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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Romans 10

 

 

Verses 1-13

SECTION 33 — THE UNBELIEF OF THE JEWS IS A RESULT OF IGNORANCE

CH. 10:1-13

Brethren, the good pleasure of my heart and my petition to God on their behalf is for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have zeal for God, but not according to understanding. For, ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to set up their own righteousness, to the righteousness of God they have not submitted.

For Christ is an end of law for righteousness to everyone that believes. For Moses writes that “the man who has done” the righteousness which is from law “shall live in” it. But the righteousness which is from faith says thus, “Say not in thy heart, Who will go up into heaven?” that is, to bring down Christ: Or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring up Christ from the dead. But what says it? “Near thee is the word, in thy mouth and in thy heart:” that is, the word of Jesus which we proclaim, that if thou confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart men believe for righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made for salvation. For the Scripture says, Everyone “that believes on Him shall not be put to shame.” “For there is no difference of Jew and Greek. For the same is Lord of all, being rich towards all that call on Him. For “everyone whoever may call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:1. Brethren: to Christians. The Jews are spoken of in the third person: on their behalf. Cp. Romans 9:31-33.

For salvation: aim of Paul’s prayer for Israel. This prayer proves that the case of those for whom (in Romans 9:3) Paul mourns is not hopeless. So Romans 11:23.

Romans 10:2. Proof that they need salvation. But before proving this, and thus finding fault, Paul gives them credit for all the good in them.

Zeal for God: literally, of God: same phrase in Acts 22:3, an interesting coincidence.

Not according to understanding: earnestness in God’s cause not guided by an intelligent view of His revealed purpose. Consequently, while seeking salvation, they are still unsaved. None need our sympathy and prayers more than those who are earnest for God but know not how to serve Him.

Romans 10:3. Explains their want of understanding.

Righteousness of God: as in Romans 1:17; Romans 3:21 : cp. “righteousness from God” in Philippians 3:9. So also in Romans 10:5-6, righteousness from law and from faith. It is in conspicuous contrast to their own righteousness; and is something which the Jews do not know and to which they have not submitted. They sought the Judge’s approval by obedience to law. Had they succeeded, they would have had a righteousness of their own, i.e. resulting from their own effort, and derived from law. But God accepts as righteous all who believe, and these only. Of this righteousness, a gift of God, the Jews were ignorant. Consequently, they did not submit to it, i.e. to God’s way of bestowing righteousness, by laying aside their own efforts to make themselves righteous. Consequently, they still need salvation: and therefore Paul prays for them.

Romans 10:4. Proof of their ignorance and need of salvation.

End: see under Romans 6:21. It involves here the idea of cessation as in Luke 1:33. For Paul is exposing the ignorance of those who seek to set up a righteousness of their own which can come only from law.

Christ an end of law: the principle. Do this and live, being replaced, for those who believe, by the Gospel, which says, Live and do this. Cp. Romans 6:14; Romans 7:4; Galatians 2:19; Galatians 3:25.

For righteousness: purpose for which in Christ we have been removed from the domain of law, viz. that righteousness may be given to everyone that believes. Cp. Romans 1:5, “for obedience of faith;” Romans 1:16, “for salvation to everyone that believes.” If Christ by His own appearance has put an end to law as a means of salvation or as a hindrance to it, in order that all who believe may obtain righteousness, then to endeavour to set up our own righteousness, which can rest only on the basis of law, is to display ignorance of the righteousness which God gives.

Romans 10:5-11. Proof that Christ is an end of law.

Moses writes: nearly word for word from Leviticus 18:5, and embodying a principle running through the Mosaic Law. If then the Law be historically due to Moses, these words may be fairly quoted as his, whether or not the Book of Leviticus as we have it came actually from his pen: see Diss. iii. The Vat. MS. and the Syriac and Old Latin versions read Moses describes the righteousness etc… that. The practical difference is slight: and the Revisers’ reading is somewhat better attested.

