David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Israel's Present Rejection of God
A. Israel's rejection of the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ.
1. (1-3) Israel's refusal to submit to the righteousness of God.
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
a. Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel: Paul again feels compelled to relate his heart regarding his fellow Jews. Paul does not rejoice that they have stumbled at that stumbling stone (Romans 9:32).
i. Paul's heart's desire also translated into concrete action: prayer to God for Israel. Paul didn't just "care," he prayed.
b. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God: Paul will readily recognize that Israel has a zeal for God but he also sees that it is zeal not according to knowledge.
i. This is where so many religious people - even sincere Christians - go astray. They have plenty of zeal but little knowledge.
ii. Zeal for God, but not according to knowledge: This is a perfect description of Paul himself before his conversion. Saul of Tarsus was a notorious persecutor of Christians before Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-20).
iii. It's remarkable that Paul found something good to say about these Jewish people who persecuted him so mercilessly. "At least they have a zeal for God," Paul says.
c. Establish their own righteousness: This effort shows Israel's lack of knowledge and that they are ignorant of God's righteousness. Paul ably demonstrated in the first several chapters of Romans how futile this is. Plainly put, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified (Romans 3:20).
d. Seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God: Israel had a lack of knowledge. But that wasn't their only problem. They also had a moral problem: they have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
i. People cannot come to Jesus without the right information about the gospel, but information alone is not enough to save anyone. There must be a radical submission to the righteousness of God, putting away our own righteousness.
ii. Again, we cannot neglect the emphasis on personal responsibility. All of Paul's teaching of God's election and right to choose does not diminish man's responsibility.
2. (4-8) The contrast between God's righteousness and our attempts at righteousness.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them." But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, " 'Who will descend into the abyss?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
a. Christ is the end of the law: Jesus is the end of the law for those who believe. The law ends for the believer in the sense that our obedience to the law is no longer the basis for our relationship with God. The law has not come to an end in the sense of no longer reflecting God's standard or no longer showing us our need for a Savior.
i. "Christ did not come to make the law milder, or to render it possible for our cracked and battered obedience to be accepted as a sort of compromise. The law is not compelled to lower its terms, as though it had originally asked too much; it is holy and just and good, and ought not to be altered in one jot or tittle, nor can it be. Our Lord gives the law all it requires, not a part, for that would be an admission that it might justly have been content with less at first." (Spurgeon)
b. The man who does those things shall live by them: The Law of Moses makes the path to righteousness through the law plain. If you want to live by the law (find life through the law), you must do the law - and do it completely and perfectly.
c. But the righteousness of faith: This is based on Jesus, and we don't have to "work" to get Jesus. It is not as if we have to ascend into heaven or descend into the abyss to gain Jesus. We believe and receive.
d. But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart." Instead of having to go to great lengths to achieve righteousness by the law, we can immediately receive righteousness by faith, by trusting in the word of the gospel.
3. (9-13) How God's righteousness is gained by faith.
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
a. If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved: We do not gain God's righteousness by works. Instead, we gain it by confessing and believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
b. Confess with your mouth: Confession has the idea of agreeing with. When we confess . . . the Lord Jesus, we agree with what God said about Jesus, and with what Jesus said about Himself. It means we recognize that Jesus is God, that He is the Messiah, and that His work on the cross is the only way of salvation for mankind.
i. Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus: We can never forget all that it meant to say that Jesus Christ is Lord. "If a man called Jesus kurios he was ranking him with the Emperor and with God; he was giving him the supreme place in his life; he was pledging him implicit obedience and reverent worship." (Barclay)
ii. Wuest, quoting Robertson on Jesus Christ is Lord: "No Jew would do this who had not really trusted Christ, for Kurios in the lxx is used of God. No Gentile would do it who had not ceased worshipping the emperor as Kurios. The word Kurios was and is the touchstone of faith."
c. Believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead: We must also believe this. Some wonder why Paul didn't mention the crucifixion in this passage. But when Paul emphasizes the need to believe that God has raised him from the dead, it is not that we believe the resurrection as opposed to the cross, but encompassing the work of Jesus on the cross.
d. Believe in your heart: Mere intellectual agreement with the facts of the cross and the resurrection is not enough. You must believe in your heart; and even that belief is not enough without accompanying action: confess with your mouth.
