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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Romans 10

 

 

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Verse 1

‘Brothers and sisters, my heart’s good pleasure and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved (literally ‘unto salvation’).’

Paul now diverts (‘brothers and sisters’) in order again to express his deep regret over the fact that the Jews are not saved, for this is his great desire that they might find eternal life. And he explains how he longs that they might be so by believing in their Messiah. Indeed he points out that his feelings concerning them are so deep that he prays from ‘the good pleasure of his heart’ to God on their behalf ‘unto their salvation’. What ‘unto salvation’ means in this context is defined in Romans 10:10. It is the consequence of confessing Jesus as LORD. And this is what he longs that the Jews might experience. Thus he quite clearly does not believe that they could be saved while they continued as Jews and in rejection of the Messiah. This is apparent from the whole context, for as he has emphasised, they had failed to submit to the Messiah (Romans 10:3-4); they had not subjected themselves to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3); they were ignorant of God’s righteousness (Romans 10:3); they had stumbled at the stumblingstone of the Messiah (Romans 9:32-33); and they had not arrived at the Law (Romans 9:31). As Romans 2:1 to Romans 3:19 has brought out they had failed in their attempt to fulfil the Law. Thus they were a disobedient and gainsaying (obstinate) people (Romans 10:21). It is clear then that at this present time they were not seen as in process of being saved.

This expression of Paul’s deep concern (compare Romans 9:1-5) was important, for it brought home to the Jewish Christians that he was not complacent over the situation of the Jews, and that he had not denied his ancestry. Rather he was stressing that he was deeply concerned that they should participate in what the Messiah, Who had been born among them, had brought. The Gentile Christians should therefore note that Jews were not to be despised by them (see Romans 11:18 ff.).


Verses 1-4

By Their Rejection Of Their Messiah The Jews Have Not Subjected Themselves To the Righteousness of God (10:1-4).

The reason that Israel have not been saved is because they sought their own righteousness (a lowered standard of righteousness based on the traditions of the elders - see Matthew 23:23; Mark 7:5-13), and refused to submit to the righteousness of God, a true righteousness which came up to God’s perfect requirement, which was to be found in the Messiah. Indeed they were so taken up with their own efforts after righteousness that they were ignorant of this righteousness of God. They missed the point of what Scripture was saying. And thus they failed to recognise that Christ (the anointed Messiah) had brought righteousness for everyone who believes, a righteousness which could be ‘reckoned to them’, a righteousness obtainable simply through faith (Romans 3:24 to Romans 4:25). Meanwhile in contrast to their situation is the fact that, for those who believe in Him, the condemnation of the Law is rendered inoperative, for Christ (the Messiah) is ‘the end of the Law unto righteousness for all who believe’.


Verse 2-3

‘For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge, for being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God.’

The tragedy of the Jews was that while they had a kind of zeal for God, (no people were more religious than they), their zeal was ‘not in accordance with knowledge (epignosis - higher knowledge)’ (compare Romans 10:19). In other words their zeal was operating outside revealed truth. They had failed to interpret the Scriptures correctly. They were thus ignorant of the truth. For those Scriptures had pointed to a humble Messiah (Zechariah 9:9; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12), and they had stressed the need for ‘circumcision of the heart’ (Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 9:26) and for a work to take place in their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Psalms 51:7-12). But this was something that they had failed to recognise. Thus the very truth that they believed that God had given them was instead condemning them (compare Romans 2:17-24; Romans 3:19-20), because what the Law gave them was the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20), whilst on the other hand they had overlooked the emphasis of the Scriptures on the fact that their righteousness was to come from God (Romans 4:3; Romans 4:7-8; Genesis 15:6; Psalms 32:1-2; Psalms 51:7-12; Isaiah 46:13; etc). So in seeking to establish their own righteousness by constant obedience to the Law of Moses (in accordance with the traditions of the elders), they were merely compounding their sins. This was because the Law continually condemned them, whilst they themselves were missing out on much of what the Scriptures taught.

And this state of affairs resulted from the fact that they were ignorant of the righteousness of God, and did not submit themselves to it. Reference to Romans 3:20 to Romans 4:25; Romans 5:15-19 establishes what this righteousness of God was. It was the free gift of righteousness, a righteousness which God had brought to His people in Jesus Christ the Messiah as a consequence of His death for them. Thus they had failed to submit to the Messiah and the message that He had brought. They had failed to submit to the truth.

‘Seeking to establish their own (righteousness).’ There is an echo here of Deuteronomy 9:4-6 where Moses pointed out to Israel that it was not because of their own righteousness that God was giving them the land, but rather in fulfilment of the word of the Lord given in His promises to their fathers ((Deuteronomy 9:5), a permanent reminder that God’s promises are not contingent on ‘our own righteousness’ but on His elective purposes. There too they were called on to respond to the word of the Lord, not depending on their own righteousness.


Verse 4

‘For Christ (Messiah) is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one who believes.’

