At the end of Romans 9, Paul returns to a point which he had made several times earlier in this book: the point that people are saved through their faith, and not of their works. Paul compares the receptiveness of the Gentiles of the Gospel as opposed to Israel. There is a lot we can apply to our daily lives within these last few verses.
In verses 30 and 31, Paul compares the Gentiles and Israel, and how each had treated the Gospel.
Romans 9:30,31 “…That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.”
I find it interesting how Paul phrases this. The Gentiles and Israel each took different routes in what they pursued.
- The Gentiles had faith, and had attained righteousness.
- Israel had pursued the law of righteousness and had not attained the law of righteousness.
It doesn’t state that Israel had not attained “righteousness” (even though they didn’t attain it). It says they didn’t attain the law of righteousness. Earlier in Romans, Paul says that those who seek righteousness from their good works will be judged by the law, and will come short of that standard. Paul here says that those of Israel who relied upon following the law, and good works had fallen short of their goal.
We should always be mindful of what Jesus has done for us. We should keep our eyes upon Him. It is because of what He did on the cross that allows us, by faith, to attain righteousness.
I would like to make one other observation about verses 30 and 31.
When God originally gave the law to mankind, He did so to Israel, through Moses. The Gentiles were not given the law, and didn’t know the intricacies and precepts of the law. Israel, being given the law, relied upon the obedience to that law for their justification (and had failed). Israel was not receptive to “justification by faith” because they had a deep-seated reliance upon the law. Paul says in verses 32 and 33 that the law had become a stumblingstone to Israel — something that they never could get past.
When the Gospel was given to the Gentiles, they gladly accepted it. The Gentiles never had a time when they relied upon the nuances of the law for their justification. The Gentiles who had become Christians had done so by accepting the Gospel.
How can we apply those thoughts to our lives? Most everyone you will encounter in your Christian life will have little to no knowledge at all of the law of Moses. They will have virtually no interest in trying to follow the Mosaic law (outside that of quoting some of the most popular of the Ten Commandments, which was but a small portion of the law), and will have literally no preconceived idea that they should follow the law (in the same way Israel did) to be saved. This makes our job of witnessing to others and leading them to Christ much easier. Most sinners who are concerned for their eternal well-being simply want to know “how”. Most of the time, you won’t have to convince them that it’s not the law which justifies. You’ll only need to point them to Jesus for them to find the way. Not everyone will accept that notion. If they deny that, then it is between them and the Lord. All you can do is show them the way, and let the Holy Spirit lead them.
Witness to the lost; be a good example no matter where you go. Let both your actions and your words point them to Christ.