Thoughts on Romans 10

Romans 10  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Chap. 9. has brought before us the sovereign counsels of God towards Israel; chap. 10. occupies us with His ways in respect of the people during the present period.
Ver. 1. We may remark, first of all, that the knowledge of the irrevocable counsels of God about Israel had not at all extinguished the affection of Paul for his nation, nor taken away from his heart every hope of salvation for his Israelitish brethren. The thought which delighted his heart and which drew out his affections in supplication to God was their salvation. He says “for them,” (not for Israel, as in the vulgar text). Occupied as he is with Israel, its insertion would have been needless: its omission is beautiful, for it implies how they and their salvation-not their judgment, much as Israel might deserve it-were before his mind.
Ver. 2, 3. Nor does he fail to bear them witness that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. “For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about seeking to establish their own righteousness have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” Their zeal, which had for its object the righteousness of man according to the law, was the obstacle which hindered their knowing the righteousness of God and submitting to it. When God presented His righteousness, offering it to Israel in their own Messiah, they rejected Him. They failed in their own righteousness and what was worse, they would not submit to God's.
Ver. 4. The righteousness of God is in Christ- Christ the end of law for righteousness to every believer. This verse gives the subject round which turn all the developments of the chapter. Christ is the object of faith and the end of law. For though Christ was in view in the law, these words mean rather that He was its accomplishment, so that law ends in Him. He closes the ancient order of things. The whole principle of the first Adam, namely, the principle of the responsibility of man before the righteousness of God, dies in Christ. But in Him also everything recommences, on a new footing. Christ is Himself God's righteousness-righteousness which becomes the portion of the believer, and which sets him before God in a position of acceptance. It is in Jesus Christ that we pass from the first state to the second, from the responsibility that has failed to real righteousness.
Ver. 5-13. The righteousness of faith is established in the scriptures of the Old Testament. Several citations follow.
Ver. 6-8. He quotes a portion of Deuteronomy, which has this peculiarity, that it is addressed to Israel by Moses to serve as a resource when all should be lost under the law, when Israel might be in exile, far from the altars of the Lord, suffering the consequence of their transgressions. We know that for a Jew righteousness consisted in the observance of the law, in all its precepts and all its ordinances-ordinances which were bound up with the establishment of Israel in the land of Canaan, and which could not be observed save in the country where God had set up His altar. But Israel for their rebellions, and under the chastisement of the Lord, were to be carried away. Then there was no more altar, and, of course, no more possibility of attaining righteousness by means of law. “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee.” ( Deut. 30:11And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, (Deuteronomy 30:1).) Thus when all hopes of legal righteousness are overturned and gone, a new principle comes in. The passage used by the apostle begins at verse 11, “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven that thou shouldst say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” (Deut. 30:11-1411For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. 12It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 14But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11‑14).)
If, in the discourse of Moses, you remark these words and those which precede them, you will see that before expressing what belongs to the righteousness of faith, Moses has done with the law as a thing revealed. What the law could produce, alas! has been produced: Israel have shown themselves transgressors, and the wrath of the Lord weighs down upon them for their transgressions. It is all over. They are under chastisement. There is nothing more to expect on the side of the law. “The Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land.” (Deut. 29:2828And the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 29:28).) But is there an end without hope of return? Ah, says Moses, “the secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (ver. 29). The things revealed were their rules of action and are summed up in this: “Obey, and you shall abide in the land; if not, you shall be driven out.” They did not obey all the words of the law and were rooted out. But what are those secret things? Grace which remained with God for the time in which Israel should find themselves under chastisement. This subject is the theme of the prophets.
Let Israel be ever so far off, the testimony of God was addressed to them: they might turn to Him in spirit. But this was not legal righteousness: it was by faith they might have relations with God. They had not practiced the things commanded in the law; they were under punishment. But the righteousness of faith speaks thus to any one who asks where he must go to recover what is lost, to return to God: “Say not in thine heart,” &c. Paul interprets this movement of the Israelite's heart, or rather he answers it according to God. To ascend to heaven, to descend into the abyss, would be to bring Christ down, or to bring Him again from the dead. Taken thus, spiritually, Christ is the aim of the law. There was need of going nowhere. The word had come from God to them. “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness: and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom. 10:8-108But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8‑10).)
