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Bible Commentaries
Romans 10

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st CorinthiansLiving By Faith

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Verses 1-4

10:1-4: Brethren, my heart’s desire and my supplication to God is for them, 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 God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth.

Paul has explained Israel’s stumbling and the Jewish rejection of the gospel. Here he affirmed that he was pained by the Jew’s rejection of Christ and the New Testament. Paul carried a spiritual weight for the people of Israel, and this was a continuous burden (“is for them” is in the present tense). Seeing people from a Jewish background embrace Christ and salvation is plainly expressed as “my heart’s desire.” This helps us understand why he went to the Jewish synagogues again and again.

A key word in describing his feelings for fellow Israelites is heart (kardia). When looking at other verses penned by Paul (2 Corinthians 5:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:17), it is easy to see that he drew a distinction between man’s outward appearance and the heart. In verses such as Romans 10:1, heart denotes the innermost part of our being. This is the place where faith is to be created (Acts 16:14), the part of our person which must desire to do God’s will (Romans 6:17), where we keep God’s word (Luke 8:15), and where Christians are strengthened (Hebrews 13:9). Our hearts are pure because of Jesus’ blood (Hebrews 10:22) when we obey from the heart (Romans 6:17). For a more in-depth commentary on the word heart, see the commentary on Acts 8:20-22.

In describing the Jews (verse 2), Paul said he could “bear witness” (present tense) to something. Moffatt’s translation of this is: “I can vouch for.” Paul knew the Jews had a “zeal for God.” The Hebrews were a God-intoxicated people just like many today. These people had no lack of sincerity or fervor. They wanted to do what was right. Yet, there were differing viewpoints and temptations that caused them to reject Jesus as the Messiah. The Lord became a stumbling block (9:32) and the Jews rejected the gospel that would have led them to salvation.

Can we think of a person or a religious group that has a zeal for God but is misguided and on the wrong track? Paul’s word for zeal (zelos) is sometimes used to describe the fury of those who opposed Christians (see Acts 5:17 and Acts 13:45), though this does not seem to be the point of emphasis in Romans 10:1-21. This same term is also applied to Paul when the Philippian letter was written (Philippians 3:6).

Before anyone can have the proper zeal for God there must be “knowledge.” Without knowledge, zeal is misguided and can even be dangerous. Paul said the Jews were “ignorant of God’s righteousness,” and they “sought to establish their own” way of coming to God. This book teaches that righteousness comes through faith (5:1), but the Jews did not and would not realize this fact. The word “ignorant” (agnoeo) is here defined as “A failure to know in the sense of a disobedient closing of the mind to the revealing word of God” (Brown, 2:407), and this word is in the present tense. The Hebrews stumbled (9:32) at the gospel and determined to come up with their own system. This system was justification by works. How many in our time are still ignorant of God’s plan for righteousness and establish their own way? Can we list some examples? It is probably impossible to overemphasize the importance of the word own (idios). This possessive pronoun meant “‘one’s own’ as in belonging to an individual. It may also mean ‘by oneself’ (privately, apart, alone)” (CBL, GED, 3:142). First century Jews wanted, just as people now, their own way to serve God or believe in God, but heaven does not permit us to design a belief system or a deity that is of our liking. We either use the system God has given and fully serve Him or we will perish (Luke 13:3). If this information is not convincing enough, another little detail should be considered: the word seeking in the ASV and “going about” in the KJV (another present tense verb). This term (zeteo) is the same word Jesus used in Luke 19:10 (He came to seek the lost). Jesus gave His life to seek and save the unsaved, but many wish to seek a way other than the one He offers. That choice leads to spiritual death because there is no other way (John 14:6, the way).

Verse 4 has been explained in various ways. The best explanation seems to be offered by Owen (p. 75). The law insured that man was unable to be just before God. When Jesus came, this problem ended. Through Christ, justification is possible. Instead of being under law, we are under grace (6:14).

