wrote this Psalm when he was under attack from his enemies, and he ends it with praise to God. "But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God," David exults; "I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever."
In Scripture, the olive tree is the symbol of God's people. In the Old Testament, Israel was the nation represented by an olive tree. David expanded the metaphor to describe individuals who walk with God and honor Him. When Paul talks about Gentiles being grafted into the olive tree, he is not referring to genetic Israel. He is saying God claims those who were not His people and grafts them into the trunk of the olive tree. Many of the natural branches, as Jeremiah warned, have been broken off. Those branches, according to Paul, are Israelites who rejected Jesus and the promises of God. The Gentiles are wild branches which God "tames" by implanting them into the trunk which survives the breaking off of the branches.
In John 15:1-5, Jesus describes himself and his followers as parts of a vine. While the metaphor is not specifically an olive tree, Jesus' description of His role and His disciples' roles helps us understand Paul's description of the olive tree. "I am the true vine," Jesus says, "and my Father is the gardener." He goes on to say that branches cannot bear fruit if they are separated from the vine. "I am the vine; you are the branches," He says directly. "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
In Romans 9, Paul's use of the olive tree metaphor is describing God's people regardless of ethnic origin. Tame branches-Israelites-have been broken off the vine, but grafted wild branches-Gentiles-are now flourishing on the tree. The tree-the trunk and roots which nourish the branches-is Jesus. His people gain nourishment from Him and bear His fruit. The symbol of the olive tree throughout Scripture is primarily a symbol of God and those who trust Him and His promises. What made Israel unique was not primarily their genetic inheritance; it was their engrafted relationship with God.
Until the New Testament, however, the understanding of the olive tree being primarily about God and secondarily about people was veiled. When God extended "branch status" to the Gentiles, however, and cut off many of the natural branches, the reality became clear. Israel is not mainly about genetics. Israel is God's people from any ethnic background who place their trust in God and Jesus Christ and live from the nourishment of being in Him. The identity of an olive branch is "child of God", whether that person is a Jew or a Gentile.
Paul carefully explains in Romans how in Christ, the true children of Abraham are all those who live by faith in Jesus, not those who have genetically descended from Isaac. God is revealing that His children are His by spiritual rebirth, not by mortal genetic inheritance. Immortality is the gift of God through Jesus, imparted to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit who brings our spirits to life. The true Israel, the true children of Abraham, are those who believe God's promises and accept them by faith. They accept Jesus' death and resurrection on their behalf, and they are born again of the Spirit.
They do not "replace" ancient Israel as God's people. Rather, they "become" Israel. They are grafted into God's people who lived by faith in Him even before Jesus came. Even the cut off natural branches must be grafted back into the tree in order to qualify as "Israel."
Sons of the living God
If people become Israel-God's children-by being engrafted into the olive tree, how does this phenomenon happen? What takes a person from being part of the world-"not my people"-to being "sons of the living God"?
They mystery of this transformation is Jesus. His incarnation changed human history. Hosea 1:10 prophesied that God would make unexpected people "sons of the living God." This designation is identical to the identity Peter recognized in Jesus in Matthew 16:16 when he told Jesus, "You are the Son of the living God." While no created human will ever become God, still God promised to exalt humans to the status of sonship. Such a change of identity is miraculous; it cannot occur simply by human effort or decisions.
Paul wrote to Titus (3:4-7) that God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom He poured out generously through our Savior, Jesus Christ. John wrote in John 1:12-13, that the Word-Jesus-gave everyone the right to become children of God, born of God. In Romans 8:13-17 Paul explains that if we live by our natural, sinful natures, we will die. If, however, we allow the Spirit to give us divine power to "put to death" the body's misdeeds, we will live. All who live by the Holy Spirit's power are sons of God.
John further wrote, in John 3:6, that flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit. James, Jesus' half-brother and the leader of the early church in Jerusalem, wrote in the first epistle of the New Testament that He gave us birth through the word of truth that we could be a kind of firstfruit (James 1:18). Peter also connected rebirth by the Spirit with the living word of God in 1 Peter 1:23. We have been born again, he says, of imperishable seed through the living and enduring word of God.
