A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #29 Without Excuse Romans 10:5-21

02 Dec

Romans 10:17 Faith Comes By Hearing (black)

10:5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law.NRSV Paul quotes freely from Moses. The first quote is from Leviticus 18:5, a section in Leviticus that gives God’s instructions to the people for how they should live in the Promised Land. He explains that they are not to be like the people of the land, but are to obey God’s laws because “the person who does these things will live by them.”NRSV In Leviticus, this phrase is preceded and followed by God’s self-affirmation, “I am the Lord your God.” From Paul’s repeated insistence, we know that he was not demeaning the law. So how are we to understand this reference to Moses? The meaning hinges on what was intended by live. Was God promising that the person who lived by the law would live eternally? Or was God stating that obeying the law was the best way to live on earth, without reference to eternity. So the idea might be paraphrased, “In following the law, a person will find a godly way of life, rather than the ungodly life of following the ways of the Egyptians or Canaanites.” This was what God required for them if they were to obtain his blessings and flourish in the Promised Land (see also Nehemiah 9:26).

The Jews carried the concept further, however, trying to obtain more than godly living by a righteousness that comes from the law. In essence, they interpreted God’s statement to mean, “Keep the law and you will live eternally by it.” But in order to do so, they would have to live perfectly, not sinning once—and that is impossible (see James 2:10). Righteousness that comes from the law is the ideal way of life, but it cannot be achieved well enough to merit God’s acceptance. For that level of righteousness, supernatural help is needed.

Why did God give the law when he knew people couldn’t keep it? According to Paul, one reason that the law was given was to show people how guilty they are (Galatians 3:19). In addition, the law was a shadow of Christ—that is, the sacrificial system educated the people so that when the true sacrifice came, they would be able to understand his work (Hebrews 10:1-4). The system of ceremonial laws was to last until the coming of Christ. The law points to Christ, the final sacrifice for sin, the reason for all those animal sacrifices.

10:6 Righteousness that comes from faith.NRSV Moses also wrote about righteousness by faith. In verses 6-8, Paul recalls phrases from Deuteronomy 30. The book of Deuteronomy includes Moses’ final speeches to Israel as they were about to enter and subdue the land that God had promised to them many years before. Moses recited the blessings they could look forward to for their obedience to God, as well as the curses they could expect if they disobeyed and turned away from him.

At the conclusion of his third address to the people, Moses explained, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven . . . Nor is it beyond the sea . . . No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14 niv). In other words, the people knew what they had to do to please God. The message was as near as their mouths and hearts. No one would have to go up to heaven or cross the sea to get it so that they would know what to obey. They knew what God required of them, and they could do it if they chose. But they also knew what God had committed himself to do, which is the point of Deuteronomy 30. There God spoke of his intention to “circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love [God] with all your heart and with all your soul, and live” (Deuteronomy 30:6 niv). From the beginning, the law had been given with the understanding that it would guide those who submitted to God. Without that submission, the law’s effectiveness was nullified.

Paul applies those words to the people of his generation, speaking of a relationship to Christ. The truth of righteousness by faith in Christ is now known. And the way to achieve it is not beyond our abilities.

“Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down).NIV No one has to go up to heaven to bring Christ down as though he had never been incarnated; Christ himself has already come in the flesh (John 1:14). The attitude that Paul is attacking is the assumption that one’s righteousness can contribute to God’s saving plan. self-righteousness goes looking for God, seeking to find him. Righteousness by faith begins by submitting to God, allowing him to find us.

10:7 “Or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).NIV The deep (literally “the abyss”) as used here refers to the grave or Hades, the place of the dead. No one has to go into the grave to bring Christ up from the dead; Christ has already been resurrected.

The extent of the quest in verses 6 and 7 is reminiscent of the psalmist’s recognition of the universal presence of God: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8 niv). Before people even begin to look for God, he is already present, and no matter how far they go out of their way to find him, he is never farther away than when they first started out. As long as we insist on doing the finding, we will discover that the search never ends. But if we begin by trusting God, we discover he is to be found right where we are.

Paul adapted Moses’ farewell challenge from Deuteronomy 30:11-14 to apply to Christ. Christ has provided our salvation through his incarnation (coming to earth) and resurrection (coming back from the dead). God’s salvation is right in front of us. He will come to us wherever we are. All we need to do is to respond and accept his gift of salvation.

10:8 “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”NKJV Just as God’s message was already clear to the people of Moses’ day, so it is as near as the mouths and hearts of Paul’s readers, including us. The words convey an immediate opportunity to respond. It is as close and available to us as it can possibly be without overruling our will. What message is that? The word of faith that we proclaim.NRSV Salvation is available through faith in Jesus Christ.

10:9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord.”NIV The word is near—as near as your mouth and heart (10:8; Deuteronomy 30:14). To “confess” (homologeo) means to “give verbal affirmation,”—in this case to acknowledge with your mouth that Jesus Christ died and was raised for you. Anyone can say he or she believes something, but God knows each person’s heart. In this confession, it is not enough to merely utter the words; they must be declared, professed, proclaimed “from the heart,” expressing our full conviction. For salvation you must truly believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.NRSV In 1 Corinthians 15:17 Paul asserts how the Resurrection is totally interrelated with our salvation: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (niv). Jesus is distinct from all other religious leaders: he is the only “Lord” to have risen from the grave. This makes Christianity more than a philosophy of life or a religious option; it is the only way to be saved.

You will be saved. The gospel message in a nutshell is “believe and confess Jesus as Lord, and you will be saved.” There is no reference to works or rituals. The point of decision is between a person and God, but the point of confession implies another person. It is true that God is often our first confessor, but having others witness our confession confirms our belief. In fact, to confess and to believe become mutually related responses. If one is true, the other follows.

Jesus is Lord. The title Lord (kurios), though rarely used outside of diplomatic circles today, carried great weight in Paul’s day. It was a title of respect (similar to sir), a form of address for Roman emperors (similar to “royal highness”), a title given to Greek gods, and the title used in the Greek translation of Old Testament to translate the Hebrew word YAHWEH. When we confess that Jesus is Lord, we are acknowledging his rank or supreme place. We are pledging our obedience and worship; we are placing our life under his protection for safekeeping. We are pledging ourselves and our resources to his control for direction and service. Lord is intended to represent the highest authority to whom we submit.

Have you ever been asked, “How do I become a Christian?” These verses give the beautiful answer—salvation is as close as your own mouth and heart. People think it must be a complicated process, but it is not. If we believe in our heart and say with our mouth that Christ is the risen Lord, we will be saved.

10:10 It is with your heart that you believe and are justified.NIV You must first believe with your heart—that belief justifies you (God declares you “not guilty” for your sins).

It is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.NIV By prayer to God, you confess with your mouth your belief in God and what he has done for you. As in verses 8-9 above, belief and confession lead to salvation.

