In Romans 10, Paul continues his (later to be identified three-chapter) excurses on God’s sovereign dealings with the nation of Israel. As well, Paul continues his “hit parade” of Old Testament scripture quotes and allusions, adding an additional 12 such references in these 21 verses. Again we also see Paul’s own heart’s desire for the Israelites to truly know God through Jesus Christ.
By the time of the early church era when Paul is writing this letter to the Romans, though there were Jewish believers in churches throughout the Mediterranean world, the vast majority of Jews had rejected the gospel offer. So it is reasonable to say that Christ had truly been rejected by the nation.
Paul understood this rejection and hostility, having participated in it significantly prior to his dramatic encounter with Christ and his own conversion. He speaks here of the zealous nature of the Israelites. Indeed, they had a profound sense of their own history and deep reverence and affection for the Law of Moses. But Paul writes here that their knowledge was deficient and inaccurate. Their belief was that righteousness could be and should be attained by strict adherence to the Law. The truth is that the Law was not an instrument to give righteousness, but rather its purpose was to show a person that they could never attain it on their own – hence needing to look outside of themselves toward God for forgiveness. And the rest of Romans is arguing that this righteousness is perfectly found in Jesus Christ and his work.
Christ presented himself to Israel as their king, yet he was rejected; and in the master plan of God, this rejection and subsequent death, burial and resurrection provides the perfect payment for sin and basis for salvation of all mankind, Jew or Gentile. A wonderful summary of the gospel message is provided in verses 9 and 10: that whoever truly believes and confesses that Jesus is Lord and the one raised from the dead by God … that person will be saved, Jew or Gentile.
This message is proclaimed and spread through those who believe and strive together to see that it is promulgated near and far. Verses 14 and 15 have served as the theme Scripture for many a missions conference in churches over the years, and rightly so. There needs to be a proclamation of the gospel for people to believe, and this requires “preachers” (professional or otherwise) who are missionally sent for such communication. Surely it may be across the sea to far-flung regions, but the same principle applies to taking the gospel to the neighborhood just on the other side of the tracks.
The final verses of this chapter brings out the Old Testament anticipation that this expansion of followers of God would extend beyond the nation of Israel to include all the peoples of the world. Israel had the first shot at seeing, experiencing, and following God’s expansive heart for the world. And even now, individually they are not rejected, as belief in the gospel applies to them as well.
How thankful we should be (most of us being of Gentile extraction) that God’s heart was so expansive, even if his original “people” did not see it or largely understand it. We inherit God’s grace, it having come to us on the words of others who received it upon the words of others before them. It is a wonderful opportunity to be an active part of this universal program of God. Do you have a sense of that passion that drives you as you consider the peoples of the world, near and far?
10:1 – Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by 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 deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”
20 And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”
21 But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”