Cause of Their Own Rejection. Rom. 10, l-21.
Their refusal to accept the righteousness of God: V.1. Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved. V.2. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. V.3. But they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. V.4. For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth. The apostle continues the line of thought which he had begun in chap. 9, 30. But he cannot go on without giving expression to the deep grief which t4e situation causes him. He assures his brethren, his readers in the congregation at Rome and elsewhere, that the salvation of the Jews is a matter of prayerful concern to him, that he feels anything but satisfaction at the necessity devolving upon him to speak of their rejection by God. His kind and earnest desire in their behalf, the supreme wish of his heart, which finds its expression in his supplication to God, is their salvation. That is the object which he has in mind as he makes his plea before God, as he intercedes in their behalf, that they might obtain salvation. Far from desiring to exaggerate and to play up the evil of their conduct, the apostle is rather inclined to give them full credit for whatever may be commendable in their behavior. He bears them witness, he is perfectly willing to testify in their behalf that they have a zeal for God, toward God. So much one must acknowledge and yield to them, that they are not indifferent to God and to His glory. For centuries they had held fast to the doctrine and cult of their fathers as they understood it, even enduring bloody persecutions for the sake of Jehovah. And they believed that by this insistence upon the outward formalities of religion they were meriting salvation, acts 26, 7. But in spite of all this well-meant effort their zeal was not in accordance with correct knowledge. Their lack of proper knowledge was not only an intellectual, but also a moral fault. In spite of all the teaching on the part of the prophets, they persisted in their external worship, refusing to accept the proper knowledge of God. A service of God as they had developed it for themselves they adhered to, and all other opinions were rejected by them. But the true zeal for God and His glory stays within the bounds of God’s revelation and does not follow human opinion.
And now Paul pictures the contrast to his own desire and prayer in the behavior of the Jews according to their false knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they have not placed themselves under the righteousness of God. Instead of the proper knowledge the Jews showed ignorance; instead of having the true righteousness, they were bound to bring out their own. God has found a way of justifying sinners; He has prepared for them a perfect righteousness: He offers them this righteousness in the Gospel But because the Jews are willfully ignorant of this righteousness of God, because they maliciously ignore His justification and are determined to set up their own righteousness of works, therefore they would not and did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God, the divine order and arrangement for the salvation of men, the way of justification. And therefore all their zeal for God will avail them nothing, since they refuse to see the one way of salvation, by the acceptance of the righteousness of God through faith.
And Paul brings another proof that the pursuit of one’s own righteousness by the observance of the Law is a mistake and cannot result in salvation: For the end of the Law is Christ unto righteousness to every one that believes. Christ is the end of the Law: He has fulfilled all its demands perfectly, in every detail, and therefore in Christ the Law has found its end, its termination. That the Law still has its value, even in the Church of the New Testament, the apostle has shown above, 3, 20; 7, 7 ff. The Law, being fulfilled by Christ, can no more accuse and condemn us, for full and complete righteousness is now present and ready for every one that believes; that is the aim of Christ’s being the end of the Law. A person need but accept the fulfillment of the Law, the perfect obedience rendered to the Law by Christ, and he will, by such faith, be the possessor of the righteousness of Christ, imputed to him in and by the act of justification. And this is true not because of any intrinsic merit in the act of faith, but because it is the only means of apprehending and appropriating the righteousness of Christ as gained for us. In this way v.4. is a summary of the entire Gospel message.
The universality of the righteousness of faith proved by the Old Testament: V.5. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the Law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them. V.6. but the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above;) v.7. or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) V.8. But what saith it? The Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy he art, that is, the Word of faith, which we preach; v.9. 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. V.10. For with the he art man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. The apostle had clearly shown that faith in the righteousness provided by God was at all times a condition of salvation. And he now brings proof from the Old Testament which clearly indicates that Moses taught the distinction between the two forms of righteousness. For Moses writes concerning the righteousness of the Law, Lev. 18, 5, that the man who doeth it will live in it. Every person that keeps all the commandments and precepts of the Law perfectly will by that token obtain life, the true, eternal life, Deut. 27, 26; Gal. 3, 10; Jas. 2, 10; Luke 10, 28. That is the prerequisite, the one condition upon which salvation depends: perfect obedience to the Law. Not, indeed, as though any person had ever been saved by the keeping of the Law, for the simple reason that no one, since the fall of Adam, ever did fulfill its precepts. The righteousness of the Law does not exist in reality, but is a demand of God upon all men, a condition of salvation, just as Moses writes of it in the passage quoted. Moses describes the righteousness of the Law, but he does not assert that it exists in any human being. If a person thus understands the situation, he will despair of the righteousness of the Law and turn to the righteousness of faith as the one possibility of being saved.
