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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

Romans 10

Introduction

SECOND PART. SUPPLEMENTARY. CHAPS. 9-11. THE REJECTION OF THE JEWS.

IN stating the theme which he proposed to discuss ( Rom 1:16-17 ), the apostle had introduced an element of an historical nature which he could not fail to develop at some point or other of his treatise. It was this: “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” In what relation did salvation, as set forth in his Gospel, stand to those two great sections of the human race looked at from the standpoint of its religious development? And particularly, how did it happen that the Jewish people, to whom salvation was destined in the first place, showed themselves the most rebellious to this final revelation of divine mercy? Did not the fact give rise to a grave objection to the truth of the gospel itself, and to the Messiahship ascribed to person of Jesus by the new faith? A Jew might reason thus: Either the gospel is true and Jesus really the Messiah but in this case the divine promises formerly made to this Jewish people who reject the Messiah and His salvation are nullified; or Israel is and remains forever, as should be the case in virtue of its election, the people of God, and in this case the gospel must be false and Jesus an impostor. Thus the dilemma seemed to be: Either to affirm God's faithfulness to His own election and deny the gospel, or to affirm the gospel, but give the lie to the divine election and faithfulness.

The apostle must have found this problem in his way every time he bore testimony to the gospel of Christ; and his demonstration of salvation by faith without the law would have contained a grave omission, if it had not presented a solution suitable to the nature of God of the greatest enigma in history: the rejection of the elect people.

Generally when a new doctrine presents itself, after demonstrating its intrinsic truth, it has a double task to discharge to mankind whom it professes to save (1) to prove that it is capable of realizing what ought to be, moral good; this Paul has done by showing, chaps. 6-8, that the doctrine of justification by faith (expounded chaps. 1-5) was capable of producing holiness; (2) to demonstrate that it can account satisfactorily for what has been, for history; this the apostle proceeds to do, chaps. 9-11.

The domain upon which the apostle here enters is one of the most difficult and profound which can be presented to the mind of man. It is that of theodicy, or the justification of the divine government in the course of human affairs. But he does not enter on it as a philosopher, and in its totality; he treats it in relation to a special point, the problem of the lot of Israel, and he does so as a part of his apostolic task.

There are two ways in which mistakes have been committed in expounding the thought of Paul in this passage. Some have taken it as a dogmatic and general statement of the doctrine of election, as an element of Christian teaching. This view finds its refutation in the entire course of this great exposition, in which the apostle constantly reverts to the people of Israel, the antecedents of their history ( Rom 9:6 et seq.), the prophecies concerning them ( Rom 9:27-29 and Rom 10:19-21 ), and their present and future destiny (see the whole of chap. 11, and particularly the conclusion, Rom 11:25-31 ). It is therefore a problem of history and not of doctrine, strictly speaking, which he proposes to treat. Calvin himself is perfectly aware of this. Here is the dilemma which, according to him, St. Paul resolved in these chapters: “Either God is unfaithful to His promises (in regard to the Jews), or Jesus whom Paul preaches is not the Lord's Christ particularly promised to that people.”

The other erroneous point of view in regard to these chapters is to take them as intended to reconcile the Judeo-Christian majority of the church of Rome to the apostle's mission to the Gentiles (Baur, Mangold, Holsten, Lipsius, with various shades). Weizsäcker, in his excellent work on the primitive Roman church, asks with reason why, if the apostle was addressing Judeo-Christians, he should designate the Jews, Romans 9:3, “as his brethren,” and not rather “as our brethren;” and how it is that in Rom 11:1 he alleges as a proof of the fact that all Israel is not rejected, only his own conversion and not that of his readers. He likewise demonstrates beyond dispute, in our opinion, that in the passage, Romans 11:13, the words: “I speak unto you, Gentiles,” are necessarily addressed to the whole church, not merely to a portion of the Christians of Rome (see on this passage). If it is so, it is impossible to hold that, addressing himself to former Gentiles, Paul should think himself obliged to demonstrate in three long chapters the legitimacy of his mission among the Gentiles. No; it is not his mission, and still less his person, which Paul means to defend when he traces this vast scheme of the ways of God; it is God Himself and His work in mankind by the gospel. He labors to dissipate the shadow which might be thrown on the character of God or the truth of the gospel by the unbelief of the elect people. The Tübingen school commits the same mistake in regard to this part of our Epistle as in regard to the Book of the Acts. This latter writing it views in general as the product of an ecclesiastical piece of management, intended to accredit Paul's person and ministry among Christians of Jewish origin, while it is meant to demonstrate by a simple statement of facts the painstaking and faithful manner in which God has proceeded toward His ancient people in the foundation of the church. Comp. besides, that remarkable passage in the Gospel of John, John 12:37-43, in which this apostle takes a general survey of the fact of Jewish unbelief, immediately after describing its development, and seeks to fathom its causes. This, indeed, was one of the most important questions at the period of the foundation of the church. In this question there was concentrated the subject of the connection between the two revelations.

How, at a given point in time, can God reject those whom He has elected? Is the fact possible? The apostle resolves this problem by putting himself successively at three points of view 1. That of God's absolute liberty in regard to every alleged acquired right, upon Him, on man's part; this is the subject of chap. Romans 9:2. That of the legitimacy of the use which God has made of His liberty in the case in question; such is the subject of chap. 10, where Paul shows that Israel by their want of understanding drew upon themselves the lot which has overtaken them. 3. That of the utility of this so unexpected measure; this forms the subject of chap. 11, where the beneficent consequences of Israel's rejection down to their glori ous final result are unfolded.

This passage does not contain a complete philosophy of history; but it is the finest specimen, and, so to speak, the masterpiece of this science.

Verses 1-2

Vv. 1, 2. “ Brethren, my heart's good pleasure and the prayer I address to God for them are for their salvation.For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

The emotion with which the apostle's heart is filled betrays itself in the asyndeton between Rom 9:33 and Romans 10:1. By the word brethren, he joins his readers with him in that outburst of feeling to which he is about to give utterance.

The word εύδοκία , good pleasure, complacency of heart, has been taken by many in the sense of wish; thus to make the term run parallel with the following: my prayer. But it is not necessary to give it this meaning, of which no example can be quoted. The apostle means that it is to this thought of Israel's salvation the regard of his heart rises with constant complacency; that therein, as it were, is found the ideal of his heart. To this idea there attaches quite naturally that of the prayer by which he asks the realization of the ideal. The three variants presented by the T. R. (indicated in the note) should be set aside. The two last arise no doubt from the circumstance that with this passage there began a public lesson, which made it necessary to complete the proposition.

The regimen ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν , for them, might depend on the verb is, or rather are, understood: my good pleasure and my prayer are in their interest; and this idea of interest, contained in the prep. ὑπέρ , would be afterward determined by the apposition εἰς σωτηρίαν : “are in their interest, that is to say, for their salvation.” But why add this explanation, which seems superfluous? Is it not better to make the regimen for them, as well as the preceding one to God, dependent on the word prayer, which has an active and verbal meaning, and to make εἰς σωτηρίαν , to salvation, the regimen of the whole proposition: “My good pleasure...and my prayer for them (on their account) tend to their salvation”? It was a matter of course that Paul prayed on account of Israel; but did he pray for their chastisement or their salvation? That was the question which might have been asked.

Bengel here observes, “that Paul would not have prayed for the Jews if they had been absolutely reprobate.” And this remark is quoted by some with approbation. I do not think it accurate, for an absolute reprobation might indeed overtake unbelieving individuals of Paul's time, without its being possible to conclude therefrom to the eternal objection of the people. Even in this case, therefore, Paul could pray for their future conversion.