For if they would only recognise it their Messiah had come, the Messiah (Christos) Who ‘is the end of the Law unto righteousness to everyone who believes.’ This phrase can be interpreted in two ways, for the Greek word telos can signify either ‘theaim, final intentionof the Law’ or ‘thecessationof the Law’. Both are in fact true, although the second is more likely, because in the Scriptures telos usually means ‘cessation’ (it was different in external Greek literature). For the fact is that Paul only uses the first sense once, in 1 Timothy 1:5.

Taking the first meaning Paul would be saying that the Law pointed forward to Christ both in its prophecies and its ritual. When men’s attitude of heart was right, temporary righteousness was provided through sacrifices and offerings, but it had awaited the Supreme Sacrifice of Christ to make this truly effective (Romans 3:24-25). So the whole system of sacrifices had pointed forward to the perfect sacrifice of the Messiah, as He bore our sins in His own body on the cross (Romans 3:25; 1 Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:11). For, as Romans 3:21 has brought out, ‘a righteousness of God has now been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets’. That is, the Scriptures had pointed forward to this righteousness of God obtainable through faith in Christ.

But in another way Christ’s offering of Himself can be seen as having ‘rendered the Law inoperative’ as a way of passing judgment on men; as having ‘ended’ the Law, because through His offering He had provided the gift of righteousness for men, a righteousness which wholly satisfied the Law (Romans 5:15-19). For those who received Christ (the Messiah), God’s free gift of righteousness was provided, a righteousness that made them acceptable to God. Then the Law could no longer point the finger at them. Its reign was over. It was not that the Law was totally got rid of. It still fulfils its task of passing judgment on men. And it can still be a guide to man. Rather in Christ it was fulfilled. He vindicated it by His complete obedience to it. Thus it was seen as fulfilled in all who are His. In support of interpreting as ‘cessation of the Law’ are a number of Scriptures which indicate the same. ‘He abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments given in ordinances’ (Ephesians 2:15). ‘Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances, which was against us, which was contrary to us, and He has taken it out of the way, nailing it to His cross’ (Colossians 2:14). Thus it is made clear that through His offering of Himself, the power of the Law to bring Christians into judgment had ceased.

There is no more important thought than this, that the world is divided into two. On the one hand are those who are ‘under law’, whether that of the Torah or that of conscience. They are all subject to condemnation. On the other are those who are under Christ. For them there is no condemnation. They are accounted as righteous in God’s sight.

‘Unto righteousness.’ Compare ‘unto salvation’ (Romans 10:1; Romans 10:10). The purpose of Christ’s coming was in order to provide man with a righteousness which would stand the test in the Day of wrath and of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:5), the Day when God judges the secrets of men (Romans 2:16).

Note On ‘The End Of The Law’.

Taking the meaning as signifying cessation, we must recognise what this means. For example, that the Law was not simply to be written off is made clear in that Jesus Himself had said of it that ‘until heaven and earth pass away not one yod or tittle of it would ever pass way until all of it was fulfilled’ (Matthew 5:18), and the reference to heaven and earth passing away underlines its permanent nature. Furthermore James stresses that as the perfect Law of liberty it is important for seeing oneself as one is and with a view to being obedient to it (James 1:23-25), whilst Paul himself considered that to love one’s neighbour as oneself, a requirement for all Christians, was a fulfilling of the Law (Galatians 5:14). Such love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Indeed he himself said that the Law was ‘holy and righteous and good’ (Romans 7:12) and that ‘if a man use it lawfully the Law is good’ (1 Timothy 1:8). Compare also Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:19-21.

Nor are we to think that the Law was once the method of salvation, but was now being replaced. Paul’s whole point in Romans 10:2 is that the Jews had misunderstood the purpose of the Law. They had been ‘ignorant of God’s righteousness’. He stresses that salvation has never been obtainable by observing the Law because the standard of God’s righteousness is too high. It has always been dependent on looking to the mercy and compassion of God (which in fact the Law itself had pointed out). The Law was rather given as a guide to living and enjoying a full life (Romans 10:5). It was not given as a means of obtaining eternal life. It was given by a God Who had graciously redeemed Israel, and had already chosen them (Exodus 19:5-6), indicating what He now therefore required of them as a result (Exodus 20:2). It was a mind and conscience shaper, a guide to true living. It had, of course, included the ritual means by which men could come to God, but as the prophets had emphasised, that was only effective in so far as it came from the heart (Isaiah 1:11-18).

It was man who made the observance of it central to acceptability before God in the sense that by observing it they were putting God under an obligation. Thus Paul is not saying that the Law was once the method of salvation but has now been replaced by the Messiah. Indeed its judgmental nature as outlined in Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:19 has always been true, and thus it could never in itself save. What he is saying has ended has been the ability of the Law to condemn those who are God’s, because in the Messiah provision has been made for removal of that condemnation. As Paul has made clear in chapter 4, acceptability to God has always been dependent on faith, even as early as Abraham. It was those who sought God with a true heart looking to His mercy who found salvation. The Law was simply a guide to that end.