Verses 5-8

10:5-8: For Moses writeth that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby. 6 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:) 7 or, Who shall descend into the abyss? (That is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) 8 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:

The 5th verse is a quotation from Leviticus 18:5. If a man kept the law perfectly, even Moses concluded that such a person would “live” (be saved). Such a man would necessarily be saved because there would be no sin to condemn him. No one is lost until he sins and sin becomes “full grown” (James 1:15).

The meaning of verse 6 is a little more difficult. The point is best understood by examining the source of Paul’s information. The information in this verse is a rather loose quotation from Deuteronomy 30:12-14 (it would be best to read these verses). These words were from the final sermon given by Moses. Just before Israel crossed into the Promised Land, Moses spoke of “righteousness” by “faith.”

In light of what Moses said, Paul’s teaching (justification by faith) was not a new concept. Justification by faith has always been the way for people to come to God. This was true even before Moses’ time (see Romans 4:13 and the example of Abraham). Anyone who thinks that justification by faith is a new concept needs to re-study the Old Testament and the book of Romans.

In his final sermon, Moses made some other points. In the first ten verses of Deuteronomy 30:1-20, Moses described the two paths that Israel could take: obedience that would result in great blessings or disobedience that would severely damage the nation. It may be helpful to read Deuteronomy 30:10.

In Deuteronomy 30:11 Moses said his information was not far off, and it was not hidden from the Jewish people. That is, the Jews did not need to wonder about or ask how God would treat those who obeyed and disobeyed. Neither was there a need to ask about God’s will. This knowledge was readily available and known to all. The 14th verse in Deuteronomy 30:1-20 completes the thought by saying that the Jews could do what God wanted them to do - that thou mayest do it. Obedience was possible and the consequences of obedience (God’s blessings) were sure. Because this information was in the hands of the Hebrews, the Israelites did not need to go beyond the sea (verse 13) or send someone up to heaven (verse 12) to receive information about God’s will.

In Romans 10:1-21 Paul made this same point. God has given us His word. We have all that we need to find salvation and be blessed by God. There is no need to “bring Christ down” to find out what God wants. Jesus has already come to the earth and brought us the information we need to serve God and find heaven. We also do not need people to enter into heaven to learn God’s will since this information is revealed in His word. Going to where Jesus went (the abyss/Hades/the realm of the dead, verse 7) is also unnecessary. Furthermore, “To question how they could ‘ascend into heaven’ in order to find a way of perfection was a denial of the incarnation of Christ. To question the need for bringing someone from ‘the deep’ was a denial of Jesus’ resurrection” (CBL, Romans, p. 163). The word “abyss” (abussos) is usually found in the book of Revelation (Revelation 9:1-2; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1; Revelation 20:3). Outside Revelation, it only occurs here and Luke 8:31.

The information in verse 6 may be contrasted with many modern religious claims. When people say we need something other than God’s word, they deny what Paul wrote (compare 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Saying that something more than the Bible is needed affirms that we need to bring Christ down.

The information in verse 8 makes the point even more forcefully. The expression, “The word is nigh thee,” means God’s word is so close it is as if it were in our mouths. The word of God is to be close to the heart of every Christian. It must possess this place because the gospel is God’s power to save us (1:16). Also, God’s word works in the Christian (1 Thessalonians 2:13). God is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27) because His will is right at our fingertips. Notice that Paul describes God’s word as the word (a definite article occurs in the Greek text). God’s word provides a system to live by. In fact, when Paul wrote the letters to Timothy and Titus, he spoke of the faith several times (see 1 Timothy 1:19 b; 3:9; 4:1, 6; 5:8; 6:10, 12, 21; 2 Timothy 3:8; 2 Timothy 4:7; Titus 1:13; Titus 2:2). Because this word is so important, Paul said it was “preached” (present tense). This same term occurs again in verses 14 and 15. For information about the word heart (kardia), see the commentary on verse 1.

Verses 9-11

10:9-11: 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: 10 for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame.

