What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness…
1. These are astounding words. Who is the speaker? Not Paul, for he quotes Isaiah: not Isaiah, for in both passages (Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 8:11, 13-16) he ascribes them to Jehovah — one therefore who has a right to speak great and terrible things. What, or rather who, is referred to? It is none else than Jehovah Jesus.
2. When He, then, is represented under the alternative figure of a refuge and a stone of stumbling it is implied that men need a refuge. Why? Because men are everywhere pursued — pursued by penal evils, and that because they are themselves pursuing after evils of another kind. They love "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life," and are keenly pursuing them. One man is making life subordinate to the ignoble pursuit of sensual indulgence, others to fame and power, myriads more to wealth. But the earth on which men live belongs to God, and He has therefore a right to rule in it and over it, and having this right and being holy His malediction is lying on every form of sinful gratification. Hence every nation is pursued by a host of evils, and is time after time driven to Divine means to stave them off for a season. In vain.
3. But, what, then, is to become of each mortal man, of nations, of the great world? Let us hear the voice of God. "Behold I lay," etc. Every man's refuge is in Jehovah Jesus. "There is none other name," etc. Never till the world takes refuge on or in Him will it be happy, and as the world is but a world full of individuals, never will individual men be happy until they flee to Him.
4. But why, then, is He called "a stumbling stone and a rock of collision"? Is a stumbling stone a refuge? Is a rock of collision an asylum? Undoubtedly. It is just according as Christ is made use of as that He will be found to be one or the other. That which is our greatest boon when rightly used may become our utter ruin when abused. Fire and water are among our greatest blessings, but if a man will leap into a blazing furnace, or into a seething flood it will be his destruction. Look how steam engines have multiplied the comforts of life! But if a man will rush into machinery in full motion, all the world's comforts will in one moment cease to be comforts available to him. The same principle holds good in the relation of Jehovah Jesus to men. If they use Him aright He will prove a sanctuary, but if they insist on going on as if He were not in existence at all then He will be a rock of dreadful collision, and they will rush upon Him and be broken and ruined. The Divine idea is this: if men will have none of Jesus, and run on in their way without deigning to look so low as to see Jesus, the interests they pursue must come into terrific collision with the interests He pursues; and whensoever the collision comes, they and they only, will suffer. They will be like fugitives from a flood, who dash with all their highest pressure of force full on, upon a jagged rock. The rock will remain uninjured; but they will fall and be broken, and the flood will overtake and overwhelm them. But there is the sweet addition to the potentous threatening "Whosoever believeth on Him," the Rock of Ages, "shall not be ashamed." His security is certain. The rain may descend, etc., but his hopes will not fail because they are founded upon the Rock.
(J. Morison, D.D.)
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.