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Bible Commentaries

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected Books

Romans 10

Verse 1

Brethren [Seven times in this Epistle Paul thus addresses the brethren at Rome generally (Romans 1:13; Romans 8:12; Romans 11:25; Romans 12:1; Romans 15:14; Romans 15:30; Romans 16:17). Twice he thus addresses the Christian Jews (Romans 7:1; Romans 7:4), and this "brethren" is evidently a third time they are especially spoken to. So thought Chrysostom, Bengel, Pool, Alford, Barnes, Hodge, etc. "Dropping now," says Bengel, "the severity of the preceding discussion, he kindly styles them brethren"], my heart’s desire [literally, "my heart’s eudokia, or good pleasure, or good will" (Luke 2:14; Ephesians 1:5-9; Philippians 1:15; Philippians 2:13). At Matthew 11:26; and Luke 10:21; it is translated "well pleasing"; at 2 Thessalonians 1:11; the literal "fulfil every good pleasure of goodness" is translated, "fulfil every desire of goodness." Eudokia does not mean desire, but we have no English word which better translates Paul’s use of it. Stuart conveys the idea fairly in a paraphrase "the benevolent and kind desire"] and my supplication to God is for them [the Israelites], that they may be saved. [Those who tell our faults and foretell their punishment usually appear to us to be our enemies. Paul described the sin and rejection of Israel so clearly that many of them would be apt to think that he prayed for their punishment. This did him gross wrong. Every time the Evangelist denounces sin from love toward the sinner. (Comp. Galatians 4:16) As to the apostle’s prayer, it showed that his conception of foreordination was not Calvinistic. It would be of no avail to pray against God’s irrevocable decree; but it was very well worth while to pray against Jewish stubbornness in unbelief, trusting to the measureless resources of God to find a remedy. So the remark of Bengel is pertinent, "Paul would not have prayed, had they been utterly reprobates." Paul’s prayer being in the Spirit (Romans 9:1) was a pledge that no fixed decree prevented God from forgiving, if Israel would only repent and seek forgiveness.]

Verse 2

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. ["For" introduces Paul’s reason for having hope in his prayer. Had Israel been sodden in sin, or stupefied in indifference, he would have had less heart to pray. But they were ardently religious, though ignorantly so, for, had they possessed a true knowledge of their law, it would have led them to Christ, and had they understood their prophets, they would have recognized that Jesus was the Christ (Galatians 3:24; Luke 24:25-27; Revelation 19:10). But the chief ignorance of which Paul complained was their failure to see that there is no other way to justification and salvation save by faith in Christ Jesus. As to their zeal, which in the centuries wore out the vital energy of the Greek, and amazed the stolidity of the Roman, till in the siege of Jerusalem it dashed itself to atoms against the impregnable iron of the legionaries, no tongue nor pen can describe it. Of this zeal, Paul was a fitting witness, for before conversion he shared it as a persecutor, and after conversion he endured it as a martyr (Philippians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 11:24; Acts 21:20-31; Acts 22:4). But misguided zeal miscarries like a misdirected letter, and the value of the contents does not mend the address. "It is better," says Augustine, "to go limping in the right way, than to run with all our might out of the way." Their lack of knowledge, being due to their own stubborn refusal to either hear or see, was inexcusable.]

Verse 3

For being ignorant of God’s righteousness [Here Paul shows wherein they lacked knowledge. "For they," says Scott, "not knowing the perfect justice of the divine character, law and government; and the nature of that righteousness which God has provided for the justification of sinners consistently with his own glory"-- Romans 3:26], and seeking to establish their own [Refusing to "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27), they clothed themselves with a garment of their own spinning, which they, like all other worms, spun from their own filthy inwards. Or, to suit the figure more nearly to the language of the apostle, refusing to accept Christ as the Rock for life-building, they reared their crumbling structure on their own sandy, unstable nature, and as fast as the wind, rain and flood of temptation undermined their work, they set about rebuilding and re-establishing it, oblivious of the results of that supreme, unavertable, ever-impending storm, the last judgment -- Matthew 7:24-27], they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. ["Subject" is the keyword here. The best comment on this passage is found at John 8:31-36 . Those who admit themselves bondservants of sin find it no hardship to enter the free service of Christ, but those whose pride and self-sufficiency and self-righteousness make them self-worshipers, can bring themselves to submit to no one. By use of the phrase "righteousness of God," Paul indicts them of rebellion against the Father and his plan of salvation, rather than of rebellion against the person of the Christ, who is the sum and substance of the Father’s plan--the concrete righteousness whereby we are saved.]

