Charles Simeon Commentary - Romans 9:30 - 9:33

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Romans 9:30 - 9:33

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Rom_9:30-33. 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 stumbling-stone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

A VERY great proportion of the controversies which exist in the Christian world, arise from an overstraining of just principles, and carrying them to an undue extent. Many are not contented with maintaining what God has plainly declared; but they will found on his declarations every thing that appears to be deducible from them. But, however legitimate any deduction may appear to us, we should make a great difference between it and the word on which it is founded; more especially if there be in the Holy Scriptures other passages directly opposed to our deductions. We should remember, that our finite faculties are incapable of comprehending all that the infinitely wise God has seen fit to reveal: and therefore, when we advance even an hair’s breadth beyond what God has expressly authorized, we should proceed with the utmost caution and diffidence. A rash and presumptuous mind will, without hesitation, build the doctrine of reprobation upon the declarations of St. Paul in this chapter. But St. Paul forbare to press his principles so far, because, however such an inference might appear just in the eyes of fallible man, it would have been in direct opposition to other declarations of Almighty God. His moderation is beautifully exhibited in this chapter. In order to silence the blasphemous cavils of an objector, he had been constrained to occupy high ground, and to assert God’s sovereign right to dispose of all his creatures, even as the potter has power over the clay, which he has prepared for his own use. But when he comes to sum up his argument, he does not refer the rejection of the Jews to the mere sovereign will of God, but to their own obstinate pride and unbelief: thereby shewing us, that, whilst we properly refer all good to God, we must trace all evil to ourselves: if we are saved, it is God who saves us, from first to last; but, if we perish, we perish through our own fault alone.

For the further elucidation of our text, we shall consider,

I.       The fact here stated—

It was a plain and undeniable fact, that the Gentiles had embraced the Gospel, and the Jews had rejected it—

[The Gentiles, till they heard the Gospel, were in a most deplorable state of wickedness [Note: See Romans 1. throughout.]: nor did they, at least with very few exceptions, at all think of seeking after God. Having but little sense of their guilt, and no idea whatever of any way in which their guilt might be removed, they concerned not themselves about a future state. The sentiment of the great mass among them was, “Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.” But, on the first proclamation of the Gospel to them, they received it gladly, and experienced, throughout all the Roman empire, its saving benefits. Thus was fulfilled in them that prophecy, “I am sought of them that asked not for me: I am found of them that sought me not [Note: Isa_65:1.].”

The Jews, on the other hand, many of them at least, had a considerable desire after a righteousness that should justify them before God: and they actually sought after such a righteousness, by conforming to the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law. But through their undue attachment to that law, which was now fulfilled and abrogated in Christ Jesus, they set themselves against the Gospel, and thereby cut themselves off from all participation of its benefits. The offer of salvation, through the merits of another, was a stumbling-block to them: they thought, that if they observed the duties of the moral law, and compensated for their defects by a strict attention to the ceremonial law, all would be well: and being persuaded of this, they would not hear of a salvation, which dispensed with the observances on which they placed so great a dependence. It was to this alone, and not to any secret and irresistible decrees of God, that they were thus left to perish. Thus it was that the Gentiles embraced the Gospel, and were saved by it; whilst the Jews, with all their superior advantages, rejected it, and perished.]

But this fact only verified what had been long since predicted by the prophets—

[Christ had been represented as “a foundation-stone,” on which whosoever should build should live for ever [Note: Isa_28:16.]. On the other hand, he had been represented as a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, over which many would fall to their heavier condemnation [Note: Isa_8:14-15.]. Thus the very Scriptures that announced his advent, declared that he should be “set for the fall, as well as for the rising again, of many in Israel [Note: Luk_2:34.].” This, if viewed abstractedly, was a very improbable event: for, however he might be disregarded by the Gentiles, the probability was, that the Jews, of whose nation he was, who expected his advent, and, from their own prophecies, might have learned his character; who actually saw all his miracles, and heard all his discourses; who, moreover, were assured on the most infallible testimony respecting his resurrection from the dead; who saw also the very same miracles wrought by his followers as had before been wrought by himself; I say, the probability was, that the Jews would have immediately become his most devoted followers. But the conduct of this infatuated people was altogether contrary to all such expectations; and they fulfilled the prophecies which they did not understand.]

