Everything in religion depends on the nature of the start

“Everything in religion depends on the nature of the start. You may start ‘out of faith’, from an utter abandonment to God, and an entire dependence on Him, and in this case a righteousness is possible which you will recognize as ‘righteousness of God’, God’s own gift and work in you; or you may start ‘out of works’, which really means in independence of God, and try to work out, without coming under obligation to God, a righteousness of your own, for which you may claim His approval, and in this case, like the Jews, all your efforts will be baffled. Your starting point is unreal, impossible; it is not truly ‘out of works’, but only ‘as out of works’; it is an idea of your own, not a truth on which life can be carried out, that you are in any sense independent of God. Such an idea, however, rooted in the mind, may effectually pervert and wreck the soul, by making the Divine way of attaining righteousness and life offensive to it; and this is what happened to the Jews.”

James Denney, “St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 668. Phrases like this, ‘in italics’ represent my translation from the Greek.