Romans 9:32
Why? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone;
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(32) For they stumbled.—“For,” in this clause, should be omitted, and the two clauses thrown together, the words “of the law” also going out—Because (seeking righteousness), not of faith, but as if of works, they stumbled, &c.

That stumblingstone.—Christ. When Christianity, with the justification by faith which goes with it, was offered to them, they “were offended,” and refused it.

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.Wherefore? - Why? The apostle proceeds to state the reason why so uniform and remarkable a result happened. "They sought it not by faith, etc." They depended on their own righteousness, and not on the mercy of God to be obtained by faith.

By the works of the law - By complying with all the demands of the Law so that they might merit salvation. Their attempted obedience included their prayers, fastings, sacrifices, etc., as well as compliance with the demands of the moral law. It may be asked here, perhaps, how the Jews could know any better than this? how should they know anything about justification by faith? To this I:answer:

(1) That the doctrine was stated in the Old Testament; see Habakkuk 2:4; compare Romans 1:17; Psalm 32:1-11; Psalm 130:1-8; Psalm 14:1-7; compare Romans 3; Job 9:2.

(2) the sacrifices had reference to a future state of things, and were doubt less so understood; see the Epistle to the Hebrews.

(3) the "principle" of justification, and of living by faith, had been fully brought out in the lives and experience of the saints of old; see Romans 4 and Hebrews 11.

They stumbled - They fell; or failed; or "this was the cause why they" did not obtain it.

At that stumbling-stone - To wit, at what he specifies in the following verse. "A stumbling-stone" is a stone or impediment in the path over which people may fall. Here it means "that obstacle which prevented their attaining the righteousness of faith; and which was the occasion of their fall, rejection, and ruin." That was the rejection and the crucifixion of their own Messiah; their unwillingness to be saved by him; their contempt of him and his message. For this God withheld from them the blessings of justification, and was about to cast them off as a people. This also the apostle proceeds to prove was foretold by the prophets.

32, 33. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were—rather simply, "as"

by the works of the law—as if it were thus attainable, which justification is not: Since, therefore, it is attainable only by faith, they missed it.

for—it is doubtful if this particle was originally in the text.

they stumbled at that stumbling-stone—better, "against the stone of stumbling," meaning Christ. But in this they only did.

Here is the reason of the foregoing seeming paradox; why they, who followed after the law of righteousness, should not attain it, rather than other.

Because they sought it not aright; they sought it not in a way of believing, but of working. These two are opposed in the business of justification, as before at large, in Romans 9:3,4.

As it were by the works of the law; i.e. as if they could have attained righteousness or justification in that way, which it was impossible to do.

They stumbled at that stumbling-stone; i.e. the true Messiah: q.d. So far were they from seeking righteousness by Christ, that, on the contrary, they took offence at him, to their own destruction, Mark 6:3 1 Corinthians 1:23. They thought it impossible that he should give them a righteousness better than their own. This happened to them according to the prophecy that went before them: so it followeth; Wherefore? because they sought it not by faith,.... The question is asked, why they did not attain to that, which with so much diligence they pressed after? the answer is, because, as they did not seek for righteousness in a right place, or object, they sought for it in the law, and the works of it, where it is never to be found by a sinful creature, and not in Christ, in whom only are righteousness and strength; so they did not seek for it in a right way, by faith in Christ, without which it is impossible to please God, and by which only true righteousness is discerned and received:

but as it were by the works of the law; not by works which looked like works of the law, and were not; but they sought it as if they expected their justification before God was to be by works of righteousness done by them; or as if it was partly by their own works, and partly by the goodness of God, accepting of them for a justifying righteousness. The Alexandrian Copy, and some others, read only, "as it were by works"; and so does the Vulgate Latin version: another reason, or else a reason of the former is,

for they stumbled at that stumbling stone; meaning the word of the Gospel, at which Peter says they stumbled, and particularly the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ; or rather Christ himself, who was "to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness", 1 Corinthians 1:23.

Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the {s} works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

(s) Seeking to attain righteousness, they followed the law of righteousness.

