Romans 9:30
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(30-33) The Apostle has finished with his vindication of the rejection of Israel, and finished also with the course of argument which seemed to bear a strong character of determinism. He now takes up a point of view which is the direct opposite of this, and in explaining the causes which led to the rejection of Israel, those which he puts forward are all such as depend for their validity on the freedom of the will. It is needless to say that this is abundantly recognised in other parts of St. Paul’s writings, especially in the earnest practical exhortations which he addresses to his readers. This, then, must be taken to qualify the argument that has preceded. The freedom of the will and the absolute sovereignty of God are two propositions which, though apparently contradictory, are both really true at one and the same time. When stated singly, each is apt to appear one-sided. They are reconciled, as it were, beneath the surface, in some way inscrutable to us. Both rest on evidence that in itself is incontrovertible.

The great reason for the rejection of Israel and for the admission of the Gentiles is that the Gentiles did, and that they did not, base their attempts at righteousness upon faith. Righteousness is the middle term which leads to salvation. The Gentiles, without seeking, found; the Jews, seeking in a wrong way, failed to find it.

(30) Which followed not after righteousness.—Not having a special revelation, and being inattentive to the law of conscience.

Attained to righteousness.—By accepting the offer of Christianity, and especially the Christian doctrine of justification by faith.

Romans 9:30-33. What shall we say then — What is to be concluded from all that has been said, but this, that the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness — Who a while ago had no knowledge of, no care or thought about it; have attained to righteousness — Or justification; even the righteousness which is of faith — Which is by faith in Christ and in his gospel, Php 3:9. This is the first conclusion we may draw from the preceding observations. The second is, that Israel, (the Jews,) which followed after the law of righteousness — The law which, duly used, would have led them to faith, and thereby to righteousness; hath not attained to the law of righteousness — To that righteousness, or justification, which is one great end of the law. Or, as Estius and Beza think, the law of righteousness is put for the righteousness of the law; as Hebrews 7:16, the law of a carnal commandment, signifies the carnal commandment of the law. According to this interpretation, the apostle’s meaning is, Israel, who pursued the righteousness of the law, have not attained it. Wherefore? Is it because God eternally decreed they should not? No: there is nothing like this to be met with in the apostle’s reasoning; but, agreeably to his argument, he gives us this grand reason for it: because they sought it not by faith, whereby alone it could be attained; but, as it were — In effect, if not professedly; by the works of the law — The works required by it, which they were not able perfectly to perform. For they stumbled at that stumbling-stone — Which lay in their way. This is an allusion to one who, running in a race, stumbles on a stone in his way, and, falling, loses the race. As it is written — Foretold by their own prophet; Behold, I lay in Sion — I exhibit in my church what, though in truth the only sure foundation of religion and happiness, yet will be, in fact, a stumbling-stone, and a rock of offence — An occasion of ruin to many through their obstinate unbelief. And whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed — Or, as the original expression may be more literally translated, No one who believeth on him shall be ashamed. The reader will observe two passages of Isaiah are here joined in one quotation, because they relate to the same subject; namely, Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 8:14. See note on 1 Peter 2:8. Accordingly, those in Israel who expected the Messiah to be a great temporal prince, stumbled at Jesus on account of the poverty, meanness, and state of suffering in which he appeared among them. Hence they fell short of righteousness and salvation, and lost all their privileges as the people of God. 9:30-33 The Gentiles knew not their guilt and misery, therefore were not careful to procure a remedy. Yet they attained to righteousness by faith. Not by becoming proselytes to the Jewish religion, and submitting to the ceremonial law; but by embracing Christ, and believing in him, and submitting to the gospel. The Jews talked much of justification and holiness, and seemed very ambitious to be the favourites of God. They sought, but not in the right way, not in the humbling way, not in the appointed way. Not by faith, not by embracing Christ, depending upon Christ, and submitting to the gospel. They expected justification by observing the precepts and ceremonies of the law of Moses. The unbelieving Jews had a fair offer of righteousness, life, and salvation, made them upon gospel terms, which they did not like, and would not accept. Have we sought to know how we may be justified before God, seeking that blessing in the way here pointed out, by faith in Christ, as the Lord our Righteousness? Then we shall not be ashamed in that awful day, when all refuges of lies shall be swept away, and the Divine wrath shall overflow every hiding-place but that which God hath prepared in his own Son.What shall we say then? - What conclusion shall we draw from the previous train of remarks? To what results have we come by the passages adduced from the Old Testament? This question is asked preparatory to his summing up the argument; and he had so stated the argument that the conclusion which he was about to draw was inevitable.