Verse 9 seems to be directly connected to Deuteronomy 30:14 (it may be helpful to read this verse a second time). Since the word of God is in our mouth, “confession” (homologeo) of Christ is almost automatic. The Bible describes confessing Christ in two ways. There is the type of confession described in Matthew 10:32. This form of confession is a continual confession throughout life. People confess Christ or deny Him as they live their lives. There is also a confession that is not continual. An example of this one time confession is in these verses (the tense of the confession is aorist). Wuest (1:177-178) offers a good breakdown of this latter confession: “The word ‘confess’ is homologeo, made up of homos, ‘same,’ and lego, ‘to speak,’ thus, ‘to speak the same thing,’ thus, ‘to agree with some person with reference to something.’ To confess the Lord Jesus means therefore to be in agreement with all that Scripture says about Him, which includes all that these two names imply.” “Thus, to confess Jesus as Lord includes a heart belief in His deity, incarnation, vicarious atonement and bodily resurrection.” Robertson (4:389) said, “No Jew would do this who had not really trusted Christ” because the word here translated Lord was used in the LXX to describe God. A similar thing was true for Gentiles. If a Gentile viewed Caesar as Lord, He would certainly not confess Jesus as such unless he was thoroughly convinced.

At the present time many try to make confession the “last link” in salvation. While confession is important, and it is certainly a subject mentioned in the Scriptures, it is not the “last link.” Aside from Acts 8:37 (a passage which is not in every Greek manuscript), there are only two other references related to confession in the book of Acts. According to Acts 19:18, “Many also of them that had believed came, confessing, and declaring their deeds.” The second passage is Acts 22:16 (“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name”). Confession did have a part in the salvation process (compare 1 Timothy 6:12) because, as noted above, people pledge to follow Christ as Lord and Master. Confession of Christ means recognizing that man needs a savior, Jesus is the only answer (John 14:6), and justification is only by or through His blood (Romans 5:9). Perhaps we can liken it to a marriage ceremony where men and women confess their love and dedication to each other. In other fields (legal, medical and military) there is usually an “oath of allegiance.”

Making a pledge to Jesus, while necessary, is not enough. Studying each conversion in the book of Acts (as can be done with the next chart) shows that Luke’s conversion accounts are somewhat abbreviated. In some places there is no mention of Christians receiving teaching, though instruction is an absolute must (John 6:45). Faith is also necessary (Hebrews 11:6), but Luke does not always mention it in describing conversions. Jesus said repentance is essential (Luke 13:3), but it is not always mentioned in the conversions. Baptism is required (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:20-21), but it too is not always found in the accounts. Blessings come after baptism (conversion), but even these are not always stated. When someone wants to become a Christian, there must be teaching, belief in the teaching, repentance, some type of confession, and baptism. Mere confession cannot save. Drawing this conclusion from Romans 10:9-10 is an attempt to both isolate two verses from the rest of the New Testament and contradict what is taught in other parts of the Bible.

