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Romans 10

 

 

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Verse 3

Romans 10:3

Prevalent Errors on Justification Considered.

Note:—

I. The notion that the spirit may receive an honourable discharge at the great day on the ground of obedience to the law. It is an opinion which exists, indeed, in floating, formless hopes, rather than in the shape of clear and lighted thought; yet it is sufficiently defined and powerful to sway the existence of vast multitudes. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." No law can acquit a man who is convicted of its violation; if we should receive acquittal, it must be on another principle.

II. A more prevalent theory is that which supposes that sorrow for the past and amendment for the future will be accepted as the ground of justification. But the law "requireth that which is past." The law would still say, "Pay me that thou owest." We should still be in hopeless debt. For this additional reason amendment would not justify. There could be no justification, filling the soul with soft and sure delight after the tears of sorrow and the struggles for amendment, like the clear shining after rain.

III. Another prevalent opinion is, that justification is wrought by Christ, along with certain co-operative actions of the creature. What is the truth? The oracles of God declare the truth as to the provision that is made for our justification. We are assured that the sinner is justified by Jesus Christ alone. We must "submit" to the righteousness of God." We must submit to enter an ark which we could not build, which we may not navigate, but which we must only enter in powerless dependence on unseen love and grace. The work of saving man, like the work of creating man, is Divine throughout. Other religions represent it as man's work towards God; our religion as God's work toward man.

C. Stanford, Central Truths, p. 99.


References: Romans 10:3.—W. Cunningham, Sermons, p. 213; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ix., p. 282; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 264.


Verse 4

Romans 10:4

The Law of the Spirit.

In this text there are three subjects which call for remark: the Law, Righteousness, and Faith. Consider them in succession.

I. "The Law." By the Law is meant the eternal unchangeable Law of God, which is the revelation of His will, the standard of perfection, and the mould of fashion to which all creatures must conform, as they would be happy. As Adam, the child of the dust, was also an image of God, so the Jewish Law, though earthly and temporary, had at the same time a Divine character. It was the light of God shining in a gross medium, in order that it might be comprehended; and if it did not teach the chosen people all, it taught them much, and in the only way in which they could be taught it. And hence, in the text, St. Paul, when on the subject of the Jews, speaks of their Law as if it were the eternal Law of God; and so it was, but only as brought down to its hearers, and condescending to their infirmity.

II. By "Righteousness" is meant conformity to the law—that one state of soul which is pleasing to God. It is a relative word, having reference to a standard set up, and expressing the fulfilment of its requirements. To be righteous is to act up to the law, whatever the law be, and thereby to be acceptable to Him who gave it. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness," because He effects the purpose of the law. He brings that about which the law cannot do, because it is weak through the flesh, through our unregenerate, unrenewed, carnal nature.

III. But here the question may be asked, How can we be said to fulfil the law and to offer an acceptable sacrifice since we do not obey perfectly? I answer as follows: He can only be justified, certainly, by what is perfect; no work of ours, as far as it is ours, is perfect, and therefore by no work of ours, viewed in its human imperfections, are we justified. But when I speak of our righteousness I speak of the work of the Spirit, and this work, though imperfect considered as ours, is perfect as far as it comes from Him. Our works done in the Spirit of Christ have a justifying principle in them, and that is the presence of the All-Holy Spirit. And this Divine presence in us makes us altogether pleasing to God. But again, there is another reason why, for Christ's sake, we are dealt with as perfectly righteous, though we be not so. God anticipates what will be, and treats believers as that which they are labouring to become. Faith is the element of all perfection; he who begins with faith will end in unspotted and entire holiness.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. v., p. 143.


References: Romans 10:4.—A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 229. Romans 10:6, Romans 10:7.—Homilist, vol. iv., p. 421. Romans 10:6-10.—W. Hay Aitken, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 199. Romans 10:6-8.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 47. Romans 10:6-9.—W. Anderson, Discourses, p. 180.


Verse 8

Romans 10:8

Spiritual Exhaustion.

These words were spoken to men who were speculating on mysterious subjects, and they touch, of course with necessary change, one of the troubles of this time. For many of us are wearying ourselves with endless speculation on the loftier subjects of thought in religion. It is not wrong—nay, it is right, for such is our nature, to speculate on these high matters; but if we do nothing else, then we injure our religious life, and lose the use of lofty speculation. Pride or despair follows, but chiefly exhaustion of the spiritual faculty, and oftentimes its death.

