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Romans 10:1.—That the apostle speaks not in the preceding chapter of the absolute reprobation of Israel is evident from this prayer and vehement desire. ἡ εὐδοκία.—The good-will of my heart and my prayer on Israel’s behalf is for salvation, and thus he assumes the possibility of salvation for the rejected.
Romans 10:2. A zeal for God.—Hence some were called zealots, taking the name from those who were zealous for that which is good.
Romans 10:3.—They not knowing, not considering the righteousness of God. The way for man to attain unto the position of the righteous.
Romans 10:4.—Refers more especially to Christ’s active obedience: “The man that doeth them shall live by them” By doing men were accounted righteous under the law; while the gospel says, Believe, and live—believe, and do as the fruit of faith.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Romans 10:1-4
Mistakes rectified.—In previous chapters St. Paul had described the sad condition of his countrymen. And now he pours forth the ardent longings of his soul: “Brethren, my heart’s good pleasure and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” Here is the utterance of the Christian patriot. Spiritual salvation is the highest good for the individual and the community. This secured, other needful good will follow in its train. Earth’s patriots begin at the surface and work downwards; the Christian patriot begins at the root and works upwards. Civilise, then Christianise. Spiritual salvation is the true civilising force. Salvation in every sense is the dream and the aim of every true Christian. His soul is in heaviness because of the unsaved; he sighs over the lost; he weeps over the guilt and the impending doom of a great city; he prays for his kinsmen that they may be saved.
I. The relationships of life suggest solemn thought.—Israelites were St. Paul’s kinsmen according to the flesh. Love of kin is the surest basis for love of kind. The man who does not care for his relations is not likely to care for the world beyond. St. Paul was by pre-eminence the apostle of the Gentiles; and may we not suppose that this broader office arose out of his love to Israel? Love is expanding. Love to Israelites feeds love to Gentiles. However this may be, we have here St. Paul’s deep love for his kinsmen according to the flesh, and it suggests to him solemn thoughts.
1. Israel is unsaved. Brethren after the flesh, aliens after the spirit. “That they might be saved “opens out a wide domain of thought to the apostolic mind. The spiritual mind of the apostle would scarcely content itself with the idea of the salvation of Israel as a temporal power. He was anxious, not for the restoration of David’s throne as an earthly monarch, but for the establishment of the supremacy of David’s greater Son and Lord. “That they might be saved” is the apostle’s great goal for the human race. He walked through the earth oppressed with the thought that its millions were unsaved; but he did not give place to despair, nor lose himself in generalities. He set himself to the work near at hand. He prayed and worked for his kinsmen.
2. Israel had a false zeal. St. Paul could bear witness to the zeal of the Jews. He himself had been most zealous. The men without fire and glow are the men to cumber the earth; the men with enthusiasms are the men to exalt the race. Lofty ideas stirring the nature dignify humanity. Religious ideas are the loftiest. False zeal is better than indifference. The Jews had zeal for the ceremonials. They tithed mint, anise, and cumin; they were punctilious about the letter of the Sabbath, about postures, and the shape of garments. Their zeal was not divinely enlightened. It was not a zeal from God. It was not pure, nor full of love.
3. Israel had a false method. They were going about to establish their own righteousness. Many of the sons of men are still going on this fruitless pilgrimage. The little words “their own” are suggestive. How much men will do for “their own”! What long and weary pilgrimages men will take to establish their own righteousness! They go up and down the earth, and their last state is worse than their first. Their own righteousness is flattering to pride. Submission unto the righteousness of God is possible only to Christian humility.
II. Solemn thought prompts intercessory prayer.—St. Paul prayed that Israel might be saved. Prayer is a relief to the solemnity of our thought; prayer throws light on the deep problems of existence. Solemn thought depresses; intercessory prayer inspires and invigorates.
III. Intercessory prayer moves to outward action.—St. Paul did not pray in the monastic cell, and shut himself out and away from the sins and sorrows of a struggling humanity. He sought strength in prayer, and used that strength in action. He obtained divine light and teaching by prayer, and he used the blessings for the good of his fellows. The praying man is the best teacher. St. Paul can show the Jews the right method. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” The moral law discloses the wounds sin has made. The ceremonial law shadows forth the remedy. The law given as a tutor to conduct us to Christ. Its authority as a covenant terminates in Christ. “He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” The law of works is killed by the law of love. Moses laid down rules, but he did not thereby render humanity upright. Christ inbreathed a loving spirit, and the glorified nature had no need of precise enactments. He that believeth in Christ has both a justifying and a sanctifying righteousness.
IV. Intercessory prayer conjoined with suitable action cannot fail.—Failure in the human thought and to the human estimate there may be, but it does not follow that there is a failure in the divine plan and purpose. “Fail” is a word for human weakness and human limitations. Fail cannot be a word for Omnipotence. Soul energy cannot brook the idea of failure. Is it to be supposed that the soul energy of the Infinite can admit failure? Man may fail, but a God must be ever victorious. It might be true that Israel was not saved, and yet that Paul’s prayer was answered. Divine answers do not move along human channels. Let us pray and work in faith. Prayer offered to God cannot be fruitless. Work done for God cannot come to naught.
Romans 10:4. The end of the law.—Two questions arise:
1. What is the “end” (τέλος) of the law?
2. How is Christ that “end”?
1. The “end “of a law is to make men righteous—teach what is right, what is wrong. Law does this by plainly declaring God’s will. Yet by this merely its end not gained. What is wanted?
(1) An ideal life—to illustrate righteousness by perfect example.
(2) A gift of power—to keep the law. Christ led the life and gives the power. (Doctrine of sanctification.)
Mark: No other religious system supplies these two wants. Contrast Christianity with Buddhism and Mohammedanism. Neither claims
(1) to exhibit perfect life, or
(2) give sanctifying power.
The ideal life is near to us; the gift of power is near to us (Romans 10:6-9).—Dr. Springett.
