One Great Commitment

| Romans 10:1-13

The Point:  To be saved I must trust in Christ.

Two Ways of Righteousness:  Romans 10:1-13.

[1]  Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. [2]  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. [3]  For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. [4]  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. [5]  For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. [6]  But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’" (that is, to bring Christ down) [7]  or "’Who will descend into the abyss?’" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). [8]  But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); [9]  because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10]  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. [11]  For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." [12]  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. [13]  For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  [ESV]

“Chapters 9-11 all address the problem of Jewish unbelief. In chapter 9 the emphasis was on God’s purpose according to election; the emphasis of chapter 10, however, is on the human factors, on the need for an understanding of the gospel [5-13], for the proclamation of the gospel [14-15], and for the response of faith [16-21]. With chapter 10 Paul turns from the past to the present, from his explanation of the Israelites’ unbelief to his hope that they will yet hear and believe the gospel. This vision for the future he will elaborate further in chapter 11.

Israel’s ignorance of the righteousness of God [1-4].  Paul begins this chapter, as he began the last, with a very personal reference to his love and longing for them. In the Greek sentence they are not specified, but NIV is certainly right to insert ‘the Israelites’. There are several similarities between the openings of the two chapters. In both Paul mentions his heart: his heart’s sorrow and anguish because the unbelieving people of Israel are lost [9:2f.], and his heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved [10:1]. At the beginning of chapter 9 he expresses the hypothetical wish that he himself might be cursed if thereby they could be spared [9:3]; at the beginning of chapter 10 he expresses an ardent, prayerful wish for their salvation. Moreover, as his pain is increased by their combination of privilege and prejudice [9:4f.], so his longing is increased by their combination of zeal and ignorance [2]. Paul has no doubt of their religious sincerity. He bear witness that they have a zeal for God from his own experience. And he knows what he is talking about, because he himself in his pre-conversion life was extremely zealous [Gal. 1:14] in his religion, as seen in his persecution of the church. Indeed he was just as zealous for God as any of his contemporaries, and could even describe his zeal at that time as an obsession. So he is obliged to say of the Israelites that their zeal is not according to knowledge [2]. Yet Scripture says that it is not good to have zeal without knowledge [Prov. 19:2]. Sincerity is not enough, for we may be sincerely mistaken. The proper word for zeal without knowledge, commitment without reflection, or enthusiasm without understanding, is fanaticism. And fanaticism is a horrid and dangerous state to be in. Having asserted their general condition of ignorance, Paul now particularizes in two negatives: being ignorant of the righteousness of God and they did not submit to God’s righteousness [3]. Instead, they sought to establish their own. The Jews had not yet learned the way of salvation, how the righteous God puts the unrighteous right with Himself by bestowing upon them a righteous status. This is the righteousness of God which is revealed in the gospel, and is received by faith altogether apart from the law, as Paul has written earlier [1:17; 3:21]. The tragic consequence of the Jews’ ignorance was that, recognizing their need of righteousness if they were ever to stand in God’s righteous presence, they sought to establish their own, and they did not submit to God’s righteousness [3]. This ignorance of the true way, and this tragic adoption of the false way, are by no means limited to Jewish people. They are widespread among religious people of all faiths, including professing Christians. All human beings, who know that God is righteous and they are not, naturally look around for a righteousness which might fit them to stand in God’s presence. There are only two possible options before us. The first is to attempt to build or establish our own righteousness, by our good works and religious observances. But this is doomed to failure, since in God’s sight even all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment [Isa. 64:6]. The other way is to submit to God’s righteousness by receiving it from Him as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ. In verses 5-6 Paul calls the first the righteousness that is based on the law and the second the righteousness based on faith. The fundamental error of those who are seeking to establish their own righteousness is that they have not understood Paul’s next affirmation: Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes [4]. The Greek word for end (telos) could mean ‘end’ in the sense of ‘goal’ or ‘completion’, indicating that the law pointed to Christ and that He has fulfilled it. Or it could mean ‘end’ in the sense of ‘termination’ or ‘conclusion’, indicating that Christ has abrogated the law. Paul must surely mean the latter. But the abrogation of the law gives no legitimacy either to antinomians, who claim that they can sin as they please because they are not under law, but under grace [Rom. 6:15], or to those who maintain that the very category of law has been abolished by Christ and that the only absolute left is the command to love. When Paul wrote that we have died to the law, and been released from it [7:4,6], so that we are no longer under it [6:15], he was referring to the law as the way of getting right with God. Hence the second part of verse 4. The reason Christ has terminated the law is for righteousness to everyone who believes. In respect of salvation, Christ and the law are incompatible alternatives. If righteousness is by the law it is not by Christ, and if it is by Christ through faith it is not by the law. Christ and the law are both objective realities, both revelations and gifts of God. But now that Christ has accomplished our salvation by His death and resurrection, He has terminated the law in that role.

