Stumbling Forward

(Romans 11:12-13)

Israel stumbled. They fell from the grace of God. They became hard of heart and stiff-necked not willing to bow before the true God but turning aside to false gods and to gratification of the flesh.

The way is hard and we stumble forward in Christ
The way is hard and we stumble forward in Christ

They chose to seek a form of self-righteousness through works of law rather than following in the footsteps of their father Abraham who was righteous by faith in the mighty working power of God.

So they stumbled. And it was over the stumbling stone of Jesus Christ that they finally fell flat and which allowed the Gentiles to come into the fold.

But Paul shows us here that although they stumbled and fell, their fall was not absolute. They did not stumble to a place where they could not or would not arise again. And there is a lesson for us all in these words and this teaching.

Acceptance of Gentiles.

It was prophesied all the way back to Moses that there would be a Messiah, the Christ who would come to be king over Israel, and in Him would the Gentiles hope.

It was always the plan of God to bring the Gentiles into His flock for early prophecies spoke those exact words. We see also that there were even some Gentiles who were accepted prior to Christ. Namaan the Syrian, Ruth who was a Moabite and Rahab the harlot from Jericho are several that spring to mind.

But the way was not open to the whole of mankind and to all of the Gentiles before Christ. There were a select few who were accepted on the grounds of their faith and obedience to God but the vast majority were without hope.

The Gentiles were not able to enter until the time established by God and it relied first upon the fall of Israel. Israel had the gifts and promises of God but they rejected God and so fell enabling the rest of mankind to be brought into the fold.

Arising from a fall

But as Paul rightly states here, Israel fell but they did not fall headlong. They fell over but it was not a fall that was meant to shut them out forever. Their fall was not intended to destroy the nation of Israel so that they could be replaced by the Gentiles, it was meant to open a crack in the wall that would allow the Gentiles to gain entry to the promises and gifts of God.

And that is exactly what happened. As Israel fell and their final rejection was the rejection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the promised Messiah and Christ, so to the way was opened for the Gentiles to gain access to the Father.

But did all of Israel fall and reject God? No. The disciples were all Israelites and they accepted Christ for who He was and recognized Him as the Christ, along with the rest of His early followers.

And then we see after Pentecost the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the early disciples and the oratory of Peter who stood and spoke to the people. And in his address to the people he quotes the prophet Joel in Acts 2:17 saying:

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; (Acts 2:17)

Note that the prophesy from Joel stated that the Holy Spirit would be poured out “on all flesh”. This was the promise to all of mankind, not just the Jews, not just the children of Israel, but to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles.

This promise of the receiving of the Holy Spirit came only because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. The Holy Spirit could not come before Christ died for it was when Christ returned to the Father that He would send the Holy Spirit to help man and to open the door of grace to the Gentiles through faith.

And it was in the sacrifice of Jesus and faith in gone working of God that Israel would and could arise from their fallen state. Yes they stumbled, but they did not have to remain flat on the ground. They did not have to remain in a fallen state. They had a way out if they chose to take it and the way out was the same path now offered to the Gentiles.

The Pathway Back to God

Jesus is the way out. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”.

Jesus Christ is the way to arise from a fallen state for both Jews and Gentiles. It is by faith and through faith that now both groups shall find salvation. It is in the grace of God that these gifts of salvation and righteousness have been given to man, if he will believe.

When the Jews at Pentecost listened to the oration from Peter and realized what they had done, they were horrified. They understood that they had killed the messiah, the Author of Life and that the blood of Jesus was on their hands.

You woul imagine that there would be no way back from such a place. A man who kills another man suffers a penalty and under the Old Testament law, which all of the Jews knew and understood, it was a life for a life.

So in fear they pleaded to Peter saying:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

What shall we do indeed! But then Peter defines the way forward he shows them the path that Jesus had taught him d the rest of the early disciples. He showed them why and how it is that Jesus “is the way”. He said,

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:38-41)

What was the pathway Peter defined? The steps were clearly laid out in his teaching.

  1. Repent of this sin and all others
  2. Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the removal and forgiveness of sins
  3. Receive the Holy Spirit who is the teacher, counselor and comforter to work transformation in you

And his is still the pathway for those who have stumbled today. For all the peoples of the world, Jew or Gentile, if they come to God through Jesus Christ they must still follow these three simple steps and they too will receive the gifts, blessings and promises of God. They too will be lifted from their stumbling and once again stand in the presence of God as new creations in Jesus Christ.

We have all stumbled and we continue to stumble. While the second and third of the steps above are one time events only, the first step of repentance is a continuing thing. Each time we stumble as we continue our walk with Jesus Christ we must remember to repent and come back to Him when we see the error. We must not be like those early Israelites who were proud and would not now their stiff necks before God to repent of their wicked ways. We must not stumble and fall and remain of the ground but get up, repent and return to the fold.

All of us have and will stumble, but we do not have to remain in the fallen state. Let us lift up our eyes and look to Jesus Christ and the Father and praise Him that He has opened the door and given us the chance to be reconciled to Him.

(Photo sourced from taken by Ove Topfer)

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Peter First Speaks To The Gentiles
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A Letter To The Church
Paul In Rome
Who Was John The Baptist
Miracles Dont Change The Heart Of Non Believers
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Peter Denies Jesus
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Repentance And Forgiveness
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