The Gentiles - That many of the Gentiles; or that the way was open for them, and many of them "had actually" embraced the righteousness of faith. This Epistle was written as late as the year 57 (see Introduction), and at that time multitudes of pagans had embraced the Christian religion.

Which followed not after righteousness - The apostle does not mean that none of the pagans had any solicitude about right and wrong, or that there were no anxious inquiries among them; but he intends particularly to place them in contrast with the Jew. They had not made it their main object to justify themselves; they were not filled with prejudice and pride as the Jews were, who supposed that they had complied with the Law, and who felt no need of any other justification; they were sinners, and they felt it, and had no such mighty obstacle in a system of self-righteousness to overcome as the Jew had. Still it was true that they were excessively wicked, and that the prevailing characteristic among them was that they did not follow after righteousness; see Romans 1. The word "followed" here often denotes to pursue with intense energy, as a hunter pursues his game, or a man pursues a flying enemy. The Jews had sought righteousness in that way; the Gentiles had not. The word "righteousness" here means the same as justification. The Gentiles, which sought not justification, have obtained justification.

Have attained to righteousness - Have become justified. This was a matter of fact; and this was what the prophet had predicted. The apostle does not say that the sins of the Gentiles, or their indifference to the subject, was any reason why God justified them, or that people would be as safe in sin as in attempting to seek for salvation. He establishes the doctrine, indeed, that God is a sovereign; but still it is implied that the gospel did not have the special obstacle to contend with among the Gentiles that it had among the Jews. There was less pride, obstinacy, self-confidence; and people were more easily brought "to see" that they were sinners, and to feel their need of a Saviour. Though God dispenses his favors as a sovereign, and though all are opposed by nature to the gospel, yet it is always true that the gospel finds more obstacles among some people than among others. This was a most cutting and humbling doctrine to the pride of a Jew; and it is no wonder, therefore, that the apostle guarded it as he did.

Which is of faith - Justification by faith in Christ; see the note at Romans 1:17.

30, 31. What shall we say then?—"What now is the result of the whole?" The result is this—very different from what one would have expected.

That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained—"attained"

to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith—As we have seen that "the righteousness of faith" is the righteousness which justifies (see on [2240]Ro 3:22, &c.), this verse must mean that "the Gentiles, who while strangers to Christ were quite indifferent about acceptance with God, having embraced the Gospel as soon as it was preached to them, experienced the blessedness of a justified state."

This is the conclusion of the apostle’s discourse about the election of some and the rejection of others; as also about the calling of the Gentiles and the casting off the Jews.

Which followed not after righteousness; that never minded or regarded it; instead of following after it, they fled from it. They were full of all unrighteousness, Romans 1:18, to the end; Ephesians 2:2,3.

The righteousness which is of faith; viz. gospel righteousness, or the righteousness of Christ, which is received by true faith. What shall we say then?.... To God's calling of a large number of the Gentiles, and only a very few of the Jews, according to his eternal purposes and decrees; what can be objected to it? is he chargeable with any unrighteousness? must it not be referred to his sovereign will and pleasure? is it not an instance of his grace and goodness, that he calls and saves some, when they were all so wicked, that he might in justice have destroyed every individual of them? or what is further to be said, concerning both Jews and Gentiles? or what can be objected to what may be further observed concerning them? as

that the Gentiles which followed not after righteousness; the very same persons among them, who are, called by grace, and are vessels of mercy, before their calling were without a righteousness, stout hearted, and far from one; being without Christ, and destitute of his Spirit; they were ignorant of righteousness, of the righteousness of God, and of his law, and consequently of what true righteousness is; they were unconcerned about it, and did not labour after it, as the Jews did. They did not pursue and improve the light of nature, about God and things of a moral kind, as they might have done; but held the light and truth they had in unrighteousness, and indeed were filled with nothing else: and yet these persons