Romans 10:4. Relation of the law to the gospel.—Now this spirit of legality, as it is called, is nearly the universal spirit of humanity. It is not Judaism alone; it is nature. They are not the Israelites only who go about to establish a righteousness of their own; the very same thing may be detected among the religionists of all countries and all ages. If a man will persist, as nature strongly inclines him, in seeking to make out a title-deed to heaven by his own obedience, then that obedience must be perfect, else there is a flaw in the title-deed which is held to be irreparable. In defect of his own righteousness, which he is required to disown as having any part in his meretorious acceptance with God, he is told of an everlasting righteousness which Another has brought in, and which he is invited, nay commanded, to make mention of. It is thus that Christ becomes the end of the law for righteousness—that is, for a justifying righteousness, or for a righteousness which gives a right to him who possesses it. There appears to be the very strength and spirit of a moral essence in that doctrine which they hold, and it seems the fruit of their more adequate homage to the law that, under the feeling of their own distance and deficiency therefrom, they have laid hold upon Christ as the end of the law for righteousness. Obedience for a legal right is everywhere denounced in the New Testament as an enterprise, the prosecution of which forms the main business of every disciple, and the full achievement of which is that prize of his high calling to which he must press forward continually. Human virtue hath ceased, under the economy of grace, to be the price of heaven; for this power is lost, and lost irrevocably, by its ceasing to be perfect. But human virtue is still the indispensable preparation for heaven; and we, helped from the sanctuary above to struggle with all the imperfections of our corrupt and carnal nature below, must, by a life of prayer and painstaking and all duteous performance, make way through the frailties and temptations of our sinful state in time, to a meetness for the joys of that endless inheritance which is beyond it. First, then, know that the legal right is what you cannot work for, but that in the gospel of Jesus Christ it is freely offered for your acceptance. But, secondly, having thus secured what the apostle in one passage calls “the end of the law,” count it your unceasing business to labour for what the apostle in another passage calls “the end of the commandment.” Though the law has ceased as a covenant, it has not ceased as a rule of life. Oh, let us then do honour to the faith that we profess by our abounding in those fruits of righteousness which emanate therefrom, and never let gainsayers have to allege of that holy name by which we are called that it is prostituted by those who wear it into a licence for iniquity! Let the faith of the gospel approve itself in our hearts, to bring along with it the charm and the efficacy of a new moral existence.—Dr. Chalmers.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Romans 10:2-4
Zeal for God.—I desire, it may be observed; that zeal of God in general—that is, a hearty and passionate concernment for religion—the apostle here finds no fault with. On the contrary, he approves it as a commendable thing; for you see he represents it as a piece of virtue in his countrymen, and speaks it to their commendation that they had a zeal of God. A man will have but small comfort, when he comes to die, to reflect that he has been zealous of the privileges and property and rights of his countrymen, but it was indifferent to him how the service of God and the affairs of religion were managed. The apostle’s carriage to the unbelieving Israelites, who, though they were zealous for God, yet were in a great mistake as to their notions of the true religion. He thinks them the more pitiable and the more excusable in that this their opposition proceeded from their zeal of God, though it was misinformed, irregular zeal. Our tenderness to mistaken zealots must always be so managed as that the true religion or the public peace suffer no damage thereby. The apostle’s tacit reprehension of the Jewish zeal upon this account—that it was not according to knowledge. For be our zeal of God never so great, yet if it be not a zeal according to knowledge it is not the right Christian zeal. And though we see others never so fervent and vehement in pursuing a religious cause—and that too out of conscience—yet if this zeal of theirs be not according to knowledge it is a zeal that justly deserves to be reproved. And though both we and they may, “for our sincerity in God’s cause, expect some allowances both from God and man, yet neither they nor we can justify it either to God or man that we are thus foolish and ignorantly zealous. So that a right zeal for God implies that we do so well inform ourselves of the nature of our religion as not to pretend a religious zeal for anything that is not a part of our religion. If our zeal for God be as it should be, it must certainly express itself in matters that are good, about such objects as God hath made to be our duty. “It is good,” said St. Paul, “to be always zealously affected in a good matter” But if we mistake in our cause, if we take that for good which is evil, or that for evil which is good, here our zeal is not according to knowledge. The zeal that is according to knowledge is always attended with hearty charity. It is not that bitter zeal which the apostle speaks of, which is accompanied with hatred and envy and perverse disputings. But it is kind and sociable and meek even to gainsayers. Another inseparable property of zeal according to knowledge is that it must pursue lawful ends by lawful means, must never do an ill thing for the carrying the best cause. How many unlawful acts have popish zealots used to subject all the Christian world to their Lord and Master! How many forgeries for this purpose have they been the authors of and maintained them afterwards! How many disturbances have they given to the peace of Christendom in the most unjust and unnatural ways for the advancement of the papal cause! It was out of zeal for God’s service and the interest of holy Church that so many princes have been excommunicated and deposed, that so many tumults and rebellions have been raised, that so many crusades for the extirpating heretics have been sent out. By which and suchlike means it may justly be computed that as much Christian blood has been shed for the establishing popery as it now stands—nay, and a great deal more—than ever was during all the times of the heathen persecutions for the supporting of paganism.—Archbishop Sharpe.
False zeal.—“A zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” The faster a man rides, if he be in a wrong road, the farther he goes out of his way. Zeal is the best or worst thing in a duty. If the end be right, it is excellent; but if wrong, it is worthless.—Gurnall’s “Christian in Complete Armour,” vol. iii., p. 479.
It is better, according to Augustine, even to halt in the road than to run with all our might out of the proper path.—Calvin.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Romans 10:1. Cecil’s child.—“I see my child drowning,” says Mr. Cecil; “that child’s education lies near my heart. But what do I think of his education now? Bring him safe to land first. I will talk of his education afterwards. Paul’s first desire is that Israel might be saved. The great concern of preachers should be neither biblical criticism, nor the refutation of heresies, nor to be thought men of intellectual power, but that the hearers may be saved.”
Romans 10:2. The balance of the sanctuary.—In the reign of King Charles I. the goldsmiths of London had a custom of weighing several sorts of their precious metals before the Privy Council. On this occasion they made use of scales poised with such exquisite nicety that the beam would turn, the master of the company affirmed, at the two hundredth part of a grain. Nay, the famous attorney-general, standing by and hearing this, replied, “I should be loath then to have all my actions weighed in these scales.” “With whom I heartily agree,” says the pious Hervey, “in relation to myself. And since the balance of the sanctuary, the balances in God’s hands, are infinitely exact, oh, what need have we of the merit and righteousness of Christ to make us acceptable in His sight and passable in His esteem!”
Romans 10:3. The moral magnifying glass.—Some people carry about with them a moral magnifying glass. They are fond of using it. Through it they look intently at their own excellences. Their virtues seem so great that they fail to see their need of pardon. David Rittenhouse, of Pennsylvania, was an astronomer. He was skilful in measuring the size of planets and determining the distance of stars. But he found that, such was the distance of the stars, a silk thread stretched across the glass of his telescope would entirely cover a star. He even found that a silk fibre, however small, placed upon the same glass would cover so much of the heavens that the star, if a small one, would remain obscured several seconds. Our sun is 886,000 miles in diameter; yet, seen from a distant star, it could be hidden behind a thread that was near the eye! Is there nothing like this in the spiritual world? Alas! there is. Too often men allow a very slender, slight thread of virtue to hide from them the glorious Sun of righteousness. Paul tells us of such. “They, going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.”
Romans 10:4. More grace wanted.—When Lord North, during the American war, sent to the Rev. Mr. Fletcher of Madeley (who had written on that unfortunate war in a manner that had pleased the minister) to know what he wanted, he sent him word that he wanted but one thing, which it was not in his lordship’s power to give him, and that was more grace. The place to lose self.—A person who had long practised many austerities, without finding any comfort or change of heart, was once complaining of his state to a certain bishop. “Alas!” said he, “self-will and self-righteousness follow me everywhere. Only tell me when you think I shall learn to leave self. Will it be by study, or prayer, or good works?” “I think,” replied the bishop, “that the place where you lose self will be that where you find your Saviour.”
Romans 10:6. Say not in thine heart.—Unbelief originates from self-confidence. Who shall ascend?—Indicating unbelief in a risen Saviour. Salvation is a completed work; do not trouble about its vastness or its difficulty.
Romans 10:7.—ἄβυσσος, the place of departed spirits, supposed by the Jews to be far below the surface of the earth. The Jerusalem Targum renders the words thus: “Oh that there were one like Jonas the prophet who would descend into the depths of the great sea! “Now we know that Jonas descending into the deep was a type of Christ; “being brought again,” say the LXX., “from the abyss of the earth.” Philo asks, “What need is there to take long journeys or go to sea in search of virtue, we having the root of it within us?” or, as Moses saith, “In our mouth, in our heart, and in our hand.”
Romans 10:8.—A holy and sweet play of the Spirit on His own inspired word.
Romans 10:9. The Lord Jesus.—Jesus as Jehovah. Paul is referring to Jeremiah 23:6. Mouth confession important towards men, heart belief towards God. The law is works; the gospel is faith, and works following. The resurrection of Christ is a foundation fact; receive that, and we shall include all it implies.
Romans 10:10.—In the heart faith is seated; with the tongue confession is made. Between these two salvation is completed.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Romans 10:5-11
Life on divine conditions.—God is not a Pharaoh demanding bricks without straw; God does not require a Samson’s strength from an infant’s weakness, a Solomon’s wisdom from the unfortunate possessor of imbecility. If God’s plan of salvation seem difficult, it is not because of divine conditions, but because of human perversity. Humble souls, receptive natures, find God’s method of salvation an easy, unencumbered plan. Life on divine conditions is in striking contrast to life on human conditions.
I. Notice life on human conditions.—Sometimes we rail against the hardness and perversity of nature. Man battling for life is often worsted in the encounter. The struggle for life ends, with too many, in death. But life would not be so hard if selfishness were eliminated from humanity. Natural life is hard on human conditions. It is not God but man that makes moral life hard. The human conditions are:
1. Life by doing. The law done, the life secured. Grace was there in Old Testament times, but men too often ignored the grace and went about to establish their own righteousness. God had then a blessing for contrite souls.