Verses 1-4

10:1-4.

The apostle has summarily enunciated the real solution of the enigma in Romans 9:30-33. The proud claim of the people to uphold their own righteousness caused them to stumble at the true righteousness, that of faith, which God offered them in the person of the Messiah. Chap. 10 develops and establishes this solution of the problem. Notwithstanding their religious zeal, the Israelitish nation, blinded by their self-righteousness, did not understand that the end of the legal dispensation must be the consequence of the coming of the Messiah ( Rom 10:1-4 ); because he came to inaugurate a wholly new order of things, the characteristics of which were opposed to those of the legal system: 1st. The complete freeness of salvation ( Rom 10:5-11 ); 2d. The universality of this free salvation ( Rom 10:12-21 ).

In the act of unveiling the spiritual ignorance of the elect people, which forced God to separate from them for a time, Paul is seized with an emotion not less lively than that which he had felt when beginning to treat this whole matter ( Rom 9:1 et seq.), and he interrupts himself to give vent to the feelings of his soul.

Verses 1-21

Twenty-second Passage (9:30-10:21). Israel the Cause of their own Rejection.

Verse 2

Vv. 2. In this verse Paul justifies his so lively interest in the lot of the Jews, expressed in Romans 10:1. What has not been done, what has not been suffered, by those Jews devoted to the cause of God, under successive Gentile powers? Notwithstanding the most frightful persecutions, have they not succeeded in maintaining their monotheistic worship for ages in all its purity? And at that very time what an admirable attachment did they show to the ceremonies of their worship and the adoration of Jehovah! When Paul says μαρτυρῶ , I bear them witness, he seems to be alluding to his conduct of other days, and to say: I know something of it, of that zeal!

Unhappily this impulse is not guided according to the standard ( κατά ) of a just knowledge, of a real discernment of things. And it is this want of understanding which has spoiled the effects of this admirable zeal. He does not use the word γνῶσις , knowledge (in the ordinary sense of the word), for the Jews certainly do not lack religious knowledge. The compound term ἐπίγνωσις , which he employs here, rather signifies discernment, that understanding which puts its finger on the true nature of the thing. They have failed to discern the true meaning and the true scope of the legal dispensation; they are ardently attached to all its particular rites, but they have not grasped their moral end.

Verses 3-4

Vv. 3, 4. “ For they not knowing God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

These verses are meant to explain the terrible misunderstanding which weighed on the mind of Israel, and which now brings about the separation between God and His people. Not understanding that it was from God their righteousness was to come, Israel were led to maintain their legal dispensation at any cost, and to mistake the limit which God had purposed to assign it.

The term ἀγνοοῦντες , not knowing, is directly related to the preceding expression: not according to knowledge. Under the discipline of the law, the discernment of true righteousness, that which God grants to faith, should have been formed in them. For, on the one hand, the conscientious effort to observe the law would have brought them to feel their weakness (comp. chap. 7); and, on the other, the profound study of the Scriptures would have taught them, by the example of Abraham ( Gen 15:5 ) and by sundry prophetic declarations (Isaiah 50:8-9; Hab 2:4 ), that “righteousness and strength come from the Lord.” But through not using the law in this spirit of sincerity and humility, they proved unfit to understand the final revelation; and their mind, carried in a false direction, stumbled at the divine truth manifested in the appearing of the Messiah ( Rom 9:32 ). Several commentators understand ἀγνοοῦντες in a very forcible sense: misconceiving. Meyer insists on retaining the natural sense: not knowing. This latter sense may suffice, indeed, provided it be not forgotten that in this case, as in many others, the want of knowing is the result of previous unfaithfulnesses; comp. 1Co 14:38 and Acts 17:30.

Though we did not know from the first part of the Epistle the meaning of the term: righteousness of God, it would appear clearly here from the contrasted expression: their own righteousness. The latter is a sentence of justification which man obtains in virtue of the way in which he has fulfilled the law. God gives him nothing; He simply attests and proclaims the fact. The righteousness of God, on the contrary, is the sentence of justification which He confers on faith of His own good will.

In the first proposition the subject in question is the notion of God's righteousness, which has not succeeded in finding an entrance into their mind; in the second, the word is taken in the concrete sense; the subject is righteousness, as it has been really offered them in Christ. Στῆσαι , to establish; this word means: to cause to stand erect as a monument raised, not to the glory of God, but to their own.

This proud attempt has issued in an open revolt, in the rejection of Christ and of the righteousness of God offered in Him. The verb οὐχ ὑπετάγησαν , they have not submitted themselves, characterizes the refusal to believe as a disobedience; it is the counterpart of the passages in which faith is called an obedience (Romans 1:5, Rom 6:17 ). This verb may have the passive or middle sense; here it is evidently the second (Romans 8:7, Rom 13:1 ).

But this voluntary revolt has cost Israel dear; for this is precisely the cause of their rejection.

Verse 4

Vv. 4. It is on this point, indeed, that their view and that of God have come into collision. The Messiah brought a free righteousness offered to faith; His coming consequently put an end to man's attempt to establish his own righteousness on the observance of the law; thus, then, fell the whole legal economy, which had now fulfilled its task. It was not so the Jews understood it. If they in a measure accepted the salvation of the Gentiles, they thought of it only as an annexation to Israel and a subjection to the sovereignty of Moses. It was under this idea “that they compassed sea and land, as Jesus says, to make proselytes” ( Mat 23:15 ). The Messiah was simply to consummate this conquest of the world by Israel, destroying by judgment every Gentile who resisted. His reign was to be the perfect application of the legal institutes to the whole world. It is easy to understand the error and the irritation which could not fail to take possession of the people and their chiefs, when Jesus by His decided spirituality seemed to compromise the stability of the law of ordinances (Matthew 5:1-48; Matthew 9:11-17; Mat 15:1 et seq.); when He announced plainly that He came not to repair the old Jewish garment, but to substitute for that now antiquated regime, a garment completely new. In this familiar form He expressed the same profound truth as St. Paul declares in our verse: The law falls to the ground with the coming of Him who brings a completely made righteousness to the believer.

The word τέλος may signify end or aim; but not, as some have understood it here (Orig., Er.): fulfilment ( τελείωσις ), a meaning which the word cannot have. The meaning aim, adopted by Calov., Grot., Lange, and others, is in keeping with Galatians 3:24, where the law is called the pedagogue to bring the Jews to Christ. But the context seems rather to require that of end (Aug., Mey., etc.). There is a contrast between this word τέλος and the term στῆσαι , to hold erect ( Rom 10:3 ). This latter meaning, that of end, no doubt implies the notion of aim; for if the law terminates in Christ, it is only because in Him it has reached its aim. Nevertheless it is true that the contrast established in the following development between the righteousness of the law and that of faith requires, as an explanation properly so called, the meaning of end, and not aim. Of two contrary things, when the one appears, the other must take end.

This new fact which puts an end to the law, is the coming of Christ made righteousness to the believer. The εἰς indicates the destination and application: “in righteousness offered and given to the believer, whoever he may be, Jew or Gentile;” comp. 1 Corinthians 1:30. These words: every one that believeth, express the two ideas which are about to be developed in the two following passages: that of the freeness of salvation, contained in the word believeth ( Rom 10:5-11 ); and that of its universality, contained in the word every one ( Rom 10:12-21 ).

Verse 5

Vv. 5. “ For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law thus: The man who hath done [the law], shall live by it.

