(from a manuscript of a sermon preached on 6/20/10 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's start out by reading two passages in Isaiah. The first is chapter 8, verses 5 through 22:
Isaiah 8: (5) Jehovah also spoke to me again, saying, (6) Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow softly, and rejoices in Rezin and Remaliah's son, (7) Behold, therefore the Lord also brings on them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And he shall come up over all its channels, and go over all its banks. (8) And he shall pass through Judah. He shall overflow and go over. He shall reach to the neck; and his wings will be stretching out, filling the breadth of your land, O Immanuel. (9) O peoples, suffer evil, and be broken! And listen, all from the far places of the earth; gird yourselves, and be broken. Gird yourselves and be broken! (10) Counsel a counsel, and it is frustrated; speak a word, and it shall not rise; for God [is] with us. (11) For so Jehovah spoke to me with a strong hand, and taught me against walking in the way of this people, saying, (12) Do not say, A conspiracy, to everything of which this people says, A conspiracy! And do not fear its fear, and do not dread. (13) Sanctify Jehovah of Hosts Himself, and let Him [be] your fear; and let Him be your dread. (14) And He shall be for a sanctuary, and for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of falling to the two houses of Israel; for a trap and for a snare to the ones living in Jerusalem. (15) And many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. (16) Bind up the Testimony, seal the Law among My disciples. (17) And I will wait on Jehovah, who hides His face from the house of Jacob; and I will look for Him. (18) Behold, I and the children whom Jehovah has given to me [are] for signs and wonders in Israel from Jehovah of Hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion. (19) And when they say to you, Seek to the mediums, and to spirit-knowers who peep and mutter; should not a people seek to its God, [than] for the living to [seek] the [ones] who died? (20) To the Law and to the Testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word, [it is] because there is no dawn to them! (21) And they shall pass through it, hard pressed and hungry. And it shall be, they shall be hungry; he will rave and curse his king and his God, and face upward. (22) And they shall look to the land. And, behold, trouble and darkness and gloom of anguish; and [they] are driven to darkness.
Now let's read chapter 28, verses 1 through 22:
Isaiah 28: (1) Woe to the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty [is] a fading flower on the head of the fat valley of those who are overcome with wine! (2) Behold, the Lord is a mighty and strong one; like a hailstorm, a destroying storm; like a storm of mighty waters overflowing; He sets down to the earth with [His] hand. (3) The crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trampled down. (4) And the glorious beauty which [is] on the head of the fat valley shall be a fading flower, like the first ripe fig before summer which the seeing one sees; while it is yet in his hand, he swallows it. (5) In that day Jehovah of Hosts shall become a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the rest of His people, (6) and a spirit of justice to him who sits on the judgment seat; and for might to those turning back the battle toward the gate. (7) But they also have gone astray by wine, and have erred through fermented drink; priest and prophet have erred through fermented drink; they have been swallowed by wine; they strayed from fermented drink; they err in vision; they stumble [in] judgment; (8) for all tables are full of vomit [and] filth, without [a clean] place. (9) [To] whom shall He teach knowledge? And [to] whom shall He explain the message? [Those] weaned from milk, those moving from breasts? (10) For precept [must be] on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, there a little. (11) For with stammering lip and other languages, He will speak to this people; (12) to whom He said, This [is] the rest; cause the weary to rest. Also, This is the repose. But they willed not to hear. (13) Yet the Word of Jehovah was to them, precept on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, there a little; that they might go, and stumble, and be broken, and snared, and taken. (14) So hear the Word of Jehovah, scornful men, rulers of this people in Jerusalem. (15) Because you have said, We have cut a covenant with death; and, We have made a vision with Sheol, when the overwhelming rod passes through it will not come to us for we have made the lie our refuge, and we have hidden in falsehood. (16) So, the Lord Jehovah says this: Behold, I place in Zion a Stone for a foundation, a tried Stone, a precious Cornerstone, a sure Foundation; he who believes shall not hasten. (17) And I will lay justice for a line, and righteousness for a plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of the lie; and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (18) And your covenant with death shall be covered; and your vision with Sheol shall not rise up. When the overwhelming whip passes through, then you shall be for a trampling to it. (19) As often as it passes, it shall take you; for morning by morning it shall pass; and by day and by night, it shall only be a terror to understand the message. (20) For the bed is shorter than one can stretch himself on; and the cover is narrower than one can wrap himself in. (21) For Jehovah shall rise up, as [at] Mount Perazim; He shall be stirred as in the Gibeon Valley; to do His work, His strange work; and to perform His task, His alien task. (22) So, then, do not be mockers, that your bonds not be made strong. For I have heard from the Lord Jehovah of Hosts that a full end is decreed on all the earth.