Certainly we may speak of a ‘dispensation of the Law’. For since Moses the Law (the Torah), and later its interpretation in the Prophets, had been the central means of knowing God, and that is why salvation had mainly been limited to Israel. It had, however, always been available to proselytes (Exodus 12:48) and in later times an Israel scattered throughout the known world had gathered proselytes on a wider scale. (Indeed Jesus’ complaint against many of the Scribes and Pharisees was that they led proselytes astray - Matthew 23:15). But the prophets had always insisted that the ritual Law was meaningless unless carried out by those who were obedient to God and were looking to Him for forgiveness (e.g. Isaiah 1:11-18), and that the truly righteous in Israel would ever be a remnant (e.g. Isaiah 6:13; Zechariah 13:9). And salvation had always been dependent on the mercy and grace of God (Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:6-7; etc), with the Law acting as a guide and providing a means of approaching God if used rightly.

End of note.


Verse 5

‘For Moses writes that the man who does the righteousness which is of the law will live by it,’

Paul is satisfied that he has now paid enough attention to the situation of the Jews with regard to righteousness, and thus refers to it only briefly as ‘the righteousness which is of the Law’. His concentration is rather now on presenting the positive side of the Gospel. But he refers to the righteousness which is of the Law again in order to contrast it with the Gospel and in so doing brings out important aspects of it. Moses had written that ‘the man who does the righteousness which is of the law will live by it’. The reference is to Leviticus 18:5 where it says, ‘you will therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, which if a man do he will live in them’. This reference is used by Paul in Galatians 3:12 in order to evidence the fact that ‘the Law is not of faith’. It can hardly therefore have any other meaning than that here.

Here then ‘the righteousness which is of the Law’ is defined as ‘keeping God’s statutes and judgments’, and this had very easily slipped from being a loving and grateful response to the God Who had redeemed them, which was what God had intended, to being in practise a determination to observe a highly detailed set of rules which they saw as explaining God’s requirements. They got bogged down in the detail. And this was in the hope that they would thereby ‘fulfil the covenant’ from their point of view, so that God would have to fulfil it from His. They saw the ultimate consequence of this as being that they would receive ‘life’, and their perception of ‘if a man do he will live in them’ was that it referred to the way in which a man could have eternal life (this verse was regularly cited in Jewish tradition). What Moses was, of course, meaning was that men could thereby enjoy fullness of life (he had no real conception of eternal life). But the two do equate in that ‘eternal life’ in its earthly aspect (John 5:24; 1 John 5:11-13) is indeed fullness of life (John 10:10). In this, in the view of the Jews, lay the Jew’s hope of final salvation.

Note the emphasis on ‘doing’. It appealed to those who believed in a righteousness resulting from works. But Moses was not thinking in those terms. He was concerned with what followed redemption, and was stressing the benefits of then obeying God, an emphasis with which Paul would have agreed. But the Jews misunderstood it and saw it as teaching that the way to eternal life was by doing the Law, that is, that doing the Law as an important part of the covenant would cause them to inherit the benefit of eternal life. It is this idea which Paul is seeking to counter.


Verses 5-13

The Righteousness Which Is Of The Law Is Compared With The Righteousness Which Is Of Faith, That Is, The Righteousness Which Results From Faith In The Messiah, And What He Has Done For Us Through His Death And Resurrection (10:5-13).

In this third contrast between the righteousness which is of the Law and the righteousness which is of faith there is a contrast between the life obtainable through the Law, and the full salvation available through Christ. In it Paul cites Moses in order to define the two righteousnesses, and then explains exactly how men can achieve the righteousness which is by faith. It is by confessing Jesus as LORD, and believing that God vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead. And this is true for both Jew and Gentile, for Jesus Christ is LORD of ALL.


Verse 6-7

‘But the righteousness which is of faith says thus, “Do not say not in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down),” Or, “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).’

In contrast with the righteousness which is of the Law is the righteousness which is of faith. This presents us with a totally different picture. Whereas ‘observing the Law had required a constant, and unavailing struggle, the righteousness which is of faith was obtained solely by truly believing in the Messiah Who had died for them and risen again, and by genuinely confessing Him as LORD. It did not require great effort. It required submission and trust, and subsequently a whole change of attitude.

Paul exemplifies this in terms of Deuteronomy 30:11-14 LXX, although altering it from referring to God’s commandment, to referring to the Messiah, who is, of course, God’s Word (John 1:1-14; Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 John 1 1-4). It will be noted, however, that he does not in this case refer to his words as Scripture. There is no ‘the scripture says’, or ‘it says’, or ‘it is written’. It is ‘the righteousness of faith’ that ‘speaks’. It is thus an explanation of the righteousness which is by faith. The wording then, although mainly taken from Scripture, is not necessarily being cited as Scriptural evidence. He is rather using what Moses says about God’s commands as being something readily available, and applying it to the Messiah as Someone Who is readily available.

Just as it was with God’s commands to Israel so was it with the Messiah. We do not have to find some means of accessing Heaven in order to bring the Messiah down, for He has been sent by God and is already present among us. We do not have to descend into the depths of the nether world (the word ‘abyss’ could refer either to the depths of the nether world or to the depths of the sea) in order to bring the Messiah up from the dead, for He is already risen. No huge effort or mysticism is required, for the Messiah is not far away but near at hand.