2. Life by fruitless search. Who can ascend to heaven? Who can fathom the abyss? In these modern days men can explore and investigate to marvellous heights and depths; they can almost travel along the pathway which the vulture’s eye hath not seen; but they do not discover the treasure of moral life. The eye of the scientist has not seen it in the depths; the far-reaching knowledge of the philosopher has not discovered it in the heights of his sublime soaring. Spiritual life eludes the search of the wise and prudent of this world, but is revealed unto babes.
II. Notice life on divine conditions.—Natural life on divine conditions is pleasant. The life of unfallen man was life on divine conditions—life in a garden where birds sang, brooks musically rippled, flowers bloomed, fruits ripened, and where there was not the offensiveness of decay and of death. If flowers decayed, they presented no unsightly aspect, they gave forth no offensive odour. If death visited, it came in comely form. Man had no monotony, no feeling of unrest. The conditions of life are changed; but even now if we got nearer to divine conditions we should live more pleasantly. One image this of spiritual life. Pleasantly flows the stream of spiritual life to those who exercise faith. Spiritual life is in:
1. A word of nearness. God’s words are near. Day unto day uttereth divine speech. Nature is divinely vocal. Time expresses the divine thought. Providence utters the purposes of the infinite Spirit. God’s words are round about us everywhere. The atmosphere is thick with the thoughts of the Eternal. But God’s words are carried by a still, small voice, and our souls are not hushed so as to catch the message. “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart”; but time words stifle the heaven word. Let us be still, and then we shall hear the near word of God.
2. A word of faith. A little word, and yet very large. It carries a whole heaven in its embrace. It conquers the world, the flesh, and the devil—triumphs over death, and opens the gates of paradise. The word of faith is great, and yet its greatness is not inherent, but derived. Faith must have an object, and that object is a divine Person. Faith embraces a living Saviour; faith concerns itself with a perfect life, an atoning death, an evidencing resurrection, a victorious ascension, and an intercessory existence; faith is emotional, its seat is in the heart; faith works by love. God is emotional, and so are His true children. The intellectualist may despise the emotional; and yet to stifle emotion is to do violence to the perfection of human nature. Emotions play a large part in human doings. Emotion is a strong motive force. God would have perfect men in His kingdom, and such are those who let emotion have fair play. Faith of the head will not save. Faith which accepts the axioms of mathematics, the deductions of logic the recorded experiments of science, or the statements of history will not save. There is a faith which accepts a perfect creed, and yet is not saving. Our want is heart faith. To-day we are developing heads and minimising hearts; our brains are weighed and measured, while our hearts are dying for want of nutriment. The light of moral knowledge may play about the head while the heart is untouched; and where hearts are unaffected there can be no true moral reformation. A heart faith clinging to a loving Christ climbs the rugged steeps of time, and gains the height of moral perfectness and spiritual beauty. Heart faith resting in Christ is the greatest motive power in the universe.
3. A word of confession. In these days Christ-confessing is too much confined. If the heart were full of Christ, would the mouth be full of the world? Have things changed? Are the great Teacher’s words untrue, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”? Are they untrue? or is it sadly true that Christ-abundance is not found in modern hearts? The head and the heart, the body and the soul, must move onwards to the accomplishment of a perfected salvation.
4. A word of divine encouragement. “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.” Here we have a divine universality, a divine invitation, and a divine declaration—the largeness of divine love, the regulating force of divine wisdom, the provisions of divine power. “Whosoever.” Jew or Gentile, rich or poor. “Whosoever.” If a word could measure the vastness of the infinite love, that word would be the word “whosoever.” Finite words, however, cannot gauge infinite realities. Enough for us to know that the love is vast, and that love invites whosoever believeth to the banqueting-house where the banner of divine love is displayed.
Romans 10:6-8. The Saviour near the soul.—By the phrase “the righteousness which is of faith” we are to understand Christianity. Therefore Christianity is the speaker. The apostle desires to answer the question of questions, How may I be saved from my sins for the service of my God? and assumes Christianity to be speaking in answer. Christianity does not say it is necessary to go to a distance for your religion, but “the word is nigh.” In answer to the question, How may I become a Christian indeed? the gospel reply is, Look not for the marvellous, leave the speculative; listen to the Saviour: “Behold, He stands at the door, and knocks.”
I. Christianity discourages a craving for the miraculous.—Do not occupy yourselves with any fond conceits of a manifestation of God more striking and convincing than that which you have already. Had miracles been the likeliest method of eliciting Christian faith, they would have been continued. But they did their work, and were laid aside. Though the need has passed, the craving remains. Hence the lying legends of the Church of Rome. The last thing men will acknowledge is that the blessing is already their own if they have faith to receive it. The last power they consent to trust is Christ, the power of God. Yet, needing Christ, it is the word of Christ we already have. “The word is nigh.”
II. Christianity discourages a passion for the speculative.—Do not consider it necessary that you should have adequate notions respecting those deep subjects before you can attain to the righteousness of faith and the blessings of salvation. Do but believe. You need not then despair of receiving heavenly teaching. The wisest of men are sent back by the gospel to the simple faith of children. This is the heavenly order: first trust, then knowledge. Theology is not religion. Theologies change, but Christ changes not.
III. Christianity recalls us, then, from the miraculous and the speculative to the evangelical and the spiritual.—The word of faith very familiar to those who heard Paul. And the word is nigh now. The letter of the word is nigh—a free, cheap Bible. More than that, you have Christian language already in your mouth. Mark the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the name of Christ. In a certain sense the word is in your heart already. Every troubled heart has a witness for Him who did what the law could not do for man. Christ speaks to the heart, and in a language which the heart comprehends. He has done this in many ways—by sorrows, by consolations, by memories. And the Saviour is near to the soul at all times. It is a familiar good. It is Christ, then, not this world, that can bless us.—J. Gage Rigg, D.D.
Romans 10:10. Outward observances.—Man, a being of two parts: outward, material; inward, immaterial. Therefore two facts must be brought into play in all relationships to God and to men.
For man’s religion to be thoroughgoing, heart must be in it, body must be in it. Meaning of “worship in spirit and in truth”—not spirit without body, but spirit along with body.
1. Family prayer proves your belief in God in the eyes of your household. [Note.—No position more honourable than Christian man—like patriarchs, priest of his household, conducting family worship.]
2. Going to church, witness to belief in God in the eyes of the world. [Note.—A duty, therefore, even for the deaf or blind.]
3. Confirmation a similar ceremony, witness that when of age of discretion you put trust in God and decide for Him,
4. Kneeling in prayer, testimony of reverence before God. Story of heathen chief, who sees Charlemagne kneeling in church, and asks, Where is the greater King? I know one must have been there, for the king was kneeling.
5. Lord’s supper, testimony that you have support from someone beyond yourself.
Remember, inward, if real, must be expressed by something outward. Beware of outward without inward.—Dr. Springett.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Romans 10:5-11
The will of God made clearly known.—The obvious import of this passage is that the knowledge of the will of God had been made perfectly accessible; no one was required to do what was impossible, neither to ascend to heaven nor to pass the boundless sea in order to attain it; it was neither hidden nor afar off, but obvious and at hand. Without directly citing this passage, Paul uses nearly the same language to express the same idea. The expressions here used seem to have become proverbial among the Jews. To be “high” or “afar off” was to be “unattainable “; “to ascend to heaven” or “to go down to hell” was “to do what was impossible.” As the sea was to the ancients impassable, it is easy to understand how the question, “Who can pass over the sea?” was tantamount to, Who can ascend up into heaven? Among the later Jews the same mode of expression not infrequently occurs.—Hodge.
The world to be regenerated by doing our nearest duty.—My object has been and is, and I trust in God ever will be, to make people see that they need not, as St. Paul says, go up into heaven or go down to the deep to find Christ; because He the word whom we preach, is very near them—in their hearts and on their lips—if they would but believe it; and ready, not to set them afloat on new and untried oceans of schemes and projects, but ready to inspire them to do their duty humbly and simply where He has put them; and, believe me, the only way to regenerate the world is to do the duty which lies nearest us, and not to hunt after grand, far-fetched ones for ourselves.—Charles Kingsley.
