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Tuesday, July 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Romans 10

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

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Verses 1-21

Contrast Between Israel's Law and Their Need of Grace

In Romans 9:1-33 we have seen God's sovereign title maintained in having an elect people according to grace. Now inRomans 10:1-21; Romans 10:1-21 the contrast between law and grace is dwelt upon - law with its cold, formal demands, grace with its warm yearning for the blessing of man, exemplified in Paul's desire for his brethren according to flesh, and in the beautiful feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things - a message law could never send, let alone bring.

Nothing less than salvation is the heart's desire and prayer of Paul for Israel. Can he be accused of despising his nation? Or can God - who put such longings in the apostle's heart - be blamed for Israel's neglecting such salvation? Is God's desire not just as deep and real as was Paul's for Israel's salvation? - yea, and for that of "all men"? 1 Timothy 2:4 bears its clear witness. The fault is utterly in man's pride, certainly not in God's goodness.

Yet Israel's zeal for God was unquestionable, as Paul bears record. Did he not know it well in his unconverted days? Persecuting Christians, he thought he was doing God service. How many ways seem right to men, though the end is the way of death! Zeal in such a case is only to be the more pitied. Zeal for God is of greatest danger, when not stemming from the knowledge of God.

For their occupation with their own righteousness only declares their utter ignorance of God's righteousness, and this is ignorance of God personally. After years of shameful failure, they are still determined to establish their own righteousness - a sight that becomes more tragically ludicrous as history unfolds itself. All they need is submission to the righteousness of God, for it is the only righteousness possible of being established.

Verse 4 is then a strong declaration that the coming of Christ marked a decided change in the dispensational ways of God. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Can language be more plain? Jews at least knew that if they received Christ they were giving up their confidence in attaining righteousness by works of law - a lesson which many professed Christians have not themselves learned, be it sadly observed. The matter then was a choice between law and Christ. It was one or the other, with no mixture of the two. The righteousness which the law demanded is perfectly seen in Christ, but in none other. The law only demanded righteousness: Christ brought righteousness. How proper then that He should be "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."

Men may have their different conceptions of what righteousness by the law is, but the question is simply settled by the lawgiver himself. Moses bore testimony when giving the law, "That the man which doeth those things shall live by them." It is doing absolutely all that the law requires, in which his living on earth is assured: if not "doing" those things then he has no promise from the law at all - indeed on the contrary he falls under its unrelenting curse. If man does not realize his inability to keep the law fully, yet he must surely admit that he has not done it - and when this is so, it is utter vanity to hope for blessing by means of law - or to hope to transform unrighteousness into righteousness. The law then brings condemnation not righteousness to all men, for none has kept it.

But there is a "righteousness which is of faith," contrasted in every way to law - faith which is not stumbled or hindered by hard questions, but surmounts them all by looking at the perfectly accomplished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In verses 6 to 8 we have thus a most illuminating comment onDeuteronomy 30:11-14; Deuteronomy 30:11-14. For in Deuteronomy Moses is plainly speaking of the law he had given them, and makes no mention of gospel either to add to law or to supersede it. But if we consider verse 14 - "But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it," we cannot but see that a great deal more is implied in the passage than is stated. For law in itself had no power to implant itself in the heart. If some individuals did love the law of God and thirst after His commandments, this was not the result of the law (else all under law would be such), but the proof of a superior work of God. It is this greater work that is implied, and only explained in Romans 10:6-8 - a work which in fact so transcends law as to be a contrast to it.

Faith now speaks thus: "Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above)." Skepticism will object that there is no hope of establishing direct communication between heaven and earth: and it is plain that if the project was left in man's hands, it is hopeless that he should ever know God. But faith knows that the Son of God has come - grace having moved His heart to bring Him, though far more than man's desires could ever have conceived. For who would have imagined that the Creator Himself would be manifested in flesh? First of all then, faith stands upon the fact that Christ has come down from above.

However, unbelief again objects that Christ has died, and what use is spiritual testimony from One who has shared the fate of mankind, and lies silent in the grave? This is the thought in verse 7 - "Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead)." Thus we hear the bold plea of infidelity that no one has ever come back from the dead to tell us of what is beyond. But it is false. Faith knows that Christ is risen from the dead, and not by means of man's ability to bring Him back. It has been God's work, accomplished fully once and for all.

So that verse 8, in quoting from Deuteronomy - "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart" - explains it as "the word of faith, which we preach." Nor is it credulity, or blind faith as people speak, but faith founded upon clearly established facts. It is therefore not a matter of a work to be done, but a word to believe concerning a completed work.

