30. What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith:
30. Quid ergo dicemus? Quod gentes quae non sectabantur justi-tiam, adeptae sunt justitiam, justi-tiam autem ex fide:
31. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
31. Israel autem sectando legem justitiae, ad legem justitiae non per-venit.
32. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone:
32. Quare? Quid non ex fide, sed quasi ex operibus; offenderunt enim ad lapidem offensionis:
33. As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
33. Quemadmodum scriptum eat, Ecce pono in Sion lapidem offen-sionis et petram offendiculi: et omnis qui crediderit in eum non pude-fiet.
But in the first clause it was the Apostle's object to exalt the grace of God alone, that no other reason might be sought for in the calling of the Gentiles but this, -- that he deigned to embrace them when unworthy of his favor.
He speaks expressly of righteousness, without which there can be no salvation: but. by saying that the righteousness of the Gentiles proceeded from faith, he intimates, that it was based on a gratuitous reconciliation; for if any one imagines that they, were justified, be.cause they had by faith obtained the Spirit of regeneration, he departs far from the meaning of Paul; it would not indeed have been true, that they had attained what they sought not, except God had freely embraced them while they were straying and wandering, and had offered them righteousness, for which, being unknown, they could have had no desire. It must also be observed, that the Gentiles could not have obtained righteousness by faith, except God had anticipated their faith by his grace; for they followed it when they first by faith aspired to righteousness; and so faith itself is a portion of his favor.
The meaning then is, -- "That Israel, depending on the righteousness of the law, even that which is prescribed in the law, did not understand the true method of justification." But; there is a striking contrast in the expression, when he teaches us that the legal righteousness was the cause, that they had fallen away from the law of righteousness.
But how they stumble at Christ, who trust in their works, it is not difficult to understand; for except we own ourselves to be sinners, void and destitute of any righteousness of our own, we obscure the dignity of Christ, which consists in this, that to us all he is light, life, resurrection, righteousness, and healing'. But how is he all these things, except that he illuminates the blind, restores the, lost, quickens the dead, raises up those who are reduced to nothing, cleanses those who are full of tilth, cures and heals those infected with diseases? Nay, when we claim for ourselves any righteousness we in a manner contend with the power of Christ; for his office is no less to beat down all the pride of the flesh, than to relieve and comfort those who labour and are wearied under their burden.
The quotation is rightly made; for God in that passage declares that he would be to the people of Judah and of Israel for a rock of offence, at which they should stumble and fall. Since Christ is that God who spoke by the Prophets, it is no wonder that this also should be fulfilled in him. And by calling Christ the stone of stumb1ing, he reminds us that it is not to be wondered at if they made no progress in the way of righteousness, who through their wilful stubbornness stumbled at the rock of offence, when God had showed to them the way so plainly. 2 But we must observe, that this stumbling does not properly belong to Christ viewed in himself; but, on the contrary, it is what happens through the wickedness of men, according to what immediately follows.
1 There seems to be no necessity for this transposition. "A law (not the law) of righteousness" means a law which prescribes righteousness, and which, if done, would have conferred righteousness. But the Jews following this did not attain to a law of righteousness, such a law as se cured righteousness. The Apostle often uses the same words in the same verse in a different sense, and leaves the meaning to be made out by the context. Grotius takes "law" as meaning way, "They followed the way of righteousness, but did not attain to a way of righteousness."
What follows the question in the next verse stands more connected with Romans 9:30 than with Romans 9:31; and we must consider that the word righteous ness, and not law, is referred to by "it" after the verb "pursue," which is evidently to be understood before the words, "not by faith," etc., as the sentence is clearly elliptical.
But Pareus and Hammond consider that there are here three agonistic terms,
2 "Error is often a greater obstacle to the salvation of men than care lessness or vice... Let no man think error in doctrine a slight practical evil. No road to perdition has ever been more thronged than that of false doctrine. Error is a shield over the conscience and a bandage over the eyes." -- Professor Hodge.
3 The citation in this verse is made in a remarkable manner. The first part, "Behold I lay in Zion," is taken from Isaiah 28:16; what follows, "a stone of stumbling and rock of offense," is taken from Isaiah 8:14; and then the last words, "and whosoever believes in him shall not be ashamed," are given from the preceding passage in Isaiah 28:16. The subject is the same.
With respect to the last clause Paul has followed the Septuagint, "shall not be ashamed." But the Hebrew word, rendered in our version "shall not make haste," will bear a similar meaning, and may be translated, shall not hurry or be confounded. -- Ed.