In Amos 9:2 the idea of accessing Heaven or descending to the nether world was that of a task of great difficulty resulting from sheer desperation, something attempted in order to escape the hand of God. Something that the Psalmist knew was foolish to attempt, for they would find God there (Psalms 139:8). So Moses and Paul are thinking of a task of great difficulty, possibly even of desperation, as men seek God’s truth. But Paul’s point is that in the case of finding the Messiah it was unnecessary. He had come among us to reveal Himself to us. We may also see here that the Messiah was sent down from Heaven, and raised up from the nether world, in order that men and women may be able to access Him. That was why He was available. God had already done the difficult work for us.

On the other hand, if we bear in mind that Jesus as the Messiah was seen as ‘God’s Word to man’ (John 1:1-18), and as the One ‘through Whom God had spoken’ (Hebrews 1:2), we can see why Paul could associate Him in his mind with ‘God’s commandment’, seeing Him as God’s final commandment to men. In support of this is the reference to ‘the word’ which is ‘near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (Romans 10:8). However, it may be that Paul was deliberately contrasting ‘the commandment’ with the Messiah in order to emphasise by the substitution the contrast between works on the one hand and faith in the Messiah on the other. Either way the emphasis is on the fact that the Messiah is near at hand for all who would call upon Him.


Verse 8

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith, which we preach,’

But what does the righteousness which is of faith say? It says that ‘the word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’, this word referring to ‘the word of faith’ (the word that produces faith) preached by the Apostles, and by Paul’s lieutenants. It is saying that it is readily to hand and easily available, affecting both mouth and heart, for it is receivable through faith. And the content of that word is now made clear in Romans 10:9. The fact that it is ‘in your mouth and in your heart’ explains the next verse and why Paul speaks of confessing with the mouth and believing in the heart, for the content of that word is Jesus as LORD, and the resurrection.


Verse 9

‘Because if you will confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and will believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,”

What was required in order to be saved was confessing with the mouth Jesus as LORD, and believing in the heart that God had raised Him from the dead, (that is, had vindicated Him as the true Messiah, as the only One so raised). An open willingness to confess with the mouth what we believe about Jesus was thus seen as important. As Jesus had said to His disciples, ‘everyone therefore who will confess Me before men, him will I also confess you before My Father in Heaven’ (Matthew 12:32). The main idea behind this was not so much witnessing, as being willing to take a stand when challenged. So to receive the righteousness which comes from faith it was necessary to take an open stand on the fact that Jesus is LORD (some see this as signifying a confession at adult baptism, but while that may be partly in mind it must not be limited to that. See Matthew 12:32; Philippians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 12:3), and to believe that God had vindicated Him and revealed the truth about Him through the resurrection, thereby demonstrating that He is the true and only Son of God (Romans 1:3-4). In other words receiving the righteousness that comes from faith requires belief in Who Jesus really is, ‘the Son of God with power’, and belief in Him, and open acknowledgement of Him, as LORD.

The word ‘LORD’ here has in mind the title of YHWH in the Old Testament. At some stage (although we do not know how early, for pre-Christian evidence for LXX is very limited) YHWH was almost always translated as ‘LORD (kurios)’ in the LXX except when YHWH was linked with adonai (‘Lord’), and is so translated in many English versions (ASV is an exception). There is certainly evidence that prior to the time of Jesus the Jews were doing this orally. And it is quite clear from Old Testament citations in the New Testament that the early church did the same from the beginning (Acts 2:21; Acts 2:25). Thus the use of LORD (kurios) to signify YHWH is clearly attested. This is why Paul can constantly link God the Father with the LORD Jesus Christ on equal terms. He is thereby indicating their co-equality. Philippians 2:9-11 confirms this by informing us that, as a consequence of His resurrection, Jesus was declared to be LORD, which is the Name above every Name (i.e. the Name of YHWH), and had to be confessed as such, to the glory of God the Father, with people acknowledging Jesus as YHWH by bowing the knee and confessing Him as LORD (Philippians 2:10-11 with Isaiah 44:23). Compare also the equating of God with LORD in 1 Corinthians 8:6.


Verse 10

‘Because with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.’

This believing from the heart (that is, from the whole inner man) that God has raised Him from the dead (as the One Who had claimed to be the Messiah and had been crucified) will result in reception of the righteousness which comes from faith. See especially Romans 4:25 where Christians are revealed as ‘accounted as righteous’ (justified) through His having been raised, in consequence of His being first delivered up for our offences. Consider also Romans 5:10; Romans 6:1-11; Romans 8:10-11. The true and genuine confession of Jesus as LORD will result in salvation, because it will be by those who have committed themselves to Him as their Saviour and Lord on the basis of His death and resurrection. Note how we have here a continuation of the thought in Romans 1:16-17. The Gospel is the power of God unto ‘salvation’ because in it the ‘righteousness’ of God is revealed. This paralleling of righteousness with salvation is common in the Old Testament, both in the Psalms and in Isaiah.