The duty of confessing with the mouth.—As believing with the heart leads to righteousness, so confessing Christ with the mouth conduces “to salvation.” Confessing Christ with the mouth is at all times an important duty; but, at the first publication of the gospel, it was peculiarly indispensable, both for promoting the diffusion of the Christian religion and for the edification of individuals. For the open avowal of Christianity by all the disciples of Christ, accompanied with that moral purity which distinguished them and which was so striking in an age of great corruption, would naturally lead other men to examine a religion which produced such remarkable effects; and thus many might be induced to embrace the gospel who would not otherwise have given it any consideration. In like manner, by associating continually with the Church in all the services of religion, the Christian converts would gradually become better acquainted with the gospel and more strongly induced by the influence of general example to live as became the disciples of Christ. Hence our Saviour makes confessing Him before men an express condition of His confessing men before His Father who is in heaven; and adds, that whosoever shall deny Him before men, him will He deny before His Father which is in heaven.—Ritchie.
The true misery to be ashamed of oneself.—This is being confounded; this is shame itself; this is the intolerable, horrible, hellish shame and torment wherein is weeping and gnashing of teeth; this is the everlasting shame and contempt to which, as Daniel prophesied, too many should awake in that day, to be found guilty in that day before God and Christ, before our neighbours and our relations, and, worst of all, before ourselves. Worst of all, I say, before ourselves. It would be dreadful enough to have all the bad things we ever did or thought told openly against us to all our neighbours and friends, and to see them turn away from us—dreadful to find out at last (what we forget all day long) that God knows them already; but more dreadful to know them all ourselves and see our sins in all their shamefulness in the light of God, as God Himself sees them—more dreadful still to see the loving God and the loving Christ turn away from us; but most dreadful of all to turn away from ourselves—to be utterly discontented with ourselves, ashamed of ourselves—to see that all our misery is our own fault, that we have been our own enemies; to despise ourselves and hate ourselves for ever; to try for ever to get rid of ourselves, and escape from ourselves as from some ugly and foul place in which we are ashamed to be seen for a moment, and yet not to be able to get rid of ourselves. Yes, that will be the true misery of a lost soul—to be ashamed of itself and hate itself. Who shall deliver a man from the body of that death?—Charles Kingsley.
How will proud boasters answer?—”For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” What answer will be made to the above words of St. Paul by those proud boasters who glory in a certain imaginary faith, which is lodged, as they presume to say, in the inmost recesses of their hearts, and which is completely to supersede the confession of the mouth? Surely it is the veriest trifling to assert that fire exists where there is neither flame nor heat.—Calvin.
What is to confess Christ?—It is Jesus who is to be confessed. To confess Him is to accept Him as our Saviour, and to say so. It is to profess belief in Him as the Son of God, who died for us, in whom through believing we have eternal life; for all this He said of Himself. It is before men that we are to confess Him (Matthew 10:32),—before good men, that our mutual faith may be strengthened; before bad men, that their unbelief may be shaken. How confess Him? Publicly, with our lips. Men who are ever ready to say that they believe in Christ, and never ready to say it openly, in connecting themselves with some branch of His Church, would do well to question their own sincerity. Privately, with our lips. It is a shame for Christians to dwell together, or to often talk together, and never say a loving word about their Saviour. And “not only with our lips, but in our lives.” When? Now and always, in word and in deed. Why just now? Because no other moment belongs to us—because the confession must be made before men; and how soon may we cease from among men!—Robert Westly Peach.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Romans 10:8. Healing at her own door.—A lady who was very ill went from place to place on the Continent, hoping to recover her health, but all in vain, for she daily grew worse. At last, in despair, she asked a physician what she must do. “Medicine,” replied he, “is useless. You have one chance, and that is to drink the waters of Pit Keathley.” “What?” exclaimed she; “why, those waters are in my own estate!” She went home and recovered her health. Thus salvation is near. The word is nigh thee. The Saviour stands at the door of the heart. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.”
Romans 10:12.—A favourite Pauline expression declaring the exuberant grace of Christ.
Romans 10:13.—Double argument for Christ’s divinity. He is called Jehovah, and is invoked.
Romans 10:15.—The Midrash shir Hasschium upon these words, “the voice of truth,” etc., says, “This is the voice of King Messiah crying out, and saying, How beautiful upon the mountains,” etc. Those Gentiles who have never heard the gospel preached cannot be condemned for want of faith in Christ.
Romans 10:17.—The message of the prophets, but received as coming from God Himself.
Romans 10:18.—These words being spoken literally of the preaching of the heavens to the Gentiles, touching the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, and the psalmist speaking after of God’s teaching His people by the law, the apostle accommodates these words to the revelation of God’s power, wisdom, and goodness in the gospel to the heathen. To all the earth; all the Gentiles had now heard the gospel. Paul’s answer to the objector—all the ends of the earth have beard, well might the Jews. By the words, “unto all the earth,” the Rabbins understood the servants of Messiah.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Romans 10:12-18
A missionary sermon.—When St. Paul quoted the prophet, the vision of a Christ-won world had not been realised. It is still one of the unfulfilled prophecies. Yet the gospel has exercised a splendid influence.
I. The influence of the gospel is readily shown by contrasts.—
1. When Paul wrote this epistle, the ancient Roman virtue, the admirable simplicity, and unconquerable courage had died away. So, too, had the old religion. The decay and corruption of it were accelerated by the engrafting of new and dark superstitions. The change, too, in social life was startling. Vice was deified. The secret of this? The pagan world knew not God. The sound of the gospel had not yet gone forth.
2. But some had heard the word, and the influence upon their lives and consciences was startling. The influence was irresistible. It modified private life, individual life, social life, state life.
3. The modern testimony as shown by a glance at English life. True we have too much cause for “the bitter cry.” The theory of the present day surpasses, startlingly, the reality. But a thousand evidences exist to show that England has caught the spirit of Him “who went about doing good.”
II. Much yet remains to be done.—E.g., picture rapidly the dark spots of the earth. The prophet’s vision is a vision still. The task before us is a superhuman one.
1. Look at the work in its vastness. Even here in England there is heathenism. Abroad, roughly speaking, eight hundred millions are heathens. You try to convert a man; ten men, a hundred could not do it, but for God’s help. One man! Multiply that by eight hundred millions, and verily the work is great! Looking at the matter from a human standpoint, the work is hopeless, disheartening.
2. There are multiplying disabilities. Were all these millions who knew not God of one nationality, the work would appear prodigious. We can measure up the magnitude of the task when already our Bible is read and taught in two hundred and sixty tongues.
3. There is the added on disability of the unscrupulous trader dogging the missionary’s course. The truly business man is a noble man; but we have to take account of the blacklegs of the commercial world.
4. The work suffers from fewness of labourers and lack of funds.
III. The prophet’s vision must be fulfilled.—And man must lend a helping hand. God’s part of the work is sure enough. But He works through men. Men are God’s instruments. Through men He forced the hand of Pharaoh; through men he found a home for Israel; through men the triumphs of Christianity have often been won. What is our response? This country’s wealth is fabulous. Fifteen hundred millions sterling will but barely represent the private income of England’s citizens. Against that we have raised one and a half million a year—a princely sum, if we forget to compare, say, with the expenditure on our navy, army, drink bill, and so on. Yet “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” Of course there are two sides to every question. Here I pointed out the side of obligation. What about a natural response? Or on the consideration of charity, the brotherhood side of the question? The pride of the present age should be to have a part in helping on the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, to swell the grand and noble company of men who would crown the Saviour Lord of earth and Lord of heaven!—Albert Lee.
