1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Israels Stumbling Explained
Israels Stumbling Explained
Having stated the fact of Israel’s stumbling in the preceding verses, Paul now explained the reason for that stumbling. The apostle expressed his deep personal spiritual burden for the salvation of the people of Israel.
What was the reason for Israel’s stumbling?
Israel was called “the God-intoxicated people.” However Paul affirmed, “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God” but that their zeal was not from a full knowledge of knowing God but instead stumbled over Christ by seeking to gain righteousness on the basis of works.
Paul continued his explanation of Israel’s failure and their misguided zeal. Since they did not know (“being ignorant,” here in the sense of not understanding) the righteousness that comes from God. That may be true, even though they should have known from their own Scriptures.
What did God require of them, but they overlooked?
The righteousness spoken of by Paul is the righteousness God requires for people to be accepted by Him, which is God’s own infinite righteousness. The Jews did not really understand God’s own infinite righteousness, which is why they were continuing to seek to establish their own (cf. Isa. 64:6 “6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”).
Little wonder then that they did not submit to (“place themselves under”) God’s righteousness, that is, the righteousness God provides through Christ by faith. The Greek in Romans 10:4 includes the coordinating particle gar, “for”. It introduces a statement that is crucial to Paul’s explanation of Israel’s stumbling—Christ is the end of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. The word translated “end” emphasizes that Christ is the designed end (termination) or Purpose-Goal of the Law (cf. Gal. 3:24 “24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”), the Object to which the Law pointed.
Who did the Law point to?
The Law did not and could not of itself provide righteousness before God for individuals. But Christ fulfilled the Law by keeping it perfectly during His sinless life
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
and then gave His life in payment for the penalty of sin and the broken Law.
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
The Law then pointed to Him as the Source of the God-provided righteousness it (the Law) could not supply. A godly Jew who trusted Yahweh and followed the Levitical system, including the sin offering and the trespass offering, would most likely be inclined to respond to Christ by faith and would receive God’s righteousness (be justified by faith). Conversely, a Jew who sought by works to establish his own righteousness would not recognize Christ as “the end of the Law” and would stumble over Him.
God’s Gracious Offer
God’s Gracious Offer
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, 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. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
In presenting God’s gracious offer of salvation in Christ and the provision of righteousness by faith, Paul first stated the contrast of the by-works approach to achieving righteousness. He wrote, Moses describes (lit., “writes”) the righteousness that is by the Law. Then Paul quoted Leviticus 18:5, “The man who does these things will live by them”.
What is the fault with receiving righteousness by keeping the Law only?
If a Jew were to receive righteousness by keeping the demands of the Law, that would be human achievement; it would not be from God. However, a Jew would need to keep the entire Law perfectly all his life—an impossible task.
What is the flaw in keeping the Law only for righteousness?
10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.
But then Paul also quoted Moses in support of his righteousness-by-faith position centered in Christ as “the end of the Law” and the means by which righteousness is available for everyone who believes. It does not seem appropriate that Paul was merely borrowing Moses’ words and applying them to something foreign in Moses’ thought. This suggests, then, that righteousness … by faith is not a new concept, but had been proclaimed to Israel by Moses.
The material Paul quoted in Romans 10:6–8 is taken somewhat freely from Deuteronomy 30:12–14 with clauses quoted here and there. The material in Deuteronomy was part of Moses’ charge to the generation of Israel about to enter the land of Canaan. This emphasis was the conclusion of Moses’ prophetic description of God’s dealing with Israel. Blessing was promised for faith and obedience, and chastisement would result from rejection and disobedience. If Israel forsook God, Moses said, she would face worldwide dispersion and affliction. When the people then finally do turn to God in faith, He will restore them to blessing, prosperity, and prominence among the nations (Deut. 30:1–10). The point of Moses’ exhortation (Deut. 30:11) is that the generation to whom he was speaking had the message (it was very near you and in your mouth, Deut. 30:14) and could respond by faith (in your heart, Deut. 30:14) and walk with God in obedience. Since the Israelites in Moses’ day had the message, they did not need to ask that it be brought down from heaven or that someone “cross the sea to get it” (Deut. 30:13). Instead, the word (Moses’ instructions) was “near” them (Deut. 30:14).
How did the “message” change?
It became a work of man instead of faith.
In effect, Paul indicated that the same truth applied to his generation, with the added fact that Christ had come in the flesh (John 1:14 “14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”) and had been resurrected. Therefore there was no need for anyone to ask to bring Christ down (in His Incarnation) or to bring Christ up from the dead; He had already come and had been resurrected. The message of righteousness by faith in Paul’s day was “near” his readers (available to them) and this was “the word” (rhēma, “saying”) of faith he was proclaiming. Thus the gospel, “the word of faith,” is available and accessible.
In verses 9-13, Paul stated the content of that message concerning faith.
How does Paul describe the process of righteousness by faith?
Believe in your heart.
