For - being ignorant of God's righteousness - Not knowing God's method of saving sinners, which is the only proper and efficient method: and going about to establish their own righteousness - seeking to procure their salvation by means of their own contriving; they have not submitted - they have not bowed to the determinations of the Most High, relative to his mode of saving mankind, viz. through faith in Jesus Christ, as the only available sacrifice for sin - the end to which the law pointed.
For they being ignorant - The ignorance of the Jews was voluntarily, and therefore criminal. The apostle does not affirm that they could not have known what the plan of God was; for he says Romans 10:18-21 that they had full opportunity of knowing. An attentive study of their own Scriptures would have led them to the true knowledge of the Messiah and his righteousness; see John 5:39; compare Isaiah 53:1-12, etc. Yet the fact that they were ignorant, though not an excuse, is introduced here, doubtless, as a mild and mitigating circumstance, that should take off the severity of what he might appear to them to be saying; 1 Timothy 1:13, “But I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief;” Luke 23:34, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do;” Acts 7:60. Involuntary ignorance excuses from guilt; but ignorance produced by our sin or our indolence is no excuse for crime.
Of God‘s righteousness - Not of the personal holiness of God, “but of God‘s plan of justifying people, or of declaring them righteous by faith in his Son;” see the note at Romans 1:17. Here God‘s plan stands opposed to their efforts to make themselves righteous by their own works.
And seeking to establish - Endeavoring to confirm or make valid their own righteousness; to render it such as to constitute a ground of justification before God; or to make good their own claims to eternal life by their merits. This stands opposed to the justification by grace, or to God‘s plan. And they must ever be opposed. This was the constant effort of the Jews; and in this they supposed they had succeeded. see Paul‘s experience in Philemon 3:4-6; Acts 26:5. Instances of their belief on this subject occur in all the gospels, where our Saviour combats their notions of their own righteousness. See particularly their views and evasions exposed in Matthew 5:20, etc.; Matthew 6:2-5. It was this which mainly opposed the Lord Jesus and his apostles; and it is this confidence in their own righteousness, which still stands in the way of the progress of the gospel among people.
Have not submitted themselves - Confident in their own righteousness. they have nor yielded their hearts to a plan which requires them to come confessing that they have no merit, and to be saved by the merit of another. No obstacle to salvation by grace is so great as the self-righteousness of the sinner.
Righteousness of God - His plan or scheme of justifying people.
Priests and rulers became fixed in a rut of ceremonialism. They were satisfied with a legal religion, and it was impossible for them to give to others the living truths of heaven. They thought their own righteousness all-sufficient, and did not desire that a new element should be brought into their religion. The good will of God to men they did not accept as something apart from themselves, but connected it with their own merit because of their good works. The faith that works by love and purifies the soul could find no place for union with the religion of the Pharisees, made up of ceremonies and the injunctions of men. AA 15.1
Of Israel God declared: “I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto Me?” Jeremiah 2:21. “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself.” Hosea 10:1. “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt Me and My vineyard. What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? AA 15.2
“And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: and I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant: and He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.” Isaiah 5:3-7. “The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.” Ezekiel 34:4. AA 15.3Read in context »
Following a Self-established Standard—Many, many are trusting to their own righteousness. They set up a standard for themselves and do not submit to the will of Christ and allow Him to clothe them with the robe of His righteousness. They form characters according to their own will and pleasure. Satan is well pleased with their religion. They misrepresent the perfect character—the righteousness—of Christ. Themselves deceived, they deceive others. They are not accepted of God. They are liable to lead other souls into false paths. They will at last receive their reward with the great deceiver—Satan.—Manuscript 138, 1902. 1MCP 41.1Read in context »
With all these minute and burdensome exactions it was a practical impossibility for the people to keep the law. The great principles of righteousness set forth in the Decalogue, and the glorious truths shadowed in the symbolic service, were alike obscured, buried under a mass of human tradition and enactment. Those who were really desirous of serving God, and who tried to observe the whole law as enjoined by the priests and rulers, groaned under a heavy burden. PK 709.1
As a nation, the people of Israel, while desiring the advent of the Messiah, were so far separated from God in heart and life that they could have no true conception of the character or mission of the promised Redeemer. Instead of desiring redemption from sin, and the glory and peace of holiness, their hearts were fixed upon deliverance from their national foes, and restoration to worldly power. They looked for Messiah to come as a conqueror, to break every yoke, and exalt Israel to dominion over all nations. Thus Satan had succeeded in preparing the hearts of the people to reject the Saviour when He should appear. Their own pride of heart, and their false conceptions of His character and mission, would prevent them from honestly weighing the evidences of His Messiahship. PK 709.2
For more than a thousand years the Jewish people had waited the coming of the promised Saviour. Their brightest hopes had rested upon this event. For a thousand years, in song and prophecy, in temple rite and household prayer, His name had been enshrined; and yet when He came, they did not recognize Him as the Messiah for whom they had so long waited. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” John 1:11. To their world-loving hearts the Beloved of heaven was “as a root out of a dry ground.” In their eyes He had “no form nor comeliness;” they discerned in Him no beauty that they should desire Him. Isaiah 53:2. PK 710.1Read in context »
Jesus proceeded to show His hearers what it means to keep the commandments of God—that it is a reproduction in themselves of the character of Christ. For in Him, God was daily made manifest before them. MB 55.1Read in context »