Dear brothers and sisters,
The longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved.
I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal.
They don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself.
Refusing to accept God’s way,
they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law;
for Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given.
As a result, all who believe in him (Christ) are made right with God.
(Romans 10:1-4 NLT)
What is the foundation of Paul’s statement?
Paul tells us that the law that Moses wrote about (the Torah) and said that whoever can perform the law will live by it. At first glance, that does not seem like such a bad thing, as there were only ten ordinances to follow; and, the law/Torah brings about a momentary righteousness.
(As I try to put flesh and blood on this act of sacrifice that brings righteousness, I picture a man leaving the temple with a satisfied look on his face because he knows that he has just covered his sins for the year. Only moments later, some camel jockey cuts him off on the way home, and he retaliates with some curse and a few hand gestures. At that moment, he realizes that he just threw a year’s worth of righteousness out the window; and, he must wait until next year. What if something happens and he dies of a heart attack the next day? Can you see the problem in that system? The sacrificial system did not change the person.)
Perhaps, a corresponding verse from Deuteronomy might give us an angle that sheds some light.
And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” (Deuteronomy 6:25 TNIV)
So then, the Torah would be their/our righteousness, but what does that do with God, since God, knowing that we cannot maintain a righteous condition, and therefore He has to be our righteousness?
Paul has an answer to that question as well. (You may have noticed that Paul’s style of writing is one in which he asks questions. In asking questions, he is trying to get you to think. It does not demand an answer, as Paul does not ask questions for which he does not have an answer.)
But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
(Romans 10:6-11 TNIV)
It isn’t about one’s ability to follow the rules; it is faith in the fact that God raised Him from the dead so that you too could have life. Did you pay attention to the line that says, for Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given? So Christ, as the final sacrifice, paid the price necessary for our righteousness; all that is left is to accept and believe this is so.
Earlier in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he pointed out that God leveled the playing. In other words, NO ONE people group has an advantage merely because they are Jewish.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24 TNIV)
(Side note: Romans 3:23, a passage that we religious folk use to point out that everyone is a SINNER isn’t trying to make that point at all, it is pointing out that WE ALL have a massive problem and NEED a savior. Since the playing field is leveled, then NO ONE has an advantage, and all must come to Him. God is not withholding His love and grace from anyone.)
Notice how Romans 10:11, in the TNIV, says, “anyone who believes in him.” There are a few translations of this, and this is what they say, Everyone, Whoever, or Whosoever. What does that mean? It means that anyone is welcome into God’s family.
Since the concept of belief has multiple possibilities, then perhaps God has the grace to accept faith in a variety of forms. Let me be first to respond negatively to this statement.
There is only one way to the Father, and that is through Jesus Christ.
But what does that look like?
When we look at Matthew 25, the story of the sheep and the goats, and understand that these people being brought before the great white throne (I know it does not specifically say that, but the component pieces are there, if you are willing to look,) are those from among the nations that have died. (I can guarantee that at this point you are not comprehending the immensity of this statement.) The nations, to a Jew, has always meant someone outside of God’s grace. For the believer, it was us, but now means those whom we perceive as not accepting Christ’s love. How would I know any of that? Think in terms of chronology. Since we, the church, are not subject to the wrath that God will bring upon this earth, then we are going to be caught up to meet Him/Jesus, in the air, and forever be with Him. These, from among the nations, did not get caught up. Standard religious thought arbitrarily assigns these to hell. Obviously our thinking is wrong on this, as SOME are given access, And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-36 MSG)
Some might see this as works, and if we have learned anything, it is that works don’t cut it, faith does. There is something far deeper about God’s love than we could have imagined.
For the thief on the cross, his faith was beyond simplistic.
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
(Luke 23:39-43 NASB)
Allow me to break this passage from Luke’s gospel down for you.
- One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, saying,
- The other thief, rebuking the first, answered,
- What happened next? The thief, having acknowledged that Jesus had done nothing wrong, said to Jesus,
- Jesus response to the man who is demonstrating a form of belief,
So let’s get back to Romans 10:11 for a moment. Look at this verse in the New International Readers Version.
“But I will bless any man who trusts in me. I will show my favor to the one who depends on me.” (Jeremiah 17:7 NirV)
The Word Study Dictionary says this about the Hebrew word for trust.
bāṭaḥ: “A verb indicating to trust, to be confident. It expresses the feeling of safety and security that is felt when one can rely on someone or something else. It is used to show trust in God. …, and people.”
The Strong’s concordance tells us this about the word trust.
To hide for refuge (but not so precipitately as H2620); figuratively to trust, be confident or sure. H2620 is the Hebrew word khaw-saw’ and means to flee for protection.
Strong’s shows us a word I was not familiar with, precipitately. The word means hastily, with rash haste, without due caution.
It seems that the only time we run without due caution is when we are in imminent danger. God, on the other hand, desires that we run to Him regularly, not because we are weak and out of control, but because He is love and longs to show us that love. To prove my point, you will be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to give their life to save you. Oh sure, there is always that one person that makes the news, but they aren’t your friend. God, on the other hand, put Himself on that cross, for you, when you hated Him or were so distanced from Him that you did not want Him to see your face.
Answer me this is that something that we do, flee to God for protection? Israel fled to God, but only when things got completely out of control. I have done that myself, and things were indeed out of control. So for us, this concept seems to be a standard, but is it God’s?
Did the thief on the cross, that gained acceptance into paradise, put his trust in God?
Obviously, he did, for Jesus himself said, “what I am telling you is true, this day you will be with me in paradise.”
Did the thief who gained the assured acceptance into paradise, go through all the standard religious practices? There is no practical way he could have done that. I believe it is safe to assume that this man was a Jew as well, and would have known what the law required for repentance, and how that blood, spilled in sacrifice was the decreed way to gain righteousness at this time. Sadly, the man was in no position to do any of that.
