Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Romans 10

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors


In the previous chapter, Paul vindicated the righteousness of God, showing the justice of his rejecting Israel and taking up the Gentiles, and including them along with the Jews and all people, as beneficiaries of the gospel of peace; and, in this chapter, Paul stressed the fact that the rejection of Israel as a nation from having any further covenant, as a nation, with God, had not affected in any manner the status of Jews as individuals, who, exactly like all others, are called to enjoy the privileges of redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 1

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved.

Brethren … is here an address to the disciples in Rome, to whom the book of Romans was written; and "them" is a reference to Israel, the great majority of whom had rejected the Lord and were thus in a lost condition. The fact of Paul’s praying for Israel is instructive, especially in view of Paul’s belief of the great prophecies which had predicted their stumbling on Christ, as mentioned at the end of the preceding chapter. This shows that there was no such thing as an "irrevocable decree" that Israel should be lost, and that there was actually no impediment to Israel’s salvation except Israel. Note too that Paul’s prayer was to the effect that Israel should accept the gospel, not that they should be saved in unbelief. This second reference to Paul’s emotional desire for the salvation of Israel is different from that at the beginning of Romans 9, because here there is a specific reference to his prayers on their behalf.

Verse 2

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

What made the loss of Israel so tragic was the fact that they were actually a very zealous and God-fearing people, superior in every way to the Gentiles, whose godlessness was the shame of all nations. Sanday’s quotation from Josephus stresses this character of the Jews, thus:

They had a zeal of God …. The Jew knew the Law better than his own name …. The sacred rules were punctually obeyed …. The great feasts were frequented by countless thousands …. Over and above the requirements of the Law, ascetic religious exercises advocated by the teachers of the Law came into vogue …. Even the Hellenized and Alexandrian Jews under Caligula died on the cross and by fire, and the Palestinian prisoners … died by the claws of African lions in the amphitheater, rather than sin against the Law …. The tenacity of the Jews, and their uncompromising monotheism, were seen in some conspicuous examples. In the early part of his procuratorship, Pilate, seeking to break through their known repugnance to everything that savoured of image-worship, had introduced into Jerusalem ensigns surmounted with silver busts of the emperor. Upon this, the people went down in a body to Caesarea, waited for five days and nights in the marketplace, bared their necks to the soldiers that Pilate sent among them, and did not desist until the order for the removal of the ensigns had been given. Later, he caused to be hung up in the palace in Jerusalem certain gilded shields bearing a dedicatory inscription to Tiberius. Then again, the Jews did not rest until, by their complaints addressed directly to the emperor, they had succeeded in getting them taken down. The consternation caused by Caligula’s order for the erection of his own statue in the Temple is well known. None of the Roman governors dared to carry it into execution; and Caligula himself was slain before it could be accomplished.(F1)

It would take volumes and libraries to recount the heroic zeal of the Jews which finally culminated in the bloody sorrow of Masada, where Eleazar ben Yair made his courageous stand against the Tenth Legion of Rome. When all hope was cut off:

Rather than become slaves to their conquerors, the defenders — 960 men, women, and children thereupon ended their lives at their own hands. When the Romans reached the heights next morning, they were met by silence.(F2)

How fitting it was that Paul should have here paid his tribute to the nobility and zeal of that wonderful people who were, until they rejected the Christ, God’s chosen people.

But not according to knowledge … is a reference far more than Israel’s rejection of our Lord and their failure to recognize him as the Messiah. As just noted, Josephus said that they knew the Law "better than" their own names; but it was such a knowledge as failed to take account of the spiritual nature of God’s word. Jesus said to the Jews of his day:

Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29).

Ye have made void the word of God because of your tradition …. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men (Matthew 15:6; Matthew 15:9).

Thus the Jewish ignorance of God’s word extended to the very heart of it, which they had so corrupted with human tradition and so glossed over with their own interpretations that many of the plainest precepts were countermanded. Thus, the failure of Israel, about to be mentioned in the next verse, refers not merely to their rejection of Christ (which they also did), but to their failure to keep even the commandments of the Law which they acknowledged, preferring their own traditions and precepts instead of it.

Verse 3

For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.

God’s righteousness … as used here is not analogous to the usage of the same term elsewhere (Romans 1:17; Romans 3:24-25, etc.), but means "God’s commandments," as is the meaning in Psalms 119:172 KJV, "For all thy commandments are righteousness." The inference in this verse that Israel should have subjected themselves to God’s righteousness requires that "righteousness" be understood in the sense of "commandments." This, of course, is no unusual meaning in scripture. For example, it is said of Zacharias and Elizabeth that

They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless (Luke 1:6).

