The last lesson which covered Romans 9:30-10:4 acts like a bridge for Paul into a discussion about salvation. Gentiles on the whole have attained right standing and a covenant membership in God’s family by faith, while the Jews on the whole have not received this righteousness. The reason the Jews on the whole have not received right standing and covenant membership into God’s family is because they were seeking to establish their own method of finding justification, rather than submitting to the way God was offering justification. Submitting to God’s righteousness means that all understand that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law for righteousness. Christ is the fulfillment and culmination of God’s promises so that we must belong to Jesus to find right standing before God and have covenant membership in God’s family. Paul continues forward in his writing about justification and salvation.
Righteousness of Law and Righteousness of Faith (10:5-13)
Moses wrote about the right standing and covenant membership that is based on the Law. How is righteousness based on the Law attained? Paul answers that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. Righteousness can be found in the Law. The problem is that all people have failed in that effort. The attempt to attain righteousness by the Law is futile. We are sinful people who violate God’s law and have not lived up to his standards. We cannot be in God’s family and be pronounced justified by our own obedience to the laws of God. We have failed and continue to fail in obedience.
However, there is a righteousness based on faith. The righteousness based on the Law was a simple statement in verse 5. The righteousness based on faith is explained through verse 13. Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 30:11-14 in Romans 10:6-8. Along with the quotation you will notice that Paul inserts his own explanation which most translation mark in parenthesis. Paul’s explanation is easily noticed because it is set off with the words, "that is."
First, we need to observe what these words meant when Moses said them before we can see how Christ is the fulfillment. The context of Moses’ statement can be seen in Deuteronomy 30:1-10. Moses is prophesying about what will transpire for Israel in the future. The blessings and the curses were going to come upon them. They will be set into exiles among the nations. But they will return and God will restore their fortunes. Moses tells the people that they are to love the Lord with their heart and obey the voice of the Lord, keeping his commandments and statutes. Verses 11-14 brings us to Moses’ words that Paul quotes. These commandments that God had given the people were not too hard to follow nor were impossible to know as if they were far away. The word of God is near them. It is in their mouth and in their heart and they can do it.
Paul says that this is the righteousness of faith. The point of Moses’ words was to discourage the idea that doing God’s will meant aspiring after something that is too difficult and out of reach. Here is Paul’s point: As God brought his word near to Israel so that they might know and obey him, so God now brings his word near to the Jews and the Gentiles that they might know him through his Son and respond in faith and obedience (NICNT). The word that God has brought near is the message that Paul and the apostles are preaching (10:8). There is no need to go into heaven to gain spiritual knowledge or acceptance. There is no need to try to accomplish the impossible. Christ has come from heaven to proclaim and affect salvation for the world. The righteousness of faith does not demand the impossible from us. God, through Jesus, has done all that is necessary. We must not falsely assume that the righteousness of faith means that there are no longer the demands of obedience. God is making the demands on his people for obedience and holy living while providing grace for deliverance when we fail. This is the message of the righteousness of faith. God’s commands to love him with our hearts and serve him are still in effect. But through Jesus there is grace when we fail to meet the goals. Therefore, the message of Deuteronomy 30 is appropriate. God has not asked too much of us. God has not asked us to do something that is too difficult or is out of reach because God sent Jesus and there is no excuse for not responding and obeying.
Notice that Paul spends the rest of this section elaborating on the quotation, "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart." The word that Paul is talking about is the message the apostles have been proclaiming. What’s the message? "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." This matches the prophecy of Isaiah who declared, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." My plan is to discuss in greater detail Romans 10:9-11 in a couple of lessons on Sunday morning. So I am not going to take the time to go through that material right here but encourage you to look for those lessons next week.
Instead, I want us to observe what Paul is emphasizing in this section. In verse 11 it is everyone, not just Jews. In verse 12 Paul continues the emphasis with, "there is no distinction between Jew and Greek." Further, "the same Lord is Lord of all" and he bestows riches "on all who call on him." Again in verse 13, it is everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. The point is not so much the content of the message of salvation, but who is receiving this message of salvation. Everyone can call on the name of the Lord. There is no distinction because God is Lord of all people. Back in Romans 3:22-23 Paul said that there was no distinction between Jews and Gentiles because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Now Paul says there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles in salvation.
Let us not miss the impact of Paul’s teaching and how this connects with the context of chapter 9. Those who call on the name of the Lord are the true Israel. Those who call on the name of the Lord are the ones are receiving God’s promises of right standing before him and covenant membership in God’s family. This point is in verse 12, "Bestowing his riches on all who call on him." Paul is not talking about physical possessions and money. God’s riches are his promises which have been in discussion since the last chapter and have been the theme of the letter. Those who call on the name of the Lord are the people of God, the true Israel, and receive right standing before God and covenant membership in God’s family.