Now let's turn to Romans 9 and read verses 30 through 33:
Romans 9: (30) What then shall we say? That [the] nations not following after righteousness have taken on righteousness, but a righteousness of faith; (31) but Israel following after a Law of righteousness did not arrive at a Law of righteousness? (32) Why? Because [it was] not of faith, but as of works of Law. For they stumbled at the Stone-of-stumbling, (33) 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.
In the last sermon, we saw that the Gentiles, also known as the nations, who did not have the Law given to them like the Jews did, and were immoral and did not pursue righteousness, nevertheless took on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ through faith. We also saw that the Jews, who DID have the Law given to them and who DID pursue righteousness, DID NOT arrive at that Law of righteousness. They pursued righteousness NOT out of faith. They didn't believe that their only ground of acceptance before God was the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Instead, they strove to keep God's Law in order to gain and maintain acceptance before God. They perverted God's Law to make IT the end in and of itself. Instead of realizing that the function of God's Law is to show forth God's perfect standard of righteousness and that God will not accept anything less than perfect obedience, thus driving them to a righteousness outside of themselves, which is the only perfect righteousness of Christ, they used the Law as a way of trying to gain a righteousness of their own, to construct a religion of works righteousness.
Of what use to them was Christ, then? If they believed that gaining and maintaining favor in the sight of God was based on their Law-keeping, if they believed that their everlasting habitations were based on their present stewardship, if they believed that the difference between salvation and damnation was the keeping of the Law, then where did the person and work Jesus Christ fit into this theology? Jesus Christ didn't enter into their theology at all. In their minds, they didn't need a substitute, they didn't need a representative, they didn't need someone to be punished for their sins in their place, they didn't need a perfect righteousness imputed to them. All they needed to do was to strive to keep the Law. So when Jesus Christ DID come on the scene, what did the Jews think of him? Well, he messed up their religion, didn't he? He exposed them as self-righteous hypocrites. He had harsher words for them than he did for the immoral Gentiles. He didn't speak peace to them, as they were expecting the Messiah to do. Instead, he told them that they were lost and their deeds were evil. He told them that they only way to God was through Him, the Son of God, not through their law-keeping. And this is something they could not tolerate. They were offended. And they ultimately killed Him.
This gets into our current text, which is the last part of verse 32 and the entirety of verse 33:
Romans 9: (32b) For they stumbled at the Stone-of-stumbling, (33) 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.
The Jews stumbled at the stone of stumbling and were offended at the rock of offense, and they were shamed, because they did not believe in Him. Paul makes reference to the two passages in Isaiah that we read at the beginning of this message. Let's first go back to Isaiah chapter 8 and look closer at this stone of stumbling and this rock of offense. Let's read verses 13 through 15:
Isaiah 8: (13) Sanctify Jehovah of Hosts Himself, and let Him [be] your fear; and let Him be your dread. (14) And He shall be for a sanctuary, and for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of falling to the two houses of Israel; for a trap and for a snare to the ones living in Jerusalem. (15) And many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
Isaiah says in verse 14 that God will be for a sanctuary, which is a place of refuge, a safe place. This is obviously not talking about God's being a sanctuary for those who would stumble; this is talking about God's being a sanctuary for those who sanctify and fear Him, as it says in verse 13. Many times, when God is put forth as a sanctuary or refuge for His people, He is likened unto a rock. Let's read a couple passages in the Psalms that show this. First, Psalm 18:1-3:
Psalm 18: (1) I love You, O Jehovah, my strength. (2) Jehovah [is] my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; [He is] my God, my Rock; I seek refuge in Him; [He is] my shield and the horn of my salvation, my high tower. (3) I will call on Jehovah, who is to be praised; and I shall be saved from my enemies.
