Paul reaffirms that he cares about the Israelites’ salvation. And while there is no doubt the Jews are eagerly devoted to God, they do it by their own rules. They ignore God and make up their own way to live life.
In Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11, Paul is addressing his concerns for the Israelites, God’s chosen people. Paul himself is a Jew and wishes fervently that Israel would be saved. His heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. He has written this letter to combat the slander of competing Jewish “authorities” who claimed that since Paul preached grace, he also preached it was glorifying God to live a sinful lifestyle. The competing authorities argue that God wants us to live by the Old Testament law, Paul testif[ies] about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. Paul denounces this characterization as slander and insists that the way God wants us to live is by faith in Him. Paul has proved that it has always been faith in God that brings righteousness (correct, harmonious living), going all the way back to Abraham, who lived hundreds of years before the law was written. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God, but sought to follow the law to obtain righteousness. But the law is no longer needed for righteousness, Christ is the end of the law for righteousness,
The question Paul is now responding to can be found in Romans 9:14, anticipating the competing Jewish “authorities” in Rome to claim that if Jesus’ grace overrules the law, then God has broken His promises to Israel. Paul anticipates these dissenters to conclude, “So you’re saying Israel is cast aside? Therefore, God is finished with it forever.” If, as Paul teaches, Jesus ends the law for believers, the competing “authorities” argue that the promises of God must be set aside as well.
Quite to the contrary, Paul argues. Jesus has established true righteousness for everyone who believes. The Gentiles (the Roman believers) have righteousness, and these competing Jewish “authorities” attacking them do not. Why? They’re not seeking righteousness by faith. The stumbling stone (faith in Christ) trips them up (Romans 9:32).
Paul declares that the Jews have a zeal for God; zeal (Greek: zelos) meaning an intense enthusiasm or passion, but their zeal is dictated by their own construct of how to live. The Israelites’ zeal has not led them to obey God, but rather to justify themselves. God’s righteousness (living as God intended, living harmoniously) comes by trusting in God, leading to obedience to God from the heart. God gave the law to the Jews so that they would see their need to rely and trust in God (Galatians 3:24,25). And as Paul stated in Romans 8:4, the law is fulfilled not by making rules but by walking by faith in the Spirit.
Paul has been more than clear throughout his letter to the Roman believers that life comes through faith, and living harmoniously as God intended (righteousness) comes through following the Holy Spirit by faith; we were given a new life, which was made possible by Christ’s resurrection. Christ gives us a new life. The Israelites rejected Christ and His gospel. They have clung to the law, which grieves Paul, because it keeps them from justification in the sight of God and from conforming to the image of Christ.
In Galatians 2:21, Paul conclusively says that Christ died unnecessarily if the law brought righteousness. But it doesn’t, it only brought more sin through man’s inability to obey it (Romans 5:20). In verse 4, Paul writes that Christ is the end of the law for those who believe. The law is finished, it’s of no use anymore, believers have Christ now. And everyone who believes is declared righteous in the sight of God. Through Christ, we can finally start living the way God designed us to. It was by faith in the promises of God in the Old Testament for Abraham, and it’s by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ now for believers in the New Testament. Then, when we live by faith, the law is fulfilled.
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Check out our other commentaries:
Exodus 24:4-11 meaningMoses and the elders are called to come before the LORD for worship. The covenant of the LORD is ratified.......
Exodus 13:3-10 meaningThe Lord gives commands regarding the annual festival of Unleavened Bread and Passover.......
Daniel 3:16-18 meaningShadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego give a prompt answer to the king: they will never worship his idols. They worship their God alone, who is able......
Matthew 5:33-37 meaningJesus demonstrates that righteousness and harmony is not a matter of oaths, but plain honesty and simple truth-telling.......
Exodus 39:8-21 meaningAlong with the ephod, the high priest wore a breastpiece. It was made of the same material as the ephod and had twelve stones arranged......