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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Romans 10

 

 

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Verse 1

7. The Jew has Failed by preferring Birth-and-work conditions to that of Faith, Romans 10:1-11.

1. Brethren—The rebuking Who art thou, O man, is now softened down, and the apostle recognises, as in Romans 9:1-6, that the rebellious Jew is his dear brother. Still he firmly proceeds to maintain the charge that Israel’s downfall is his own fault. God’s willing as he pleased to have mercy was all conditioned on Israel’s faith, and Israel was fatally faithless. This whole chapter is a conclusive denial of the Calvinistic interpretation of chapter 9.


Verse 2

2. Zeal of God—Monotheism, the maintenance of the doctrine of one God, as opposed to polytheism and idolatry, was the great mission bestowed on Israel in the Old Testament. Before the captivity the people were prone to idolatry. The remnant who returned were the earnest few, who never again relapsed. But their very monotheism grew fierce and malignant.

Not… knowledge—The fiercer the zeal, even for truth, when not regulated by the real principles of truth, the worse its excesses. The very element of truth renders the mind self-conceited and unsparing, and the corrective and restraining part of the truth is over-ridden and disregarded. Monotheism by its very conscious truth took firm hold of the Jew’s conscience; and then, strangely for that truth, as Paul knew by experience, he could be a knave, a persecutor, and a bloody brigand.


Verse 3

3. Being ignorant—Or, rather, ignoring actively; just as the following participle going about is active. People often wilfully ignore what they really know; and St. Paul tells us (Romans 10:19, where see comment) that Israel did know. Dr. Chalmers pertinently says that people are not always blamable for not seeing, but are blamable for not looking.

God’s righteousness—(See note on Romans 1:17.) The righteousness which God has ready to bestow on man through Christ. It includes in its various degrees and stages pardon, justification, sanctification, and eternal glorification.

Going about—Old English phrase for engaging in or trying at a thing. The Greek word here literally signifies seeking, endeavouring.

Submitted—For faith is the submission of the whole man to God. Paul now shows what is the righteousness of God which the Jew ignored; namely, that righteousness of which Christ was the consummation.


Verse 4

4. End… righteousness—The end of the law is that full and final result which the fulfilled law would accomplish in the perfectly fulfilling man; namely, perfect justification founded on his perfect righteousness. But let man commit the slightest transgression and, alas! he is done for. Law can never justify him, but must eternally condemn. But, says the apostle, Christ now can step in and accomplish the law’s perfect end.

Believeth—Same as the submitted of Romans 10:3. Man must in faith submit himself to Christ in order to the end. And this the Jew ignored, and fell.


Verse 5

5. Moses, according to Paul, in the present verse, describes, in quotation of Leviticus 18:5, the hard way of works, and in 6-9, from Deuteronomy 30:11-14, the easy way of faith, in contrast.

Doeth those things—The law justifies only the things done, but makes no allowance, for failure.

Live—The blessed life. (See note on John 11:25.)

6-9 St. Paul now assumes that the faith of the New Testament is the faith of the Old Testament. (See notes on Romans 4:23-25.) That deep spirit of heartfelt obedience by which the spiritual Jew of old was earnestly obedient to Jehovah was the same spirit as the Christian faith. It was identical with the Abrahamic faith. (See notes on Romans 4:1-25.) This true faith, in all ages, in all lands, Jewish or Gentile, is the heart-centred spring of all obedience to right and to God, who is the impersonation of right. And when Christ, the image of God, is presented, as he truly is, to such faith, he is accepted. Hence Paul is right in holding that Moses in the words quoted truly describes the Christian faith.


Verse 6

6. Righteousness… speaketh—Righteousness herself is personified, like Wisdom in Proverbs. And the righteousness of faith proclaims that she offers no distant and inaccessible Saviour. He is neither above the skies nor low in the abyss. Say not in thine heart, whether in the language of doubt, discouragement, or cavil.

Ascend into heaven—Beautifully and rightly (even though Moses knew it not) applied by St. Paul to the ascended Christ, who though on high is ever with us on earth.

Bring Christ down—This is developed by St. Paul from the old words, as the flower is developed from the bud in which it is concealed (See note on Romans 1:2.)