I. How can we retain the pursuit of high mysteries and truth and not lose ourselves in them, or be cast away in their despair? Whether in life with nature or in spiritual life, exhaustion and its results follow on a straining of our powers. We are ravished at first by the grandeur and the solemn beauty of the mighty questions of religion, and we neglect the wayside beauty of the Christian life. But after a few years at most the mystic glory dies away. These things are too much for us. We are bewildered by the multitude of questions which one after another, like a thousand paths from one centre, open out from each of the great problems. Who can count the dust of thoughts which fly around the question of immortality?

II. We should turn, when exhaustion threatens to tire and then to kill the spiritual faculty, to the simple Christian charities and tenderness of daily self-sacrifice, to the unassuming sanctities of those common duties which Christ urged us to do because God Himself did them and loved to do them. In making our home happy by filling it with the spirit of gentle love—in musing on the life of our children, and seeing God in it—in watching for and rejoicing in the heavenly touches of Divine things, which meet us in the common converse of life—in the quiet answer, the genial smile, the patience, zeal, industry, cheerfulness, truthfulness, courtesy, and purity which God asks of us as we pass on our hourly way—in doing and watching and loving these things, we shall not be wearied. They make no violent strain on the imagination or the intellect or the spirit. They do not ask us whether we believe this or that doctrine, or involve us in the storm of life's problems. They are not impossible or inaccessible to any one. Their world lies all around us—in the ordinary relations of man to man, of man to animals, of man to nature, and a mighty God is in them that grows not old. They only need an attentive heart to find them out and a loving heart to do them, and they will give you rest. They will put you in possession of the promise, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls."

III. But we shall lose, we say, in this humbler life, the beauty and sublimity which in pursuing high things we found in youth, and we cannot do without beauty, nor aspire without sublimity. We look for beauty of act and feeling too much in the splendid sacrifices, and victories of more than ordinary life, in the lives of men at whom the world stand to gaze. The stormy life of Elijah, the agonised life of St. Paul, struggling continually with the higher questions of feeling, passed in an Alpine realm of thought. Both have their lofty beauty, but they do not win us to their side, or breathe peace into the heart, as the ineffable beauty of the simple daily love of Christ. As we understand Christ better, we see that His quietude was grander than the passionate struggle of the others, that His still obedience places Him in union with the sublimity of God, that His simplicity is the result of infinite wisdom at home and conversant with the deep roots of things. Lowland life, but always on its horizon infinite Paradise.

S. A. Brooke, The Spirit of the Christian Life, p. 177.



Verse 8-9

Romans 10:8-9

I. Confession with the mouth. Confession does not stop, though it begins, with the confession of sin, of the greatness of its guilt, and the justice of its punishment; it rapidly advances to the confession announced in our text; the confession of sin being not only involved in the confession of Christ, but issuing in that confession in the largest and least qualified sense. He who feels that sin is destroying him is in the exact position to take home the truth that Christ died to deliver him. Where there is genuine confession of sin there will equally be genuine confession of all that is vital in the system of Christianity. Why then should not the being saved follow, as it is made to follow in our text, on confessing with the mouth the Lord Jesus?

II. Faith in the heart is that which will produce confession with the mouth. It is very easy, but very unfair, to speak of faith as a mere act of the mind, which naturally follows where there is a sufficiency of evidence, over which, therefore, a man has little or no control, and which, in consequence, ought not to be made the test or criterion of moral qualities. We pronounce this unfair, because it does not take into account the influence which the affections exert over the understanding, in consequence of which a man will readily believe some things and obstinately disbelieve others, though there be no difference in the amount of furnished testimony. It should be remembered that where the things to be believed are things which a man would naturally and strongly wish to disbelieve, there is great probability that the heart will operate injuriously on the head; and if notwithstanding the assent be given, and the unwelcome facts be admitted, we have much reason to suppose that there has been a struggle in the breast, a contest between the power of truth and the power of the inclination, which makes the case widely different from the mere yielding on sufficient evidence which is all, we are told, that can be predicated of faith. Belief with the head might leave the life what it was, but belief with the heart must be a belief unto righteousness, a belief which will be evidenced by the whole tenor of the life. Faith cannot be a barren or uninfluential principle. The doctrines of Scripture are such as, if acknowledged, are of the strongest possible interest to man, so that we must be justified in concluding, as we would of any matter of common life, that all real faith must be wanting where there is manifest disregard of all which faith would enjoin.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2167.