In his first epistle, John wrote that no one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him. He cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9). In the next chapter (4:7) he wrote, "Let us love one another." Everyone, who loves, he says, has been born of God and knows God. Further, everyone who believes that Jesus is Christ is born of God (5:1).
In summary, "not my people" become "sons of the living God" through the power of Christ Jesus. His death and resurrection have given everyone the right to become God's children. Jesus' sacrifice atoned for sin, and it can no longer separate us from God when we accept Jesus and His finished work on our behalf. When we accept and surrender to Jesus, we are changed into new creations by the Holy Spirit who comes at that moment and indwells us. The God of the universe places His presence in our mortal bodies and creates new people out of us. We are connected to God and spiritually alive instead of dead in our inherent sin.
This transformation becomes possible through our hearing the truth about Jesus as it is told in the Bible. Without the word of God, the reality of our right to become God's children would be hidden from us. The written word reveals the risen Word, and through the power of the Holy Spirit who both inspired the Bible and brings us to life, we are changed. Once we are born again, our dead spirits are made alive. Sin is no longer our master. We are intrinsically new, not just metaphorically new. The Holy Spirit gives us the indwelling power of God to be able to overcome temptation. Previously, we were unable to resist sin because our spirits were dead in inherent sin. After our rebirth, however, we know God, and He puts His love in our hearts. We are new people with new identities, a new position before God, new power, and new potential. We are sons of the living God!
Like the sand of the sea
Verses 27-28 quote Isaiah 10:22-23 that says although the number of Israelites is like the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved. The Lord will carry out His sentence with finality. Originally this passage referred to Israel's eventual redemption from Assyria's attacks. At the time Isaiah wrote this passage, a remnant had already survived the Assyrian invasion, and eventually a remnant would return from the Babylonian exile. Chapter 11 of Isaiah connects this idea of the remnant being saved with the Messianic age.
Paul, in Romans 9, completes the application of this prophetic passage by explaining that a remnant of Israel was being saved. He's using this passage from Isaiah and its application to a remnant of Israel being saved in Christ in tandem with the passages from Hosea which, he says, describe the Gentiles' becoming part of God's people.
The significance of the description of Israel being "like the sand by the sea" is that these words were part of God's original promises to Abraham. God promised to bless Abraham with countless descendants, but then he mystified Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son of promise: Isaac. Without understanding why God was asking him to do something so apparently out-of-character and counter-intuitive to His promises, Abraham obeyed God. Believing that God was faithful and that, if necessary He could raise Isaac from death, Abraham proceeded with plans to sacrifice Isaac, stopping only when the "angel of the Lord", the pre-incarnate Christ, called to him to stop and provided a ram instead. After this ultimate act of obedience, Abraham received a blessing from God that his descendants would be "as numerous as the sand on the seashore."
This promise is used repeatedly throughout the Bible in reference to Israel. Hosea 1:10, also describes Israel "like the sand of the seashore," and he prophesies that Israel and Judah would be reunited and would appoint a leader. This prophecy is Messianic, and Paul uses the next verses to explain that the inclusion of the Gentiles makes up part of this great multitude.
In Jeremiah 33:19-22 God reaffirms that He cannot break His promises to David and the Levites that they would have perpetual descendants. "I will make the descendants of David my servants, and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars in the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore, " God declares.
The text notes of the NIV Study Bible explain that God's priestly covenant with the Levites and His royal covenant with David were not private grants to individual families involving only those families and God. Rather, they were integral to God's dealing with all of Israel. Through God's promise to the Levites, Israel was guaranteed that there would always be priestly mediation occurring on their behalf that would allow them to commune with God. Jesus is now fulfilling that priestly promise. His priesthood, however, is a better priesthood than the Levites' because He is eternal, and He, the sinless One, has purchased our righteousness by His mediation.
