Romans 10:3
For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
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(3) God’s righteousness.—See Romans 1:17; Romans 3:21.

Their own righteousness.—A righteousness founded on their own works.

10:1-4 The Jews built on a false foundation, and refused to come to Christ for free salvation by faith, and numbers in every age do the same in various ways. The strictness of the law showed men their need of salvation by grace, through faith. And the ceremonies shadowed forth Christ as fulfilling the righteousness, and bearing the curse of the law. So that even under the law, all who were justified before God, obtained that blessing by faith, whereby they were made partakers of the perfect righteousness of the promised Redeemer. The law is not destroyed, nor the intention of the Lawgiver disappointed; but full satisfaction being made by the death of Christ for our breach of the law, the end is gained. That is, Christ has fulfilled the whole law, therefore whoever believeth in him, is counted just before God, as much as though he had fulfilled the whole law himself. Sinners never could go on in vain fancies of their own righteousness, if they knew the justice of God as a Governor, or his righteousness as a Saviour.For they being ignorant - The ignorance of the Jews was voluntarily, and therefore criminal. The apostle does not affirm that they could not have known what the plan of God was; for he says Romans 10:18-21 that they had full opportunity of knowing. An attentive study of their own Scriptures would have led them to the true knowledge of the Messiah and his righteousness; see John 5:39; compare Isaiah 53:1-12, etc. Yet the fact that they were ignorant, though not an excuse, is introduced here, doubtless, as a mild and mitigating circumstance, that should take off the severity of what he might appear to them to be saying; 1 Timothy 1:13, "But I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief;" Luke 23:34, "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do;" Acts 7:60. Involuntary ignorance excuses from guilt; but ignorance produced by our sin or our indolence is no excuse for crime.

Of God's righteousness - Not of the personal holiness of God, "but of God's plan of justifying people, or of declaring them righteous by faith in his Son;" see the note at Romans 1:17. Here God's plan stands opposed to their efforts to make themselves righteous by their own works.

And seeking to establish ... - Endeavoring to confirm or make valid their own righteousness; to render it such as to constitute a ground of justification before God; or to make good their own claims to eternal life by their merits. This stands opposed to the justification by grace, or to God's plan. And they must ever be opposed. This was the constant effort of the Jews; and in this they supposed they had succeeded. see Paul's experience in Philippians 3:4-6; Acts 26:5. Instances of their belief on this subject occur in all the gospels, where our Saviour combats their notions of their own righteousness. See particularly their views and evasions exposed in Matthew 23; compare Matthew 5:20, etc.; Matthew 6:2-5. It was this which mainly opposed the Lord Jesus and his apostles; and it is this confidence in their own righteousness, which still stands in the way of the progress of the gospel among people.

Have not submitted themselves - Confident in their own righteousness. they have nor yielded their hearts to a plan which requires them to come confessing that they have no merit, and to be saved by the merit of another. No obstacle to salvation by grace is so great as the self-righteousness of the sinner.

Righteousness of God - His plan or scheme of justifying people.

3. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness—that is, for the justification of the guilty (see on [2241]Ro 1:17).

and going about—"seeking"

to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God—The apostle views the general rejection of Christ by the nation as one act.

They being ignorant of God’s righteousness: here he shows more particularly what knowledge the Jews wanted. They knew not the righteousness of God; of which see Romans 1:17, with the notes there. This was abundantly manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, Romans 3:21; and a thing very needful to be known, as being that wherein man’s happiness consisted; but they were ignorant of it.

Going about to establish their own righteousness; their personal and inherent righteousness, a home-made righteousness, which is of their own spinning; this they designed to set up in the room of God’s righteousness.

Have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God; this notes the pride that accompanied their ignorance, and that is in the hearts of men by nature. They will not go abroad for that which they think they have, or may have, at home. They will not be beholden to another for that which they suppose they have in themselves. They have righteousness enough of their own working; and therefore they reject and withdraw themselves from that which is of God’s appointing.