In this translation we have followed, for the first of the three variants indicated in the note, the reading of the T. R., which is supported not only by the Byz. documents, but also by the Vatic. and the two ancient Latin and Syriac versions. It is easy to explain the origin of the other reading which has transposed the ὁτι , that, by placing it immediately after the verb γραφει , writes; it seemed that it should run: Moses writes that. As to the second variant, the authorities in favor of the T. R. (“he that hath done those things ”) are somewhat less strong, and especially it is probable that this object αὐτά ( those things) was added under the influence of the text of the LXX.; no reason can be imagined why this word should have been rejected. With regard to the third, we think the T. R. must also be abandoned, which reads at the end of the verse ἐν αὐτοις , by them (those things), and prefer the reading ἐν αὐτῇ , by it (this righteousness). This last reading has on its side the same reasons which have decided us in regard to the second variant, and the authority of the Vaticanus besides.

Accordingly, the object of the verb γράφει , writes, is not the saying of Moses quoted afterward, but the words: the righteousness which is of the law, so that we must here take the word γράφειν , with Calvin, in the sense of describe (Moses describit): “Moses thus describes this way for him who would follow it.” Then (second variant) the participle: he who has done, must be taken in an absolute sense; for it has no expressed object; comp. Romans 4:4 ( he that worketh, ὁ ἐργαζόμενος ), literally: “He who has acted ” (in contrast to him who has believed). In the translation we have been obliged to supply an object; that object is: what there was to be done, consequently the law. Finally, the ἐν αὐτῇ , by it, which we adopt (third variant), refers evidently to the whole phrase: “the righteousness which is of the law.” This would be the means of salvation and life to him who should really do (the law).

But if it is certain that this way is impracticable for fallen man, how is it to be explained that Moses seriously proposed it to the people of God? Or must it be thought that there was here a sort of irony: “Try, and thou shalt see that it is too hard for thee.” It is enough to reperuse the passage of the law, Leviticus 18:5, to be convinced that the latter cannot be the sense in which this invitation was addressed to the people by the lawgiver. Now, if this exhortation and promise were serious, the way thus traced out was practicable. And, in fact, the law of Jehovah rightly understood was not given independently of His grace. The law, taken in the full sense of the word, contained an entire provision of means of grace unceasingly offered to the pious Israelite. From the moment he sinned, he could have recourse humbly to the pardon of his God, either with or without sacrifice, as the case might be; comp. Psalms 51:16-17: “Thou delightest not in sacrifice...; the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;” Romans 10:10-12: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; let the spirit of freedom uphold me...; restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” The law thus humbly understood and sincerely applied was certainly the way of salvation for the believing Jew; it led him to an ever closer communion with God, as we find exemplified so often in the O. T., and what was yet wanting to this theocratic pardon and salvation was to be granted one day in the Messianic pardon and salvation which closed the perspective of the national hope. There was nothing, then, more serious for the Israelite who understood and applied the law in its true spirit and in its full breadth than the saying of Moses. But, unfortunately, there was another way of understanding the law and using it. It was possible to take the law in a narrower sense, solely in the form of command, and to make this institution thus understood a means of self-righteousness, and of proud complacency in self-merit. Such was the spirit which reigned in Israel at the time when Paul wrote, and particularly that of the school in which he had been brought up. Pharisaism, separating the commandment from grace, deemed that its fulfilment, realized by man's own strength, was the true title to divine favor. It is against this point of view that Paul here turns the law itself. He takes it as it is regarded by those whom he wishes to convince, as simple law, nuda lex (Calvin), law properly so called. And he reasons thus: “You wish to be justified by your own doing. Well! But in that case let your doing be complete! If your obedience is to make you live, it must be worthy of Him to whom it is offered.” Such is the hopeless pass into which the apostle had himself been driven by the law thus understood and practised, and into which he drives the Pharisees of his time. If man wishes to raise the edifice of his own righteousness, let him take out every element of grace in the law; for the instant he has recourse to grace for little or for much, it is all over with work: “work is no more work” ( Rom 11:6 ). This is probably also the reason why the apostle expresses himself as he does according to the true reading, saying, not: “Moses writes that”..., but: “Moses thus describes the righteousness of the law, to wit, that”...The intention of Moses was not to urge to such righteousness. But in his saying there is formulated the programme of a righteousness that is of the law “as law.” If the law be once reduced to commandment, the saying of Leviticus certainly implies a mode of justification such as that of which the apostle speaks. Calvin is therefore right in saying: Lex bifariam accipitur; that is to say, the law may be regarded in two aspects, according as we take the Mosaic institution in its fulness, comprehending therein the elements of grace which belonged to it in view of a previous justification and a real sanctification, or as we lose these elements of grace out of view to fasten only on the commandment and turn it to the satisfaction of human pride.

Verses 6-7

Vv. 6, 7. “ 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. Or, who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.

Few passages have been so variously understood as this. And, first, was the intention of the apostle to give a real explanation of the passage quoted (Aug., Abail., Buc., Cal., Olsh., Fritzs., Meyer, Reuss) whether this explanation be regarded historically exact, or as a violence done to the text of Moses (as Meyer, who here finds an application of the Rabbinical method of seeking hidden meanings in the simplest texts; or Reuss, who expresses himself thus: “Paul finds a passage from which he extorts the desired sense...by means of explanations which contradict the meaning of the original”)?

Or must it be held that the apostle only meant here to employ the expressions of which Moses made use, while giving them a new sense (Chrys., Beza, Beng., Thol., Rück., Philip., Hofm., etc.)? A third class may be formed of those who, like Calvin, Lange, Hodge, etc., find in Paul a fundamental thought identical with that of the text of Moses, but one which is expounded here with great freedom in form. It is clear that these three classes, the last two especially, cannot always be distinguished precisely.

Let us remark in the outset the change of subject as we pass from Rom 10:5 to Romans 10:6. Paul no longer says here: “ Moses writes (or describes). It is no longer he who speaks either directly or indirectly. It is the righteousness of faith itself which takes the word, borrowing, in order to reveal its essence, certain expressions from the passage quoted, Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Meyer endeavors in vain to weaken the bearing of this difference. It is clear that Paul is no longer quoting Moses himself as in Romans 10:5, but making another personage speak, while ascribing to him in a free way the language of Moses.

What now did the latter mean when uttering the words quoted here? The passage in the original context applies to the law which Moses had just been repeating to the people according to its spirit rather than according to its letter. Moses means that the people need not distress themselves about the possibility of understanding and practicing this law. They need not imagine that some one must be sent to heaven or beyond the seas, to bring back the explanation of its commandments, or make its fulfilment possible. This law has been so revealed by the Lord, that every Israelite is in a condition to understand it with the heart and profess it with the mouth; its fulfilment even is within the reach of all. It is evident that in expressing himself thus the lawgiver is not taking up the standpoint of an independent morality, but of Israelitish faith, of confidence in the nearness of Jehovah, and in the promise of His grace and succor. It is not without meaning that the Decalogue began with the words: “I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt,” and that every series of laws terminated with the refrain: “I am the Lord.” Consequently the understanding and fulfilling of the law which Moses declares possible, have nothing in common with meritorious work; they are the fruits of a heart in the full communion of confidence and love with the God of the covenant. And how, indeed, could Moses, who had written of Abraham the words: “His faith was imputed to him for righteousness,” have thought that the way of faith was to be replaced after a few centuries by that of meritorious work? Comp. Gal 3:17 et seq. That element of grace which, according to Moses himself, formed the basis of the whole covenant throughout its different phases, patriarchal and Mosaic, is here disentangled by Paul from its temporary wrapping (in Deuteronomy), as Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount disentangles the spirit from the letter of the Decalogue. He does not put into the passage of Moses what is not there, but he draws from it, in order to set in relief its profoundest element, the grace of Jehovah wrapped up and attested in the commandment itself. This grace, already existing in the Jewish theocracy, was the fruitful germ deposited under the surface, which was one day to burst forth and become the peculiar character of the new covenant. The apostle therefore was perfectly right in taking this saying as the prelude of gospel grace. It is easy, however, to understand why, feeling himself at some distance from the letter, in this application, he has not introduced Moses himself, but the righteousness of faith emerging as it were itself in the expressions of the lawgiver.

