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Bible Commentaries
Romans 10

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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B. Israel’s present rejection ch. 10

The chapter division signals a shift in Paul’s emphasis from God’s dealings with Israel in the past, specifically, before Christ’s death, to His dealings with them in the present.

Verse 1

This pericope opens with Paul returning to his feelings of compassionate concern for his fellow Israelites’ salvation (Romans 9:1-3). Mention of their deliberate rejection of Christ (Romans 9:32-33) evidently triggered this emotional expression.

"The reality of his love is seen in the fact that he prayed for them." [Note: Mounce, pp. 206-7.]

Verses 1-7

1. The reason God has set Israel aside 10:1-7

The reason for Israel’s failure mentioned in Romans 9:32-33, namely, her rejection of Christ, led Paul to develop that subject further in this section.

Verse 2

Ironically it was Israel’s zeal that set her up for failure. Zeal also characterized Paul’s life, which in many ways duplicated Israel’s experience as a nation. It kept him from believing on Christ too (cf. Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14). Paul and Israel both had zeal for God, but it was zeal that lacked knowledge, knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah (1 Timothy 1:13).

Verse 3

The Jews were ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God as a gift (Romans 1:17). They sought to earn righteousness by keeping the Law. Instead they should have humbly received the gift of righteousness that God gives to those who believe on His Son (cf. Philippians 3:9).

"The Law was designed not to bring about self-righteousness or self-hope, but contrariwise, self-despair." [Note: Newell, p. 389.]

Verse 4

The Greek word telos and its English equivalent "end" can refer either to termination (as in "the end of the matter") or to purpose (as in "to the end that"). Paul believed that Jesus Christ was the end of the Mosaic Law in both respects. He spoke of the Law as having a function to fulfill in history after which Jesus Christ terminated it (Romans 7:6; Galatians 3:19; Galatians 3:23; cf. Mark 7:18-19; Luke 16:16; John 1:17; Acts 10:10-15; Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 8:8; 2 Corinthians 3:6-18; Galatians 4:9-11; Galatians 5:1; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 7:12; Hebrews 9:10). Furthermore he described the purpose of the Law as bringing people to Christ (Romans 7:7-13; Galatians 3:24; cf. Matthew 5:17).

"In the progress of salvation history the beginning of the end of the role of law is in the coming of Christ. Its end is based on the work he effected and applied to the church he established." [Note: David K. Lowery, "Christ, the End of the Law in Romans 10:4," in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, p. 246.]

In the verse before us Paul evidently meant that the Mosaic Law ended when Jesus Christ died. The support for this view is that Paul had just been contrasting, in Romans 9:30-33, the Law with the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ. The Jews incorrectly imagined that the Law was a means of justification, but when Jesus Christ came He provided the real means of justification. Paul did not mean that the Law was at one time a means of justification that ended when Jesus Christ died. The Jews only thought of the Law as a means of obtaining righteousness. It is that supposed function of the Law to justify that ends for "everyone who believes" in Christ.

God gave the Mosaic Law for two purposes primarily. One purpose was to reveal the character and standards of a holy God. Consequently people would recognize their inability to be good enough to earn acceptance by God and so look to God for salvation (Romans 7:13, Galatians 3:24). The second purpose was to regulate the moral, religious, and civil life of the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:1). God never intended it to provide eternal salvation for the Israelites (Romans 3:20). He did not give it for a redemptive purpose. God has preserved the Mosaic Law in Scripture for Christians because of its revelatory value. He never intended Christians to regulate their lives by its precepts.

"It is because Reformed theology has kept us Gentiles under the Law,-if not as a means of righteousness, then as ’a rule of life,’ that all the trouble has arisen. The Law is no more a rule of life than it is a means of righteousness." [Note: Newell, p. 393.]

God has terminated the whole Mosaic Law. It is one unified code (cf. Romans 7:6). God wants Christians to observe nine of the Ten Commandments because they are part of the Law of Christ. This is the regulatory code that God has given the church, namely, the teachings of Christ and the apostles (Galatians 6:2). [Note: See J. Dwight Pentecost, "The Purpose of the Law," Bibliotheca Sacra 128:511 (July-September 1971):227-33; Hal Harless, "The Cessation of the Mosaic Covenant," Bibliotheca Sacra 160:639 (July-September 2003):349-66; and Ping-Kuen Eric Li, "The Relationship of the Christian to the Law as Expressed in Romans 10:4" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1991).]

