1 - 4 Christ Is the End of the Law
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for [their] salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
In Romans 9 Paul made it clear that in the past God made Himself known as a God who is sovereign. He gives the Gentiles access to the blessings, and some, a remnant, from Israel also receive the blessings because God is a God of grace.
V1. The people of Israel as a whole have been rejected by God. Romans 10 gives the reason why. In Romans 11 it is said this rejection is certain, but not final! There will be a restoration. And this rejection isn’t something in which Paul rejoices. He doesn’t say, ‘Oh well, they should have listened better.’ No, the first verse shows how his prayer was going out to God for their salvation. This is another proof of his heartfelt bond with this nation.
V2. He was aware of the good that could be found with them – their zeal for God. In Galatians 1 we see that before Paul’s conversion, this zeal was in him as well (Gal 1:13-14). Being zealous for God is good, but it must be according to knowledge. This is important for you too. If you’re recently converted, you’re ready to go! You want to witness! This is a good thing.
But if you are led by your enthusiasm, without the knowledge of the will of God, you are likely to mess things up. This is not meant to discourage you in your activities. There’s a lot to do. I hope with all my heart you will see a lot of work you can do for the Lord and that you will be active in it. But with the Lord, education and activity go hand in hand. Take care to gain an understanding of the will of the Lord. What you’re reading at the moment may help you with that.
V3. Now back to Romans 10. Two reasons are given for Israel’s fall. First, they didn’t know God’s righteousness. Verse 3 says: “For not knowing about God’s righteousness.” This means the righteous dealings of God were ignored. This righteousness is the great subject of this letter. To get an idea of what is meant by this, look at the Lord Jesus and at His work on the cross. There you see the righteous dealings of God. Only by the Lord Jesus is it possible to receive God’s righteousness.
But Israel has rejected Him. Instead (and this is the second reason for their fall), they tried (and still try) to gain their own righteousness. In this way they ignore the fact that no one is able to live so righteously that God can declare him or her righteous. Today too, many people are busy trying to work for their righteousness. These say in effect it wasn’t necessary for Christ to die. Nor do they subject themselves to God’s righteousness. They are of the opinion that God will have to accept them because, as they calmly claim, they have never done anything wrong.
But God judges differently. To Him there is only One righteous and that is Christ. Christ and the law, Christ and one’s works, Christ and one’s righteousness, exclude each other.
V4. With Christ’s coming to earth, the end has come of the law as a means of being justified. Now, God can only give His righteousness to someone if that person recognizes in faith that he needs Christ. For such a one the law has been dealt with because the law has attained its end as soon as one recognizes the impossibility of being justified by the law. To stop looking at one’s own works and to look away at what Christ has done and to believe it, is to subject oneself to God’s righteousness.
God points everyone to Christ: Christ is the only possibility to get in touch with Him. It is wonderful to see this! Let’s point out Christ to all those who think they live so deserving, thinking that God will be content with them without Christ. Everyone who is compared with Him will have to agree that his life falls very short of His. But most of all, he will have to recognize shamefully that Christ’s death and resurrection were necessary to save him. This is what the next set of verses discusses.
Now read Romans 10:1-4 again.
Reflection: Consider your zeal for God.
5 - 11 Heart and Mouth
5 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. 6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “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 which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
V5. In the law in Leviticus 18, God said to Moses that someone could obtain life only by being obedient to the law (Lev 18:5). In saying this, God indicated that someone can earn his righteousness by keeping the law. But no one kept the law or can keep the law.
V6. Now there is another way to get righteousness and this is on the principle of faith. One’s ‘own righteousness’ is out of the question. When we talk about faith, all of our works to get to heaven are excluded. At the end of verse 6 Paul strongly states that our works to get to heaven are a denial of the ascension of Christ. It is the same as saying: ‘Let Him come down again; I’ve no need of His work because I’ll accomplish it by my strength.’ But His work was necessary to give you God’s righteousness.
He has gone to heaven as proof that His work has been completely accepted by God. You wouldn’t say then: “Who will ascend into heaven?” Here is the thought of reaching heaven by one’s efforts. As long as this is being thought, the work of Christ is slighted and He is pulled down.