Verse 4

For [With this word the apostle gives further evidence of the ignorance of the Jews. He has shown that they did not know that they could not merit eternal life by good works; he now proceeds to show that they did not know that the law itself, which was the sole basis on which they rested their hopes of justification by the merit of works, was now a nonentity, a thing of the past; having been fulfilled, abolished and brought to an absolute and unqualified end by Christ. The Jews, therefore, are proven ignorant, for] Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth. [The apostle places the enlightenment of believers in contrast with the lack of knowledge of the Jews. All believers understand (not only that Christ is the end or aim or purpose for which the law was given, and that he also ended or fulfilled it, but) that Christ, by providing the gospel, put an end to the law--killed it. The apostle does not mean that the law only dies to a man when he believes in Christ, else it would still live, as to unbelieving Jews: "to every one that believeth," therefore, expresses a contrast in enlightenment, and not in state or condition. The new covenant or testament, which is the gospel, made the first testament old (Hebrews 8:13). That is to say, the new or last will revokes and makes null and void all former wills, and no one can make good his claim to an inheritance by pleading ignorance of the New Will, for the Old Will is abrogated whether he chooses to know it or not. As the word "end" has many meanings, such as aim, object, purpose, fulfillment, etc., expositors construe Paul’s words many ways, but the literal meaning, an end--i. e., a termination--best suits the context. "Of two contrary things," says Godet, "when one appears, the other must take and end." "Christ is the end of the law, as ’death,’ saith Demosthenes, ’is the end of life’" (Gifford). The Lord does not operate two antagonistic dispensations and covenants at one time. To make evident the fact that the gospel terminates the law, the apostle now shows the inherent antagonism between the two; one of them promising life to those obedient to law, the other promising salvation to the one being obedient to or openly confessing his faith. And so there is an antagonism between the gospel and the law.]

Verse 5

For Moses [the lawgiver] writeth that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby. [Leviticus 18:5 . (Comp. Nehemiah 9:29; Ezekiel 20:11; Ezekiel 20:13; Ezekiel 20:21; Luke 16:27-29; Galatians 3:12) The context indicates that the life promised is merely the possession of the land of Canaan (Leviticus 18:26-29); but Tholuck observes that "among the later Jews, we find the notion widely diffused that the blessings promised likewise involve those of eternal life. Orkelos translates: ’Whosoever keeps these commandments, shall thereby live in the life eternal.’ And in the Targums of the Pseudo-Jonathan, Moses’ words are rendered: ’Whosoever fulfils the commandments shall thereby live in the life eternal, and his portion shall be with the righteous.’" Paul evidently construes it as being a promise of eternal life. (Comp. Luke 18:18-20) But no man could keep the law. Was, then, the promise of God ironical? By no means. The law taught humble men the need of grace and a gospel, and for all such God had foreordained a gospel and an atoning Christ. But to the proud, the self-righteous, the Pharisaical who would merit heaven rejecting grace and the gospel, the promise was ironical, for "doeth . . . live," implies that whoso fails, dies (Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10; James 2:10). There was, then, righteousness by the law, and such as bad it were ripe for the gospel which it foreshadowed, especially in its continual sacrificial deaths for sin; but there was no self-righteousness by the law, and those who strove for it invariably rejected Christ. Those seeking life by law supplemented by grace found in Jesus that fullness of grace which redeemed from law, but those seeking life by law without grace, failed and were hardened-- Romans 11:5-7]

Verse 6

But [marking the irreconcilable contrast and antagonism between the new gospel and the old law] the righteousness which is of faith saith thus [we would here expect Christ to speak, as the antithesis of Moses in Romans 10:5 . But if Jesus had been made spokesman, Paul would have been limited to a quotation of the exact words of the Master. It, therefore, suited his purpose better to personify Righteousness-which-is-of-faith, or the gospel, and let it speak for itself. Compare his personifications of Faith and Law at Galatians 3:23-25). By doing this, he (Paul) could, in this his final summary of the gospel’s sufficiency and applicability to the needs of men, employ words similar to those in which Moses in his final summary of the law, spake of its sufficiency and applicability (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Thus on a similar occasion, and with a similar theme, Paul speaks words similar to those of Moses; so varying them, however, as to bring into vivid contrast the differences between the law and the gospel--between that which typified and foreshadowed, and that which in its superlative superiority fulfilled, terminated and forever abolished. Moses said of the law: "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." His meaning is, first, that the law is not so hard but that a man who makes right use of it may please God in it (this was true of the law till the gospel abolished it); second, the law was the fully prepared gift of God, and, being possessed by the Jews, they neither had to scale the heavens to get false gods to give a law to them, nor did they have to cross the sea (a dangerous and rarely attempted task among those of Moses’ day) to get unknown, remote and inaccessible nations of men to bring a law to them. They were required to perform no impractical, semi-miraculous feat to secure the law--it was theirs already by gift of God, and that so fully and utterly that, instead of being locked in the holy seclusion of the sanctuary, it was their common property, found in their mottles (daily talk) and hearts (worshipful, reverential meditation-- Exodus 13:9; Joshua 1:8; Psalms 37:30-31; Psalms 1:2; Psalms 119:14-16). Such was the law as described by Moses. In contrast with it Paul lets the gospel describe itself thus], Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:)

Verse 7

or, Who shall descend into the abyss? [Hades, the abode of the dead-- Luke 8:31; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1; Psalms 139:8] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.)