Verse 5

Paul supported his contention that justification results from faith in Christ (Romans 10:4) through Romans 10:13. He used the Law (Deuteronomy 30:6; Deuteronomy 30:11; Deuteronomy 30:14) to prove that Moses showed that it was futile to trust in law-keeping for salvation. Moses revealed that those who practiced the righteousness commanded in the Law would live (Leviticus 18:5; cf. Galatians 3:12). Here living means experiencing justification (cf. Romans 2:13). However no one can keep the whole Law (Romans 3:19-20).

Verses 6-7

Positively Moses taught that justification came by faith (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). In the context of Moses’ statement there is a strong emphasis on an attitude of loving obedience rather than a legalistic approach to earning righteousness (Deuteronomy 30:6-10). Moses’ point was that the Israelites should not think that pleasing God was something beyond their reach. A proper attitude of faith toward God is essentially what He required.

In quoting this passage Paul made his own application of it in harmony with his argument. It was vain for the Israelites to think that they had to be good enough to ascend into heaven to bring the promised Messiah down to earth to save His people. Likewise it was foolish for them to think that they had to be good enough to raise Messiah up from the death that the prophets had predicted He would die. God had already done those things for the ungodly in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All they had to do was accept what God had done for them in Christ.

Verse 8

Paul quoted Moses again (Deuteronomy 30:14) to reaffirm the fact that the great lawgiver taught that salvation came by faith. The "word of faith" means the message that righteousness comes by faith. Faith is easy compared to a lifetime of slavish obedience to the Law. Anyone can express it easily with the mouth and accept it easily with the heart.

Verses 8-15

2. The remedy for rejection 10:8-15

Verse 9

The terms "mouth" and "heart," which have been a source of confusion in the interpretation of this verse, come from Moses’ words that Paul quoted in the preceding verse. The statement quoted accounts for the unusual order of "confess" and then "believe" in this verse. The normal chronological order is that one believes and then acknowledges his or her belief (i.e., confesses; cf. Romans 10:10; 2 Corinthians 4:13-14).

"But the two formulations interpret each other, so that what is to be both believed and confessed is the more precisely defined." [Note: Cranfield, 2:527.]

"Confess" means to say the same thing about something as someone else does (Gr. homologeo; cf. 1 John 1:9). In this context it refers to saying the same thing about Jesus Christ as other believers in Him do. It is an acknowledgment of one’s faith in Christ. Obedient Christians in the early church made this confession verbally and in water baptism, as we do today (cf. Matthew 28:19-20).

In the early church the phrase "Jesus is Lord" was one of the most common and simple expressions by which believers confessed their faith in Christ (cf. Acts 2:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11). It is a confession parallel and very similar to Israel’s basic confession of faith in Yahweh: "Yahweh our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema). In the Roman world faithful citizens were increasingly being expected to acknowledge that Caesar was Lord (divine). So the original recipients of this epistle, especially, had to face the issue of who really is divine, Jesus or Caesar.

"We take it that, for Paul, the confession that Jesus is Lord meant the acknowledgment that Jesus shares the name and the nature, the holiness, the authority, power, majesty and eternity of the one and only true God." [Note: Ibid., 2:529. Cf. Bruce, p. 176; and Mickelsen, pp. 1214-15.]

"Paul’s statement in Romans 10:9-10 is misunderstood when it is made to support the claim that one cannot be saved unless he makes Jesus the Lord of his life by a personal commitment. Such a commitment is most important [cf. Romans 6:13-19; Romans 12:1]; however, in this passage, Paul is speaking of the objective lordship of Christ, which is the very cornerstone for faith, something without which no one could be saved." [Note: Harrison, p. 112. See also Ryrie, So Great . . ., pp. 70-73; idem, Balancing the Christian Life, pp. 169-81; Roy B. Zuck, "Cheap Grace?" Kindred Spirit 13:2 (Summer 1989):4-7; and Constable, "The Gospel . . .," p. 209.]