And then Psalm 31:1-2:
Psalm 31: (1) In You, O Jehovah, I sought refuge; let me never be ashamed; deliver me in Your righteousness. (2) Bow down Your ear to me; deliver me quickly, be a strong rock to me, for a house of fortresses to save me.
Now let's turn to Isaiah 32:1-2:
Isaiah 32: (1) Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and rulers shall rule in judgment. (2) And a man shall be a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the tempest, as streams of water in a dry place; like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
We can see from this passage that this is referring to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Now back to Isaiah 8:14. We've seen that God is a rock of refuge to those who sanctify and fear Him. What's next? It still talks about God as a rock, but in a different way. It says that God is a stone of stumbling. The Hebrew is EH-ben NEH-ghef, and the Greek in Romans 9:32 and 33 is LEETH-on PROS-kommatos. EH-ben and LEETH-on mean a stone, like a building stone, and NEH-ghef and PROS-kommatos mean "trip" or "stub." So it could be translated "a stone of tripping" or "a trip-stone." So you get the picture of someone walking or running along and tripping on this stone and falling. This stone is something that's in the way and that is tripped over. It also says that God is a rock of falling. The Hebrew is TSUR mik-SHOLE, and the Greek in Romans 9:33 is PET-ran SKAN-dalou. TSUR and PET-ran mean a rock, like a boulder, and mik-SHOLE and SKAN-dalou mean offense or obstacle or cause of falling. So here you get the picture of someone walking or running along and encountering or running into this huge boulder. SKAN-dalou is a form of the word SKAN-dalon, from which we get the English word "scandal."
Now how can God, and in particular Jesus Christ, be seen as a stone that is stumbled or tripped over or a rock that is an obstacle of offense? Think of this in the context of what we have seen about the Jews not following after the Law of righteousness by faith. To the Jews, Jesus Christ was in the way of their self-righteous religion. He was a barrier to them. They were running along, pursuing salvation by their works, and here Jesus Christ comes along, calling their so-called "good works" evil deeds! That was scandalous to them! And not only that, Jesus Christ said in John 14:6 and 7, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also." The entire religious system of the self-righteous Jews was condemned. THEY believed, "No one comes to the Father except through Law-keeping." JESUS said, "No one comes to the Father except through ME." Jesus also claimed to be God.
John 10 is a great example of how what Jesus said was an offense to the self-righteous religionists. Let's turn over there and read the entire chapter:
John 10: (1) Truly, truly, I say to you, The [one] not entering through the door into the sheepfold, but going up by another way, that one is a thief and a plunderer. (2) But the [one] entering through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (3) The doorkeeper opens to him, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls [his] own sheep by name, and leads them out. (4) And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes in front of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. (5) But they will not follow a stranger, never! But [they] will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of the strangers. (6) Jesus spoke this allegory to them, but they did not know what it was which He spoke to them. (7) Then Jesus again said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you that I am the door of the sheep. (8) All who came before Me are thieves and plunderers, but the sheep did not hear them. (9) I am the door. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in, and will go out, and will find pasture. (10) The thief does not come except that he may steal, and kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and may have [it] abundantly. (11) I am the Good Shepherd! The Good Shepherd lays down His life on behalf of the sheep. (12) But the hireling, not even being a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and forsakes the sheep and flees. And the wolf seizes them, and scatters the sheep. (13) But the hireling flees because he is a hireling, and there is not a care to him concerning the sheep. (14) I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that [are] Mine, and I am known by the [ones that are] Mine. (15) Even as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (16) And I have other sheep which are not of this fold. I must also lead those, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock, one Shepherd. (17) For this reason My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down from Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. I received this commandment from My Father. (19) Then a division occurred again among the Jews, because of these words. (20) And many of them said, He has a demon and is insane. Why do you hear Him? (21) Others said, These are not words of one having been possessed