Verse 8

But what saith it? [Here Paul interrupts the gospel with a question. If the word of life is not in these places (heaven and Hades), where, then, is it? Where does the gospel say it is? He now resumes the gospel’s personification, and lets it answer the question.] The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart [Here end the words spoken by the gospel. Their import is similar to that of the second meaning of Moses’ words found above. The gospel is the fully prepared gift of God (John 3:16), and, being once accepted and possessed by the believer, he is not called upon to scale the heavens to procure a Christ and bring him down to see the needs of man and devise a gospel (for the Word has already become incarnate, and has dwelt among us-- John 1:14 --and seeing what sacrifice was needed for man’s forgiveness and cleansing, he has provided it-- Heb 10:3-9); neither is it demanded of him that he descend into the abyss (Hades, the abode of the dead) to find there a Christ who has died for our sins, and to raise thence a Christ whose resurrection shall be for our justification (for God has already provided the Christ who died for our sins-- 1 Corinthians 15:3; Isaiah 53:5-6; Romans 3:25; Romans 5:6; Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18 -- thus making an end of sins, and making reconciliation for iniquity-- Daniel 9:24 --and who also was raised for our justification-- Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:17; 1 Peter 1:21 --thus bringing in everlasting righteousness-- Daniel 9:24). Thus far the apostle’s argument runs thus: As the sources whence a law might be found were questions about which the Jew needed not to trouble himself, since God provided it; so the sources whence a Christ-gospel might be procured were also questions about which the Christian need feel no care, for the all-sufficient wisdom and might of God which provided the law had likewise perfected and supplied the gospel, so that men need only to accept it by faith. In either case His was the provision and theirs the acceptance; and what the apostle makes particularly emphatic was that the gospel was as easily accepted as the law, for it, too, could be familiarly discussed with the lips and meditated upon with the heart, being as nigh as the law. Nearness represents influence, power over us; remoteness, the lack of it (Romans 7:18; Romans 7:21). As the words of Moses were spoken about the type of the gospel (the law), they were of course prophetically applicable to the Christ who is the sum of the gospel, and likewise the living embodiment of the law. But to make plain their prophetic import, Paul gave them a personal application to Christ, and changed the search among the distant living (where law might be found) to search among the farther distant dead (where Christ must be found to have been in order to give life). Thus Paul’s variations from Moses constitute what Luther calls "a holy and lovely play of God’s Spirit in the Lord’s word"]: that is, the word of faith, which we preach [At this point the apostle begins again to speak for himself and his fellow-ministers, and shows that the "word" of which Moses spoke is the gospel or "word of faith" preached by Christians. He also shows that the words "mouth" and "heart," as used by Moses, have prophetic reference to the gospel terms of salvation]:

Verse 9

because [the gospel (and Moses) speak of the mouth and heart, because] if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved [Moses emphasized the nearness of the law. The Jew was to keep it near (accept it), for, as a far-off, neglected thing, it would be of no avail. As an accepted rule, loved and talked over daily, it would be effective unto righteousness. Jeremiah, foretelling the days when a new law would be more effective than the old, declared that the promise of Jehovah was: "I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their hearts will I write it." Thus it would become nearer than when written externally upon stone. When this new law came, Jesus indicated the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s word by saying. "The kingdom of God is within you" (Jeremiah 31:33; Luke 17:20). Therefore, when Paul quotes Moses’ words about that nearness of the law which makes it effective, he takes occasion to describe how the gospel or "word of faith" is made effective unto righteousness by the believer’s full consent to the will of God that it be near him, making it an inward nearness by confession with the mouth and belief in the heart. In short, the gospel is not righteousness unto life until it is accepted, and the prescribed method by which it is to be accepted is faith leading to confession, followed by obedience of faith, beginning with baptism, which symbolically unites us with our Lord in his death and resurrection. But Paul makes no reference to the ordinance, laying stress on the central truth of Christianity which the ordinance shows forth; namely, God raised Jesus from the dead. The zealous lover of first principles might expect Paul to make the Christhood of Jesus the object of belief (Matthew 16:16). But that is already taken care of by the apostle in the brief summary: "Confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord." The truth is, the resurrection is the demonstration of that proposition: "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God." "Jesus" means "Saviour," and the resurrection proves or demonstrates his ability to save from death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:12-19; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 2 Corinthians 4:14). Jesus is Christ; that is, God’s anointed Prophet, Priest and King over all men; for such is the meaning of "Christ." Now, the resurrection proves that Jesus was a teacher of truth, for God honors no liars with a resurrection like that of Jesus; it proves that lie is an acceptable High Priest, for had not his offering for sin canceled the guilt of sin, he had appeared no more in the land of the living (Matthew 5:26), but he was raised to complete his priestly work for our justification (see note on Romans 4:25; and Acts 13:37-39); it demonstrated that he was the King, for by his resurrection he led captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8) and received the gift of universal power (Matthew 28:18; Acts 2:23-36; Acts 13:34-37; Acts 17:31; Philippians 2:8-11; Ephesians 1:19-23); and, finally, it declared him to be the Son of God with power-- Romans 1:4; Acts 13:32-33]:

