Because You Went After It the Right Way? Romans 9:32
Romans 9:32–”Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling-stone.”
In order to perform its killing function, the Mosaic covenant was law demanding perfection with the power to condemn. Law is not only a tutor that “reveals” sin or makes people aware of sin. Romans 5:20 says that the law entered that sin would increase, not simply knowledge about sin would increase.
The law does not only “kill” by making us thinking of things to do that we would not have thought of before. The main way that the law kills is that it is used by idolaters (all of us by nature) to try to justify ourselves before God. We think–I did it, or I did enough of it. The law kills, leads to death, and if no gospel, only that. But the elect while still under the law are taught by the gospel to SEE that they are dead.
Romans 7 verse 9: “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” We were dead by nature, and already sinners. This “I died” is something besides the death we were born with under the law.
It’s life to see that you are dead and to see that any and all righteousness found BY US in the law (Phil 3:9) is insufficient to stand before God. Only Christ by Has death for the elect has satisfied the requirements of law and found a righteousness for the elect, so that the law now demands that the elect be given every blessing of salvation.
But did the Mosaic law-covenant announce clearly that it was a “killing instrument” and not the gospel? If it didn’t, who could blame any Jew for using the law wrong , attempting to be saved by keeping it?
The central text discussed in this connection is Romans 9:32–”They did not seek if by faith, as if it were by works of law.”
Some who focus only on redemptive history say that there is no difference between law and gospel, but only a right way and a wrong way of pursuing the law, and that the gospel is the right way of pursuing the law.
A rebuttal to this idea I have recently is an essay by David Gordon in WTJ (Spring 1992): “Why Israel did not obtain Torah Righteousness; A note on Romans 9:32.”
Gordon writes that the verse should be translated not “as if it were”, but “because the law is not of faith” in line with Gal 3:12. “The qualification works-and-not faith in Gal 3:10-13 is parallel to the qualification works and not faith in Romans 9:32.”
“If one group attained what the other did not, the difference between them might lie in the manner in which they pursued it. This is NOT what Paul says however. The two groups did not pursue the same thing (the gentiles pursued nothing). Paul’s point therefore is NOT that the Gentiles pursued righteousness in a better manner (by faith) than the Jews. Rather, God’s mercy gives what is not even pursued.”
“When Paul asks why the Jews did not attain unto the Torah, his answer addressed the NATURE of the law- covenant (Torah demands perfect obedience), not the nature of the PURSUIT of the law-covenant.”
Those who say “we cause the death of Jesus to save us, and we do it the right way, with the faith and not works” do not understand the gospel. We don’t do it ANY way. God did it. God did it at the cross, for the elect. God imputes that cross-work to the elect, and the elect believe this gospel.