Similarly, God's covenant with David assured that there would always be a royal King over His people. The promises of countless descendants for both the royal and the priestly lines is no doubt fulfilled in the great multitude who will reign with Christ (see Romans 5:17; 8:17; 1 Corinthians 6:3; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:21; 5:10; 20:5-6; 22:5) and in the believers who in Christ are consecrated to be priests (see 1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6; see also Isaiah 66:21; Romans 6:13; 12:1; 15:16; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15-16).
Hebrews 11:11-12 states that Abraham became a father by faith because He considered God faithful. In other words, he trusted God to keep His promises even if he didn't understand how they could be accomplished. Because he believed God, however, he was declared righteous and became a father. From Abraham came descendants as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Romans 9 has just explained that in the new covenant, Israel is all God's people who are grafted into Christ through belief in Him. These believers, whether Jew or Gentile, are Abraham's descendants, and their number is as countless as the sand on the shore.
God's promises to Abraham are being fulfilled even now. The revelation of the new covenant, however, is that the Gentiles are being included in their fulfillment.
When Paul quotes Isaiah saying, "Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved," he is referring to a prophecy about Israel. Although God's prophecies about Abraham's descendants being "like the sands of the sea" find their ultimate fulfillment in all those who accept Jesus and are grafted into the vine, still the original prophecy was directed toward Israel, and Paul identifies this quote as God's warning to Israel.
The concept of being part of the "remnant people" was an underlying understanding many of us grew up believing. It is interesting to notice, however, how the Bible identifies "the remnant".
In 2 Kings we find the story of Sennacharib of the Assyrians threatening Jerusalem. He challenged the Israelites and insulted God, saying He would not be able to defeat the Assyrians. Hezekiah sent a delegation to Isaiah to ask for his intercession for the Jews in Jerusalem. "Therefore," they requested, "pray for the remnant that still survives"(2 Kings 19:4).
Sennecharib had been wreaking havoc in the northern kingdom before he began to brandish his sword against Jerusalem. Archeological evidence reveals that many Israelites fled the northern kingdom during Sennecharib's assaults and settled in Jerusalem. The remnant for whom Hezekiah's men were pleading were those who remained alive after Sennecharib finished his attacks. This remnant would have included both Jews from Judah and refugee Jews from the northern kingdom of Israel.
Isaiah 11:10-11 has a provocative prophecy. "In that day," it reads, "the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoplesthe Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea."
The "second time" this prophecy mentions most likely implies that the "first time" was God's intervention in bringing Israel out of Egyptian slavery. Now Isaiah prophesies that God will bring "the remnant" out of Egypt and other nations again. This prophecy probably refers to God's bringing the nation back together after the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles, but some people believe it is referring to the regathering of God's remnant after the dispersion from Jerusalem in AD 70 which will last until Christ's second coming.
The phrase "the Root of Jesse" in verse 10 is a Messianic title, and its inclusion suggests that this prophecy may have eschatological significance. It may, as well, foreshadow both regatherings: the one when God brought Israel out of Assyrian/Babylonian exile, and the one yet in the future when Christ returns. In either case, "the remnant" here refers to the few who are left of the Jews.
Jeremiah 23:1-4 has God stating his intention to judge the wicked leaders and rulers of Judah and to bring "the remnant" of the Jews back from all the countries where they've been scattered. This promise also carries a Messianic promise: God will bring "a righteous branch from David". While it's true that Paul identifies Israel ultimately as all those, Jew and Gentile alike, who have been grafted into the vine, still this passage also is saying something specific about God's people from among the Jews. They have been scattered repeatedly, and the scattering after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 has been prolonged to this day.
Jeremiah 44:11-14 reveals that God is not pleased with the remnant from Judah who thought they could live in Egypt and prosper. God says He will destroy Judah, and the fact that a "remnant" thought they could avoid His judgment by relocating in Egypt will prove to be a vain wish. They would not live to return, God says. The few who would return would be like fugitives; they would not be a preserved remnant. Verses 25-28 explain this judgment of God further. The Jews who escaped to Egypt assimilated into the culture. They began to worship the "Queen of Heaven" with the Egyptians, and had arrogantly thought they could escape God's wrath. They will discover that it is God's word, not theirs, that stands. His judgment will be sure.