In view of this, the conclusion is justified that the great failure of Israel was in the substitution of their own religious devices and commandments for those of divine origin. Some reject this, of course; but, as Ironside said,

The term, "God’s righteousness," is here used somewhat differently to the general expression, "the righteousness of God."(F3)

They did not subject themselves … means that Israel had not obeyed the gospel; but their disobedience had not begun with refusing the gospel. It began when the vast majority failed to achieve any semblance of the righteousness of Zacharias and Elizabeth, a failure which was grounded in their human traditions and doctrines which they preferred to the commandments of the Lord, this being, of course, the great failing in religion today. Hundreds of churches have devised their own systems without regard to the New Testament, and frequently in opposition to its plainest teachings. Therefore, the sin of many today is the same as that of ancient Israel. Stressing their own precepts, walking in their own traditions, doing it all THEIR WAY, they simply do not obey the teachings of Jesus.

Their own righteousness … is not a reference to Israel’s seeking salvation through observance of the law of Moses, but to their reliance upon their own religious ceremonies and commandments which they had substituted for God’s true commands. Such works of the Israelites were the "works of human righteousness." See under Romans 2:6.

Verse 4

For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth.

End of the law … does not refer to the abrogation of Moses’ law (though, of course, it was abrogated by Christ, as amply taught elsewhere), but to the goal, end, and fulfillment of the law’s purpose As Whiteside pointed out:

It is true that the law ended at the cross, but it ended at the cross regardless of whether one believes or disbelieves. The end of which Paul here speaks is attained by those who believe in Christ. The end, or aim, of the law was righteousness. The believer in Christ is made righteous, and thus the end of the law for righteousness is reached in Christ. When a man’s sins are all blotted out, when he is cleansed from sin, he is righteous; that condition is reached in Christ by those who believe …. The modifying clause, "to every one that believeth," shows that Paul was not speaking of the abrogation of the law; that is taught abundantly elsewhere. And it was abrogated for all, believers and unbelievers alike.(F4)

For righteousness … The end, or aim, of the law was to produce righteousness; but the only person who ever lived to achieve perfect fulfillment of the law, thus achieving that righteousness, is the Lord Jesus Christ. All who are "in Christ" therefore have fulfilled the law "in him"; that is, when viewed as Christ, they have fulfilled it.

Verse 5

For Moses writeth that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby.

This quotation from Leviticus 18:5 is further indication that the "righteousness" in view here regards keeping God’s commandments. The person who kept that ancient law was indeed righteous, a fact which is modified by the truth that none save Jesus Christ ever kept it perfectly. Even the ascription of righteousness to Zacharias and Elizabeth, cited above, must be understood in a relative, not an absolute, sense. The mountain fact concerning Christ is that he indeed kept the law perfectly, his faith and obedience reaching a state of absolute perfection for every second of his total life on earth. That is what God requires to save any man. That is the righteousness which alone can save; and it is available to people "in Christ"; the great device of God’s redemption plan being not that of transferring righteousness into sinners, but that of transferring sinners into Christ, where the righteousness is.

Verses 6-8

But the righteousness which is of faith saith thus, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:) or, Who shall descend into the abyss? (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach.

When Christ came, the Jews at first, impressed by his miracles, were inclined to received him; but they were repelled by the obscurity of his birth, the humility and meekness of himself and his disciples, and the denunciation which he heaped upon them because of their sins. They had, of course, expected a mighty Prince, exalted in splendor, riding roughshod over all of his enemies and restoring the glory of their earthly kingdom.

But, when Jesus foretold the ruin of their sacred temple, the dispossession of their state, and the treading down of Jerusalem itself, their minds revolted from him completely. Furthermore, at the Passover, the whole Jewish nation had seen him shamefully crucified and buried. Therefore, the conclusion of all Israel (including the disciples themselves, at first) was negative regarding Christ. No dead man, they thought, could ever be the Messiah, or bring about the glorious deliverance which they expected. It was squarely against that prejudice that Paul directed these verses. Locke’s paraphrase catches the spirit of these words, thus:

Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring down the Messiah from thence, whom we expect personally here on earth to deliver us. Or, Who shall descend into the deep? i.e., to bring up Christ from the dead, to be our Saviour. You mistake the deliverance you expect from the Messiah; there needs not the fetching of him from the other world to be present with you. The deliverance by him is a deliverance from sin, that you may be made righteous by faith in him …. The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, or the doctrine of the Gospel which we preach.(F5)

Who shall ascend … who shall descend …? These questions are the taunts of unbelief. The Jews had said,

Let him now come down from the cross and we will believe him (Matthew 27:42).

The taunting question regarding his coming up from the grave grew out of the fact that, when Jesus rose from the dead, he did not appear to his enemies at all, but only to his disciples. The reference to bringing Christ down from heaven was an echo of the disbelief that refused to see in our Lord the miracle of the incarnation. Putting the cavil all together, we may understand the enemies as saying, "All right, if Jesus is the Messiah, bring him down from heaven, or up from the grave, and let him lead our nation in throwing off the yoke of Roman bondage." The Jewish hierarchy seemed perpetually unaware that any such thing as an earthly kingdom was not in God’s plan at all. Even the kingdom they had once possessed was not of God’s will, but only of God’s permission; for, upon the occasion of their original request for a king, in order to be like the nations around them, the Lord had said to Samuel,

Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them (1 Samuel 8:7).

