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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Romans 10

 

 

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Verses 1-3

Romans 10:1-3. Brethren, my heart’s desire, &c. — Here the apostle proceeds to show the cause of that rejection of the Jews which he had spoken of in the preceding chapter, namely, their rejecting that way of obtaining righteousness and salvation appointed by God. And lest they should suppose he spoke out of prejudice and ill-will to them, he professes his earnest desire for their salvation. And my prayer to God for Israel is, that they may be saved — He would not have prayed for this had they been absolutely reprobated. For I bear them record — I am ready to testify, from what I well know of them from my own observation and experience; that they — That is, many of them; have a zeal of God — A zeal for that worship and service of him instituted by Moses, by which they think to promote his glory; but not according to knowledge — Not directed by a proper acquaintance with the true way of becoming righteous, nor of the design of the law. Their zeal was like that of those mentioned John 16:2, who, as Christ predicted, would put his disciples out of the synagogues, and think they did God service by killing them; or like that of Paul, mentioned Philippians 3:6. For being ignorant of God’s righteousness — Of the purity of his nature, and the spirituality and extent of his holy law, and of the method of becoming righteous appointed by him: and going about — That is, striving; to establish their own righteousness — The merit of their own works as the ground of their justification, and hope of salvation; have not submitted themselves — Have not complied with, but rejected; the righteousness of God — The way of becoming righteous which he hath established.


Verse 4

Romans 10:4. For — That they have not submitted themselves to God’s way of becoming righteous is evident in this, that they reject Christ, by whom alone righteousness can be obtained; Christ is the end of the law — The scope and aim of it; for righteousness — Observe, 1st, The righteousness here spoken of is evidently that which is necessary in order to eternal life, and leads to it, (see Romans 5:21,) termed the righteousness of God by faith, Philippians 3:9; implying not only justification, Romans 3:24, Titus 3:7, without which we, guilty, condemned sinners, can have no title to eternal life, it being the only means of cancelling our guilt, and freeing us from condemnation; but also sanctification, spoken of Ephesians 4:17-24, Titus 2:5-6, without which we are not in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and have no fitness for heaven; and practical obedience consequent thereon, Ephesians 2:10, the grand evidence that we are righteous, Luke 1:6, 1 John 3:7. 2d, This righteousness, in these three branches of it, is not attainable by the law, moral or ceremonial; not by the former, because it finds us guilty of violating its spiritual and holy precepts, and has no pardon to give us; it finds us depraved, weak, and helpless, and has neither a new nature nor supernatural aid to impart. But may we not have the help we want from the ceremonial law? Cannot the sacrifices of it remove our guilt? No. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats, &c., to take away sin, Hebrews 10:4, &c. Cannot the various washings or purifications of it renew and cleanse our souls? No: they can only remove the filth of the flesh, Hebrews 9:13; 1 Peter 3:21. Cannot the various institutions respecting meats and drinks, and the observance of days, &c., assist us to attain practical righteousness or obedience? No: as they do not make the tree good, of course the fruit cannot be good; as they do not purify the fountain, the streams issuing thence cannot be pure, Matthew 7:16-19. But, 3d. This righteousness may be found by us in Christ; the end, or the final cause, for which the law was instituted; the moral law being chiefly intended to convince men of sin, namely, of their guilt, depravity, and weakness, and thus to be a school- master to bring them to Christ; Galatians 3:19-24; and the ceremonial, to shadow forth and exhibit his sacrifice and grace. Accordingly the law points to Christ, and directs the sinner to have recourse to him for all the different branches of righteousness above mentioned, which cannot be obtained by it, but may be had in and by Christ; namely, justification, through his obedience unto death, whereby he hath removed the curse of the moral law, being made a curse for us; and regeneration, or a new creation, with the practical righteousness proceeding therefrom, through his grace and Spirit; the information and direction, in the way of duty, afforded by his doctrine and example, and the motives to obedience furnished by his precepts, promises, and threatenings, co-operating as means to produce the same blessed effects. But, 4th, To whom is Christ thus the end of the law for righteousness? To every one — Whether Jew or Gentile; (see Romans 10:11-15;) that believeth — Namely, with the faith described Romans 10:5, &c. So that the very end and design of the law was to bring men to believe in Christ, whom it exhibited and pointed out, for justification, renovation, and universal holiness.


