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Bible Commentaries
Romans 10

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Verse 1

Israel Spurns God’s Righteousness

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

Reminding us of his heartwrenching cry of anguish at the beginning of chapter nine (verses 1-5), Paul here addresses his fellow Christians at Rome as brethren. By placing this word first in his sentence, he increases the emphasis on and intensity of his desire for Israel’s salvation. According to Sanday and Headlam, "heart’s desire" is not quite the best connotation of eu)doki/a:

The word eu)doki/a means "good pleasure" either (1) in relation to oneself when it comes to mean contentment…or (2) in relation to others, "good will," or "benevolence"…or (3) in this sense it came to be used almost technically of the good will of God to man (282).

The idea is a feeling of good will toward others that produces a desire for their well-being. Paul is saying his heart is full of good will toward the people of his nation. He yearns from the bottom of his heart for Israel to be saved. So intense is his concern that he continues to pray for them to be saved (Philippians 4:6).

While we appreciate the apostle’s warm-heartedness, the fact that he prays for Israel’s salvation raises some questions; actually he has already declared on the basis of Old Testament prophecy that only a remnant will be saved (9:27-29). Lard asks, "Did he pray for what he felt certain would not be?" (322). Cottrell asks, "If God’s eternal decree has already inviolably fixed the number and identity of the elect, what is the use of praying?" (Vol. 2 155). These questions pose real problems for the Calvinist. But as both of these writers establish, the problem is not so difficult for those

who have carefully followed Paul’s line of reasoning. It was a fact that, by and large, Israel was not going to obey the gospel. Only a remnant would obey, but the actual number of those in the remnant was not fixed. In praying for all of Israel, Paul’s hope is that some will see the error of their way and turn in repentance to accept God’s way (11:23-26).

Even for the non-Calvinist, there are problems here. When Christians pray for the lost, how do they expect God to answer their prayers? What do they expect God to do? The scriptures teach that men possess free will and that God forces no one to be saved against his will. The answer is that we hope God will orchestrate His providential care in such a manner that unbelievers will find themselves in circumstances that will help them to change their minds and accept the gospel. Of course, we realize that such influences are resistible (Hosea 4:6-11; Amos 4:6-11; Haggai 1:1-11). Lard seems to state it most clearly:

From the scope of prophecy and the obstinacy of the Jews, the Apostle must have felt sure that they would be lost. Yet he prayed for their salvation. Did he pray for what he felt certain would not be? He might very consistently have done so. The loss of the Jews was not fixed by irrevocable decree. It was determined by their own willful rejection of Christ, and although morally certain, it was not unalterably so. Hence the Apostle could very properly ask God to avert it. No one knows, not even Paul, the resources of the infinite Father (322).

Verse 2

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

For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God: Paul understands these people, for before his conversion he was like them. He, too, had been a Jew who had a zeal for God (Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14); he knew all too well the extent of both their zeal and their ignorance. Zeal (zh=lon) denotes "ardor in behalf of, ardent affection" (AGLP 188). It describes a strong and persistent desire for, and concentration of the attention upon, something and the seeking of its glory. Paul says, "I’ll say this for them…" or "I’ll give them credit for this…." As Cottrell observes: "To be zealous for a cause is certainly in itself an admirable trait, indicating sincerity and enthusiasm and passion. To be zealous ’for God’ is surely the most virtuous form of zeal" (Vol. 2 156).

but not according to knowledge: One principle of religion that men must learn if they would be pleasing to God is that God requires more of man than simply sincerity. In fact, it is entirely possible for a man to be absolutely consumed with zealous, sincere, enthusiastic devotion to God and to be absolutely wrong at the same time. Sincerity is important in our service to God, as is enthusiastic zeal. In fact, we cannot please God without such devotion. But sincerity and zeal are not the deciding factors in our relationship with God. Israel is a striking example of this fact. Paul makes it clear that they are lost in spite of their "zeal for God." They are lost because their zeal is "not according to knowledge." He does not mean they do not have the knowledge needed to do the right thing but rather they have refused to accept the knowledge that has been revealed to them (10:16-21). According to Acts 13:27, the Jews understood neither the law nor the voices of the prophets, and, consequently, they rejected Jesus and condemned Him to die on the cross. Cranfield observes:

In spite of the earnestness of their zeal, in spite of the fact that it is truly zeal for the true God, there is a disastrous flaw in it—it is not according to knowledge. Paul certainly does not mean to deny that they know God (compare verse 19). They do indeed know God, and yet they will not know Him as He really is. There is a lack of comprehension at the most vital point. It is a matter of seeing indeed but not perceiving, of hearing indeed but not understanding (compare Mark 4:12). There is a perverse and obstinate ignorance at the very heart of their knowledge of God, and in the centre of their dedicated and meticulous obedience an obstinate disobedience (251-252).

As we move on in Paul’s argument, however, we must not forget the faint hope he yet holds onto that some Jews here and there might yet see the truth and turn away from their sins, embracing the gospel of Christ. As Lard observes, "Zeal when bigoted and blind is a fearful enemy of change. Still it is not in all cases an insuperable obstacle in the way of truth" (323).

Verse 3

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness: He does not mean they are ignorant of the fact that God Himself is righteous.

Rather he means they remain ignorant of the system by which God declares unrighteous, sinful men to be righteous on account of their faith in Jesus Christ who died for them on the cross.

This "righteousness that comes from God" (NIV) is identical to "the righteousness which is of faith" (9:30), and the righteousness discovered in the gospel that is "revealed from faith to faith" (1:17). It is the heart and soul of God’s gracious provision for man. It is not God’s own personal righteousness. Neither is it the absolute righteousness that has never been tainted by sin, such as Jesus possessed. It is the system of declared righteousness (3:25- 26) by which sinners are made righteous by God’s decree (the forgiveness of sins). It is the gift God bestows on penitent, believing sinners who have obeyed the gospel (1:17; 3:21-26; 4:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Philippians 3:9). God can justly offer this gift to obedient believers because Jesus paid the penalty for sin in His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, thereby establishing both God’s justice against sin and His loving mercy to sinners.

This is the righteousness by which God has always saved sinners, requiring them to hear Him, believe, and obey His commands. The actual basis for such justification in any age is the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. God offered this gift throughout Old Testament history to any Israelite or Gentile who would humble himself by accepting the provisions of the law (either Moses’ law or the moral law). God offered salvation to any person who served Him devoutly every day, whether Jew or Gentile, who offered the sacrifices required to show true repentance for sins, and who, like Simeon, waited and longed for the "consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25).

and going about to establish their own righteousness: It was not that Israel did not have the opportunity to know or the revelation necessary to know God’s righteousness. Rather it was that she rejected God’s plan in an effort to substitute her own. Most living before the day of Jesus did not accept the plan God offered in prospect through the words of the law and the prophets. More particularly, most who were offered the plan in reality rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Pendleton says their "chief ignorance" was their "failure to see that there is no other way to justification and salvation save by faith in Christ Jesus" (419).

Refusing to acknowledge God’s righteousness, Israel continued to seek acceptance with God on the basis of their own righteousness "as it were by the works of the law" (9:32). The Israelites of old and the Jews of Jesus’ day generally attempted to use the law of Moses as a system of meritorious justification. They tried to achieve a level of obedience that would make them deserving of heaven and would place God in debt to them (4:1-4). As Cottrell observes, "Rejecting the gift of the ’robe of righteousness’ (Isaiah 61:10), they relied on their own ’filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6)" (Vol. 2 158). Or as Pendleton comments:

Refusing to "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27), they clothed themselves with a garment of their own spinning, which they, like all other worms, spun from their own filthy inwards…Refusing to accept Christ as the Rock for life- building, they reared their crumbling structure on their own sandy, unstable nature and as fast as the wind, rain and flood of temptation undermined their work they set about rebuilding and re-establishing it, oblivious of the results of that supreme, unavertable, ever-impending storm, the last judgment—Matthew 7:24-27 (420).