Shall live: primarily natural life: the reward promised in the Mosaic Law; e.g. Deuteronomy 30:20. But, since all life, here and hereafter, is from God, the difference does not weaken Paul’s inference.

In it: in the righteousness which is from law: cp. Ezekiel 18:22; Ezekiel 18:24; Leviticus 18:5 reads in them, viz. in the ordinances. The change is immaterial and suits Paul’s argument. In Leviticus 18:5, God solemnly announces the great principle that only by obedience to His commands can men obtain the blessings promised in the Law. This is the essential principle of all law.

Romans 10:6-7. Further proof that Christ is an end of law.

Which is from faith: as in Romans 1:17; Romans 3:22.

Says thus: righteousness being personified: cp. Proverbs 8:1-2. In Deuteronomy 30:12-14, at the close of his farewell address, Moses asserts a universal principle which applies to righteousness by faith. Therefore in his words the righteousness from faith speaks and describes itself. He reminds Israel that God has spoken. There is therefore no need for effort on their part to find out the will of God. Others might inquire whether there is one God, or many gods, and whether God desires the obedience and worship of men. To Israel all such inquiry was shut out by God’s revelation of Himself. They had no need to ask for someone to mount the sky to find out God, or to cross the sea to learn from other nations. God’s own word was already in their midst, spoken by human lips, pondered in human hearts. Moses asserts the great principle that a revelation from God makes needless, and therefore ought to put an end to, all human effort for that which He reveals. Such effort implies either ignorance or rejection of God’s revelation.

This principle was applied by Moses to the Law just repeated in the ears of the people. But, like all other great principles, it has an application far beyond the thought of the original speaker. It applies with great force to the fuller revelation in Christ. In the Law God gave a knowledge of His will: in the Gospel He gives conformity to His will. Therefore, as the former revelation put aside as needless all effort to obtain knowledge of His will, so the later revelation puts aside all effort to attain righteousness. Such efforts are as much a mark of ignorance and obstinacy as would have been in the days of Moses efforts to obtain by human wisdom a knowledge of God’s will. Paul is therefore justified in calling these words of Moses a voice of the righteousness of faith proclaiming the end of law. For law implies doing: and the Gospel, even according to a principle asserted by Moses, puts an end to doing as a means of righteousness. This appeal to Moses is a remarkable example of skilful and correct exegesis.

In thy heart: where unbelief speaks before it dares to speak in the lips.

That is: Paul’s exposition of Moses, words. To seek justification from works, is to act as though Christ had not come down from heaven. This suggests His pre-existence.

Abyss: literally without bottom: same word in Luke 8:31, Revelation 9:1-2; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1; Revelation 20:3. Hence it is used for the unfathomable sea; and for the place of the dead. Moses refers to the former, Paul to the latter. Paul modifies the words of Moses to suit the facts of the Gospel. This he has a right to do because his modification leaves the principle untouched. To seek a righteousness of our own is to act as though Christ had never risen.

Romans 10:8. The quotation from Deuteronomy 30:12-14 continued, and still further expounded.

In thy mouth: to be publicly spoken.

In thy heart: to be silently pondered.

That is: Paul’s exposition, as in Romans 10:6-7.

Word of faith: announcement of salvation through faith.

Proclaim: as in Romans 10:14-15; Romans 2:21; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 15:11-12, etc.: cognate to the word herald in 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11.

Romans 10:9. Contents of the word of faith. It is a promise suspended on two conditions.

If thou confess: cp. Matthew 10:32. By making confession a condition of salvation, God put the Gospel into the mouth as well as the heart of those that believe.

In thy heart: the inner chamber, far removed from human sight, in which men believe.

That God raised Him etc.: historic object-matter of saving faith. But belief of the historic fact will not save unless it include belief of the great promise stated in this verse: thou shalt be saved. It was needless to add this further matter of faith: for all promises are fulfilled only in those who by faith expect their fulfilment. The man who is sure that God raised Christ from the dead, and is sure, because Christ said so, that all who believe this, and therefore himself, will be saved, will, according to the plain statement of this verse, be saved.