Romans 10:15. Three beautiful progressive courses.—There is a certain sense in which it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While we believe that there must be both the idea of beauty in the perceiving subject and certain attractive qualities in the perceived object capable of exciting or helping on the sensation, we must allow that the mind has the power of transferring its ideas to the outward object and investing it with beauty. The painter sees beauty in form and colour; the musician finds only beauty in certain waves of sound, in the harmonious progression of notes. A thing or a person becomes to us beautiful by the power of association. Thus it is that the feet of the messenger are beautiful, not in themselves, but because they are instrumental in bearing a joyful message. The mere personality of the messenger is lost in the glory of the message, and he becomes beautiful by reason of transferred qualities. He shines, as it were, by reason of borrowed plumes. We are thinking rather of the message and its bearing upon ourselves than of the messenger as we sing, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”
I. The progressive course of the messenger is beautiful.—In these days, as we think of the preacher, we should say, How beautiful is the mouth, how sweet are the modulated tones, how charming is the voice, of him who preaches the gospel of peace! for we are too often more concerned with the style and manner of the messenger than with the subject-matter of the message. Sometimes at concerts we listen to the singer who sings in Italian. We cannot tell the meaning of the words, but we are charmed all the same. Are not too many in our congregations careless about understanding the preacher’s message? Italian would do well enough for them if it were given so as to charm the listening ear. The messenger should be beautiful, not as a well-tuned musical instrument, not as a mere attractive human machine, but as the bearer of a great divine thought. However, the feet set before us the progressive course of the messenger as well as of his message. He runs on a divine errand. He is sent by divine commission. This opens out to us:
1. The dignity of the messenger. A common man acquires dignity when he becomes the monarch’s messenger. What dignity should attach to him who is the heaven-sent messenger of peace and good tidings to the children of men! There is a dignity which is assumed, stilted, and offensive; but there is a dignity which is transferred, natural, and becoming; and such is the quality of the dignity that characterises him whose feet are moved by a divine impulse. Preachers should feel that they are God’s ambassadors, and then they will not be soon abashed.
2. The importance of the messenger. In some quarters this is measured by the number of the letters attached to his name, by the honours he gained at the university, by the high position he holds in the Church, by his family connections, or by some other accidental and minor considerations. Surely this was not Paul’s way of reckoning. He says, “How beautiful are the feet of him that preaches the gospel of peace!” If the man have a divine message to my soul, then he is welcome and is highly esteemed.
3. The benevolence of the messenger. The preacher of the gospel of peace in modern times is often rewarded by great emolument. Even if ministers and clergymen are not always well paid, and might have done better in other professions, they are, upon the whole, well provided for, and are nearly always treated with respect and occupy high social positions; so that we cannot always be sure to what degree they are actuated by benevolent motives. However, benevolence is the ideal motive, and we may thankfully believe in many cases the real motive. And how beautiful are the feet of that messenger who is moved by a benevolent impulse! He pleases not himself, but seeks to please his fellow-creatures, so that he may bring them to Christ and to goodness. His feet run swiftly, for they are charged with the electric force of love. His eyes are beautiful, for they flash forth love-light. His voice, though naturally poor, is sweet, for it is tuned by love.
II. The progressive course of the message is beautiful.—Peace has to the apostle the full idea of the gospel salvation; the good things are the rich, displayed, saving blessings which proceed from the one salvation. The message is one of peace and good-will to the children of men. The messenger is running and working in order to establish the kingdom of God on earth. How beautiful is the progressive course of the kingdom!
1. There is about it the beauty of growth. There is beauty in the works of man, beauty in things that are made. But no beauty is equal to that of growth. In the spring season it is pleasant to notice the unfolding beauty of growing nature after the deathlike sleep and barrenness of winter. How beautiful to watch the valleys being clothed with corn, and the little hills rejoicing in the gradual putting forth of verdure! We rejoice in our children as we watch their growing and unfolding minds. There is sometimes an agony of mind as a new idea is being brought forth; but there is pleasure as that idea grows and becomes a comely creature that can be presented to the world’s intellect. The kingdom of God on earth, within a man and within a society, progresses by growth—at first small as the mustard-seed grain. Then it grows; and by-and-by it becomes a great tree, in which birds build their nests, and beneath which men may shelter.
2. There is the beauty of development. Divine growths are divine developments. They are the unfolding of divine plans and purposes. The New Testament dispensation is a development of the Old. The epistles are a development of the gospels. Some people complain about St. Paul that he has rendered the simple gospels difficult. In some respects this may be true; but if there be any truth in the charge, we must also remember to his credit that he has amplified the gospels and revealed their largeness. He has unfolded more of the length and breadth, of the depth and height, of that love which passeth knowledge. Every age should increase in knowledge; and surely we should rejoice in the increase of spiritual knowledge.
3. There is the beauty of silent but persuasive influence. “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.” The great Founder of Christianity applies to Himself the words of Esaias: “He shall not strive nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets.” Such is the unobtrusive method which He will employ for the purpose of accomplishing the greatest moral revolution which time has seen. Not with the sound of drums, not with the blare of trumpets, not with the clashing of battle arms, will this mighty Conqueror pursue His career and gain His wondrous conquests. Again He places before us the method in one of His inimitable parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven.” The yeast is placed in a mass foreign to itself, and by its silent and persistent agency it assimilates each separate particle until the whole lump is leavened. The good leaven of the gospel shall assimilate the whole of our race. How beautiful is the progression of grace in the soul of men, in the heart of human societies! Silently but surely does the kingdom of God extend. Silently and sweetly as the light wakes up the sleeping earth and calls forth things of beauty and sounds of harmony, so does the light of the gospel of peace wake up the sleeping energies of humanity, and create things of moral beauty and sounds of spiritual harmony. Silently and persistently as great ideas shape the movements of modern civilisation, so and more the great idea of salvation by faith in Christ has shaped barbarism into civilisation, and shall perfect and glorify the civilisation already accomplished. The history of the progressive course of the gospel in the earth is a beautiful and attractive record. How beautiful, too, is the course of the gospel in the heart of the individual! To some the study of metaphysics is delightful. What shall be said about spiritual metaphysics?
III. The progressive course of the recipient is beautiful.—Picture the recipients in a besieged city. Provisions are being exhausted; means of defence are diminishing; the situation looks dreadful; despair is written on many countenances; gloom prevails almost universally. On the hilltop the messenger comes that speaks of help and safety.
1. Thus the recipients pass from despair to hope. And this is the true result when the message of divine peace comes to the soul of man. Despair he may well feel when he finds that he cannot attain to his ideals, when he realises the painful truth that when he would do good evil is present and thwarts the high purpose, when he is baffled and overmastered as he strives to establish his own righteousness But despair gives place to hope as he hears that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” How beautiful to see hope growing and flourishing out of and on the barren ground of despair! For it is when a man is in a despairing condition that he welcomes the hopes of the gospel, and joyfully exclaims, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” How beautiful is the growth of hope in the soul! It is pleasant to watch the growth of the flowers in our gardens. We watch them assume their perfect shape, paint their delicate colours, produce their delicious aroma. What flower in either garden or hothouse can compare with the rich flower of hope growing in the soul garden? Its perfect shape is produced by a divine hand; its delicate colours are painted with a celestial brush; the aroma is composed of the cluster of spices gathered in the garden of the upper paradise.
2. Thus the recipients pass from danger to safety. So long as the besieged are in a despairing condition they are in danger, for despair paralyses the powers, weakens the faculties, and produces defeat. The very sight of the messenger running swiftly down the mountains is sufficient to remove despair, and thus lift out of danger. The gospel messenger not only tells of coming help, but of present help. The word of salvation is nigh thee. This messenger tells of a more powerful deliverer than Cyrus. King Jesus can deliver from worse than Babylonian bondage. We are in danger while we are trying the works of the law; we are in safety when we submit ourselves unto the righteousness of God—the righteousness revealed and offered through Christ Jesus our Lord.
3. Thus the recipients pass from sorrow to joy. In this world sorrow has its work and its benefits, but we always welcome joy. St. Paul looks upon godly sorrow, not as a continuous state, but as a force working upward and onward to divine joy. And how beautiful is the passage from sorrow to joy! Sweet is the morning light breaking over the hilltops and scattering the gloom and hideous forms of night; sweet thus is it to watch the light of divine joy gradually shining in the soul and removing all traces of sin’s dark night. Pleasant it is to watch the child’s countenance and see the opening joy of the young soul breaking through the countenance, and chasing away all marks of displeasure; pleasant thus is it to watch the countenance of God’s new-born, spiritual child, and see how the joy of heaven is chasing away all sorrow. If he have sorrow, it is because he can do so little for Him who has done so much. As, then, we look at the progressive course of the messengers, the message, and the recipients, we may indeed join with St. Paul, and say, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
Romans 10:15. The gospel of peace.—Why this special name for Christianity? Gospel = good tidings. Christian gospel has three chief doctrines—viz.,
1. The fatherhood of God;
2. The (necessarily following) brotherhood of man;
3. The saviourhood of Christ Jesus. From 1 and 3 follows peace with God; from 2 follows peace with men.
To prove, examine condition of those who do not know gospel. Nations who do not know 1 will be found practising self-torments, devil worship, human sacrifice, slaughter of wives and slaves at death. Grasp of 1 stops all these. Nations who do not know 2 practise constant wars, vendetta, slavery, polygamy, degradation of women. Knowledge of 2 stops these. Nations who do not know 3 practise superstitions of priestcraft and witchcraft—e.g., medicine men, witch doctors, etc. Knowledge of 3 ends the power of these. Illustrate from missionary works.