Jeremiah 50:18-20 foreshadows the new covenant. God says He will punish the kings of Assyria and Babylon-a prophecy specifically referring to those nations' violence against Israel and the Israelites' exile into those nations-and bring His people back into the land. He also says, however, that there would be no guilt for His people because he would "forgive the remnant [He] spare[s]."The forgiveness will come with the atonement of Jesus.
The prophet Joel says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord from among "the survivors" whom the Lord calls will be saved. (Joel 2:32)
Zechariah wrote about the post-exilic period and the Jewish restoration from Babylonian captivity. Through him God promised, "I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past." He promises to bless and prosper them. He will save them, and they will be a blessing. (Zechariah 8:9-12) This prophecy, like so many in Isaiah and Jeremiah and Joel, had a direct fulfillment in the nation of Israel after they returned and rebuilt Jerusalem. Its complete fulfillment, however, includes a Messianic promise and still lies in the future.
Paul makes it clear in Romans 11:1-5 that we cannot read "the remnant" and assume that now it means people other than the Jews. God has not rejected his people, Paul assures us. "There is a remnant chosen by grace" just as there was in Elijah's day. The basis for their chosen status is God's choice, not their efforts. While Israel now includes both Jew and Gentile believers, the remnant Paul talks about in Romans 10 and 11 is a specific reference to those from historic Israel who will place their faith and trust in Christ.
To say that any group of people has replaced Israel as God's remnant is to misuse Scripture. God will still save and restore a remnant of the Jews who were His chosen people for centuries before Jesus came and ushered in the new covenant. The Jewish remnant will not be saved differently from anyone else; they will place their faith in the Messiah and be grafted back into the vine. They will not be more honored or more "special" than the rest of God's people. Neither, however, will they be less honored than the rest of God's true Israel.
Not like Sodom and Gomorrah
In verse 29 Paul quotes Isaiah 1:9 which says that unless God had left descendants-or survivors-Israel would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah-utterly destroyed. Isaiah 10:22-23 talks about the day of God's judgment on Assyria in which the Lord would carry out the destruction He had decreed upon the whole land. Most of Israel as well as the Assyrians would be destroyed.
The comparison of God's destruction of Israel being similar to that of Sodom and Gomorrah gains its powerful imagery from Genesis 19:24-29 where we read the description of those two cities' destruction. God rained down sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah, and the entire towns burned with everyone in them. Not only the buildings burned, but the surrounding plain and all vegetation disappeared as well. God's judgment on evil is the message of this story. When God destroys persistent, unrepentant evil, the Bible describes it in terms of consuming fire and complete destruction.
Deuteronomy 29:23 describes how God would destroy Israel if the people apostatized. He would destroy the land, and it would be a burning waste of salt and sulfur. Similarly, Isaiah 13:19-22 and Jeremiah 50:35 and 40 contain prophecies of God's destruction of Babylon. It, too, would be overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah and laid waste. Its destruction would be so complete that not even Bedouin Arabs would pitch their tents there.
The destruction God promises to mete out upon evil nations is complete and terrifying. Yet Paul, in talking about God's "sentence on the earth", says that Israel would be just like Sodom and Gomorrah if God had not left descendants. In other words, God's punishment of wicked nations including Israel will culminate in His final judgment on the earth. Because of its repeated apostasy and the nation's corporate rejection of the Messiah, Israel could expect God to completely annihilate them-yet God preserves a remnant. Israel is different from Sodom and Gomorrah because God made irrevocable promises to Israel, and He has preserved a remnant of Jews who honor Him.
Although great numbers of Jews throughout history will perish, God will preserve a faithful remnant.
According to verse 24, God is calling both Jews and Gentiles. The two passages Paul quotes from Isaiah, however, suggest that only a small remnant will survive from the great multitude that was Israel. Verse 30 also suggests that, at least up to the present time, the majority of those responding to God with saving faith are Gentiles.