Verse 9

Romans 10:9

Belief in the Resurrection of Christ.

I. That which serves for the condemnation of the unbeliever, setting at nought all his wisdom, works in every way for the good of the faithful, and so is it with that marvellous fulfilment—the Resurrection. It was such as quite surpassed all the thoughts even of good men. So that when our Lord so often spoke to the apostles of His sufferings and resurrection, it is said they "understood it not." Now, if that were the case then, so will it always be in the fulfilment of those things of which Scripture speaks; the great mysteries of Godhead, the wonders of redemption, things which lie before us, and are around us, and beyond us in Christ's spiritual kingdom; such as no senses are cognisant of, no thought of man hath conceived.

II. We have no faculties to comprehend the resurrection; our knowledge is made up of images of varied death; death is stamped on every thought we can entertain; we must then believe what we can in no way understand. Nay, we shall understand it by believing better than by any wisdom we know of. Our life here must be that of daily dying according to this law, until the Spirit shall bid us rest from our labours. O Blessed Saviour, Thou art always in the midst of us, Thy words always are of peace, Thy presence always is of peace, "It is I, be not afraid"; but we are troubled about many things, we cannot raise our hearts to take hold of Thee, to apprehend the substance and reality of God—man with us. "Why art thou so vexed, O my soul? and why art thou so disquieted within me? O put thy trust in God, for I will yet thank Him who is the help of my countenance and my God."

Isaac Williams, The Epistles and Gospels, vol. i., p. 420.


This is a short chain to reach from earth to heaven—from hell to glory. And God meant it to be easy, and it is easy, but its ease is its difficulty.

I. "If thou shalt believe." It is of immense importance that we understand and realise the fact that all real faith lies in the heart. It does not dwell in the understanding; it does not lie in the province of the intellect; it is not the result of reasoning; no education will give it: it is in the affections. Faith is the belief of the heart. But why does God say, "Believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead"? (1) The resurrection is the seal of all. By raising Him from the dead, the Father showed that He accepted the ransom Christ had paid, therefore all the rest is contained in this, God raised Him from the dead. (2) That resurrection of Christ is our resurrection. We rise in Him, now, with a newness of life; presently, to a life in glory.

II. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus." What is the confession of the mouth? It may be that general acknowledgment of Christ, and the great doctrines of the Christian religion, which ought to characterise and pervade our common intercourse and our daily conversation. To talk of Christ requires an effort and offends people. And why it offends them, it is very difficult to see, but it does. We all know it and feel it, and yet it is a very solemn thought that Christ spoke these words—"By your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned." (2) But there is another sense in which the words may be taken. There can be no doubt that from the first, all Christians were required to make, at some time, a public declaration of their faith. This confession, which was once, and is still, properly a part of adult baptism, now belongs to confirmation. Till he is confirmed a person has never made a public confession of Christ and of the Christian religion before God and the world. Then he does it. This places confirmation in its true light, and shows its great and paramount importance.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, vol. xx., p. 13.


References: Romans 10:9.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. ix., p. 131. Romans 10:9, Romans 10:10.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ix., p. 273. Romans 10:10.—Ibid., vol. iii., p. 282; W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 64; W. Page Roberts, Liberalism in Religion, p. 75; A. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 419; Bishop Westcott, The Historic Faith, p. 185.


Verse 12

Romans 10:12

I. This declaration, at the time when it was first uttered, was probably equally astonishing to the Jew and the Greek: for the Jew, with his long-descended traditions, his sense of privilege of the most exalted kind, his habit of regarding the nations of the earth as in some degree unclean by the side of the people of the circumcision, to be told that within the pale of the Church he must doff his privilege and take rank according to his spiritual growth in Christ and not according to the purity of his blood; for the Greek, with his eager inquiring intellect, his keen sense of beauty, his frank enjoyment of full sensuous life, to be told that within the Church he was no better than one of the strange race—the Chinese of the Roman world—whom he knew vaguely as believing in wonders and worshipping abstractions, avoiding the hospitable board and the festive gatherings in which he himself so much delighted—this was no doubt a hard saying, such as a true Greek would scarcely hear with patience. And hence it is, probably, that in its early day Christianity made more progress in mixed populations, like those of Antioch and Ephesus and Corinth, where the Jew was somewhat less a Jew, and the Greek somewhat less a Greek, than among the pure Jews of Jerusalem, or the pure Greeks of Athens.