Verse 11

‘For the scripture says, “Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame”.’

The Scriptures confirm this need for faith, for they declare, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 28:16), and in context this is referring to belief in the foundation stone, the precious cornerstone, a reference to the Messiah (see Romans 9:33 above). So what he is asking of the Jews is found in their own Scriptures, and they can be sure that if they respond to the Messiah they will have no cause to be ashamed. He will not fail them. With these words Paul also emphasises the universality of the Gospel. It is for ‘whoever’, that is, for all. This is then confirmed in the next two verses.


Verse 12-13

‘For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same (Lord) is Lord of all, and is rich unto all who call on him, for, “Whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved.” ’

The reference in Isaiah to ‘whoever’ is now seen by Paul as evidence that the Messiah is for all, something confirmed by the fact that He is LORD of all (compare Peter’s words in Acts 10:36). Thus there is no distinction between Jew and Greek (Greek speaking Gentiles). All must respond to His Lordship (compare Philippians 2:9-11). Previously we learned that there was no distinction because all have sinned (Romans 3:22-23), now there is no distinction because both are subject to His Lordship, even though with both Jews and Gentiles the large proportion will not call on Him.

‘For the same (Lord) is Lord of all, and is rich unto all who call on him.’ Here Paul is emphasising that Christ’s riches are given in equal measure to all. He has no favourites. He is rich to all who call on Him. He freely dispenses His love and grace towards all, just as God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4) and shows the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7). There it is connected with His work of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). Thus here we may also see that the Messiah’s richness towards all has in mind His work of salvation. He saves both Jew and Gentile without distinction if they call on Him.

‘For, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ’ In order to prove this he again cites Scripture. The citation is from Joel 2:32 where it has in mind the coming Messianic age (the age of the Coming King). It was probably one commonly used in the early church (Acts 2:21). It was very suitable for Paul’s use here for it stresses the ‘whoever’. It refers to ‘salvation’. And it indicates the need to ‘call on the Name of the LORD’, and, in the context here, that means the LORD Jesus Christ. This referring of Old Testament Scriptures which speak of ‘the LORD’ (i.e. God) to the LORD Jesus Christ is evidence of the high view of Jesus held from the beginning. ‘To call on the name of --’ was, in Gentile circles, a technical description for the worship of a god. It is perhaps significant that Abraham, the father of believers, also ‘called on the Name of the LORD’ (Genesis 12:8). Thus those who do so are revealing themselves as children of Abraham.

That the noun LORD here refers to Jesus Christ and not to God the Father is apparent:

1) From the previous confession in the context that ‘Jesus is LORD’ (Romans 10:9).

2) From the applying of a verse of Scripture which has ‘the LORD’ in mind to the Messiah (Romans 10:11; compare Romans 9:33).

3) From the following verses where a closely linked reference is made to calling on Him in whom they have believed (Romans 10:14), which, from what has been said previously, clearly refers to Jesus Christ (the whole chapter is about believing in Jesus Christ).

So unless we totally cut Romans 10:12-21 off from Romans 10:1-11 it is clear that Romans 10:12-21 also have Jesus Christ in mind, just as Romans 10:1-11 do. Besides the citation would be pointless otherwise, for if we take it to refer to God the Father the Jews would have claimed that they already ‘called on the name of the LORD’, (even if not from a believing heart). Paul’s whole point is that by accepting Jesus as LORD, Scriptures referring to ‘the LORD’ can be applied to Him, and that the Jews have failed to recognise this and to call upon Him for salvation.


Verse 14-15

‘How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? And how will they preach, unless they are sent? Even as it is written, “How beautiful (or ‘timely’) are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” ’

All, both Jew and Greek, are being offered salvation through faith (Romans 10:10-13). But the question now arises as to how this message of salvation through the Messiah is to go out into the world. How is it to reach them? For in order for men to believe, they must first hear. And for that to happen there must preachers. And for there to be preachers there must be those who are sent. There was, however, no problem with regard to this for the Scriptures had made clear that there would be those who were sent, that is, those who would bring to men the glad tidings of good things. That this refers to a ‘hearing’ by both Jews and Gentile is apparent from the link with ‘whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved’, and with the fact that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek with respect to it (Romans 10:14-15).

‘How shall they preach except they be sent (apostalowsin).’ Paul no doubt has primarily in mind the sending out by Christ of the Apostles (those who have been sent forth), including himself and his lieutenants. These are the ones through whom the true message of the Messiah has been proclaimed. But it also, of course, includes all who take out the Apostolic message.

