The Stumbling Stone

Romans Chapter 9

30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 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.”

This is the place in Romans I decided to consult Karl Barth on. What in the earth is the “stumbling stone” and why did God place it on the road to Zion?

Before he answers this question, here is what he had to say about the Church in the context of imparting faith.

“Religion is not the Kingdom of God. Religion is human work. Maybe the Church is ignorant that there exists no such law of rightneousness and that it is following after a phantom. In any case, it continually forgets it.”

And “In fact, a religion adequate to revelation and congruent to the righteousness of God, the law of rightneousness, is unobtainable by man except in the miracle of the absolute ‘Moment’. And faith is a miracle. Otherwise it is not a faith.”

Finally “Why should not the miracle of faith, about which the church speaks,be followed after? Why does the object of the Church’s pursuit remain always a phantom? Because their pursuit comes not from faith but from works. Men come to faith only from and through faith. Faith is to love and fear God above all things; to love and fear Him as He is, and not as we think Him to be.”

About the stumbling stone, in one context it is using the law as a way to righteousness that none of us succeed at because we break the rules. Paul and Barth go further: “The stone of stumbling, which at the same time is the precious corner stone laid in Zion, is – Jesus Christ. In Him God reveals Himself inexorably as the hidden God who can be apprehended only indirectly. In Him He conceals Himself utterly, in order that he may manifest Himself to faith only.”


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