Verse 10

for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. ["The seat of faith," says Calvin, "is not in the brain, but in the heart. Yet I would not contend about the part of the body in which faith is located: but as the word heart is often taken for a serious and sincere feeling, I would say that faith is a firm and effectual confidence, and not a bare notion only." The belief must be such as to incite to love (1 Corinthians 13:1-2) and the obedience of faith (James 2:14-26). The faith of the heart introduces the sinner into that state of righteousness which in this present world reconciles him to God. The continual profession of that faith by word and deed works out his salvation, which ushers him into the glory of the world to come. Salvation relates to the life to come (Romans 13:11). When attained it delivers us from the dominion of the devil, which is the bondage of sin; from the power of death, which is the wages of sin, and from eternal torment, which is the punishment of sin. Such is salvation negatively defined, but only the redeemed know what it is positively, for flesh can neither inherit it (1 Corinthians 15:50) nor utter it-- 2 Corinthians 12:1-5]

Verse 11

For the scripture saith [Again Paul appeals to the Scripture to show that what he is telling the Jews has all been prophetically announced in their own Scriptures. Thus he slays their law with its own sword], Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. [A passage already quoted at Romans 9:33; but Paul changes "he" into "whosoever," thus emphasizing the universality of the verse, for God’s universal mercy to believers is his theme, and we shall find him amplifying and proving it in the next two verses. "Shame" has especial reference to the judgment-day. By faith we learn to so live that God ceases to be ashamed of us (Hebrews 11:6-16). By faith also we are brought into such union with Christ that he also no longer feels ashamed to recognize us (Hebrews 2:10-11). But if we glory in sin which is our shame (Philippians 3:18-19), walking nakedly in our shame (Revelation 16:15), and refusing the gift of the garment of Christ’s righteousness (Revelation 3:18), being ashamed of it and him, in that day he also will be ashamed of us (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26), and great then will be our shame in the sight of all God’s hosts, and marked will be the contrast between us and the believers who are not ashamed-- 1 John 2:28]

Verse 12

For [The Scripture uses such universal language about our being freed from shame by justification, because] there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him [Paul here announces the same truth which Peter discovered when he said: "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). As the Jews were for several centuries under the dominion of the Greeks, and as the cultured of the Romans, their later masters, also spoke Greek, the term Greek became to them a synonym for Gentile, for they had more dealing with Greeks than with any other people. Now, as there is but one God, the Jews and Greeks were compelled to receive blessings from that same God, and as the Jew and Greek stood in equal need of salvation, God offered the same salvation to each upon the same free terms and each had equal ability to accept the terms (Ephesians 2:11-22). Thus God showed the riches of his favor to all, and so rich is God in his mercy and providences toward salvation, that no multitude can exhaust them; therefore the Jew had no reason to envy or begrudge the Gentiles their call, since it in no way impoverished him. But this breaking down of distinctions was, nevertheless, very offensive to the Jew]:

Verse 13

for [and this lack of distinction on God’s part is further proved by Scripture, for, it saith], Whosoever shall call upon the name [i. e., person-- Proverbs 18:10; Psalms 18:2-3] of the Lord shall be saved. [Joel 2:32 . This passage is quoted by Simon Peter at Acts 2:21 . In place of "Lord," Joel has the word "Jehovah," which latter term the Jews regard as describing God the Father. The application of this word to Christ by Paul (and it is so applied to Christ, as the next verse shows) is proof of our Lord’s divinity. "There is," says Alford, "hardly a stronger proof, or one more irrefragable by those who deny the Godhead of our blessed Lord, of the unhesitating application to Him by the apostle of the name and attributes of Jehovah." (Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:2) It is evident that the mere crying out, "Lord, Lord!" is of no avail (Matthew 7:21-23). One must call upon Jesus as he directs, and must worshipfully accept him as the Son and Revelation of God. "The language," says Johnson, "wherever used, implies coming to the Lord and calling upon him in his appointed way. (Comp. Acts 22:16; Acts 2:21; Genesis 12:8)" Having thus demonstrated the gratuitous and universal nature of the gospel, the apostle prepares us for his next paragraph, which presents the thought of extension. That which God has made free and for all should be published and offered to all. How unreasonable, therefore, the hatred which the Jews bore toward Paul for being apostle to the Gentiles!]

Verse 14

[Since the apostle’s thought in this section is obscurely connected, the line of argument has been found difficult to follow. It will aid us, therefore, at the start to get his purpose clearly in view. He has shown that the gospel is universal. But in giving a universal blessing God would of course see to it that it was universally published and propagated. This, God had earnestly attempted to do, but his efforts had largely been frustrated so far as Israel was concerned. But this was Israel’s fault, and therefore that people were utterly without excuse (1) for not becoming part of the universality which God contemplated and attempted; (2) for not fully understanding this universality and rejoicing in it; nay, for so misunderstanding it, despite full Scripture warning, as to be made jealous by it, so as to spurn it and reject it.] How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? [The form of the Greek question demands the answer, "They can not." Though the question presents a psychological impossibility, Paul is not thinking of psychology, but of his two quotations from Scripture; viz., verse 11, which (as interpreted by verse 9) conditions salvation on belief, and verse 13, which conditions it on invocation or calling on the name of the Lord. He has twice coupled these two conditions in the "belief" and "confession" of verses 9 and 10; and now he couples them a third time in the question before us, which is a strong way of asserting there can be no acceptable calling without believing. Since, then, salvation, the all in all of man’s hopes--salvation which God desired should be universal--depends upon acceptable calling or invocation, and since acceptable calling in its turn depends upon belief, whatever steps are necessary to produce universal invocation and belief should by all means be taken on the part of God and his evangelists, and should likewise by all means be universally accepted by man. What these steps are the apostle proceeds to enumerate] and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? [Hearing is the next step. We can believe nothing till we have first heard it. But in the apostle’s thought our belief is not directed toward an abstraction, but toward Jesus, a person. We are to hear him, and believe him, and believe on him. As we can not meet him face to face, we must believe on him as he presents himself to us by his commissioned agents (Luke 10:16; John 13:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; Ephesians 2:17; Ephesians 4:19-20; 1 John 4:5-6), called preachers (1 Timothy 2:7; Mark 16:15). Therefore the next question reads] and how shall they hear without a preacher? [and the Jews hated Paul for being one!]