by a demon. A demon is not able to open [the] eyes of blind ones. (22) And [the] Feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem, and it was winter. (23) And Jesus was walking in the temple, in Solomon's Porch. (24) Then the Jews encircled Him, and said to Him, Until when do You lift up our soul? If You are the Christ, tell us publicly. (25) Jesus answered them, I told you, and you did not believe. The works which I do in the name of My Father, these bear witness about Me. (26) But you do not believe for you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. (27) My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (28) And I give eternal life to them, and they shall not perish to the age, never! And not anyone shall pluck them out of My hand. (29) My Father who has given [them] to Me is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck out of My Father's hand. (30) I and the Father are One! (31) Then again the Jews took up stones, that they might stone Him. (32) Jesus answered them, I showed you many good works from My Father. For which work of them do you stone Me? (33) The Jews answered Him, saying, We do not stone You concerning a good work, but concerning blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself God. (34) Jesus answered them, Has it not been written in your Law, I said, you are gods? (35) If He called those gods with whom the Word of God was, and the Scripture cannot be broken, (36) do you say [of Him] whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, You blaspheme, because I said, I am Son of God? (37) If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me. (38) But if I do, even if you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may perceive and may believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him. (39) Then again they sought to seize Him. And He went forth from their hand. (40) And He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John was at first baptizing and remained there. (41) And many came to Him and said, John indeed did no [miraculous] sign, but all things that John said concerning this One were true. (42) And many believed into Him there.
How full of offensive language Jesus Christ was! He said that the self-righteous religionists were nothing but thieves, plunderers, and hirelings. He said that the true people of God will never follow these thieves, plunderers, and hirelings. He said that He is the only door, and only those who enter through Him will be saved. He said that He lays down His life for the sheep, and then a little while later said that these self-righteous religionists don't believe in Him because they are not of His sheep. He said that He had authority to lay down His life and take it again. He said that He gives eternal life to the sheep and they will never perish and no one will pluck them out of His hand. He said that He was one with God the Father. And what was the response from the self-righteous religionists? Some thought He was possessed by a demon. Some said he was a blasphemer. Some tried to kill him. They were OFFENDED at what He said. They STUMBLED at the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense.
Now let's turn over to Matthew 15, and we'll read verses 1 through 14:
Matthew 15: (1) Then the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying, (2) Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread. (3) But answering He said to them, Why do you also transgress the command of God on account of your tradition? (4) For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and mother, and, The one speaking evil of father or mother, by death let him die. (5) But you say, Whoever says to the father or the mother, A gift, whatever you would gain from me; (6) and in no way he honors his father or his mother. And you annulled the command of God on account of your tradition. (7) Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you, saying: (8) This people draws near to Me with their mouth, and with [their] lips honor Me; but their heart holds far off from Me. (9) But in vain they worship Me, teaching [as] doctrines [the] precepts of men. (10) And calling the crowd near, He said to them, Hear and understand: (11) [It is] not the [thing] entering into the mouth that defiles the man, but the [thing] coming forth out of the mouth, this defiles the man. (12) Then coming, the disciples said to Him, You know that hearing the Word, the Pharisees were offended? (13) But answering, He said, Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up. (14) Leave them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.
Here's some more cause for stumbling and offense. Jesus Christ condemned the legalistic traditions of the self-righteous religionists and even the legalistic ways that they annulled God's Law. He called them hypocrites and applied Isaiah 29:13 to them. When He was told that the self-righteous religionists were offended by what He said, did He say, "I apologize; I didn't mean to offend them"? No - He called them blind leaders of the blind. He was a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.