Romans 9:32. διὰ τί; Why? A result so confounding needs explanation. ὅτι οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐξ ἔργων: it seems too precise to supply with Weiss ἐδίωξεν νόμον δικαιοσύνης. The reason of Israel’s religious failure was that its whole religious effort and attitude was not of faith, but (so they conceived the case) of works. By inserting ὡς Paul dissociates himself from this conception, and leaves it to Israel; he does not believe (having learned the contrary by bitter experience) that there is any outlet along this road. Everything in religion depends on the nature of the start. You may start ἐκ πίστεως, from an utter abandonment to God, and an entire dependence on Him, and in this case a righteousness is possible which you will recognise as δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ, God’s own gift and work in you; or you may start ἐξ ἔργων, which really means in independence of God, and try to work out, without coming under obligation to God, a righteousness of your own, for which you may subsequently claim His approval, and in this case, like the Jews, all your efforts will be baffled. Your starting-point is unreal, impossible; it is not truly ἐξ ἔργων, but only ὡ ς ἐξ ἔργων; it is an idea of your own, not a truth on which life can be carried out, that you are in any sense independent of God. Such an idea, however, rooted in the mind, may effectually pervert and wreck the soul, by making the Divine way of attaining righteousness and life offensive to it; and this is what happened to the Jews. Because of that profoundly false relation to God προσέκοψαν τῷ λίθῳ τοῦ προσκόμματος. The stone on which they stumbled was Christ, and especially His Cross. The σκάνδαλον of the Cross, at which they stumbled, is not simply the fact that it is a cross, whereas they expected a Messianic throne; the Cross offended them because, as interpreted by Paul, it summoned them to begin their religious life, from the very beginning, at the foot of the Crucified, and with the sense upon their hearts of an infinite debt to Him, which no “works” could ever repay.32. Wherefore?] See ch. 4 for the fullest commentary on this verse.

as it were] Lit. and better, as; i.e. “under the belief that it could be so reached.”

works of the law] “Of the law” should be omitted, on evidence of documents.

that stumblingstone] Lit. and better, the stumblingstone; i.e. the Stone predicted, in the words now to be quoted.—“Stumblingstone:”—lit. stone of stumbling, as in E. V. of 1 Peter 2:8, where the same prophecy is quoted by allusion.Romans 9:32. Ὃτι because) viz. they sought after it [followed after it].—οὐκἀλλʼ ὠς) The Basle Lexicon says: ὡς in comparing things dissimilar is doubled, and the one ὡς is elegantly understood in the former member, and ὡς is only joined to [expressed in] the latter part. Examples are there subjoined from Aristotle; we may compare John 7:10; 2 Corinthians 11:17; likewise Acts 28:19; Philemon 1:14; Php 2:12.Verses 32, 33. - Wherefore? Because they sought it not of faith, but as of works of law. The genuineness of the concluding word νόμου here is doubtful. Its omission does not affect the sense. If retained, it must, according to the rule observed in this Exposition, be translated law, not the Law. For they stumbled at the stone of stumbling; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and rock of offence: and he that (πᾶς before ὁ πιστεύων, expressed in the Authorized Version by "whosoever," has no good support, having probably been supplied from ch. 10:11) believeth on him shall not be ashamed. Here, as throughout the Epistle, the apostle's position is supported by an Old Testament reference. In this instance it is to two passages of Isaiah intermingled (Isaiah 28:16 and Isaiah 8:14). The way in which they are fused is illustrative of St. Paul's way, elsewhere apparent, of referring to Scripture. As a rule, he quotes the LXX., but often varies from it, and sometimes so as to be closer to the Hebrew. Sometimes he seems to be quoting from memory, as one who is familiar with the general drift of prophecy on the subject in hand, and satisfied if the form of his quotation expresses such general drift. In the ease before us, he follows the Hebrew in Psalm 8:14, and the LXX. 2:28:16, where for the Hebrew expression rendered "shall not make haste," the LXX. has οῦ μὴ καταισχυνθῆ, apparently with the same essential meaning; for "make haste" seems to signify "haste away in terror and confusion." The two texts combined express the idea of a stone being laid by the Lord in Zion, which should be the support of the faithful, but a stumbling-block to others. It is not necessary to inquire whether the texts themselves have in the original any obvious Messianic reference. Enough that they denote God's plan of dealing with his people. But to understand the full idea in the apostle's mind, when he speaks of "the stone of stumbling," we must take into account also Psalm 118:22, and our Lord's language, as recorded in Matthew 21:42, 44 and Luke 20:17, 18. In the Psalms we find the figure of "the stone" used thus: "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner;" and in the Gospels our Lord refers to this text as de. noting himself, and subjoins, with reference to Isaiah, the idea of the same stone being one on which some should fall and be broken, with the additional conception of its crushing those on whom itself should fall. The same view essentially is expressed in Simeon's words (Luke 2:34), that "this Child" should be for the fall as well as for the rising again of many in Israel; and it is repeated definitely in 1 Peter 2:7 (cf. also Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 1:23).

Not by faith (οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως)

A.V. and Rev. supply the ellipsis, they sought it not.

They stumbled (προσέκοψαν)

"In their foolish course Israel thought they were advancing on a clear path, and lo! all at once there was found in this way an obstacle upon which they were broken; and this obstacle was the very Messiah whom they had so long invoked in all their prayers" (Godet).

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