Verse 15

and how shall they preach, except they be sent? [Sending is the last step as we reason backward, but the first as we look forward toward salvation; for, as Gifford observes, "Paul argues back from effect to cause," so that, turning his series around, it will read, Sending, preaching, hearing, believing, turning to or calling upon God, salvation (Acts 8:4-39). In these days of missions we have grown so familiar with the gospel that the idea of sending has become fairly limited to the transportation of the missionary; when, therefore, we enlarge Paul’s sending till it includes the idea of a divine commission or command to go, we feel that we have achieved his conception. But the thought of the apostle is wider still. With him the sending finds its full meaning in that unction of God which provides the messenger with a divine message, a message of good news which only the lips of God can speak, a message which he could gather from no other source, and without which all going would be vanity, a mere running without tidings. Compare Paul’s vindication of the heavenly origin of his message (Galatians 1:11-24). To understand the relevancy of the quotation with which the apostle closes the sentence, let us remember that while this is an argument, it is also, by reason of the matter argued, a hymn of praise, a love-song, a jubilation, an ecstasy of joy. How could it be otherwise? Now, at Romans 8:28-30 the apostle presents the heaven-forged links of the unbreakable chain of God’s holy and gracious purpose to glorify man. Having presented that chain, he devotes the remainder of the chapter (31-39) to an elaboration of the joyful confidence which wells up within him at its contemplation, for a heart of flesh could not do otherwise. So here the apostle has presented the links of the corresponding chain--the chain of means whereby the purpose is effected or consummated, so that man is saved or glorified; and that chain ends, as Paul inversely counts its links, in the unspeakable honor of being a messenger of God, sent to bear the gospel of Christ to a dying world. Could the apostle pass this by and stick to his argument? (Comp. Ephesians 3:7-12; Acts 26:17-18; Romans 15:15-16; Galatians 1:15-16) Nay, if he did so, would it not weaken his argument? For, while the passage at Romans 8:31-39; and the quotation here about "beautiful feet," may not fit in syllogistically, they have unspeakable power suggestively; for the first pictures that peace of God that passes all understanding, which the Jew was rejecting: and this second depicts the glorious ministry of God’s mercy to the lost and life to the dying, which the Jew was missing by his proud unbelief.* Let us note in passing how Paul’s argument emphasizes Christ unto the unbelievers. "All this," says Plumer, "relates to Christ, Jehovah. The prayer is to him or through him; the faith is in him; the report respects him; the heralds are his messengers; the sum of all they proclaim relates to his person, work, offices and grace; he is himself the chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely." With this introduction we are ready for the quotation] even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! [Isaiah 52:7 . Paul quotes enough to suggest the full passage, which reads thus: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" Paul quotes this exuberant, throbbing joy of Israel’s prophet which expressed his own feelings, as a sharp contrast to the sullen, malignant, vindictive spirit of those to whom he prophesied. How acceptable was Paul and how glorious his world-wide message as visioned to the evangelical Isaiah! How despisable was Paul, and how abhorrent his message, to the Israel of the gospel age! The contrast suggests that some one erred: which was it? Were the prophet and apostle indulging in a sinful joy? or were the Jews playing the fool of all fools in excluding themselves from it? Though the citation from Isaiah has a primary reference to the restoration of the Jews from the land of exile, yet it is unquestionable Messianic, for that very restoration from exile "derived all its value," as Hodge observes, "from being introductory to that most glorious deliverance to be effected by the Redeemer." "That return," says Alford, "has regard to a more glorious one under the future Redeemer." Besides, the prophet has been talking of Messianic times, when "the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Isaiah 40:5). "Jewish expositors," says Tholuck, "no less apply to the Messias almost the whole of the chapter (Isa 52), besides the quotation. (See Wetstein, ad h. l.)." The law was to end in the gospel, and Israel was to be the apostles of this joyful development, but failed through blindness as to the personality of the Messiah (a suffering sacrifice for sin, and not a great conqueror and temporal ruler); through ignorance as to the nature of the gospel (salvation by faith and not by the accident of Abrahamic descent); through a bigoted narrowness which took offense at the gospel’s universality (a universality which offered salvation to Jew and Gentile on equal terms, and was devoid of all partiality). Thus it happened that Paul ran, and Israel forbore. Finally, as to the words of Isaiah, let us compare them with 2 Samuel 18:26 : "And the king said, He also bringeth tidings. And the watchman said, I think the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok. And the king said, He is a good man and cometh with good tidings." Here we see that men were known by their running, and their tidings known by their character. With these facts before us, the imagery of Isaiah becomes complete. Jerusalem, the daughter of Zion, bereft of all her children by the Babylonians, sits in sackcloth, covered with the dust of mourning and bowed with grief as though drawn down with chains about her neck. Suddenly the phantom watchmen on her desolated walls see her Ahimaaz--her good man that cometh with good tidings!--tidings of the return of all her lost children! Far off upon the mountains the swift glint of the white feet tell of that speed of the heart which urges to the limit of human endurance. With such a message what place is there for weariness! All the long miles that lie behind are forgotten, and as the goal comes in view the wings of the soul possess the feet, and the pace increases with each step as the runner presses toward the mark or prize of his heart’s desires! Ah, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings! Sing! watchmen, for ye shall see face to face how Jehovah returned to Zion to glorify and comfort it with his presence. Awake, awake, O Zion! Shake off thy dust, loose thyself from the bonds of thy neck, and put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, for the messenger of salvation is at thy very gates, and how beautiful is his approach! He tells of thy children who are coming! coming! journeying homeward behind him! No wonder that with this imagery before him Paul clung to the figure of the runner to the very end (Philippians 3:12-14; 2 Timothy 4:7). No wonder, either, that he could not forbear adding this quotation as the climax of his argument, that, having reared a granite mountain, he might cap it with the glorifying coronet of sunshine upon snow, thus making his argument as persuasive by its glory as it was convincing by its power. No wonder that he discerned the Messianic meaning of Isaiah’s message, patent even to uninspired eyes. Having thus completed the circle of his argument from the message to the universality of the message, thence to the extension of it, and thence again to the means of extension, and finally back to the message itself as glorified in the vision of the prophet, the apostle is ready once more to grapple the Jew and show his inexcusable sin in rejecting the message. However, before discussing what follows it is well to note that its connection of ideas is uncertain, so much so that Stuart justly complains of not having found a single commentator who gives him satisfaction respecting it. The connection is not stated, and is therefore difficult. To solve the problem we must find the unspoken thought in the mind of the apostle, and we think it is this. The glorious chain of God’s purpose to glorify men (Romans 8:28-30) and this equally glorious chain of means to that end, ought to make the gospel as universal as God designed it to be; but, nevertheless, so great is man’s sinful perversity, such is not the case; and the Scripture so foretold it, and, in foretelling, explained it, and exposed the reason. Hence he continues]