This notion of establishing our own personal self-righteousness is something every one of us—not just first century Jews—must battle against. We must never believe we can stand before God on the basis of our own work. We must rather rely on the shed blood of our Lord who paid the penalty for our sins by sacrificing Himself. A word of caution: the believer’s obligation to obey God is not lessened even in view of salvation by God’s grace. All who would please God must obey Him—must allow His word to rule their lives. The difference is in our attitude as we obediently serve God. If we come to think of ourselves as worthy, we are "fallen from grace." Always we must recognize our dependence on God and the blood of Jesus. This is the point at which Israel failed. Israel refused to submit to God’s righteousness.

have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God: The word "submitted" (u(peta/ghsan) means "to bring something under the firm control of someone—’to subject to, to bring under control’ (Romans 8:7; Romans 13:1; Romans 13:5; Philippians 3:21)" (LN Vol.1 476). Furthermore, it is in the middle voice (Sanday and Headlam 283), meaning the subject of the verb does something to or for himself. In this case, it is negative. Paul is saying submission is something the Jews could have done but refused to do. They had not submitted themselves. Consider these verses in this light: James 4:7; 1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 5:5. Cottrell notes:

The word for submit…is commonly used for submission to law or persons in authority…In what sense is a rejection of grace a refusal to submit to authority? It is so in the sense that grace is the way of salvation established by God himself and declared by him to be the only possible and acceptable way; thus to reject God’s way by refusing his gift of righteousness is an act of rebellion against God. It is so also in the sense that accepting the gift of God’s righteousness requires a humble and submissive attitude along with a repudiation of personal worthiness to which human pride stubbornly clings (Vol. 2 158).

How then should Israel (or anyone else) have responded in submission to God’s righteousness? She should have accepted God’s way as the only way and abandoned all claims to salvation based on personal worth or self-righteous works of merit. The only way to do that in the Christian Age is to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and to submit in obedience to the gracious conditions of the gospel, chief of which is "the obedience of faith" (1:5; 16:25-26).

Sanday and Headlam give an excellent summary of this verse:

St. Paul contrasts two methods of righteousness. On the one side there was the righteousness which came from God, and was to be sought in the manner He had prescribed, on the other was a righteousness which they hoped to win by their own methods, and their own merit. Their zeal had been blind and misdirected. In their eagerness to pursue after the latter, they had remained ignorant of and had not submitted to the method…which God Himself had revealed (283).

Verse 4

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

Paul here expresses one of the most fundamental propositions of the revelation given him by the Holy Spirit. The Jews have no one to blame but themselves for their rejection by God. They had of their own free will rejected God’s system of declaring men righteous and had elected instead to depend on their own merit in an ill-fated effort to gain righteousness on the basis of law. In the previous verse, Paul contrasts the two systems of obtaining righteousness. He says God’s system is the way of faith, and the vast majority of the Jews had rejected it. The system to which most of the Jews appealed was the system of obtaining righteousness on the basis of law. The problem with that approach, Paul declares, is that since Jesus has come such a claim on the basis of law is impossible. Parry’s comment is succinct:

Law promoted righteousness by revealing God’s will and awakening the moral consciousness. That dispensation was ended by Christ, in whose person and character God’s will was fully revealed, and who at the same time, in His communicated life, gave the power of fulfillment to all who trust in Him. He thus also fulfills law, both as a revelation of and as a means to righteousness. But the special point here is that He ends the dispensation of law (138).

For: This word introduces what was implied in the Jews’ refusal to submit to God’s righteousness—namely, they were wrong in their rejection. This connective introduces the reason their submission to God’s righteousness is essential to their salvation.

Christ is the end of the law: The word te/lo$ (end) has a wide semantic range; but, of all its possible shades of meaning, only one of three is proffered here. Some suggest the meaning is "goal." Christ, then, is the goal or purpose for the law’s existence (Whiteside 215; Lard 325; Hamilton 592; Lipscomb and Shepherd 187; also Coffman, Godet, Stuart, Macknight, Barmby, Olshausen, Clarke). A few suggest that te/lo$ means fulfillment or a combination of goal and fulfillment (Cranfield cites Aquinas, Luther, Calvin and Bengel 252; J. Lange 342; Macknight cites Estius and Elsner Vol. 1 392). The third possibility, which in view of the context seems most likely, is that te/lo$ means termination. Christ is the termination of the law in the sense that He brought it to an end. He terminated it (Pendleton 421; Murray Vol. 2 50; Nygren 380; Beet 283; Meyer 405; Newman and Nida 198; Hodge 248; Parry 138; Lenski 645; Cottrell Vol. 2 162; Sanday and Headlam 284). Sanday and Headlam remark:

Law as a method or principal of righteousness has been done away with in Christ. "Christ is the end of law as death is the end of life"…The theological idea of this verse is much expanded in later Epistles, and is connected definitely with the death of Christ (Eph. ii.15; Col. ii.14) (284).

Closely connected with the meaning of ("end") is the meaning of "the law" (no/mou). Christ is the "end of the law"—what law? Many writers believe the law of Moses is exclusively in view because Paul’s argument is addressed to Jews (Cranfield 253; Whiteside 215; Lard 325). But "law" appears here without the definite article—literally "Christ is the end of law." The idea is that Christ is the end of all forms of law as the means of obtaining righteousness. What Paul says refers to the law of Moses as a means of justification, but the expression applies also to moral law (Galatians 3:21). Christ is the end of any form of law as a system of salvation.

That Paul is speaking of law in general as the basis of justification is further bolstered by the phrase "to everyone." Christ is the end of law as the basis of salvation to every person who believes. Clearly, Paul has in mind not only the Jews but also the Gentiles. The Jews were, of course, under Moses’ law until Jesus died on the cross. But the Gentiles were also under law—the moral law written upon a man’s heart—until Jesus died. Neither of these laws will work anymore as a means of justification. This view is defended by Sanday and Headlam (284-285), Lenski (645), Cottrell (Vol. 2 161-166), and Parry (138-139). Parry’s comment is to the point: "no/mou" (law—AWB)—the particular reference is of course to Jewish law: but it is stated comprehensively in accordance with S. Paul’s view of Gentile conditions" (138).

It is important to clarify lest we be misunderstood. Paul is not saying Christians have no obligation to obey the law of Christ (3:27; 8:2; Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:21; James 1:25), for they certainly do. Rather he is saying that as a means to justification or salvation, Christ has terminated law. Nevertheless, once a man is justified on the basis of God’s grace and his faith in Christ, that Christian is obligated to obey the directives of the New Testament to remain faithful. Salvation, then, does not come to anyone on the basis of his own meritorious obedience to a system of law. It comes on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross and our submission to Him in obedient faith. This fact was what the Jews had missed.

for righteousness: There are two significant views about these words. One view is that "Christ is the end of the law" constitutes a complete thought in itself while the rest of the verse expresses the goal or result of that fact. The NIV preserves this idea in its rendering of the verse: "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."

This view has two problems, according to Cottrell. The first is that when "for" is read as "so that" the two clauses become non sequitur, meaning there is no logical cause-and-effect connection between the clauses. It is true Christ is the end of the law. It is also true that righteousness is available to all who believe. But there is no discernible connection between these phrases if ei)$ (for) is translated as "so that." The second problem with such a view is that when ei)$ is so translated (as in the NIV), it implies Jesus has become the end of the law in an unqualified way. This translation leaves a false impression because Jesus has not brought an end to all law in general. Though we are not under law as a means of obtaining justification, we are still under the obligation to obey the demands of the "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (8:2; 6:14-15). Jesus has brought an end to law only in a qualified sense, and that qualification is revealed in the second part of verse 4. Jesus has terminated law "unto righteousness" or as a means of achieving a state of righteousness before God (Vol. 2 164-165).