Now our conscience tells us with the authority of God that sin excludes the sinner from heaven. Consequently we cannot believe that we shall be saved unless we are prepared to forsake sin: and our faith becomes a reliance upon the power of Him who is able to save from all sin.

Notice here the importance of the resurrection of Christ: cp. Romans 1:4; Romans 4:25; Romans 6:4-5; Romans 7:4; Romans 8:34. Compare also 1 John 5:1. The difference of the object-matter of faith is immaterial. We cannot believe that Christ rose from the dead without admitting His claim to be the Son of God.

Romans 10:10. Further explanation and support of the foregoing statement. The order is changed from mouth and heart in Romans 10:9 as in Deuteronomy 30:14 to the order of time, which is heart and mouth. Since the heart (see Romans 1:21) is the seat of the intelligence and the will, and since all belief of the words of God or man is an act of the will accepting the judgment of the intelligence, it is with the heart that men believe. And we believe the Gospel in order to obtain righteousness, i.e. to be justified.

For salvation: final salvation, as in Romans 5:9-10; Romans 13:11. The moment we believe the promise, we receive the gift of righteousness. But we cannot retain it to final salvation unless we confess our faith. And, if we know that God requires confession, we cannot believe His promise of salvation without a purpose to confess. For our conscience will not allow us to believe that God smiles on us while we refuse to obey Him.

Romans 10:11. Proof, from Isaiah 28:16, already quoted in Romans 9:33, that salvation is by faith.

Everyone: not in the text quoted, but justified in Romans 10:12-13. All who are not saved will be put “to shame, to eternal abhorrence: “ Daniel 12:2.

The assertion in Romans 10:4 is now proved. Paul’s application to the Gospel of Moses’ words touching the Law has been justified by the words of Isaiah. For this last taught that in days to come they who believe will be saved; thus implying a new revelation from God to man: and, if so, Moses’ words will apply to this new revelation. God’s word will put aside all self-effort to obtain salvation, as His word through Moses had already put aside all self-effort to obtain a knowledge of His will. And, if so, according to Moses’ own description of the Law as something to be done, the new revelation will put aside the Law; and will do this in order to bestow salvation on those who believe. Hence the prophecy in Isaiah 28:16, read in the light of its fulfilment in Christ and of the principle asserted by Moses, affords complete proof of the assertion in Romans 10:4. And, if so, the Jews are ignorantly resisting God; and therefore in spite of their zeal are in need of salvation, and are fit objects for (Romans 10:1) Paul’s prayer.

Romans 10:12. Paul now justifies the word everyone inserted by him in the above quotation, by asserting a principle which breaks down all national distinctions.

No difference: as in Romans 3:23.

Jew and Greek: as in Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9-10; Romans 3:9. The recurring phrases in Romans 10:3; Romans 10:5-6; Romans 10:12 indicate that Paul has now returned to his main thesis in Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:21-30.

Lord of all: probably Christ, to whom the word Lord was distinctively applied: cp. Romans 14:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Philippians 2:11.

Rich towards all etc.: so Ephesians 3:8.

Call-upon: to appeal to for help, or as a witness: cp. 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Timothy 2:22; Acts 25:11-12; Acts 25:21; Acts 25:25. In the presence of the one Master, all national distinctions fade.

Romans 10:13. Quotation from Joel 2:32, asserting that everyone who appeals to God will be saved, and thus justifying the word everyone inserted by Paul in the quotation in Romans 10:11. Same quotation in Acts 2:21. Joel refers evidently to the Day of Christ. He foretells that salvation will be obtained by calling upon God. And, although he speaks of a deliverance in Jerusalem and in Zion, his words forbid a limitation of this salvation to the Jews. The words quoted announce clearly a salvation for all.

The Lord: in Joel, Jehovah, the proper name of the God of Israel. But it is easy to apply it to Christ our Lord. The difference is immaterial. Salvation is from the Father through the Son: and we pray through the Son and to the Son.

