The Stumbling Stone

Have you ever tripped over something? A curb? A bump in the road? Most of us have.


Why does that happen to us?


We don’t see it there – so, we fall over it.


In Acts 26 Paul is standing before a governor and a king and is sharing his salvation story with them. He says this to King Agrippa:


“And Paul said, ‘I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.’” (Acts 26:29)


Paul had a craving for all to whom he spoke to receive Jesus and be born again. In fact, in his letter to the Christians in Rome he says something curious:


“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.” (Romans 9:30-32)


The Jewish people were trapped in a system that had been strongly influenced by what satan had done to the world system since the Fall of Man. They were obsessed with a system that was impossible to please. They either spent their energies trying to make themselves perfect in performance…or they quit trying because it was fruitless for people to make themselves perfect and righteous.


Sadly, there exists in the body of Christ today that very same problem. The spirit of religion has caused Christianity to devolve from the intentions of God for HIS Church.


Jesus has provided righteousness to us.


“…He (the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (in Jesus).” (2 Corinthians 5:21)


The righteousness of Jesus has become our righteousness as a gift and it is ours to harvest. Yet, many of our brethren are busy doing, doing, doing to get. Many of our brethren are trapped in doing works...satisfying the law of the expectations of mere men (even in the church) so they will be good enough in the eyes of God (and in the eyes of critical people, including ourselves).


And so, they do not attain to the law of righteousness.


Some of these keep working to gain approval from God…approval they already have. Oh, how satan loves playing us for fools!


Others, give up in despair – tired and disheartened. These fall away and drift from the fellowship God designed them to crave.


Why is this happening?


“…Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.” (Romans 9:32)


Now, Paul originally wrote these passionate words regarding legalistic Jewish people who weren’t being born again due to their allegiance to how man had perverted God’s Law – instead of allegiance to God Who originally gave the Law.


However, the very same dynamic exists among born again people…Christians…who have lost sight of who they are in Christ thanks to 1700 years of error as man toyed with and altered the Church Jesus built.


The good news is that the same answer remains for us now since Jesus NEVER changes.


“As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 9:33)


Thankfully, the same stumbling stone provided for lost Jews remains for we Christians today and the stumbling stone is not a “what”; rather, it is a “Who”. See how Paul identifies this “stumbling stone and rock of offense”.


“As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 9:33)


Many of our brethren, just as was the case with the Jews of whom Paul wrote in Romans 9, fall over Jesus in their rush to make themselves good enough for God to bless. We cannot make ourselves good enough for God. No one ever could.


IF we could...Jesus would never have had to come.


What effect did it have on Paul to realize this dynamic and to realize that lost people he loved were in this trap?


“Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:1-2)


He recognizes that God matters to these people but they have a fundamental problem in the area of “knowing”. This is what happens in the hearts of Christians who care about God but who think they can perform perfectly enough to gain His approval.


“For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:3)


They are “ignorant”. They simply “do not know” because most modern Christians have been taught by a religious system which has been saturated in satan’s doctrines that if they do not behave perfectly and appear to be spiritually sound they are unacceptable in God’s sight.


This is what some call “law”. Simply defined: law is man’s efforts to do things in order to make himself into something only God can do.


Much of the Church finds itself trapped in the very law Jesus came to fulfill.


Jesus speaking: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)


Either Jesus succeeded in doing that…or He failed.


Listen as Jesus goes on to speak of a type of righteousness that was not available to anyone on the day He spoke it (because He had not yet died on the Cross and risen from the grave) but IS available to us today.


“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:18-20)


This is the righteousness Paul spoke about in 2 Corinthians 5:21. The Father made Jesus become the sin He despises so we could become THIS righteousness which “exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” and which allows us to someday “enter the kingdom of heaven”.


Paul said this to the Christians in Rome…and to us:


“For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:3)


It is not a fatal error to be ignorant. We all lack knowledge about something. Many of us have been or still are ignorant about our righteousness in Christ.


Why do people do what they do in the flesh? We do it because we don’t know what the Spirit wants to do. And, when we DO know something and practice it and if we have the heart of Jesus about it, we will grieve when others choose to worship themselves or something of the earth…instead of the Lord.


“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)


The word translated as “end” is the Greek word “telios”. It means “the completion or fulfillment of all things intended”.


Christ completes the law for doing to become. HE did...so WE could become. That is God’s intention regarding righteousness for people.


So, what is it I am trying to attain in my doing? Is it peace? Jesus did so I could have peace. Is it joy? Jesus did so I could have joy. Is it completeness? Jesus did so I could be complete.


Whatever it is I am trying to get (if the Lord would have me attain it) Jesus did...so I would have it.


This is the Gospel...the good news.


“…Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)


Christ is the fulfillment of the law to me IF…I believe (trust) in HIM only and what HE brings into my life. If I “be living in Christ” and not be living in me or in my self-protection or my self-provision, He will be my life and my rightness in the sight of God.


Or, I can continue to live in the law…even as a Christian:


“For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, ‘The man who does those things shall live by them.’” (Romans 10:5)


In other words, if I live by the law of “it’s all up to me” I will consign myself to having to live out that system. And, this system is so exhausting, depressing, empty, false...it’s not real.


I am well aware that I am no Apostle Paul. But, there are times when I can identify with him. I so want my fellow Christians to have what I have in Christ.


Perhaps what I’ve written here will inspire you to seek more of what Jesus provides all Christians through His suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Let’s commit to not allowing any of that to go to waste.


Maybe its time to stop falling over Jesus, the stumbling stone and rock of offense.


This is written in Him.




Pastor Mike McInerney

Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.

© July 18, 2021

(for use with permission)