The differences between the texts of Moses and that of Paul are numerous. Moses says: “This commandment is not in heaven above, saying (that is, thou shouldst say)”...Paul adds: in thy heart an expression which, as Philippi says, commonly refers to an evil thought which one is afraid to utter. Comp. Matthew 3:9; Revelation 18:7. Moses continues thus: “and having heard, we shall do it.” Paul omits these words as not having to do directly with his object, namely, to bring out the element of grace contained in the passage. He does so also with the same expressions repeated Romans 10:13-14. Finally, for the phrase beyond the sea, he substitutes: into the deep (abyss), a word which evidently denotes here the abode of the dead; comp. Romans 10:7. Did he understand the expression beyond the sea in the sense of the depth, or has he departed entirely from the figure supported by the fact that the word abyss sometimes denotes the immensity of the seas? or, finally, is he alluding to the idea of antiquity, which placed the fields of the blessed beyond the ocean? None of these is probable; he has been led to the expression by the contrast so frequent in Scripture between heaven and Hades (Job 11:8; Amos 9:2; Psalms 107:26; Psa 139:8 ). He wished to contrast what is deepest with what is highest; to depict on the one hand the condemnation from which Christ rescues us ( Rom 10:7 ), and on the other, the full salvation to which He raises us ( Rom 10:6 ); and, keeping as close as possible to the figurative expressions of Moses, he has taken Sheol and heaven as types of these two states. By these slight transformations Paul substitutes for the yet imperfect grace attached by the Lord to the gift of the law, the perfect bestowals of grace belonging to the new covenant. In the application which he makes of the saying of Moses, he points out not only the help of Jehovah ever near the believer to sustain him in the fulfilment of the law, but the law already completely fulfilled, both in its prescriptions and threatenings, by the life and death of Christ, so that all that remains for him who seeks salvation is to appropriate and apply this fulfilment as his own. Moses reassured the sincere Jew by showing him that doing would follow easily from believing. Paul reassures every man desirous of salvation by offering to him a doing wrought by another, and which his believing has only to lay hold of. To penetrate, therefore, to the spirit of Moses' saying, and to prolong the lines of the figures used by him, are all that is needed to land us in the gospel. There was a piquancy in thus replying to Moses by Moses, and in showing that what the lawgiver had written was still more true of the gospel than of the law.

The meaning of this saying in Paul is not, therefore, as was believed by the Greek Fathers, and as is still thought by Meyer and a good many others: “Beware of being unbelieving toward Christ incarnate ( Rom 10:6 ) and risen ( Rom 10:7 ).” 1. This thought is foreign to the context, for Paul has no idea of contrasting believing with not believing, but doing with believing. 2. There would be no connection between the application of this saying by Paul, and its signification in Deuteronomy 3:0. How could we suppose the apostle addressing this saying to non-believers? Has the righteousness of faith then the right to say to them: I prohibit your not believing? What would be the use of such a prohibition? The apostle is addressing Christians, who hold the supernatural facts of Christ's history, but who do not yet understand the full saving efficacy contained in them; and this is what he would have them to perceive. The same objections apply equally to other explanations, such as that of Reiche: “Who shall ascend into heaven to convince himself that Jesus is really there?” and: “Who shall descend into the abyss to assure himself that He has indeed risen from it?” Or that of Grimm: “Who shall ascend to bring Christ down from heaven, and thus prove the reality of His glorified existence?” Or that of Holsten: “Who shall go to convince himself in heaven and in the abyss that God has power to effect the incarnation of Christ and the resurrection of His body?” In all these explanations the person dealt with is always one who has to be convinced of the facts of salvation. But we do not convince of a historical fact by giving command to believe it. He to whom the righteousness of faith speaks with this tone of authority is one who believes those facts, and whom it exhorts to draw the saving consequences which rationally flow from them.

Calvin already comes near the true practical bearing of the passage when he thus explains: “Who shall ascend into heaven to prepare our abode there? Who shall descend into the abyss to rescue us from the sepulchre?” Only the context proves that the subject in question is not our future resurrection and glorification, but our present justification by faith.

Philippi, Lange, and Reuss seem to us to come still nearer the truth when they take these words as indicating works which Christ has already really accomplished to save us, so that it only remains for us to accept this fully wrought salvation. But when Philippi and Lange apply the first question, that of Romans 10:6, to the fact of the incarnation, explaining it with Meyer: “Who shall ascend to bring Christ down (by incarnation) to work out our salvation?” it is impossible for me to follow them; first, because there is no need of an ascension, but prayer is enough to obtain a gift of grace from God; and further, because in that case there would cease to be any real connection between the application made by Paul of this saying and its meaning in Moses.

If we start, as is natural, from this last point (the original meaning of the saying), the following is the explanation of Romans 10:6-7: “O thou, who desirest to reach the heaven of communion with God, say not: How shall I ascend to it? as if it were necessary for thee thyself to accomplish this ascent on the steps of thine own obedience. That of which thou sayest: Who will do it (how shall I do it)? is a thing done; to ask such a question is to deny that Christ has really done it. It is to undo, at least so far as thou art concerned, what He has done. Thou whom thy sins torment, say not any more: Who shall descend into the abyss, there to undergo my punishment? That of which thou sayest: Who will do it (how shall I do it)? is a thing done. To ask such a question is to deny that Christ has done it; it is to undo, at least so far as thou art concerned, what He has done. Expiation is accomplished; thou canst have it by faith.

The form τίς , who? has this meaning: it is not every man individually that is asked to fulfil these two conditions of salvation obedience and expiation. In that case every man would be called to be his own Christ. The righteousness of faith forbids us to make such pretensions, which can only issue in our discouragement or embitterment. Instead of the part of Christs, it brings us down to that of believers; and hence the reason why Paul, in the following words, makes use twice of the name of Christ, and not that of Jesus, as he would certainly do if he meant to speak here of the historical facts as such: comp. Romans 8:11.

Twice the apostle interrupts his quotation of the Mosaic saying with one of those brief explanations which, in the Rabbins, get the name of Midrasch, and of which we find other examples in Paul, e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:55-56. To support his explanation of the questions Romans 10:6-7 (as addressed to an unbeliever), Meyer, with many others, has been obliged to make these two short explanations, interjected by the apostle, dependent on the two preceding questions, as if they were a continuation of them: “Who shall ascend into heaven, that is to say, with the view of bringing the Christ down? Who shall descend into the deep, that is to say, with the view of bringing the Christ up?” This meaning of τοῦτ᾿ ἔστι , that is to say, is far from natural; for what we expect is the indication of the reason why the righteousness of faith forbids such speaking, not the mention of the motive which leads the interrogator to raise this question. Besides, there is a τοῦτ᾿ ἔστι perfectly parallel in Romans 10:8; now, there it is impossible to take the phrase in the sense which Meyer here gives to it. The word is therefore directly connected with μὴ εἴπῃς , say not. “Say not: Who shall ascend? for that (speaking thus) is to bring down..., or: Who shall descend? for that (speaking thus) is to bring up”...And, in point of fact, to wish to do a thing oneself (or ask that some one should do it) is evidently equivalent to denying that it is already done. Consequently, to say: Who shall ascend to open heaven for us? is to deny that Christ has already ascended for this end; it is logically to bring Him down again to this earth. It is therefore impossible to follow the almost unanimous leading of commentators, and refer the here imagined descent of Christ to the incarnation; rather it is a giving of the lie to the fact of the ascension (as Glöckler has understood it): “What thou wouldst do, ascend to heaven by thine own obedience, thou canst not; but Christ, by His perfect obedience, has won heaven both for Himself and thee. To ask: How shall I do it? or: Who shall do it? is therefore equivalent to denying that He has ascended. If thou dost really believe in His ascension, as thou professest to do, thou canst not deal thus with it.”