Thus, the past glorious kingdom of Israel was not of God’s choice, but theirs; and their sin in seeking it was finally the sin that blinded their eyes to the true King when he came. It was that earthly kingdom that was the ceaseless undoing of Israel. Their evil kings led them repeatedly into rebellion against God; and the lives of many of their kings, as Solomon’s for example, were lives of shameless debauchery.

The verses Paul quoted here are from Deuteronomy 30:11-14, reading thus:

For this is the commandment that I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it down to us, that we may hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

Paul’s use of this quotation has been the source of various opinions among scholars, because of his using the words out of context, borrowing, as it were, the expressions of holy Scripture and providing them with a new and more exalted meaning. Strong agreement is felt here with the words of Batey, thus:

Paul quotes or paraphrases passages without regard to their original context or meaning whenever the words of that passage suit his purpose. It is as though the words of scripture convey a convincing power within themselves apart from their original context. The disregard of context is, in the eyes of contemporary exegetes, a glaring breach of the rules of acceptable interpretation. However, Paul’s dealing with the Old Testament should be evaluated first by the convincing quality which it had for its initial readers.(F6)

In this connection, it should be remembered that Paul was inspired, and therefore able to take liberties with the word of God which are not allowed to the uninspired. The strong similarity in the two uses of these passages is evident. In both, the essential point is that no outlandish miracle, such as going to heaven and back, was needed in order for people to know God’s will. God had already given at Sinai the vital commandments for Israel; and, in Christ, the gospel had already been provided for all people. Any thought that Christ should make a special appearance to unbelievers, either by rising from the dead or coming down from heaven in their sight, was preposterous and ridiculous. What could have been the point of such a thing? The Pharisees knew all about the resurrection, and they bribed the soldiers with gold to lie about it. What depths of hypocrisy, therefore, was in their taunt, "Bring him up from the dead"? Paul’s unconventional use of scripture should be understood as additional inspired light upon what the words truly mean. As Locke observed:

It will be an ill rule for interpreting St. Paul, to tie up his use of any text he brings out of the Old Testament, to that which is taken to be the meaning of it there. We need go no farther for an example than the 6th, 7th, and 8th verses of this chapter.(F7)

Verse 9

Because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

First, it should be noted that this verse contains "doctrine of the gospel" as stated in the foregoing verse. Significantly, it is a pairing of CONFESSION and FAITH as coordinates among the conditions of salvation, that is primary salvation, or pardon from "old sins" (2 Peter 1:9), such as takes place in conversion to Christ. If this passage stood alone in the New Testament, it might be fairly inferred that these are THE TWO conditions of salvation; but it does not stand alone, for there are other similar pairings of the elementary conditions of primary salvation, as in the case of REPENTANCE and BAPTISM (Acts 2:38), and that of FAITH and BAPTISM (Mark 16:16). There are no legitimate grounds for thinking that any one of these pairings excludes the conditions mentioned in the others. Faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are all divinely imposed conditions of salvation, none of them outranking any of the others. Faith is omitted in one of the pairings and mentioned second in another. Repentance is mentioned in only one, confession in only one, and baptism in two; but all alike are commanded, all alike are necessary; and all alike are prerequisite to justification.

Confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord … is a reference to the confession of faith preceding one’s baptism into Christ, as in the case of the eunuch (Acts 8:37 margin). David Lipscomb rejected this understanding of this clause on the ground that a formal confession of faith

is left out of all the precepts and examples concerning remission, and is to be found only in a reference in a letter to Christians as to what had been required.(F8)

The ground of dissent from Lipscomb is found in the words "with thy mouth," which certainly indicate a spoken confession. Moreover, Christ himself, upon the occasion of a FORMAL confession BY Peter (Matthew 16:16-18), reciprocated with a FORMAL confession OF Peter, with his own precious promise almost certainly in view, wherein he had declared only a short while previously that

Everyone therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32).

In addition to these considerations, which are accounted weighty enough, there is the impressive witness of Acts 8:37, properly rejected from the text on sufficient critical grounds, but which, as a very ancient gloss, positively proves the custom of the early church in requiring a confession.

Despite this, however, there can be no dissent from Lipscomb’s views as further expressed thus:

It is necessary that at every step of the religious life, even after one has grown old in the service of the Lord, with the mouth confession must be made unto salvation, and with the heart he must believe unto righteousness. He must live and walk through faith unto the end. It is just as necessary that confession of Christ should be made at all times, or Christ will not own us.