This contrast is brought out in the next verses, where the content of Deut. 30, 11-14 is brought in a free rendering. But the righteousness which is of faith has this to say, the righteousness which God imputes by faith describes its own character in words taken from the writings of Moses, but applied to the situation as created by the work of Christ. The advice which this righteousness gives, is this: Do not say in thine heart: Who will ascend up into heaven? or: Who will descend into the abyss? That the righteousness of the Law, by means of works, is unattainable, the words of Moses had implied. But how about the righteousness of faith? No one should have the idea or propose to himself: Who will go up into heaven, in order to get Christ down from heaven? Who will go down into the deep, into the place of the dead, to fetch Christ from the dead? Such desponding and anxious inquiries are altogether foolish. It is not necessary to go to all that trouble, it is not required to fetch Christ from a great distance, for He is not so unattainable. On the contrary, the Redeemer is present; Christ has come down from heaven, He has arisen from the dead for the salvation of all men; He has done His work on earth and fulfilled the righteousness of the Law. In and with Christ perfect righteousness has been gained for all men. And therefore the righteousness of faith has a bold and joyful admonition: Near to thee is the Word, in thy mouth and in thy heart: this is the Word of the faith which we proclaim. For Christ, of whom he has spoken in the first part of his admonition, Paul substitutes the Word of the Gospel, the Word which had been entrusted to him to proclaim, the Word of faith, which should simply be believed, whose content, Jesus Christ, should be accepted by faith. Christ and His full salvation is always present with us, in the Gospel message which is proclaimed, in the Scriptures which are read, in the texts from the Bible which are memorized. And nothing more is needed than faith in this Word, assent to its content, and confidence in its promises.
The apostle further explains this statement and applies it to the average believer in his life: Because, if thou with thy mouth confessest Jesus Christ, and believest in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved; for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, but with the mouth one confesses unto salvation. Faith and confession are here mentioned as the two requisites for salvation. So near is the redemption of Jesus to every person in the world, in the Word of the Gospel-message, that it is necessary only to believe with the heart and to confess with the mouth in order to become a partaker of all its blessings. If any person believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth that Jesus is the Lord and that God has raised Him from the dead, then he has the faith which will give him salvation. Note that Paul here represents Jesus the Lord as the summary and content of the Gospel, of faith and salvation. The thought is so important for every person in the wide world that Paul repeats it in a parallel sentence, placing a heart believing unto righteousness and a mouth making confession unto salvation side by side. The faith of the heart is sufficient for the attainment of righteousness, and the confession of the mouth is sufficient for the attainment of salvation. The faith of the heart, as expressed in the confession of the mouth, brings righteousness and salvation to the believer, and no work and merit will have this result. Just as the heart and the mouth are mentioned together, so faith and confession cannot be separated: faith must find its expression in the confession of the mouth. “The faith of the heart, followed by the confession of the mouth, results in righteousness and salvation.” Paul is speaking of a true and living faith, not of a hypocritical makeshift and substitute. In Christ, in the Word of salvation, God has brought salvation to all men, and He recognizes only that confidence of the heart which, by His working, actually appropriates the redemption and makes an open confession of that fact before all men.
