30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
1901 ASV Translation:
30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith:
31 but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.
32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works. They stumbled at the stone of stumbling;
33 even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame.
I. Paul's Call For a Conclusion: What Shall We Say Then?
A. This is a "regular" question with Paul once he has said something that is an integral part of his teaching.
1. 3:5 -- in respect to the statement that our unrighteousness makes God's righteousness more apparent.
2. 4:1 -- in repect to the issue of the essential nature of "the law of faith" as it was illustrated by Abraham, the father of all who believe.
3. 6:1 -- in respect to the declaration that where sin abounded, grace superabounded. In respect to this same issue, Paul abbreviated his phrase in 6:15, but raised the same question.
4. 7:7 -- in respect to the fact that the Law is at the root of stirring up the sinful passions within us.
5. 8:31 -- in respect to the declarations about how deeply involved God is in bringing us to His glory.
6. 9:14 -- in respect to whether there is unrighteousness in God.
7. 9:30 -- our current text and the last time in Romans that Paul penned this phrase.
8. Significance: Paul raises this question when the concept he has put forth has enough weight to "push" us in a theological direction that could be "determinative" of our growth in theological understanding.
B. The question requires that we move forward into the revelation of God's Truth. Understanding is an incrementally developed reality that moves "step-by-step" or, as Isaiah said, "precept upon precept, line upon line" (28:10).
1. This is the danger of learning. If one buys into a false precept, everything afterwards rests upon a false foundation and, depending upon how critical it is to the superstructure that stands above it, it might well be the element that leads a person into Death.
2. This, however, is also the means to learning. As long as the individual "precepts" are legitimate, the conclusions that follow enable a person to become more aware of the greater scope of Truth.
II. Paul's Conclusion: the Gentiles Came into Possession of the Righteousness of Faith.
A. The chief characteristic of these Gentiles: They were not pursuing righteousness.
1. This is a major issue in Paul's "grace" theology. The Gentiles had long since abandoned any hope that the God of Israel was, in any way, superior to their own gods. They were not in any kind of "pursuit" mode to find the Truth. They were simply God-less and hopeless (Ephesians 2:12).
2. This was a major stumbling block to every kind of "legalism", but especially that of the Jews. Legalism always puts the "judicial" monkey on man's back so that if he is to be reconciled to the "god", it will be by his acceptance of his responsibility. With the Jews, the Law was turned into the "judicial monkey" and it turned out to be a million-pound gorilla. For anyone, especially those outside of the commonwealth of Israel, to come into possession of a blessed state with God without being of the greatest diligence was just "too much".
B. The chief factor regarding these Gentiles: They received the righteousness of faith.
1. They "received"; this is an intensified form of the typical verb for "receiving".
2. They received "righteousness" -- the very thing they were not looking to obtain.
3. They received "a righteousness which is by faith" -- it could not have been that of the Law because its particular form of righteousness required their diligence and they were not giving it.
III. Paul's Conclusion: Israel Did Not Come Into Possession of the Righteousness They Pursued.
A. The chief characteristic of Israel: its people "pursued" a law of righteousness.
1. Paul acknowledges that Israel "pursued" a "law of righteousness".
2. He does not acknowledge that this pursuit was "godly" (he, in fact, denies this in Romans 11:3 by declaring that they were "going about to establish their own righteousness").
B. The chief factor regarding Israel: its people did not obtain what they sought.
1. According to Romans 3:20, there is a greater reason for the "pursuit" than simply "attaining to legal righteousness". In that text the apostle declares that the goal of legal righteousness is "justification before God". And in that text the apostle declares that legal righteousness will not bring about the desired end. But, the fact is that even the goal of being "justified before God" is not the final objective. The question must be asked: why would anyone wish to be justified before God? The answer(s) reveal a deeper agenda. Without exception, the objectives of using a legal approach to the issue of being justified before God are evil. The apostle Paul claimed that he had done more than the majority of his contemporaries (Galatians 1:14), attained to a significant level of success (Philippians 3:6), and ended up being the "chief of sinners" as a consequence (1 Timothy 1:15).
2. When Paul denied that Israel obtained the righteousness of the Law, he was denying more than that. He was also denying everything that comes from such an attainment.