* To avoid encumbering Paul’s argument we have given the briefest possible interpretation of "sending," but as sending is the bottom of the heavenly ladder the top of which reaches unto salvation, it should be fully understood. The first sending was by the Father, and of this sending Jesus was both messenger and message. The next sending was that of the twelve and the seventy, a sending which culminated in the great commission (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). The first of these sendings was perfect as to sender, message and messenger (John 3:34). The second was perfect as to sender and message, but weak as to the messengers. The third sending was by the Holy Spirit and the church at Antioch (Acts 13:2-3). In this sending the message was practically perfect, but the church participated in the sending, so that the sender and the messengers were imperfect. A little later the message itself became corrupted and imperfect, and from that day to this the weakness of the gospel plan has been at this bottom rung of the great ladder; and the weakness is threefold, being in the sender, the sent and the thing sent. In Paul’s day the weakness of the sending churches was the thing to be deplored. For this the Jew was chiefly to blame, for had he appreciated the honor and privilege and answered to the call of Christ, the world could easily have been evangelized by him, for he had synagogues and organized groups of worshipers, and a popular hearing in nearly every city on the habitable globe; but, instead of becoming a help, he, with all his accessories, became a hindrance. For the weakness of evangelism man, and especially Israel, was to blame, for God’s part was perfect, being wrought in Christ. Moreover, the commission of Christ was full, sufficient and final. But the few, to whom message, messenger and commission first came, had been a visionless, cold, unappreciative and defective messenger from the beginning. It required a miracle to get Peter to carry the message to the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 10), and even then his Christian brethren found fault (Acts 11), and accepted as an unwelcome but inevitable decree of God, that which should have inspired them to shout for joy. No wonder, then, the Spirit of God ceased to struggle with the Jerusalem church in this matter, and withdrew to Antioch, making it the missionary center of the world. As ordaining and sending were, even in Paul’s day, well-nigh wholly in the hands of the church, so that even Paul himself was a church-sent man (Acts 13:2-3), it is hardly likely that Paul’s words here are lacking in reference to this fact, for (1) the Jew was extremely culpable in failing to further the sending of the gospel; (2) the Roman church generally needed admonition along this line, for the apostle was looking to them to aid him as Christ’s messenger, or missionary, to Spain (Romans 15:22-29). Finally, the weakness of Christ’s coworkers, the senders, was the problem in Paul’s day, and it is still the problem, just as Jesus covertly prophesied when be said, "Pray ye therefore," etc. (Luke 10:2); for our prayer though directed to God, must be answered by man, for he is de facto the sender (or, more properly, the NON-SENDER) of laborers into the harvest. The world could be evangelized in a single generation if men would only send the gospel to its peoples, but they lack that vision of the feet beautiful which thrilled the mighty soul of the lion of Benjamin, the apostle to the Gentiles.

