Jews and Gentiles in God’s Plan, Part 2
Romans 10:1 – 11:36
Romans 10 continues the theme of chapter 9, in which Paul deals with his desire to see more Jews saved. While chapter 9 focused on the fact that their rejection of the gospel was not God’s fault, chapter 10 asserts that Israel was to blame.
Rejection, the Fault of the Jews
The new chapter begins with Paul’s assertion that he desired the salvation of the Jews (Romans 10:1). Verse 2 highlights the fact that they had a zeal for God but that it was not enlightened. Being ignorant of God’s righteousness, they sought their own (verse 3). At that point Paul writes that “Christ is the end of the law, that everyone who had faith may be justified” (verse 4).
Some have read that verse to mean that with the death of Christ the law was abolished. Such an interpretation directly contradicts such passages as Romans 3:31; Roman 7:12, 14; Romans 13:8-10. For Paul, faith established God’s good and holy law.
Another understanding is that Christ is the termination of the law as an avenue of righteousness. While that is true, there is a broader meaning – namely, that Christ is the end or consummation of all that the law pointed to. And because He is the consummation, salvation flows out of faith in Him.
Romans 10:5-13 contrasts two types of righteousness. The first is righteousness by law. In that regard, “Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it” (verse 5). The reference from Leviticus 18:5 means to Paul that the person who desires to establish righteousness by keeping the law must live up to all aspects and details of the law. Anything less than that cannot lead to salvation, since the laws can condemn (Romans 3:20) but contains no inherent grace or mercy. Paul has already headed off that path to righteousness in Romans 1:18 – 3:20, in which he demonstrated that even at their best the most diligent human beings have been able to produce only imperfect and unacceptable righteousness according to the law. As a result, all stand under the condemnation.
That implication brings the apostle to God’s solution in “the righteousness based on faith” (Romans 10:6). And how does one get such righteousness? Not by some great act of exertion such as ascending to heaven or into the grace to find Christ (verses 6, 7) but by accepting that which is near at hand – even the gospel of righteousness through faith that Paul has been preaching (verse 8).
Here we find the apostle exposing an interesting quirk in the human psyche. How it enthralls people to go on religious pilgrimages or to participate in a crusade or to give all their possessions to achieve a spiritual goal. Tell us to do some great feat and we get excited. That’s something to be proud about. By contrast, merely accepting Christ by faith sounds so pedestrian. But it is that very unglamorous road to salvation, that Paul is telling us is the only way to salvation.
The real road to salvation for both Jews and Gentiles is believing with the heart and confessing with our voices (verse 13). At the core of that confession and believing is the acceptance of Jesus as the resurrected LORD (verse 9).
Verses 14 and 15 raise a series of questions that law the foundation for Christian evangelism and mission, since the preaching of the gospel leads men and women to call on the name of the Lord.
But has Israel heard? Beginning in verse 16 and extending to the end of the chapter, Paul cites a series of Old Testament passages that demonstrate that the Jews had indeed heard but that they had rejected God’s message in their stubbornness (verse 21). On the other hand, those who had not been seeking God (the gentiles) had found Him (verse 20).