Proclaiming God’s Salvation Message (10:14-21)
Paul takes a moment to urge the proclaiming of this gospel message. If we take verse 14 in reverse order we can see the logical flow of Paul’s thought process. Without the preaching of the gospel, people will not hear the good news. If they do not hear the good news, how can they believe in him? If they do not believe in him, then they cannot call on him. It is useful to observe that calling on the name of the Lord and believing are not the same action. Notice this is a sequence of events the occur. Teaching leads to hearing which leads to believing which leads to calling on the name of the Lord. We will discuss in more detail what it means to call on the name of the Lord in a future lesson. Verse 15 tacks on one more thought. There will not be the proclamation of the gospel unless people are sent into the world. Isaiah 52:7 is quoted as the feet underscore the sending and going of those proclaiming. This prophecy is now being fulfilled as God’s messengers are sent out and the good news is being preached. The return from the exile has occurred and salvation is available to all.
Verse 16 reveals the direction Paul is going. But even though Israel has heard, then have not believed. Paul’s proof is to quote Isaiah 53:1 which is the early part of the suffering servant prophecy. Who has believed the prophet’s message? Not Israel. Isaiah prophesied about the rejection of the salvation message through the suffering servant. This has been Paul’s point in Romans 9 and 10. Most Jews have not believed. But the context of Isaiah is also critical because Isaiah teaches that the Gentiles will see and understand.
So shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. (Isaiah 52:15; ESV)
Therefore faith depends upon hearing the gospel message of Christ, understanding it, and accepting it.
In verse 18 Paul seems to answer what the audience is likely questioning. So why didn’t Israel obey? Maybe Israel did not hear the good news since they have not believed. Paul refutes this by stating that Israel has heard. Paul quotes Psalm 19:4 to prove that the revelation of God has gone to the ends of the earth. There is no doubt that Israel has heard the message of Christ. Since the gospel has been proclaimed to the Gentiles, we know that the Jews have certainly heard the gospel also.
Verse 19 records Paul’s next question: Did Israel not know? Israel should have known that Gentiles would be included among God’s people and that only a remnant of Israel would be among God’s people. Paul uses a quotation from Moses found in Deuteronomy 32:21. The context is the song of Moses in which he prophesies that Israel will grow fat and comfortable and will forget the God who gave them their beginnings. Because of this, God will hide his face from Israel and will make them jealous with those who are not a people (speaking about the Gentiles). Therefore, Moses said that this was going to happen. The Jews on the whole would reject while the Gentiles on the whole would accept.
Paul quotes Isaiah in verse 20 and Isaiah’s quotation is more blunt. This is what Paul means when he says, "Isaiah says boldly" (HCSB). Isaiah taught even more plainly about Israel’s rejection and the Gentiles’ acceptance. The Isaiah prophecy comes from Isaiah 65:1. God would be found by the Gentiles ("those who did not seek me" and "those who did not ask for me"). The prophecy of Isaiah continues that Israel heard and knew, but refused and resisted God. God has been holding out his hands to bring the Jews into him. But they are a disobedient and contrary people. They are rebellious, obstinate, and defiant. They refused to submit to the righteousness of God.
- Deeper faith comes through the word of Christ (10:17). For us to have a deeper faith, a strong faith, and a saving faith requires us to be more diligent in listening to the word. We will not have God approved faith by accident. We will not have it simply because we attend worship services. We must consider the position of Israel and apply the lessons to ourselves. Israel had all the advantages. They had the Law. They had a relationship with God. They had seen God’s powerful works and miracles. They knew God’s plan for them. Yet, with all of these blessings and all this knowledge, Israel failed. They did not fail because they did not know. They did not fail because they had not heard. Israel failed because they did not take what they heard and what they knew and transform it into faithful living for God. They did not take what God had revealed and learn from it. Paul is quoting the Old Testament in nearly every sentence he makes, showing them how they missed what God had clearly revealed. We must make sure that we do not fall into the same error. Faith comes through hearing the word of Christ.
- How will the world call on the name of the Lord if they do not believe? And how will they believe if they have not heard the gospel message? And how will they hear if we are not proclaiming the message of Christ to them? And will we proclaim the message of Christ to the world if we are not going? Do we have beautiful feet? Are we taking the message of Christ to people? Or have we given up on evangelism? Have we given up because of the rejection or fear of rejection? Have we decided in our hearts that no one wants to hear? We are not charged with decided who wants to hear. We are charged with taking the good news to the world. Are we using our feet to run with the gospel to the world, or are we using our feet to run with the world in sin? Dedicate yourself to have beautiful feet in the eyes of the Lord. Be proclaimers of the good news of God’s love and mercy.