Verse 5

Romans 10:5. For Moses describeth the righteousness of the law — The only way of becoming righteous by the law, when he saith, The man that doeth these things shall live by them — Not only a happy life in the land of Canaan, but in heaven, of which Canaan was a type and figure: (see on Leviticus 18:5.) That is, he who perfectly keeps all these precepts in every point, he alone may claim life and salvation by them. For though the law directs to a better and more effectual righteousness in Christ, yet in itself, considered as a law, abstracted from its respect to Christ and the gospel, (for so the unbelieving Jews embraced and adhered to it,) it acknowledges nothing as a righteousness, sufficient to justify a man, but that of perfect obedience; a way of justification impossible to any who have ever transgressed any one law in any point. As if the apostle had said, Moses, by showing that the law requires exact and perfect obedience for righteousness, (an obedience impossible to be performed by us in our fallen state,) may thereby convince us that righteousness is not to be attained by our own works, but only by faith in Christ. It may be proper to observe here, that although the law, which was given from Sinai, was not, strictly speaking, a covenant of works, or of mere justice, (for who then could have been saved under that dispensation?) yet, that it might more effectually bring men to Christ, and render the covenant of grace more acceptable, it had a great mixture of the strictness and terror of such a covenant. Accordingly it condemned notorious offenders to temporal death in many cases, and made no provision for the pardon of any sin, deliberately and wilfully committed against it. See Hebrews 10:28. It, however, contained some further discoveries of that covenant of grace, which was made with mankind after the fall, by which many had been saved during the patriarchal ages, and which had been solemnly and repeatedly renewed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


Verses 6-9

Romans 10:6-9. Blot the righteousness which is of faith — The method of becoming righteous by believing; speaketh — A very different language from that of the law, and may be considered as expressing itself thus; (to accommodate to our present subject the words which Moses spake touching the plainness of his law:) Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? as if it were to bring Christ down — To teach and instruct us, or to atone for our offences. “The Jews, it would seem, thought it not reasonable to believe on Jesus as the Christ, unless he was brought from heaven in a visible manner, to take possession of his kingdom:” which some think was the sign from heaven which they expected, Matthew 16:1. Or, Who shall descend into the deep? — Into the grave, as if it were to bring up Christ again from the dead — Do not imagine that these things are now to be done in order to prove Jesus to be the true Messiah, or to confirm his doctrine. “The Jews expected that the Messiah would abide with them for ever, John 12:34. Wherefore, when the disciples saw Jesus expire on the cross, they gave up all hope of his being the Christ: Luke 24:21, We trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel. It is true, the objection taken from Christ’s death was fully removed by his resurrection. But the Jews, pretending not to have sufficient proof of that miracle, insisted that Jesus should appear in person among them, to convince them that he was really risen. This they expressed by one’s descending into the abyss to bring Christ up from the dead.” — Macknight. But what saith it — Namely, the gospel, or righteousness of faith: what is its language? Even these words, so remarkably applicable to the subject before us. All is done ready to thy hand. The word is nigh thee — Within thy reach; easy to be understood, remembered, practised; in thy mouth and in thy heart — Let thy mouth and heart perform the offices assigned them and thou shalt be saved; that is, the word of faith — The doctrine of the gospel, which teaches men to believe in Christ for salvation, Romans 1:16-17; which we preach — Which we, the apostles and ministers of Christ, declare to you, and exhort you to embrace. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus — Shalt make a free confession of thy faith in Christ and his truths, both by words and deeds, even in the time of persecution, when such a confession would expose thee to imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom: and shalt believe in thy heart — Sincerely, and with a faith that influences thy heart, and worketh by love; that God hath raised him from the dead — And thereby demonstrated him to be the Messiah; manifested the certain truth and infinite importance of his doctrine; the acceptableness and efficacy of the atonement which he made for sin; hath broken the power of death, and ensured to his followers an immortal life; as also the Holy Spirit to prepare them for it, by raising them from the death of sin to the life of righteousness: thou shalt be saved — From sin here, and its consequences hereafter. “The apostle mentions the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, as the principal article to be believed in order to salvation, because by that miracle God demonstrated Jesus to be his Son, established his authority as a lawgiver, and rendered all the things which he taught and promised indubitable.” — Macknight.