The second view, which is the correct one, is that the word "for" is directly connected to the word "law." Thus, the idea is that Christ is the end of the law as a means toward righteousness. Both the KJV/NKJV and the NASB present this view. Contextually, this view agrees with Paul’s general argument in chapter ten; and, furthermore, it is consistent with the grammar of the passage as well as the overall argument in the book of Romans.

to every one that believeth: Paul is saying Christ is the termination of a law-system as a means of righteousness or as a way of acquiring God’s favor. He emphasizes that righteousness is for everyone, whether Jew or Gentile, who comes to believe in Him enough to accept and obey the gospel and to live faithful to such a commitment. Cottrell explains:

Even before Christ came; and not just in this new era, his planned and foreknown atonement was the basis for God’s offer of righteousness to those who accepted his loving promises. As Lenski says, this "verse does not mark a date in history as though from that date forward all law was ended while before that date law was the means for righteousness…Christ was ’an end of the law for righteousness’ from the beginning, for Abraham as much as for us" (645). Moses, himself, implies this in the statement from Leviticus 18:5 quoted in the very next verse (10:5). I. e., Moses taught for his own time the very truth that underlies what Paul is saying in 10:4.

It is important to see that ever since sin entered the world there has never been a time when law was an actual way of righteousness before God. Thus to say Christ is the end of law for righteousness means that he is the end of all false and futile attempts to base righteousness on law-keeping. When we understand the work of Jesus Christ as the embodiment and source of grace, we understand that our righteousness is in Him alone (2 Corinthians 5:21) (Vol. 2 166).

Verse 5

For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

From this verse through verse 10, Paul sets forth in greater detail the contrast between the righteousness that theoretically could be achieved on the basis of meritorious law-keeping with the righteousness offered in the gospel. His purpose is to make clear why Christ has ended the former and established the latter. In this verse, Paul explains again (1:18-3:20) the way law-righteousness works and implies it is futile for anyone to attempt to achieve right standing before God on the basis of merit.

In Leviticus 18:5, Moses clearly explained how a man could attain righteousness on the basis of law. He must keep the law with absolutely sinless perfection. The only way for any man to maintain righteousness on the basis of law was to earn it by flawless obedience to the law in every aspect; however, Jesus was the only man ever to keep the law in this manner. All other accountable men had "sinned and come short of the glory of God" (3:23). The idea of righteousness coming by virtue of law only on the basis of absolute sinless perfection is true whether one is referring to Jews and Moses’ law or to Gentiles and the moral law. Pendleton then asks:

Was, then, the promise of God ironical? By no means. The law taught humble men the need of grace and a gospel, and for all such God had foreordained a gospel and an atoning Christ. But to the proud, the self-righteous, the Pharisaical who would merit heaven rejecting grace and the gospel, the promise was ironical, for "doeth…live" implies that whoso fails dies (Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10; James 2:10). There was, then, righteousness by law, and such as had it were ripe for the gospel which it foreshadowed, especially in its continual sacrificial deaths for sin; but there was no self-righteousness by the law, and those who strove for it invariably rejected Christ. Those seeking life by law supplemented by grace found in Jesus that fullness of grace which redeemed from law, but those seeking life by law without grace, failed and were hardened—Romans 11:5-7 (422).

Verses 6-8

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

But the righteousness which is of faith: In contrast to the righteousness that is based on the law is the righteousness that results from faith. The righteousness of the law required absolute sinless perfection achieved through flawless obedience; however, the righteousness that is of faith does not make requirements that are impossible for sinners. The righteousness of the law is an impossibility for all who have sinned even once, and the truth is all responsible men have sinned more than one time. The righteousness of faith, on the other hand, is easily available to all men upon the conditions mentioned in the next phrases.

speaketh on this wise: In these verses (6-8), Paul’s language is clearly based on the Septuagint rendering of Deuteronomy 30:11-14 where Moses enumerates the blessings that accrue to Israel if she keeps the law. It is important to note, however, that Paul does not quote Moses. This is an important consideration because Paul specifically applies the allusions he makes to Deuteronomy 30 to "the righteousness which is of faith," whereas Moses is clearly talking about the law and obedience to it. If one says that Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 30, the reconciliations attempted between Paul’s use of these words and Moses’ use of them are strained. Unlike verse 5, Paul does not say, "Moses says" or "Moses writes." Paul is attempting neither to quote Moses nor to interpret Moses. Rather he means to say the same thing about the system of grace ("the righteousness which is of faith") that Moses says about the law. In doing so, he personifies righteousness based on faith. To say that faith-righteousness says these things simply means it is characterized by them.

Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:): In Moses’ sermon these words mean the law that he commanded Israel to obey was not some far off impossibility requiring heroic superhuman efforts to discover and obey. One does not have to climb to heaven—as though one could—to bring it down. It is near and not hard to attain. As Cottrell observes:

Moses’ emphasis is clearly on the accessibility and understandability of God’s law. It is not an esoteric message hidden in some secret place or located at some far corner of the universe. Possession of it is not dependent on some act of Herculean proportions, such as ascending into the heavens or crossing the sea. As Moses explains in v. 11, "What I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach." You already have it; all you have to do is obey it (Vol. 2 170).

Paul’s intent here is to use the same words to express the same idea about the gospel instead of the law. The gospel or the system of grace or "the righteousness which is of faith" is not difficult to find or to accede to. One does not have to mount a ladder to heaven in order to beseech God to send Christ down. No, He has already come and brought salvation down from heaven to men.

Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.): Paul says it is not necessary for men to descend into the realms of death and Satan to attain salvation. Christ has already done that and has returned gloriously by His resurrection from the dead. A person cannot save himself.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, alone is capable of performing the mighty works of salvation required by humanity’s sinfulness, and He has already done them. There seems to be more than a tinge of implied rebuke against the self-righteousness of the Jews who have rejected Christ Jesus and the gospel. Cottrell cites Leon Morris in summary: "’The righteousness of faith’ does not demand that we be supermen; it does not set some impossible task before us. God has done all that is necessary, and we receive His gift of righteousness by faith" (Vol. 2 172).

The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: Paul refers to Deuteronomy 30:14. In verse 11 of that chapter, Moses tells Israel that God’s commands are not beyond their grasp as if they could find them only by ascending to heaven or crossing the sea. On the contrary, he says God’s word is as close to a person as his own mouth and heart. He has God’s law; all that remains is for him to obey it.

Paul adapts Moses’ language to suit his own purpose, which is to describe "the righteousness which is of faith," not to show how it can be established from the Old Testament. He selects this language because it expresses his meaning in familiar terminology that is at once suitable and proverbial. Moses spoke a word that had to be obeyed, but Paul proclaims a word that must be believed. That word is the gospel of Christ.

The Jews have no reason to believe that God has rejected them. To the contrary, the salvation of God is as near them as their own mouths and hearts. But it is a word one must believe with all his heart—a word he must believe enough to give up all hopes of self-righteousness and submit his whole being to it in faithful, obedience. Obedience to the gospel required under God’s system of grace ("the righteousness which is of faith") is the obedience that trusting faith always produces— not the obedience of works of merit. As Cottrell says, "’The word of faith’ is another shorthand expression for the entire way of grace" (Vol. 2 173).

The "word of faith" is the gospel Paul preaches and has explained in detail in Romans one through eight.

Verse 9

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

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus: In this verse and the next, Paul explains in further detail what he means when he says the faith-righteousness revealed in the gospel is as near to men as their own hearts and mouths. In fact, this verse supplies the application called for in verses 6 through 8. Here, in verse 9, Paul preserves the order listed by Moses in Deuteronomy 30 (that is, confession with the mouth and belief in the heart) in order to maintain the connection with verse 8. In verse 10, however, he switches to the more logical progression of belief in the heart that results in confession with the mouth.

The righteousness of faith is not a matter of what one says in his own heart or to himself. It is not a matter of some superhuman achievement. Rather it is a matter of a commitment to the cause of Christ that is so complete and intense that it openly confesses the belief of the heart. The true believer has simply to acknowledge openly his faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and obey the gospel in order to be declared righteous. Salvation is that close to him. It is that easy to attain. God has not rejected the Jews. The Jews have refused to draw near to God.