Christian cannot rest till the gospel of peace has been preached to all who need it. Heathen Indian said to American bishop, “I go out in the dark, and am afraid; you are not afraid.” Gospel of peace sheds light and ends fear.—Dr. Springett.
Romans 10:16. The rejected report.—This is the third and last time we have this interrogation recorded in Holy Writ. It originally fell from the seraphic lips of Isaiah, as a complaint that his announcements relative to Messiah—though so full and fervid and eloquent—had fallen flat upon his countrymen’s ears, and had been dismissed by them as an idle tale. It was not only a complaint, but likewise a prediction that the same heedlessness and scepticism should be the characteristics of Christ’s personal ministry, as well as the after ministry of apostles and Christian ambassadors. Hence, the second time it occurs it is in relation to Christ’s own mission (John 12:37-38). Since the days of Christ and Paul, thousands of holy and devoted servants of God have put the same inquiry, as they have thought of unheeded sermons and apparently fruitless labours.
I. That the gospel is a report.—A report divine in its origin, unique in its character, authentic in its facts, authoritative in its statements, and marvellous in its declarations. The gospel reports the most wonderful love. Declaration upon declaration of this love it contains; but all seem to be comprised in that one jewel utterance by St. John, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Romans 3:16). This is a volume in a verse, an ocean in a dewdrop, a hemisphere of light in a solitary luminary, an eternity of mystery and mercy! Eternity cannot exhaust its wealth of interest and wonderment! This love, then, sinner, the gospel declares, is for you. While God has loved all men in general, He likewise loves every man in particular. Sin is the only thing in creation He hates—not you, my brother. Disabuse your mind of the notion that He is a cruel tyrant, a despotic ruler, an arbitrary and a vindictive judge. Away with the false idea that He hates you. He is a tender and compassionate Father. Let me suppose that some one of you fathers and mothers have a son who was the flower of your family, the joy of your homestead, the favourite of all; so kind, genial, affectionate, and dutiful once. But, alas! by degrees he has given way to bad company, yielded to his baser propensities, and is become openly profligate, recklessly wild. What is it, I ask, that causes you so much pain, so much sorrow, so much restlessness? Is it not your deep-rooted love for him? You love your child, though you hate his evil ways. So it is with God. Your relationship to your son is His relationship to you, only infinitely closer and dearer. And your son’s recklessness of conduct is your conduct in a lesser degree to your heavenly Father; and your feelings of grief and trouble are, in an inferior sense, God’s feelings of grief and pain at your sin and foolishness. The gospel reports the most wonderful life. All life is wonderful, from that which warbles in the song of the thrush, and blushes in the beauty of the rose, to that which glows among burning ranks of seraphim. Life is an overmastering problem! But we refer not now to life in its abstract essence, or life in the sense of “being,” but to life in human embodiment—enshrined, active, visible livingness, life the fact, rather than life the principle. The life of Jesus Christ which the gospel makes known has no parallel in the history of races. The mysterious conception was grandly confirmed by the mysterious career. Unique in birth, He was unique all through. If one link in the chain be faulty, then the whole chain is a failure. But every link has been found a perfect link; the whole Life wondrously consistent, complete, unrivalled. For more than eighteen centuries this Life has been stirring humanity to its very core and centre. The great upheavings of religious thought, and advances of religious enterprise, and strugglings in Continental countries after religious liberty, etc., which characterise this period of the nineteenth century, are the result of this wonderful Christ-life. In philosophy He is the mightiest enigma. In life He is the inimitable ideal. In the world He is the absolute ruler. In the universe He is the highest attraction! From that wonderful Life, as from a fountain of eternity, has flowed vital influences which have carried verdure and freshness, beauty and blessedness, wherever they have gone. The gospel reports the most wonderful provisions. Provisions of mercy and of merit: of mercy to avert the penal blow and cancel the enormous guilt; of merit to re-dignify the acquitted rebel, and reinstate him in the eternal favour. Provisions equal to the demands of one soul, or a world of souls—“enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore.” There is multiplied pardon, multiplied peace, multiplied joy, multiplied life, multiplied hope, multiplied riches—of grace, of goodness, of glory. In a word, there is a variety so great, a fulness so vast, a supply so magnificent and princely, that the roll of unceasing ages will fail to exhaust either the one or the other. The gospel reports the most wonderful results. Obedient to the imperial summons of the Master, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” the apostles and their coadjutors—those giant sons of the cross—embarked on their sublime but hazardous enterprise, “beginning at Jerusalem.” Thence they sallied forth to the “regions beyond” and “preached Jesus and the resurrection.” In less than three hundred years after they started, the gospel had sounded its report all over the Roman empire, even in cottage and palace, and gathered trophies from among the hardy sons of toil and the ranks of Cæsar’s household. Jehovah and all the cohorts of the eternities are behind the instrumentality, so that ultimate success is certain. God hurries not, neither does He tarry. Eternity is His work-day, so that ere noon shall arrive He will effect His purposes and complete His undertaking. Do you contemplate this gospel as a remedy for the world’s sicknesses? It reports success where every human prescription and every method of creature quackery has failed. Success in every case it has taken absolutely in hand. Do you contemplate it as a revelation? It eclipses every other, and stands out with a singularity and supremacy at once unprecedented and divine; reporting as it reveals, and revealing as it reports, Jehovah’s mind and will, the sympathy and benevolence of His great heart, before which multitudes have bowed in reverence and submission. View it in what light you may, as a remedy, a revelation, a message, a system, or a history, it reports results the most astounding and sublime. It also reports the most wonderful salvation. So simple that a child may understand it; so great that a philosopher can never comprehend it. So cheap that it can be had for the asking; so precious that millions of gold cannot buy it. So full that it can never be diminished; so universal that none is outside of its possible benedictions.
II. That this wonderful report by men in general is unheeded and discredited.—“Lord, who hath believed our report?” The inquiry, you perceive, is, not who hath heard our report, or who hath admired our report, or who hath eulogised our report, or who hath heaped empty compliments, or sullen complaints, or satirical sneers, or rotten critiques on our report. No, nothing of the kind; simply “Who hath believed [endorsed, practically embraced] our report?” Who hath turned it savingly to account, and enjoyed experimentally its consolations? If men in general theoretically believe it, in practice they despise and disbelieve it. It is not that men do not believe religion to be a good thing, a needful thing, a blessed thing, a great and glorious thing, that hinders them from believing this “report.” Nay, it is that they cannot, rather will not, give up their sins, customs, pleasures, companions, habits, pride.
III. That such practical unbelief is a source of deep grief and anxiety to the faithful minister.—Causing him often to cry out in secret, “Lord, who hath believed our report?” No man fired with the love of God, inflamed with a passion for souls, to whom truth and God and Christ and eternity are vivid and vital realities, can possibly preach on and on for years without visible success in the conversion of men and women, and not be wrung at times into an agony of distress over his apparently fruitless labours. There are some of us who know what it is to “weep between the porch and the altar” over indifferent hearers, who are constrained to exclaim, like the weeping prophet, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why, then, is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” Refuse! and the next report which shall fall upon your ears may be, that a true bill has been found against you by the grand jury of the eternal court, and that you be consigned to the “place prepared for the devil and his angels,” until the morning of the judgment day.—J. O. Keen, D.D.