As has already been noted, neither of these components that establish our personal relationship with God can be reduced to reciting certain words or assenting to the facts. To believe and to confess involve whole-person commitment. Neither are these components described in such a way that a person might accomplish one without accomplishing the other. They are two parts of a single step, just as lifting the foot and then placing it back down are two movements in the one act of taking a step. Likewise, one cannot be saved without being justified, nor justified without being saved.

10:11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”NIV To summarize the transaction that he has just described, Paul quotes again from Isaiah 28:16, as he did at the end of chapter 9. Anyone who trusts in Christ will be saved. What appears momentarily in verse 10 to be two separate actions turns out to be two parts to the response the Bible calls trust (or belief).

Paul is not saying that Christians will never be disillusioned or disappointed. At times people will let us down and circumstances will take a turn for the worse. Paul is saying that God will keep his side of the bargain—those who call on him will be saved. God will never fail to provide righteousness to those who believe.

10:12 No difference between Jew and Gentile.NIV The “anyone” of verse 11 includes both Jews and Gentiles. In 3:22-23, Paul also writes that “there is no difference.” But the focus is on all people’s sinfulness, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Here, there is no difference because God’s salvation is available to all who believe (the point Paul has been making throughout this letter), for the same Lord is Lord of all.NRSV Every person is confronted with the need to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Because sin is a universal condition, the remedy of justification by faith universally applies.

Richly blesses all who call on him.NIV To call on the Lord is to trust him for salvation. Paul is keeping the parallel between confession and belief, heart and mouth, and trust and call. Those who are saved will be richly blessed—in this world (although not always materially, as some might hope or expect), and most certainly in the world to come. Paul also keeps the parallel when describing the results: justification and salvation, not put to shame and blessed.

10:13 “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”NKJV A final quotation taken from the Hebrew Scriptures (Joel 2:32) serves well for Paul’s conclusion. God’s special relationship with Israel will continue, but it has been broadened to include everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. God’s plans for Israel had their climax in Christ. Access to God, for all people, now comes through Jesus Christ. With this last reference, Paul neatly lays the foundation for the necessity of worldwide evangelism. Joel 2:32 is an Old Testament mandate for missions. To call on the Lord is to ask the Lord to come to you and be real to you. Those who call on Jesus as their Lord want him to be their Lord and Savior.

They misunderstood their own Law (vv. 4-13). Everything about the Jewish religion pointed to the coming Messiah—their sacrifices, priesthood, temple services, religious festivals, and covenants. Their Law told them they were sinners in need of a Saviour. But instead of letting the Law bring them to Christ (Gal. 3:24), they worshiped their Law and rejected their Saviour. The Law was a signpost, pointing the way. But it could never take them to their destination. The Law cannot give righteousness; it only leads the sinner to the Saviour who can give righteousness.

Christ is “the end of the Law” in the sense that through His death and resurrection, He has terminated the ministry of the Law for those who believe. The Law is ended as far as Christians are concerned. The righteousness of the Law is being fulfilled in the life of the believer through the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:4); but the reign of the Law has ended (see Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14). “For ye are not under the Law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).

Paul quoted from the Old Testament to prove to his readers that they did not even understand their own Law. He began with Leviticus 18:5 which states the purpose of the Law: if you obey it, you live.

“But we did obey it!” they would argue.

“You may have obeyed it outwardly,” Paul would reply, “but you did not believe it from your heart.” He then quoted Deuteronomy 30:12-14 and gave the passage a deeper spiritual meaning. The theme of Moses’ message was “the commandment” (Deut. 30:11), referring to the Word of God. Moses argued that the Jews had no reason to disobey the Word of God because it had been clearly explained to them and it was not far from them. In fact, Moses urged them to receive the Word in their hearts (see Deut. 5:29; 6:5-12; 13:3; 30:6). The emphasis in Deuteronomy is on the heart, the inner spiritual condition and not mere outward acts of obedience.

Paul gave us the spiritual understanding of this admonition. He saw “the commandment” or “the Word” as meaning “Christ, God’s Word.” So, he substituted “Christ” for “the commandment.” He told us that God’s way of salvation was not difficult and complicated. We do not have to go to heaven to find Christ, or into the world of the dead. He is near to us. In other words, the Gospel of Christ—the Word of faith—is available and accessible. The sinner need not perform difficult works in order to be saved. All he has to do is trust Christ. The very Word on the lips of the religious Jews was the Word of faith. The very Law that they read and recited pointed to Christ.

At this point Paul quoted Isaiah 28:16 to show that salvation is by faith: “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.” He quoted this verse before in Romans 9:33. He made it clear in Romans 10:9-10 that salvation is by faith—we believe in the heart; receive God’s righteousness, and then confess Christ openly and without shame.

Paul’s final quotation was from Joel 2:32, to prove that this salvation is open to everyone: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Paul had already proved that “there is no difference” in condemnation (Rom. 3:20-23); now he affirms that “there is no difference” in salvation. Instead of the Jew having a special righteousness of his own through the Law, he was declared to be as much a sinner as the Gentile he condemned.

This entire section emphasizes the difference between “Law righteousness” and “faith righteousness.” The contrasts are seen in the following summary.

Law Righteousness Faith Righteousness
Only for the Jew For “whosoever”
Based on works Comes by faith alone
Self-righteousness God’s righteousness
Cannot save Brings salvation
Obey the Lord Call on the Lord
Leads to pride Glorifies God

Having explained the reasons for Israel’s rejection of God’s righteousness, Paul moves into the next aspect of the subject.

The Remedy for Their Rejection (Rom. 10:14-17)

This passage is often used as the basis for the church’s missionary program, and rightly so, but its first application is to the nation of Israel. The only way unbelieving Jews can be saved is by calling on the Lord. But before they can call on Him, they must believe.

For the Jew, this meant believing that Jesus Christ of Nazareth truly is the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel. It also meant believing in His death and resurrection (Rom. 10:9-10). But in order to believe, they must hear the Word, for it is the Word that creates faith in the heart of the hearer (Rom. 10:17). This meant that a herald of the Word must be sent, and it is the Lord who does the sending. At this point, Paul could well have been remembering his own call to preach the Word to the Gentiles (Acts 13:1-3).

The quotation in Romans 10:15 is found in Isaiah 52:7 and Nahum 1:15. The Nahum reference had to do with the destruction of the Assyrian Empire, the hated enemies of the Jews. Nineveh was their key city, a wicked city to which God had sent Jonah some 150 years before Nahum wrote. God had patiently dealt with Nineveh, but now His judgment was going to fall. It was this “good news” that the messenger brought to the Jews, and this is what made his feet so beautiful.

Paul used the quotation in a present application: the messengers of the Gospel taking the Good News to Israel today. The “peace” spoken of is “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and the peace Christ has effected between Jews and Gentiles by forming the one body, the church (Eph. 2:13-17). The remedy for Israel’s rejection is in hearing the Word of the Gospel and believing on Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 53:1 was Paul’s next quotation, proving that not all of Israel would obey His Word. This verse introduced one of the greatest messianic chapters in the Old Testament. Traditionally, Jewish scholars have applied Isaiah 53 to the nation of Israel rather than to Messiah; but many ancient rabbis saw in it a picture of a suffering Messiah bearing the sins of His people (see Acts 8:26-40). In Isaiah’s day, the people did not believe God’s Word, nor do they believe it today. John 12:37-41 cites Isaiah 53:1 to explain how the nation saw Christ’s miracles and still refused to believe. Because they would not believe, judgment came on them and they could not believe.