The preacher(s) (unless stated otherwise, all citations are from Acts)Did the unsaved person or group receive any teaching?Did the person or group believe the message?Was the person or group instructed to repent?Was the person or group baptized?What result accompanied the baptism?
Peter - 2:14Yes - 2:37Implied - 2:37Yes - 2:38Yes - 2:41Forgiven of sins and gift of Holy Spirit, 2:38
John - 3:11-4:4Yes - 3:12-26; 4:2Yes - 4:4Yes - 3:19Yes - 3:19 (see the commentary on “turn again” in Acts 3:19)Sins blotted out and seasons of refreshing, 3:19
Not stated - 5:12-14Not statedText simply refers to “believers,” 5:14Not statedNot statedAdded to the Lord, 5:14
Not stated - 6:7Yes - 6:7, “word of God increased”Not statedImplied - 6:7 (“obedient to the faith”)Implied - 6:7 (“obedient to the faith”)Not stated
Philip - 8:5-13Yes - 8:6Yes - 8:12Not statedYes - 8:12Received Holy Spirit, 8:15
Philip - 8:26-39Yes - 8:35Yes - 8:37Not statedYes - 8:38Rejoiced, 8:38
Ananias - 9:1-16; 22:1-16Yes - 9:4-6Not statedNot statedYes - 22:16Sins washed away, 22:16
Not stated - 9:35Implied - 9:35Implied - 9:35Not statedNot statedNot stated
Not stated - 9:42Yes - 9:42Not statedNot statedNot statedNot stated
Peter - 10:1-48; 11:4-18Yes -10:44Yes - 15:7Yes - 11:18Yes - 10:48Saved from sins and gift of tongues, 11:14
Stephen and others - 11:19-21Yes - 11: 20Implied - 11:21Not statedNot statedNot stated
Paul and Barnabas - 13:6-12Yes - 13:7Yes - 13:12Not statedNot statedNot stated
Paul and others - 13:13-49Yes - 13:16-43Yes - 13:42, 48Not statedNot statedEternal life, 13:48
Paul and Barnabas - 13:50; 14:1Yes - 14:1Yes - 14:1Not statedNot statedNot stated
Paul and Barnabas - 14:21Yes - 14:21, “preached”Implied - 11:21Implied - 11:21Not statedNot stated
Paul and Silas - 16:13-15, 19Yes - 16:14Implied - 16:14, “give heed”Not statedYes - 16:15Not stated
Paul and Silas - 16:25-34Yes -16:32Yes - 16:34Not statedYes - 16:33Rejoiced, 16:34
Paul and Silas - 16:29; 17:1Yes - 17:2-3Implied - 17:4, “persuaded”Not statedNot statedNot stated
Acts 17:10-12Yes - 17:11, “received the word”Yes - 17:12, “believed”Not statedNot statedNot stated
Paul - 17:22-34Yes - 17:22-32There was some faith - 17:32Yes - 17:30Not statedNot stated
Paul - 18:5-8Implied - 18:5, 8Yes - 18:8Not statedNot statedNot stated
Paul - 18:8Yes - 18:8Yes - 18:8Not statedYes - 18:81 Corinthians 6:9-11
Paul - 19:1-7Yes - 19:5Yes - 19:2Acts 20:21Yes - 19:5Paul gave them spiritual gifts, 19:6
SUMMARY OF THE RESULTS:Teaching is not always mentionedBelief is not always indicated or impliedRepentance is often omittedBaptism is almost always mentioned in the fuller accounts

If this chart is not enough, other verses demonstrate that mere confession cannot save people. According to Matthew 7:21-22 and John 12:42, many who believe in and confess Christ will be lost. Thus, something besides mere belief and confession is needed. Sometimes the Bible presents information that is essential, but it does not provide the “whole picture.” An example of this is found in Luke 12:33: “Sell that which ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.” If this passage were isolated, it would mean we have no possessions whatsoever and could not therefore have the means to provide for our own families. While this might appear to be correct by just considering this verse, examining other verses such as 1 Timothy 5:8 provide additional facts. Another example of this comes from Acts 11:14: “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.” If this passage is separated from other verses that talk about salvation, it could be concluded that belief and confession are completely unnecessary; all that is required for salvation is hearing words. This verse could be used to say that unbelievers will be saved if they have heard the gospel preached. For a third illustration of this point, compare verse 11 of Romans 10:1-21 (whosoever believeth shall not be ashamed) with James 2:19 (“Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the demons also believe, and shudder”). Demons believe (pisteuo-the same word used in Romans 10:11), but will they not be put to shame? All verses relating to a subject must be studied before a conclusion is reached.