The Scripture in question is Isaiah 52:7 which refers to men coming on the mountains on which Zion (Jerusalem) was built, subsequent to Israel’s subjection by Egypt and Assyria (Isaiah 52:4), in order that men might know God’s Name. They would proclaim to Zion the good news that their God reigns. The impression given here is of the time of final restoration, when men would go out from Jerusalem ‘bearing the vessels of YHWH’ (Isaiah 52:11), in other words, in terms of those days, taking out the message and means of true worship to the world. (There are no real grounds in Isaiah for linking all this with the return from Babylon. That is a scholarly theory which has no real foundation in the text once the text is examined closely without presupposition. See our commentary on Isaiah. We have in fact no way of knowing how Paul interpreted it, but the New Testament undoubtedly sees Isaiah’s message as applying to the church - e.g. Acts 13:47). Now, says Paul, that time has come. God has raised up His Messianic messengers for the purpose of taking out His message to the world just as He promised, as was prophesied in Scripture.


Verses 14-21

God Has Sent Out His Messianic Messengers To The World But Israel Have Not Listened (10:14-21).

Having established that salvation is to be found through faith in Jesus the Messiah, and that it is being offered to ‘whoever’, the question would now arise as to how the ‘whoever’ would hear. So Paul now stresses that the necessary means for reception of the message are in place. God has sent out His Messianic messengers both to Israel and to the world in order to arouse faith in the Messiah, just as the Scriptures foretold (Romans 10:14-15). On the other hand the Scriptures also make clear that not all would respond, ‘Lord who has believed what we have reported?’, a question which was asked concerning Israel (Romans 10:16). So the principle is that for those who do believe, their faith comes through hearing God’s messengers who are bringing to them the word of the Messiah (Romans 10:17). The unbelieving part of Israel have, however, not believed because they would not hear, as the prophets had made clear would happen.

Thus no one has any excuse. Were there any who had not heard? No. All had heard. For the fact that they had ‘heard the message’ is evidenced by the fact that the sound of God’s messengers ‘has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world’ (Romans 10:18). All must therefore have heard, both Jew and Gentile. But if that is so what about Israel particularly? Why have they not believed? Did they not know? Of course they knew about the message for those who did not believe within Israel were provoked to jealousy over, and made angry by, those who did receive it, as Moses had said would happen. That could not have happened had they not known about it.

Indeed Isaiah had also prophesied that this would happen, for while he had declared that the message was being received, he had also declared that it was being received by those who were no nation (they were not of the chosen nation) and were void of understanding (they did not fully observe, or did not even have, the Law and the prophets), that is, it was being received by the kind of Jews who were despised by the leadership, and it was being received by Gentiles. Thus, in accordance with Scripture, God was being found by, and manifested to, the Gentiles, in spite of their previous lack of seeking (Romans 10:20), whilst the same Scriptures said concerning Israel that He would hold out His hands all day without response, because they were a disobedient and gainsaying people (Romans 10:21). Thus the Scriptures had prophesied both the reception of the Gentiles and the unbelief of Israel. Israel’s unbelief was therefore not unexpected, for the Scriptures had declared that they would not believe.

So a regular pattern reveals itself, considering on the one hand those who would hear and believe (believing Jews and Gentiles) and those who would not believe, (unbelieving Israel). Thus:

· Messianic messengers have gone out into the world that all men, both Jew and Greek (Romans 10:12), might hear and believe through the word of Christ (the Messiah) (Romans 10:14-15). Unbelieving Jews have refused to listen to their message, and to the word of the Messiah, because they ‘would not hear’, as the Scriptures had made clear would happen concerning God’s Servant (Romans 10:16).

· All, both Jew and Greek, have heard because the word has gone out into ‘the whole world’ (Romans 10:18). But why then does Israel not believe? Can it be that they do not know? The fact that Israel do know of it, in spite of their being in a state of unbelief, is evidenced by their jealousy and anger over Christianity, as Moses had prophesied (Romans 10:19). (The contrast between ‘didtheynot hear?’ and ‘did notIsraelknow’ suggests that the ‘they’ refers back to Romans 10:11-15, and thus refers to all men not just Israel. Compare Romans 10:20-21 where this contrast is clear).

· Isaiah says that those who did not seek God, or pray to Him, have found Him (Romans 10:20), whilst Israel, to whom He has constantly held out His hands, are disobedient and speak against Him, as the Scriptures have made clear (Romans 10:21).

Thus Israel have refused to listen to Isaiah when he speaks (Romans 10:16), Moses when he speaks (Romans 10:19), and God when He speaks through Isaiah (Romans 10:21). They thus reject the word of the prophets, the word of Moses, and the word of God. Believing Jews and Gentiles, however, receive the word with joy (Romans 10:15), have all heard it (Romans 10:18), and have all found Him (Romans 10:20).


Verse 16

‘But they did not all listen to the glad tidings. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” ’

But that not all would receive those glad tidings was also made apparent in Scripture, for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ (Isaiah 53:1). The opening ‘Lord’ is found in LXX but not in MT. The noun ‘report’ (akoe) comes from the same root as the word ‘hear’ in Romans 10:15 (akousowsin). Thus the idea is, ‘who has believed what they have heard from the messengers of the Messiah?’, and the answer expected in the context of Isaiah is ‘no one’ or ‘very few’. In Isaiah the question ‘Lord who has believed out report’ is then followed by a description of the humiliated Servant of YHWH Who will offer Himself up His people, and will make many to be accounted as righteous, thus the question is particularly apposite to preaching about the crucified Messiah. The question then is, ‘Who will believe it?’