And we can think of all kinds of other things throughout the gospels that Jesus Christ said and did that were causes of stumbling and offense to the self-righteous religionists, can't we? Remember at the beginning of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry in John chapter 2, He found people selling animals for sacrifices in the temple and chased all the people and animals out of the temple with a whip and poured out all the money and turned over the tables, being consumed by the zeal of God's house. Remember Matthew 23 in which Jesus Christ calls out the scribes and Pharisees, pronouncing a curse on them. Remember in Mark 10:34 and 35, where Jesus Christ said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. I came to divide a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a bride against her mother-in-law." What kind of stumbling and offense do you think that caused? The Jews were looking for a Messiah who would bring peace on earth. He crushed that notion, didn't He? And He crushed the false interpretation of Luke 2:14 that we hear mostly around Christmas-time that Jesus Christ came to bring peace on earth. The Jews were also looking for a Messiah who would establish His kingdom on earth and restore the Jews to what they thought was their rightful place as a nation. He offended them and caused them to stumble by being of lowly birth, a son of a Carpenter, not outwardly majestic at all, and not even attempting to set up an earthly kingdom. He said in John 18:36, "My kingdom is not of this world." He offended them by not speaking peace to them. He said in John 8:44 that the devil was their father. He said in Matthew 5:20 that unless their righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, they would in no way enter the kingdom of Heaven and went on in that chapter to show that Law-keeping was not how the ancients - their fathers of the faith - defined it. For example, they believed that adultery was just a sin where a married person has what is now called "an affair." But Jesus said that just to LOOK at a woman to lust after her is adultery of the heart. He also said that even if two people go through a legal divorce, they commit adultery if they marry someone else. Those things were offensive. And we could go on and on. Jesus Christ's entire time on earth was an offense to the self-righteous religionists.
In Romans 9:33, Paul also references Isaiah 28, which is the second text we read today. Let's go back there and read verses 14 through 20:
Isaiah 28: (14) So hear the Word of Jehovah, scornful men, rulers of this people in Jerusalem. (15) Because you have said, We have cut a covenant with death; and, We have made a vision with Sheol, when the overwhelming rod passes through it will not come to us for we have made the lie our refuge, and we have hidden in falsehood. (16) So, the Lord Jehovah says this: Behold, I place in Zion a Stone for a foundation, a tried Stone, a precious Cornerstone, a sure Foundation; he who believes shall not hasten. (17) And I will lay justice for a line, and righteousness for a plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of the lie; and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (18) And your covenant with death shall be covered; and your vision with Sheol shall not rise up. When the overwhelming whip passes through, then you shall be for a trampling to it. (19) As often as it passes, it shall take you; for morning by morning it shall pass; and by day and by night, it shall only be a terror to understand the message. (20) For the bed is shorter than one can stretch himself on; and the cover is narrower than one can wrap himself in.
The self-righteous religionists said that they had cut a covenant with death and made a vision with Sheol. This means that they were CERTAIN, they had ASSURANCE, that they would not die and go to hell. And what was their CERTAINTY, their ASSURANCE that they were in God's favor? Was it assurance in Jesus Christ? No - they had made the LIE their refuge. Remember when I went over the passages that talked about God, and in particular Jesus Christ, being a rock of refuge for those who believe in Him? This is the antithesis of having Jesus Christ as your rock of refuge. A refuge is a place of safety where someone can hide to keep from being harmed. During storms, people took refuge under large rocks or cliffs until the storm passed over. So these self-righteous religionists took refuge in the LIE and have hidden in FALSEHOOD. They thought that when the storm of God's judgment passed through, they would be safe in their refuges. What were their refuges? What did they think made them safe from God's judgment? What did they think put them in God's favor? What did they think made the difference between salvation and damnation? They thought it was their own works and efforts. So their shelter, their refuge, their sanctuary, their safe place, was their own works and efforts. What do you think will happen when the storm of God's judgment passes through? What do you think will happen if a person dies believing that his own works and efforts form at least part of his shelter, his refuge, his sanctuary, his safe place, his favor with God? Well, we see what will happen in verses 16 through 20 that we just read. God says in verse 16 through the prophet Isaiah that He places in Zion a stone. There's the reference to a stone again, and that stone is Jesus Christ. God sent the Messiah to be born as a Jew, under the Law, to fulfill the Law. And in the remainder of verse 16, the concept of Jesus Christ the Messiah as a stone is expanded upon. He is called a "tried Stone" - a stone that has been tested and has been shown to be solid. He is called a "precious Cornerstone" - a stone that keeps all the parts of a building together, which is all the saints, past, present, and future, as we see in Ephesians 2:19-22. He is called a "sure Foundation," - a rock upon which a house is built that ensures that the house will not fall, as we see in Matthew 7:24-25. The end of verse 16 says, "he who believes shall not hasten." The end of Romans 9:33 says, "and everyone believing in Him will not be shamed." The Greek word for "shamed" is kat-ahee-SKOO-no, which means "to ashame," "to disgrace," "to confound." That's the word that is used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament in our verse in Isaiah. Those who believe in Jesus Christ will not be ashamed, will not be disgraced, when it is time for God's judgment. They have taken refuge in the TRUTH - the rock of Jesus Christ. They believe in the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ ALONE. They believe that it is the work of Jesus Christ ALONE that is the ground of salvation and favor with God. They believe that it is the work of Jesus Christ ALONE that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. They believe that it is the work of Jesus Christ ALONE that ensures and demands the salvation of EVERYONE for whom He lived and died.