Verse 10

Romans 10:10. For with the heart — Not with the understanding only; man believeth unto righteousness — So as to obtain justification, regeneration, and holiness, in all its branches; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation — So as to obtain eternal salvation. For if we so believe in Christ as to become truly righteous, and manifest that we are so by confessing him to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, when such a confession might deprive us of our property, our liberty, and our lives, we must, of course, love him better than any or all of these things; and therefore we willingly part with them for his sake. And being thus crucified to the world, and all visible and temporal things, our affections will be set on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God: and consequently, when he shall appear we shall appear with him in glory. “In the first ages, the spreading of the gospel depended, in a great measure, on Christ’s disciples confessing him openly before the world, and on their sealing their confession with their blood. Hence Christ required it, in the most express terms, and threatened to deny those who denied him, Matthew 10:32-33; 1 John 4:15. The confessing Christ being so necessary, and at the same time so difficult a duty, the apostle very properly connected the assurance of final salvation therewith; because it was the best evidence which the disciple of Christ could have of his own sincerity, and of his being willing to perform every other act of obedience required of him. There is a difference between the profession and the confession of our faith. To profess is to declare a thing of our own accord; but to confess is to declare a thing when asked concerning it. This distinction Cicero mentions in his oration Pro Cecinna.” — Macknight.


Verses 11-13

Romans 10:11-13. For the Scripture saith, &c. — He proceeds to prove, by the Scriptures, the saving effects of faith and confession, spoken of in the two last verses. He refers to Isaiah 28:16, and perhaps also to Psalms 25:3. Or, he means, that this is the general doctrine of the Scriptures: Whosoever believeth on him — Whether Jew or Gentile; shall not be ashamed — Disappointed of his expectation of salvation, or put to confusion in any imaginable circumstance. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek — As to the way of obtaining justification and salvation; for the same Lord of all — The Creator, Preserver, Governor, and Benefactor of the whole human race; is rich — Full of mercy and grace; so that his blessings are never to be exhausted, nor is he ever unable or unwilling to bestow them on such as are prepared to receive them; or, that call upon him — For them, sincerely, importunately, and in faith. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord — Not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles, as appears from Acts 2:21, where also these words of Joel are quoted; shall be saved — In the sense explained in the note there, and on Joel 2:32, which see. “The word in the prophet, in the original, is Jehovah, whence it is certain that the prophet speaks these words of the true and only God; and yet it is as certain that he ascribes them to Christ, both from the following words, How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? (for the apostle, in this whole chapter discourses of faith in Christ,) and from the words foregoing, evidently spoken of Christ, of which these are a proof, and with which they are connected by the particle for. Here, then, we have two arguments for the divinity of Christ; 1st, That what is spoken of Jehovah is ascribed to him. 2d, That he is made the object of our religious invocation,” as he is also 1 Corinthians 1:2, and in many other passages of the epistles. — Whitby. Bishop Pearson, also, (on the Creed, p. 149,) argues at large from hence, that if Christ be not here called Jehovah, the apostle’s argument is quite inconclusive. It may be observed here likewise, that the great truth proposed, Romans 10:11, is so repeated in these two following verses, and further confirmed, Romans 10:14-15, as not only to imply that whosoever calleth upon him shall be saved, but also that the will of God is, that all should savingly call upon him.