The believer must confess "the Lord Jesus" to be saved. The word "confess" (o(mologh/sh|$), according to Bullinger, means "to speak or say the same thing together with another, i.e. to speak the same language, to say the same things, i.e. to assent, accord, agree with, hence, to concede, admit, confess" (179). Perschbacher says it means:

…to speak in accordance, adopt the same terms of language, to engage, promise, Matthew 14:7; to admit, avow frankly, John 1:20; Acts 24:14; to confess, 1 John 1:9; to profess, confess, John 9:22; John 12:42; Acts 23:8, et al.; to avouch, declare openly and solemnly, Matthew 7:23… (AGLP 293-294).

The word "confess" means "to acknowledge something, ordinarily in public, acknowledge, claim, profess, praise… of profession of allegiance" (BDAG 708).

Clearly, the believer is to acknowledge openly and publicly his faith in Christ in the same terms used by others. His confession is to be verbal. It is not something to be said in his heart but rather it must be said with his mouth. The KJV says "confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus." What must the believer say to make this confession?

Looking at confessions of others can help us in answering this question. Twice God, the Father, confesses, "This is my beloved Son" (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5). Jesus confesses Himself to be the Son of God "before Pontius Pilate" (1 Timothy 6:13). Based on a comparison of passages, the words "before Pontius Pilate" should be understood as a synecdoche for the whole trial of Jesus (Matthew 26:62-66; Matthew 27:1-2; Luke 22:66-71; Luke 23:1-3; John 19:1-11). Peter confesses that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Jesus further emphasizes the significance of Peter’s acknowledgment by congratulating him for articulating as the representative confessor of Christ the foundation creed of the church. The truth of Peter’s confession is the immovable cliff of rock upon which the church is founded (Matthew 16:13-19). Paul says this confession of Jesus Christ as the Son of God is the "good confession"; it is the same confession Timothy makes before many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12) and the same confession Martha makes (John 11:25-27). John says, "these things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:31) and "whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God" (1 John 4:15).

In Acts 8:37, the KJV records the Ethiopian nobleman’s confession, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." It may be as McGarvey asserts that this passage is an interpolation (Original Commentary on Acts, 99; New Commentary on Acts, 159). It is true this verse is not considered original by any of the major modern texts—UBS4, Nestle-Aland 27, or Majority Text. If this verse is not original and is an interpolation, then it should not be included in our Bibles; however, it is at the very least as old as Ireneus’ citation of it in 170 A.D. (McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts 159); and consequently, it provides a good example from early church history of the confession of faith that was commonly used. Regardless of what one decides about the genuineness of Acts 8:37, the content of the confession of faith required of believers in order for them to become Christians can hardly be doubted. The testimony of scripture is crystal clear. To confess the Lord Jesus with the mouth is to say something very closely akin to "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."

The NIV’s rendering of this passage has confused the issue. The translation says, "That if you confess with your mouth, ’Jesus is Lord.’" The NIV translators have interpreted this phrase as a double accusative of object-complement. This is a grammatical construction in Greek whereby two nouns follow an active verb like confess in which both nouns appear in the accusative case. (The accusative case in Greek ordinarily corresponds to the direct object in English.) In such a construction, the first noun (Jesus) is taken as the object of the verb (confess). The second or complement noun (Lord) is taken as the predicate of the first noun (Jesus). It is accusative because it must agree with its subject (Jesus). The verb "to be" is understood. Therefore, the result is "confess Jesus is Lord" (Wallace 183-188). While this may seem an awkward way to construct the verse, it is nevertheless a plausibly acceptable understanding. The KJV translators recognized this peculiar construction in at least two places (1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11). Even though they understood this construction and adopted it twice, they did not do so in this verse. Instead, they opted for the other syntactical possibility of understanding. They took these two nouns in the accusative case (Lord and Jesus) as a compound proper name. Why? The reason is hard to determine with any authority because they did not explain why; however, there is a logical process that clearly establishes the doctrinal correctness of their decision:

1. The issue cannot be solved on a textual basis because all of the major texts agree on the original wording of Romans 10:9 (TR, Majority, UBS4, Nestle-Aland 27).

2. The issue cannot be decided on the basis of grammar or syntax as both constructions (double accusative of object- complement and compound proper name) are plausibly defensible.

3. Therefore, the issue must be decided on the basis of interpretation. In light of all the passages that reveal the content of the confession of faith required of every believer (see passages cited above), it is clear that the KJV interpretation is the correct one.

The NIV further compounds its error by placing the words "Jesus is Lord" in quotation marks, thus attempting to raise these words to the level of a formula—one not found in the New Testament.

To confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus is to say with Peter, "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God" or equivalent words. This confession is essential to the salvation of all.

and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead: The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the central truth of Christianity. It is the fulcrum on which the truth of the system is balanced. In his initial definition of the gospel, the apostle focuses on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead as the crowning proof that Jesus is the Son of God:

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (Romans 1:1-4).

As Pendleton observes:

The zealous lover of first principles might expect Paul to make the Christhood of Jesus the object of belief (Matthew 16:16). But that is already taken care of by the Apostle in the brief summary: "Confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord." The truth is, the resurrection is the demonstration of that proposition: "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God." "Jesus" means "Savior" and the resurrection proves or demonstrates his ability to save from death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:12-19; 1 Peter 1:3-5) (426-427).

To become a Christian according to the system of faith- righteousness proclaimed by Paul, one must not only believe in the resurrection of Jesus but he must believe it in his heart. To believe in one’s heart means more than merely assenting to the bare facts about a thing. It means to accept it to the full range of its meaning and significance. It means to be committed to applying its implications to one’s own life. It is, in fact, comparable to being obedient from the heart (6:17).

thou shalt be saved: Paul establishes these two phrases as essential conditions of salvation. To be saved, one must believe in his heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead, and he must confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus, saying, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." One should not conclude from this verse, however, that these are the only conditions attached to salvation. Such a conclusion is as unwarranted as concluding from Acts 16:31 that the only condition attached to receiving the free grace of God’s salvation is to believe on the Lord Jesus. The same is true from Mark 16:16. One cannot legitimately conclude that one must only believe and be baptized in order to be saved. The same is true of Acts 2:38 that apparently requires only repentance and baptism for the remission of sins. In truth, there are five conditions attached to the reception of God’s free grace:

1. Hearing the gospel (Acts 18:8; Romans 10:14; Romans 10:17);

2. Believing in Jesus (John 1:12; John 3:16; John 8:24; Mark 16:16);

3. Repentance of sins (Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5; Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30-31);

4. Confession of faith (Matthew 16:16; Romans 10:9-10; 1 John 4:15);

5. Baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21).

Nowhere do all five conditions appear in the same context, but God’s word teaches that each is an essential step toward salvation and that baptism upon one’s faith, repentance, and confession is the point at which one’s sins are forgiven (6:3-4, 17-18).

Verse 10

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

When a man believes in his heart in the same way that Abraham believed in his heart, his faith will produce the obedience God seeks. In chapter four, Paul argues at length that men are justified by faith, but it is a degree of faith requiring more of a man than simply bare assent (James 2:14-24). In order to be acquitted and declared righteous, a man must have the kind of faith Abraham had. Abraham’s faith was characterized by four things:

1. He believed in God with all his heart—that is, he trusted in God.

2. He believed in God enough to serve Him devoutly every day.

3. He believed in God enough to obey the known will of God. Obeying God was always Abraham’s intent.

4. He believed in God enough to repent and reform his life when he found himself living contrary to God’s will.

When a man believes with all his heart, he will obey God in baptism, in faithful perseverance, and in worship throughout his life; consequently, his faith leads him to justification (righteousness).

By the same token, when a person confesses freely and openly from faith in his heart, his confession will lead to his salvation.