Note that trusting Christ is not only a matter of believing, but also obeying. Not to believe on Christ is to disobey God. God “commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Romans 6:17 also equates “believing” and “obeying.” True faith must touch the will and result in a changed life.

Some of us share the news here at home, but others are sent to distant places. In spite of some closed doors, there are still more open doors for the Gospel than ever before; and we have better tools to work with.

Dr. E. Meyers Harrison, veteran missionary and professor of missions, says that there are four reasons why the church must send out missionaries: (1) the command from above—”go ye into all the world” (Mark 16:15); (2) the cry from beneath—”send him to my father’s house” (Luke 16:27); (3) the call from without—“come over and help us” (Acts 16:9); and (4) the constraint from within—”the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor. 5:14).

10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?NIV If God’s salvation is to “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” (10:13), how can people call on God for salvation if they have not been moved to believe in him? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?NIV There can be no call, no belief, if these people have not heard about God (“heard” means a hearing that understands

the significance of the words and realizes that a response is required), and been given the offer of salvation. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?niv There can be no call, no belief, no hearing, unless someone communicates the truth. What is the best general method of preaching? (1) to invite, (2) to convince, (3) to offer Christ, (4) to build up; and to do this in some measure in every sermon.

John Wesley


In the task of evangelism, an effective witness must include more than being a good example. Eventually, someone will have to explain the content, the what and the how of the gospel. Modeling the Christian life is important, but someone will need to make the connection between the mind of the unbeliever and the message of the gospel. There should never be a debate between those who favor life-style evangelism (one’s living proclaims the gospel) and confrontational evangelism (declaring the message). Both should be used together in promoting the gospel. Do people know of your faith by your actions? To whom can you communicate the life-changing message of Christ?

10:15 How shall they preach unless they are sent?NKJV There can be no call, no belief, no hearing, no preaching, unless there are those sent to share the Good News. The Greek word for “preach” (kerusso) is not limited to the Sunday morning sermon from the pulpit; rather, it means to announce or proclaim something. All believers are sent to announce this Good News. The process of salvation begins with the one who tells another the Good News.

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”NRSV Like Paul and the early Christians, who spread the message of Christ despite persecution and even death, we should be eager to share this Good News of salvation to all who will listen. In the verse quoted from Isaiah 52:7, the herald is bearing good news to Judah about the end of their exile in Babylon and their return to their own land. His feet were beautiful to them, for his good news was so welcome. The message was what he brought, but it was those worn and dusty feet that brought him. Those feet were beautiful because they represented the messenger’s willingness to be sent with good news. Only now the message was not just for Israel, but for the whole world.

We must take God’s great message of salvation to others so that they can respond to the Good News. How will our loved ones and neighbors hear about Christ unless someone tells them? Is God calling you to be a part of making his message known in your community? Besides thinking of a person who needs to hear the Good News, think of something you can do to help that person hear it. Then take that step as soon as possible.

10:16 Not all the Israelites accepted the good news.NIV Many Jews did not accept the gospel of Jesus Christ—they heard it but refused to believe and submit to it. The failure of Jews to respond to God’s warnings of impending judgment was true in Isaiah’s day, for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”NRSV It was true while Jesus preached (John 12:37-41), and it was true in Paul’s day. We can expect the same today. Bringing people good news does not guarantee a welcome. But having been changed by the message ourselves ought to change the way we see those who have not yet heard. As Paul writes earlier in Romans, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks” (1:14). We are not held responsible for how others respond, but we are expected to carry the Good News.

10:17 Faith comes from hearing the message.NIV This statement expresses the main theme of this section. People need to hear the Good News of salvation in Christ in order to believe it (10:14). Faith does not respond in a vacuum or respond blindly. Faith is believing what one has been told about God’s offer of salvation and trusting the one who has been spoken about.

The message is heard through the word of Christ.NIV The word of Christ is the word about Christ and what he has accomplished to give salvation to all who believe in him.

The Results of Their Rejection (Rom. 10:18-21)

There are three results, and each of them is supported by a quotation from the Old Testament.

Israel is guilty (v. 18). Someone might have argued with Paul: “But how do you know that Israel really heard?” His reply would have been Psalm 19:4, a psalm that emphasizes the revelation of God in the world. God reveals Himself in creation (Ps. 19:1-6) and in His Word (Ps. 19:7-11). The “Book of Nature” and the “Book of Revelation” go together and proclaim the glory of God. Israel had the benefit of both books, for she saw God at work in nature and she received God’s written Word. Israel heard, but she would not heed. No wonder Jesus often had to say to the crowds, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!”

The message goes to the Gentiles (vv. 19-20). What marvelous grace! When Israel rejected her Messiah, God sent the Gospel to the Gentiles that they might be saved. This was predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy 32:21. Paul had mentioned this truth before in Romans 9:22-26. One reason why God sent the Gospel to the Gentiles was that they might provoke the Jews to jealousy (Rom. 10:19; 11:11). It was an act of grace both to the Jews and to the Gentiles. The Prophet Isaiah predicted too that God would save the Gentiles (Isa. 65:1).

As you study the New Testament, you discover that “to the Jew first” is a ruling principle of operation. Jesus began His ministry with the Jews. He forbad His disciples to preach to the Gentiles or the Samaritans when He sent them on their first tour of ministry (Matt. 10:1-6). After His resurrection, He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem and to start their ministry there (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8). In the first seven chapters of Acts, the ministry is to Jews and to Gentiles who were Jewish proselytes. But when the nation stoned Stephen and persecution broke loose, God sent the Gospel to the Samaritans (Acts 8:1-8), and then to the Gentiles (Acts 10).

The Jewish believers were shocked when Peter went to the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-18). But he explained that it was God who sent him and that it was clear to him that Jews and Gentiles were both saved the same way—by faith in Christ. But the opposition of the legalistic Jews was so great that the churches had to call a council to discuss the issue. The record of this council is given in Acts 15. Their conclusion was that Jews and Gentiles were all saved by faith in Christ, and that a Gentile did not have to become a Jewish proselyte before he could become a Christian.

God still yearns over His people (v. 21). This quotation is from Isaiah 65:2. “All day long” certainly refers to this present “day of salvation” or day of grace in which we live. While Israel as a nation has been set aside, individual Jewish people can be saved and are being saved. The phrase “all day long” makes us think of Paul’s ministry to the Jews in Rome when he arrived there as a prisoner. “From morning till evening” Paul expounded the Scriptures to them and sought to convince them that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 28:23). Through Paul, God was stretching out His arms of love to His disobedient people, yearning over them, and asking them to return. God’s favor to the Gentiles did not change His love for the Jews.