As the preceding information shows, people must hear the message, believe it, repent of their sins, confess Christ as Lord, and be immersed for the forgiveness of sins. When people appeal to Romans 10:9-11 to justify something like the sinner’s prayer, Paul’s point is completely distorted. Paul did not mention a sinner’s prayer, accepting Christ into the heart, or having someone “pray the prayer of salvation.” The confession is simply described with three words-Jesus is Lord. This confession is made just before people are baptized (Acts 8:36-38). This is an act of faith that is part of the system of faith. When Paul penned the information in verse 10, he again spoke of believing and confessing, but this time he used the present tense. Living as the New Testament describes begins when we become a Christian, and it is to be an on-going decision for the remainder of our earthly lives.

Many have noted how in Acts 8:36-38 verse 37 appears in a footnote or is completely missing from the text (i.e. there is no verse 37 in some Bibles-if this verse is not in your Bible it says, “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God”). Our oldest Greek manuscripts come from the third, fourth, and fifth centuries and they do not contain verse 37. This verse is, however, mentioned prior to the time of our oldest manuscripts. It is referred to by Irenaeus, a writer who lived from 170 to 210 A.D. Irenaeus was a pupil of Polycarp who was a pupil of the Apostle John. Another writer (who also lived before the earliest manuscripts now known) was Cyprian (200-258 A.D.). He too was familiar with verse 37. Bruce (Acts, p. 190) well said verse 37 “certainly reflects primitive Christian practice.” Ferguson (Early Christians Speak, p. 28) put the matter concisely and powerfully: “Acts 8:37 is as old as the second century, if not original.”

A general summary of confession is found in several verses. We indicate our agreement with the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and He built a single church (Matthew 16:16-18). We are acknowledging His resurrection (Romans 1:4) and His being the only way to heaven (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Compare too 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Our recognition and confession of the Lord, as noted earlier, is admitting His authority and our need to follow Him (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21). We pledge to follow Him for life (Titus 1:16; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 10:23). By confessing Christ we also admit to eternal consequences for all people (Matthew 10:32-33) and Jesus is our only means of hope (John 11:25-27).

In studying verses 9-10 it is helpful to consider the NASB translation as it brings to light a fascinating point from the Greek text. This translation says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” In verse 9, Paul described confession and belief (both words are verbs) with the active voice. This means that a person is actually doing the believing and the confessing. When verse 10 was written, these same terms were used, but the “voice” is changed to passive. Instead of the focus being on the person confessing and believing, the emphasis switches to God-the one who makes us righteous and the one who grants salvation. In Ephesians 2:8-9 this same process is described as “grace through faith” salvation. God’s grace is expressed in Romans 10:10 and our faith (which is obedient, Romans 1:5) is found in Romans 10:9.

The information in Romans 10:11 is another quotation from the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:16). This quotation may be related to the context of Romans 9:1-33; Romans 10:1-21. That is, many Jews rejected Christ and this rejection resulted in their “shame.” Those who accepted Him were “not” put to shame. Only those who believe in Jesus will avoid shame and condemnation.

What does it mean to accept Christ? According to the preceding references (Matthew 7:21-22), accepting Christ includes obedience. Those with faith must obey because faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Faith alone does not save (James 2:24). These works are not works of merit (Titus 3:5). They are works of obedience (John 14:15). Lost people who obey the commands of God do not earn salvation. Acts of obedience do not count as meritorious works. Rather, the system of faith means that those who come to God obey the conditions that are in the covenant. One of these conditions is baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Several baptisms are mentioned in the New Testament, and the following chart deals with those from the time of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles.