Verse 11

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Paul appeals to the scripture (Isaiah 28:16) to prove his assertion in verses 9–10. This condition should have been no surprise to the Jews, for their own prophets had announced the condition on which God would grant salvation. As Pendleton notes, Paul in this citation "slays their law with its own sword" (428). Furthermore, Paul emphasizes the universal character of this new method of obtaining righteousness. In Romans 9:33, Paul implies that salvation is open to all men, using this same citation. Here he makes it explicit by the addition of the word "whosoever" (pa=$). God’s offer of righteousness by faith is open to everyone. It is open to all Jews, and any who refuse it do so by their own choice. It is also open to all Gentiles, and many of them have accepted it (9:30). Those out of every nation, Jew and Gentile, who choose to exercise their freedom to trust in Christ enough to commit their hearts and lives to His will, constitute the true Israel of God, spiritual Israel, the remnant. These will never be put to shame.

Verse 12

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: Since Jesus Christ, by His death, burial, and resurrection, has become "the end of the law for righteousness" (verse 5), there is now no difference between the Jew and any other person so far as salvation is concerned. Former differences that prevailed under the law and before the cross have passed away. In the Christian Age, God is no longer the special Friend of the Jew. The same obedience is expected of everyone. If the Greek obeys the gospel, he will be saved. If the Jew rejects the righteousness of faith, he will be lost. If the Jew accepts the truth and the Greek turns away, the reverse is true. This is Paul’s announcement of the same truth Peter discovered in the conversion of Cornelius, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). This is a common refrain in Paul’s preaching, both in Romans and in several other epistles (1:16; 2:9, 10; 3:9; 1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). As Sanday and Headlam note:

The Jews have in this relation no special privileges…; they must obtain [righteousness—AWB] by the same methods and on the same conditions as the Gentiles. This St. Paul has already proved on the ground that they equally with the Gentiles have sinned (3:23). He now deduces it from the nature and work of the Lord (291).

Paul here employs the term "the Greek" instead of "the Gentiles" because the terms are synonymous to his readers. Pendleton says:

As the Jews were for several centuries under the dominion of the Greeks, and as the cultured of the Romans, their later masters, also spoke Greek, the term Greek became to them a synonym for Gentile, for they had more dealing with Greeks than with any other people (429).

for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him: The "Lord" under consideration is clearly Jesus (verse 9), "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus." Numerous other passages identify Jesus as the Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3-5; Ephesians 4:5; Philippians 2:9-11). In addition, He is frequently described as the Lord over all men (Acts 10:36; see Romans 9:5; Ephesians 1:22; 1 Timothy 6:14-16).

The Greek word translated "Lord" (ku/rio$) has a wide semantic range. According to Perschbacher, it means "a lord, master, Matthew 12:8 et al.; an owner, possessor, Matthew 20:8 et al.; a potentate, sovereign, Acts 25:26; a power, deity, 1 Corinthians 8:5; the Lord, Jehovah, Matthew 1:22 et al.; the Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 24:42; Mark 16:19; Luke 10:1; John 4:1; 1 Corinthians 4:5 et al… (AGLP 251).

According to LN, it refers to "one who rules or exercises authority over others—’ruler, master, lord’…Matthew 6:24" (Vol. 1 478). It also refers to "one who owns and controls property, including especially servants and slaves, with important supplementary semantic components of high status and respect— ’owner, master, lord’" (Vol. 1 559). Sometimes it appears as "a title of respect used in addressing or speaking of a man—’sir, master’" (Vol. 1 739). However, it is also "a title for God and for Christ" or "one who exercises supernatural authority over mankind—’Lord, Ruler, One who commands’" (Vol. 1 139).

The derivative of the English word "Lord" is revealing. The word comes from two Old English words meaning bread and to supply or give out (see Webster’s New World Dictionary). Clarke writes:

The word, therefore, implies the giver of bread, i.e., he who deals out all the necessaries of life. Our ancient English noblemen were accustomed to keep a continual open house, where all their vassals, and all strangers, had full liberty to enter and eat as much as they would; hence these noblemen had the honorable name of lords, i.e., the dispensers of the bread…We see the same judgment consulted by their use of the term Lord to express the word "Dominus," by which terms the Vulgate version…expresses Elohim and Jehovah which we translate Lord God. God is the good Being and Lord is the dispenser of bread, the giver of every good and perfect gift, who liberally affords the bread that perisheth to every man and has provided the bread that endures unto eternal life for every human soul. With what propriety then does this word apply to the Lord Jesus, who is emphatically called "the bread of Life"; "the bread of God which cometh down from heaven, and which is given for the life of the world!" John 6:33; John 6:48; John 6:51 (Vol. 1 42).

Paul clarifies what Peter asserts in Acts 10:36 when he declares Jesus to be "Lord of all." Paul and Peter say Jesus is the Lord of all men—Jew and Gentile. He is the Lord of all whether they obey Him or not, whether they know it or not; or whether they like it or not. Jesus Christ, raised from the dead and exalted in heaven to the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on High, is the Lord of everyone—the Owner, Ruler, and Master of all.

However, He is "rich" only to those who "call upon him." God extends His forgiving and saving mercies unto all those who call upon him, but men must call upon Him to receive His blessings of salvation. His blessings of mercy are available to all—Jew and Greek—but they are actually enjoyed only by those who submit to God’s will and call upon His name. Note what Cottrell says:

"All" refers specifically to all people, Jews and Gentiles; but the reference to riches means he is also Lord over all things, especially the spiritual bounty of salvation. God is "rich in mercy" (Ephesians 2:4) and supplies all our needs "according to his glorious riches in Jesus Christ" (Philippians 4:19). This reminder that our Lord is rich assures us that there is an inexhaustible supply of grace; it will never run out, no matter how many heirs there may be. He is fully able to richly bless "all." Thus there was no need for the Jews to jealously seek an exclusive saving relationship with God (Vol. 2 184).

Therefore, while Jesus is Lord over all men, His blessings of salvation are limited to those who believe with all their hearts that God has raised Jesus from the dead and who openly confess with their mouths their belief in Jesus as the Son of God.

Verse 13

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Paul concludes his argument that attaining the righteousness of faith is not difficult and is available to all, Jew and Gentile, by citing Joel 2:32. In Acts 2:21, Peter cites the same passage and applies it as a prophecy of the Messiah, teaching that believers call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation from sin (Acts 2:36-38; Acts 4:12; Acts 8:12). In Acts 22:16, Ananias connects calling on the name of the Lord to baptism. He admonishes Paul, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Lard observes: "After belief, every act of obedience, as repentance, confession, baptism is to be performed calling on the name of the Lord. From the moment we believe on him, we are thenceforward never to ignore his name. He is to be recognized in every act, and his guidance and blessing constantly invoked" (335).

It is also important to recognize that this verse asserts unequivocally the deity of Jesus. Alford says, "There is hardly a stronger proof, or one more irrefragable by those who deny the Godhead of our Blessed Lord, of the unhesitating application to Him by the Apostle of the name and attributes of Jehovah," (933). The passage cited is Joel 2:32, but in the Hebrew the word for Lord is actually the famed Tetragrammaton, YHWH, or Yahweh (Jehovah). Thus, Paul clearly identifies Jesus as Yahweh. Yahweh is a word much like our English word God. It refers to the three persons who compose our one God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when Paul identifies Jesus as Yahweh, by citing Joel 2:32 in reference to Him, he is recognizing that Jesus is divine—one of the Godhead.

The main thrust of Paul’s argument in this paragraph is that Jesus Christ is the source of faith-righteousness. It is because He died on the cross, paying the penalty for the sins of all mankind for all time, and because He was raised from the dead, that salvation is accessible to all men and easy to achieve. It simply requires a wholehearted faith in the resurrection of Jesus, resulting in an open confession of our faith and submissive obedience to God’s will in baptism. Jesus is the source of saving righteousness. Furthermore, His sacrifice is the means God used to extend His gracious salvation to all upon the same conditions. Thus, He is sufficient to supply all who will come calling upon Him. Now by climactically applying Joel’s prophecy to Jesus, Paul reveals the basis upon which every man can have absolute utter confidence in Him: He is no less a person than God Himself (9:5).