Verses 14-17

Romans 10:14-17. How then — As if the apostle had said, From the promise of salvation made to them that shall call on the name of the Lord, I have inferred, that there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, as to the possibility of obtaining salvation from God; and from hence we may further infer, that the gospel must be preached to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews, and the sundry means of grace be dispensed to them, and therefore that we, the apostles, in so doing, do nothing but what is agreeable to the will of God, though on that account we are much reproached and persecuted. For how shall they call upon him — With sincerity; in whom they have not believed — In whose existence, power, and goodness they have not believed; or in whom, as capable of hearing, and able and willing to grant their requests, they have no confidence; (see on Hebrews 11:6;) or whom they do not believe to be a proper object of worship, or worthy to be invoked with divine honours and adoration. And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? — “Even the works of nature and providence must be made known to mankind by instructers, to make them able to understand them: much more the gospel of Christ.” — Baxter. Or the apostle speaks here chiefly, if not only, of believing in Christ, and therefore his words are not inconsistent with what he advances, Romans 1:19-20, concerning the existence and perfections of God being made known to all mankind by the works of creation. Some way or other the divine revelation concerning Christ must be made known to us, before we can understand and believe it. In hearing is included reading, which is tantamount to hearing, and by which many are brought to believe, John 20:31; These things are written that you may believe. But hearing only is mentioned as the more ordinary and natural way of receiving information. How shall they hear without a preacher — To carry these important tidings, which the light of nature could never be able to discover: or, except God reveal the gospel to them some way or other. And how shall they — The ministers of the gospel; preach except they be sent — Expressly for that purpose? that is, except they be both commissioned, and, at least in some measure, qualified for that difficult though important work? How shall a man act as an ambassador, unless he have both his instruction and his credentials from the prince that sends him? St. Paul probably intended to intimate, that as the apostles, and other first ministers of the gospel, were originally Jews, their own prejudices on this head were so strong, that they never would have thought of carrying the gospel to the Gentiles if God had not particularly charged them to do it; especially as its avowed opposition to the idolatry and the other vices which reigned in the Gentile countries, could not but expose them, more or less, to persecution in various forms, wherever they came and attempted to preach it. Thus, by a chain of reasoning from God’s will, that the Gentiles also should call upon him, Paul infers that the apostles were sent by God to preach to them also. As it is written — And described in that striking prophecy, Isaiah 52:7-8, How beautiful are the feet — The very footsteps, or the coming; of them that preach the gospel of peace — The gospel, which shows the way how peace is made between God and man. The figure here applied by Isaiah “is extremely proper. The feet of those who travel through dirty or dusty roads are a sight naturally disagreeable: but when they are thus disfigured by travelling a long journey, to bring good tidings of peace and deliverance to those who have been oppressed by their enemies, they appear beautiful.” — Macknight. Most commentators think “that the 52d chapter of Isaiah is to be explained as a prophecy of the return of the Jews from Babylon, and that the text here quoted refers to the joyful welcome that should be given to the messengers who brought the first tidings of Cyrus’s decree for their dismission. And if it were so, the apostle might very justly infer from thence the superior joy with which the messengers of the gospel should be received. But I think a great deal may be said to show it probable, that the context in question has, in its original sense, a further reference.” — Doddridge. See note on Isaiah 52:7. But they have not all obeyed, &c. — As if he had said, But you may say, Why then doth not this preaching convert more of the Jews? This excellence of the gospel, and the preaching of it, doth not suppose that all that hear it will be converted by it: for though faith comes by hearing, yet there may be hearing without faith. So Esaias saith — In that very context which contains so many illustrious testimonies to the gospel, namely, Isaiah 53:1, Lord, who hath believed our report? — That is, very few have been persuaded and converted by our preaching. So then faith cometh by hearing — Hearing is the ordinary means, even hearing the word of God, of begetting faith in people: and it was necessary for the Gentiles, in particular, who had not access to the Scriptures, to have the truths of the gospel declared to them by preaching, that they might hear and believe them.


Verses 18-21

Romans 10:18-21. But I say, Have they not heard — As if he had said, Their unbelief was not owing to the want of hearing. For they have heard; yes, verily, &c. — So many nations have already heard the preachers of the gospel, that I may, in some sense, say of them as David did of the lights of heaven, Their sound went into all the earth, &c. — To the utmost parts of the known world. But I say, Did not Israel know — Namely, that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, and many of them thereby made members of the church? They might have known it even from Moses and Isaiah, that many of the Gentiles would be received, and many of the Jews rejected. For first, Moses saith, (Deuteronomy 32:21,) I will provoke you to jealousy — To the highest degree of displeasure and exasperation; by them that are no people — By bestowing your privileges on the Gentiles, who at present are not my people, and of no account with me. As the Jews followed gods that were not gods, so he accepted, in their stead, a nation that was not a nation; that is, a nation that was not in covenant with him. This the Jews could not endure to hear of, and were exceedingly enraged when the apostles preached the gospel to the Gentiles. And by a foolish nation — A people who were destitute of the knowledge of the true God, and showed themselves to be fools by their idolatries. See Jeremiah 10:8. But indeed all who know not God, may well be called foolish. But Esaias is very bold — And speaks plainly what Moses only intimated, and by so doing showed he was not afraid of the resentment of the Jews, who he knew would be exceedingly provoked at the prophecy which he was about to utter. I was found of them that sought me not — That is, I will call the Gentiles, and by the preaching of my gospel will bring them to the knowledge of myself, who formerly neither knew nor regarded me. The Gentiles were too much occupied with the worship of their idols ever to think of worshipping, or even inquiring after, the true God. Nevertheless, even to them, while in this state, God, by the preaching of the gospel, made himself known, and offered himself to be the object of their worship, and their God in covenant. But to Israel he saith — Invidious as he knew his words would be to a nation so impatient of rebuke, All the day long have I stretched forth my hands — In the most importunate and affectionate addresses; unto a disobedient and gainsaying people — Who are continually objecting and cavilling; whom no persuasion can induce to regard their own happiness, so as to be willing to admit the evidence of truth, and the counsels of wisdom; and whose character is just opposite to that of those who believe with their hearts, and make confession with their mouths. The prophet’s words are an allusion to the action of an orator, who, in speaking to the multitude, stretches out his arms to express his earnestness and affection. By observing that these words were spoken of Israel, the apostle insinuates that the others were spoken of the Gentiles. See the notes on Isaiah 65:1-2.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 10:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/romans-10.html. 1857.

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