God wants to use us to share the Gospel with both Jews and Gentiles. God can use our feet and our arms just as He used Paul’s. Jesus Christ wept over Jerusalem and longed to gather His people in His arms! Instead, those arms were stretched out on a cross where He willingly died for Jews and Gentiles alike. God is long-suffering and patient “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Will God’s patience with Israel wear out? Is there any future for the nation? Yes, there is, as the next chapter will show.

10:18 Have they not heard?NKJV Some might argue that the Jews weren’t given enough chances to hear or that somehow the message should have been made clearer for them. Perhaps Isaiah’s complaint (“Who has believed?” 10:16) was the fault of the messenger. But Paul emphatically responds that of course they heard. The message had been preached far and wide, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (see 1:16). Then Paul quotes from Psalm 19:4: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”NIV When Luke ended the book of Acts with Paul in. Rome, this was probably considered a culmination of the great commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). At this time in history, the Good News had been preached to Jews and Gentiles for about twenty years, and it had spread throughout the Mediterranean areas where Jews lived. There may have been some Jews who truly had not yet heard, but to use that as an excuse for the large number of Jews who had rejected the gospel did not sit well with Paul (see also Romans 1:18-20).

As the loopholes close for the Jews, they close for everyone else, too. If the Jews are not excused for their unbelief, how can the rest of us think there might be some excuse for us? In the end, some may wish they had heard more, but God will declare that what they heard was enough. In the meantime, those of us who have beard have little excuse for our apathy in passing on the Good News!

10:19 Did Israel not understand?NRSV Someone might then argue, “Okay, so the Jews heard, but perhaps they didn’t understand that God’s message was salvation not by the law, but by faith, and that it was for the Gentiles too.” Paul didn’t like that excuse either. The Jews’ knowledge of their own Scriptures should have led them to believe in Christ. He quotes again from their Scriptures to answer the argument. First, from Deuteronomy 32:21: “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”NIV The Gentiles were not a single nation; they consisted of everyone who was not part of the Jewish nation. The Jews would be envious that God would offer salvation to the world at large and not just to his chosen people. They would be angry that the pagan peoples whom they considered to have no understanding would be accepted by God. In all of this, God’s purpose would not be to reject his people, but to cause them to return to him.

10:20 Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”NIV The second quote is from Isaiah 65:1. Paul was sure that those were the Gentiles. Although they had previously ignored God as simply the God of Israel and so had never sought him out, the Gentiles would recognize God as the one true God, and God would reveal himself to them.

The next statement in Isaiah 65:1 reads, “to a nation that did not call on my name” (niv). Israel considered itself to be the only people of God, but the time would come when other nations would seek him. Paul points out that these other nations would seek him. God’s people today are those who accept Jesus as Savior and Lord whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Since the gospel is for everyone, we must seek to proclaim it to every nation and race, and man and woman.

10:21 Concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”NIV Finally, from Isaiah 65:2, Paul explains that God had been gracious to his people, patiently holding out his hands to them and calling them, only to have them turn away. God held out his hands to his people indicates a gesture of dual purpose: one of welcome and one of giving. But God’s welcome was spurned and his gifts were rejected.

The disobedience of Israel was judged by God’s welcome to the Gentiles (even though that was in his plan all along). But he will still accept his chosen people if they will only return to him. He remains faithful to his promises to his people, even though they have been unfaithful to him. God still holds out his hands.

It is agreed by all commentators that this is one of the most difficult and obscure passages in the letter to the Romans. It seems to us that what we have here is not so much a finished passage as summary notes. There is a kind of telegraphic quality about the writing. It may well be that what we have here is the notes of some address which Paul was in the habit of making to the Jews to convince them of their error.

Basically the scheme is this—in the previous passage Paul has been saying that the way to God is not that of works and of legalism, but of faith and trust. The objection is: But what if the Jews never heard of that? It is with that objection Paul deals; and, as he deals with it in its various forms, on each occasion he clinches his answer with a text from scripture.

Let us take the objections and the answering scripture texts one by one.

(i) The first objection is: “You cannot call on God unless you believe in him. You cannot believe in him unless you hear about him. You cannot hear about him unless there is someone to proclaim the good news. There can be no one to proclaim the good news unless God commissions someone to do so.” Paul deals with that objection by quoting Isa 52:7. There the prophet points out how welcome those are who bring the good news of good things. So Paul’s first answer is: “You cannot say there was no messenger; Isaiah describes these very messengers; and Isaiah lived long ago.”

(ii) The second objection is: “But, in point of fact, Israel did not obey the good news, even if your argument is true. What have you to say to that?” Paul’s answer is: “Israel’s disbelief was only to be expected, for, long ago, Isaiah was moved to say in despair: ‘Lord, who has believed what we have heard?'” (Isa 53:1.) It is true that Israel did not accept the good news from God, and in their refusal they were simply running true to form; history was repeating itself.

(iii) The third objection is a restatement of the first: But, what if I insist that they never got the chance to hear? This time Paul quotes Ps 19:4: “Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” His answer is: “You cannot say that Israel never got the chance to hear; for scripture plainly says that God’s message has gone out to all the world.”

(iv) The fourth objection is: “But what if Israel did not understand?” Apparently the meaning is: “What if the message was so difficult to grasp that even when Israel did hear it they were unable to grasp its significance?” Here is where the passage becomes really difficult. But Paul’s answer is: “Israel may have failed to understand; but the Gentiles did not. They grasped the meaning of this offer all right, when it came to them unexpectedly and unsought.” To prove this point Paul quotes two passages. One is from Deut 32:21 where God says that, because of Israel’s disobedience and rebellion, he will transfer his favour to another people, and they will be forced to become jealous of a nation which has no nation. The second passage is from Isa 65:1 where God says that, in a strange way, he has been found by a people who were not looking for him at all.

Finally, Paul insists that, all through history, God has been stretching out hands of appeal to Israel, and Israel has always been disobedient and perverse.

A passage like this may seem strange to us and unconvincing; and it may seem that some at least of the texts Paul quotes have been wrenched out of their context and made to mean what they were never intended to mean. Nevertheless there is in this passage something of permanent value. Beneath it there runs the conviction that there are certain kinds of ignorance which are inexcusable.

(i) There is the ignorance which comes from neglect of knowledge. There is a legal maxim which says that genuine ignorance may be a defence, but neglect of knowledge never is. A man cannot be blamed for not knowing what he never had a chance to know; but he can be blamed for neglecting to know that which was always open to him. For instance, if a man signs a contract without having read the conditions, he cannot complain if afterwards he finds out that the conditions are very different from what he thought they were. If we fail to equip ourselves for a task when every chance is given to us to equip ourselves adequately for it, we must stand condemned. A man is responsible for failing to know what he might have known.

(ii) There is the ignorance which comes from wilful blindness. Men have an infinite and fatal capacity for shutting their minds to what they do not wish to see, and stopping their ears to what they do not wish to hear. A man may be well aware that some habit, some indulgence, some way of life, some friendship, some association must have disastrous results; but he may simply refuse to look at the facts. To turn a blind eye may be in some few cases a virtue; in most cases it is folly.

