Romans 10:3 “Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (NIV).
Observation: Paul continued to express ardent hope that all might be saved, including his beloved fellow Jews. In this regard he affirmed their zealousness, but said they zealously pursued the wrong thing. Their zealotry was wrongly based in placing high value upon attempts to live so as to fulfill the law’s requirements rather than upon God’s righteousness.
Application: I am arrested by the phrase, “sought to establish their own.” How does that happen? How is it that a people zealous for God would seek to establish their own righteousness in a vain attempt to gain His fullness?
They gave assent to being God’s children simply because they were offspring of Abraham’s flesh. As such, they dug deep into man’s wisdom to develop complex rules intended to assure that observance of the law’s letter would be complete. Yet consistent failure was the result.
The Jews found themselves in a familiar pickle. They are like the overweight person who shamefully assesses his condition and, filled with self-loathing, pledges to never again eat ice cream. Then, remembering there is a quart of the damnable stuff in the freezer, he decides to begin the commitment once this is gone. Because of zeal to lose weight quickly, it would be best to be rid of the stuff as soon as possible; it should be eaten this very minute, thus hastening fulfillment of the commitment to weight loss.
Paul was saying that no pledge to the law can ever be fulfilled absent Christ’s righteousness. I must fill my heart and mind with a greater pursuit than law in order to fulfill the law. I can never by dint of hard work and good intention achieve a satisfying result. Ridding the house of ice cream by eating it is no more satisfying to the flesh than is the attempt to follow man-made rules to please God satisfying to the spirit.
Only by substitution comes victory. Substitution for the flesh may lead to the treadmill or to more wholesome foods. Substitution for the spirit is the man Christ Jesus who by experiencing death on my behalf has made it possible at last for me to be His forever.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the unfathomable substitution of Your Son on a Roman cross for my well-deserved death. Cause me today to so pursue Him that temptations to lesser pleasures simply fade away.