Thursday, 5 September 2013
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; Romans 9:30
“What shall we say then?” This question is introduced in order to provide a response to Paul’s thoughts on verses 14-29. In essence, “How shall I sum up these things?”
Depending on how one views the concept of “total depravity” and also how we become justified before God, different views of how to handle this verse will be proposed. Those who follow Calvinism will naturally use these words, along with other verses such as Romans 3:10-18, to state that the gentiles could not seek after righteousness. This is not at all what is being said, nor is that what Romans 3:10-18 is saying (refer to those commentaries if necessary).
Rather, the word translated as “pursue” speaks of the exertion of ongoing, concentrated vigor towards something. A comparable thought would be a hunter following after game. There is nothing in this verse to state that the gentile world didn’t pursue righteousness in some capacity. We can look around the world and see numerous examples of non-Christians who seek peace, the welfare of others, etc. All of these are done as deeds looking to establish some sort of righteousness.
The pursuit which Paul is speaking of here is the right-standing which leads to justification before God – the fulfillment of the law. How could the Gentiles pursue after that which they did not have? It was the nation of Israel who had the law and they pursued after it with zeal because it was what established them as a people and what offered them life and peace. It also promised them a right relationship with God. The problem for them came in how they pursued it.
The Gentiles didn’t have this opportunity, until Jesus. Suddenly the flood-gates of heaven were opened wide to the whole world at large, Jew and Gentile alike. The law, which was that means of being reconciled to God, was fulfilled by Him and in Him. Now, rather than pursuing wrong avenues of righteousness on one’s own merits, the proper avenue could be pursued by the merits of Another – He who fulfilled the needed righteousness. Any Gentile, and the number of them started small but grew rapidly, could attain to righteousness now, “even the righteousness of faith.”
This term, “the righteousness of faith” is what proves that this has nothing to do with Gentiles seeking righteousness in a limited (or wrong) way. Instead, it demonstrates that they understood, immediately upon hearing the word, that the avenue they had been pursuing (one of deeds) was wrong. The deeds merely interfered with any hoped-for relationship and attainment of righteousness. This was because they became a form of self-idolatry. “I have done these great things; God will love me.”
This is fully substantiated by the coming three verses. Stay tuned as we complete chapter 9 with those thoughts.
Life application: Where is your righteousness to be found? If you state anything other than “in Christ Jesus” you have missed the mark. In and of ourselves, there is no true righteousness. Christ has done the work. Now, place your faith in Him and you will stand righteous before God; not on your own merits, but on the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
Gracious heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Jesus to do what I could never have done. He came and fulfilled the law which stood contrary to me. Now because of His work and then His sacrifice on my behalf, I stand in His righteousness. Thank You for this glorious offer of reconciliation and thank You for all that it signifies for our eternal relationship of peace and fellowship. Amen.