Another piece of evidence, on behalf of the thief, was that he could recognize that Jesus had done no wrong. How would he have known that and by what standard could he have made that kind of assessment? (We assume that the thief was not a Jew. It would appear that our assumption is wrong, once again.)
In studying the early chapters of Romans, I commented on how Paul spoke of God leveling the playing field. Well, here it is again.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
(Romans 10:12-13 NASB)
Can you not see that the thief on the cross, called upon the name of the Lord?
Next time we will pick up at Romans 10:14 and finish this out.
Paul throws out another of his questions.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him, whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a preacher?
(Romans 10:14 NASB)
We have nothing beyond the thief’s conversation, to explain how this man believed, but he did. Paul, in Romans 10:14, seems to imply that the respectful thief must have heard; this strikes me odd when the only one doing any preaching is Jesus. This thief and Saul, the pharisee, both heard and saw Jesus in action. Because our decisions have consequences, the thief paid quickly for his actions, and yet received the gift of life with the Father. Saul, on the other hand, had followers of Christ jailed and killed, and still, God significantly used him to spread the gospel. Did Saul/Paul pay for his sins here on earth? It would seem he did.
Paul again asks.
How will they preach unless they are sent?
Just as it is written,
“HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
(Romans 10:15 NASB)
Who and what did Paul have on his mind when he asked this question?
J Vernon McGee says this:
“Paul shows that there must be messengers of the gospel who have credentials from God. Paul, you recall, began this epistle with the claim that he was a called apostle of Jesus Christ (see Rom_1:1). There follows a logical sequence. Preachers must be sent in order for people to hear that they might believe, for they would not know how to call upon God. Paul pinpoints all on believing; this, therefore, necessitated his ministry.”
I am not sure I agree with what we deem qualifications. I, for example, have learned simply by burying my head in the Word of God and asking questions about virtually everything I read, in contrast to someone from theology school. Assuming that I am qualified to preach the gospel, the opportunities have not arisen as I thought they might; this leads me to occasionally think I have not been sent. Personally, I think that we are all evangelists to some degree.
That being said, does everybody receive what we are saying?
NO, and Paul had the same problem.
However, they did not all heed the good news;
for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?”
(Romans 10:16 NASB)
Once again, I turn to J Vernon McGee.
“The Jews, his own people, hated the apostle Paul even though they applauded Saul, the Pharisee. He is showing the logic of his position. They rejected his claim, or the right of any of the apostles, to proclaim a gospel that omitted the Mosaic system which had degenerated into Pharisaism.”
Recently, a brother in Christ threw out a challenge/question at me. He asked, why do preachers preach from the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) when Paul received new teaching, which is referred to as a mystery? Having learned not to answer such things so quickly, I hesitated, and in a matter of seconds, he began answering his own question. Such events are typically a good sign that the person asking the question wasn’t interested in obtaining an answer, but was bent on spewing his opinion. This man is typically boisterous, and unwilling to conform to what the Word of God says. Several minutes passed, and other conversations arose; however, I resurrected the subject of the gospels. I pointed out that all scripture is useful and, therefore, fair game to teach or preach from.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 MKJV)
He retorted with, but the gospels were concerned with the law, and Paul preached that we are free from the law.” Don’t you wish that were true, but it is not for Jesus said, I have come to fulfill the law.
Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17 MKJV)
Look at these verses.
For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when the nations, who do not have the Law, do by nature the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law unto themselves; who show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and the thoughts between one another accusing or even excusing one another,
(Romans 2:13-15 MKJV)
Having demonstrated that the law is written upon the heart, allow me to show you one more verse that WE cannot set aside the law.
There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith, do we truly fulfill the law. (Romans 3:30-31 NLT)
A question, how did Paul open this letter to the church in Rome?
This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God, to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. (Romans 1:1 NLT)
Writing with emphasis to a Jewish community, Paul uses a term that should be offensive to anyone, slave; for slaves, whether by force or by choice, have submitted their entire lives to the disposal of someone else. I will tell you something deadly serious to me; I have come to understand that I can’t do this on my own, and desperately need a savior, even to the point of considering myself enslaved to him.
Why say all this? Because Paul makes it very clear that “they,” the Jews,
“did not all heed the good news.”
Paul referenced a passage from Isaiah to indicate his awareness that barely any of the Jewish community are accepting the message of freedom and grace.
“Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
(Isaiah 53:1 ISV)
There is a reason for this conversation.
The point is, Before you trust, you have to listen.
But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.
(Romans 10:17 MSG)
So, the logical assumption is that Israel has had plenty of voices speaking to them about faith and grace.
“But, I say, isn’t it rather that they didn’t hear?”
No, they did hear—”
Their voice has gone out throughout the whole world and their words to the ends of the earth.”
(Romans 10:18 CJB)
Paul still queries,
So the big question is,
Why didn’t Israel understand that she had no corner on this message?
Moses had it right when he predicted, When you see God reach out to those you consider your inferiors—outsiders!— you’ll become insanely jealous.
When you see God reach out to people you think are religiously stupid, you’ll throw temper tantrums.
(Romans 10:19 MSG)
Paul then tells us, He was found by a people who were not looking for Him.
Then Isaiah was bold enough to say: “I have been found by a people who were not searching for me; I have made known myself to people who were not asking to know me.” (Romans 10:20 Williams)
Cold shoulders and icy stares.
Then he capped it with a damning indictment: Day after day after day, I beckoned Israel with open arms And got nothing for my trouble but cold shoulders and icy stares.
(Romans 10:21 MSG)
If this says anything to you, it should say rejoice.