April 13, 2003
RIGHTEOUSNESS, HOW ATTAINED?
Righteousness is a recurring theme in Romans. We met it first in the gospel, wherein the "righteousness of God is revealed..." Therein is also "the wrath of God revealed against all...unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (1:17-18). The record is convincing, "There is none righteous, no not one," and "all have sinned..." (3:10, 23). Paul has twice proven that there is no unrighteousness with God. See Romans 3:5 and 9:14.
Romans 9 explains God's reasons for setting aside the nation Israel . They are not righteous! "What shall we say then? 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. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone..." Paul explained about Israel , "I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which does those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaks this way, 'Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above)'" (Rom. 9:30-10:6).
Righteousness appears 11 times in the above passage. We must not miss its importance, even as God deals with Israel and the Gentiles. It should also be evident that Paul is referring to the attitude of the nation (or Gentiles) and not of each person in the group. "To attain unto righteousness" is only by faith, and not by "works of the law." We expected Paul to quote Moses referring to the "righteousness of the law," but how stunning to see him also quote Moses when pointing to the "righteousness which is of faith." Paul found it in Deuteronomy 30, but Israel was blinded. Whether nationally or individually, righteousness in God's sight is only by faith!
Ivan L. Burgener