This section expounds, in the light of principles asserted by Moses, the words quoted in Romans 9:33. Hence the quotation is repeated in Romans 10:11, and then further expounded by comparison with another quotation. In Romans 9:25, Paul began to prove that the Gospel and its results accord with ancient prophecy. Hosea foretold that aliens will become children of God: and Isaiah taught that only a part of Israel will be saved. Before Paul’s eye, these prophecies were being fulfilled. The mass of the Jews were unsaved, because of their unbelief, and because the Gospel had become to them a stone of stumbling. Even this was foretold. For it had been clearly announced that God Himself would be a stumbling-block to Israel, and that believers would be saved. The plainness of the prophecy forces upon Paul the thought that Israel’s unbelief arises from inexcusable ignorance. His intense conviction of this evokes a prayer for their salvation. He opens a way for his charge of ignorance by acknowledging the earnestness of the Jews; and proves it by showing that what they were earnestly seeking to set up Christ came to put an end to, and that this is clearly taught in the words of Isaiah just quoted, read in the light of the teaching of Moses.

The principle asserted in Deuteronomy 30:12-14 is valid for all blessings promised on the condition of faith. For instance, to seek to obtain by our own moral effort full deliverance from the stain and power of sin, is as useless and needless as to seek for someone to fetch Christ from heaven. For God has promised this salvation as a free and present gift to all who believe. Therefore Christ is an end of law for purity as for righteousness. We believe the word of God, and both are ours.


Verses 14-21

SECTION 34 — THE PREACHED GOSPEL AND ISRAEL’S UNBELIEF WERE FORETOLD

CH. 10:14-21

How then are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? But how are they to believe one whom they have not heard? But how are they to hear without a herald proclaiming? But how are heralds to proclaim unless they be sent? According as it is written, “How beautiful the feet of those that announce, as glad tidings, good things.” But not all have obeyed the glad tidings. For Isaiah says, Lord, “who has believed what we have heard?” Therefore faith comes from something heard; and that which is heard comes through the word of Christ.

But I say, Have they not heard? Certainly they have. “Into all the earth went forth the sound of them, and their words into the ends of the world. But I say, Has Israel not known? First, Moses says, “I will provoke you to jealousy for that which is no nation; for a nation without understanding, I will move you to anger.” But Isaiah is very bold, and says, “I was found by those not seeking me: I became manifest to those not asking after me.” But touching Israel he says, “All the day I stretched out my hands towards a people disobedient and contradicting.”

Romans 10:14-15 a. Four questions suggested by the foregoing quotation. None can call on God unless they believe in Him: cp. Hebrews 11:6. Hence the teaching of Joel 2:32 implies that of Isaiah 28:16.

Nor can we believe one whose words we have not heard. This implies that the faith which saves is produced by spoken words. Again, we cannot hear the words of the Great King unless a herald proclaim them. Nor can this be unless such herald be sent from God to men.

Herald-proclaiming: same word as in Romans 10:8.

Romans 10:15 b. Quotation from Isaiah 52:7 in harmony with the teaching underlying the foregoing questions and the quotation from Joel. The prophet foresees the arrival of messengers announcing-as-glad-tidings good-things. He thought probably of the return from Babylon. But his words, especially in Isaiah 53, found no worthy fulfilment then; and therefore point forward to blessings still future. In the Gospel of Christ, we find both the good news and the smitten deliverer. The news was so good that in the eyes of those who heard it the weary and way-worn feet which had borne the messengers were beautiful. Contrast Romans 3:15; Acts 5:9.

Announce-as-glad-tidings: same word in Romans 1:15. Cognate to the word Gospel in Romans 10:16. The object-matter of this glad announcement is added: good-things.

Romans 10:16. Although the news was so good, not all who heard it gave to it the submission it demanded and obeyed the Gospel: cp. Romans 10:3; Romans 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

Not all: stating much less than the whole truth: so Romans 3:3. In proof of that which no one can deny, Paul quotes an ancient prophecy, to show that the Jews’ unbelief was foretold, and is therefore no proof or presumption that the Gospel they rejected is not divine. The prophet throws himself forward into the days of the good tidings. He and his compeers hear the news. But he sadly asks, Who has believed what we have heard? This question, asked in prophetic vision, implies that not many believed; and is therefore a prophecy of the unbelief of the mass of the Jews in Paul’s day.

