Verse by Verse Study of Romans 10:1-21
In Romans 9, we learned that the people of Israel were chosen by God. God’s chosen people were given a great legacy, including Jesus himself. They were protected by God and given his blessings, his words, and his laws. God even dwelled with them at times, showing them his visible glory. But as a nation, Israel missed the mark. They tried to receive God’s righteousness through their own work and effort, rather than receive it by faith as their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did.
A Covenant Broken?
Now in Romans 10, Paul explains how everyone needs salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ, but Israel has rejected that gospel. Has God broken his covenant with the people of Israel?
In verses 1-2, Paul writes about how he longs and desires for the Jews to be saved. Many Jews are, in fact, getting saved – he himself was a Jew, as were the disciples and much of the early church – but he desires that as a nation they will accept the Messiah and turn away from Judaism, which has rejected Jesus and the way of salvation. Paul is not disregarding their zeal and dedication for their beliefs, but rather he says their zeal is misguided and misplaced.
Why were they misdirecting all their efforts? Verse 3 says that they don’t understand God’s way of making people right, so they cling to their own ways which is by obeying the law.
But verse 4 tells us that Christ ended the requirements of the law, accomplishing what the law could not: making us right with God.
In verse 5, Paul reminds the Israelites of his previous argument: they can only accomplish righteousness if they obey the law perfectly.
On Your Lips and In Your Heart
In verses 6-8, Paul reminds us how God has made us right: by faith alone. But these verses are worded in a strange way:
But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven’ (to bring Christ down to earth). And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again)”. In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” (NLT)
Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 30:12-14 here. Deuteronomy was written long before the time of Jesus. The Israelites were still covered under the Old Covenant in a legal relationship with God. Paul added the bracketed phrases, but it is interesting how this old text pointed to Jesus’ work on the cross. This passage was intended to make it crystal clear that mankind is unable to work for his own righteousness. That this was a work that only God could do. If being right with God would require us to ascend into heaven and descend into the place of the dead, we would never be able to be right with God.
Instead, it says that the way to being made right with God is found on our lips and in our heart. We must have faith, or believe, in our hearts, and proclaim our faith to the world with our mouths. Only God could accomplish this work through Jesus and provide us with a way to be made right with him. All we must do is have faith in him.
How God Establishes a Relationship with Us
In verses 9-12, Paul clearly spells out exactly what must be done to be saved:
Openly Declare that Jesus is Lord and Believe that God raised Him from the dead. Declare with our lips and believe in our hearts.
Paul is not ignoring Jesus’ death on the cross, when he stated that we had to believe in the resurrection. After all, it is Jesus’ death that paid the price for our sins. But Paul is encompassing the entire work of Jesus in this statement. You could not be resurrection if you hadn’t died. But more importantly, had Jesus not been resurrected, we would not have a Savior or Lord to have faith in! Jesus’ resurrection is crucial to our salvation.
In verse 10, Paul repeats himself, and he does this to make clear that this is not a magical recitation that will grant you salvation. We must actually believe in our hearts that these facts are true.
Anyone Who Has Faith Will Never Be Put to Shame
In verse 11 Paul is quoting Isaiah 28:16 from the Greek version, or the Septuagint. The New Living Translation (NLT) translates it as, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced’. The New King James Version (NKJV) translates it as, ‘Anyone who believes on him will not be put to shame’. As imperfect, sinful people, we have a lot to be ashamed about. But when we are covered with Jesus’ righteousness, God sees us as righteous, and no one can accuse us of anything. That doesn’t mean we will never feel ashamed, because we are still aware of our sinful natures. But God wants us to be free of shame and guilt and rest assured that what he sees is our righteousness in Christ Jesus.
Calling on the Name of Jesus
Verses 12-13 tells us that the way of salvation is the same for everyone, either Jew or Gentile. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Now just to be clear, this does not mean everyone who calls on God will be saved. The Lord is the title given to Jesus as the rightful ruler. He is to be, not only our Savior, but the Lord (or ruler) of our lives. When we call on his name as our Lord, we will be saved.
Paul makes an excellent distinction in verses 14-15. We can’t call upon Jesus if we don’t believe in him, and we can’t believe in him if we have never heard the truth about him, and you will never hear the truth about him if you have never been told by someone. Many people make assumptions about who they think Jesus is, without hearing the entire truth. But only by going to the primary source, the Bible, can you be certain of the truth. And it is not enough to skim through a few verses in the Bible and feel you have a firm understanding of it.
For example, even in this study of Romans, if you would have only read the first chapter of Romans, even though Paul mentions the way of salvation in his thesis statement in Romans 1:17, this in no way would inform someone how they might get saved, without reading further.
Faith Comes by Hearing and Understanding
Now in verses 16-21, Paul talks about the heart of the problem with Israel rejecting the gospel message.
Not everyone welcomes or is open to hearing the gospel. They reject it before ever truly hearing it. But if they have never heard about Jesus, how then is it their fault for rejecting him?
There has been debate over the person who somehow lives in perfect isolation and never hears about Christ. What happens to him?
In verse 17, Paul says that faith comes by hearing – hearing the Good News about Christ. So, if people never get the opportunity to hear, are they willingly rejected Jesus?
