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Stumble and Offense


Question: Please explain the meaning of “stumble” and “offense” in Romans 9:32-33.

Text: Romans 9:32-33

32 Why? Because it was not of faith, but as it were by the works of the Law. For they stumbled at that Stumbling-stone;

33 as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a Stumbling-stone and a Rock-of-offense, and everyone believing on Him shall not be put to shame."


  1. This text must be studied in the context of Romans 9:10-33.

  2. There are some important subjects related to this study.

    1. Sovereignty of God – Does God have the right to make decisions about my life?

    2. Plan of God – Does God have a plan for each individual?

    3. Predestination – Does God predetermine my life?

    4. Predestination – Has God already decided who would be saved or lost?

    5. Hatred – Did God “hate” Esau?

    6. Complain – Who dares to complain or question the will of God?

    7. Purpose – Does my life have a divine purpose? Does God have a purpose for my life?

    8. Stumble – Can I be responsible for weaker Christians who stumble?

    9. Duty – What is my duty to those who stumble over me?

    10. Offense – Must I give in to every person who claims to be offended at my actions or decisions?


My Commentary on Romans 9:10-33


Romans 9:10 And not only this, but when Rebekah also had conceived by one, by our father Isaac

  1. Rebekah and Isaac were expecting a child.

  2. Twins were born – Jacob and Esau


Romans 9:11 (for the children had not yet been born, neither had done any good or evil; but that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who called,)

  1. God made a decision – not about saved or lost – not about who was a better moral person – not about who was good or who was bad

  2. God’s decision was according to His purpose – His plan for mankind. This choice has nothing to do with who is in heaven or not.

  3. God made a decision – similar to choosing Abraham or Noah.

  4. God is sovereign. He has all power. He can make any choice He pleases.

Romans 9:12 it was said to her, "The elder shall serve the younger."

  1. God knew there were twins before they were born.

  2. God knew there were twins before their parents knew.

  3. God knew there were both males.

  4. God also knew that the younger would rise higher.

  5. God knew that the older brother would become the servant of the younger.

Romans 9:13 As it is written, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

  1. Did God “hate” Easu?

  2. Vincent Word Studies - But Esau I hated (ton de Esau emishsa). This language sounds a bit harsh to us. It is possible that the word misew did not always carry the full force of what we mean by "hate." See Mat_6:24 where these very verbs (misew and agapaw) are contrasted. So also in Luk_14:26 about "hating" (misew) one's father and mother if coming between one and Christ. So in Joh_12:25 about "hating" one's life. There is no doubt about God's preference for Jacob and rejection of Esau, but in spite of Sanday and Headlam one hesitates to read into these words here the intense hatred that has always existed between the descendants of Jacob and of Esau.

  3. The idea is that God showed a preference for Jacob. Albert Barnes - This does not mean any positive hatred; but that he had preferred Jacob, and had withheld from Esau those privileges and blessings which he had conferred on the posterity of Jacob.

Romans 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be!

  1. Who would dare to accuse God of being unrighteous?

  2. Don’t go there. Don’t even dare to think such a thing.

  3. God has the sovereign right to make a choice.

  4. Remember: This is not eternal destiny being decided. God is selecting the lineage of Christ.

Romans 9:15 For He said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."

  1. God can choose Abraham out of all the people in the world.

  2. God can select Jacob over Esau.

  3. God can show mercy at times, have compassion at times.

  4. God can refuse to extend compassion and mercy at other times.

Romans 9:16 So then it is not of the one willing, nor of the one running, but of God, the One showing mercy.

  1. It was not the choice of Jacob or Esau.

  2. It was not how they behaved, how they looked.

  3. They could not have acted differently to have a different decision by God.

Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "Even for this same purpose I have raised you up, that I might show My power in you, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth."

  1. God can raise up a wicked king to work His plan.

  2. God can set kings in power, and He can remove them from power.

  3. The issue is not – Was he a good or bad king? The issue is – Does he fit in the plan of God for that country or the world?

Romans 9:18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will, He hardens.

  1. This verse is a repeat of the statement in verse 15.

  2. God can harden – or soften – according to His will.

  3. God knows how we will react to some situation. Two people may have a similar crisis in their lives. One will repent and turn to God, the other will become bitter and reject God.

  4. The same sun that melts wax; hardens clay.

Romans 9:19 You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?

  1. We must not find fault. See verse 14.

  2. Neither should we resist the will of God.

  3. You cannot fight against God.

Romans 9:20 No, but, O man, who are you who replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him who formed it, Why have you made me this way?

  1. Job did not charge God foolishly when all his trouble came.

  2. Who do we think we are to challenge, question, or charge God?

  3. Does a car ask why it was made a sedan instead of an SUV? Does a TV question why it was not a computer?

  4. Why do we think we have any right to question the choices of God?

Romans 9:21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor?

  1. The potter takes a lump of clay and has the choice of making a simple, plain soup bowl, or some fancy elegant vase that will become a museum display.

  2. Does the clay have any choice? Does it complain about how it turned out?

Romans 9:22 What if God, willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction;

  1. Matthew Henry - Whatever God does, must be just. Wherein the holy, happy people of God differ from others, God's grace alone makes them differ. In this preventing, effectual, distinguishing grace, he acts as a benefactor, whose grace is his own. None have deserved it; so that those who are saved, must thank God only; and those who perish, must blame themselves only.

Romans 9:23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He had before prepared to glory;

  1. We may not understand. But God has a purpose.

  2. He makes a choice – not based on goodness, beauty, intelligence, or wealth. God makes a choice based on what would advance His plan and purpose.