But what about those who did not make Jesus Christ alone their refuge? What happens to them when the storm of God's judgment passes through? Verse 17 says that God will lay justice for a line and righteousness for a plummet. A line and a plummet were things that builders used to make sure everything was straight. They were standards by which things were measured. So justice and righteousness are the standards by which God makes His judgments. He will not make ANY judgments that are contrary to His holy justice and righteousness. He will not justify ANYONE who does not have a perfect righteousness. Those who have Jesus Christ as their refuge have a perfect righteousness that is imputed to them, and they are justified based on this perfect righteousness. So what's going to happen to these people who have erected a refuge out of their works and efforts? How is God going to judge them? The end of verse 17 through verse 20 says, "and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of the lie; and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be covered; and your vision with Sheol shall not rise up. When the overwhelming whip passes through, then you shall be for a trampling to it. As often as it passes, it shall take you; for morning by morning it shall pass; and by day and by night, it shall only be a terror to understand the message. For the bed is shorter than one can stretch himself on; and the cover is narrower than one can wrap himself in." When God's judgment passes through, will these people be ashamed? Will they be disgraced? What more shame and disgrace is there for a person to stand before Jesus Christ on Judgment Day and hear those awful words, "I never knew you; depart from Me, those working lawlessness!" These condemned people are going to say, "But didn't I do this, and didn't I do that?" They had made the LIE their refuge and had hidden in FALSEHOOD. They believed in a FALSE GOSPEL of salvation conditioned on the sinner. They believed that at least some part of the ground of their salvation, their acceptance before God, their entitlement to heaven, was based on their own effort. They stumbled at Jesus Christ, the stone of stumbling. They were offended at Jesus Christ, the rock of offense. Their refuge was not in the rock of Christ Jesus, and it got swept away, and they were exposed as not having a robe of perfect righteousness.
Was it just the self-righteous Jews during the time that Jesus Christ walked the earth who stumbled at the stone of stumbling and were offended at the rock of offense? Well, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:23 that the preaching of Christ crucified was an offense to Jews and foolishness to Greeks. And he's talking about the message that was preached AFTER Jesus Christ left this earth. Jesus Christ and Him crucified CONTINUES to be a cause of stumbling and offense, EVEN TO THIS DAY. And this message of the cross is NOT just an offense to the modern-day Jews or foolishness to the modern-day irreligious and unconcerned. Now listen to me closely. Jesus Christ is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to MOST PROFESSING CHRISTIANS TODAY. And I will address those who hold to the two most prevalent views in Christendom.
Do you believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception? If you do, then you have stumbled at the stone of stumbling and are offended at the rock of offense. The cross is an offense to you. You might reply, "Oh, no - I believe in the cross! I believe Jesus died on the cross for me!" Well, do you believe that it's Christ's work ALONE that makes you to differ from those who are in hell? You believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception, including those in hell. You believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you AND for those who are in hell. So what makes the difference? You might reply, "Well, I had to accept what Christ did for me." Well, then, you believe that your ACCEPTANCE made the difference. THAT is what your refuge is. And for me to tell you the truth that the work of Jesus Christ DEMANDS and ENSURES that ALL for whom He died will be saved is an OFFENSE to you, isn't it? The truth that Jesus Christ saves EVERYONE for whom He died and saves NO ONE for whom He did NOT die is offensive to you. The work of Jesus Christ is offensive to you. The cross is offensive to you. You stumble and trip and fall at the stone of stumbling. You find the true Jesus Christ, who is revealed in the true gospel, to be a barrier, a rock that offends you. For me to tell you that you are NOT SAVED and are a GOD-HATER who HATES the true gospel is offensive to you. Your refuge is a refuge of the LIE. You have made a covenant with death and hell, saying to yourself that you will be safe in the day of judgment. But God will lay justice for a line, and righteousness for a plummet, and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of the lie, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place, and you will be exposed and trampled and broken to pieces. When you say, "peace and safety," then suddenly destruction will come upon you, and you will not escape.