In the second question, Romans 10:7, De Wette and Meyer observe that there is no need of putting two points (:) after the ἤ , or; the quotation continues.

The abyss frequently denotes the abode of the dead and of fallen angels ( Luk 8:31 ). For as the azure of the sky represents perfect salvation, so the depth of the sea is the natural figure for the abode of death and the state of condemnation.

The meaning given by Meyer: τοῦτ᾿ ἔστι , that is to say, is still more inadmissible here than above. In fact it is an impossible supposition, that of a man going down into hell to raise up Christ there. If He is the Christ, He will certainly rise of Himself: if He is not, He will not rise at all. And in whose mouth should we put such a question? In that of a believer? But a believer does not doubt the resurrection. In that of an unbeliever? But an unbeliever would say: Who shall descend? not certainly with the view of going to raise Him up, which has no meaning, but with the view of going to see whether He has risen, or of going to prove that he has not; and besides, such a man would not thus off-hand call Jesus the Christ. It seems to me that it is a mistake to refer the word ἀναγαγεῖν , to bring up, to cause to ascend, as is generally done, to the fact of the resurrection. This expression must of course be understood in a sense analogous to that of the word bring down, Romans 10:6. Now this latter signified: to deny, by wishing to gain heaven oneself, that Christ has ascended thither to open it for us; to replace things as they would be without the ascension. To bring up consequently signifies: to deny, by wishing oneself to undergo condemnation for his sins, that Christ has blotted them out; to replace things as they would be without His expiatory death. Meyer objects that Rom 10:9 expressly speaks of the resurrection; but he resolves this objection himself when he says, in the explanation of Romans 10:9: “Without the resurrection, the death of Jesus would not be the expiatory death.” What is in question here is not the historical fact of His death, but its expiatory value, of which the resurrection is the monument. It is by the resurrection that the death appears not merely as that of Jesus, but as that of the Christ. Meyer again objects, that the death would require to have been placed by Paul before the ascension. But Paul was following the order of the words of Moses, and this order really better suited the didactic meaning which he was introducing into them. First the conquest of heaven by Christ's holy life and perfect obedience; then the abolition of condemnation by His expiatory death.

We may now sum up the general meaning of the passage: All the doing asked of man by the law ( Rom 10:5 ), and which he could never accomplish otherwise than imperfectly, is now accomplished perfectly by the Christ, whether it relate to the conquest of heaven by holiness, or to the abolition of condemnation by expiation. All, therefore, that remains to man in order to be saved, is to believe in this work by applying it to himself; and this is what is commanded us by the righteousness of faith, Romans 10:8, after it has forbidden us, Romans 10:6-7, to pretend ourselves to open heaven or to close hell. This argument showed at a glance, that Christ having charged Himself with the doing, and having left us only the believing, His work put an end to the legal dispensation, which the apostle wished to prove ( Rom 10:4 ).

Verse 8

Vv. 8. “ But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart. Now, that is the word of faith which we preach.

In the passage quoted, Moses said: “Believe on him who is revealed to thee in the law. With Him in the heart and on the lips thou shalt understand it, and thou shalt certainly fulfil it.” This saying was in the ancient economy a relative truth. It becomes in Christ absolute truth. In these words Moses had in a sense, without suspecting it, given the exact formula of the righteousness of faith; and it is because the apostle was conscious of this fundamental identity of feeling between Moses and the gospel on this point, that he could venture, as he does here, to apply the saying of the one to the teaching of the other. There is therefore in this passage neither a simple imitation of the words of Moses, nor a false Rabbinical pretence to interpret it correctly. Paul has done what we do or should do in every sermon: 1st. Disentangle from the temporary application, which is the strict sense of the text, the fundamental and universal principle which it contains; 2d. Apply freely this general principle to the circumstances in which we are ourselves speaking.

Nigh thee signifies (in the mouth of Moses): of possible, and even easy accomplishment. The term is explained by the two expressions: in thy mouth and in thy heart, the former of which means: easy to be learned and repeated; the second: easy to be loved; of course: in communion with Jehovah and by the aid of His Spirit both promised to faithful Israelites. “Such expressions, says Paul, are exactly those which find their full reality when they are applied to the word of faith, which forms the subject of gospel preaching.” If faith is an emotion of the heart, and its profession a word of invocation: Jesus Lord! is it possible to realize this formula of Moses: in thy mouth and in thy heart, better than is done by the word of faith?

Salvation thus appears to us as a perfectly ripe fruit which divine grace places before us, and on which we have only to put the hand of faith. To Christ belongs the doing; to us the believing. This idea of the absolute nearness of the finished salvation is analyzed in Romans 10:9-10 (starting from the expressions of Rom 10:8 ), and justified once more by a scriptural quotation ( Rom 10:11 ), which contains at the same time the transition to the following passage.

Verses 9-10

Vv. 9, 10. “ Seeing 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. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

The two terms: confessing with the mouth and believing with the heart, reproduce the ideas in thy mouth and in thy heart, of Romans 10:8. These are the two conditions of salvation; for while faith suffices to take hold of the finished expiation, when this faith is living, it inevitably produces profession, and from this follows incorporation into the flock already formed, by means of invocation and baptism. Profession is put first here, in keeping with the words of Moses (Romans 10:8: in thy mouth); the order is that which from the external ascends to the internal; it reminds us that profession would be nothing without faith.

The object of the profession is the title Lord given to Christ, as is done in the invocation by which we publicly declare ourselves subjects; comp. 1 Corinthians 12:3 (according to the true reading). Here again we find the idea of Romans 10:6, that of the glorified Christ. The same relation between the sovereignty of Christ and the Christian profession appears in Philippians 2:9-11: “Wherefore God hath supremely exalted Him...that every tongue should confess that He is Lord.” This allusion to Rom 10:6 proves clearly that the reference there was not to the incarnation; for Jesus is called by the title of Lord, as the glorified, and not as the pre-existent Christ.

On the other hand, the special object of faith is Christ risen. The reason is clear: it is in the external fact of the resurrection that faith apprehends its essential object, the moral fact of justification; comp. Romans 4:25.

Paul concludes this long sentence with a brief summary word: σωθήσῃ , thou shalt be saved, as if he would say: After that all is done. Rom 10:10 demonstrates in fact that these conditions once complied with, salvation was sure.

