A Matter Of Course

“And as Isaiah has said before, Except [the] Lord of hosts left a seed to us, we would have become as Sodom, and we would have become as Gomorrah. What then shall we say? That [the] nations not following after righteousness have taken on righteousness, but a righteousness of faith; but Israel following after a Law of righteousness did not arrive at a Law of righteousness? Why? Because [it was] not of faith, but as of works of Law. For they stumbled at the Stone-of-stumbling, as it has been written, Behold, I place in Zion a Stone-of-stumbling, and a Rock-of-offense, and everyone believing on Him will not be shamed” (Romans 9:29-33).

“Brothers, truly my heart’s pleasure and supplication to God on behalf of Israel is for [it] to be saved. For I testify to them that they have zeal to God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. For Christ [is] the end of Law for righteousness to everyone that believes” (Romans 10:1-4).

Tolerant Calvinist Heretic:  Fine, Paul. But let us push this out to the end of the logical road, shall we? Multitudes of professing Christians who believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception stumble at the Stone-of-Stumbling in just the same way that national Israel did —  tolerant Calvinists like me stumble too, except that most of us are not as honest and forthright about it as others.

I am Reformed, and so it is A MATTER OF COURSE that I believe national Israelite expressions of the gospel are deficient in certain ways. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t be Reformed. But — and this is important — do these deficiencies (which, like the Galatian Judaizers, amount to a certain level of self-righteousness-establishing) necessarily reveal them to be unregenerate? NO.  And the reason I would say “NO” is that I believe in the doctrine of justification by faith ALONE.

So, Paul, in spite of your perfectionistic prayer in Romans 10:1, those who are “ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness” (Romans 10:3) ARE NOT necessarily unregenerate because we are NOT saved by works!  I’ll be quite candid here and say that I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN to take seriously what you said in Romans 9:29-33 and 10:1-4 since we are NOT saved by works!!  Perhaps there is a textual variant there or something (wishful thinking, perhaps).

Paul, I desire to maintain (at least) a modicum of self-control here and not become too heated about your idiosyncratic version of slimy-sanctimonious-sectarian-man-centered-save-yourself-if-you-can-and-devil-take-the-hindmost form of doctrinal perfectionism. You may think that this is quite a mouthful of misrepresentation, but I must strongly disagree in light of your uncharitable and imperious exhibition of doctrinal merit-mongering in Romans 9:29-33 and Romans 10:1-4.

Dearest Paul, I insist that you do NOT realize that a genuine faith in Jesus can reside (thank God) in a very imperfect and stumbling heart.  To stumble at the Stone-of-stumbling can cause us to be humble, sometimes.  And sometimes that imperfect and wavering submission “to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3) gets into the doctrine, and bless God, we are still not undone. Why? Because God does not receive us on the basis of our performance in ANY area.

Jesus is my righteousness and His perfection is imputed to me and also to the Galatian Judaizers whom you cruelly and gleefully anathematized in Galatians 1:8-9.  This perfection is ALSO imputed to those national Israelites for whom you presumptuously and prematurely prayed (Romans 10:1). You see Paul,  Jesus understands the Stone perfectly, and that understanding is mine, national Israel’s, and the Galatian Judaizers’ by imputation. But if God were to take us out of Jesus and run us through our doctrinal paces, with us handling His hardball questions on our own, we are in the highest degree confident that we would be condemned to Hell for our failure to perfectly understand Romans 9:29-33 and 10:1-4.

So again, despite what you say in Romans 9:29-33 and Romans 10:1-4, you are wrong. W-R-O-N-G. Wrong. We — national Israel, the Galatian Judaizers, and myself — are going to heaven because of Jesus, and NOT because of our mastery of the dikai-word group.