Romans 10 - May 11th
Ignorant of God’s Righteousness
This chapter begins with Paul asking the brethren (this means the church) to pray for “them”; “them” refers to the nation of Israel, specifically those who have rejected their Messiah. Paul here is continuing the subject that he spoke about throughout chapter 9, specifically, the reality that many of his Jewish brethren will not be saved. However, as Paul argued in Chapter 9, God has not failed Israel. God has chosen a remnant whom he has elected to become heirs of the promise. Just because someone is an ethnic Jew does not guarantee they will be saved; instead, the elect will be saved. That is what Paul meant in verse 8 of chapter 9 when he says, “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Those among the nation of Israel who have rejected Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers by grace through faith have, therefore, decided to find their own righteousness through the Law. They have considered Christ worthless and have instead decided to take their chances and attempt to be justified by what they can merit before God. This is what Paul means when he says, “For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” They behold the Law of God, and rather than recognize their inability to keep its righteous requirements and therefore see their need for a savior, they attempt to work their way to heaven. They, indeed, are zealous, Paul admits that; however, as one commentator said, “it is a blind and misguided zeal.” It is, as Paul states, a zeal without knowledge. They were zealous for the Law which God had given them but were not knowledgeable enough to realize that it was all meant to point them to Christ.
Salvation in Christ is Near
What Paul says in verses 6 to 8 may seem confusing; let me attempt to explain it as clearly as possible with brevity. Paul’s main point within these verses is to contrast the righteousness acquired by works and the one acquired by faith. The righteousness that is based on the Law is only acquired when one keeps the law, and one must keep it perfectly (James 2:10-11). This is impossible to do, as no one can perfectly keep the righteous requirements of God. However, there is another way of gaining righteousness and thus being able to stand blameless before God, and it is not based on works but instead based on faith in Christ Jesus and the work he has done for his people(those who would believe in him) on the cross. And this faith, as Paul will say, is not out of reach. One need not go on a great journey searching for their savior and thus their salvation. We need not find a brave man, pack his bags with clothes and provisions, and send him on an expedition to the heavens to bring Christ down to us, nor need we send him into the abyss, the land of the dead, so that he can bring Christ up to us. Instead, the salvation by faith that Christ provides is very near. It resides “in your mouth and in your heart.” One is not saved by merit nor great exertion, but one is saved when one believes in their heart (that is to say, it is a true belief that resides in the deepest part of who you are) and thus confesses that reality with their mouth. Many will simply take these verses to mean that all one must do is pray a prayer or make a confession of faith and they are saved. Rather, what Paul is saying here is that one is justified when they have a true saving faith that resides in their heart, and because of that reality, it overflows into their mouth. One who truly believes in Jesus will confess it with their mouth. However, a mere confession of faith, apart from genuine faith, will save no one. And what genuine faith looks like is made quite clear in the books of James and 1 John. Genuine faith will, by necessity, produce a changed life. Those who say they love Christ will obey his commandments (John 14:15). Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:22-23 of what will be of those who confess to be Christians apart from possessing a genuine saving faith, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
The Importance of Preaching
Paul ends verse 13 by stating, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” That is to say that regardless of race, ethnicity, language, or class, the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ is available to all. The Gospel is for both Jews and Greeks alike, for there is now no distinction between them. Paul then asks a question a series of questions starting in verse 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? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Paul declares that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” God has determined that he will save his elect through the preaching of the Gospel. God has decided to use weak and sinful men to spread the message of salvation. He has determined that his Holy Word will be spread by the preaching of feeble men. This is why preaching is so important, and this is why missionaries are so important. It is because the Bible is clear that it is through the work of preachers and missionaries that the Gospel will spread throughout all the world; to every tribe and nation. This does not mean that we who are not preachers and missionaries have no obligation, but we all, as Christians, have a duty to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are all called to be evangelists and even us who do not actively serve as missionaries in foreign lands have an obligation to send out those who have been set aside for such a role. We are called to support them both in prayer and in giving.