Verse 10

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Some of the modern translations have obscured and altered the meaning of God’s word in this verse. Thus Phillips has:

For it is believing in the heart that makes a man righteous before God, and it is stating his belief by his own mouth that confirms his salvation.

This so-called translation changes the meaning of the word of God by making a difference in the FUNCTIONS of faith and of confession, by ascribing to faith the function of making one righteous, and to confession the function of merely confirming what is already a fact. Any student may observe that this kind of translation is not a translation at all, but it is undeniably an unjustifiable substitution of human opinion for what is written in the word of God.

The preposition "unto" (in the English Revised Version (1885)) is here translated from a Greek word [eis], which means "for" in the sense of "in order to receive." No Greek scholar on earth would deny this. Attention is here called to two other New Testament passages where the same [eis] is involved:

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many UNTO remission of sins (Matthew 26:28).

Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ UNTO the remission of your sins (Acts 2:38).

Putting the sense of these Scriptures in view together, we have this:

blood of the covenant (Christ’s blood) ) ( remission of sins repentance and baptism ) [@eis] ( remission of sins man believeth ) ( righteousness confession is made ) ( salvation)

Thus, in the New Testament, faith, repentance, confession and baptism are all categorically said to sustain exactly the SAME relationship to salvation, being "unto" it, meaning that they are all, and all alike, divinely-imposed preconditions required of men, upon the fulfillment of which God gives them justification. This great truth should have been known even without what is said in Matthew 26:28; but the statement there, in which the blood of Christ is also said to be "unto" the remission of sins, makes the understanding of this vital truth almost impossible, for the same word ([@eis] in the Greek) "unto" relates the blood of Jesus Christ to remission of sins, in the sense of there being no remission of sins without it. This in no sense equates the blood of Christ with the primary steps of obedience leading to justification, because the blood of Christ is the causative and enabling factor making it possible for people to be saved, thus not resembling in any way the primary steps of obedience; but IN ONE SENSE, the sense of being absolutely necessary and prior to man’s salvation, the first principles of the gospel (faith, repentance, confession and baptism) are actually placed in the same time sequence leading to salvation as the blood of Christ, all of which, and each of which, are the sine qua non of salvation.

The inexcusable rendition of Phillips, cited above, by its translating [@eis] with two utterly different meanings in the same sentence, indicates the lengths to which advocates of salvation by "faith only" go in their efforts to represent God’s word as teaching their theory. In the passages before us, faith, repentance, confession and baptism are clearly and emphatically presented as coordinates with identical functions, facts which are made absolutely certain by the manner of these significant pairings in God’s word. As to the identification of what that function is, which pertains to each of these, that also is unmistakably clear from Matthew 26:28. When the scriptures state that Christ shed his blood "unto" remission of sins, it would be impossible to construe that as meaning that he did so "because man was already saved"! Identically with that, people believe, repent, confess and are baptized, not because they are already saved but "in order to" be so.

The significant "pairings" of the preconditions of salvation, mentioned in the above paragraph, are entitled to a little further consideration.

Repent ye, and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:16)

Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

Confess with thy mouth … believe in thy heart thou shalt be saved (Romans 10:10).

Repent ye and turn again that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:91).

("turn again" is here synonymous with "be baptized")

It is the grossest error to view any of these pairings of the conditions on which God promises salvation to people as excluding any of the conditions omitted from any one of the pairs. All of the conditions mentioned in these pairs collectively are absolute requirements laid down in the word of God as being necessary in order to receive salvation. They are coordinates in every sense of the word. One passage in Hebrews mentions no less than three of these, all except confession, naming them as coordinates and designating them as the foundation doctrine of Christianity (Hebrews 6:1-2).

In teaching that these are preconditions to be fulfilled prior to salvation, it is the primary justification that is meant. Upon the individual’s believing, repenting, confessing and being baptized, he is brought through such a response "into Christ," making him a child of God, whereupon he receives the Holy Spirit in consequence of his being a son (Galatians 4:6). This is not the final condition either of his sanctification or of his final justification at the last day, for that is also contingent upon his remaining "in Christ," "quenching not the Spirit," and being found "in him" at the end of life.

The skill and persistence with which people of marvelous intellectual endowments have tried to shout baptism out of God’s redemptive plan requires and demands the refutation of their contradiction of God’s word.

All of the conversions recorded in Acts of the Apostles make it clear that there was only one way by which people became Christians in that first age. Without exception, all heard the word of God, all believed in Jesus Christ, all repented of their sins, and though it is not mentioned that all confessed Christ, necessary inference includes it and all were baptized into Christ. That is still the way to become a Christian. The widely-received, illogical SALVATION-BY-FAITH-ONLY contradiction of the word of God should not be permitted to deceive anyone. As the author of this epistle said, "Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Romans 3:4).

