Series: Family Privilege
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Don Pate
Live Wonder: Jessyka Albert
Live Adventure: Jessyka Albert
Live Purpose: Vanessa Rivera
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 11:1-36 in the English Standard Version (ESV).
Reflect: So God put a “stumbling block” in the path for Israel. Is that really what Romans 11 tells us?
Actually, the answer is “yes”—to a degree. Let me explain.
A few years after writing Romans, Paul fleshes out the concept that only gets brushed over here. In I Corinthians 1:19-31, he expands the concept of a “stumbling block” by explaining his understanding of the message of Jesus as “foolishness.”
The Greeks thought the Gospel claim was preposterous because they believed that if any human could get any god to move or act, this would put the human above the god. If you accept that understanding, then the whole Christian “cross and salvation” thing really is kind of foolish, kind of backward.
But what about the “stumbling block” thing and the Jews? It’s an easy explanation. The cross offends in two ways: First, “cursed be he who hangs on a tree” (Deut. 21:23). That’s what God said and these words were taken literally. (But we as Christians also take them literally! It explains the whole Gethsemane experience and II Corinthians 5:19. Paul said Jews would trip over that. Christians accept it as part of the big picture.)
The second way in which the cross offends is through the expectation accompanying it, the idea that, “When the Messiah comes, all things shall be made right.” Clearly there are Old Testament passages that support this idea, but it demands that you to take a stand on when you believe it must be true. Jews expected it now (Acts 1:6), but Christians expect it whenever the Messiah determines.
This helps us to better understand the whole “stumbling block” thing. Yes, God put things out there that need some clarity. Paul, in this passage, is saddened that his fellow Jews did not understand as he did.
Recalibrate: It’s easy for us to be critical of the “failure” of Judaism to recognize the truth about Jesus. But is it possible that there are still areas of my life in which Jesus is waiting for me to grow? What does that consideration do to my criticisms of Israel or anyone else? What holds me back from extending grace to others?
Respond: Oh Lord, it’s our temptation to not let you fully be Lord. Please don’t give up on bringing each of us to better understandings—of You, of us.
Remember: “So I ask, has God abandoned His people? Certainly not!” (Romans 11:1, KNT).
Don Pate is a veteran of ministry, including teaching (seventh grade through college), pastoring, publishing, and radio/television ministry. Now officially retired, he still remains engaged in creative ministry—teaching and preaching nearly every weekend somewhere. But he mostly is increasingly astonished at the generosity of Christ that has allowed him to continue to be the most unworthy servant of the Kingdom.
Has your child ever caught you being critical of things or other people? Paul calls out the Jews for being critical of non-Jews. He also calls out the non-Jews for being critical of Jews. Overall, Paul reminds us that pointing out other people’s flaws and failures is no way to live. It’s not beneficial to them and it’s not beneficial to us. What are some ways that you can model being uplifting and positive? Make it a priority to point out the things your child does that you are proud of today.
Have you ever understood something in school, church, or home before someone else understood it? Did it make you feel smarter than everyone else? Maybe you understood the rules of a new game and could beat everyone else. Pick a game to play that you know the rules for and play with someone who doesn’t know the rules. Instead of feeling like you are better than them and making them figure it out on their own, show them how to play. Be patient teaching them how the game works. Do you think God is patient with us when He wants to teach us something?
Paul warns the Gentiles to not boast over the Jews because, in a way, they are getting lots of favors from God, not from themselves. The Jews may have felt temporarily rejected because of the inclusion of new people into their promises. God warns the Gentiles that they could be rejected if they distance themselves the ways the Jews did. He states that the branches of their tree could be cut off. Is He saying that we can mess up too much and then not be saved? Not necessarily. But we can get deluded in thinking we have it all together when actually we are lost. This can result in our being rejected as a result of our own choices. I recently read a book that discussed the difference between engaged Christians and “churched” Christians. An engaged Christian is one who is reading and studying the Bible, is praying regularly, is involved in their church community, and so on. A churched Christian is one who goes to church but isn’t necessarily diving into God’s word or talking to Him regularly. Externally, both Christians could look the same. One might assume if someone goes to church or does other “religious” things that they have a connection with God. I know I’ve spent too much time feeling really comfortable as a churched Christian. Not asking questions, not growing deeper in my relationship with God. Just there. There are also other categories for determining engagement with the Gospel. There are unchurched Christians, and those who are not Christian at all. How would you define yourself and why?