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? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

These verses introduce a new argument, but it is somewhat obscure to modern readers. Paul has established that salvation is not difficult for any—even a Jew—to obtain. All that is required is that he place his trust in Jesus and sincerely, genuinely, and wholeheartedly call on the Lord for salvation. Several things must occur, however, in order for a man to become a believer. Paul anticipates that these prerequisites for calling on the Lord might not have occurred. He pauses to answer this oversight because if it could be levied legitimately, the Jews might justifiably excuse themselves for their unbelief or blame God for their lost condition. This argument is essential to establish the point toward which Paul drives, namely, that the Jews have no one but themselves to blame for their exclusion from God’s kingdom. They stand rejected not because God has reneged on His word and cast away His people contrary to His promise but because they have not yielded themselves to God’s way.

Sanday and Headlam summarize the whole section (verses 14-21) as a series of questions and answers:

This section seems to be arranged on the plan of suggesting a series of difficulties and giving short decisive answers to each: (1) "But how can man believe the gospel unless it has been fully preached?" (verse 14). Answer. "It has been preached as Isaiah foretold" (verse 15). (2) "Yet all have not accepted it" (verse 16). Answer. "That does not prove it was not preached. Isaiah foretold also this neglect of the message" (verses 16-17). (3) "But perhaps the Jews did not hear" (verse 18). Answer. "Impossible. The gospel has been preached everywhere." (4) "But perhaps they did not understand" (verse 19). Answer. "That again is impossible. The Gentiles, a people without any real knowledge, have understood. The real fact is that they were a disobedient, self-willed people." The object is to fix the guilt of the Jews by removing every defense which might be made on the ground of want of opportunities (293).

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed: Having explained the new system of salvation, which is called the "righteousness of faith," the question naturally arises as to the conditions necessary to its acceptance. Paul’s question is not the objection of an adversary nor is it merely rhetorical. Instead it is deliberative. If it is essential (and it is) for men to call on God to save them, then it is impossible for them to do so if they have not been persuaded to believe in Him enough to trust Him and to call on His name. Or, as Lard says:

The answer to the question is, They can not; that is, they can not call on him in whom they do not believe; and if they can not be saved without calling, then the necessity for belief becomes overwhelming, (337).

and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard: The reply is obvious. Men cannot believe in Jesus if they have not heard of Him. Hearing the gospel is absolutely essential to believing in Jesus Christ (verse 17; Acts 18:8). All of the examples of conversion in the book of Acts are demonstrative of this fact. Cottrell is correct in his observation:

Hearing does not always produce faith; indeed, the main point of this paragraph is that the Jews have heard (v. 18) but have not believed. But on the other hand, there can be no faith without hearing (see v. 17). In other words hearing is a necessary condition for faith but not a sufficient one (Vol. 2 189).

To hear in this verse means more than simple perception that a noise has been made. It carries with it the notion of not only perceiving but also of listening or heeding. It involves understanding one’s current lost condition and the remedy, which is offered in the gospel. It involves recognizing the need to place one’s faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel. Numerous times in His ministry, Jesus points out the responsibility of the listener to pay attention to the message, to study it, to search out its meaning diligently, and to respond obediently to the message’s call. Jesus says, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (NKJV) (Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9; Matthew 13:43; Mark 4:23; Luke 14:35; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6; Revelation 3:13; Revelation 3:22).

and how shall they hear without a preacher: God chose to declare His will through men who are preachers (1 Corinthians 1:21). The duty of these men is to proclaim the gospel publicly. "Someone preaching" (khru/ssonto$) is a participle that derives from the verb (khru/ssw) "to preach." It means "to publish, proclaim as a herald, 1 Corinthians 9:27; to announce openly and publicly, Mark 1:4; Luke 4:18; to noise abroad, Mark 1:45; Mark 7:36; to announce as a matter of doctrine, inculcate, preach, Matthew 24:14; Mark 1:38; Mark 13:10; Acts 15:21; Romans 2:21" (AGLP 238).

This question reminds us of the importance of the work of evangelists (Ephesians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:1-5) and the enterprise of evangelism. This work is not merely one that is needed but is one that is essential to spreading the gospel. It is not enough for men simply to read the Bible. But, in God’s system of faith- righteousness, He calls for men to preach the gospel, making a human messenger essential to the plan. Preachers must go out and reveal the word God has given us. They must explain it to the listeners, and they must persuade men to accept the message. Therefore, it is obvious that preachers need to be trained in the methods of sound exegetical and doctrinal expositions of God’s word as Paul trained Timothy, Titus, Luke, Aristarchus, Tychicus, Trophimus, Sopater, Secundus, Gauis, and others (Acts 16:1-3; Acts 20:4 et al.).

And how shall they preach, except they be sent: With this question, Paul has traced the prerequisites to becoming a Christian back to their source. Sanday and Headlam observe:

By means of this series of questions St. Paul works out the conditions necessary for salvation back to their starting-point. Salvation is gained by calling on the Lord; this implies faith. Faith is only possible with knowledge. Knowledge implies an instructor or preacher. A preacher implies a commission. If therefore salvation is to be possible for everyone, there must have been men sent out with a commission to preach it (296).

First, God sends out men. He initiates His plan by sending His Son (John 3:16) who comes declaring the approaching of the Kingdom of God and the necessity of repentance (Mark 1:15). Jesus then gathers round Himself a group of faithful disciples from whom He chooses twelve men He calls apostles to sound forth the gospel call. He trains these men for some three years; then after His death upon the cross, His burial in Joseph’s new tomb, and His resurrection from the dead, He finishes their training and commissions them to preach the gospel to all men beginning from Jerusalem (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:4-8). He then sends them to wait in Jerusalem for the Divine sign that they are to begin. When they receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they begin their ministry as apostles of the way (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:1-4). Jesus tells them, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John 20:21). Later Paul, too, receives his commission directly from Jesus (Galatians 1:15-16).

These men then instruct those they convert to preach the message, just as Jesus instructed them (Matthew 28:20). Thus, when the early church is driven out of Jerusalem by persecution, believers "went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). All Christians are commissioned to take the word of God to the world.

In addition to this responsibility of individual Christians to preach the word as time, opportunity, ability, and permission of God’s word allows (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-12; 2 Timothy 2:2), the church has the responsibility to recognize the talents of men to preach, to provide for their training by older preachers, to support them financially and otherwise, to ordain them, and to send them out as evangelists or preachers (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Corinthians 9:1-16). As Cottrell observes:

The key word is accountability. Via ordination an individual accepts his accountability to the ordaining body, and the ordaining body declares its accountability to the brotherhood for that individual’s faithfulness in ministry. The goal and end result should be to see that the work of the ministry—in particular the preaching of the gospel—is imbued with the respect and importance warranted for it by its inclusion in this list of salvation prerequisites (Vol. 2 192).

as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things: This reference comes from Isaiah 52:7. Paul implies that the commissioned messengers have been sent; therefore, the conditions necessary for the salvation of mankind have been met. The message has been and continues to be preached. Consequently, men can hear, heed, and listen to the declaration of God’s will, place their faith in Jesus Christ, and call upon God to save them in their obedience to the gospel (Acts 22:16). Sanday and Headlam explain:

The quotation is taken from Isaiah 52:7 and resembles the Hebrew more closely than our present LXX text. In the original it describes the messengers who carry abroad the glad tidings of the restoration from captivity. But the whole of this section of Isaiah was felt by the Christians to be full of Messianic import, and this verse was used by the Rabbis of the coming of the Messiah…St. Paul quotes it because he wishes to describe in O.T. language the fact which will be recognized as true when stated and to show that these facts are in accordance with the Divine method. "St. Paul applies the exclamation to the appearance of the Apostles of Christ upon the scene of history" (296).