Do you believe that there are some saved people who believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception? Then you don't believe that Jesus Christ is truly a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. You believe that Jesus Christ is a little pebble that can be stepped over or even stepped on without any consequences. You don't believe that the atonement of Jesus Christ is an essential gospel doctrine, let alone the very heart of the gospel. You agree with those who are hiding themselves under a refuge of the lie that when the overwhelming rod passes through, it will not come to them. You are the ones telling them, "Peace and safety!" You do not truly believe that Jesus Christ did not come to bring peace but a sword. You do not truly believe that those who are offended with the message of Christ in John 10 are as lost as the Jews of Christ's day who were offended with that same message. Your christ is not an offense to those who believe that he died for everyone without exception. Those who believe that Christ died for everyone without exception do not stumble at your christ. They just agree to disagree, as you do with them, all the while agreeing that both of you believe the true gospel. This shows that YOU, TOO, stumble at and are offended at the true cross of Christ. You don't even know what the true gospel is. For me to tell you that you are NOT SAVED and are a GOD-HATER who HATES the true gospel is offensive to you. Many of you who say "peace, peace" to the universal atonement advocates also believe that faith is a condition for justification or that perseverance is a condition for final glory or that your everlasting habitations are based on your present stewardship. Your refuge is a refuge of the LIE. You have made a covenant with death and hell, saying to yourself that you will be safe in the day of judgment. But God will lay justice for a line, and righteousness for a plummet, and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of the lie, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place, and you will be exposed and trampled and broken to pieces. When you say, "peace and safety," then suddenly destruction will come upon you, and you will not escape.
For both kinds of professing Christians, the message is the same: REPENT of your dead works and evil deeds, REPENT of believing a false gospel, and BELIEVE in the ONLY GOSPEL, which is a gospel of the EFFICACIOUS work of Jesus Christ - the gospel that reveals the righteousness of God in saving EVERYONE for whom Christ died.
I want to say a final word to those who are believers. Let's turn to John chapter 15 and read verses 17 through 25:
John 15: (17) These things I command you, that you love one another. (18) If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before [it has hated] you. (19) If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (20) Remember the Word which I said to you, A slave is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted Me, they also will persecute you. If they kept My Word, they also will keep yours. (21) But all these things they will do to you on account of My name, because they do not know the [One] who sent Me. (22) If I had not come and had not spoken to them, they had no sin. But now they do not have excuse as to their sin. (23) The [one] hating Me also hates My Father. (24) If I did not do the works among them which no other did, they had no sin. But now they both have seen and also have hated Me and My Father. (25) But that may be fulfilled the Word that has been written in their Law, They hated Me undeservedly.
Because Jesus Christ is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, the MESSAGE of Jesus Christ that we believe and preach is a cause of stumbling and offense, and we will be hated for it, because those who stumble and are offended at the cross of Christ hate Christ. And we are to be like Christ. If Christ offended, we should be unafraid to offend when we preach Christ. If Christ did not come to bring peace but a sword, we should be unafraid to not bring peace but a sword when we preach Christ. The truth is offensive to the carnal mind. If you preach the truth to unbelievers and no one is offended, then you haven't preached the truth. Jesus came and spoke to and did works among the God-haters so they would have no excuse for their sin and that they would hate Him and the Father. Is the slave greater than his lord? If they persecuted Christ, do you not expect to be persecuted? 2 Timothy 3:12 says that "all desiring to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." That's a promise. Those who stumble at and are offended at the Word will hate you because they hate God the Son and God the Father. May we always be willing to be an offense for the name of Christ. Amen.