Romans 1:16-17 establishes that salvation is for everyone who believes, first for the Jews, then for the Gentiles. The Jews were God's chosen created people commissioned to bring the knowledge and arrival of the gospel to the world. Through the Jews God revealed the coming Messiah and foreshadowed His sacrifice and righteousness for all who believed. Through the Jews the Messiah was born a descendant of David. The revelation of God and His saving grace came first to and through the Jews. After Pentecost, however, the gospel began going to the Gentiles, and they quickly became the dominant component of the church.
The book of Romans explains righteousness by faith clearly so there is no doubt about whether or not a person has saving faith in Christ. Chapter 3:22-24 says righteousness by faith comes from God through faith in Jesus to all who believe Him. Romans 4:5 declares that the man who doesn't work-or doesn't try to win God's favor by his good works-is credited with righteousness as Abraham was. Verses 13-14 of chapter 4 further state that Abraham and his offspring did not receive God's promises through the law but by faith in God. Further, these verses declare that if it were true that those who live by the law are heirs of God's promises, then the promises are worthless. God promised blessing because He promised it, not because Abraham earned it. God's promises depend upon God's word, not upon our conscientiousness. Even the Gentiles, who did not have the law, show that the law's requirements are written on their hearts because of their morality (Romans 2:15-16).
Righteousness by faith says the word is in our mouths and hearts. If we confess and believe that Jesus is Lord, we will be saved (Romans 10:6-9). Everything besides knowing Christ is loss, Paul says. Knowing Him has nothing to do with the law; rather it is having His righteousness which comes to us by faith in Christ (Philippians 3:8-9)
Even Noah, who predated God's call of Abraham, is an example of a person who received righteousness by faith. He warned the world about things which were not yet seen-the flood was a completely new phenomenon. By faith in God-not experience or special knowledge-he condemned the world and thereby became "heir to righteousness that comes by faith" (Hebrews 11:7).
It has never been possible for mortal humans to keep the law. Moses told Israel that is they would be careful to keep all the law before God, that law would be their righteousness (Deuteronomy 6:25). Paul, however, summarizes Israel's millennia-long relationship with the law when he said they had been zealous for God, but their zeal had not been based on knowledge. Instead, they sought to establish their own righteousness and did not submit to God's righteousness (Romans 10:1-3). In other words, they had never been able to keep the law; it had no hope of being their righteousness. Instead of turning to the God who made the covenant with them, however, they arrogantly persisted in thinking they could embrace the law and honor it whenever they chose, almost as if the law belonged to them and was their "servant".
Paul drove the futility of law-keeping home in Galatians 5:4 where he writes that those who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ and have fallen away from grace.
The law's purpose was to cause people to become helpless in the reality of their own sinful inability to keep the law and to draw them inexorably to Christ (Galatians 3:21-25). The Jews as a nation failed to find their hope in Jesus, and after their rejection of Him, the revelation of Jesus began to grow and expand exponentially among the Gentiles. Today the church is largely Gentile even though we know from these passages in Romans that God has preserved a remnant from Israel, and the Jews have not eternally lost the opportunity to enter God's rest through the Lord Jesus.
Paul ends this chapter by stating how the Jews' failure to attain righteousness because of trying to earn it really resulted from their stumbling "over the 'stumbling stone'" (v. 32). Their fatal stumble was prophesied in the Old Testament and explained several times in the New.
Psalm 118:22-23 had prophesied that the stone the builders rejected would become the capstone. Isaiah 28:16 foretold that God would lay in Zion a cornerstone for a foundation. Zechariah also foretold that from Judah would come the cornerstone, the tent peg, the battle bow-in fact, every ruler would come from Judah. (Zechariah 10:4)
Peter identifies Jesus as the stumbling stone foretold in Scripture. In his second epistle he says we come to Him (Jesus) who is the living stone men rejected. In spite of men's rejection, however, He is precious to God. To those who believe, this stone is precious, but to those who don't believe and obey, He has become a stone that causes stumbling (v. 2:4-8). In Acts 4:9-11 Luke records Peter speaking to the Sanhedrin after he healed a cripple in the court of the temple. Peter attributed the healing to Jesus Christ "who is the stone the builders rejected" and Who has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, Peter boldly asserts. There is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved. Peter specifically identified Jesus Christ as the One prophecy had foretold: the one on whom unbelievers would stumble.