Who then can mistake the blessed simplicity of verse 9? It is a clear statement of "the word faith" - "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." It is the mouth and the heart that have the important place here - not the hands and the feet. The mouth is the index of the heart, and there will be no personal confession of Jesus as Lord unless there is belief in the heart. There may be something that appears like such a confession, but there is no simple, forth-right confession of Him as personal Lord, without faith. But the two go together. If I believe, I therefore speak.

But faith is in a God of resurrection, who has raised His Son from the dead. Faith therefore rests upon a perfectly finished work of redemption, to which nothing can be added and from which nothing can be taken away. It is a work fully divine, done that men might fear before God, and believe.

Thus the soul's salvation is based, not upon man's doings, such as obedience to the law, nor even upon God's unconditional promise, such as Abraham was given, but upon fully established facts: the Son of God has come: He has died, and risen again. This is sound, settled truth, appropriated and clearly understood by honest faith. What more can be desired to prove the perfect settlement of the sin question? What more sure and perfect ground for the eternal salvation of every soul who trusts Him?

"For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Inwardly there is faith counted for righteousness: outwardly the confession of Christ, which is salvation indeed from a world-system that opposes Him - a system with which we were all once identified. The confession of Christ is the clear breaking from that "untoward generation." This is consistent with Old Testament prophecy: none who believed Him would be ashamed: confession would accompany faith.

Now this grace is plainly not limited to a certain class, as the Old Testament bears clear witness. The "whosoever" of verse 11 leads to the fresh declaration that in this matter there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles. If so in reference to their guilt (Romans 3:22-23), it is so also as regards salvation: "the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him." Another Old Testament quotation (from Joel 2:32) seals this unmistakably - "Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved."

Now if this gospel is thus for both Jews and Gentiles - that is "whosoever" - then why should the Jews so strenuously oppose Paul or others in the publishing of it throughout the world?The verse quoted from Joel can surely only be made good to those who believe. "And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" Does this not justify the fact of preaching? Moreover, what man can truly preach Christ unless he is sent by Christ?This is another serious consideration for those who would hush the glorious message of God. Isaiah himself had written long before of such messengers, and with glowing fervor - "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"

But no matter how complete the publishing, this does not guarantee that all men will receive the blessed news, so that the rejection of multitudes of Gentiles does not in the least prove the message valueless. For even of Israel Scripture had foretold the same general unbelief of this glad tidings - "Lord, who hath believed our report?" The messengers are given no such hope that the world itself will believe their report; but that is no discouragement: the report is true and full of blessedness, and the gospel works by what it brings, not by the conditions it finds.

The report awakens faith in those who will hear it, and however small the number, the publishing is more than worth the while. For, let us remember, the report comes by the Word of God; and this Word will triumph gloriously over all that may oppose or refuse it today.

But the law provided no such report - no such call to the world; hence, though their own Scriptures bore witness of such a call, the Jews who made their boast in the law, would only vigorously oppose the call of the gospel. So that verses 18-21 give the striking proof that in doing so they are flying in the face of their own Scriptures, while at the same time fulfilling them.

Verse 18 is quoted fromPsalms 19:4; Psalms 19:4, which doubtless speaks primarily of the witness of the created heavens to the glory of God. But Paul applies a symbolic meaning which is really so clear that Israelites should have discerned it. For the testimony of the heavens was such that only unbelief could claim that earth was everything; but Israel's boast in her earthly inheritance mounted so high as to shut Gentiles out altogether. Yet their own Scriptures declared what their eyes saw every day - that a heavenly testimony went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. This heavenly message is but a symbol of the blessed world-wide gospel message sent from the Son of Man in the heavens. It is not God speaking on earth, but from heaven (Hebrews 12:25), and hence it is a voice addressed to all men everywhere - Jews and Gentiles.

Had they not heard? Did not Israel know? It seems incredible in view of Scripture testimony. First Moses saith "I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation will I anger you." The Gentiles' folly of idol worship, Israel in the days of Roman bondage, scorned; but God had said He would use such a people for the rebuke of Israel - favor them to provoke Israel to jealousy. So Gentiles turned to God from idols, but Israel clung to her desolate state - bitter to think of Gentiles finding blessing from God independently of her authority.

Was Paul then more bold than Isaiah, who had long before prophesied "I was found of them that sought Me not: I was made manifest unto them that asked not after Me"? To criticize the gospel preacher is to criticize the witness of the Old Testament as well as the New.

But this bold gospel prophet had also given God's words of stirring pathos to that wayward nation Israel, "All day long I have stretched out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." So the nation is only repeating its sad history and fulfilling its own Scriptures by this rejection of the gospel. What more melancholy comment can we have on the vanity of man's self-will?

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Romans 10". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/romans-10.html. 1897-1910.
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