The testimony of Scripture for the righteousness of faith: V.11. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. V.12. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. V.13. for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. The form or method of salvation as taught in the Gospel is not only the sole way to get to heaven, but it is also the only method which can be made applicable to Jew and Gentile alike: to be saved by faith. This St. Paul substantiates with a passage from Scripture, a name used throughout to designate the collection of Old Testament writings as in use in the midst of the Jews. It is a sweeping, all-inclusive statement: Every one that believeth on Him shall not be brought to shame, Is. 28, 16. The two thoughts which the apostle has in mind are here clearly brought out. Whosoever, every one, no matter of what race or nationality he is, no matter what his antecedents have been; there is no difference. And whosoever believes: faith is the one means of securing the blessings of salvation, it is the one condition of acceptance by God. And the apostle explains: For there is no difference between the Jew on the one side and the Greek on the other. So far as their relation to salvation, to its need, and to the method of obtaining it, is concerned, God will accept either one, just as soon as he believes. For the same one, Jesus Christ, is Lord of all, a possessor of riches, of inestimable spiritual blessings and benefits to all and for all that call upon Him. Christ is the Lord and Savior of all believers, and His command of spiritual means and riches is such as to make Him able to dispense the riches of His grace to each and every one, and to all together, that call upon Him in faith, who worship Him as their Redeemer. For that the salvation of their souls is the object of their prayer is evident from the words: Every one that calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Cp. Joel 2, 32. To call upon the name of Jehovah is identical with calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christians call upon, worship, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as that of God. Their worshiping is a fruit, an expression of their faith. And by that faith, expressed in this confession, they take hold upon eternal salvation, they are saved by that Lord in whom they have put their trust. Thus the apostle brings out the universality of salvation, of the fact that it is intended for all men, that the Gospel, therefore, must be proclaimed in the whole world.
This is the thought which is now expanded, the necessity of universal Gospel-preaching: V.14. How, then, shall they call on 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? V.15. And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! The apostle here explains what is implied in calling upon the Lord, v.13. He had stated that this worship of the Lord in faith was a condition of salvation, and he now follows up that thought, showing what is involved in that word of the Lord. How is it possible for them to call upon Him in whom they do not believe? Worship is an act of faith; therefore, where faith is not present, the proper worship of the Lord is excluded. How is it possible for them to believe in Him of whom they have not heard, or, where they have not heard? Where the voice of Christ has not been heard in the Gospel, there faith is out of the question. And this leads to the next question: But how can they hear without one that preaches? If there is no one there to proclaim the Gospel, the hearing of the joyful message of salvation is manifestly not to be thought of. And finally: How can they preach the Gospel if they have not been sent? 1 Cor. 1, 17. If the Lord does not send preachers of the Gospel, if He does not make men’s hearts willing to prepare for the office, if He does not issue His call through the medium of the congregation or the Church, how can the office be supplied? Thus Paul, by a series of convincing logical inferences, brings out his conclusion of the duty of preaching the Gospel to all people. “As invocation implies faith, as faith implies knowledge, knowledge instruction, and instruction an instructor, so it is plain that if God would have all men to call upon Him, He designed preachers to be sent to all, whose proclamation of mercy being heard, might be believed, and, being believed, might lead men to call on Him and be saved.” (Hodge.) This reasoning agrees exactly with a prophecy of Isaiah, the present need is met by the prophetic saying, Is. 52, 7: How beautiful the feet of those that preach the Gospel of peace, that preach the Gospel of good things! The feet of the messengers of the Gospel are lovely, because their coming is delightful, because they are eager to bring the tidings of joy. The content of their proclamation is peace, reconciliation with God through Jesus, good things, the fullness of God's blessings through the work of Jesus. In this way the declaration of the prophet, in speaking of the joy with which the coming of the messengers of the Gospel will be received everywhere, is used to prove the necessity of preaching the Gospel to all men.
Faith and unbelief in their relation to the Gospel: V.16. But they have not all obeyed the Gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? V.17. So, then, faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. V.18. But I say, have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth and their words unto the ends of the world. V.19. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. V.20. But Esaias is very bold and saith, I was found of them that sought Me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after Me. V.21. But to Israel He saith, All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. Paul had stated that the preaching of the Gospel to both the Jews and the Gentiles was in accordance with the will of God. Since He wants all men to be saved, He also wants the Gospel preached to all men. And this remains true, although not all men (with special reference to the Jews) have given obedience to the Gospel; many have rejected its beautiful message. And this behavior has also been foretold by Isaiah, chap. 53, 1: Lord, who will believe our report, the message we communicate? The report, or message. of Isaiah, the evangelist of the Old Testament, is identical with the Gospel-preaching of all times; and his experience agrees with that of the apostles and preachers of the New Testament. Few, very few, are found that are willing to give ear to the message of their salvation. It is a bitter lament to which the prophet gives voice and at the same time a grievous accusation.