John’s baptismFire baptismSpirit baptismGreat Commission
AdministratorJesus’ disciples and John baptized with John’s baptism - Luke 3:16; John 3:22-23; John 4:1-2Jesus - Luke 3:16Jesus - Luke 3:16; John 1:32-33Christians did the baptizing - Acts 8:38; Acts 22:12-16

Acts 10:47-48 Act_ Matthew 3:5-6; Matthew 3:11 ar John 3:23 tudy can Luke 3:16-38; Luke 4:1-44; Luke 5:1-39; Luke 6:1-49; Luke 7:1-50; Luke 8:1-56; Luke 9:1-62; Luke 10:1-42; Luke 11:1-54; Luke 12:1-59; Luke 13:1-35; Luke 14:1-35; Luke 15:1-32; Luke 16:1-31; Luke 17:1 Revelat 20:15 _2 Revelation 21:8 1:8 _24:47-49; Luke 3:16 fi Acts 1:8 ly of course) as having a mouth (Matthew 4:4). Our mouths reveal what is in our hearts (Matthew 12:34) and they can offer unacceptable worship to God (Matthew 15:8, KJV). God uses the mouth to communicate the gospel (Acts 15:7), though many are unwilling to hear (Romans 3:14). God’s will is for our mouths to honor Him (Romans 15:6). For information on the word heart (kardia), see the commentary on Acts 8:20-22. It is also noteworthy to see that in verse 11 Paul said the Scriptures “saith”

(present tense). God is still communicating with man, and this

on-going communication comes through the book we know as the


Verses 12-13

10:12-13: 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: 13 for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

In verse 11 Paul showed that salvation is available to all people (note the word “whosoever”). Verse 12 takes the point a little further and states that there is “no distinction” between the Jews and the Greeks. In the system called Christianity Christ is “Lord of all,” and anyone who comes to Him is allowed to be “rich” (spiritually rich), and this is described with the present tense (continuously wealthy with God’s spiritual blessings). Also, “anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This is another quotation from the Old Testament (Joel 2:32), and this calling has been explained in the preceding material. Calling upon the name of the Lord (confessing Jesus) is the opposite of being justified by works. An excellent cross-reference for confession or calling upon the Lord’s name is Acts 9:14. This passage clearly shows that calling upon the Lord or confessing Him describes obedience. Paul was very familiar with calling upon the Lord. His word for called upon (epikathizo) is the same term applied to his conversion in Acts 22:16. As Luke recorded how Paul became a Christian, he recorded how baptism was part of calling upon the Lord. In the first century and now, we call upon Jesus by acknowledging who He is and by being united with Him in baptism (Romans 6:3-4).

Verses 14-15

10:14-15: How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 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!

The preceding material establishes that God is willing to save everyone who wants to be saved. It is possible for all people to become “rich” (spiritually speaking, Ephesians 1:3) in Christ. Here the question is: How are people going to learn about the Lord?

In this section of the book, Paul asked and answered some common sense questions. The first question was: How can people call upon the Lord if they have not heard about Him? The second question was: How can people believe in the Lord if they don’t know about Him? The third: How shall people hear without a preacher (teacher)? The final question: How can preachers preach unless they are sent? The answer to each of these questions is obvious: No one will call upon the Lord unless he hears about Him. Neither will someone believe in Jesus if he is never told about Him. Preachers and teachers will not be able to go and teach unless they are “sent.”

When someone goes to teach the gospel, he has “beautiful feet.” Both the teachers who go and those who send them are commended. There is no greater work in the world than directly and indirectly teaching the lost about Jesus Christ. Aside from here, beautiful (horaios) occurs only in Matthew 23:27; Acts 3:2; Acts 3:10. Those who use the KJV will notice the word “peace.” Since this word is in some Greek manuscripts but not in others, it does not appear in all English translations. Whether included or not, it like the other small variations in the Scriptures does not alter the thought or the reliability of God’s word. When Paul described the preaching at the end of verse 15, he used the present tense. It is God’s will that heaven’s gospel continually be taken into the world. All who teach the lost should have, as a minimum, three qualities: the truth (John 8:32), the ability to teach effectively (2 Timothy 2:24-25), and a compulsive desire to go (1 Corinthians 9:16). Can we list other qualities that help Christians evangelize the world? What things hinder evangelism?

Verses 16-18

10:16-18: But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So belief (cometh) of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. 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.

