What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness…
I. WHAT HE SEEKS.
II. HOW HE SEEKS IT.
III. THE DISAPPOINTING RESULT.
IV. BECAUSE HE STUMBLES AT CHRIST.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith. — This verse plainly teaches that the reason why one man is unsaved while others are saved is not in God, but in himself. So always (Romans 10:3; Romans 11:22f; Matthew 23:37). This by no means contradicts ver.18, but looks at the same subject from another point. The reason why any one criminal is put to death is, if justice be done, entirely in himself. But the question whether any criminals are to be put to death rests entirely with the legislature. Those who oppose capital punishment may leave out of sight the conduct of the criminal, and speak only of what it is expedient for the government to do. And the moralist may leave out of sight the expediency of capital punishment, and speak only of the consequences of sin. Or again, the motion of the withered leaves of autumn is due entirely to the wind. They do not in the least degree even co-operate to produce their own motion. But the stones on the wayside remain unmoved. The difference arises, not from a difference of the influence brought to bear on them, but simply from this, that while the leaves yield to, the stones resist, the influence which both alike experience. So with us. That believers are justified at all springs entirely from the undeserved mercy of God, and every step towards salvation is entirely God's work in them. But the reason why when some are justified others are not, is that they put themselves by unbelief outside the number of those whom God has determined to save. When Paul replied to the objection that the gospel is inconsistent with the justice of God, he said that salvation is not a manner of justice at all, and that God bestows it on whom He will. But when explaining why the Jews have not obtained salvation, he says that the reason is in themselves. Observe also that their position is attributed not to their sin, but to their unbelief.
Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence. — It seems strange that Jesus the Saviour of men should be set before us in this way; but the great object is to cause us to consider what our own attitude is toward Christ. Am I clinging to Him as my Rock of Safety, or am I being repelled from Him as from a rock of offence? Jesus Himself alluded to the same idea (Matthew 21:42-44).
I. THERE ARE SOME THINGS IN CHRIST'S LIFE AND WORK AT WHICH MEN STUMBLE.
1. The way He came into the world (Matthew 12:54-57). The people stumbled at the difficulty of His lowly parentage. Yet why? for it was all predicted, and ought rather to confirm faith.
2. The surroundings of His daily life. It was with the poor that He chiefly mingled. Here, however, is a proof that Christ was Divine. God is no respecter of persons. Had Christ been a mere man with an ambition to found a kingdom, He would have sought very different society. The persons He chose for His ambassadors were themselves a proof that their religion was Divine. Without rank or riches or worldly influence, and only by the power of their words, they founded a religion which will one day conquer the world.
3. His death. This was to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness. And now men, while willing to regard Christ as the greatest of teachers and sublimest of examples, stumble at His atonement. Yet it is this only that gives meaning to the Old Testament, and without it Christ's own teaching is inexplicable, and to stumble at it is to find a difficulty in the most convincing proof of God's love. Instead of stumbling at it they should find it as Paul did "the power of God."
II. THERE ARE SOME THINGS IN THEMSELVES WHICH CAUSE MEN TO STUMBLE AT CHRIST. Christ is a stumbling stone —
1. To human pride. If we are to be saved by Jesus we must as guilty sinners lay aside all trust in our own merits. God's way of salvation is too simple. If He would bid us do or suffer some great thing we would gladly do it. But is not this again unreasonable? If I will not take God's way of getting to heaven, how can I expect to get there by any other?
2. To human sins. Many would like to get to heaven, but do not like to give up their sins. But how unreasonable.
3. To human selfishness. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
(C. H. Irwin, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.