When Jesus told the parable of the wicked tenants who killed the agents the owner sent to oversee the farm, even the owner's son, he used figurative language the Pharisees would have understood. He said the "stone they rejected has become the capstone." Then Jesus said, "Everyone who falls on the stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." From that day the scribes and Pharisees looked for a way to kill Jesus. (Luke 20:17-19) Matthew records the same parable in Matthew 21:40-44, but he adds that God will take the kingdom away from the Jews-the people who were crushed by the cornerstone-and give it to people who will bear fruit.
Paul also picked up the cornerstone metaphor in Ephesians 2:30. He wrote that the Gentiles are now no longer foreigners and aliens. Now, in Christ, they are fellow citizens with God's people who are collectively built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.
Jesus is the One on whom the church is built. All people who are God's children become part of His family by surrendering to Jesus. He is the One on whom the foundation and the building of the church rests. Without Jesus there would be no building, no church, no children of God from among the human race. He is the one the prophets foretold. He is the one on whom the Jews stumbled because Jesus was not the powerful military hero they anticipated from the prophecies.
Jesus did something far more powerful and profound than conquering the Jews' enemies. He carried sin, died humanity's death, and opened a new, living way to the Father. Following Him, however, does not require personal bravery and fighting skills. Following Jesus does not give one power and status in the world. It requires surrender and abject humility. It goes against humanity's natural desire to be known and to "make a mark". In order to be broken by falling on the Cornerstone instead of being crushed by having It fall on one, a person must be willing to give up all personal ambition and dreams. He must be willing to allow the Cornerstone to define the shape of his life. He must be willing to be a living stone built onto the Cornerstone.
God has extended His call to you to become part of the olive tree. Jesus is the trunk and the roots, and you-whether you have Jewish or Gentile heritage-can be grafted into the tree to become a fruitful, living branch. You can become a living stone built up from the Cornerstone in the formation of God's house. God will save a remnant of the Jews; His promises to them cannot be broken. He is also saving countless Gentiles who have become grafted into Himself and comprise part of His church.
God wants to call you "my person", a son or daughter of the living God". If you have not surrendered yourself to falling on Jesus the Cornerstone and allowing Him to break your pride and cocky independence, He is calling you to surrender now. If you have given your heart to Jesus and accepted His death for your sins, the question you must answer is this: what is Jesus asking you to release and surrender to Him? What stands between you and growing in Jesus?
The Israel of God lives by faith in Jesus and in His promises. Every part of our lives must be submitted to Him. God is asking you to give to Him your hold on the things you love and cherish, whether those things are relationships or material props. Jesus wants to be our all-in-all, and unless we are willing to trust Him with everything in our lives, He is not all we need.
God has promised to supply our needs without or worrying about them. He also asks us to trust Him with the people we love, with our dreams, with our works, with our health, with our income. Our hearts grow in peace and contentment as we surrender our fears and worries to Him. He is sovereign, and He will care for every part of our hearts.
God is asking you to trust Him with your heart. He wants to heal your brokenness and fill your emptiness. He wants to replace your fears with His presence. He will walk with you and hold you with His love through whatever assault or threat life unfolds before you. He strength is made perfect in your weakness; His grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Praise God for sending Jesus to fulfill all His promises to us. Praise Jesus for taking our sin and death on Himself and for revealing life and eternity. Praise the Holy Spirit for bringing our hearts to life and for grafting us into the olive tree.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for calling us from death to life and for giving us eternity with Him!
Copyright (c) 2006 Graphics Studio, Redlands,
CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted June 21, 2006.