Confess with the mouth … Referring to this, Barrett wrote:

The verb suggests that Paul may be using a recognized formula, and this is confirmed by 1 Corinthians 12:3. The form of the sentence, "If thou shalt confess … and believe … thou shalt be saved," suggests that the formula may be a baptismal confession.(F9)

Therefore, Romans 10:9-10 refer to primary obedience to the gospel of Christ, the big point that Paul was making being that the message of salvation is "nigh" unto people, one which was then (and ever afterwards) being preached to them, and a message which they were already obligated to accept and obey, and which needed not to be any further confirmed (as by Christ’s coming down from heaven, or back from the dead), because it had already been overwhelmingly authenticated.

Verse 11

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame.

This verse is the occasion for the "faith only" advocates to repeat the doctrine they have imported into the book of Romans. For example, Moule said:

There, in the summary and close of the passage, nothing but faith is mentioned. It is as if he would correct even the slightest disquieting surmise that our repose upon the Lord is to be secured by something other than Himself, through some means more complex than taking him at his word. The "confession with the mouth" is not a different something added to faith; it is its issue, its manifestation.(F10)

But, of course, "confession with the mouth" is something different from faith and is extravagantly more than enough to prevent its being dismissed, as Moule dismissed it, as a "disquieting surmise." Disquieting surmise indeed! If faith and confession are the same thing, why (?) is it written that

Even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God (John 12:42-43).

Thus, when faith and confession are viewed as two distinct preconditions of salvation, there is no surmise at all; there is no guesswork or speculation. Paul viewed them as distinct conditions and here mentioned them separately, even putting confession first, which he would not have done if it had been merely something that went along with faith, and making exactly the same statement concerning one that he made of the other. (See under Romans 10:9-10.)

Paul’s naming but one of the preconditions of salvation in Romans 10:11 is not a denial of the others, but is a synecdoche, a figure of speech in which one of a group of related things is intended to stand for all of them, as, for example, when one speaks of an automobile as a motor. Paul’s naming faith in this verse does not exclude repentance, confession and baptism any more than it excludes the blood of Christ, the latter not being mentioned either in this place. There are not merely a few, but a hundred instances in the New Testament where this use of the science of language is employed; and there is not any excuse for the overlooking of it by intelligent people. The apostle Peter wrote that "baptism doth also now save us" (1 Peter 3:21 KJV); does that exclude faith, repentance and confession? Luke wrote, "To the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18); does that exclude faith, confession and baptism?

Repeated mention in this commentary has been made of faith, repentance, confession and baptism as the divinely imposed preconditions of justification; and in this verse faith is an abbreviated reference to all of them, a form of synecdoche often found in the Bible. It was by the device of ignoring the synecdoche that Satan himself assailed the Lord Jesus Christ in the temptation, in which Satan presented a verse of Scripture which if taken alone, as Satan tried to induce, would have made it all right for Christ to jump off the temple; but the Lord foiled the tempter by saying, "It is also written, etc." (Matthew 4:7). They who dare to take this verse as an exclusion of other God-commanded actions leading "unto" salvation would be well advised to consider what is "also written."

Verse 11 is thus Paul’s way of saying that a Christian (a believing, penitent, confessed, baptized member of the body of Christ) shall not be put to shame. The mention of shame indicates that Paul was still thinking of the confession mentioned a moment before, and of what Jesus said of the confession, thus:

For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:38).

Verses 12-13

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Here is another synecdoche. Can it be believed that calling upon the Lord without faith, repentance, confession and baptism would avail anything? Oh, but one says this implies faith. Of course it does, and all of the other things required in becoming a Christian are also implied. But error dies hard; and the allegation immediately appears that none but believers can call upon the Lord. This is also true along with the fact that repentance, confession and baptism are all necessary to any effective calling upon the Lord. That is why Ananias said to Paul himself:

Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on his name (Acts 22:16).

But the argument here is that it takes more than calling on the name of the Lord to be saved, if such calling on his name is understood otherwise than inclusive of the preconditions of salvation we have been discussing. The proof is as follows:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).

Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say (Luke 6:46)?

In these blessed words of the Master lies the compulsion to receive Paul’s words in Romans 10:13 an another synecdoche.

No distinction … These were the words that antagonized Israel, whose people had been so long accustomed to a distinction in their own favor as the chosen race of God. Paul had already made it clear that the favored position of Israel had perished in their rejection of Christ; and here he made it plain that Jews, as individuals, were by no means excluded from the new institution but were acceptable in it upon the same terms that applied to all others. The thrust of "Whosoever shall call, etc." is that "You Jews also may become Christians and receive God’s blessing."

Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved … is a quotation from Joel 2:32 and formed THE TOPIC of Peter’s opening sermon of the gospel age on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:21). The thesis maintained here, that calling upon the name of the Lord has reference to obeying the gospel (in its four primary steps), is remarkably supported by the apostle Peter’s interpretation of what his sermon topic really meant. When the people cried out, "What shall we do?" (the obvious meaning of their question being "How shall we call upon the name of the Lord and be saved?"), Peter commanded them to "repent and be baptized, etc." (Acts 2:21; Acts 2:37-38). Paul’s prior mention, only a moment earlier (Romans 10:9-10) of such a thing as the confession with its known relation to baptism and primary obedience, also indicates that the quotation from Joel is a synecdoche for all the things required of converts. And why not? Peter’s interpretation of Joel’s quotation was perhaps the most universally known and the most frequently repeated sermon of the entire New Testament age. Locke took the same position, thus:

Whosoever hath with care looked into St. Paul’s writings must own him to be a close reasoner, that argues to the point; and therefore, if, in the preceding three verses, he requires an open profession of the gospel, I cannot but think that "all that call upon him" (Romans 10:12), signifies all that are open professed Christians; and, if this be the meaning of calling upon him (Romans 10:12), it is plain it must be the meaning of "calling upon his name" (Romans 10:13); a phrase not very remote from "naming his name" (2 Timothy 2:19), which is used by Paul for "professing Christianity."(F11)

Moreover, this interpretation cannot be overthrown by an appeal to the context in Joel. We have already observed that Paul’s meaning was not restricted to the context of Old Testament passages which he quoted. See under Romans 10:8. Paul’s own understanding of calling on the Lord’s name would inevitably have been associated with the words of Ananias quoted above (Acts 22:16) which associated them with his own baptism.

Verses 14-15

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, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!

Two of the big words Paul had just used were "no distinction" (Romans 10:12) and "whosoever" (Romans 10:13), and these amply supported his position of extending the gospel to all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, on the same terms. We noted that this great leveling of all people before God and considering them as one race lost in sin was offensive and repugnant to Jews, causing a deep resentment against Paul. Paul vindicated his own conduct in these two verses.

Hodge has the following clear word on the construction of Paul’s defense here:

As invocation implies faith, as faith implies knowledge, knowledge instruction, and instruction an instructor, so it is plain that if God would have all men to call upon him, he designed preachers to be sent to all, whose proclamation of mercy being heard, might be believed, and being believed, might lead men to call on him and be saved. This is agreeable to the prediction of Isaiah, who foretold that the advent of the preachers of the gospel should be hailed with universal joy …. It is an argument founded on the principle that if God wills the end, he wills also the means; if he would have the Gentiles saved, according to the prediction of the prophets, he would have the gospel preached to them.(F12)

These verses are the enabling charter of every true missionary labor on earth. God’s answer to the wretchedness of earth’s sin and squalor is a messenger, yes a preacher, with the message of redemption authenticated by the Name,

For neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

How beautiful the feet … From heaven’s viewpoint, there is nothing more beautiful than the message-bearer of God’s merciful offer of salvation to people. Hope for lost and fallen humanity does not derive from anything that man can do for himself, nor from anything that he might either build on earth or hurl out into space. Nothing that man can send up into heaven can save him, for it is God’s message alone that can cleanse his sins, break the chains of his bondage, and endow his spirit with love and hope. How pitiful, ineffectual and utterly inadequate God’s plan appears to the dim eyes of mortal people. Save the world by preaching? Ridiculous. Paul himself acknowledged this when he wrote:

It was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Therefore, people must look again at the method God has chosen; and, remembering the omnipotence of him who chose, the divinity of the message, and the power of the living word, they must dare to trust and use the means God elected as the instrument of his holy will. Churches should cease their striving after new methods, novel devices, and so-called "modern approaches" to saving people’s souls. There is only one way: preach the word!

The last sentence of these two verses is a quotation from Isaiah 52:7; and, as Moule noted:

The immediate reference of Isaiah 52:7 is to good news for Zion, rather than from her to the world. But the context is full not only of Messiah but of "many nations" (Romans 10:15).(F13)

Of course, as already noted twice in this chapter, Paul’s meaning was often extended beyond the context of his Old Testament quotations.

How shall they believe him whom they have not heard … has the significant implication of making Christ the one heard in his preachers and also the one believed. By the same sacred logic, Christ was said to have baptized more disciples than John, although the disciples, not the Lord, administered the ordinance; but still it was Christ who did it "through them." (See John 4:1-2.)

In this remarkable clause is also the compelling inference that the preacher must preach the word of the Lord, for in no other way may his hearers hear Christ. The preacher who preaches the opinions of himself and his fellow mortals to the near exclusion of the scriptures fails in a double category: (1) his audience does not "hear Christ," and (2) he forfeits the dignity that belongs to the faithful messenger.

Verse 16

But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

But they have not all obeyed the gospel … (as in the KJV) is a far preferable rendition to the stilted words here, and one may only conjecture as to why a good rendition was replaced with a poor one; but Barrett gives a glimpse of what troubles translators and commentators in the KJV’s forthright rendition, thus:

That "disobedience" means unbelief is shown by the quotation that follows.(F14)

Thus, it is the undeniable reference to obedience which the advocates of salvation by "faith only" would like to edit out of this passage; and Barrett did it by the simple assertion that "disobedience" means unbelief, an assertion that is denied by every dictionary of the English language ever written! That "disobedience" does not mean "disbelief" is proved millions of times by the believers who do not obey. (See John 12:42-43 for New Testament example of this.)