II. But, however startling it might be, there it was, one of the root principles of the Christian Church. No doubt national or ethnic peculiarities have had a very large influence in determining mankind to receive the easy yoke of Christ, and in modifying the Christianity of various tongues and peoples; but once within the Church, a man is a man; the body, soul, and spirit of a man are the qualifications for entering the Church of Christ, not the blood of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or pure descent from the shadowy glories of Theseus or Herodes.

III. The Christian Church of the first ages was emphatically a great brotherhood. Perhaps at the time when St. Paul argued for the admission of Jew and Greek into the same community many of his countrymen imagined that he was introducing a long war of sects into that society where all should be peace and love. Yet the war between Christian Jew and Christian Greek was soon past, and out of this fermenting mass sprang the Catholic Church as we see it at the end of the third century. May we not hope that the time will come when the old traditions of the English Church, freshened and vivified by new influences, under the guidance of the One Spirit, may rise to higher wisdom and new life, and win more perfectly the love of a larger fraternity?

S. Cheetham, Sermon preached on St. Andrew's Day, 1871.

References: Romans 10:12, Romans 10:13.—Homilist, new series, vol. ii., p. 463. Romans 10:13, Romans 10:14.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 32.


Verse 14

Romans 10:14

The opponents of "faith by hearing" are accustomed to speak highly of the general sources of enlightenment—the prospect of creation without us and the light of conscience within.

I. As regards the former—its universality and perpetuity, as a disclosure of deity to mankind, are utterly contrasted with the Christian system. If God were to interfere at all, they maintain, it would be by some universal agency, simple, general, and obvious, as the laws of His visible creation. They smile at the notion of God's greatest exhibition of His will to man being acted upon the reduced theatre of a petty province and made dependent on the chances of human testimony. But what if we retort that those very laws of nature "on a great scale" have caused God to be forgotten? It is the permanence and uniformity of natural laws of creation that have beguiled men into speculative and still more into practical atheism; it is the very perfection of the laws which has hidden the legislator. Men ever cling to the nearest object: in the law they lose the lawgiver; or, what is more irrational, make a lawgiver of the law and deify the world.

II. The law of conscience. The gospel system overpasses every rival remedy, because it brings the affections to reinforce the conscience. Is this to debase the dignity of virtue? It is, as truly as when the virtuous father teaches his wayward child to love virtues by winning him to love his teacher. Is this to debase the majesty of the law—to unveil the adorable benevolence of Him who is its living impersonation? Is it a weakness to keep the law through love of Him who gave the law? Proud and cruel mockery, which freezes to despair, on pretence of hardening to fortitude, which forbids the sick to be healed on any terms but those which the healthy alone could use, and rejects a remedy because it is remedial, which would delude us to starve in the midst of bounty, because forsooth it is unmanly to be dependent on food—to perish of hunger rather than condescend to eat the Bread of Heaven!

W. Archer Butler, Sermons, 1st series, p. 343.



Verse 14-15

Romans 10:14-15

Modern Missions.

It is an integral point of the Christian gospel that it recognises the unity of mankind, abolishes old walls of division, and aims at establishing on earth a universal spiritual brotherhood. Consider how thoroughly in harmony it is with this gospel of human brotherhood that to every man is given the privilege of calling every other man home to God. Christ, in re-establishing unity among mankind, has done more than make man his brother's keeper; He has made man his brother's reconciler. Far from monopolising to Himself this supreme function, He has, as far as could be, associated every one of us with Himself in the highest and most sacred office of brotherhood. The missionary is a genuine apostle of equality and fraternity, true mediator between ancient foes, and herald of peace on earth; walking in the footsteps of that Divine Brother who, as the head of every man, "hath reconciled us to God in one body by His Cross, having slain the enmity thereby."

II. Again, it is another design of Christianity to reproduce in human bosoms the Divinest features of the Divine image. It aims at realising a practical community of feeling, interest, and effort betwixt God and man. Till His disciples get to be inoculated with the saving interest they are but half His, but half in sympathy with Him. If we are not only to have life—a niggard share of it—but to have life abundantly, then we must have love enough to propagate life; must be, not a cistern, but a well springing up and running over to the life of God.

