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Romans 9:31,32 – Faith or works?

09-08-2021 - Posted by Hans

Yet Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, into a law of righteousness does not outstrip. Wherefore? Seeing that it is not out of faith, but as out of law works.

In this passage Paul sets the nations against Israel. The nations had no law and never bothered to become righteous before God through that way. This is in contrast to Israel who tried her best to be righteous before God. However, it was precisely that zeal that led them to a dead end. How so? Because the law is not to be worked, but believed. Here we get to the heart of Paul’s teaching on the nature of the law and the great difference between the old and new covenants.

“Thou shalt… love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” is not an ideal or a command. Only to realize in frustration that it is far too ambitious. No, it is a promise that God makes: you will love the Lord your God! And you will love your neighbor! And so forth. When Israel comes to understand these words as promises, the drive to achieve (“work”) gives way to gratitude. Because God himself will fulfill his words. That’s faith. That also gives Him the glory. And that is what God counts as righteousness.