Notes on Romans 10:1-3

Romans 10:1‑3  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 12
The connection of the opening verses of chapter 10 with chapter 9 is full of instruction for the soul. To many a mind it may seem illogical; but this is only the narrowness and infirmity of man who is apt to reason from himself, not from the truth. God's revelation affords the only sure basis; for He alone sees all sides of every object, He alone imparts the suitable affection and enables one to form the sound judgment.
So here the apostle had refuted Jewish assumption of inalienable privilege necessarily bound up with every member of the Abrahamic family, and proved, on the contrary, their ruin and indebtedness to the sovereign mercy of God. Again, he had opened out with irresistible force and clearness the Old Testament scriptures, which declare that God would call Gentiles in His grace, yea, that the mass of Israel should perish for their rebellious unbelief and a remnant only be saved, namely, whoever believed on Christ the stumbling-stone, who therefore is in principle as free to the Gentile as to the Jew. But this amazingly comprehensive and connected sketch of the revealed ways and certain counsels of God as to man on the earth did not at all interfere with his ardent love for Israel. Men often pervert a scanty portion of such knowledge to shut up their bowels of compassion from those who are to blame and under God's peculiar chastening. But it was not so with the apostle: “Brethren, the delight1 of my heart and the supplication toward God for them [is] for salvation.” The substitution of “them” for “Israel,” required by the more ancient and better authorities, appears to me really stronger as being more expressive of affection than the common text. It was needless to define mere clearly for whose blessing he was so earnestly interested, and this the more because of their great danger. The threatenings in the prophecies verified in their deepening unbelief drew out his strong crying to God on their behalf, and this for salvation. For what short of it could satisfy a heart that loved them? To say that “internal as well as external evidence is against” αὺτῶν and for τοῦ Ἰσραἠλ proves nothing but the unfitness of him who could so speak to judge of questions which demand not learning only but critical acumen and spiritual discrimination.
“For I bear them witness that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” “Zeal of God” is an objectionable rendering, just as faith of the Son of God” in Gal. 2:2020I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20). The Greek genitive is far more comprehensive than the English possessive case, and admits of an objective force as readily as a subjective. “The love of God” in that tongue equally means God's love to us or ours to Him: the context alone decides. Here there can be no question of the intended force. The Jews were zealous for God but not according to right or true knowledge (κατ επί^νωσιν). This filled the apostle's heart with so much the more affectionate care; for their zeal carried them the farther in the wrong direction, as ever must be in divine things where faith does not regulate according to the revealed mind of God.
“For they being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own righteousness have not been subjected [or submitted themselves] to the righteousness of God.” No doubt, these self-righteous Jews were not justified before God. But the apostle goes farther, as indeed the principle goes deeper. They ignored the righteousness of God, not merely the doctrine of justification, though this of course follows. But they were ignorant of God's righteousness revealed in the gospel. Man's merits composed the basis of their hopes, eked out by divine promises, by priesthood, rites, and observances. Messiah Himself was regarded as the crown and complement of their privileges, not as a suffering substitute and a Savior in the power of His resurrection after having borne their judgment on the tree. Hence they could only see an arbitrary choice backed up by their own confidence in their superior claims and deserts, but no ground of righteousness on God's part such as the Christian knows there is by virtue of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; no thought of God as through atonement just and justifying him that believes in Jesus. The grace of the Savior by His work enables God to act righteously in accounting just us who believe, while it humbles us to own the truth of our utter sinfulness instead of leaving us to gratify self by setting up a righteousness of our own and hence keeping us from submitting to His righteousness in Christ as the sole ground of justification before Him.