III. Is it not the most startling and characteristic thing about our holy faith that it blends together in mysterious co-operation supernatural with natural forces? The Church has her part to play no doubt, and it cannot be dispensed with; but she does not play the part in her own strength alone. All through history the Spirit of God is at work rousing and directing effort, inspiring and rewarding sacrifice. There is therefore no room for any unworthy alarm, lest God's high designs for mankind should in the end be frustrated through man's neglect. When Christ hinged the world's conversion on the co-operation of His people, He called to His side a fellow-worker who was no stranger, but the very mystical body of which He Himself is the head and the heart.

J. Oswald Dykes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 216.


References: Romans 10:14, Romans 10:15.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 50. Romans 10:15.—J. Baines, Sermons, p. 86. Romans 10:20.—C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 120.


Verse 21

Romans 10:21

The appeal which Jesus Christ makes, with His hands stretched out upon the cross, to the hearts of Christians is twofold.

1. It is an appeal on behalf of God's standard of holiness, and against the laxity and sin of man. And He makes this appeal by the force of His own example. There are two ways of teaching duty—by word of mouth or precept, and by personal conduct or example. The first is necessary; it is indispensable. The second is more effective than the first. Teaching by precept is the method common to the saints and to the philosophers. Teaching by example is the high prerogative of the saints. Teaching by precept begins with the understanding; it may or may not reach the heart. Teaching by example begins with the heart. The understanding can hardly fail to learn its lesson at a glance. Now, our Lord Jesus Christ uses both methods. Between the Sermon on the Mount and the last discourse in the supper room, He was continually teaching by word of mouth, sometimes single souls, sometimes His disciples, sometimes the Jews, now those who listened, and again those who refused to listen. But side by side with the method of precept, He employed the method of example. All through His life He reinforced His precepts by the eloquence of His conduct; but He gathered up all these lessons, or the most difficult of them, into one supreme appeal to the dormant moral sense in man when He raised Himself upon the cross and stretched out His hands to die.

II. Jesus Christ with His hands stretched out upon the cross makes an appeal to our sense of what He has done for us. Why is He there? Not for any demerit of His own; not only or chiefly to teach us virtue. He is there because otherwise we are lost; because we must be reconciled to God by the death of His Son. He is there because He has first taken our nature—made Himself our representative, and then, in this capacity, in bearing the penalty which, in virtue of those moral laws whereby the universe is governed, is due to our sins. When He suffers, we too suffer by implication. When He dies, we too share His death. His appeal is the appeal of love, of love the most tender, the most practical, the most disinterested. There are two lessons, in conclusion, which we may endeavour to make our own. (1) One is particular. Jesus Christ stretching out His hands on the cross is a model for all Christians who are in any position of authority, not only for monarchs or statesmen or great officers, but for that large number of us who, in various ways, have others dependent on us, under our government and influence. The model for Christians, parents, masters, employers, governors, is rather Christ upon His cross in anxious pain, stretching out the arms of entreaty and compassion, than Christ upon His throne finally dispensing the awards of judgment. (2) The other lesson is general. The longest day has its evening, and after the evening comes the darkness of the night. As the soul passes the gate of eternity, the pierced hands of Christ, which during the long day of life have been outstretched upon the cross, seem to the soul's eye to detach themselves and to fold together for judgment.

H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 868.

References: Romans 11:5.—Homilist, vol. v., p. 197; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 270. Romans 11:7.—Philpot, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. v., p. 49; Durrant, Ibid., vol. ii., p. 301. Romans 11:15.—Bishop Temple, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 129. Romans 11:17-21.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 272. Romans 11:20.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 72; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 13th series, p. 53. Romans 11:22.—J. H. Thom, Laws of Life, p. 64; E. M. Goulburn, Occasional Sermons, p. 160; J. Wells, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. v., p. 377; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 402. Romans 11:25.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 86. Romans 11:26.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 21. Romans 11:32.—Homilist, vol. vi., p. 196; Plain Sermons, vol. vii., p. 15; J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 202. Romans 11:33.—G. Huntingdon, Sermons for Holy Seasons, 2nd series, p. 253.



 


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 10:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/romans-10.html.

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Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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