Since in its context, this passage in Isaiah is a prophecy relating to the end of Babylonian captivity, which occurred in 536 B.C., it seems probable that the release from that captivity was a historical type of the Messiah’s work of delivering His people from the bonds of sin. Therefore, Paul correctly applies it to the work of preaching the gospel of Christ.

It is appropriate that the prophet selected the feet of the messenger for his figure of deliverance. The apostles traveled long dusty miles on dirt roads in sandals. Consequently, their feet became scarred and toughened by their labors. They were also grimy with the dust and sweat of travel. The writer describes those feet, thus disfigured in order to bring to men the glad message of peace offered in the gospel, as beautiful indeed. Their feet might not look attractive to the casual observer; but to the one who hears the gospel and believes on Jesus enough to call on God in penitent humble obedience, they were beautiful feet.

Verse 16

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

But they have not all obeyed the gospel: Anticipating this objection, Paul says some may urge that in spite of God’s willingness to save all who call upon Him—in spite of the fact that all the prerequisites for one to make such a call have been satisfied—all have not in fact submitted obediently to the gospel call. His reply is that such a case in no way implies that the message has not been preached. Paul eyes the failure of most of the Jews to obey the gospel, and his argument is designed to make them realize their lost condition is their own fault. God has done and continues to do all He can to save the Jews, but Israel has not obeyed the call.

It is also worthy of note that God expects hearers of the gospel to obey it in order to be saved. This is revealing in light of the popular denominational appeal to salvation by faith alone. It is claimed loudly that men are not obligated to do anything in order to be saved. They simply must believe in their heart and ask Jesus to come into their heart to reign. It is taught that men are saved at the point of their believing in Christ. We are told that salvation by grace can be understood in no other way; however, in spite of all protestations to the contrary, obeying the gospel is a significant New Testament doctrine (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 2:7-10; see also: Romans 1:5; Romans 2:8; Romans 6:17; Romans 16:25; Isaiah 50:10; Galatians 3:1; Galatians 5:7; Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 11:8; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 3:1). It is similar to the phrase "obeying the faith" (Acts 6:7). To obey the gospel means to submit with one’s whole heart to the conditions God has attached to the reception of His saving grace and mercy. One must believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and the gospel as God’s plan of salvation (Mark 16:16). He must repent of his sins (Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5; Acts 2:38). He must confess his faith (10:9–10; Matthew 10:32; Matthew 16:16). He must be baptized for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). When a man calls on God in this manner, he has obeyed the gospel; and God graciously forgives him of his sins and declares him righteous. These deeds are not works of merit but rather the works faith produces (1:5; 16:26) and that God demands. If a person has not done these things in this order, he has not obeyed the gospel; he is lost in his sins. No one can be saved by faith alone (James 2:24).

The word translated "obeyed" (u(ph/kousan) means "to give ear, hearken, to listen, Acts 12:13; to obey, Matthew 8:27; Mark 1:27 et al.; in the N. T. to render submissive acceptance, Acts 6:7; Romans 6:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 5:9, absolutely to be submissive, Philippians 2:12" (AGLP 417).

This condition of unbelieving disobedience was not new or unexpected. It was a chronic problem in Israel. So chronic, in fact, that God in His foreknowledge (not be to confused with predestination) revealed to his prophet Isaiah that such would be Israel’s response to the Messiah. To that end, Paul cites Isaiah 53:1.

For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report: This problem of disobedient unbelief or failure to heed the word of God was a long-standing sin in Israel. Stephen said it was true of Israel in response to the prophets of old as well as to those who slew Jesus (Acts 7:51-52). John cites the same passage from Isaiah (John 12:37-38) to refer to the Jews’ rejection of Jesus in spite of the stupendous miracles He performed before their eyes. It is breaking Paul’s heart that still in his day some twenty-five years later it continues to be Israel’s besetting sin. This is a restatement of Paul’s lament in verse 3. Even though all the prerequisites to salvation have been met, Israel has not believed and has not called upon the Lord for salvation. Why is this the case? Is it due to some fault of God? The answers to these questions will be found in the next few verses. The problem is not that Israel is ignorant of what God expects but rather that she is willfully stubborn.

Who is Paul addressing in these verses? Is he talking exclusively to Jews or to Gentiles or to both? What has been said from verse 12 applies to all men—Jews and Gentiles—but the thrust of the argument continues to be Israel’s failure to obey the gospel.

Verse 17

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Israel is unwilling to accept responsibility for her own rejected position. It is insisted the fault must somehow lie with God. Why has Israel failed to believe and call upon God for salvation? Before Paul can answer Israel’s objections, he must first reiterate how one is brought to belief. According to Cottrell, the logic runs something like this:

Most Jews have not believed, even as Isaiah says. Consequently, in view of the chain of prerequisites listed earlier, some will say that Israel’s unbelief must have something to do with that chain. There must be a breakdown in it somewhere. I.e., one of the necessary prerequisites for faith must be missing. Did we not say that faith comes from hearing, and hearing comes through the preaching of the gospel? Thus there must not have been any preaching or hearing, since if there had been, surely the Jews would have believed (Vol. 2 195).

Paul makes it clear that the problem is not that Israel has not heard and understood the message about Christ. The problem is the Israelites have not believed what they have heard.

Faith can arise from no other source than God’s word. Faith is not some gift that God gives to men. Faith arises in the heart of a person when he believes the message of the gospel. If a person has heard and understood the message of God’s word and is not saved, it can be only because he has not believed what he has heard—at least, he has not believed it enough to obey it. Hearing the gospel does not automatically lead one to a saving faith. Hearing it is not the same as believing it. The hearer must decide whether to believe the message about Christ, and a stubborn person can refuse to believe even in the face of overwhelming proof. This point touches the heart of Israel’s problem. Most of the Jews were stubborn, disobedient, and obstinate people.

Nevertheless, the fact remains: the faith that will save people can come only from God’s word. The question is whether or not people are willing to listen obediently and submissively to it. If they do, they will obey the gospel and be saved. If they do not, they will reject the gospel and be lost. In the light of these facts, Paul now considers the possible excuses Israelites might make: (l) they did not hear and (2) they did not know.

Verse 18

But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

Since it is true that one cannot call upon God or believe the gospel if he has not heard the word of God, is it possible the Jews have not believed because they have not heard? Paul’s answer unceremoniously sweeps away such an objection. Of course, they have heard!

Interestingly, Paul uses the words of Psalms 19:4 to express his point. In their original context, David refers to the universal declaration of the glory of God that is voiced by the natural creation (see Romans 1:18-20). F. F. Bruce says, "The dissemination of the gospel is becoming as world-wide as the light of the heavenly bodies" (209). Just as the sun and moon and the stars declare to all the world the glory of God’s creative hand, the gospel has sounded throughout the world the saving power of God’s grace.

When Paul declares "their sound" has gone "into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the word," does he mean to indicate that every person on the globe has already heard the gospel in the twenty-five years that have elapsed since the church was established? Lard answers:

At the time Paul wrote, the passage was literally true. The gospel had not only spread over the whole country of the Jews; but it had penetrated even to the remotest parts of the civilized world. Wherever the Roman eagle had gone, and that was almost everywhere, the gospel too had gone. There is not the slightest exaggeration in the statement (341).

Most writers limit Paul’s statement to "the known world" or to the Roman Empire as Lard does. Cottrell believes that "when we remember that Paul is speaking here specifically of the Jews we need not press his words beyond the scope of their scattered colonies" (Vol. 2 197). This may be true since Paul’s aim is to declare that the Jews cannot use the excuse they have not heard to explain away their rejection of Christ as the Messiah. The allusion Paul makes to David’s psalm, however, seems to preclude such a limitation. The lights of the heavens declare God’s glory universally; and for Paul’s allusion to be meaningful, he must certainly have meant at least all the known or civilized world, and he may have meant around the world. Murray points out there is "a parallel between the universality of general revelation and the universalism of the gospel" (Vol. 2 61).

We must not, however, lose sight of the fact that the main point is that the Jews have had an opportunity to hear. Ignorance cannot be cited as an explanation for their unbelief.