i. "We believe everything which the Lord Jesus has taught, but we must go a step further, and trust him. It is not even enough to believe in him, as being the Son of God, and the anointed of the Lord; but we must believe on him . . . The faith that saves is not believing certain truths, nor even believing that Jesus is a Savior; but it is resting on him, depending on him, lying with all your weight on Christ as the foundation of your hope. Believe that he can save you; believe that he will save you; at any rate leave the whole matter of your salvation with him in unquestioning confidence. Depend upon him without fear as to your present and eternal salvation. This is the faith which saves the soul." (Spurgeon)
e. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation: These two together (belief and confession) result in righteousness and salvation. We should not ignore how scandalously simple this is (whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved) and what an affront this is to every attempt of the flesh to be justified or any attempt to find salvation based on national or ethnic foundation.
i. Both Jew and Greek were quick to give some credit to national or ethnic origin, as if being saved were a matter of being born into the right family. But Paul makes it clear: There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
f. The Scripture says: "Referring, I think, to the general sense of Scripture, rather than to any one passage. There are several texts from which it may be gathered that believers shall not be put to shame." (Spurgeon)
g. All who call upon Him: Again, note the emphasis on human responsibility. From Romans 9 alone we might think that salvation is God's doing alone, but from Romans 10 we might think that salvation is man's doing alone - together we see the matter from each perspective.
4. (14-15) The necessity of the preaching of the gospel.
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!"
a. How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Paul rightly observes that it all goes back to the preaching of the gospel, and preachers must be sent - both by God and the Christian community at large.
b. How shall they hear without a preacher? Conceivably, God could have chosen any means for the message of salvation to come, such as angelic messengers or directly working without a human preacher. Nevertheless God's "normal" way of bringing people to Jesus Christ is through the preaching of the gospel.
c. How beautiful are the feet: No wonder those who preach have beautiful feet - they partner with God for the salvation of men. The feet speak of activity, motion, and progress, and those who are active and moving in the work of preaching the gospel have beautiful feet.
d. Glad tidings of good things: Obviously, the salvation Isaiah prophesied about could not be salvation through works or the law. To say "You can be right before God if you work hard enough" is not a gospel of peace, and that message does not bring glad tidings of good things.
B. The prophets foretold this rejection of the gospel by Israel.
1. (16-17) The testimony of Isaiah 53:10.
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
a. But they have not all obeyed the gospel: If salvation is so simple, available to all who trust in the person and work of Jesus, then why does Israel seem to be cast off from God? Because many among them had not believed his report - because they did not trust in God's word through Isaiah and other messengers of the gospel. Therefore they are not saved.
b. So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God: Saving faith comes through hearing by the word of God. Though Israel heard, they did not exercise saving faith in Christ - making them (and us) all the more responsible.
i. "Hearing is a reflection of first-century life. Paul does not raise the possibility of the message being read. While there were people who could read, the ordinary first-century citizen depended rather on being able to hear something." (Morris)
2. (18) The testimony of Psalm 19:4.
But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world."
a. Their sound has gone out to all the earth: This quotation from Psaul 19:4 proves that the word of the gospel went forth and Israel heard it. This makes them more accountable for their rejection of the good news.
i. "This might seem an exaggeration: the gospel had not been carried throughout all the earth, not even to all the lands that were known to the inhabitants of the Graeco-Roman world. Paul was well aware of that; at this very time he was planning the evangelization of Spain, a province where the name of Christ was not yet known (c.f. 15:18-24). But by now the gospel had been carried to most parts of the Mediterranean area where Jews were to be found; and that is all the argument requires." (Bruce)
b. To the ends of the world: "There is not a part of the promised land in which these glad tidings have not been preached; and there is scarcely a place in the Roman empire in which the doctrine of Christ crucified has not been heard: if, therefore, the Jews have not believed, the fault is entirely their own; as God has amply furnished them with the means of faith of salvation." (Clarke)
3. (19) The testimony of Deuteronomy 32:21.
But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: "I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation."
a. I will provoke you to jealousy: God told Israel that He would bring others close to Him and make them jealous. Yet Israel ignored this word also, making them more accountable.
4. (20) The testmony of Isaiah 65:1.
But Isaiah is very bold and says: "I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me."
a. Isaiah is very bold: Isaiah's bold prophecy was a warning that Israel ignored, making them more accountable.
b. I was found by those who did not seek Me: It is strange that Israel, for the most part, rejected their own Messiah. Strange as it was, this too was foretold. It didn't surprise God or His prophets.
5. (21) The testimony of Isaiah 65:2.
But to Israel he says: "All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people."
a. A disobedient and contrary people: This tells God's assessment of disobedient, Messiah-rejecting Israel. They are a disobedient and contrary people, and all the more so because of their great responsibility before God.
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