(iii) There is the ignorance which is in essence a lie. The things about which we are in doubt are far fewer than we would like to think. There are in reality very few times when we can honestly say: “I never knew that things would turn out like this.” God gave us conscience and the guidance of his Holy Spirit; and often we plead ignorance, when, if we were honest, we would have to admit that in our heart of hearts we knew the truth.

One thing remains to be said of this passage. In the argument so far as it has gone there is a paradox. All through this section Paul has been driving home the personal responsibility of the Jews. They ought to have known better: they had every chance to know better; but they rejected the appeal of God. Now he began the argument by saying that everything was of God and that men had no more to do with it than the clay had to do with the work of the potter. He has set two things side by side; everything is of God, and everything is of human choice. Paul makes no attempt to resolve this dilemma; and the fact is that there is no resolution of it. It is a dilemma of human experience. We know that God is behind everything; and yet, at the same time, we know that we have free will and can accept or reject God’s offer. It is the paradox of the human situation that God is in control and yet the human will is free.

 Additional Comments

The Parameters of Salvation, The Predictions of Scripture (Romans 10:11-21)

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!”

However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? At the first Moses says, “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you.” And Isaiah is very bold and says, “I was found by those who sought Me not, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” But as for Israel He says, “All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (10:11-21)

Continuing to discuss Israel’s failure to believe the gospel, Paul digs deeper into the issue of salvation, showing its extent and pointing out that Israel’s failure was not a surprise, but long beforehand was predicted in Scripture.

The Parameters of Salvation

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!”

However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” (10:11-18)

Paul next explains the parameters, the extent, of salvation.

Because most Jews strongly rejected the idea that God’s grace extended to Gentiles, they were willingly ignorant of the full measure and extent of His provision for redemption. Because they were God’s specially chosen people, they believed they were also His only saved people. They knew, of course, that Ruth, a Moabite, was the great-grandmother of David and therefore in the line of the Messiah. But they insisted that such Gentiles who converted to Judaism and were blessed by God were exceptions that proved the rule.

Consequently, just as they had rejected Jesus and His teaching, they also vehemently rejected the teaching of Paul, a former zealous Pharisee and persecutor of the church, who now not only claimed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, but that Christ had appointed him to be “a chosen instrument… to bear [His] name before the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15; cf. Gal. 1:16).

But Paul declares that God’s extending His salvation to all Gentiles was nothing new. That gracious offer did not begin with the all-inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ, which Christians, most of whom were Jews, were then proclaiming to everyone who would hear. To the contrary, as Paul had already cited (9:33), The Scripture says through Isaiah, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed” (cf. Isa. 28:16). God had always been calling to Gentiles (whoever). In fact, Israel was to have been His witness nation, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6), to preach salvation in the true God to the rest of the world.

The Old Testament Scripture, as “witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” had long testified that “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ [is] for all those who believe; for there is no distinction” (Rom. 3:21-22, emphasis added). In other words, salvation through faith in Him for anyone (whoever believes) has always been God’s plan. As Paul declared earlier, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16, emphasis added). And as he assured the believers at Corinth, many of whom were Gentiles, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17, emphasis added). From eternity past, God’s Word invariably has accomplished His divine goal, which has always included His loving and gracious desire that no human being would perish but that “all [would] come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

That wondrous truth is a balance to the great emphasis Paul has been placing on God’s sovereignty (see, e.g., Rom. 9:6-26). Although the two truths seem mutually exclusive to our finite minds, God’s sovereign choice of every person who is saved is, in His infinite mind, perfectly consistent with His promise that whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed. Both the Old and the New Testaments make clear that salvation is granted only to those who trust in God and that He offers His gracious redemption to all mankind, Jew and Gentile. No one who believes in Him will ever be disappointed by the salvation that He so graciously and universally offers.

The barrier to salvation, therefore, is not racial or cultural but personal rejection of the God who offers it. People perish because they refuse to “receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). Yet it was that very universal aspect of the gospel that many Jews resented. The classic biblical example of Jewish religious and racial pride and reluctance to reach Gentiles is found in the prophet Jonah when he responded to the Lord’s call to preach to Nineveh.

Jonah lived in Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II, who ruled from 793 to 753 b.c. It was a prosperous time for the nation, which had expanded its boundaries northeastward to include Damascus. Because the Assyrians periodically made raids into Israel, Jews developed a special hatred for Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.

That immense city of perhaps 600,000 inhabitants is said to have taken three days to traverse on foot. Ninevites, like all other Assyrians, were noted for their immorality and idolatry, and Assyrian soldiers were infamous for their merciless brutality. Nahum spoke of Nineveh as “the bloody city, completely full of lies and pillage; her prey never departs” (Nah. 3:1).

Therefore, when the Lord called Jonah to preach to that wicked Gentile city, the prophet immediately took ship to travel in the opposite direction. Because of the hatred of Assyrians that he shared with his fellow Israelites, Jonah’s concern was not that his preaching might fail but that it would surely succeed. It is not surprising, therefore, that the remarkable repentance of the Ninevites, from the king to the lowest servant, “greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity'” (Jonah 4:1-2). At the very time he was forced to testify to God’s grace and compassion, he disdainfully refused to emulate those virtues himself.

God’s miraculous work in the hearts of the Ninevites was an object lesson to Israel in several ways. First of all, it demonstrated that great power for salvation was in God and His proclaimed Word, not in the prophet who proclaimed that word. Second, it doubtless was also intended to shame Jonah and all other self-righteous, hard-hearted Israelites. One extremely reluctant prophet went one time to preach one message and God caused the entire city to repent!

By tragic contrast, despite all the blessings in being God’s called people, with whom He made covenant and to whom He gave His law and sent His prophets, Israel repeatedly turned away from Him into idolatry and every other form of ungodliness. Yet Nineveh, which was thoroughly pagan and had no such advantages, in one day “believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5).

Some eight centuries later, Jews still held unabated disdain for Gentiles. When returning to Israel from another country, Jews would shake the dust from their robes and feet, lest they carry any defiled earth into their land. They would not enter a Gentile house, eat or drink from a Gentile vessel, or so much as touch a Gentile hand. Every morning many Jewish men would pray, “I thank God that I am not a woman, a slave, or a Gentile.” Jews were reluctant to have any dealings with Gentiles, and were especially loath to share the redemptive truth of their God, lest, as Jonah feared, their “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness,” would cause even pagans to repent and be saved.

Paul knew that it was the Lord’s plan for the gospel to be preached first “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8), making “disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19). As already noted, Paul had testified at the beginning of Romans that “the gospel… is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16, emphasis added). But it was doubtless also for another reason that Paul always witnessed first in a synagogue or other place of Jewish worship. Had he preached first to Gentiles, Jewish indignation would have been so strong that they would never have listened to him.

As more and more Jews believed in Jesus and were saved, many more turned more fiercely against Him and His Jewish followers. Just as Jesus had warned, “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God” (John 16:1-2). When Paul took four Jewish men who were under a vow into the temple for ritual purification, “Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the multitude and laid hands on him, crying out, ‘Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people, and the Law, and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’ For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple” (Acts 21:27-29).

