Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, & Prayer.
Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.
There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.
Romans 9:30-33, “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. 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.” (NLT)
There are a few passages in the Bible that cause arguments. This chapter is one of them. We can run headlong into a theological conversation about the differences between Calvinism and Armenianism. We could debate the philosophical question of what it means that God, “…loved Jacob, but hated Esau…” We could even get into a moral argument over the fairness or justice of God showing mercy to some while hardening others. Discussions about Romans 9 are about as old as the chapter itself. In a devotional space like this I wouldn’t likely persuade or convince anyone to shift their opinion.
Instead I’ll focus on another principle found in this passage that often goes unnoticed. We use this passage to debate the ‘exclusivity‘ of salvation, “…Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated…”, “…some he hardens and on some he shows mercy…” But what we often miss is God’s message of ‘inclusivity‘ found in this passage.
Romans is Paul’s history of salvation. He defines where salvation comes from, why everyone needs it, who’s eligible and how we receive it. It’s a message that came through the Jews but affects the entire world. Romans 9 is the shifting point. It’s the place where Paul clearly states that this message of salvation isn’t limited to the Jews. It’s for Gentiles too. It’s for EVERYONE!
The Jews were chosen by God to deliver the message and the messenger. But now Jews and Gentiles alike are chosen to be the object of that salvation message. Those who were not his people, have become children of God. Those who did not seek after God have become God seekers.
It seems an unusual contradiction. There are some who try hard to win God’s favor. They sincerely seek spiritual truth, but they miss the mark. They look in the wrong places. They look to themselves or the seemingly wise rules of this world. Like Rich Mullins once sang, “They said boy you just follow your heart, but my heart just led me into my chest. They said follow your nose, but the direction changed every time I went and turned my head. And they said boy you just follow your dreams, but my dreams were only misty notions…”
Some are sincere, but they are sincerely wrong.
Then there are those who find it. They may not even be looking. They stumble upon the grace of God and receive more than they ever imagined.
Isn’t it interesting that the end of this passage speaks of the Jews stumbling into offense? It’s almost as if some stumble into the rock of offense while others stumble onto the rock of salvation. Either way the picture is clear. Salvation is not of my making. It’s something God does in me, through me and even in spite of me.
The implications here aren’t about how I evaluate the spiritual life of others. This passage isn’t here to cause me to look into your life and ask, “Are you in or are you out?” The purpose of the passage is self evaluation. Where do I stand with God? Am I trying to earn my way in? Am I trying win his favor through cheap parlor tricks and petty games? Am I sincere? Am I sincerely wrong?
Where do I stand in my relationship with God? Is it about the things I do or the faith I have? How would I know the difference?
Thank you for loving me in spite of me. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you that you chose to make the way for my salvation, that even though I’m not the ‘right kind of people’, by your lovingkindness I have been remade into the ‘right kind of person’. I pray that my appreciation for that and my love for you would never grow cold. Allow me to draw nearer to you today than I was yesterday. Allow me to demonstrate your great love to others. Let my life paint a picture for others that would cause them to see you. You have saved me. That is something you’ve done in me and through me that can’t be explained because of me. Complete that work, and, like Psalm 126:3, let people stop and take note, “The Lord has done great things for me.”
I love you, in Jesus name –