Verse 10

Vv. 10. The idea of salvation is analyzed; it embraces the two facts: being justified and being saved (in the full sense of the word). The former is especially connected with the act of faith, the latter with that of profession. Paul, in expressing himself thus, is not swayed, as De Wette believes, by the love of parallelism. There is in his eyes a real distinction to be made between being justified and being saved. We have already seen again and again, particularly in chap. Romans 5:9-10, that justification is something of the present; for it introduces us from this time forth into reconciliation with God. But salvation includes, besides, sanctification and glory. Hence it is that while the former depends only on faith, the latter implies persevering fidelity in the profession of the faith, even to death and to glory. In this Romans 10:10, Paul returns to the natural and psychological order, according to which faith precedes profession. This is because he is here expounding his thought, without any longer binding himself to the order of the Mosaic quotation. And to put, as it were, a final period to this whole passage, the idea of which is the perfect freeness of salvation, he repeats once more the passage of Isaiah which had served him as a point of departure ( Rom 9:33 ).

Verse 11

Vv. 11. “ For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be confounded.

That is to say, it suffices to believe in Him who has fulfilled all, to be saved exactly as if one had fulfilled all himself. Here again the apostle quotes according to the LXX. (see on Rom 9:33 ). The most miserable of believers will not be deceived in his hope, if only he believes. The apostle here adds the word πᾶς , every one, whosoever, which was not authentic ( Rom 9:33 ), but which is not wanting in any document in our verse. He might, indeed, deduce it with reason from the idea of the verse taken as a whole. Yet he does not add it by accident; for with the idea of the freeness of salvation he proceeds to connect that of its universality. This was the second point to which the ignorance of the Jews extended, and one of the two causes which rendered their rejection necessary for the execution of God's plan. Imagining that salvation was bound up with the fulfilment of the ordinances of the law, they monopolized it to their advantage, consenting to share it only with those of the Gentiles who would accept circumcision and the Mosaic dispensation, and thereby become members of the people of Israel. Through this conception, they came into conflict with the mind of God, which had in view the preaching of a free salvation to the whole world, and consequently the abolition of the legal system. This divine universalism, with its consequence, the free preaching of the gospel to all men, is the subject of the following passage. By introducing the word πᾶς , every one, whosoever ( Rom 10:11 ), into the saying of Isaiah, the apostle announces this new idea which he proceeds to develop.

Verses 12-13

Vv. 12, 13. “ For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for there is one and, the same Lord for all, rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Salvation being free, there is no longer any restriction to its application: it is necessarily universal. It is this logical consequence which the apostle expounds ( Rom 10:12 ), and which he confirms ( Rom 10:13 ) by a new Scripture passage.

What formed the separation between the two fractions of mankind, the Jews and the Greeks, was the law (Ephesians 2:14, the μεσότοιχον , the partition wall). This wall once broken down (as has just been proved) by the work of the Messiah, mankind no longer forms more than a single social body, and has throughout the same Lord, and a Lord rich enough to communicate the blessings of salvation to this whole multitude on one single condition: the invocation of faith. Israel had never imagined anything like this; and yet it was so clearly announced, as is proved by Romans 10:13.

In the second proposition of Romans 10:12, the subject might be the pronoun ὁ αὐτός , the same: “the same (being) is Lord of all.” It seems to me, however, more natural to join the word κύριος , Lord, to the subject, and then to understand it as the predicate: “The same Lord is (Lord) of all.” See the same construction Romans 2:29. In any case, there is no reason for making the participle πλουτῶν , who is rich, the principal verb in this sense: “The same Lord is rich for all;” for the essential idea is not that of the Lord's riches, but that of His universal and identical sovereignty over all men. To us this idea is commonplace; it was not so at the beginning. It strikes St. Peter like a sudden flash the first time he gets a glimpse of it ( Act 10:34-36 ).

The condition of invocation recalls the idea developed above of profession (the ὁμολογια ) in Romans 10:9-10. The true profession of faith is, in fact, this cry of adoration: Lord Jesus! And this cry may be equally uttered by every human heart, Jewish or Gentile, without the need of any law. Behold how the universalism founded on faith henceforth excludes the dominion of law.

The idea: rich unto all, establishes the full equality of believers in their participation of the blessings of salvation. The common Lord will give not less abundantly to one than to another; comp. John 1:16: “and of his fulness have all we received.”

Verses 12-21

Vv. 12-21.

Paul has justified the matter of his preaching, salvation by grace; he now justifies its extension. Not that, as Baur, Holsten, etc., think, he wishes thereby to remove the scruples of the Judeo-Christian conscience against his apostleship among the Gentiles; but as the context says clearly enough to indicate the second point in regard to which the Jews have showed themselves ignorant ( Rom 10:4 ) as to the plan of God, and because of which they have brought on themselves the rejection with which they are overtaken. When man would put himself against the plan of God, God does not stop; He sets aside the obstacle. Such is the connection of ideas which leads to the following passage.

Verse 13

Vv. 13. Joel ( Joe 2:32 ) had already announced this new fact: that salvation would depend only on the believing invocation of the name of Jehovah in His final Messianic manifestation. Legal rights had vanished from before his eyes; there remained the adoration of Jehovah in His supreme revelation. Paul applies with full right this prophetic word to the coming of Jesus. Now, if the invocation of the name of Jehovah, revealed in the person of the Messiah Jesus, is to be the means of salvation for all, what follows therefrom? The need of a universal preaching of the name which must be invoked by all.

Verses 14-15

Vv. 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 publish peace, who announce good things!

No invocation without faith; no faith without hearing; no hearing without preaching; no preaching without sending. A universal apostolate is therefore the necessary corollary of a free and universal salvation. Such are the contents of our two verses, which are directed, not against Judeo-Christian prejudices, but against the ignorance of Israel, the final result of which was necessarily their rejection. Paul points out to the Jews, who took offence at the wide and universal character of his apostleship, the internal necessity on which it was based, and the positive prophetical texts which justified it. We are therefore still at the development of this theme: The ignorance of Israel the cause of their rejection.

And first, no invocation without faith. It is difficult to decide between the T. R. ἐπικαλέσονται , shall they call on, and the Alex. and Greco-Latin texts: ἐπικαλέσωνται , shall they be able to call on. This same variant reappears in the following verbs, and that without the critical authorities being consequent with themselves. The simple future is more natural, though the subjunctive may easily be defended.

No faith without the hearing of the gospel message. The pronoun οὖ , whom, presents a difficulty; for the meaning is: “Him whom they have not heard.” Now, men cannot hear Jesus Christ. Meyer answers, that they can hear Him by the mouth of His messengers: “whom they have not heard preaching by His apostles.” But could this idea be left to be wholly understood? Hofmann gives to οὖ a local meaning: in the place where: “How could He be invoked in the place where men have not heard (Him spoken of)?” But the ellipsis of the last words would be very marked. It seems to me simpler to apply the pronoun οὖ to Jesus, not as preaching (Meyer), but as preached; comp. Ephesians 4:21: “If at least ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him.” It is true the pronoun which is the object of have heard, in this passage, is in the accusative ( αὐτόν ), and not, as here, in the genitive. But this difference is easily explained; the act referred to in Ephesians is one of the understanding which penetrates the object, while here it is only a simple hearing, the condition of faith.

