Summary: The personal pursuit of righteousness is essential for every believer.

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I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3.7-11)

The promises of God do not fail because they are not contingent on mankind’s cooperation. The truth of this point of doctrine is emphatically emphasized in Romans 9.6b-29. However, it is equally true that Israel failed to pursue a righteousness that comes by faith; consequently, they were not prepared to acknowledge Jesus as God’s Messiah. In Romans 9.30-10.21 Paul shifts his focus from the sovereignty of God in salvation to Israel’s failure to respond to prompting of God’s prophets. It is her persistent unbelief that is responsible for her being cut off from the vine. Seeing these two truths in juxtaposition may help the reader to understand that divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not incompatible doctrines. “Paul viewed divine sovereignty and human responsibility as complementary rather than contradictory truths. They are not mutually exclusive but compatible. Paul provides no philosophical resolution as to how they correlate, and it is probably best to acknowledge that they relate mysteriously, in a way that exceeds our finite understanding. In any case, it would be a serious mistake to appeal to divine sovereignty as if it diminished the genuineness of human freedom and responsibility” (Thomas Schreiner, Romans, p. 531). Israel’s problem of unbelief is rooted their ignorance of God’s righteousness. There was no lacking in zeal for God, but it was a zealousness grounded in a distortion of the truth God had revealed to them through the prophets. Unbelieving Jews failed to recognize Jesus as the culmination of salvation history and stubbornly refused to believe the gospel. The Old Testament testimony about the Christ makes their willful unbelief inexcusable. The language of the gospel that governs the earlier part of his letter resurfaces in this section.

Every component of Paul’s “definition” of the gospel in the theme of the letter (1:16-17) is taken up in 9:30-10:21: “gospel” (see 10:15,16); “salvation” / “save” (see 10:1, 9, 10, 13); “all” (10:4, 11, 12, 13); “Jew and Greek” (10:12); “faith” (passim); and “the righteousness of God” (10:3). Matching and often directly related to Paul’s gospel language are quotations of the Old Testament (11 in 25 verses). In this is found Paul’s second key concern: to show that the gospel, as outlined in 1:18-4:25, is in continuity of the Old Testament. Paul shows that the law (10:6-8, 19), the prophets (9:32b-33; 10: 15-16, 20-21), and the writings (10:18) all bear witness to “the message of faith,” the gospel that Paul is preaching. Israel is zealous but ignorant: she has not understood that the gospel of Christ brings salvation history to its climax. And she should have understood, for the Old Testament witnesses to the gospel. Paul neatly summarizes this theme in his conflated quotation from Isaiah in 9:33: Israel has stumbled over the stone that God himself has “set in Zion.” (Douglas Moo, Romans, p. 618)

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