Verse 7

7. Into the deep—In the Hebrew and the Septuagint the phrase is to beyond sea. And as to the ancients the sea was conceived as unbounded, so this phrase would mean to a limitless distance. The apostle’s word is abyss, which was conceived as a bottomless deep. Where its place, is not distinctly said; but as earth to the ancient conception was the limitless plane of sublunary existence, (as being antithetic to heaven,) it would, verbally, be in the depths of earth. When our conceptions are purified by astronomy, however, the abyss, hell, is no longer necessarily located in our earth. In substituting the bottomless abyss for the limitless ocean, the apostle simply adapts the phrase to his present purpose; which is, to use the term abyss as hades, or the state of the dead, into which Christ descended after his crucifixion. (See notes on Luke 16:23.)


Verse 8

8. The word… heart—This entire clause is quotation.

That is—The apostle now identifies the word of Moses with the gospel word. The word of faith is in its utterance in the mouth, in its power within the heart. Whether Christ be in the heavens or in the deep, the power of faith in him is salvation in our soul. It is more than nigh us, it is in us.


Verse 9

9. That—Rather, because, as depending upon nigh thee.

Mouth… heart—St. Paul follows the order of Moses in these two words; though, in the ordinary order of cause and effect, the latter is the fountain from which the stream flows through the former. And so Paul reverses the order in Romans 10:10. Moses, however, accustomed to outer confession, penetrates from the outward inwardly to the heart.


Verse 10

10. The heart—In modern language the heart is held to be, as a mental term, the seat of the feelings or sensibilities. And as modern science claims to have shown that the head, the brain, is the seat of thought, so we often have the antithesis head and heart as expressing intellect and sensibilities. But this antithesis is unknown to antiquity, especially to the Bible. But a single passage in the whole canon attributes thought to the head. (Daniel 7:1.)

As this passage locates the seat of faith in the heart, it becomes important to know the precise import of that term. In his Biblical Psychology Dr. Delitzsch goes into an extensive research on this subject, and brings out some striking results. As the bodily heart is the centre of the bodily system, so the mental heart is the centre of soul and spirit. And, as the centre of the interior self, it manifests itself in various directions. It is not merely the fountain of the sensibilities and emotions, natural and moral—of the desires, the loves, and the hates; but it is also the seat of the perceptions, reflections, meditations, reasonings, and memories, and the spring of the purposes, plans, determinations, and volitions. It is then in the very centre of our spiritual being that faith has its seat and its spring. So that, in accordance with modern mental science, we may define New Testament faith as being that belief of the intellect, consent of the affections, and act of the will, by which the soul places itself in the keeping of Christ as its ruler and Saviour. Hence both the Greek noun for faith, and its usual cognate verb believe, would, perhaps, both generally be more closely rendered by the word trust.

Unto righteousness—This self-surrendering trust being accepted, the believer is pardoned and held as righteous; by the Holy Spirit he is in measure sanctified and made intrinsically righteous. But true faith will ever go from heart to mouth, from belief to confession and profession; and this in its fulness results from present justification to final salvation. The true mode of profession appointed by Christ for every Christian includes always the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist. The self-esteemed believer who neglects these appointments of Christ disobeys Christ, and is very likely to lose that salvation that results from confession.


Verse 11

11. For—In proof of the doctrines of the last verse, Scripture is adduced.

Believeth—It being assumed that the true believer will also be a faithful confessor.

Whosoever—Same passage quoted in Romans 9:33. Here it is adduced in proof of the universality of the Gospel salvation. Christ is a universal Saviour. As, descended from Abraham, he is a Jew, so, descended from Adam, he is Gentile.


Verse 12

12. Over all—Thus far the apostle in this chapter has shown how beautiful the righteousness ignored by the Jew is. He now proclaims that it must overpass the Jewish limits. If the believing Christian must not only have a heart to believe, but a mouth to confess, so must the entire Church have a believing heart and a confessing mouth. Both must not only be faithful, but vocal.


Verses 12-21

8. This Faith-condition is impartial, embracing All and proclaimed to All, Romans 10:12-21.

In order that all, Jew and Gentile, may call upon God and be saved, (12, 13,) the preacher must be sent (14) (especially to Gentiles) and heard, (15-17;) nay, the Gentiles have heard from nature’s voice, (18,) and Israel knows, from the prophets, (19-21.)