Many people believe that this kind of person is the exception. However, I once took an online Bible class studying this very topic, and an excellent point was brought up by the teacher. God has revealed himself to mankind.
Romans 1:19-21 says that mankind knows God but refuses to acknowledge or worship him. The New Covenant has been established by Jesus and requires faith in him. But if a person existed, who has never heard the name of Jesus, but chooses to acknowledge God their creator and seeks to please and serve him (just like Abraham, once a pagan who chose to have faith in God) they could be made right by God.
But in verses 18, Paul is saying that the Jews did know what people believed about Jesus, and they refused to listen. When Christianity first began, Paul said that the message had spread throughout the world. The Jews knew who Jesus claimed to be – their Messiah – but they refused to listen.
They Have Heard by Won’t Listen
Who hasn’t heard of Jesus, or heard what Christians believe about him? People don’t have to pick up a Bible and become fully informed to reject him.
In verse 19, Paul is saying that the Jews not only heard the message of the gospel, but they also understood it. Though the Jews did not want to listen to the gospel message being preached, they fully understood what Christians believed and what was prophesied in the Old Testament.
Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:21, when God told Israel that he would bring others close to him and make them jealous because they were worshiping idols rather than God.
“I will rouse your jealousy through people who are not even a nation. I will provoke your anger through the foolish Gentiles.”
They knew of God’s promise to bless other nations and draw them to himself.
In verse 20, Paul also quotes Isaiah 65:1 from the Septuagint.
“I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.”
More Accountable Than Anyone
Isaiah prophesied about how God would extend his covenant to a people who were not even looking for him – the Gentiles. The people who he had revealed himself to, the Israelites, were no longer seeking him. Isaiah warned Israel that this would come to pass, yet they ignored it, making themselves even more accountable for their choices.
It might seem shocking that the Israelites rejected their own Messiah, especially after being God’s chosen people. But it was foretold in the Old Testament that they would reject him. God and his prophets were not surprised.
And finally, in verse 21, Paul quotes Isaiah 65:2 which tells us how God feels about Israel’s disobedience and rejection of their Messiah.
“All day long I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious.”
Knowing and Rejecting the True God
They had been so richly blessed by God who gave them chance after chance to redeem themselves. They were given the Scriptures and had much of it memorized, and yet they rejected the Messiah. This rejection ultimately meant that they were rejecting the true God, and this made them more responsible and more accountable for their disbelief than anyone else.
Imagine the history and journey the Israelites, as a people, had been on with God. He freed them from the cruelty of slavery in Egypt and showed them miracle upon miracle. He parted a great sea so they could walk safely on dry ground. Manna and quail would simply appear for them each day, so they wouldn’t go hungry in the wilderness. God, himself, led them through that wilderness as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud of smoke by day. They had the privilege of worshiping in God’s presence. He promised them a land of milk, honey, and prosperity. And he won their battles for them along the way as they claimed victory upon victory.
Why So Many Covenants?
Why didn’t God just make one covenant, through Jesus, from the beginning? Why have old covenants with the Israelites, only to make one final New Covenant through Jesus Christ? Was it simply a case of trial and error, or did God have a plan through each covenant he made with his people?
God Made 6 Covenants in the Old Testament
1. The Adamic Covenant: Freedom. The Freedom to make choices while accepting the consequences.
2. The Noahic Covenant: Mercy. Mercy to all of creation and a promise to never destroy the earth again by flood.
3. The Abrahamic Covenant: A Chosen People. God chose Israel as his nation and promised to bless them with land and prosperity.
4. The Mosaic Covenant: A Law. Obeying God’s laws meant that they “would be his people” and he “would be their God”.
5. The Priestly (Aaronic) Covenant: A Priesthood. Atonement with God was made possible through sacrifice, worship and prayer through the priesthood selected by God in Aaron’s line of descendants.
6. Davidic Covenant: A King. A descendant of David would reign forever – the Messiah.
Jesus, the New Covenant
Jesus became the New Covenant, the One Covenant to fulfill all other covenants. Through the New Covenant, Jesus gave us:
1. Freedom: Freedom from the slavery of sin and its consequences.
2. Mercy: the promise of eternal life.
3. A Chosen People: the rights as heirs and children of God.
4. A Law: Jesus himself fulfilled all the requirements of the law on our behalf.
5. A High Priest: Jesus is our High Priest. He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and intercedes on our behalf.
6. A King: Jesus will forever reign as King and Lord of all.
Why Didn’t God Just Send Jesus from the Beginning?
Well, I believe that it was to show humanity that we are incapable of fulfilling our end of the covenant with God. Throughout history, mankind has failed to keep their promises to him. Each covenant in the Old Testament could only be perfectly fulfilled by Jesus. God wants to be in a relationship with us, and Jesus is the only way that relationship can be possible.
To be so close to God, but never truly have faith in him is an incredibly sad story. Yet it is the story of many people around us today. From Genesis to Revelation, God has been expressing his love for us and his desire to be in a relationship with us. Faith may come from hearing, but we need to sincerely listen.
Person of Interest by J. Warner Wallace – Jesus was not only the most significant person in history, he also changed the world. This book will not only strengthen the faith of believers, it will engage those who are skeptical and distrust the Bible as truth.
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