Verse 16

But they did not all hearken to [Hupakouoo: a word derived from the verb akouoo, which is translated "heard," and "hear" in Romans 10:14 . It means to hear attentively, to give heed to, to obey] the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith [predicted], Lord, who hath believed our report? [Akoe; also a word derived from akouoo of Romans 10:14; meaning the thing that is caused to be heard]

Verse 17

So [as I said, and, as you see, Isaiah corroborates] belief cometh of [is born of, or grows out of] hearing, and hearing by [by reason of, because of] the word [saying, behest, command. See Luke 5:5; Hebrews 11:3; Romans 1:3] of Christ. [And so, briefly paraphrasing the apostle’s thought, it runs thus: Can God’s glorious purpose and inimitable means fail to accomplish the universal glorification of man? Assuredly they can, for Isaiah so predicted. To accomplish universal salvation there must be a universal heed-hearing. But Isaiah complained, "Lord, who hath believed that which we have caused them to hear?" meaning that very few gave a heed-hearing. So we see from Isaiah that it is precisely as I said (Romans 10:14-15); namely, that belief comes of hearing, and hearing is caused by the command or commission of Christ, as is made apparent by the fact that Isaiah reports back to Christ (whom he calls Lord) that men have not heard what Christ sent, or commissioned, him to tell them. How culpable, then, was Israel as foreseen in the visions of Isaiah and as literally seen by the eyes of Paul! A message commanded by Christ the Lord! How could they be excused for not giving it a heed-hearing, an obedience? Only in two ways: first, by showing that they had never heard it; second, by proving that they were misled by their Scriptures so that they could not recognize it as coming from their Lord--and the point where they would assert and attempt to prove the misleading was this very one now mooted; namely, universality, for the Jew regarded the reception of the Gentile as contrary to all that God had ever revealed, or caused to be written down. Therefore the apostle takes these two excuses in order, and exposes their emptiness.]

Verse 18

But I say [To give my cornered Jewish objector every chance to escape from his obvious culpability, I ask in his behalf this question], Did they not hear? [This question demands a negative answer--a denial of the "not heard," and is therefore an emphatic way of asserting that they had heard. "They" is unlimited, all had heard it, so the Jew could never plead lack of hearing as an excuse for rejecting the gospel. Having thus asserted his position in the question, he proceeds to prove it in the answer] Yea, verily [Menounge. See note on Romans 9:20], Their sound [Psalms 19:4 . "The Psalmist," says Clark, "has kavvam, their line, which the LXX., and the apostle who quotes from them, render phthoggos, sound." Line means string, harpstring, a tone, a chord, and then, metonymically, sound] went out into all the earth, And their words unto the ends of the world. [It was Alford who, in this connection, discovered "that Psalm 19 is a comparison of the sun, and glory of the heavens, with the word of God. As far as verse 6 the glories of nature are described: then the great subject is taken up, and the parallelism carried out to the end. So that the apostle has not, as alleged in nearly all the commentators, merely accommodated the text allegorically, but taken it in its context, and followed the comparison of the Psalm." The light of the knowledge of God had hitherto been confined to the narrow space of Palestine, but the light of the gospel had now passed beyond these boundaries, and had begun to be as world-illuminating as the celestial orbs, and in doing this it had only fulfilled the words of David. God had done his part as thoroughly in grace as it had been done in nature, and no Jew could excuse himself at the expense of God’s good name. "There is not," says Godet, expressing the sentiments of Paul, born of the memories of his own ministry, "a synagogue which has not been filled with it, not a Jew in the world who can justly plead ignorance on the subject." "When the vast multitude converted at Pentecost," says Johnson, were scattered to their homes, they carried the gospel into all parts of the civilized world." (Comp. Titus 2:11; Colossians 1:6; Colossians 1:23) This bestowal of natural light and bounty universally was more than a suggestion that God intended to bestow spiritual light and grace upon all. (Comp. Acts 14:17) "As he spake," says Calvin, "to the Gentiles by the voice of the heavens, he showed bar this prelude that he designed to make himself known at length to them also." "It was," says Hengstenberg, "a pledge of their participation in the clearer, higher revelation."]