For they being ignorant of God's righteousness,.... Either of the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel, which is no other than the righteousness of Christ, and which they knew nothing of, the whole Gospel being a sealed book, and wholly hidden from them; or of the righteousness of God required in the law, they imagining that only an external conformity to the commands of the law, was all that was necessary to attain to a justifying righteousness by it, not knowing the spirituality of it, and that it required conformity of heart and nature, as well as life and conversation; or rather of the attribute of God's righteousness, the strictness of his justice, the purity and holiness of his nature: for though they knew that he was holy, just, and righteous, yet did not think he was so strict as to insist upon every punctilio, and to take notice of every little default and defect in obedience; and especially that he had any regard to the heart and the thoughts of it, and required perfect purity there or that he would accept of nothing less than an absolutely perfect and complete righteousness; nor justify any without full satisfaction to his justice: hence they were

going about to establish their own righteousness; which they would never have done, had they known the righteousness of God, in either of the above senses; the Alexandrian copy, and some others, omit the word "righteousness", and only read, "their own", leaving it to be understood, and which is easily done; and so reads the Vulgate Latin version: by "their own righteousness", as opposed to God's, is meant the righteousness of works, their obedience to the law, an outward conformity to it, an observance of the rituals of it, and a little negative holiness. This they endeavoured to "establish" or "make to stand" in the sight of God, as their justifying righteousness, which is all one as setting chaff and stubble, briers and thorns, to a consuming fire; as the attempt expresses madness in them, the phrase suggests weakness in their righteousness, which they would fain make to stand, but could not, it being like a spider's web before the besom, or like a dead carcass, which men would set upon its feet to stand alone, but it cannot; than which nothing can be a greater instance of egregious folly: their "going about" or "seeking" to do this, shows their ignorant zeal, and the toil, the pains, the labour they used to effect it, but all in vain, and to no purpose; as appears by their hearing, reading, fasting, praying, giving alms to the poor, and tithes of all they possessed; all which they were very careful and studious of, and especially to have them done in the sight of men: and so it was that they

have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God; that is, the righteousness of Christ, so called, because approved and accepted of by God, imputed by him to his people, and given them by him as a free gift, and which only justifies in his sight; and because it is wrought by Christ, who is truly and properly God, and revealed and applied by the Spirit of God. This the Jews submitted not to, because they had no true humble sense of themselves as sinners, nor did they care to acknowledge themselves as such; which submission to Christ's righteousness requires and necessarily involves in it; no man will ever be subject to it, till he is made sensible of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and brought to an humble acknowledgment of it; the Spirit of God first convinces of sin and then of righteousness; and because they had an overweening opinion of their own righteousness, which they trusted to, and depended upon, imagining it to be blameless, and to contain all that the law required, and therefore they stood in no need of any other; and as for the righteousness of Christ they had it in contempt, their carnal minds being enmity to him, were not subject to his righteousness, nor could they, nor can any be, without the powerful efficacious grace of God, making them willing in the day of his power. This phrase denotes the rebellion of their wills, against Christ and his righteousness, they acting as rebellious subjects against their sovereign prince.

{2} For they {a} being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to {b} establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

(2) The first entrance into the calling to salvation, is to renounce our own righteousness by faith, which God freely offers us in the Gospel.

(a) The ignorance of the law (which we ought to know) does not excuse anyone before God, especially those that are of his household.

(b) Ignorance always has pride associated with it.

Romans 10:3. Confirmatory elucidation of οὐ κατʼ ἐπίγνωσιν: “for else they would not, unacquainted with the divine righteousness (see on Romans 1:17), have insisted on their own righteousness, and striven against the divine.” This is just the actual proof that their zeal for God is wanting in knowledge.

ἀγνοοῦντες] does not mean any more than at Romans 2:4, 1 Corinthians 14:38, anything else than not knowing; Reiche, de Wette, Tholuck, Ewald, and several others: misapprehending; Hofmann: overlooking. The guilt of this not-knowing Paul does not further enter into, not so much (comp. Acts 3:17; Acts 17:30) from mild forbearance (Rückert and others), but because he had simply nothing else than the οὐ κατʼ ἐπίγνωσιν to explain.


ΣΤῆΣΑΙ] stabilire, to make valid. Comp. Romans 3:31; Hebrews 10:9.

ὑπετάγησαν] The ΔΙΚ. ΘΕΟῦ is conceived of as a divine ordinance, to which one subjects oneself (through faith). The sense is not that of the passive, as Romans 8:20, but that of the middle, as in Romans 8:7, Romans 13:1, and frequently, expressing the obedience. As to the subject-matter, comp. προσέκοψαν κ.τ.λ., Romans 9:32.

