What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
- Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness received righteousness
- Gentiles received righteousness by faith.
- Israel pursued the law that leads to righteousness
- Israel did not obtain the righteousness of the law.
- Israel did not receive righteousness because they did not pursue righteousness by faith.
- Israel pursued righteousness as if it were based on works.
- Israel stumbled over a stumbling stone.
- Christ is a stumbling stone to the Jews
- Whoever believes in Christ will not be put to shame.
- Paul’s desired was that Israel be saved
- Israel had a zeal for God.
- Israel did not submit to God’s righteousness.
- Christ is the end of the law for righteousness.
- Christ is the end of the law for everyone who believes.
Paul continues his thought that salvation is by the mercy of God by pointing the fact the gentiles did nothing to earn favor from God yet they were being brought into the kingdom of God. While on the other hand, the Jews, who were laboring to keep the law and zealously doing all kinds of things to live rightly, are being kept out of the kingdom. Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Why?” He then gives the answer, because salvation comes by faith. It is not earned. This is really counter intuitive to us. They worked for it. The Jews may not have earned it but since they worked so hard for it they certainly deserve it more than the gentiles. We want to scream again, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!” But the apostle reminds us it is by God mercy. And He will give to whomever He pleases. He will give it for whatever reason He desires.
Justification by faith caused the Jews to stumbling and they were not be able to understand nor accept it. We still have the same problem today. We fail to realize God is sovereign over all and exercises His will for His pleasure.
The Jews were depending on the righteousness of the law. This Paul has already shown to be folly, because the law is made weak by the flesh. (Romans 8:3) Israel was depending on the righteousness of the law. They did not understand the true method of justification, justification by faith, which is actually contained in the law itself.
It is Christ who has been given to us for righteousness. Therefore whosoever attempts to obtain righteousness by works of righteousness, attempts to rob Christ of His office. This is even truer of men, who under the pretense of being zealous for righteousness, work extra hard for their righteousness. They are actually carrying on a war with God Himself. They stumble at Christ, who justifies by His works not theirs.
Through Christ is a stumbling stone, there is no reason to be in despair. Christ will not put anyone who believes in Him to shame. So while the entire concept of justification by faith in Christ is something the unbeliever cannot accept, it is sweet peace to the those who believe,
Paul perceives that the Jews were lost not because they intended to reject God. They were lost through their ignorance. They were zealous for God. As the country song goes, they were looking for love in all the wrong places. Those of us who have been given the gift of knowledge that salvation is through faith and not works are under an obligation of love to tell those who do not have that knowledge about the truth of salvation. It would be unloving to do otherwise.
Since the Jews were both zealous and ignorant, they sought to create their own righteousness. The righteousness of men and the righteousness of God are incompatible. The righteousness of men is no righteousness at all. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Romans 3:10-11)
When Paul says Christ is the end of the law. He does not mean that the law is no more. Rather the end as in the purpose. The purpose of the law is Christ. And Christ gives righteousness to everyone who believes.
The fact that some received righteousness and not others we think is unjust. Our base assumption is that we, (especially the personal pronoun me) are the highest value. We think the anything that is not for the good of mankind is evil. That is not the assumption the apostle is working from. Paul understands that man was created by God for God. Therefore, God is the highest value. All things, including mankind are subservient to Him.
The Jews Paul refers to in this chapter were zealous for God. They had good intentions. They were lost because of their ignorance not their zeal. Our good intentions will not save us. It is only the blood of Christ. Yet we insist on relying on our good intentions. When you confess your sins to God, you try to explain how it really is not that bad. “Yes God I did that but I did not intend to hurt anyone. I intended it for good. Please for forgive me I did not mean it.” We think if our intentions are good or at the very least benign, God will forgive us because we are really good inside. We are giving God a reason why he should forgive us. God’s mercy is based on His goodness not our intentions. We are justified by Christ’s death and resurrection not our intentions. In trying to explain away our sins by using our intentions we deny our own sinfulness.
When we rely on ourselves, i.e. our intentions, we deny both our own sinfulness and God’s righteousness. We deny the sufficiency of Christ has done for us. We think we have to add to it by demonstrating we are actually pretty good deep down inside.
Another approach we take to add to what Christ has none is to be very zealous. But Paul shows how hypocrites use zeal as a mask to cover their unrighteousness. Because they have great zeal they also have great pride in their zeal. Zeal for God will not save you any more than your good intentions. Pray to God acknowledging your sinfulness and ask Him for greater righteousness.