Verse 19

But I say [Again I ask a question to give my Jewish objector the benefit of every loophole of escape. See Romans 10:18], Did Israel not know? [This question also requires a negative answer, and thus, being like the preceding question, the negative of a negative, it amounts to a strong affirmative. Assuredly Israel knew. But knew what? Why, the fact just asserted, to wit, that the gospel should sound out to all, both Jew and Gentile, as freely as light and sunshine, according to the world-wide commission or command of Christ. Did this fact take Israel by surprise? Was the issuing of a world-wide commission a thing untaught in their Scriptures, allowing them to plead ignorance of it? Had Paul cited the promise to Abraham, "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3), then the Jew would have claimed that this promise must be fulfilled by their all becoming Jews (Acts 15:1). But he begins with Moses, the first writer of Scripture, and cites a passage which precludes the idea of blessing by absorption or amalgamation, for it is plainly blessing in rivalry and opposition.] First Moses saith ["First in the prophetic line" (De Wette). First in point of time and place, as Isaiah was near the last. His two citations therefore suggest the entire trend of Scripture, from beginning to end. Compare the "said before" of Romans 9:29], I will provoke you to jealousy with that which is no nation, With a nation void of understanding will I anger you. [The passage cited is Deuteronomy 32:21 . The Jews had moved God to jealousy by their "no-gods" (idols), and had provoked his to anger by their vanities; he therefore prophetically announces that he will provoke them to like jealousy and anger by adopting in their stead a "no-people," a foolish nation. A "no-people" describes a nation which has no covenant relation with God, and hence is not recognized as his people. A "foolish nation" describes one made wise by no revelation. The weight of the citation was greatly increased by the name of Moses attached to it, and by the remoteness of the period when uttered. Many utterances of the prophets sounded harsh and hostile, but no one had ever doubted the loyal friendship of Moses to Israel; yet Moses said this even in his day.]

Verse 20

And Isaiah is very bold ["What Moses insinuates, Isaiah cries out boldly and plainly" (Bengel). And Isaiah is the favorite prophet of the Jewish people to this day!], and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I became manifest unto them that asked not of me. [Isaiah 65:1 (Comp. Isaiah 49:1-9; Isaiah 52:15; Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 66:35; Isaiah 66:18-21) They sought me not until I first sought them, and they asked not of me until I made myself known and invited them to offer their petitions. Such is the full meaning in the light of gospel facts. "That the calling of the Gentiles," says Brown, "was meant by these words of the prophet, is manifest from what immediately follows. ’I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.’" Thus God’s design to call another people besides the Jews was so plainly revealed in Scripture that Israel was without excuse for not knowing it. "Nothing," says Lard, "is more inexplicable than their blindness, unless it be their persistence in it." Normally we would say that if God was found of strangers, much more would he be found of his own people. But the ignorance and corruption of the Gentiles constituted a darkness more easily dissipated by the light of the gospel, than the proud obduracy and abnormal self-righteousness of the Jews. The universal preaching of the gospel made this quickly manifest, and, as Paul shows us, Isaiah foretold it.]

Verse 21

But as to Israel he saith [Isaiah 65:2], All the day long did I spread out of my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. [Here Isaiah presents the full contrast between the Gentiles and Jews. Commentators generally regard the spread-out hands as picturing those of a parent extended toward a wayward or prodigal child; but we have no such usage in Scripture. As Plumer observes: "When Paul stretched out his hand, he beckoned to the people that he might cause silence and secure attention (Acts 21:40). Sometimes stretching out the hand is for rescue and deliverance (Deuteronomy 26:8). Sometimes it is to offer and bestow benefits (Isaiah 26:10-11). Sometimes it is the gesture of threatening, chastening, displaying of powers in miracles (Deuteronomy 4:34). Sometimes it points the way in which we should walk or run. No gesture is more natural than this. Again, stretching out the hand is the posture of earnest address and imploring supplication." This last is evidently the sense in which it is here used. "All the day long" may refer to the entire length of the Mosaic dispensation, but it has here especial reference to the time of Christ and his apostles, and their exclusive ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; for at no other time was God’s supplication with Israel so marked, and at no other season was the rejection of the Lord so personal, so vehement, so bitter and cruel; all the Gospels are full of it, and the rejection of the Son was the rejection of the Father (John 14:7-9; 2 John 1:9; John 5:23; 1 John 5:7). Moreover, compare the "this day" of Luke 19:42 . "Gainsaying" is added to the Hebrew by the LXX. Pool aptly says: "They were disobedient in heart and gainsaying with their tongues, contrary to those two gracious qualifications mentioned at verses 9 and 10, belief in the heart and confession of the mouth. Their gainsaying answers to "repliest" of Romans 9:20 . For examples of this sin on their part, see Mark 15:8-15; Acts 3:13-14; Acts 7:51-57; Acts 13:45; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:2; Acts 14:19; Acts 17:5; Acts 17:13; Acts 18:12 . "Gainsaying," says Godet, "characterizes the hair-splittings and sophisms whereby the Israelites seek to justify their persevering refusal to return to God." As we glance back over the ninth and tenth chapters, they reveal clearly how Israel, zealous for religious monopoly and their exclusive rights under the law, hardened their hearts and rejected the gospel, though grace followed them to the ends of the earth with the offer of salvation. Surely it was their own wickedness, and no arbitrary, cold decree absolute, which excluded them from salvation; and it is equally certain that the Being whom Jesus called Father, and who sent our Lord as a world’s Saviour, will never rest or desist until the dark picture of a lost Israel is transformed and transfigured with the glory of the heavenly light by the ultimate inbringing of all Israel, to be, with the purged Gentiles, one kingdom of God upon earth.]

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First published online at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on Romans 10". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/romans-10.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.