People have gone and preached the gospel to various nations, but as Isaiah noted long ago, not everyone has wanted to hear heaven’s message. Some “did not hearken.” In fact, so many did not listen that Isaiah said, “Who has believed our report?” Paul wanted to see obedience of faith among all the nations (1:5), but this didn’t happen. Scripture clearly shows that in Paul’s day there were many Jews who did not believe. Even when the Lord was upon the earth, there were many unbelievers (John 12:37-41).

While the ASV rendering of the thought is acceptable (not all hearkened), the KJV makes the thought especially clear (“But they have not all obeyed the gospel”). The word for hearken/obey (hupakouo) repeatedly has the sense of obey in the New Testament (for all the other places this term is found see Matthew 8:27; Mark 1:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:25; Luke 17:6; Acts 6:7; Acts 12:13 -answer/hearken; Romans 6:12; Romans 6:16-17; Ephesians 6:1; Ephesians 6:5; Philippians 2:12; Colossians 3:20; Colossians 3:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 11:8; 1 Peter 3:6). Concerning this word the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (3:394) says, “For Paul, faith is essentially a matter of obedience, just as a lack of faith is understood as disobedience toward God and his message.” It is not enough to hear. Faith without works (of obedience, not merit) is dead (James 2:26). Since hupakouo (the verb translated hearken/obey) is in the aorist tense (one time action), it points to the time of conversion. In fact, the KJV says “obeyed the gospel.”

ASV translators chose “glad tidings” while the KJV says “gospel.” In most other places, the original term (euangelion) has the sense of gospel. A study of this word throughout the New Testament reveals several key facts. The gospel is about Christ (Mark 1:1); is something to be believed (Mark 1:15); is so important it is worth our life (Mark 8:35); is a message to be preached to the entire world (Mark 16:15); is something Christians serve (Romans 1:9); is a standard to be used at the final judgment (Romans 2:16); is the beginning point for Christians and something we must steadfastly adhere to (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). There is only one gospel (Galatians 1:6-7) and this is the truth (Galatians 2:5). Christians must defend the gospel (Philippians 1:16-17) because it is linked with our salvation (Ephesians 1:13). Our hope is in the gospel (Colossians 1:23), though it often angers many in the world (1 Thessalonians 2:2). God makes Christians by calling them through the glorious gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Timothy 1:11).

All who wish to be saved from sin must “obey the gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Obeying the gospel is carefully explained in several places. Hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17) is the first step to salvation, and hearing changes our interest from sin to righteousness. Believing the gospel (Mark 16:16) is next, and belief directs our attention away from sin’s pleasure. Repentance (Acts 2:38) destroys the practice of sin; repentance is a change for the better, and it is also necessary for salvation (Acts 17:30). Confession also has a part in salvation (Romans 10:9-10), and it destroys our allegiance to sin. Baptism is also necessary (Acts 22:16 and see the commentary on Romans 6:1-4); it destroys Satan’s hold on our lives.

In verse 17 Paul showed how “faith” is created. Faith comes by hearing God’s word (compare Acts 4:4; Acts 8:12; Acts 8:35-37). The Bible is designed to both create and increase our faith. God created a special message and man is responsible for believing and obeying it. Some translations says the “word of Christ” and others the “word of God.” Translations differ because of a manuscript variation. As noted in the above commentary, this in no way changes the point or reliability of the Scriptures.

Lanier (p. 75) pointed out, “The message is FROM Christ; ABOUT Christ. It causes faith IN Christ and obedience TO Christ.” If people want more faith, they need more exposure to the Bible because God’s word is how our faith is increased.

The material in verse 18 was written to deal with another possible objection. Someone might have said, “The Jews didn’t respond to the gospel because they didn’t have an adequate opportunity to hear the message.” Although this objection would not have been valid (Colossians 1:23), Paul responded to it by appealing to Psalms 19:1-14. The 4th verse of this psalm shows that God’s message was not hidden; it had been proclaimed far and wide. The problem was with the people, not the availability of the message. Those of a Jewish background, as a whole, didn’t want to hear and heed God’s will.