Verse 19

But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.

But I say, Did not Israel know: The apostle deals here with one last objection that might be offered for Israel’s unbelief. Maybe Israel heard the message, but what if she just did not understand it? Paul’s refusal to dignify this objection with a direct answer demonstrates that though it is true Israel did not understand, the reason most of them did not was because of willful ignorance (verse 3).

Paul drives this point home by citing three Old Testament passages. The clear implications are three:

1. Israel should have known the Gentiles were going to be included among God’s people.

2. They should also have known that most of the Jews would be rejected as God’s people.

3. They should have realized their rejection would not be because God excluded them but rather because they would not accept and obey God’s will as it was expressed in the preaching about Christ and the gospel.

Ignorance was not Israel’s problem. Stubborn unwillingness was the cause of Israel’s lack of faith. Sanday and Headlam explain:

The answer to this question is given in three quotations from the O.T. Israel has been warned that their Messiah would be rejected by themselves and accepted by the Gentiles. They cannot plead that the message was difficult to understand; even a foolish people (it was foretold) would accept it, and thus stir up Israel to jealousy. Nor again can they plead it was difficult to find; for Isaiah with great boldness has stated that men who never sought it or asked for it would find it. The real reason was that the Israelites are a disobedient and a stubborn people, and, although God has all day long stretched forth His hands to them, they will not hear Him (299-300.)

First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you: Paul’s reference is to Deuteronomy 32:21. (In passing, it is worthy of note that Paul attributes the book of Deuteronomy to the authorship of Moses.) In its entirety the verse reads:

They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation (Deuteronomy 32:21).

Moses’ point is that since Israel has made God jealous by what is "no God," God intends to make Israel jealous by what is "no people." In other words, God’s response to Israel’s penchant for idols will be to provoke the nation to jealousy by adopting the Gentiles ("no people" and "foolish nation") as His people. Deuteronomy 32:21 is thus correctly interpreted as a prophecy of the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles and of their faithful obedience to that preaching. As Cottrell observes, "The irony and the tragedy of these words in relation to Israel is this, that the nation that took such great pride in being God’s chosen people and in being entrusted with God’s special revelation would someday be humiliated by a ’no-people’ with ’no understanding’!" (Vol. 2 199). Paul implies two things to the Jews:

1. Israel should have understood from Deuteronomy 32:21 that evangelism among the Gentiles and their conversion were a part of God’s plan. When the Gentiles began to obey the gospel in significant numbers, Israel should have recognized the fulfillment of this prophecy.

2. Israel should have been aroused to jealousy because the blessings of God were falling on the Gentiles as a result of their willingness to embrace the gospel of Christ, and they were not falling on Israel. Israel should have questioned why the Gentiles were receiving these blessings and she was not and thus be assured that if the Jews would believe and obey the gospel, God would receive them as He had the Gentiles— by faith in Christ.

It is not that God embraced the Gentiles simply to provoke Israel to jealousy. God truly wanted to save the Gentiles just as He did Israel. But He foreknew that Israel’s response to Gentile acceptance would be jealous anger, and He hoped to use that reaction to facilitate Israel’s conversion to the truth (11:11-14).

Verse 20

But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.

This time Paul’s citation is from Isaiah 65:1. Many scholars struggle with Paul’s application of Isaiah’s prophecy. They believe Isaiah 65:1 in its context refers to the Jews. It is obvious, however, that here in Romans Paul, speaking by inspiration, applies it to the Gentiles. (1 Corinthians 2:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Ephesians 3:2-6; 2 Timothy 3:16-17, et al.). Douglas Moo says that when Isaiah wrote this passage, he had in mind the Jews and that "this is the majority view among Old Testament commentators" (669). First, Moo does not carry much weight against the Holy Spirit; and speaking through the Apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit says the reference is to Gentiles in Isaiah 65:1. Second, I am not sure Moo is right concerning Old Testament commentators anyway. Alexander (Vol. 2 436); Young (Vol. 3 501); Hailey (513); Vine (212); Clarke (Vol. 4 236); Rawlinson (Pulpit Commentary Vol. 10 470); Lange (Vol. 6 689); Zerr (Vol. 2 358); J.F.B. (Vol. 2 760); Henry (Vol. 1 871)—all of these commentators accept as correct Paul’s application of this verse to the Gentiles. Third, the passage in Isaiah itself concludes with the words "unto a nation that was not called by my name," which obviously is a reference to Gentiles. Lenski is correct when he says Isaiah 65:1 refers to the Gentiles and 65:2-7 refers to the Jews (676). Fourth, it is clinching to note that in verse 21 Paul says in contrast to verse 20, "But to Israel he saith…." Israel cannot legitimately plead that the message of the gospel is too hard to understand because even Gentiles—who were not God’s chosen people, who had no written revelation, who were not seeking God, and who had not asked for anything from God—had with open arms received and obeyed the gospel. Romans 1:18-32 graphically demonstrates the Gentiles were not seeking God nor were they asking for Him. Nevertheless, God had revealed Himself to them, and they had received His word in obedient faith.

Verse 21

But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

But to Israel he saith: Paul continues his citation from Isaiah 65. This time he quotes verse 2. Notice the emphatic contrast with the quotation in verse 20. The only explanation that justifies the introduction of "But to Israel…" is that in verse 20 and in Isaiah 65:1 the reference is to the Gentiles and not Israel.

All day long I have stretched forth my hands: This is one of the Bible’s more memorable descriptions of God’s merciful grace. It speaks to us of God’s persistent love for His people in spite of their rebellion. It also reveals to us His patient longsuffering with His wayward children. It is a clear gesture of His invitation for them to come to Him for shelter and comfort and forgiveness. It speaks of His appealing welcome and His abiding friendship. One of the most captivating lessons one gains from a simple reading of the entire Old Testament is the fact that God is an incredibly merciful and a forgiving lover of His people.

God never stopped reaching out for Israel until she destroyed herself by her own unbelief. Even now, as chapter eleven reveals, God will accept the Jew on the same basis as the Gentile— obedient faith in Christ.

unto a disobedient and gainsaying people: This phrase is also an important part of Isaiah’s description of Israel. In verse 16, Paul has pointed out that most of the Jews had refused to obey the gospel. Here he tells why. It is not that they did not understand. It is because of their stubborn, obstinate, willful disobedience. Cranfield takes "disobedience" here as the opposite of "believing" and "gainsaying" as the opposite of "confession" (2:541).

Gainsaying (a)ntile/gonta) means "to speak against, contradict; to gainsay, deny, Luke 20:27; to oppose, John 19:12; Acts 13:45; Acts 28:19; Romans 10:21; Titus 1:9; Titus 2:9" (AGLP 33). As Cottrell says:

Instead of using their mouths to confess Jesus as Lord and to call upon his name, the Jews chose to speak against him, to oppose him, to deny him. Instead of welcoming their Messiah "their response is negative, resistant, recalcitrant, dismissive," says Stott (289). "It is simply stubborn" (ibid., 288) (Vol. 2 201).

Cottrell gives an excellent summary of this section:

This is how this main section ends. Is Israel’s lost state a reflection on God, evidence of his unfaithfulness, an indication that his word has failed (9:6)? No, God has faithfully kept his word to Israel in every way. He kept every promise he made to the nation relating to their covenant purposes and privileges (9:1–29). He has sent the Messiah and given them every opportunity to trust in him for personal salvation (9:30-10:21). Their refusal to accept him is their own fault. In summary, the apostle demonstrates the inexcusableness of Israel and does so by appeal to their own scriptures (Vol. 2 201-202).

Sadly, chapter ten ends on a pessimistic note. Israel stands rejected with no one to blame but herself. And yet still she remains stubborn and obstinate. Is this the end of God’s loving kindness for her? Amazingly, we shall see in chapter eleven that the answer is no. God will still save any Jew who will accept His way as revealed in the gospel.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Romans 10". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/romans-10.html. 1993-2022.
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