The fact that Jesus is Lord (God and Savior) became clear when He arose from the dead (cf. Romans 10:7). Jesus’ resurrection was the proof that He really was the divine Messiah, God’s Holy One (cf. Psalms 16:10-11). Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ meant belief that Jesus is Lord. Paul was speaking of belief in His resurrection as an evidence of saving faith, not as a condition for salvation.

Jesus’ resurrection was not part of His saving work. His death saved us (Romans 3:25). While the resurrection is part of the good news of salvation, the gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), belief in the resurrection of Christ is not a condition for salvation. A person could experience regeneration if he only knew and believed that Jesus Christ died for his sins without knowing of His resurrection. What if a person heard the gospel, including the fact that Jesus arose from the dead, and did not believe that Jesus arose? If he disbelieved in Jesus’ resurrection because he did not believe Jesus Christ is whom He claimed to be, that person would not experience regeneration. However if he disbelieved in Jesus’ resurrection because he did not believe in the possibility of bodily resurrection, he probably would experience regeneration. In the latter case, he would just need teaching on this subject.

Verse 10

This verse summarizes the ideas in the previous verse in general terms. Paul frequently summarized in Romans, and often these summaries refer to the results of the action in view, as here (cf. Romans 4:25; Romans 5:21; Romans 6:23; Romans 7:25).

Belief in Jesus Christ in one’s heart results in acceptance by God (i.e., imputed righteousness, justification, and positional sanctification). Testimony to one’s belief in Jesus Christ normally follows and normally is verbal. Paul was describing the normal consequence of belief. Witmer wrote that the confession is to God. [Note: Witmer, p. 481.] One’s confession that Jesus is Lord would be to God initially (i.e., expressing trust in Christ to the Father), but most interpreters have believed that the confession in view goes beyond God and includes other people as well. This seems to be a reasonable conclusion since the confession is to be made with the mouth.

In what sense does this confession result in salvation? Paul obviously did not mean that confession of Jesus Christ secures acceptance with God since he just said belief in the heart does that (Romans 10:9; cf. ch. 4). Salvation is a broad term that includes many kinds of deliverance, as we have seen. What aspect of salvation does taking a public stand for Christ secure? For one thing it saves the person making the confession from the potential discipline of God. [Note: See Dillow, pp. 122-24.] It also saves him or her from the loss of reward that those who are unwilling to identify themselves with Him will enjoy (cf. Matthew 10:32-33; 2 Timothy 2:12). Furthermore, it often results in the eternal salvation of other people who hear the confession of faith and then believe themselves.

Verse 11

Paul removed all doubt about the requirement for justification that his statement in Romans 10:9-10 might have created with this quotation from Isaiah 28:16. Belief in God, specifically in His promises, is the only condition for justification (cf. Romans 3:24-25). These promises are also the basis of the believer’s assurance that he or she possesses salvation (cf. 1 John 5:12-13).

Verse 12

The blessing of justification is available to Jew and Gentile alike (cf. Romans 3:22). Its source is the same Lord. This reference confirms the fact that "Lord" in Romans 10:9 refers to Jesus as God rather than as personal master, as does the next verse.

Verse 13

The "Lord" of Joel 2:32 is the same as the "Lord Jesus Christ." Peter also appealed to Joel 2:32 in his Pentecost sermon for the same reason Paul did here (Acts 2:21). Both apostles wanted to show that the door of salvation is open to everyone. When the elect call on God they are responding to His calling of them (Romans 8:28-30). The only prayer of an unbeliever that God has promised to answer is this prayer for salvation, though He sometimes graciously answers other prayers that they pray.

Possibly Paul had a more restricted concept of salvation in mind in this verse.

"This verse (Romans 10:13) is a quotation from Joel 2:32 and refers to the physical deliverance from the future day of wrath upon the earth and the restoration of the Jews to Palestine and not deliverance from hell." [Note: Ibid., p. 124.]