To answer this question we must ask, who is the ‘they’ (in Paul’s letter) who did not listen? Certainly it is possible to see the ‘who’ in Isaiah’s words as addressing a generalised ‘who’ which could have included anyone. It is a question open to everyone. But the ‘our’ limits the statement to the Jews, as is evidenced by the later reference in the Isaianic chapter to ‘us’ and ‘our’. So the ‘our’ would appear to apply to Jews. And this can be seen as supported by the fact that Paul’s reference is to unbelievers (‘they did not all listen’). As Paul, when he speaks of unbelief, has in mind the Jews (it was they who were without excuse), rather than Gentiles, who were not necessarily expected to believe, this would confirm that this applies to the unbelieving Jews. And if that be so it would underline that there was a previous example of Israel’s unbelief in the face of God’s working in Isaiah’s day, and what is more, in the face of God’s offer of ‘righteousness’ through His Servant (Isaiah 53:11).


Verse 17

‘So belief comes of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.’

All that has been stated in Romans 10:14-16 has referred to a hearing of the Good News, with a view to believing it, there being the recognition that the Jews as a whole will not believe. So Paul now brings out how important the hearing (Romans 10:15) and the not hearing (Romans 10:16) are, for he sees belief as a consequence of such hearing, that is of hearing ‘the word of Christ (Messiah)’. ‘The word of Christ’ means either the word concerning Christ (the Messiah), or the word preached by Christ (the Messiah) through His messengers. And it is this word of Christ (the Messiah) which, on being heard, results in belief. so that the way to true faith is through hearing and believing. The reason then why Israel are in unbelief is because they have not listened to the word of their God-sent Messiah.

This verse is very necessary in the context, for Paul wants to bring back his reader’s thoughts from ‘calling on the name of the Lord’, to ‘hearing’ and ‘believing’. He has done this first by linking calling with believing in Romans 10:14, a believing which results from hearing. And he now seals it with the summary, ‘So belief comes of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.’


Verse 18

‘But I say, “Did they not hear?” Yes, truly, “Their sound went out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

Paul then asks the question as to whether in fact the Messianic message has not been heard (in order to emphasise that it has been). He is no doubt referring to an objection put by some that men had not heard the message. His reply is put in Scriptural terminology, (but not necessarily as providing an authoritative citation, for it has no introductory ‘it is written’ or equivalent). Here he has in mind how the Gospel has spread widely, ‘into all the earth’, although that is not to be taken in terms of what we would call ‘worldwide’. This is evident from Romans 1:8 where Paul could say of the Roman Christians that ‘their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world’ (Romans 1:8), that is, was spoken throughout the wide area that the Gospel had reached. He was, in fact, referring to Christians who would have knowledge about the Roman church, Christians in his ‘world’. He was speaking of the world as he knew it. Compare also how Jews were gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost from ‘every nation under Heaven’ (Acts 2:5), in other words from all around their known world.

The final sentence in the verse (18b) comes from Psalms 19:4, but he does not present it as a Scripture citation. Rather he appropriates the words as being convenient for the purpose of expressing what he wants to say, which is that the word of the messengers of the Messiah has reached the world as it was known to him. He sees the words as an indication of God’s mind, that all should hear, both Jew and Gentile.


Verse 19

‘But I say, “Did Israel not know?” First Moses says, “I will provoke you to jealousy with what is no nation, with a nation void of understanding will I anger you.’

The switch here to addressing Israel tends to confirm that what has been said previously was directed more widely, that is, as speaking to both believing Jews and Gentiles. So the question now is, but what about (unbelieving) Israel? Did they not know? That raises the issue of what it was they were supposed to know. In context there are two main possibilities. The first is as to whether they knew the message about the Messiah. That has been answered in Romans 10:2-3. They were ignorant of God’s righteousness, brought by the Messiah. The second is as to whether they knew that God’s word would go out to the Gentiles. That might be seen as answered in Romans 10:14-15. (It is also answered in Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 60:3; etc). In view of the fact that it is the preaching of the Gospel about the Messiah to the Gentiles which will arouse Israel to jealousy (Romans 11:11; Romans 11:14), the first would appear to be more likely. For here Paul does cite Scripture authoritatively, when he declares what ‘Moses said’ (see Deuteronomy 32:21). And what did Moses say? He said that God would provoke Israel to jealousy by means of a ‘no-nation’, and would anger them by means of a nation ‘void of understanding’, that is one that did not know the Law (something which the followers of Jesus were accused of (John 7:49) and was clearly applicable, as well, to Gentiles). But in order to be provoked to jealousy in this way Israel had to have become cognisant of what was being proclaimed. Thus it is clear that they did know what the messengers of the Messiah were teaching.


