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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 9 - Verse 31

Verse 31. But Israel. The Jews. The apostle does not mean to affirm that none of the Jews had obtained mercy, but that as a people, or acting according to the prevalent principles of the nation to work out their own righteousness, they had not obtained it.

Which followed after the law of righteousness. The phrase, "the law of righteousness," means the law of justice, or the just law. That law demands perfect purity; and even its external observance demanded holiness. The Jews supposed that they rendered such obedience to that law as to constitute a meritorious ground of justification. This they had followed after; that is, pursued zealously and unremittingly. The reason why they did not obtain justification in that way is fully stated in chapters 1-3., where it is shown that the law demands perfect compliance with its precepts; and that Jews, as well as Gentiles, had altogether failed in rendering such compliance.

Hath not attained to the law of righteousness. They have not come to yield true obedience to the law, even though imperfect; not such obedience as to give evidence that they have been justified. We may remark here,

(1.) that no conclusion could have been more humbling to a Jew than this. It constituted the whole of the prevalent religion, and was the object of their incessant toils.

(2.) As they made the experiment fully, and failed; as they had the best advantages for it, and did not succeed, but reared only a miserable and delusive system of self-righteousness, (Php 3:4-9); it follows, that all similar experiments must fail, and that none now can be justified by the law.

(3.) Thousands fail in the same attempt. They seek to justify themselves before God. They attempt to weave a righteousness of their own. The moral man does this. The immoral man attempts it as much as the moral man, and is as confident in his own righteousness. The troubled sinner does this; and this it is which keeps him so long from the cross of Christ. All this must be renounced; and man must come as a poor, lost, ruined sinner, and throw himself upon the mere mercy of God in Christ for justification and life.

{g} "which followed after the law" Ro 10:2; 11:7

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