Romansby David Cook
Two images are used here of Jesus. The first is that of “a rock that makes them fall” (9:33), and the second is “the culmination of the law” (10:4).
Israel stumbled over Jesus. They did not recognise that the law was pointing forward to Jesus, and they treated the law as the means of their salvation instead of finding their refuge in Him.
Paul’s anguish for Israel is because his countrymen had chosen the wrong path. They chose to pursue righteousness by obeying the law (9:31; 10:3) and did not submit to God’s way of setting people right with himself.
Verse 2 tells us that although Israel is sincere and zealous (qualities necessary for correctness in this postmodern world), yet she is wrong. For despite her zeal, Israel is ignorant (v. 3).
Paul sets out the two possible routes to righteousness in verses 5 to 7. In verse 5, righteousness is gained by keeping the law. In verses 6 to 7, righteousness is gained not by human achievement but by God’s provision. Christ does not need to be brought down (v. 6), but He came down in the incarnation. He does not need to be brought up (v. 7), but He came up in the resurrection. Both of these are God’s provision and God’s gift of righteousness, and not a result of human achievement.
All religions in one way or another can be categorised as achievement-based. Biblical Christianity alone is categorised as provision-based. Righteousness is something God requires and provides to all who put their faith in His Son. Having faith in Jesus means having a particular conviction about Jesus—that God has raised Him from the dead (v. 9). And what the heart believes, the mouth confesses—that He is indeed Lord and God in the flesh (designated as such by His resurrection from the dead, see 1:4).
In verse 11, Paul quotes Isaiah, saying that anyone who has this conviction and confession of Jesus will never be shamed, and that God only has this one way of putting people right with himself. In verses 12 and 13, he says it is the same for everyone, Jew or Gentile. Everyone who calls on the name of Jesus as God, because of His resurrection, will be saved.
This is indeed momentous news. Think of all those who labour under the burden of religion, striving to meet the requirements of the law in order to be righteous. Whether it is the Christian religion or not, it is equally tragic. It is an impossible task to achieve God’s righteousness by law-keeping, and it is totally unnecessary, because Christ, our substitute, has met God’s righteous requirements on our behalf. Religion is doubly tragic—impossible and unnecessary.
Why is righteousness by provision, rather than achievement, such good news?
St Augustine prayed, “O God, demand what you will, but supply what you demand.” What does God demand? How does He supply this demand?