Verse 15

Vv. 15. No preaching without sending. Paul is not thinking here of some human association sending out missionaries. The term ἀποσταλῶσιν , be sent, evidently alludes to the apostleship properly so called, the normal mission established by the Lord Himself by the sending of the apostles. This mission included in principle all subsequent missions. At this thought of a universal apostleship the feeling of the apostle rises; he sees them, those messengers of Jesus, traversing the world, and, to the joy of the nations who hear them, sowing everywhere the good news. The passage quoted is taken from Isaiah 52:7. A similar saying is found in Nahum ( Rom 1:15 ), but in a briefer form: “Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that publisheth peace.” In this prophet the saying applies to the messenger who comes to announce to Jerusalem the fall of Nineveh. In Isaiah, it is more in keeping with the text of Paul, and refers more directly to the preaching of salvation throughout the whole world. This message of grace is to be the consequence of the return from the captivity. The point of time referred to is when, as Isaiah says, Isaiah 40:5, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The words: “of them that publish peace,” are wrongly omitted by the Alex. MSS. The copyist has confounded the two εὐαγγελιζομένων , and thus omitted the intermediate words. It cannot be supposed that it is the T. R. and its documents which have added these words; for they would have been copied more exactly from the text of the LXX. (comp. the substitution of the εἰρήνην for the ἀκοὴν εἰρήνης ). Besides, this is one of the passages in which Paul designedly abandons the translation of the LXX. to conform his quotation to the Hebrew text, the first words of which were utterly misrendered by the Greek version: ώς ὥρα ἐπὶ τῶν ὀρέων , as fair weather on the mountains...The apostle at the same time allows himself some modifications even of Isaiah's text. He rejects the words: on the mountains, which did not apply to the preaching of the gospel; and for the singular: him that publisheth, he substitutes the plural, which better suits the Christian apostleship.

We must naturally contrast the terms peace and good things (in our [French] translations: good news) with the establishment of the legal dispensation throughout the whole world; comp. Eph. 2:27, the thought and even expressions of which are so similar to those of our passage. If, with three Mjj., we read the article τά before ἀγαθά ( the good things, instead of good things), Paul makes express allusion to those well-known foretold blessings which were to constitute the Messianic kingdom.

Such was to be the end of the old covenant: not the extension of the law to all nations, but a joyful and universal proclamation of peace and of heavenly grace on the part of a Saviour rich unto all. And if Israel had known the part assigned them, instead of making themselves the adversaries of this glorious dispensation, they would have become its voluntary instruments, and transformed themselves into that army of apostles who are charged with publishing the mercies of God. This divine plan was frustrated through their ignorance, both of the real nature of salvation and of its universal destination. Such is the force of the following verses.

Verses 16-17

Vv. 16, 17. “ But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our message (prédication)? So then faith cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The word ἀλλά , but, contrasts strongly what has been produced (by the fact of Jewish unbelief) with with what should have been the result, faith and the salvation of Israel first of all. Πάντες , all, denotes the totality of those who hear the word; and the exception indicated by the οὐ πάντες , not all, applies in the context to the mass of the Jewish people who have formed an exception to the general faith which the gospel was finding in the world. The term: have not obeyed, reminds us of that in Romans 10:3: have not submitted themselves. There is disobedience in not accepting what God offers. The term gospel ( evangel) reproduces the word evangelizing (publishing good tidings), Romans 10:15.

But that was to be expected ( for). This disobedience was in fact foreseen and proclaimed, Isaiah 53:1, without, however, the guilt of Israel being thereby diminished, divine foreknowledge not annulling human liberty.

Isaiah in this passage proclaims the unbelief of the people of Israel in regard to the Messiah, giving a description of His entire appearance in His state of humiliation and pain. He well knew that such a Messiah would not answer to the ambitious views of the people, and would be rejected by them. The subject of the unbelief thus proclaimed is not his prophecy only, but above all the fact in which it is to be realized.

The word ἀκοή , which we translated by our message signifies: our hearing, and may denote either: what we (prophets) hear from the mouth of God, and proclaim to you, Jews; or: what you (Jews) hear from us (by our mouth). The second meaning is certainly more natural, and agrees better with the meaning of the same word in Romans 10:17.

In quoting this saying, the apostle has in mind not only the unbelief of the Jewish people in Palestine in regard to the preaching of the apostles, but also that of the synagogues of the whole world in relation to his own.

Verse 17

Vv. 17. There was no logical necessity obliging the apostle to return to the two ideas contained in this verse, and already expressed in Romans 10:14. But he takes them up again in passing, as confirmed by the words of Isaiah just quoted, and to give occasion more clearly to the objection about to follow in Romans 10:18. ῎Αρα : so then (precisely as I was saying).

The meaning of ἀκοή , hearing, is not modified in passing from Rom 10:16 to Romans 10:17. It is still the hearing of what is preached as from God; only Paul here distinguishes between the two ideas of hearing and preaching ( the word of God), which were blended in the first of these two terms, Romans 10:16, in the passage of Isaiah (in consequence of the complement ἡμῶν , of us [ our ], prophets and apostles). It is unnecessary, therefore, to apply the expression word of God, as Meyer would, to the command by which God sends the preachers. This meaning has not the slightest support in the words of Isaiah, and it is contrary to the use of the term ῥῆμα , word, in Romans 10:8-9, where it denotes the work of salvation as preached. It must be the same here. ᾿Εκ , of: faith is born of hearing; διά , by: hearing is wrought by the word preached.

The complement of God in the T. R. denotes the author of the word, while the complement of Christ in the Alex. and Greco-Lat. reading would express its subject. The first reading agrees better with the context.

The question is therefore relatively to the unbelief of the Jews: Has this double condition been fulfilled toward them? If not, here would be a circumstance fitted to exculpate them, and to throw back on God the blame of their unbelief and rejection. The apostle does not fail, before closing, to raise this question.

Verse 18

Vv. 18. “ But I say, Have they not heard? Yea, much more, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

It is not God who has failed in His part. No; they who have not believed (the majority of Israel) cannot excuse themselves by saying that the mission, which is an essential condition of faith, was not carried out in their case. As (according to Psa 19:1 et seq.) the heavens and their hosts proclaim God's existence and perfections to the whole universe, and, mute as they are, make their voice re-echo in the hearts of all men; so, says St. Paul, with a sort of enthusiasm at the memory of his own ministry, the voice of the preachers of the gospel has sounded in all countries and in all the cities of the known world. There is not a synagogue which has not been filled with it; not a Jew in the world who can justly plead ignorance on the subject. Μὴ οὐκ ἤκουσαν : “It is not, however, the case that they have not heard, is it? Evidently the apostle is speaking of those who have not believed, consequently of the Jews. How can Origen and Calvin think here of the Gentiles? It is the case of the Jews which is being pleaded. The pronoun αὐτῶν , their (voice), refers not to the subject of the previous sentence, but to that of the sentence of the Psalm quoted by Paul: the heavens.

No one certainly will think that Paul meant here to give the explanation of this passage; it is an application of the Psalmist's words, which is still freer than that made of the passage from Deut. in Romans 10:6-8.

The apostle has just advanced, and then refuted, a first excuse which might be alleged in favor of the Jews; he proposes a second, the insufficiency of which he will also demonstrate.

Verse 19

Vv. 19. “ But I say, Did not Israel know?First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by a people who are not a people, by a foolish nation I will anger you.Μὴ οὐκ : “It is not the case, however, is it, that Israel did not know?” Know what, then? Crities answer the question differently. Some, from Chrysostom to Philippi and Hofmann, say: The gospel. But what difference in that case would there be between this excuse and the former? Philippi seeks to evade this difficulty by explaining the verb ἐγνω not in the sense of know, but in the sense of understand: “Is it credible that Israel did not understand what the Gentiles apprehended at once (the gospel)?” But in that case the answer would be: “Yes, certainly it is credible, for it is the fact.” Now the form of the question (with μή ) admits only of a negative answer. The object of the verb did know ought naturally to be taken from what precedes; it is therefore the essential idea of this whole passage, the universality of the preaching of the gospel. Paul asks: It is not, however, the case, is it, that Israel did not know what was coming? that they were taken by surprise by this sending of the message of grace to the Gentiles throughout the whole world, as by an unexpected dispensation? If it were so, this might form an excuse for them. But no; Moses even ( Rom 10:19 ), and again more distinctly Isaiah ( Rom 10:20-21 ), had warned them of what would happen, so that they cannot excuse themselves by saying that they are the victims of a surprise. The sequence and progress of the argument are thus vindicated in a way which is perfectly natural and well marked. It is not even necessary to introduce here, with Ewald and several others, the more special idea of the transference of the kingdom of God from the Jews to the Gentiles.

