What does Romans 9:33 mean?
ESV: as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
NIV: As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame."
CSB: As it is written, Look, I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and the one who believes on him will not be put to shame.
NLT: God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, 'I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.'
KJV: As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
NKJV: 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.”
Verse Commentary:
Why did the people of Israel not become righteous and acceptable before God by following the law of Moses? That's the question Paul is answering. He has said that the Israelites sought to be made righteous, and earn God's mercy, by their works. They approached God through a work-and-earn approach, rather than by faith. Paul concluded the previous verse by writing that they—Israel—have stumbled over the stumbling stone.

The idea of a "stumbling stone," as mentioned here is an odd thing. Who would deliberately place a rock for people to trip over? Paul's quotes from Isaiah in this verse shows that the stone is tripped over because it is rejected, rather than being received by faith.

First Paul quotes from Isaiah 8:14, where the prophet describes the Lord as a rock of offense and a stone of stumbling to all of Israel. Paul is insisting that this is not a new idea—that the Jewish people would struggle to accept the idea that righteousness is found only through faith in Christ.

Next, Paul quotes from Isaiah 28:16, where that stone, Christ, is described as the sure foundation, the precious cornerstone of God's work on earth. The part Paul quotes directly is that whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. In more literal terms, such people will not be shown to be foolish for believing in Christ. This, symbolically, is the stone that the Israelites have tripped over, Paul writes, because they refused to believe in Christ, wishing instead to prove their righteousness by their own works.
Verse Context:
Romans 9:30–33 finds Paul declaring that though the Gentiles did not seek God's righteousness, it has been given to them by faith. Meanwhile, Israel pursued righteousness through following the law and did not reach it because they did not pursue it by faith. They stumbled over Christ, the stumbling stone. All who believe in Him will never be put to shame.
Chapter Summary:
Romans 9 begins with Paul describing his anguish for his people Israel in their rejection of Christ. After describing all the privileges God has given to the Jewish people as a nation, Paul insists that God will keep those promises. However, not every person born to Israel belongs to Israel, he writes. God reserves the right to show mercy to some and not others, as Paul demonstrates from Scripture. God is like a potter who creates some vessels for destruction and others for glory. God has called out His people from both the Gentiles and the Jews to faith in Christ, the stumbling stone.
Chapter Context:
Romans 8 ended with Paul's grand declaration that nothing can separate those who are in Christ Jesus from the love of God. Romans 9 turns a sharp corner and finds Paul heartbroken that his people, the Jews, have rejected Christ. He insists that God will keep His promises to Israel, but that not everyone born to Israel is truly Israel. God will show mercy to whomever He wishes, calling out His people from both the Jews and the Gentiles to faith in Christ. Romans 10 will find Paul discussing how Jewish people can be saved.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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