Romans 9:24 whom He also called, not only us, of Jews, but also of the nations?

  1. God can choose Gentiles as well as Jews.

  2. God can love all men, all nations, all tongues, all tribes.

Romans 9:25 As He also says in Hosea, "I will call those not My people, My people; and those not beloved, Beloved."

Romans 9:26 And it shall be, in the place where it was said to them. "You are not My people; there they shall be called sons of the living God."

  1. Even in the Old Testament, God have several statements that the Jews were not an exclusive race of people.

  2. God can call people who are not His, and make them His.

Romans 9:27 Isaiah also cries concerning Israel, "Though the number of the sons of Israel is as the sands of the sea, a remnant shall be saved.

  1. After all that God did for Israel, most would reject Him. They would not accept His plan for salvation.

  2. Only a “remnant” out of Israel would remain loyal to God.


Romans 9:28 For He is bringing the matter to an end, and cutting short in righteousness, because the Lord will make a short work on the earth."

Romans 9:29 And as Isaiah said before, "Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a seed, we would have been as Sodom, and would have been like Gomorrah."

  1. There were several times that the bloodline was down to one person. If God had not protected that person, the whole race would have ended.

  2. All the prophecies about Christ would have failed – UNLESS:

    1. Esther saves the end of the Jewish nation. (Esther 7:4)

    2. Joash was saved as a 6-month old baby. (2 Kings 11:2)

    3. Jesus is protected from Herod’s rage. (Matthew 2:16)

Romans 9:30 What shall we say then? That the nations, who did not follow after righteousness have taken on righteousness, but a righteousness of faith.

Romans 9:31 But Israel, who followed after a law of righteousness did not arrive at a law of righteousness.

  1. What is the message in all of this?

  2. Some nations were given special protection, rights, and blessings.

  3. But they did not follow after God.

  4. Other nations (Gentiles) were not given any special blessings.

  5. And they chose to follow a path of righteousness and faith.

Romans 9:32 Why? Because it was not of faith, but as it were by the works of the Law. For they stumbled at that Stumbling-stone;

  1. Why did Israel reject the Messiah?

  2. He was not what they expected.

    1. They expected a ruler to deliver them from the Romans.

    2. He came to deliver them from sin.

  3. Stumble – to strike the foot against, to trip, to strike against a stone or other obstacle in the path *

  4. Jesus could be a savior, redeemer, and smooth path stone.

  5. The Jews only saw him as an obstacle to their ideas, plans, and notions.

  6. The stone that should have lifted them up (stepping stone) became a rock that tripped them up and caused them to stumble.

Romans 9:33 as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a Stumbling-stone and a Rock-of-offense, and everyone believing on Him shall not be put to shame."

  1. God predicted this. God said that they would trip.

  2. They tripped – not because God made them fall. He did everything to lead them, guide and protect them.

  3. They tripped – because they kicked the stone that God sent to help them.

  4. Offense – The small plate in a jaw trap where the bait is placed. It holds the trap open until it is moved. When an animal touches the bait, the trap closes. The word used here refers to that part of the trap that holds the bait.

  5. Today – offense – means, I don’t like it. Colors, music, clothes.

    1. People are offended at prayer at a football game.

    2. They are offended at any public mention of God or Jesus.

    3. This is NOT the meaning here.

  6. Offend = bait the trap by which someone dies. Jesus became the bait that both attracted the Jews to Him (thinking He was the Messiah of their concept) and the trap that caused them to reject Christ. *

* See Thayer’s Definitions on the next page.

Words to study:

Stumbled - #4350 – 8 times (proskopto) - G4350



Thayer Definition:

1) to strike against

1a) of those who strike against a stone or other obstacle in the path, to stumble

1b) to strike one’s foot against a stone

1b1) i.e. to meet with some harm

1c) to rush upon, beat against

1d) to be made to stumble by a thing

1d1) i.e. metaphorically to be induced to sin


Stumbling stone - #4348 – 6 times (proskommah) - G4348



Thayer Definition:

1) a stumbling block

1a) an obstacle in the way which if one strikes his foot against he stumbles or falls

1b) that over which a soul stumbles, i.e. by which is caused to sin


Offense - #4625 – 15 times (skandalon) - G4625



Thayer Definition:

1) the movable stick or trigger of a trap, a trap stick

1a) a trap, snare

1b) any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall, (a stumbling block, occasion of stumbling), i.e. a rock which is a cause of stumbling

1c) fig. applied to Jesus Christ, whose person and career were so contrary to the expectations of the Jews concerning the Messiah, that they rejected him and by their obstinacy made shipwreck of their salvation

2) any person or thing by which one is (entrapped) drawn into error or sin



In Romans 9

  1. Sovereignty of God

  2. God has a Plan

    1. Jacob and Esau – 10-14

    2. Pharaoh – 17-19

    3. Blame God – 20-28

      1. Potter and clay

      2. Jew and Gentile

  3. Is this “predestination”?

    1. Is my life scripted? Is it set in stone?

    2. Does God decide who shall be saved or lost?

  4. Why did the Jews reject Christ?

    1. They stumbled over Him.

    2. Christ became their rock of offence

  5. Is Jesus a cause for stumbling?


Other issues:

  1. Study 1 Peter 2:8 – and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

  2. Romans 14:21 - It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.

  3. 1 Corinthians 8:9 - But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.

Discuss these Questions:

  1. Can we be a cause for others to stumble?

  2. What is my duty if someone stumbles over me (my example)?


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