Alternative ways of righteousness [5-13].  Now Paul draws out the antithesis between Christ and the law [4] by contrasting the righteousness that is based on the law [5] with the righteousness based on faith [6]. He does so by appealing to Scripture, quoting a text on each side. On the one hand, Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandment shall live by them [Lev. 18:5]. The natural interpretation of these words is that the way to life or salvation is by obedience to the law. This is how Paul himself understood the sentence when he quoted it in Galatians 3:12. But he added in that context, no one is justified before God by the law because no one has succeeded in obeying it. The weakness of the law is our own weakness [Rom. 8:3]. Because we disobey it, instead of bringing us life it brings us under its curse, and that would be our position still if Christ had not redeemed us from the law’s curse by becoming a curse for us. It is in this sense that Christ is the end of the law. Righteousness is not to be found that way. So, on the other hand, the righteousness based on faith, which Paul now personifies, proclaims a different message. It sets before us for salvation not the law but Christ, and assures us that unlike the law, Christ is not unattainable, but readily accessible. The passage Paul quotes [from Deut. 30] begins with a stern prohibition, which the righteousness by faith endorses: Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead [7]. To ask such questions would be as absurd as they are unnecessary. There is no need whatever for us to scale the heights or plumb the depths in search of Christ, for He has already come, died and risen, and so is accessible to us. What, then, is the positive message of the righteousness of faith? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim) [8]. Paul now summarizes the gospel in these terms: if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved [9]. Thus heart and mouth, inward belief and outward confession, belong essentially together. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved [10]. The parallelism is reminiscent of Hebrew poetry in the Old Testament, and the two clauses in verses 9-10 are to be held together rather than separately. Thus, there is no substantive difference here between being justified and being saved. Similarly, the content of the belief and that of the confession need to be merged. Implicit in the good news are the truths that Jesus Christ died, was raised, was exalted, and now reigns as Lord and bestows salvation on those who believe. This is not salvation by slogan but by faith, that is, by an intelligent faith which lays hold of Christ as the crucified and resurrected Lord and Savior. This is the positive message of the righteousness based on faith. How does Paul use the Deuteronomy passage? The similarity he sees and stresses between Moses’ teaching and the apostles’ gospel lies in their easy accessibility. The teaching of Moses was always very near the people. Paul now affirms this about the gospel. It is neither remote nor unavailable. Christ has come and died, and been raised, and is therefore immediately accessible to faith. We do not need to do anything. Everything that is necessary has already been done. Moreover, because Christ Himself is near, the gospel of Christ is also hear. It is in the heart and mouth of every believer. The whole emphasis is on the close, ready, and easy accessibility of Christ and His gospel. Verses 11-13 build on this. They stress that Christ is not only easily accessible, but equally accessible to all, to everyone [11,13], since there is no distinction [12], no favoritism. All three verses refer to Christ and affirm His availability to faith, although each describes in different terms both the nature of faith and how Christ responds to believers. In verse 11 we trust in Him and will never be put to shame. In verse 12 we call on him, and He richly bestows his riches on all. In verse 13 we call on the name of the Lord and are saved. Let us now consider the three verses separately. First, verse 11. This is a second quotation of Isaiah 28:16, the first having been in 9:33. The designation of saving faith as believes in him (trust) shows that the ‘belief’ and the ‘confession’ of the two previous verses [9-10] are not to be understood as a mere subscription to creedal formulae. Secondly, verse 12. It is a marvelous affirmation that through Christ there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Of course there is a fundamental distinction between those who seek righteousness by the law and those who seek it by faith. But between those who have been justified by faith and are now in Christ, all distinctions, not only of race, but also of sex and culture, are not so much abolished as rendered irrelevant. Just as there is no distinction between us because in Adam we are all sinners [3:22f.], so now there is no distinction between us because in Christ, who is Lord of all, all who call on Him are richly blessed. Far from impoverishing us, we all receive His unsearchable riches [Eph. 3:8]. In the third verse [13] both our calling on Him and His blessing of us are elaborated. ‘To call on him’ is, more precisely, to call on the name of the Lord, that is, to appeal to Him to save us in accordance with who He is and what He has done. Everyone who thus calls on Him, we are assured, will be saved. This appeal to Jesus for salvation became so characteristic of Christian people that Paul could describe the worldwide community as those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [1 Cor. 1:2]. What then, according to this section, is necessary to salvation? First the fact of the historic Jesus Christ, incarnate, crucified, risen, reigning as Lord, and accessible. Secondly, the apostolic gospel, the word of faith [8], which makes Him known. Thirdly, simple trust on the part of the hearers, calling on the name of the Lord, combining faith in the heart and confession with the mouth. But still something is missing. There is, fourthly, the evangelist who proclaims Christ and urges people to put their trust in Him. It is of Christian evangelists that Paul writes in the next paragraph [14-17].”  [Stott, pp. 279-285]. 

Questions for Discussion:

1.         How does Paul describe the zeal of the Israelites? Why is zeal without knowledge dangerous? What particular knowledge did the Israelites lack? What groups today do you see having this combination of zeal and ignorance?

2.         Paul contrasts the righteousness that is based on the law [5] with the righteousness based on faith [6]. What is the difference between these two types of righteousness? Why is this difference at the heart of the Gospel?

3.         Paul summarizes the Gospel in verse 9. Why does he emphasize both mouth and heart; both confession and belief? What does the mouth confess; the heart believe? Why are these two things essential for salvation?

4.         According to these verses, what is necessary to salvation? What does Paul mean by calling on the name of the Lord? In what sense is this calling a one-time event; in what sense is it a continuous action?

References:

The Epistle to the Romans, Douglas Moo, Eerdmans.

Romans, Thomas Schreiner, Baker.

Romans, John Stott, Inter Varsity.

The Epistle to the Romans, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.