have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. The righteousness they attained unto, was not a righteousness of their own, not the righteousness of works, or a righteousness by the deeds of the law, to which the righteousness which is of faith is always opposed; nor faith itself, which is distinguished from it; but the righteousness of Christ, so called, not because that faith is the cause or condition of it, but because the discovery of it is made to faith; that receives it, lays hold on it, and exercises itself on it; by it the soul renounces its own righteousness, looks to, and depends on Christ's, and rejoices in it. These Gentiles being called by grace, "attained", "comprehended", or "apprehended" this righteousness; not by the light of nature, which makes no discovery, nor gives the least hint of it; but by the light of faith they apprehended it, as revealed in the Gospel; which faith they had not of themselves, but of God; so that the whole of this account is a wonderful instance of the grace of God, and abundantly confirms the observation made before by the apostle, that "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that shows mercy", Romans 9:16; since these persons had nothing in them, disposing and qualifying them for a justifying righteousness, and yet attained one; and the grace appears to be the more distinguishing, by what follows.

{27} What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed {e} not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

(27) The declaration and manifestation of our election is our calling apprehended by faith, as it came to pass in the Gentiles.

(e) So then, the Gentiles had no works to prepare and procure God's mercy before hand: and that the Gentiles attained to that which they did not seek, the mercy of God is to be thanked for it: and in that the Jews did not attain that which they sought after, they can only thank themselves, because they did not seek for it in the proper way.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 9:30-31. From the preceding prophecies, Romans 9:25 ff. (not with particular regard to Romans 9:16, as de Wette), Paul now, in order to prepare the transition to the διατί; ὅτι κ.τ.λ., Romans 9:32, draws the historical result, and that in the form of question and answer: “What shall we say then? (we shall say) that Gentiles, they who strove not after righteousness, have obtained righteousness, but righteousness which proceeds from faith; while Israel, on the contrary, in spite of its endeavour after the law which justifies, has not attained to this law.” Others take ὅτιἔφθασε to be a question, namely either: “What are we to say to the fact, that Gentiles, etc.?” So, following Theodore of Mopsuestia and others, Heumann, Flatt, Olshausen, also Morus, who takes ὅτι as because. Or: “What are we therefore to say? Are we to say that Gentiles, etc.?” So Reiche, who is then compelled to consider δικ, δὲ τὴν ἐκ πίστ. as an answer inserted as in a dialogue, and to see in Romans 9:32 the “removal of the ground of the objection by a disclosure of the cause of the phenomenon, which has now no longer anything surprising in it.” But Reiche’s view is to be rejected, partly on the ground that the insertion of a supposed answer, δικ. δὲ τ. ἐκ π., is a makeshift and unexampled in Paul’s writings; partly because ὅτιἔφθασε, even with the exclusion of δικ. δὲ τ. ἐκ. π., contains complete Pauline truth, and consequently does not at all resemble a problematic inquiry, such as Paul elsewhere introduces by τί ἐροῦμεν, and then refutes as erroneous (see Romans 4:1). This, too, in opposition to Th. Schott, who, taking τί οὖνδικαιοσύνην; as a single independent question (What shall we now say to the fact, that Gentiles, etc.), then finds the answer in δικαιοσύνην δὲ ἐκ πίστεως, but afterwards, no less strangely than groundlessly, proposes to connect διατί immediately, no punctuation being previously inserted, with the proposition Ἰσραὴλ δὲ κ.τ.λ. Finally, it is decisive against Heumann and others, that the answer of Romans 9:32, ὅτι οὐκ κ.τ.λ., does not concern the Gentiles at all (see Romans 9:30).

ἔθνη] Gentiles (comp. Romans 2:14), not the Gentiles as a collective body. On the part of Gentiles righteousness was obtained, etc.

τὰ μὴ διώκ.] They, whose endeavour (for they had not a revelation, nor did they observe the moral law) was not directed towards becoming righteous, they obtained righteousness, but—and hereby this paradox of sacred history is solved—that which proceeds from faith. In the first two instances δικ. is used without any special definition from the Christian point of view; the latter only comes to be introduced with the third δικ.

δὲ] comp. Romans 3:22; Php 2:8.