Verse 14

14. How—By a succession of queries, like propelling waves, St Paul declares that invocation requires faith, faith hearing, and hearing a preacher; and crowns the climax with a beautiful strain from the old prophet.

Hear… preacher—St. Paul is here defending the rising organism of the new Christian Church, by which a most rapid system of proclaiming the Gospel and converting the world was coming into existence and power.

Preacher—As the whole Church cannot go forth, so a preacher, and an order of preachers, must be ordained.


Verse 15

15. Sent—The first apostles were sent by the visible Christ himself. (Mark 16:15.) And these apostles were to preach and be preachers. And of these apostles, so far forth as they were preachers, every true preacher is a true successor. And here the word sent, applied to every preacher, is the very verb from which the word apostle is formed. (See note on Matthew 10:2.) And every true preacher is sent or apostolized from Christ himself, not visible, yet present; according to his promise to be with his sent preachers to the end of the world. Yet it is not to be held that any preacher, or anybody, is or can be successors of the apostles, or themselves apostles, in the full sense that the first apostles were. As it was necessary that the apostle should have seen Christ, the full apostolate necessarily died with the first apostles. (See note on Luke 1:2.)

WrittenIsaiah 52:7. To himself and his brother preachers sent forth by Christ, St. Paul exultingly applies those beautiful words of the prophet applied by Jewish commentators themselves to the days of the Messiah. Christ’s heralds are compared to messengers, appearing on the mountains about Jerusalem, bringing good tidings to Zion, the city of David. Their feet, nimbly bringing the joyous bulletin, are called beautiful, because whatever is dear to the heart is apt to seem beautiful to the eye. And these messengers, like Paul himself, were rapid of foot. They were neither sluggard nor settled, but zealous and itinerant.


Verse 16

16. But—St. Paul, in 16, 17, still maintains that preachers must be sent and heard. Even from the fact, noted (16) from Isaiah, that the gospel was not obeyed, he infers (17) that it must still be heard in order to faith.

Report—The word report is in the Greek the same as the word hearing in 17. Mr. Forbes maintains that Isaiah’s words should be rendered, Who of us hath believed our hearing, or that which we have heard. The first clause in Romans 10:16, But… gospel, is used merely to introduce the quotation from Isaiah.


Verse 17

17. So then—Or, therefore. From Isaiah’s words, even if they describe a disbelief of the hearing, yet it follows that hearing is the proper means of faith. He confirms this instance from Isaiah by maintaining that the Gentiles had heard, (18,) and that Israel had known from hearing prophetic warnings, (19-21.)


Verse 18

18. Have they not heard—That they have heard, St. Paul maintains by a quotation of a passage from Psalms 19. Their words refers to the words of the heavens, the firmament, etc., declaring the glory of God: “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” And then come the words quoted. The they of whom the apostle asks whether they have not heard must be the Gentiles. And what they have heard is nature’s voice preaching unto them. As they have a law written on their hearts, so they have a gospel in the teachings of nature by which to be saved. (Notes on Romans 2:14-15.) That this refers to the Gentiles is plain from the fact that Israel’s case is taken up in the following verses.


Verse 19

19. Israel knowKnow is parallel to heard in Romans 10:18. St. Paul uses the word to indicate that Israel did know what they ignored in Romans 10:3. Know is evidently equivalent to heard; for St. Paul shows that they knew by hearing it from the predictions of the prophets. They knew because they heard just what they ignored in Romans 10:3; namely, that they were in danger of refusing the righteousness of God, of being supplanted by the Gentiles, and having a record of gainsaying left against them, (19-21.)

First Moses—Earliest in the line of warning prophets. The quotation is from Deuteronomy 32:21, according to the Septuagint. Indisputably the no people were the Gentiles, and the Jews were at the present moment exhibiting to Paul the very jealousy and anger predicted.


Verse 20

20. Very bold—Is still more explicit.

Sought me not—Compare the followed not after of verse Romans 9:30. The Gospel was now being carried to the Gentiles before they were aware of its existence.


Verse 21

21. Stretched forth my hands—As a mother inviting her child. How justly terrible to the Jews were these predictions of their present character drawn from their own prophets!

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 10:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/romans-10.html. 1874-1909.

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