V7. And don’t say either: “Who will descend into the abyss?” This is to say you need to descend into the abyss to wipe out your debt with some kind of penance. This would be impossible. Who can ever descend into the depths of misery into which Christ descended? The one who tries this takes Christ up out of death, thinking Christ’s death for himself was unnecessary and he can satisfy God as to his debt by himself.
V8. But if you believe God’s actions are righteous, you’ll know that God in Christ has come very close to you. You don’t have to go to Him; He has come to you. He has come so close to you that He has laid His word in your mouth and heart. You have been saved because the word of faith has been preached to you.
V9. The content of the preaching is to confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe with your heart that God raised Him up from the dead. If you believe this, you know God no longer is against you and no longer has anything against you. On the contrary, He is for you.
The order is remarkable. First it is your mouth and then your heart. The mouth is mentioned first because your faith can only be observed by others in what they hear and see from you. You can’t say someone is saved if you don’t notice anything of it in his or her behavior and talk. The confession of Jesus as Lord is what it’s all about. It’s just not possible to accept Jesus only as Savior, as Redeemer from your sins.
A moment came in your life when you acknowledged you couldn’t save yourself and couldn’t exist before God because you had failed in everything. You failed because you were listening to a different master, the devil. And then, God showed you He has given over the Lord Jesus to death for your sins. The Lord Jesus has freed you from the burden of sin which you couldn’t bear. Aren’t you incredibly thankful for this? Now you’re His property. I hope others can see the Lord Jesus is your Lord.
V10. Of course, the heart is what it’s all about. With your heart, you believe unto righteousness. But it must become outwardly visible because it is with your mouth you confess unto salvation.
V11. Maybe you view your confession very poorly; it could have been a lot better. I wish I did it much better. But keep in mind what Scripture says: “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Faith has to do with trust. For your salvation, you have put your trust in God and no longer in yourself.
This trust gives you the strength to witness, because it is not self-centered, but God-centered. By reading the Bible, you’ll get to know God and the Lord Jesus better, and your faith will increase. The more you study the Bible, the more you’ll see it in your practice both in word and in deed.
Now read Romans 10:5-11 again.
Reflection: What is the relation between your mouth and your heart?
12 - 15 Beautiful Feet
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same [Lord] is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
V12. In Romans 3 you read that on account of sin there was (and is) no longer a difference between Jew and Greek (Greek and heathen being the same) (Rom 3:22). Every person is a sinner and is guilty before God. Here you read that the same Lord is rich over all who call on Him, whether Jew or Greek.
V13. Note that Paul constantly quotes verses from the Old Testament to support what he said. He’s doing it to prove that God is not merely the God of the Jews, but also the God of the heathen. Well, you as a heathen (Gentile) may know from your experience that He is a Lord rich in grace and that He has shown mercy to you, a poor sinner! He’s not a brutal Lord who wanted to keep you outside of grace. Since verse 11 and verse 13 mention “whoever”, it doesn’t leave room for limitations. However the condition ‘believes’ is in verse 11, and ‘calls on the name of the Lord’ is in verse 13. To be saved you have to believe and to call on the name of the Lord, this means to give honor to Him or to adore Him.
You will agree with me that before your conversion you didn’t pay Him the honor due Him. Before, other things were important and you lost yourself in them, including sports, studying, your career, money or the way you looked. Maybe you were religious as well. However, it didn’t bring you happiness and didn’t offer you salvation. This is why you called on the name of the Lord to be saved.
When you did this, it was the first time you really honored Him. He wants to be your Savior. This is exactly the meaning of the name of Jesus: Jahweh is Savior. Then in verse 13 there is a quotation from Joel 2:32. Isn’t it remarkable that He who is called Jahweh (rendered as Lord in many translations) in the Old Testament is the same as He who receives the name of Jesus in the New Testament?
V14. So the Lord Jesus is Jahweh of the Old Testament, but in the New Testament He comes to His people as Man. It is clear that, for the Jew, salvation was only to be found in Him. But what about us who belong to the nations? He didn’t come to us. We didn’t know of Him and didn’t believe in Him. So how then could we call on Him? Still, we were lost and had to be saved. But to be saved we had to believe in Him. If this is so, then we should be told about Him. And how could we ever have heard about Him if someone hadn’t preached Him to us? Here you see again it’s not the law and doing something that’s important, but the preaching, hearing and listening to the Word.