Romans 10:17. A general inference from Romans 10:14-16, including the quotations from Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 53:1.

Faith… something heard… a spoken word: rising from effect to cause: so Romans 10:14.

Word: an articulate sound, as in Romans 10:8; Romans 10:18; but different from the word used in Romans 9:6; Romans 9:9; Romans 9:28, which signifies intelligent discourse. Since Paul quotes the Book of Isaiah for the light it sheds on the Gospel, he speaks of the herald’s proclamation, without which there can be nothing heard and no faith, as a word of Christ: probably a word spoken by Christ. Contrast “the word of faith” in Romans 10:8. The genitive case, of Christ, leaves the precise relation to be determined by the context.

Romans 10:18. Throughout Romans 10, by showing that the Gospel and its rejection were foretold, Paul makes good against the Jews his charge of inexcusable ignorance. He now takes up a possible excuse. Since faith comes only from hearing, those who have not heard cannot be blamed for unbelief. Paul therefore asks, Can Israel plead this excuse? He clothes his emphatic denial in the words of Psalms 19:4. He does not in any sense appeal for proof to the Psalm, nor does he expound, as in Psalms 19:6-8, its underlying principle, but simply makes use of the psalmist’s words to express his own thoughts. Psalms 19 describes the voice of Nature, especially the heavenly bodies, as proclaiming the glory of their Maker. Paul says, referring to the limited circle in which he moved, that the sound of them, i.e. the voice of the heralds of salvation, is co-extensive with the light of the sun: cp. Romans 1:8; Colossians 1:6; Colossians 1:23. His use of these words suggests that the universal revelation of God in Nature is a pledge that in every land the glory of God manifested in Christ will some day be proclaimed.

Romans 10:19. Further proof that the Jews are without excuse.

Did Israel not know? viz. that the sound of the Gospel would go to all lands. The quotations following prove that they ought to have known it. Of several proofs, Paul quotes first the words of Moses, as recorded in Deuteronomy 32:15-21. He foretold that Israel would worship that which is no god and thus provoke God to jealousy and anger, and that in return God would move them to jealousy and anger by bestowing His favour on that which is no nation: a clear prophecy that God will bestow His favour upon Gentiles, and by so doing displease Israel.

Provoke-to-jealousy: or emulation good or bad: same word in a good sense in Romans 11:11; Romans 11:14; cognate to zeal in Romans 10:2; Romans 13:13.

No nation: cp. Romans 9:25-26. In none except the chosen people was the true idea of a nation realised.

Without-understanding: same word in Romans 1:21, as a characteristic of the Gentiles.

Romans 10:20-21. Another proof, from Isaiah 65:1-2, that the Gospel will be accepted by Gentiles and rejected by Israel.

Is-very-bold: spoke at great personal peril. The present tense gives a vivid picture of the fearless prophet. He says in God’s name, “I gave audience to men who asked not, I was found by men who sought Me not. I said, Here I am, here I am, to a nation not called by My name. I stretched out My hands all the day to a nation in rebellion, the men who walk in a way not good, after their own reasonings.” He was looking forward to a day (Isaiah 64:11) when the temple and Jerusalem lie desolate; and (Isaiah 64:7) the people are forgetful of God and (Isaiah 65:3-4) practically heathen, yet (Isaiah 65:5) boasting peculiar holiness. He cries to God, and God answers him. Speaking from the distant future, God declares that He has revealed Himself to this practically heathen nation. Salvation is at hand, salvation most glorious and complete; but only for the chosen seed, for the servants of God. Upon the rest will fall (Isaiah 65:12-15) sorrow and death. These words had no worthy fulfilment except in the salvation announced by Christ: and they foretell that it will find Israel godless and rebellious. They found remarkable fulfilment in the state of Israel in Paul’s day. The emphatic words, but touching Israel, seem to imply that Romans 10:20 does not refer to Israel but to the Gentiles. The words no nation in Romans 10:19 refer evidently to Gentiles; and suggest that Romans 10:20 has the same reference. But Isaiah 65:1-2 refer apparently to the same persons, viz. Israel. Perhaps Paul, quoting from memory, may have overlooked this identical reference, In any case, God’s longsuffering to Israel when it was practically heathen was a prophecy of mercy for the Gentiles.