Such was the fact stated by St. Paul. Let us now attend to,

II.      The instruction to be gathered from it—

Surely, in this fact, we may see the following truths:

1.       That how earnest soever we may be after salvation, we never shall attain it, if we seek it in a self-righteous way—

[Some of the Jews, we know, were very earnest in their endeavours to fulfil their law. Paul’s description of himself in his unconverted state, abundantly proves this [Note: Php_3:5-6.]. So at this time many are very studious to approve themselves to God, according to the light that is in them: but they know not in what way to come to him. They do not see the nature and extent of the moral law; which, having been once violated, can never justify an immortal soul [Note: Gal_3:10.]. They do not see that there is a new and living way opened for them into the holy of holies by the sacrifice of the Son of God [Note: Heb_10:19-20.]. They know not what our blessed Lord has so plainly told them, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me [Note: Joh_14:6.].” But we must declare to all such persons, that they are fatally deluded: “their zeal is not according to knowledge:” whilst they go about to establish a righteousness of their own, and refuse to submit to the righteousness provided for them by God, they cut themselves off from all the blessings of the Gospel [Note: Rom_10:2-4.]. Nor is it only by an avowed reliance on their works alone that they bring this evil on themselves: they do it with equal certainty by blending their own works in any measure, or in any degree, with the merits of Christ [Note: Gal_5:2; Gal_5:4. with Rom_11:6.] — — — Know then, all of you, that, if ever you would be partakers of Christ and of his salvation, you must seek to be found in Christ, not relying in any respect on your own righteousness, but trusting altogether in his alone [Note: Php_3:9.] — — — If you would gain the prize, you must not only strive, but “strive lawfully,” according to the rules that have been prescribed [Note: 2Ti_2:5.].]

2.       That how regardless soever we have been about salvation hitherto, we shall attain to it the very instant we believe in Christ—

[The Gentiles at large give us a very just, but awful, picture of man’s depravity: yet, when they were altogether dead, God “passed by them, and bade them live [Note: Eze_16:6. with Eph_2:4-5.].” Thus, if his voice in the Gospel reach our ears, and enter into our hearts, we also shall live before him. There was no interval between the obedience of Zaccheus to the Saviour’s call, and “the coming of salvation to his house.” The converts on the day of Pentecost were justified, the very instant they believed; and in like manner shall “all who believe be justified from all things.” The most perfect representation of this truth may be found in the ordinance of the brazen serpent which shadowed it forth. There was but one way of cure for all that were dying of their wounds; and that was, a sight of the brazen serpent. On the other hand, there was no interval between their use of that remedy, and their experience of the cure. Thus, then, the Lord Jesus Christ says to us, “Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth:” and, if we will in a full reliance on his word direct our eyes unto him, “we shall never be ashamed” of our hope — — —]

3.       That how calumniated soever this way of salvation is, the very calumnies that are raised against it, attest its truth—

[We must not be understood to say, that the mere circumstance of any plan of salvation giving offence proves that plan to be true and scriptural: for even the Gospel itself may be so crudely and injudiciously stated, as to give just offence; but this we say, that any plan of salvation which gives no offence to self-righteous men, is certainly not of God. Objections without number were made against St. Paul’s statements. When he said that salvation was altogether of grace, his enemies replied, that in that case God must be partial and unjust. When he said it was by faith, then they replied, that he dispensed with good works. The same objections even to this hour are universally brought against the same statements: and we may be infallibly sure, that, if no objections of the same kind be urged against us, we do not state the Gospel as Paul did: we are accommodating ourselves to the pride and prejudice of an ignorant world, instead of preaching the Gospel as freely and as fully as we ought. Let none then be discouraged when they hear the Gospel evil spoken of; neither let them wonder if it be “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness,” as in the days of old. It is so, and it must be so, as long as man shall continue unhumbled before God: and if you find it so amongst the circle in which you move, know that, as far as that circumstance goes, it is no proof whatever that what you hear is erroneous, but a strong presumptive evidence, that the word you hear is the very truth of God, the same glorious salvation which Paul preached. Only be truly willing to have God exalted, and your own souls humbled in the dust before him, and then you will find, that the Gospel offers you precisely such a remedy as you want, and that “it is the power of God unto salvation to all them that believe.”]