In the modern state of Israel, most Jews, including many who are not religious, still strongly resent and oppose Christian missionary work in their country. Although Jews consider all other religions to be false, they are particularly fervent in their opposition to Christianity. Like the Jews in Jerusalem who decried Paul’s visit to the temple, they view Christianity as a Gentile religion that is specifically “against [their] people, and the Law” (Acts 21:28). And they make little or no effort to convert Gentiles to Judaism.

Nothing could have been more devastating to Jews than to be reminded that God makes no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him. Those whose greatest pride was in the belief that they were far superior to all other peoples could not tolerate that humbling truth.

Proclaiming the same message to the Galatian church, Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Not only that, but shockingly he went on to say that believing Gentiles, just as much as believing Jews, “are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:28-29).

To Gentile believers in the church at Ephesus Paul declared, “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:11-13). Later in that letter he said, “I, Paul, [am] the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles” (3:1). The great “mystery of Christ,” which Jews so intensely hated, is that “Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (see vv. 4-6).

The same Lord who called out Abraham and his descendants to be His chosen people, is Lord of all who believe in Him. But because most Jews were looking for a national deliverer rather than a universal Savior, the gospel of Jesus Christ, which He extends to all who call upon Him, was unacceptable.

Not only is Christ the Savior and Lord of all who believe but He is also abounding in riches for all who call upon Him. Gentile believers have God’s equal blessing as well as His equal salvation. And just as God sovereignly calls all believers to Himself, all must call upon Him in faith.

To further emphasize the universal outreach of the salvation message, Paul quotes another prophet, Joel, who centuries earlier had declared to Israel the extent of saving grace when he said that whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved (see Joel 2:32).

In the Old Testament, the phrase call upon the name of the Lord was especially associated with right worship of the true God. It carried the connotations of worship, adoration, and praise and extolled God’s majesty, power, and holiness. Emphasizing the negative side of that phrase, the imprecatory psalmist cried to God, “How long, O Lord? Wilt Thou be angry forever? Will Thy jealousy burn like fire? Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations which do not know Thee, and upon the kingdoms which do not call upon Thy name” (Ps. 79:5-6, emphasis added). Again the psalmist exulted, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples” (105:1, emphasis added). Still another time in the Psalms we read that he “called upon the name of the Lord,” praying, “‘O Lord, I beseech Thee, save my life!’ Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yes, our God is compassionate” (116:4-5, emphasis added).

In the four references just cited from Joel and the Psalms, the word Lord represents God’s covenant name, Yahweh, or Jehovah—which is rendered in many translations in large and small capital letters (Lord). Therefore to call upon the name of the Lord was not a desperate cry to just any deity—whoever, whatever, and wherever he or she might be—but a cry to the one true God, the Creator-Lord of all men and all things. As Paul has just stated, it is by the confession of “Jesus as Lord” and belief in one’s “heart that God raised Him from the dead” that any person “shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9). He is the one true Lord on whom faithful Jews had always called in penitence, adoration, and worship. To call upon the name of Jesus as Lord is to recognize and submit to His deity, His authority, His sovereignty, His power, His majesty, His Word, and His grace. Everyone, Jew or Gentile, who does so will be saved.

Forms of the Hebrew word yasha, most commonly translated save, is found some 160 times in the Old Testament, and forms of the corresponding Greek term sōzō (saved) are found well over a hundred times in the New Testament. Paul alone uses the term forty-five times.

To further explain the universal extent, or parameters, of God’s saving grace, the apostle asks rhetorically, How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

With simple, progressive logic Paul establishes that only those who call upon the name of the Lord can be saved, only those who have believed in Him can call upon Him, only those who have heard of Him can believe in Him, only those who have a preacher can rightly hear of Him, and finally, no preacher can preach the true gospel who has not been sent by God. Viewed from the other direction, Paul is saying that if God did not send preachers no one could hear, if no one could hear no one could believe, if no one could believe no one could call on the Lord, and if no one could call on Him no one could be saved.

The capstone of Paul’s argument in this passage is that a clear message which gives understanding of the truth must precede saving faith. He reminds his Jewish readers that God called Abraham and His descendants in order that “the whole earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3) and that He called those descendants (Israel) to be His witnesses before the whole earth, as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6). Just as He did in the Old Testament, God stills sends His preachers to witness to the farthest corners of the earth.

Again gathering Old Testament support, Paul quotes from Isaiah, Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” (see Isa. 52:7). It is not the physical feet of God’s preachers that are beautiful, but the wondrous glad tidings of good things that those feet carry to the ends of the earth.

That verse from Isaiah was written in celebration of Israel’s deliverance from years of captivity and bondage, first in Assyria and then in Babylon. But for Paul’s purpose, an even greater fitness of that verse is seen in Isaiah’s subsequent declaration of a future day when “The Lord has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God” (Isa. 52:10, emphasis added). In that day, we learn from John, “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders [will fall] down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they [will sing] a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation‘” (Rev. 5:8-9, emphasis added).

Changing from a note of great rejoicing to one of great sorrow, Paul reminds his Jewish readers that They did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” (see Isa. 53:1). Heed translates hupakouō, which has the basic meaning of listening attentively and the derived meaning of submission or obedience. Tragically, the offer of salvation that is proclaimed to all men is not heeded by all men.

As do many other passages of Scripture, this verse makes clear that, even in His omnipotent sovereignty, God chooses not to exercise absolute control over human affairs. Contrary to the idea of a divine determinism, such as that of ultra-Calvinism, God’s glad tidings must be received in faith by those who hear it. Only lopsided and unbiblical theologies put everything on God’s side or everything on man’s side. In order to produce salvation, God’s unmerited grace demands man’s positive response. Inherent in God’s eternal plan of salvation is man’s obedient faith. In perhaps the most concise and beautiful statement of the gospel, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, emphasis added).

Luke reports that in the very early church, “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). The phrase “obedient to the faith” is here a synonym for becoming saved. Near the opening to his letter to Rome, Paul declared that “through Jesus Christ our Lord… we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:4-6). Here again we see both sides of salvation. Those who are “obedient to the faith” are believers who have been “called of Jesus Christ.” Later in the letter, Paul declares the corollary truth: “To those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, [God’s] wrath and indignation” (2:8). Later still, the apostle says, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (6:16-17).

Paul assured the church at Thessalonica that, “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, [he will deal] out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7-8). Similarly, the writer of Hebrews speaks of Christ as having become “to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9). Scripture makes clear that saving faith is marked by submissive obedience to God’s righteous truth, and that unbelief is marked by disobedience to that truth (cf. 2 Thess. 2:10-12).

John declares that “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7). As the apostle goes on to say, true salvation does not bring sinless perfection in this life. “If we say that we have no sin,” he explains, “we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1:8-10). When they fall into sin, genuine believers go to the Lord to seek and receive the forgiveness He continually offers to those who are His.