Aside from here, “sound” (phthongos) is found only in 1 Corinthians 14:7. “It denotes a clear and distinct sound, whether of a musical instrument (1 Corinthians 14:7) or of the human voice” (CBL, GED, 6:425). Here it indicates the gospel message was “like that of the starry sky proclaiming God’s glory to all the earth” (Vincent, 3:117). “World” (oikoumene) has the sense of inhabited earth. For other places which use this term in this way, see Luke 4:5; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 3:10; Revelation 16:14.

Verses 19-21

10:19-21: 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. 20 And Isaiah is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I became manifest unto them that asked not of me. 21 But as to Israel he saith, All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

Even though Paul responded to several objections (including the allegation that the Jews didn’t understand the message), he realized that some of his readers might still criticize him. Thus, he defended himself and this letter against another attack. The next potential objection Paul answered involved knowledge (understanding).

Israel heard the message, but some might have argued that the Hebrew people didn’t understand it. Paul answered this objection by again turning to the Old Testament. He quoted from the writings of Moses and Isaiah to show that the people did understand what had been presented to them.

In regard to “Moses,” this great man promised that a day would come when the Jewish people would be “provoked to jealousy.” That is, God would use a nation which was “no nation” to get the Hebrews to pay attention. People who “were void of understanding” (the Gentiles) would be used to shock Israel into finally responding to God. This prophecy was fulfilled in the first century (Acts 11:2-3). Paul’s word for “anger” in 19b (parorgizo) is found only one other time in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:4), a verse that applies it to earthly fathers.

The other quotation (verse 20) is from Isaiah, and Lard (p. 342) captures the thought extremely well: “The reference here is exclusively to the Gentiles, who had been so long and so deeply sunk in ignorance and idolatry that the true conception of God had, in many instances, perished from their minds. Therefore they sought not after God, they sought not after the knowledge of him, nor after the worship due him; they sought not to please him, nor for his mercy. They were content with the mockery and sin of an idol’s house. When once the soul has exiled God, how few and mean its desires become. Yet when the true God and Christ were presented to the Gentiles in the gospel, how promptly and gladly their hungry spirits responded. They broke their idols, burned their books, confessed Christ, and began to walk in newness of life.”

Verse 21 shows God’s patience with the nation of Israel. Though the Hebrew people did not “seek God,” God continued to pay attention to them. Israel was frequently sinful and disloyal, but God remained faithful. Even when Israel was like a rebellious child, God left His arms outstretched and did all He could to bring the Jewish people back to Him. God’s forbearance with Israel is described as “all day long” (KJV). Another description of God’s graciousness and patience is found in the word “spread” (ekpetannumi). “In classical Greek this word refers to the spreading out of a sail, of hands, and of wings among other meanings” (CBL, GED, 2:352). Here it is “a quote from Isaiah 65:2. As an offering of reconciliation, God ‘stretched forth’ His hands to a disobedient, contradicting people. He offered life and salvation, but Israel refused; they rejected Him first. Notice also Acts 26:1 where Paul ‘stretched forth the hand’ before his testimony in front of Agrippa. Stretching forth of the hands is an expression of earnestness which seeks to engage the attention of an audience. The word also occurs in the early Christian writing, Barnabas (12:4)” (ibid).

At the end of the verse specific information is given about Israel’s sinfulness. God’s people were “disobedient” and “gainsaying” (both of these words are present tense verbs). Disobedience (apeitheo) has been called a “prophetic word” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:118). Isaiah was familiar with the people of His day and prophesied what would happen during the New Testament era. A “failure to heed the gospel and being ‘disobedient’ are identical” (ibid). “Gainsaying” (antilego) denotes “verbal opposition. It expresses sharp disagreement, refusal, and protest” (CBL, GED, 1:300).

Bibliographical Information
Price, Brad "Commentary on Romans 10". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bpc/romans-10.html.
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