On the figurative διώκειν, borrowed from the running for the prize in the racecourse, as also on the correlate καταλαμβάνειν, comp. Php 3:12-14; 1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Timothy 6:11-12; Sir 11:10; Sir 27:8; on διώκειν δικαιοσύνην, Plato, Rep. p. 545 A. Observe the threefold δικαιοσύνην, as in Romans 9:31 the repetition of νόμον δικαιος. The whole passage is framed for pointed effect: “Vehementer auditorem commovet ejusdem redintegratio verbi … quasi aliquod telum saepius perveniat in eandem partem corporis.” Auct. ad Herenn. iv. 28.

Romans 9:30-33. The blame of their exclusion rests upon the Jews themselves, because they strove after righteousness not by faith, but by works; they took offence at Christ. Observe how Paul here “with the fewest words touches the deepest foundation of the matter” (Ewald).Romans 9:30 to Romans 10:21. We come now to the second main division of that part of the epistle in which Paul discusses the problem raised by the relation of the Jews to the Gospel. He has shown in chap. Romans 9:6-29 that they have no claim as of right to salvation: their whole history, as recorded and interpreted in the Scriptures, exhibited God acting on quite a different principle; he now proceeds to show more definitely that it was owing to their own guilt that they were rejected. They followed, and persisted in following, a path on which salvation was not to be found; and they were inexcusable in doing so, inasmuch as God had made His way of salvation plain and accessible to all.30. What shall we say then?] Same word as Romans 9:14; where see note.

followed not after] To them no Revelation had pointed out “righteousness” as a goal of efforts.

righteousness] i.e., practically, Justification, which is the admission to Salvation.

have attained] Lit. and better, did attain; at their conversion; on hearing and receiving the Gospel, previously unsought and unimagined.

even] Lit. but; and so perhaps better: q. d., “but this righteousness was that which results from faith;” in contrast to the Jewish unbeliever’s ideal, given in Romans 10:3. The E. V., however, is equally true to the Greek idiom.Romans 9:30. Τί, what) He returns from the digression, which he had commenced at the middle of Romans 9:24, and takes in summarily the whole subject, Romans 9:30-32. There is a mitigation of the severity of the discussion continued from Romans 9:6 to Romans 9:23; but it will only be comprehended by him, who is acquainted with the way of faith. In short, by this tone of feeling the foregoing remarks are judged of.—κατέλαβε) have attained [Luke 13:29; Luke 13:24.]—πίστεως, by faith), Romans 9:33, at its close.Verse 30 - Romans 10:21. - (3) The cause is in the fault of the Jews themselves. Hitherto the apostle has viewed his subject from the side of the Divine will and purpose (see note on ver. 19). He now views it from the side of human responsibility. The rejection of the Jews is now attributed, not to God's purpose to reject them, but to their own fault, in that they would not accept God's terms. "Hic expresse ponit causam reprobationis, quia scilicet nolint credere Evangelio. Ideo supra dixi, similitudinem de luto non ira accipiendam esse quasi non sit in ipsa voluntate hominis causa reprobationis" (Melancthon). Verses 30, 31. - What shall we say then! That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, following after a law of righteousness, attained not to (or, arrived not at, so as to distinguish ἔφθασε εἰς, used here, from κατέλαβε, previously used of the Gentiles. It expresses the idea of failing to reach what is being pursued) a law of righteousness. The Gentiles are here said to have attained righteousness (i.e. the righteousness of God, appropriated by faith, as previously explained); but Israel to have pursued, without reaching it, a law (not, as in the Authorized Version, the Law) of righteousness; because in the Law of Hoses they sought a justifying law, which in itself it could not be. The idea is resumed in ch. 10:3. The concluding δικαιοσύνης in ver. 31, which may have been introduced into the text to make the meaning plain, is ill supported; but the sense requires it to be understood. So far we have a state-merit of the facts of the case. The reason follows. Attained (κατέλαβεν)

See on perceived, Acts 4:13, and see on taketh, Mark 9:18; see on John 1:5. Compare attained (ἔφθασεν, Romans 9:31). Rev., arrive at. See on Matthew 12:28. The meaning is substantially the same, only the imagery in the two words differs; the former being that of laying hold of a prize, and the latter of arriving at a goal. The latter is appropriate to following after, and is carried out in stumbling (Romans 9:32).

Even (δὲ)

or and that. Subjoining something distinct and different from what precedes, though not sharply opposed to it. Attained righteousness, that is not that arising from these works, but from faith.

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