The word translated "hearken," to be sure, means "to obey," as invariably spelled out in concordances and lexicons; but "hearken" has a secondary meaning of merely hearing (not intended in the Scriptural use at all), a meaning that is totally out of place in this verse. This word occurs eighteen times in the New Testament; and several of these are here cited (from Young’s Analytical Concordance) in order to show what is meant by the apostle in this verse:

The winds and the sea obey him (Matthew 8:27).

Children obey your parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1).

Servants obey in all things your masters (Colossians 3:22).

That obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham (1 Peter 3:6).

Abraham, when he was called to go … obeyed (Hebrews 11:8).

Our translators could not have had any logical reason for rendering the same word as "hearken" in the verse before us, except, possibly, that of softening the impact of these words. For these reasons, the KJV is preferable in this verse. "They have not all obeyed the gospel."

Locke’s explanation of this first sentence is thus:

(Paul) you tell us that you are sent from God to preach the gospel; and if it be so, how comes it that all who have heard have not received and obeyed; especially, from what you insinuate, the messengers of good tidings were so welcome to them? To this Paul replied, out of Isaiah, that the messengers sent from God were not believed by all.(F15)

Who hath believed our report … is Isaiah’s opening statement in Isaiah 53, a chapter rich with reference to the Messiah, and is therefore very appropriate here. Just as ancient Israel did not believe the prophets regarding the Messiah, that he should be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, despised and rejected by people, etc., just so the Jews of Paul’s day would not believe and obey the gospel in order to be saved.

Verse 17

So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Conybeare and Howson translated this verse:

So, then, faith comes by teaching; and our teaching comes by the word of God (There is no English word which precisely represents the word for teaching in its subjective as well as objective meaning, which is literally, "word received by hearing," that is, "the spoken word.")(F16)

Word of Christ … instead of "word of God," as in KJV, does not alter the meaning, the word of Christ and the word of God being identical. Jesus said:

For I spake not from myself; but the Father that sent me, he hath given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak (John 12:49).

The only thing capable of producing faith in human hearts is the word which receives its authority from God and has as its subject the life and work of Jesus Christ, together with all of his teachings through the apostles; and, since that is true, anything that reduces, obscures, or replaces the word of God in men’s preaching must be hailed as counter-productive. It is what God has revealed which, alone, can carry conviction to the human heart; and one can only deplore the amazing scarcity of Bible reference in modern pulpits. It is precisely in that omission that the widespread unbelief of this generation originates.

Faith comes by hearing God’s word … This means that faith does not come directly from the Holy Spirit, but comes from that Spirit through his authorship of the holy scriptures, and in the sense of his being the living and causative agent in that word We mean that the Holy Spirit does not enter people’s hearts to produce faith, that being the appointed function of the word of God, as revealed here. The Spirit enters our hearts "after we have believed" (Ephesians 1:13) and after we have become sons of God (Galatians 4:6) and in consequence thereof.

Hearing … here is not the same as "hearkening" in the preceding verse, but refers merely to the sense of hearing, and should not even be understood as excluding "reading"; for a deaf person still might learn the word of God through reading it, as a blind person might learn it through yet another sense, that of touch.

Verse 18

But I say, Did they not hear? Yea, verily, Their sound went out into all the earth, And their words unto the ends of the world.

Paul’s use of the word "hear" in this place contrasts sharply with "hearken" in Romans 10:16, where obedience is meant, hence the necessity to distinguish between them. If the KJV had been followed in Romans 10:16, there could have been no confusion.

But I say, Did they not hear? Yea, verily … Paul had just said in Romans 10:16, "They did not all hearken," but this is not a contradiction. He meant there that they had not all obeyed, and here the meaning is that they certainly had heard.

Here we have another instance of Paul’s using an Old Testament text out of context. Psalms 19:4 speaks of the universal knowledge of God through the revelation of nature; but here Paul applied the words to the worldwide preaching of the gospel. As Murray noted:

Since the gospel proclamation is now to all without distinction, it is proper to see the parallel between the universality of general revelation and the universalism of the gospel. The former is the pattern now followed in the sounding forth of the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth. The application which Paul makes of Psalms 19:4 can thus be seen to be eloquent, not only of this parallel, but also of that which is implicit in the parallel, namely, the widespread diffusion of the gospel of grace.(F17)

The ends of the earth … translates a Greek expression which means literally, "the inhabited earth," as seen in the English Revised Version (1885) margin.

Verse 19

But I say, Did Israel not know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy with that which is no nation, With a nation void of understanding will I anger you.