V15. Someone must be sent if he is to preach. This sending is not done by some church or missionary union, but by the Lord: He is the Commissioner. And isn’t it a wonderful service for which you too have received an assignment? It is a service of proclaiming peace, proclaiming good things. One who’s proclaiming the gospel has “beautiful ... feet” as opposed to the time when his feet were swift to shed blood (Rom 3:15).
The citation of the “beautiful ... feet” is from Isaiah 52 (Isa 52:7). There, it is about “him who brings good news”, that is one person. This can be no one else but the Lord Jesus. Isn’t it a wonderful thought that in proclaiming peace and good, you are being His follower? In a world of unrest, a world in which evil reigns, you may be a messenger of peace and of good news. Many people around you are waiting for this message. Will you leave them where they are, in their misery, or are you going to tell them of that rich Lord?
Now read Romans 10:12-15 again.
Reflection: With whom and when did you last talk about the Lord Jesus?
16 - 21 The Preaching Rejected
16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith [comes] from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. 18 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.” 19 But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, By a nation without understanding will I anger you.” 20 And Isaiah is very bold and says, “I was found by those who did not seek Me, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” 21 But as for Israel He says, “All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
V16. Maybe the previous verses gave you fresh courage to preach of peace and of good news. You want to tell others what the Lord has done with you and how happy you now are. You can see it quite clearly. You think others will be impressed by your testimony and will be converted to the Lord. But many will not be converted. This will be a sad disappointment. The results you were so fervently hoping for won’t come. Instead of conversions based on your testimony, they will turn against you.
Isaiah knew something about this. He spoke a lot about the Messiah who was to come to His people, but few believed his preaching. At the coming of the promised Messiah, were the masses of people awaiting him? You know they weren’t because He didn’t meet their expectations. They didn’t like it that He came as a Baby in a manger. Had it been someone appearing with pomp and circumstance, which would have been very different, they would have accepted Him. But what was their response? “Away with [Him]” (Jn 19:15). The Lord Jesus was rejected and He returned to heaven. You can’t see Him now.
V17. To have contact with Him, faith is required, and this faith must be stirred up by preaching. And the preaching must have the Word of God as its contents. Only then can man discover himself, who God is, and what He has done to save him.
V18. Consider the following question. At the time when the Word of God had not come to the Gentiles by way of preaching, hadn’t God already spoken to them? Certainly! So Paul quotes from Psalm 19. In this psalm David praises God’s glory and the work of His hands as seen in creation. The testimony of God that speaks from creation was and is not limited to Israel, but can be perceived all over the world. Here we have proof from the Old Testament that God preached to the Gentiles to enable them to have knowledge of Him and to believe in Him.
V19. But then there is another question. Should Israel have known that God would make Himself known to the Gentiles, or shouldn’t we blame them for resenting God for also blessing the Gentiles? Moses is the first to speak in verse 19. He was Israel’s great leader and they respected him. He was the one who told them of their unfaithfulness and that God would turn to another “nation” because of their unfaithfulness. By doing so, He intended to awaken their jealousy so they would return to Him.
V20. Isaiah is also quoted. Paul says it in the following way: “Isaiah is very bold and says.” This implies it was quite a bold venture of Isaiah, which it was. For it really was a direct attack on Israel’s national pride as God’s nation to tell them that God would consider another nation.
V21. This last verse is the most penetrating. God Himself speaks. You can taste the sorrow of His heart when you read what He has to say to His people. You can see God, His hands wide open to bring His people to His heart. And God doesn’t remain with this attitude for only a few minutes, but “all the day long”. This refers to the entire time He dealt with that nation. Is there anything more grievous than being rejected in such a way?
From His viewpoint, God did everything to bless His people, but the only answer of His people was disobedience and opposition. They turned their backs on Him. The people broke their connection with God. Therefore, God had to put His people aside, but thankfully not forever. In Romans 11 we read that a new day will rise for Israel.
Now read Romans 10:16-21 again.
Reflection: What do you experience when your testimony is rejected?