Moses is called first relatively to Isaiah (following verse), simply because he preceded him. Hofmann has attempted to connect this epithet with Israel: “Did Israel not hear the gospel first, as was their right?” But the answer would require to be affirmative; and this is excluded by the μή . It is clear that what Paul is concerned to bring out by this word first is not the simple fact of the priority of Moses in time to Isaiah, but the circumstance that from the very opening of the sacred volume the mind of God on the point in question was declared to Israel.

The words quoted are found in Deuteronomy 32:21: “As Israel have provoked the Lord to jealousy by worshipping that which is not God, so the Lord in His turn will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not His people.” It is inconceivable how commentators like Meyer can apply these last words to the remains of the Canaanites whom the Israelites had allowed to remain among them, and whom God proposed to bless to such a degree as to render the Israelites jealous of their well-being. Such are the exegetical monstrosities to which a preconceived system of prophetical interpretation may lead. Moses certainly announces to the Jews in these words, as Paul recognizes, that the Gentiles will precede them in the possession of salvation, and that this will be the humiliating means whereby Israel themselves shall require at length to be brought back to their God.

The former of the two verbs ( παραζηλοῦν ) means that God will employ the stimulant of jealousy; and the latter ( παροργίζειν ), that this jealousy will be carried even to anger; but all in view of a favorable result, the conversion of Israel. The words: by those who are not a people, have been understood in the sense: that the Gentiles are not strictly peoples, but mere assemblages of men. This idea is forced, and foreign to the context. We must explain: those who are not a people, in the sense: those who are not a people, par excellence, my people.

What Moses had only announced darkly in these words, Isaiah proclaimed with open mouth. He declares unambiguously: God will one day manifest Himself to the Gentiles by a proclamation of grace, while the Jews will obstinately reject all the blessings which shall be offered to them.

Verses 20-21

Vv. 20, 21. “ 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. But to Israel he saith, All the day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. ” ᾿Αποτολμᾷ : “he declares without mincing matters.” The passage quoted is Isaiah 65:1. Most modern crities apply this saying of Isaiah to the Jews who did not seek the Lord, while Paul applies it to the Gentiles. Hofmann, while starting from the prevailing explanation, seeks to justify Paul's quotation; but without success. Meyer acknowledges the difference between the two interpretations, Paul's and that of modern exegesis. But, he says, Paul saw in unbelieving Israel a type of the Gentile world. This solution is impossible; for, as we shall see, Isaiah distinctly contrasts those of whom he is speaking in Rom 10:1 with unbelieving Israel, Romans 10:2. We think that the simple and unbiassed study of the passage from Isaiah leads irresistibly to the conclusion that the prophet really meant to speak in Rom 10:1 of the Gentiles reaching salvation notwithstanding their ignorance, and to contrast them with the Jews in their obstinate rebellion against God, who had long revealed Himself to them, Romans 10:2. In fact 1. The term goï expressly distinguishes as Gentiles those to whom Rom 10:1 refers, as the term am ( the people), in Romans 10:2, positively describes Israel. 2. This contrast is the more certain that the prophet adds to the term goï, the nation, the commentary: “(the nation) which was not called by my name.” Could he thus designate Israel? 3. Is it possible to mistake the contrast established by the prophet between those who, not inquiring after the Lord, whom they do not yet know, find Him because He consents to manifest Himself to them spontancously ( Rom 10:1 ), and the people, properly so called, whom for ages He has not ceased to call to Him, who know Him as their God, but who obstinately reject His mercies ( Rom 10:2 )? Let us add, 4, that the two ideas of the future unbelief of the Jews in relation to the Messiah, and of the calling of the Gentiles to fill for the time their place in the kingdom of God, are very distinctly expressed elsewhere in Isaiah; so Isaiah 52:13-15: the kings and peoples of the Gentiles, who had not heard any prophecy, believe in the suffering and exalted Messiah, while the Jews reject Him, though to them He had been clearly foretold ( Isa 53:1 ); so again Isaiah 49:4: the failure of the Messiah's work in Israel, forming a contrast to the rich indemnification which is bestowed on Him through the conversion of the Gentiles ( Rom 10:6 ). It is clear that the alleged advances in the interpretation of the prophets may, after all, on certain points, be only retrogressions.

The thought of Rom 10:20-21 is analogous to that of 10:30 and 10:31. The unsophisticated ignorance and corruption of the Gentiles are an easier obstacle for the light of God to dissipate than the proud obduracy of the Jews, who have for long been visited by divine grace. The words: I was made manifest, are intended by the apostle to refer to that universal preaching which is the idea of the whole passage.

Verse 21

Vv. 21. What leads up to this verse is the lively feeling of the contrast between the conduct of Israel and that of the Gentiles. It sums up the idea of the whole chapter: the obstinate resistance of Israel to the ways of God. The Lord is represented, Isaiah 65:2, under the figure of a father who, from morning to evening, stretches out his arms to his child, and experiences from him only refusal and contradiction. It is thus made clear that the apostle in no wise puts the rejection of Israel to the account of an unconditional divine decree, but that he ascribes the cause of it to Israel themselves.

The preposition πρός might signify: in relation to, as in Luke 19:9; Luke 20:19. But yet the natural meaning is to; and this meaning is quite suitable: “He saith to Israel.” For if in the prophetical discourse God spoke of Israel in the third person, in the book written for the people it is to them that he addresses this saying; comp. Romans 3:19.

All the day long: do not these words designate the whole theocratic epoch, which, in the eyes of the Lord, is like a long day of labor in behalf of His people? But what a response have they made to such fidelity! The words καὶ ἀντιλέγοντα , and gainsaying, were added to the Hebrew text by the LXX. They characterize the hair-splittings and sophisms whereby the Israelites seek to justify their persevering refusal to return to God; comp. in the Book of Malachi the refrain: “And ye say”...!

Thus Israel, blinded by the privileges bestowed on them, sought only one thing: to preserve their monopoly, and for this end to perpetuate their law ( Rom 10:4 ). They have hardened themselves, consequently against the two essential features which constituted the Messianic dispensation, a free salvation ( Rom 10:5-11 ) and a salvation offered to all by universal preaching ( Rom 10:12-17 ). And to extenuate this sin, they are wholly without excuse. The messengers of salvation have followed them to the very ends of the earth to offer them grace as well as the Gentiles; neither had God failed to warn them beforehand, from the very beginning of their history, of the danger they ran of seeing themselves outstripped by the Gentiles ( Rom 10:18-20 ). All to no purpose. They have held on in their resistance...( Rom 10:21 ). After this, is not the case fully ripe for trial? Do not the facts attest that it is not God who has arbitrarily excluded them, but themselves who have placed God under the necessity of pronouncing their rejection?

Yet there is a mercy which, where the sin of man abounds, yet more abounds. It has a last word to speak in this history. Its work toward the rebellious people seems closed; but it is far from being so. And chap. 11 proceeds to show us how God, in the overflowing of His grace, reserves to Himself the right to make this severe and painful dispensation issue in the most glorious result.

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 10". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/romans-10.html.