All the day: an unceasing appeal.

Disobedient and contradicting: refusing by acts and words.

This verse, as applied by Paul to the Jews of his own day, is utterly inconsistent with Calvin’s teaching that the grace of God is irresistible. Had God, following a hidden purpose, withheld from these disobedient Jews influences without which they could not come to Him, these solemn words would have been meaningless. So Romans 2:4.

In Romans 10:1-13, Paul expounded words quoted in Romans 9:33 from Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 28:16, in the light of Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 30:12-14; and supported his exposition by a quotation from Joel. He has now proved that this latter quotation implies salvation through faith, a preached word, and divinely-sent preachers; that Isaiah foretold the announcement of good news and the persistent disobedience of the mass of the nation; and that Moses foretold that God would move Israel to anger by bestowing His favour on others. The Jews had heard the Gospel, and they knew what Moses and Isaiah had said. They were therefore not only ignorant but inexcusably ignorant.

Paul thus completes his proof, begun in Romans 9:25, that the Gospel and its results accord with O.T. prophecy. Good tidings (Isaiah 52:7) have been announced, viz. a proclamation of (Isaiah 53:1; Isaiah 28:16) salvation through faith, for all (Joel 2:32) who cry to God. This salvation has been accepted by only a small part of the nation: Isaiah 10:22; Isaiah 1:9. The good news has been disbelieved by many in Israel; and God’s continued offers of mercy have been rudely rejected: Isaiah 53:1; Isaiah 65:2. He who was designed to be a foundation has become a stone of stumbling: Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 28:16. At the same time, aliens have become not only the people, but the sons, of God: Hosea 2:23; Hosea 1:10.

The argument of Romans 9:25 to Romans 10:21 has less weight for us, who from childhood have received the O.T. and N.T. with the same authority, than for Paul’s readers, many of whom had read the O.T. as the word of God long before they heard the Gospel. To such men, the discovery that the Gospel, a thing of yesterday, was in its essence, in many details, and in its reception and results, foretold in the sacred books which for centuries their fathers had revered, must have come with a force we cannot estimate. No wonder that the O.T. was a chief means of leading many Jews to believe the Gospel: cp. Romans 16:26; 2 Timothy 3:15; and as coincidences, Acts 13:27; Acts 17:11-12; Acts 18:28; Acts 26:27; Acts 28:23.

But notice carefully that Paul deduces the doctrines of the Gospel, not from the O.T. as we do from the N.T., but from a few fundamental truths, e.g. Romans 3:21-26; Romans 6:3; Romans 6:11; Romans 8:3-4, which he asserts and assumes without proof. These rest, as a new and final revelation from God, on the authority of Christ. And the authority of Christ rested in His lifetime (John 5:36; John 10:25) on His miracles; and now rests (Romans 1:4; Romans 4:24) on the greater miracle of His resurrection. Only after he asserted and expounded these great doctrines, does Paul appeal to the prophets. And he appeals to them not so much in proof of particular doctrines as in proof of the harmony of the Old and New. Hence his favourite form, According as it is written. This harmony, amid so great differences, is a wonderful confirmation of the truth of the Gospel and of the divine mission of Him who proclaimed it. The prophets promised beforehand, and thus now bear witness to, the Gospel: Romans 1:2; Romans 3:22. By doing so, they bear witness to Christ: Acts 10:43.

 


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Bibliography Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 10:4". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbc/romans-10.html. 1877-90.

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