To be saved is to submit oneself to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus will not and cannot be Savior of those who will not receive Him as Lord. “No one can serve two masters,” Jesus attested; “for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24). On another occasion Jesus declared to a group of Jews who claimed to believe in Him: “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). When they claimed to be free already, “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin'” (v. 34). To their claim to be Abraham’s offspring, He said, “I know that you are Abraham’s offspring; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you” (v. 37). To their claim that Abraham was their father, He said, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do” (vv. 39-40). And to their claim that God was their Father, He responded, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me… You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him” (8:41-42, 44).

To have one spiritual father is to have one spiritual lord. Those relationships are inseparable. There is no such thing as partial fatherhood or partial lordship. In the same way, to have Christ as Savior is to have Him as Lord. Christ does not exist in parts and cannot be accepted in parts. Those to whom Christ is not both Savior and Lord, He is neither Savior nor Lord. Those who have not accepted Him as Lord have not accepted Him as Savior. Those who have not accepted the Son as Lord have no claim on the Father but are still slaves to sin and are still under the fatherhood and lordship of Satan.

When Isaiah wrote the words quoted by Paul in Romans 10:16, the prophet was speaking of the suffering, dying, substitutionary Savior, who “was pierced through for our transgressions, [and] was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). The report of which Isaiah and Paul speak is the glad tidings of the gospel, the good news of Christ’s dying that we might live, the glorious truth that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). But because Jews as well as Gentiles did not all heed the glad tidings, Jesus went on to declare that “he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Later in his gospel account John reported that Jesus “had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him; that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'” (12:37-38).

As Paul and Barnabas explained to unbelieving Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; [but] since you repudiate it,” that is, reject the glad tidings “and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).

Summarizing what he had said in verses 1-16, Paul declared, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Salvation does not come by intuition, mystical experience, meditation, speculation, philosophizing, or consensus but by hearing and having faith in the word of Christ. To proclaim the saving word of Christ is therefore the central and essential purpose of evangelism to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Paul reminded the elders of the church at Ephesus that, in obedience to that commission, he solemnly testified “to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

The purpose of evangelism is not to use human persuasion and clever devices to manipulate confessions of faith in Christ but to faithfully proclaim the gospel of Christ, through which the Holy Spirit will bring conviction and salvation to those who hear and accept the word of Christ. It is tragic that many appeals to salvation are a call for trust in someone and something they know nothing about. Positive responses to such empty appeals amount to nothing more than faith in faith—a blind, unrepentant, unsubmissive trust in a contentless message that results in a false sense of spiritual security. Such false evangelism cruelly leads the unsaved to believe they are saved, and leaves them still in their sin, without a Savior and without salvation.

Paul next asks rhetorically, But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? and then answers by quoting from the Septuagint (Greek) version of Psalm 19:4, Indeed they have; “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” In other words, even David understood the universal parameters of God’s offer of salvation, which already has gone out (a past tense) into all the earth. David opens that psalm with the declaration that “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard” (vv. 1-3). Their voice and their words refer to God’s revelation of Himself that has gone out into all the earth and has been proclaimed to the ends of the world—to all men and women who have ever or will ever live.

That is the same truth Paul emphasizes so strongly in the first chapter of Romans. For “those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness… that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they [unbelievers] are without excuse” (1:18-20). All men have both internal and external evidence of God. Just as the heavenly bodies touch all the earth and extend to the ends of the world with God’s natural revelation, so His gospel touches all the earth and extends to the ends of the world with His special revelation. God cannot be unfair or unjust. Those who refuse to trust in Him do so because they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18).

The way of salvation has always been offered to all men everywhere. As the Lord graciously promised through Jeremiah, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). God’s absolute and universal assurance to all men is that no person who sincerely seeks for Him will fail to find Him. The incarnate Christ “was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (John 1:9, emphasis added), and the incarnate Christ Himself declared that “this gospel of [His] kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations” (Matt. 24:14). Even in the first century Paul could therefore declare, “the word of truth, the gospel… has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing” (Col. 1:5-6). Although the apostle was probably speaking here only of the part of “the world” to which the full gospel had been proclaimed, the benefit of the gospel was available to all the earth and the ends of the world.

In Romans 10:11-18, Paul affirms that the gospel is not just one more local invention or one more pagan mystery religion but is the good news of salvation that God always has sought to be proclaimed to every nation and to every person, Jew and Gentile alike.

It is that universal extent of the gospel that caused many Jews to reject Jesus as their Messiah. The Pharisees reprimanded the officers who reported Jesus’ authoritative teaching and work, arrogantly saying, “No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?” (John 7:48). In other words, an ordinary Jew was presumptuous to believe and trust in a Messiah who was not recognized by their religious leaders. Tragically, many Jews today reject Jesus as their Messiah for the same foolish reason.

When Galileo was summoned before the Roman Catholic inquisition for teaching that the earth revolved around the sun rather than the sun around the earth, he was charged with heresy. When he offered to demonstrate the truth of his findings by having them look through his telescope, they refused. Their minds were already made up, and they refused even to consider evidence to the contrary. With that same obstinacy, most of Israel, from New Testament times to the present, have refused even to consider the claims of the gospel. Consequently, they have failed to know God, Jesus Christ, and saving faith.

The Predictions of Scripture

But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? At the first Moses says, “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you.” And Isaiah is very bold and says, “I was found by those who sought Me not, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” But as for Israel He says, “All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (10:19-21)

Finally, Paul points out that Israel was ignorant of the predictions of their own Scriptures, a truth implied throughout the previous part of this chapter. But ironically, the ignorance of Israel was not based on lack of truth; it was not because the people did not know. As already noted, God called Abraham and His descendants in order that “the whole earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3) and He called those descendants (Israel) to be His witnesses before all His earth, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6). They did know, and consequently had no excuse for not understanding and accepting God’s universal parameters of salvation.

Quoting another part of the Pentateuch, Paul reminds his readers that Moses says, “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you” (see Deut. 32:21). God’s blessing of Gentiles who believe in Him would make His chosen people jealous and angry. Some fifteen-hundred years before Paul wrote this letter, Moses declared that the salvation message was to reach Gentiles as well as Jews.

Jesus depicted that truth in the parable of the “landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey” (Matt. 21:33). When the vine-growers beat, killed, or stoned two successive groups of slaves who came to reap the owner’s produce and then killed the owner’s son, the owner brought “those wretches to a wretched end” and rented “out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who [would] pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons” (vv. 34-41).

Quoting again from Isaiah, Paul finally reminds his readers that the prophet was very bold when the Lord said through him, “I was found by those who sought Me not, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me” (cf. Isa. 65:1). Through Moses, who represented the law and through Isaiah, who represented the prophets, Paul firmly established that Israel’s rejection of her Messiah came as no surprise to God. It was predicted that, because of that rejection, God would be found by Gentiles who had not sought Him and would manifest Himself to those Gentiles who did not ask for Him.