Romans 10:3. This verse goes to the root of the matter, and explains the failure of the Gospel among the Jews. It was due to their ignorance of the righteousness of God. All men need and crave righteousness, and the Jews, in their ignorance of God’s, sought to establish a righteousness of their own. Their own is the key to the situation. Their idea was that they could be good men without becoming God’s debtors, or owing anything at all to Him. Such an idea, of course, shows complete ignorance of the essential relations of God and man, and when acted on fatally perverts life. It did so with the Jews. When the Gospel came, revealing the righteousness of God—that for which man must be absolutely indebted to God’s grace, and which he can never boast of as “his own”—it cut right across all the habits and prejudices of the Jews, and they did not submit themselves to it. Paul interprets the position of his nation through the recollection of his own experience as a Pharisee—no doubt rightly on the whole. For ὑπετάγησαν in middle sense see Romans 8:7, Romans 13:1, Hebrews 12:9, Jam 4:7, 1 Peter 2:13.

Romans 10:4. Further proof that the pursuit of a righteousness of one’s own by legal observances is a mistake, the act of men “in ignorance”. τέλος γὰρ νόμου χριστὸς εἰς δικαιοσύνην παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι: For Christ is law’s end, etc. The sense required—a sense which the words very naturally yield—is that with Christ in the field law as a means of attaining righteousness has ceased and determined. The moment a man sees Christ and understands what He is and what He has done, he feels that legal religion is a thing of the past: the way to righteousness is not the observance of statutes, no matter though they have been promulgated by God Himself; it is faith, the abandonment of the soul to the redeeming judgment and mercy of God in His Son. The meaning is virtually the same as that of our Lord’s words in Luke 16:16. νόμου without the article is “law” in the widest sense; the Mosaic law is only one of the most important instances which come under this description; and it, with all statutory conceptions of religion, ends when Christ appears. It is quite true to say that Christ consummates or fulfils the law (hence Calvin would prefer complementum or perfectio to finis as a rendering of τέλος); quite true also that He is the goal of the O.T. dispensation, and that it is designed to lead to Him (cf. Matthew 5:17, Galatians 3:24); but though both true and Pauline, these ideas are irrelevant here, where Paul is insisting, not on the connection, but on the incompatibility, of law and faith, of one’s own righteousness and the righteousness of God. Besides, in limiting νόμος to the Mosaic O.T. law, this interpretation does less than justice to the language, and misses the point of παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι: there is no believer, Gentile or Jew, for whom law, Mosaic or other, retains validity or significance as a way to δικαιοσύνη, after the revelation of the righteousness of God in Christ.

In Romans 10:5 ff. Paul describes more fully, and in O.T. terms, the two ways of attaining δικαιοσύνη—law and faith. His aim is to show that they are mutually exclusive, but that the latter is open and accessible to all.

3. being ignorant of] not knowing: the verb refers back to the “knowledge” just before mentioned.

God’s righteousness] His acceptance of the sinner as righteous, for Christ’s sake. See on Romans 1:17.

going about] seeking.

to establish] Same word as Hebrews 10:9. They sought to make it good enough to stand (in the judgment). On Jewish theories of merit, see Appendix A.

have not submitted themselves] Lit., and better, did not submit; perhaps with reference to the definite ideal occasion of the first appearance of the Gospel amongst them.—The Gr. verb is passive in form, but may bear a middle meaning; and so probably here, as in E. V.—For an illustration of this “submission” see 1 Peter 1:2, where the election of the Father and the holy influences of the Spirit lead to “obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Acceptance of the one “hope set before us,” that of the Cross, is an act of submission as well as of trust. Human pride and human reason both, in different ways, have to bow before the Crucified.

Romans 10:3. Ζητοῦντες, seeking) by all means.—οὐχʼ ὑπετάγησαν, have not been subject) and have not obeyed,” (ὑπήκουσαν) Romans 10:16. Ὑποταγὴ, submits itself to the Divine will, τῷ θέλειν, the will of GOD.

Romans 10:3God's righteousness

That mentioned in Romans 9:30. Compare Philippians 3:9; Romans 1:16, Romans 1:17; Romans 3:20-22.

To establish (στῆσαι)

Or set up, indicating their pride in their endeavor. They would erect a righteousness of their own as a monument to their own glory and not to God's.

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