32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
1901 ASV Translation:
32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works. They stumbled at the stone of stumbling;
33 even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame
I. Paul's Explanation.
A. The astounding conclusion that Paul drew in 9:31-32 -- that the Gentiles got what Israel failed to get, and that without effort -- needs some explanation.
B. Why did Israel fail to obtain a right standing before God even after having been given a clear declaration of what that would look like in real life (the Law of Moses)?
1. Paul's answer begins with his declaration that there are two sources for a "right standing".
a. There is an "out of faith" righteousness.
b. There is an "out of works" righteousness.
2. Paul's answer continues with his declaration that a "stumbling stone" had been set in place in "Zion" and Israel "stumbled over it".
a. The "stumbling stone" is re-identified as "a rock of scandal".
b. The issue of "shame" is put front and center as a promise of what happens when a person believes/disbelieves. This is directly related to the issue of "boasting" that was put front and center in 3:27, which has the very same contrast in mind. There is a "law of works" that inescapably leads to boasting (and, thus, to "shame"), and there is a "law of faith" that inescapably destroys "boasting" (and, thus, also "shame" -- one can hardly be put to shame over something about which he made no boast).
3. Paul's answer concludes with his focus upon the promise that "faith" leads to an absolute escape from "shame".
a. This "promise" is probably more crucial than most of us realize.
1) How crucial is the promise that an absolute escape from "shame" is possible?
2) Why would such a promise be made in the setting of a deliberate placement of a "rock of scandal" in "Zion"? What in the world would cause God to deliberately put a stone in Zion which has, as its essential identity, the intent to trip people? The answer seems to be that there is a malignant evil loose in the midst of the people of God that simply cannot be ignored; it must be surfaced, exposed, and destroyed. That evil is the intention of self-elevation for the purpose of undercutting God and it is best exposed by the placement of its nemesis in the path. The nemesis of self-exaltation is humiliation. Making a pompous person fall flat on their face in public is humiliating. Hence, a stone of stumbling is the method for dealing with arrogance.
b. "Faith" in this promise is also of a high level of importance. It is not "lip-service", nor is it some kind of manipulative device. It is resting oneself upon Truth so that there is no legitimate basis for fear.