Confessing with the mouth that Jesus is Lord is mentioned first to conform to the order of the quotation from Deuteronomy 30:14 in Romans 10:8. The confession is an acknowledgement that God has been incarnated in Jesus (cf. v. 6), that Jesus Christ is God. Also essential is heart-faith that God raised Him from the dead (cf. v. 7). The result is salvation. The true order is given in verse 10: For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified (lit., “it is believed unto righteousness”), and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (lit., “it is confessed unto salvation”). Yet these are not two separate steps to salvation. They are chronologically together. Salvation comes through acknowledging to God that Christ is God and believing in Him.
Who, now can receive righteousness by faith?
Paul then (v. 11) supported his position by re-quoting part of Isaiah 28:16, adding the Greek word translated everyone. God responds with the gift of provided righteousness to each individual who believes. Then Paul reminded his readers of God’s impartiality, as he did when discussing human sinfulness (3:22). Just as all who sin will be judged, so all who believe will be saved and richly blessed. This conclusion also is supported by a quotation from Joel 2:32: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. To call on the Lord means to pray in faith for salvation. (On the significance of the “name,” see comments on Acts 3:16.)
What does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord?
After proclaiming God’s gracious offer in Christ, Paul confronted the natural questions that arise, each additional question building on the key verb from the preceding question. God’s promise of salvation to “everyone who calls” on Him (v. 13) begins the process. How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? Previously, to call on the Lord was equated with trusting Him or believing in Him (cf. vv. 11 and 13), but here it follows the believing. When one believes in Christ, he “calls” on Him. Believing, in turn, is based on hearing, and hearing is based on someone preaching … and how can they preach unless they are sent? (Since the Gr. word kēryssō, “preach,” means “to be a herald, to announce,” it is not limited to proclamation from a pulpit.) Carrying God’s gracious offer involves human beings whom God has brought to Himself and then uses as His heralds. They share God’s message of salvation because He will save everyone who calls on His name. Paul quoted from Isaiah 52:7 concerning the eagerness of the bearers of good news. Those who bear it have beautiful … feet, that is, their message is welcome. In Isaiah 52:7 the messenger announced to Judah that God had ended their Exile in Babylon (cf. Isa. 40:9–11). But Paul applied Isaiah 52:7 to the Jews of his day to whom the gospel was being given.
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Paul had made it clear that God’s gracious offer of righteousness by faith was given to all, Jews and Gentiles alike (cf. v. 12). His focus in this chapter, however, has been on the people of Israel and their response to that offer. Therefore when he wrote, But not all the Israelites (the Gr. text simply says “all”) accepted the good news, he obviously had in mind the Jews’ failure to respond.
What does the word “accepted” mean in this context?
(“Accepted” translates hypēkousan, a compound of the verb “to hear.” It means “to hear with a positive response,” and so “to obey, to submit to.”) This is borne out by Paul’s confirming quotation of Isaiah 53:1: Lord, who has believed our message? This failure of the Jews to respond to the good news was true in Jesus’ days on earth (John 12:37–41) and in Paul’s day as well. However, the indefinite “all” of the Greek text (Rom. 10:16) is appropriate, because the response to the gospel among the Gentiles was also far less than total. Paul explained, Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message (lit., “is out from hearing”; cf. v. 14) and the message is heard through the word of Christ (lit., “and the hearing is through the saying [rhēmatos; cf. v. 17] concerning Christ”). The Greek word akoē (“hearing”) can mean the thing heard (the message; v. 16) or the act or sense of hearing (v. 17).
Have the Jews had adequate opportunity to hear the Gospel Message?
Someone, however, might insist that the Jews were not given adequate opportunity to hear the message. So, Paul said, But I ask (“say”), Did they not hear? He then quoted Psalm 19:4, concerning God’s general revelation in the cosmic heavens. However, that psalm also discusses God’s special revelation in the Old Testament. Paul’s obvious answer to his question is that Israel had ample opportunity by both general and special revelation to respond to God. Certainly she heard.
In verses 19-21, the argument takes a turn. The apostle anticipated another objection. Someone might argue, “Yes, Israel heard but she did not understand that God purposed to offer righteousness by faith to all mankind, including Gentiles.” So Paul wrote, Again I ask (lit., “But I say”), did Israel not understand? (egnō, “know”) His answer this time was from two Old Testament quotations, one as early as Moses (Deut. 32:21) and the second by Isaiah (Isa. 65:1). Both Old Testament leaders wrote about God’s turning to the Gentiles, whom the Jews thought had no understanding (asynetō, “senseless”; cf. Rom. 1:21, 31). And yet concerning Israel, God has been gracious in spite of her disobedience (a quotation of Isa. 65:2). Israel’s continuing rebellious and unbelieving disobedience was judged by God’s turning to the Gentiles (Rom. 10:20; cf. Acts 8:1–8, 10). At the same time God has not withheld salvation from Jews. He has held out His hands, imploring them to return to Him.
Witmer, John A. “Romans.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 482. Print.