Verses 14-15

Paul turned from the responsibility to believe to the responsibility of the believer. "They" refers to the lost, particularly Israelites. Paul presented the logical sequence in a lost person’s coming to faith in Jesus Christ in reverse order here. Faith depends on knowledge of facts. Someone has to proclaim these facts for others to know about them. "A preacher" (NASB) unfortunately implies an ordained minister, but Paul meant "someone preaching" (NIV), someone proclaiming.

Being sent (Romans 10:15) suggests that those heralding the gospel operate under orders from a higher authority. This description also implies that that authority has given them their message. God has sent every Christian to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:19-20; John 20:21). Unfortunately many Christians are waiting for some special calling from God to go. They do not realize that God has already sent them. Where we go and to what segments of humanity we proclaim the gospel are secondary issues. If we get active proclaiming the gospel, God will direct us where He wants to use us (Psalms 37:23).

As is clear from Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 52:7, the message is one of good news that brings joy to those who accept it. "How beautiful are the feet" is a figurative way of expressing gratitude for the obedience of the messengers who have brought good news. The context of Isaiah’s words was the announcement of God’s favor in restoring Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity.

Verse 16

In spite of the good news of Israel’s restoration and the promises of Messiah’s coming and deliverance, most of the Jews did not believe (cf. Isaiah 53:1).

Verses 16-21

3. The continuing unbelief of Israel 10:16-21

Even though the door of salvation is open to Jews as well as to Gentiles (Romans 10:8-15), the majority within Israel still refuses to believe in Jesus Christ.

Verse 17

This verse summarizes the thought of Romans 10:14-16. The word "of" Christ could mean the word from Him, namely, the message that He has sent us to proclaim (Romans 10:15). [Note: Cranfield, 2:537.] It could also refer to the message concerning Christ (Romans 10:9). Both meanings could have been in Paul’s mind. In either case the gospel is in view.

"What faith really is, in biblical language, is receiving the testimony of God. It is the inward conviction that what God says to us in the gospel is true. That-and that alone-is saving faith." [Note: Hodges, Absolutely Free! p. 31. Cf. pp. 37-43.]

Verse 18

This rhetorical question suggests the possibility that Israel’s rejection of her Messiah may have been due to a failure to get the message to the Jews (Romans 10:14). However, Paul’s quotation of Psalms 19:4 clarifies that they had heard. Every human being hears the testimony of nature (ch. 1), and all Israel had heard the special revelation of God concerning His Son from the prophets. They could not plead ignorance as a nation.

"But perhaps it would be simpler to think that Paul engages in hyperbole, using the language of the Psalm to assert that very many people by the time Paul writes Romans have had opportunity to hear. It cannot be lack of opportunity, then, that explains why so few Jews have come to experience the salvation God offers in Christ." [Note: Moo, p. 667.]

Verse 19

Might there be a second possible reason for Israel’s rejection of the gospel? Even though the Jews heard the message, perhaps they did not understand it.

The quotation from Deuteronomy 32:21 comes from Moses’ criticism of Israel for forsaking the Lord. God said that He would give Israel a desire to return to Himself (provoke her to jealousy) by blessing another people. This is what had happened since Jesus Christ had died. God had opened the door of the church to the Gentiles. This should have made Israel more desirous of returning to God, accepting His Messiah, and experiencing God’s blessing. However this had not happened, as the record of the church’s growth in Acts proves. As time went by, fewer and fewer Jews responded to the gospel whereas ever more Gentiles accepted it. This response was not due to ignorance but to deliberate rejection.

Verse 20

Isaiah 65:1-2 supports Deuteronomy 32:21 with emphasis on the fact that the Gentiles came to God.

Verse 21

The Jews on the other hand refused to come to Him even when He reached out to draw them to Himself. The reason God has temporarily set them aside is their stubborn rebelliousness. Moses and the prophets warned Israel of this attitude repeatedly, but the Chosen People persisted in it even after God had provided their Messiah.

Chapter 10 deals with Israel’s present rejection of Jesus Christ that has resulted in God’s temporary rejection of her. Both rejections will change in the future, as the next chapter explains.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/romans-10.html. 2012.
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