But as for Israel, God’s chosen people, who ignored His Word and sought Him in their own way and on their own terms, the Lord said, All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people. Apeitheō (disobedient) literally means to contradict, to speak against. Throughout her history, Israel had, for the most part, contradicted and opposed the truth of the God who had lovingly called her and graciously and patiently (all the day long) stretched out [His] hands to her.

In another of Jesus’ parables, a man gave a great banquet to which none of the originally invited guests came. When the slave reported the various excuses that were given, “the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner'” (Luke 14:21-24).

Because of Israel’s persistent rejection of Him, Jesus lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37).

What monumental and tragic failure! Unbelieving Jews misunderstood and rejected God, Jesus Christ, and saving faith because of their self-righteousness, and they misunderstood the extent of salvation because of their proud prejudice. They therefore failed as God’s witness nation.

How would you respond to this statement: “If a man claims that he does not know the gospel, God is obligated to save him if that man is good”? In Romans 10:5-21 Paul shows that we are without excuse if we do not know the gospel.


First, look at the word good. Our definition of “good” and God’s definition of “good” may be quite different. We call a man good if he goes to his job each day, if he is a family man, and if he is a good neighbor and citizen. But what does God call good? One time a rich young ruler came to Jesus with a question about eternal life. He said, “Good master, what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ response was, “Why do you call Me good? There is none good but God.”

Jesus was saying to the young man, “You have called Me good, but none is good but God; thus you have called Me God.” If the young man recognized Him as God in the flesh, he was right. What would Jesus have us know about goodness?

None is good but God. In the absolute sense man is not good. Why is he not good? He is not good because every responsible human being is imperfect. When somebody says God is obligated to save a person because that person is good he misses the point because no one is good in the absolute sense.

Look at the other word, obligated. Obligation carries the idea of debt; and debt suggests that we can earn a proper relationship with God. No man can earn salvation. According to Ephesians 2:8,9, it is the gift of God. God grants as a gift of grace the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. God is obligated to no man. Imperfect human beings will be saved by the grace of God and not be- cause of obligation. Man in the absolute sense is not good, and God is not obligated.

Then there is the first part of the statement: “If a man claims that he does not know the gospel, . . .” There are those in this world who have never heard the name of Jesus. There are those who do not know the message of Jesus. There are those who do not, therefore, know the gospel. What God does with the man at judgment who never has heard the name of Jesus will be right. The New Testament places an emphasis upon man’s need of the gospel and man’s alienation from God. It does not elaborate upon the individual who lives in some corner of the earth who has never heard the message. The New Testament, as far as I know, does not hold one ray of hope for men who are outside of the gospel message. That is one reason that it is such an urgent matter to get the gospel to the whole world.

But what about you and me? Most of us have several copies of the Scriptures in our homes. Could any of us, if we fail to respond in the right way to the gospel, claim ignorance of the gospel? Could we claim that we did not have the opportunity to know the message of Christ? Since none of us is ultimately good, God will not save us on the basis of personal goodness. No man is accepted by God upon his fleshly heritage, but by God’s grace through Jesus Christ in obedience to the good news about Him.

  1. II. WHAT WE HAVE RECEIVED PROVES IT The question could be raised, “Is God just in casting off His people?” Paul comes very near to their hearts, I am sure, as he answers the claim, “We did not know the gospel!”

Romans 10:5-13 (ESV) 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.”

Romans 10 contains at least six words that bring to our hearts the thought that we are without excuse when we are outside the gospel.


Verse 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)

The Word is near. That the Word is near was true of Israel in the first century, and it is true of us in the twentieth century. This phrase would suggest this question: “Why have we not known the gospel?” If we do not know the truth of the gospel, perhaps it is because we have not studied. Perhaps it is because we have taken somebody else’s beliefs for what the New Testament says. Every one of us has the responsibility and obligation to search the Scriptures to see if what we believe is true. I venture to say that there are countless people who have never studied the New Testament for themselves. What is our excuse for not knowing? The first word is near.


Romans 10:18 (ESV) But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

Paul  asks  of  his  contemporaries,  “Have  they heard?” His answer is this, “Most assuredly they have heard.” Why? Because the preaching of the message went to the entire world of that day. Have you heard? Have I heard? It is not because the Word is not near, and it is not because we have not heard. Our responsibility is to weigh what we have heard and discern between truth and error. Yes, we have heard it.


Romans 10:19 (ESV) But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

We know what it says. We cannot plead ignorance. The Word is in our hands; it is in our ears. Now it is our responsibility to obey the truth so that the truth can make us free. Yes, we know.


Verse 17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

The word is faith. Paul said, “The word is near.” That is true of each of us. He said you have heard it, and having heard it, you know. Why has that Word not led to faith? One may respond, “Oh, I do believe.” What do you believe? “Oh, I believe the Bible.” Yes, but what is biblical faith?

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Have you been convicted and convinced of the truth of the gospel, namely that every man is lost without Christ, and that Christ, as the sacrifice for sin, is the only answer to our greatest problem? That is what biblical faith involves.

In John 8:24 Jesus said, “. . . unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” We must be convinced that He is the only answer to the sin problem.

Having been convinced of the truth of your lost condition and of the only way of salvation being in Christ, do you trust Him to do what He has said He will do?

In Mark 16:16 Jesus said, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” That is not a statement about which we are to quibble or argue, it is a statement that gives us an opportunity to manifest our trust.

Do we trust Him or not? Will He do what He has said He will do? Faith involves trust. Faith involves doing what the Lord Jesus Christ has asked us to do.

Remember that in Matthew 7:21 He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father, who is in heaven.”

Doing the will of God is faith in action. When you do the will of God you are not earning salvation; you are not obligating God to save you. You are simply accepting by faith what God by His grace has offered.

James 2 says, “Not by faith alone.” No, it is a faith that is active. It is a faith that surrenders. The key word in Romans 10 is faith.


Romans 10:16 (ESV) But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

Obey. Have you obeyed the gospel? Earlier in 6:17, 18, Paul said, “But thanks be to God that

though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

When were we made free from sin? “When you obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine.

What was the form of doctrine? The gospel of Christ centers in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. That is the doctrine. Christ died for our sins. He was buried, and He rose again. We obey the form of that doctrine. We are poured into the mold of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

In 6:1-6 Paul shows us how we obey from the heart the form of doctrine. He said, “We have died to sin.” Just as Christ died for sin, we die to sin. He said, “We are buried with Christ.”

When we are immersed in water we are overwhelmed or submerged. As Christ was buried, we are buried with Him when we are baptized. Paul said, “As Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

We are raised as He was raised. Thus, we picture the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We obey from the heart the form of doctrine. Paul says they have not all obeyed the gospel.


Romans 10:13 (ESV) For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

That is the end result of the gospel. Will you cry out to Him to save you? Not to save you as you are, but to save you from what you are. No to save you on your terms, but to save you on His terms. We can reject Him; but at the judgment of God we will not be able to plead ignorance.

CONCLUSION. Yes, we know. America is not a very good place from which to go into the judgment of God unprepared. Seriously consider these matters, for they are of utmost importance.

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Posted by on December 2, 2021 in Romans


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