Verse 20-21

‘And Isaiah is very bold, and says, “I was found of those who did not seek me, I became manifest to those who did not ask of me.” But as to Israel he says, “All the day long did I spread out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people.” ’

Paul then summarises the situation as described above by two authoritative Scripture statements (seen as providing Scriptural authority because they are introduced by ‘Isaiah -- says’). The first declares that those who found God (the believing Jews, who were mainly from the despised element of Israel, together with the Gentiles) would not be those who sought Him (that is, the unbelieving Jews who prided themselves on seeking God), and that those who had God made manifest (openly shown) to them would be those who did not ask anything of Him (thus not the unbelieving Jews who asked for and expected a great deal).

The second is specifically referred to Israel and declares that God has long been holding out His hand ‘to a disobedient and gainsaying people’, in other words to the unbelieving Jews. The response of Israel to God’s compassion and mercy was that the Jews continued in opposition to Him, being both disobedient (they did not have the obedience of faith - Romans 1:5), and obstinate (constantly speaking against Him). So we have in this verse both a manifestation of the grace of God in holding out His hands to an unbelieving people, and a description of the meanness of spirit that causes them to reject Him. Israel is seen to be without excuse and therefore as awaiting the judgment of God.

(The fact that Paul here deals with believing Jews and Gentiles in Romans 10:20, and then with unbelieving Jews in Romans 10:21, confirms the idea that the two questions in Romans 10:18-19 do the same, as we have suggested there).

Note: Which Verses In Romans 10:14-21 Refer To The Gentiles And Believing Jews And Which To Unbelieving Jews?

We have expounded our own view of these verses, but there is in fact much dispute on this question. Some see almost the whole argument as written to condemn the Jews for rejecting the Messiah. The word went out to them through God’s messengers (14-15). They had heard but they did not listen (Romans 10:16). The word went out to every nation under Heaven (Romans 10:18), where there were patently Jews (Acts 2:5). But the Jews still did not respond, even though they knew what God had promised (Romans 10:19). Thus even when the message was responded to by others, they were still disobedient and mulish in their response to God’s gracious appeal (Romans 10:20-21).

Others argue, although not always agreeing in the details, for a division of the verses between unbelieving Jew on the one hand, and believing Jews and Gentiles on the other, in the latter case with believing Jews being included, for while they were now not being converted in large numbers in the way that they had been at the beginning, Jews were certainly still being converted, especially in the wider world. As will be noted we have argued this second position, and our view is based mainly on the context. We consider that the first suggestion both ignores the context in the previous verses, and ignores the clear markers that Paul puts down in referring to Israel only in Romans 10:19; Romans 10:21. For in Romans 10:11-13 it is made crystal clear that both believing Jews and Gentiles come within the sphere of God’s mercy, so that ‘whoever calls on the Name of the Lord (YHWH) will be saved’. In other words the message is to go out to all. Unless, therefore, it was indicated otherwise we would expect what follows in Romans 10:14-15, describing the going out of the message, equally to apply to all. This makes Romans 10:14-15 refer to both open-minded Jews and Gentiles.

Furthermore in Romans 10:20-21 it is equally clear that Romans 10:20 applies to the Gentiles, and possibly also to the not so orthodox Jews, such as those who were despised by the Priests and the Scribes (whom Jesus was delighted to reach). On the other hand, Romans 10:21 clearly refers to the unbelieving Jews. And this is made crystal clear by the words, ‘but as to Israel’ in Romans 10:21.

Following on from this we can see a pattern emerging, with Paul first dealing with the question of Gentiles and believing Jews, and then dealing with the question of unbelieving Jews. But can this be applied to intervening verses? As we have seen Romans 10:14-15 have in mind those who heard and believed. In Romans 10:16 we have reference to those who did not believe, therefore having the unbelieving Jews in mind. In Romans 10:19 we are asked ‘did Israel not hear?’ Thus that verse clearly refers to the Jews. Comparison with the way that Romans 10:20-21 are divided between Gentiles on the one hand and Jews on the other, and that by a reference to Israel in Romans 10:21, might then suggest that the same applies to Romans 10:18-19, with Romans 10:18 referring to believing Gentiles and believing Jews, and Romans 10:19, with its clear reference to ‘Israel’, referring to unbelieving Jews. We would then have the following pattern:

· Romans 10:14-15 refer to believing Gentiles and believing Jews, Romans 10:16 refers to unbelieving Jews (those who have not believed the report).

· Romans 10:18 refers to believing Gentiles and Jews, whilst Romans 10:19 refers to unbelieving Jews.

· Romans 10:20 refers to believing Gentiles and Jews, whilst Romans 10:21 refers to unbelieving Jews.

This pattern brings order out of uncertainty, and as we have seen in the exegesis there are good grounds for seeing these designations as being correct.

End of note.

So Paul has once again emphasised that the fact that the Good news has gone out to the Gentiles and has been accepted, has been prophesied in Scripture, whilst the failure of the majority of Israel to respond to their Messiah and find salvation through Him, due to their unbelief, has also been clearly prophesied in Scripture, thus demonstrating that the failure of the Jews to repent was not something that brought the Scriptures into question (Romans 9:6), but rather wholly confirmed them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Romans 10:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/romans-10.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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