Just as Romans 10:18 was concerned with whether or not Israel heard, this one addresses itself to the question of whether or not they knew. The answer in both cases is affirmative. The particular truth Paul here credited them with knowing was that God would call the Gentiles into his favor, at last producing jealousy and anger on Israel’s part. Thus, not merely the fact of extending God’s favor to the Gentiles is in view, but also the anger and jealousy of Israel that would result from it. Paul’s quotation of Moses in this place (Deuteronomy 32:21) was the equivalent of appealing to the supreme court of Jewish authority, for the Jews respected no authority as higher than that of the great lawgiver.

Paul’s method in this place, as so frequently throughout the epistle, is that of the diatribe, in which theoretical questions are raised, as if from a hearer, and then refuted. The objection dealt with here might be stated thus, "Well, perhaps Israel did not know that the Gentiles were to be called." But, of course, they did know. Beginning with the great promise of Abraham that in him "all the families of the earth" should be blessed, and coming right on down to the words here spoken by Moses, as well as the warnings of all the prophets, the scriptures bore ample testimony to the calling of the Gentiles. God had repeatedly apprised Israel of what he would do.

Verse 20

And Isaiah is very bold, and he saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I became manifest unto them that asked not of me.

The passage Paul here quoted from Isaiah 65:2 reads thus in the Old Testament.

I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found by them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.

Since God is the author of the words Paul quoted, the expression "is very bold" cannot refer to God, but is a comment on the dramatic plainness of the prophecy. The very word "Gentiles" means "nations," and a nation not called by God’s name could have no other signification than that of "Gentile." It is as though Paul had said, Look; here is a prophecy in bold face type and capital letters! As frequently elsewhere, and as we might even say, as usual, Paul rearranges the clauses. His purpose of introducing this text was to present the startling contrast between the attitude of the Gentiles who welcomed the gospel, and that of the Jews whose disobedience and gainsaying were scandalous. This verse shows the attitude of the Gentiles, the following verse that of the Jews.

Verse 21

But as to Israel he saith, All day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

This quotation of Isaiah 65:2 summarizes Isaiah’s whole paragraph at that place (through the 7th verse), where it is plain that God’s anger with Israel was not due merely to their disobedience, but also to the high-handed and arrogant manner of it. Their conduct was called "gainsaying" in Paul’s quotation; but in the passage from which he quoted, their state is defined as

A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face … which say, I am holier than thou … and have blasphemed me upon the hills … and walketh after their own thoughts (Isaiah 65:1-7).

It was that same quality of arrogant presumption which Christ repeatedly pointed out in his parables, as in the marriage feast, where "they made light of it" (Matthew 22:5), or as in the parable of the husbandmen who said, "This is the heir; come let us kill him and take his inheritance" (Matthew 21:38).

Despite all that presumptuous wickedness, the loving attitude of the Father is seen even here in Paul’s denunciation of it, where the figure is that of a loving Father with outstretched hands, pleading for his rebellious children to return. And yet, there is a limit to the patience, even of God; and before this letter was finished Paul would prophetically announce a fate of Israel that was worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah, or that overwhelmed Pharaoh in the Red Sea (Romans 11:25).

Israel was totally to blame for the rejection and hardening that would fall upon them like an avalanche, indeed had already done so; only God would not formally announce it until the 11th chapter of Paul’s epistle. The dreadful task committed unto Paul in the necessity of announcing the fate of Israel was not discharged lightly on his part. He carefully marshaled the scriptures of the Jewish prophets and read the tragic record of their rebellion and obtuseness from their own inspired writers, showing how they had been forewarned, protected, favored, and tolerated again and again in all manner of rebellions, and how, at last, it was not merely just for God to reject them, but it would have been an injustice on God’s part not to have done so! Nor is there anywhere in any of Paul’s writings the slightest hint that any such thing as "God’s eternal decree" had required any such shameful conduct on the part of Israel. Their shame was of themselves: in the manner of their treatment of sacred privilege. J. Barmby quoted Tholuck’s remark in this context as follows:

If from this passage we once more look back upon the tenth and ninth chapters, it is manifest how little Paul ever designed to revert to a "decretum absolutum", but meant to cast all blame upon the WANT OF WILL in man, resisting the gracious WILL of God.(F18)

Murray wrote:

Romans 10:21 brings us to the termination of the condemnation. We may well ask, what then? Is this the terminus of God’s loving kindness to Israel? Is Romans 10:21 the last word? The answer to these questions, Romans 11 provides.(F19)

The eleventh chapter will indeed provide the answer regarding Israel’s fate as a nation, but the fate of every Israelite, as an individual, is not revealed in God’s word, but will be determined, like the fate of all others, by the individual’s response to God’s gracious offer of salvation through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no separate plan for Jews, any more than there is for Australians or Canadians.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Romans 10". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/romans-10.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
Ads FreeProfile