Two other quotations follow: ver. 11, Isa. 28:1616Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (Isaiah 28:16), and ver. 13, Joel 2:3232And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. (Joel 2:32), If none that believe on Him shall be ashamed, the Gentile believer need not be any more than the Jew. Therefore, adds the apostle, “there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” If all were on one level of sin, grace equally levels all difference between Jew and Gentile. (Comp. Rom. 3)
Thus it is clear that the words “in thy mouth and in thine heart” (verses 8, 9, 10), cited from Deut. 30 are in contrast with the merely literal accomplishment of the law. This is supposed to be impossible, for Israel is viewed as scattered and in captivity, far away from their land and the place which the Lord their God chose to set His name in. There only could the law in strictness apply; but the gracious word of his God might be in the heart and mouth of an Israelite. It was not necessary, then, to go to Jerusalem across the sea, any more than to go up to heaven. The word was near them, “in thy mouth and in thy heart;” that is, adds the apostle, the word not of law, but of faith, which we preach; that, if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, [or Jesus as Lord,] and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved; for with the heart is belief to righteousness and with the mouth is confession to salvation. Hence even the law indicated that the faith of the heart is the sole resource of the Jew when all was ruined—the sole means of drawing near to God at any time, for man is a sinner And to this agree the words of the prophets; Isaiah, on the one hand, declaring that none who believed on Him should be ashamed, and Joel, on the other, affirming that every one whatsoever that should call on His name should be saved. Negatively and positively, then, it was manifest from the law and the prophets, not to speak of the gospel, that in this respect there is no difference between Jew and Greek: if there is none as to their sin, neither is there in the Lord's grace, For the same Lord of all is rich toward all that call upon Him.
Ver. 14-21. Here the apostle, pursuing the thread of the same passage of Joel (ii. 32), justifies his own ministry, and what God was doing thereby among the Gentiles. The word of faith was preached to them. God, by means of preaching, is making them acquainted with the name of the Lord, who must be called on in order that they should be saved. “How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that announce glad tidings of peace, of them that announce glad tidings of good things!”
Evangelization characterizes the action of God in Christianity. It is a part of His scheme of grace, the activity of His love in seeking as well as saving the lost, be they who and where they may. Evangelization, I say, and not the Church; for the confusion of the two ideas is, at bottom, popery. Ministry is the action of God in the world, and is characteristic of Christianity (as priesthood on earth was of Judaism); it is a testimony of goodness and grace, addressed from God to man. It is the Lord who sends, the Lord who teaches by His servants. The Church does not teach, but is taught. Teaching is a care which the Lord confides to special members of His body, for the good of all.
This announcement of glad tidings was clearly not the law: for this was a report of what the Lord had done—a report to be believed by man, not works to be done by him Their own prophet, Isaiah, spoke of it as a future blessing; why, then, should the Jews be so incredulous? But even this incredulity was only an accomplishment of the same prophet's words, and that too the incredulity of Israel. “They have not all obeyed the glad tidings, for Esaias says, Lord, who has believed our report? So then faith is by a report, and the report by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yea, verily, their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the bounds of the world.” Israel is thereby shown to be inexcusable. Not only had they heard, but all the habitable world—Gentiles as well as Jews—had had the testimony of God's Son published to them. Thus Psa. 19 from which he quotes, is a witness of the universality of God's message. It was not like the law given to a particular people, but like the light of the sun, “whose going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit to the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” But this seems rather to be hinted than plainly brought out. The next verses (19-21) are express. “But I say, has not Israel known? First, Moses says, I will provoke you to jealousy through that which is no nation, and through a senseless nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and says, I was found by those who sought me not; I was made manifest to those who asked not after me. But to Israel he says, All the day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people,” That is, Israel should have known that God would receive the Gentiles. Moses was the first to say so, and Isaiah declares it with great boldness. Isaiah had predicted outright that the Gentiles were to find God, and what was still more, that Israel would oppose and be rebellious against God. It was indeed no other than the Lord Jesus had intimated in the parable of the king and his servants, (Matt. 18) no other than the Holy Ghost develops in word and deed throughout the history in the Acts. And there it was in their own prophet 700 years before.