Romans 10:17. Faith’s production and productions.—It is not sufficient to know the Bible intellectually, or to have its records stored in the memory. Many people can say perfectly the catechism of their Church, but are destitute of true religion. Knowledge may play about the head, while the heart is unaffected and unimproved. True faith touches the heart. True faith is emotional, as well as intellectual. Faith must work by love and purify the whole nature.
I. How is true faith produced?—By what is heard through the blessing of the Holy Spirit. The thing heard is through and by the revelation of God.
1. The source of true faith is the word of God. In these days the word of God is producing unbelief in many quarters. Do we say producing? Should we not rather say that the unbelief is there, and the word of God is used maliciously for the purpose of fostering the prior unbelief? The word of God is the source of true faith to all the true-hearted. There is in connection therewith, in its external and internal evidences, sufficient to produce faith.
2. The channel of true faith is hearing. We must hear, not to cavil, not to be pleased, but to find profit. We must hear as the man listens to a will being read, as a man waits to hear the sentence of the judge. We must hear as for eternity. The Holy Spirit attends the word and opens the heart. Let us pray and seek for the divine Spirit, so that we may hear and live.
II. What does true faith produce?—
1. It produces salvation. Faith is not salvation, but the means by which we become or realise that we are saved. Faith is not Christ, but the hand that lays hold on the Christ. Faith is not the fruit, but that by which we pluck the fruit and are refreshed. Faith is not the blessing, but that without which the blessing cannot become ours.
2. It works obedience. So that to say that the faith of the gospel is destructive of morality is to argue ignorance. Faith produces prompt obedience; the faithful have been the most moral and virtuous.
3. It is the helpmeet of simple confidence in God our father. The children of the faith are the trustful children of God. They feel God; they hear His voice in all sounds of sweetness; they trace the impress of His feet in all things and shapes of beauty; they are not afraid of a besetting God; they march through dangers with undaunted courage.
4. It inclines them to obey and follow their Guide, and thus they come safely to their journey’s end. The man who by faith has found salvation in and by Christ will be inclined to follow Him heartily. Let us hear, believe, and live the highest and the noblest life. A life of holiness is the best test of the sincerity of faith.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Romans 10:12-18
Lord’s goodness plenteous, impartial, and wise.—Power and benevolence are rarely united in our fellow-creatures. Here is one who has abundance, but he has no disposition to do good; he turns away his ear from hearing the poor, and seems to live as if he were born for himself only. Yea, the disposition often decreases as the capacity grows; so that there are some who not only give less comparatively, but less really, than they did when they were poorer. Then it hardly seemed worth their while to be covetous and to hoard; but now they have the means, and the temptation conquers them. On the other hand, there is many a one who has bowels of mercy, but he can only pity and shed unavailing tears over victims of distress. He is compelled to say only, “Be ye warmed, and be ye filled”; for he has it not in his hand to give such things as are needful for the body—his hand is shortened that it cannot save, though his ear is not heavy that it cannot hear. But some few there are in whom the means and the mind to use them are found united. The Lord increase their number! These are little images of Himself, in whom we equally find greatness and goodness, the resources and the readiness of compassion. He is over all, and He is rich “unto all that call upon Him.” Let me look at His greatness. He is over all. All beings of every rank are under His absolute control. He rules over all material agents; over all animal agents; over all human agents—over the best, the greatest, the worst of men; over all invisible agents—over devils, over angels, over departed spirits. He is Lord both of the dead and of the living. How astonishing, then, are His possessions and His dominions! A nation seems a great thing to us. But what is the greatest nation to our earth? And what is our earth to the luminaries of heaven? Many of these are discernible by the naked eye. When this fails, art assists nature; and Herschel sees innumerably more. When the telescope fails, the imagination plunges into the immensity beyond, and we exclaim, Lo! these are parts of His ways. But how small a portion is known of Him! Yet—for His mercy equals His majesty—the same Lord who is over all “is rich unto all that call upon Him.” His goodness has three characters.
1. It is plenteous. He is rich unto all that call upon Him. Some, if they are bountiful, are poor in bounty. And this appears not only in the smallness of their gifts, but in the mode of giving. It seems done by restraint, not willingly and of a ready mind. It does not drop from them as honey from the comb, or flow like water from a spring; it seems an unnatural effort. You feel no more respect when they give much than when they give little; everything like nobleness is destroyed by the manner; the meanness of the disposition is betrayed; and the poor-spirited mortal can no more give kindly and generously than a clown can dance gracefully. But the Lord God is a sun. He gives grace and glory; and no good thing will He withhold. He abundantly pardons; and while He gives liberally, He upbraideth not.
2. It is impartial. He is rich unto all that call upon Him. For there is no difference between Jew and Greek. And the same will apply to sex, and age, and calling, and condition, and character. The proclamations of divine grace exclude none, whatever be their circumstances; and it is well they do not. If any were excluded, awakened souls would be sure to find themselves among the exceptions. But what exceptions can any find when they read, “Preach the gospel to every creature”—“whosoever will let him take of the water of life freely”? Evangelical mercy is like Noah’s ark, that took in the clean and the unclean—only with this difference in favour of the truth above the type: there all the beasts came out as they went in; whereas, “if any man be in Christ he is a new creature.” He changes all He receives, and sanctifies all He saves.
3. It is wise. “He is rich unto all that call upon Him.” This is required, and cannot be dispensed with—not only because God wills it, but because “it seemeth good in His sight.” He knows that we should never praise Him for blessings which we do not value; and He knows that we never could be made happy by them. For that which gratifies is something that relieves our wants, fulfils our desire, accomplishes our hope, and crowns our endeavours. God’s way, therefore, is to make us sensible of our state, and to cause us to hunger and thirst after righteousness; and then we shall be filled: “for whoso asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” God reveals Himself, not only for our encouragement, but imitation; and vain is our confidence in Him without conformity to Him. Therefore, says the apostle, “Be ye followers of God, as dear children.” How? In what? And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour. Men would be like God, as the greatest of beings; but we are to be like Him, as the best of beings. They would resemble Him in His natural perfections; but we are to resemble Him in His moral. They would, as He is, be over all, and gladly have everything at their own disposal: but we are to be holy, as He is holy; and true, as He is true: and patient, as He is patient; and forgiving, as He is forgiving; and tender, as He is tender; and, according to our resources, to be rich unto all that call upon us.—W. Jay.
Links in the soul’s redemptive chain.—The first link is prayer. “How then shall they call on Him?” etc. Prayer is mere calling on God; which act implies:
1. Consciousness of dependence upon Him;
2. An earnest desire after Him. The second link is faith. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” There must be faith in two things:
1. Faith in His personal existence;
2. In the entreatability of His nature. The third link is knowledge. “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” Whilst there is a faith lying at the basis of all knowledge, soul-redemptive faith requires knowledge—a knowledge not of the creative, sustaining God, but of the redeeming God, God in Christ. The next link is preaching. The redeeming God has been made known to man by preaching. Enoch, Noah, Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and even the holy Christ, all preached. And the subject of all their preaching was the redeeming God. No one can preach this properly unless he be sent. “How shall they preach unless they be sent?” All true preachers have a divine commission.—Homilist.
“There is no difference.”—This phrase appears three times in the New Testament, and each time in connection with a different truth or aspect of salvation; and the three taken together complete the sphere of truth. (Compare Romans 3:22; Romans 10:12-13, and Acts 15:9.) It is also noticeable that in each case a double truth is presented in connection with the recurrence of the phrase “no difference.”
1. There is no difference among sinners and believers, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The righteousness of God, which is by the faith of Jesus Christ, is unto all and upon all them that believe. All are sinners; and unto all believers comes the same all-sufficient righteousness.
2. There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles. The same God is Lord over all. Jehovah is not the God of Jews only, but of Gentiles also—the universal sovereign. And He is rich unto all that call upon Him. All are alike in poverty and bankruptcy; whatever may be the differences in debt, all are alike hopelessly bankrupt and unable to pay. But God is infinitely rich as a bestower; and all that call upon Him will receive as a free gift infinite riches of saving grace.