The apostle now draws a conclusion from the words of the prophet: So, then, faith comes through the message of preaching. There the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed, one may well expect faith to be kindled; for this preaching is the prerequisite of faith, faith depends upon the preaching of the Gospel. And preaching, in turn, is through the Word of Christ. Preaching is done by virtue of, on the basis of, the word and command of Christ, who as the Lord of the Church sends out apostles and preachers of the Gospel. The message brought by these men is thus a sure foundation of faith. All the greater, then, is the culpability of the Jews and of all unbelievers in resisting the order of salvation as fixed by God, in frustrating God's design and preparation for their everlasting happiness.
But the apostle here himself raises an objection: But I say, have they not heard? It surely is not possible that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has never reached their ears. The apostle wants to correct the impression as though he had said too much, as though his supposition that all the Jews, even those outside of Palestine, had had a chance to hear the Gospel was wrong. But he immediately denies that such an excuse for the unbelief of the Jews may be asserted. Nay, rather: Into every land is gone forth their sound, and to the ends of the earth their words. The apostle here clothes his argument in the words of Ps. 19, 5. The sound of the Gospel, the voice of the preachers of the Gospel, has gone forth into all the world; even at the time when Paul was writing, it had been carried out into practically all parts of the great Roman Empire, especially to those countries where Jews were living. The name of Christ was known throughout the civilized world. And therefore the Jews cannot excuse their unbelief with the pretext that they had had no opportunity to hear the message of the Gospel.
The apostle having thus anticipated all objections and rejected all excuses in advance, continues: But I say, did Israel not know? Surely no one will want to assume the incredible, in saying that Israel, the chosen people of God, to whom God had entrusted His Word and promises of old, did not know them, refused to acknowledge and accept them, willfully ignored and rejected them! The question is one not only of astonishment and surprise, but also of indignation over the fact that Israel did not want to know, did not want to believe. But this behavior agrees with the prophecy of Scriptures, not only in one, but in several instances. As the first one, Moses says, Deut. 32, 21: I will incite you to jealousy with a nation which is not a nation, with a foolish nation I will provoke you to anger. This the Lord had spoken even through Moses. Just as the children of Israel, even in those early days, had provoked God by worshiping idols, that were not gods, He would, in turn, provoke them. In the eyes of God there was only one nation, His chosen people, the children of Israel. All the nations of the heathen did not merit that honoring title. But God would deliberately receive the people from those non-nations as His own, to the great chagrin and indignation of the Jews. Because they had shown themselves lacking in understanding, therefore the Lord would choose as His own people whom they considered foolish. Cp. Acts 13, 42 ff.
And Moses was not the only one that predicted the rebellion and the apostasy of the Jews. Isaiah makes a very bold statement, chap. 65, 1. 2: I have been found by those that did not seek Me, I have been revealed to them that did not ask for Me. The Lord, according to this prophecy, has manifested Himself and has permitted Himself to be found by strangers, by people that were in no communication with Him before. The heathen, originally strangers to the covenant of promise, were converted and turned to God as the message of the Gospel was brought to them. All the greater, then, is the contrast as represented by the Jews, to whom the Lord says, in the same passage: The entire day I have extended My hands toward a people that is disobedient and gainsaying. God had stretched forth His hands in a gesture of invitation, of appeal, even of supplication; He had urged the Jews time and again to return to Him, but they had willfully spurned all His efforts in their behalf. Cp. Matt. 23, 37. And the same holds true of the unbelievers of all times. God’s earnest invitation and appeal goes forth again and again: Be ye reconciled to God, and yet they reject His offers of love and eternal salvation. And therefore they have but themselves to blame when the inevitable punishment descends upon their guilty heads.
Summary. The apostle bitterly laments the fact that, while the Gentiles have accepted the righteousness of faith, Israel refused obedience to the Gospel and rejected the salvation offered to all men.