3. No difference in the bestowment of the Holy Spirit. To all believers God alike bears witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, and purifying their hearts by faith. The same Spirit, received by the same faith, purifies, empowers, and perfects character. These are great truths, but they are very humbling to the natural and carnal man. It is not meant to assert that between sinners there is absolutely no difference, else there could be no degrees either of guilt or of punishment. Christ said to Pilate, “He that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin”; and to the scribes and Pharisees He said, “He shall receive the greater damnation.” These words settle the fact that both sin and damnation have their grades. But as to the fact of sin and of guilt there is no difference. All are sinners, and one sin suffices to bring death. All have come short, whether by a greater or less deficiency. We must not compare ourselves among ourselves, or measure ourselves by ourselves, but by the perfect standard of law and duty. But there is also no difference in our justification. The righteousness of God is offered unto all and bestowed upon all who believe with the same divine impartiality. If we seek illustrations of the same sovereign power and rich grace as over all that call upon Him, we shall find it in the impartial bestowment of rich grace upon Nathanael and Saul, the woman of Canaan and the woman of Samaria, the eunuch of Ethiopia and the Philippian jailor. The impartiality of purifying and witnessing grace is shown by the Pentecosts at Jerusalem, Samaria, Cæsarea, and Ephesus. If God condemns impartially, so does He justify, exercise sovereignty of mercy in answering prayer, and in purifying and annointing believers.—Homiletic Review.
The ignorance of Israel cause of rejection.—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 Judæo-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.—Godet.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Romans 10:13. The inclusive “whosoever.”—John Berridge once said, after having given out these words as his text, “I would much rather it be written, ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,’ than If John Berridge shall call upon the name of the Lord, he shall be saved; because,” said he, “how do I know that there might not be another John Berridge in the world, to whom those words were addressed? But when I read, ‘Whosoever shall call’ etc., I know I must be included.”
Romans 10:17. They trusted him.—The French Marshal Turenne was the soldier’s hero. He shared all their hardships, and they entirely trusted him. When the troops were wading through a heavy morass, the younger soldiers complained. The older ones said, “Depend upon it, Turenne is more concerned than we are. At this moment he is thinking how to deliver us. He watches over us while we are asleep. He is our father, and would not have us go through such fatigue unless he had some end in view which we cannot yet make out.” Let us have this simple confidence in God our father. The faith which cometh by hearing God’s word will foster such simple confidence. We must know the Father through the Son; and as we trust the Son, so we shall trust the Father.—Quiver.
Romans 10:20.—εὑρέθην, I was found; used of God when exciting men by His benefits to seek and worship Him.
Romans 10:21.—Eben Ezra informs us that Moses Hacoben said Romans 10:20 is to be understood of the nations of the world, as if it had been said, I am found of nations which are not called by My name, but to My people have I stretched out My hands; and so the apostle interprets and applies the words here. ἀντιλέγοντα.—The very word used by the Jews at Rome to describe the treatment received by the gospel from themselves—i.e., gainsaying. Moses declares that a despised nation may become beloved.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Romans 10:18-21
Rejected Israel without excuse.—St. Paul, while establishing his own argument, throws blame upon Israel. If the new gospel be so good, and if it have been widely preached, why so little reception? Old questions which are still being asked. St. Paul shows that rejection is in harmony with prophetic utterance. Rejecters disobey to their own damage, and will be left without excuse. The word is preached, the blessed sound goes forth, but Israel rejects. The preacher must do his work, though few be saved. The preacher must hold on his course, though moderns say, Why all this preaching? We know as much as the preacher. If they know, they do not evidence their knowledge by their practice. If they know and do, let them support the preacher who carries the message of life to the not-knowing ones. If they know, let them listen to the preacher who strives to extend their knowledge, to quicken the heart. Perhaps we need more heart work in these days. Emotional preachers may have a special work in these times of increasing knowledge.
I. Divine wooing.—A strange reversion. God woos man, and man should woo God. The prophet represents God as standing with stretched-forth hands. The prophet is here strongly anthropomorphic. The eternal Spirit is likened unto a human father or mother stretching forth hands to a wayward child. Does not the divine Prophet teach somewhat of the same in the parable of the prodigal son? The eternal Father sends out His love to woo back the prodigals from their wretchedness. Love sends forth its messengers. As the heavens and their hosts proclaim God’s existence and perfections to the whole universe, and, mute as they are, make their voices 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 world.
II. Divine retaliation.—The law of nature is the law of God. Like is returned by like. Reject the good, and the good rejects; reject the Stone of salvation, and it becomes a stone of destruction. “On whomsoever this stone shall fall,” etc. “I will provoke you to jealousy.” Strong expressions from the mouth of infinite Love. A foolish nation will anger an over-wise, a self-righteous, and a confident nation. How often the no-people anger the people of high looks and lofty mien! As the wheel of time turns the nobodies become the somebodies, even in social spheres. Foolish nations become the ruling nations. God’s fools will reign everlastingly. Israel rejects, and Israel is forsaken. The Church leaves its first works, and the candlestick is removed out of its place. Let modern Churches take warning. We sometimes fear that the divine candle is not burning brightly in our modern Christianity. Awful will be the doom if Anglo-Saxon Israel is provoked to jealousy by them that are no-people, and moved to anger by a foolish nation being blessed.
III. Divine satisfaction.—Eternal love must be satisfied. It must find a people on whom to bestow its caresses. Jesus must see of the travail of His soul. If His own people reject, He will find believers among the Gentiles. Israel knew this, and cannot complain. If Israel were blessed with the largeness of divine love, it would not seek to complain. But oh the narrowness of humanity! The missionary spirit is of slow growth, and seldom reaches large size in our selfish human nature. How little gratification we really receive from the news that nations are being born into the spiritual kingdom! The nearer we get to the divine, the gladder we shall be that Christ is found of them who sought Him not, that He is made manifest unto those that asked not after Him. Let us pray for largeness of love. Let us seek to be all-inclusive, world-embracing, in our spiritual desires. Light diffused is light increased. The missionary spirit has reflex blessings. Doing good to others, we do good to ourselves.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Romans 10:18-21
God has not failed in His part.—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. 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 Deuteronomy in Romans 10:6-8. The apostle has just advanced, and then refuted, a first excuse which might be alleged in favour of the Jews; he proposes a second, the insufficiency of which he will also demonstrate.—Godet.
A foolish nation and an impious nation identical.—“By a foolish nation I will anger you.” This is a repetition of the same sentiment. By a “foolish” nation is to be understood an “impious” or “idolatrous” nation. The worshipping of idols being one of the grossest follies of which rational beings can be guilty, idolaters are called in Jewish Scriptures “a foolish people,” and the meaning of the words is this: “By receiving into the number of any Church and people the Gentiles who have been accustomed to the worship only of idols, I will excite the anger and envy of the Jews.” And that at the commencement of the Christian era this prediction was fulfilled, both by the reception of the Gentiles into the Church of God, and by the jealousy and anger which this extension of the means of salvation produced among the Jews, is amply verified by the history. Thus when Paul preached the word of God to the Gentiles of Antioch, in compliance with their earnest request, the Jews, we are told, “when they saw the multitudes that came together, were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.” And when they found no other means of preventing the apostles from preaching to the Gentiles, they raised a persecution against them, and expelled them out of their coasts.—Ritchie.
The gospel like a light shining in darkness.—When the gospel comes, it is like a light rising upon the darkness, and dispelling it: it is light unanticipated, unsought. Jehovah came to the Gentiles by the gospel, like a person paying an unlooked-for visit—an unknown stranger arriving suddenly. The whole language of God by the prophet evidently conveys the idea of previous ignorance and sudden manifestation; and this manifestation followed by the finding, on the part of those to whom the discovery is made, of Him by whom it is made. The idea of suddenness is strongly expressed by the words, “I am found of them that sought Me not.” The finding is not represented as the result of a long process of previous seeking—of “feeling after” God. The Gentiles, immersed in all the ignorance and stupid sottishness of their idolatries, received the “knowledge of the only true God and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent,” as a prisoner who had been long immured in the gloom of a dungeon, without a ray of light, and to whom darkness had become so familiar that he had given up thinking of anything else, would receive the beams of heaven, on the window being suddenly opened that had been closed and fastened with bars of iron.—Dr. Wardlaw.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Romans 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent