ROMANS STUDY – SESSION 14

Romans 9:30-10:21

 

In this session we are going to continue exploring the third major section of Romans. While this section emphasizes that the gospel is for all people, it gives special attention to the place of the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan.  To avoid distortion, it would be best to deal with these three chapters as a single unit. In a single sentence Romans 9, 10, & 11 teach the following: While God, in His sovereignty, selected the Israelites to be His chosen people and while the Israelites, as a whole, chose to reject God, God has not rejected Israelites. If you can keep that sentence in mind during our journey through these three chapters, that will keep you from losing sight of the main thought.

 

We are exploring these chapters using the following outline:

9:1-5 – Paul’s lament for Israel

9:6-29 – The mystery of God’s sovereignty

9:30-10:21 – Israel’s rejection of God

11:1-36 – Israel’s hope

 

Israel’s Rejection to God (Romans 9:30-10:21)

In our previous session we focused on Paul’s deep desire to see his fellow Jews come to faith in Christ (Romans 9:1-5) and on God’s sovereignty (Romans 9:6-29).  We saw that God’s sovereignty means, among other things, that God is free to do whatever He desires to do.  He owes us no explanation for His actions and we have no ground to question Him or to object to what He chooses to do.  We also saw that God has chosen to exercise His sovereignty in a redemptive way towards us.  God’s redemptive plan included the selection of the Israelites to be His chosen people.  However, as other parts of the Scripture make clear, Israel was called not merely to privilege but to purpose – to be those through whom the whole world would be exposed to God’s redemptive activity.  The tragedy with which Paul deals in this section is Israel’s rejection of the climax of God’s redemptive plan – the person of Jesus Christ. 

 

Warren Wiersbe points out that in this section “Paul moved from divine sovereignty to human responsibility.”  Then he adds, “No one will deny that there are many mysteries connected to divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  Nowhere does God ask us to choose between these two truths, because they both come from God and are part of God’s plan.  They do not compete; they cooperate.  The fact that we cannot fully understand how they work together does not deny the fact that they do.  When a man asked Charles Spurgeon how he reconciled divine sovereignty and human responsibility, Spurgeon replied, ‘I never try to reconcile friends!’”

 

In dealing with Israel’s rejection of God’s redemptive plan, he explored two basic ways of seeking right standing with God – the way of works and the way of faith.

 

Romans 9:30–33 explains that the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, obtained righteousness by faith.  However, the Jews, who doggedly tried to gain righteousness through their works, did not obtain it.  The difference was that the Gentiles accepted “by faith” the “stumbling stone” (meaning Jesus) over which the Jews stumbled.

 

Romans 10:1 – In this verse Paul reaffirms his desire for the salvation of the Jews.  This is similar to what Paul said at the beginning of chapter 9.

 

THE WAY OF WORKS

Romans 10:2-3 explains that the Jews tried to gain righteousness through their own works.  Two things are said about the Jews in these verses:

·         While the Jews were zealous for God, their zeal was an unenlightened zeal.

·         Ignorant of the righteousness that is the result of faith, they sought to gain right standing with God based on their own actions or works.

 

THE WAY OF FAITH

Romans 10:4-13 explains the way of faith.  Six times in these verses Paul uses the verb   "believe" or its noun form that is translated "faith."  He argues here, and indeed throughout Romans, that belief in or faith in Jesus Christ is the key to salvation. 

Verse 4 is sort of a thesis statement for this section.  To say that “Christ is the end of the law…” does not mean that before Christ salvation was the result of keeping the law and after Christ salvation is the result of faith.  We saw back in Romans 4 that justification in the Old Testament era was by faith just as justification is by faith in this era.  To say that “Christ is the end of the law…” means that the purpose of the law, the aim of the law, or the goal of the law was achieved in the Christ event.  The purpose of the law was to bring people into right relationship with God and that is precisely what Jesus came to accomplish. 

 

Verses 5-8 is a difficult passage that seems to be designed to emphasize that Christ has accomplished all that is necessary for our salvation. 

 

Verses 9-10 may contain one of the church’s earliest confessions of faith.  These verses address the question,  "What kind of belief results in salvation?  Belief or faith in what or whom?"  Of course, the obvious answer is belief in Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ?  What is saving belief or faith?"  That's the question Paul addresses in the very heart of this passage.  Verse 9 is one of the most simple, most direct, and profound statements concerning saving faith to be found in the Scripture.  “…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”  That statement tells us two important things about saving faith.

 

Saving faith is more than intellectual activity

Notice  that  v.9  speaks of  "confessing  with  your mouth" and "believing in your heart."  On first reading, it would be easy to assume that Paul was speaking of two  acts that are distinct and separate, one being outward confession and the other being inward belief.  But Paul is not speaking of two separate acts but two sides of the same coin.  As one writer put it, "No distinction is to be drawn between the confession and  the  belief; the confession is believed and the belief is confessed." (Vaughan, p.117)  The point is genuine that saving faith/belief is at the same time inward and outward.  It is not merely intellectual ascent to set of propositions or facts.  It is a life changing commitment to a person--the person of Jesus Christ.  When a person experiences saving faith it will always result in outward expression.  (See the example of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16.  His belief was evidenced by his actions.)

 

Saving faith centers on the person of Jesus Christ

Saving faith recognizes who Jesus is - He is Lord!  Notice the phrase "...if you confess with you mouth Jesus as Lord..." The word translated Lord is "kurios."  It is important to understand what the early Christians were saying when they spoke of Jesus in that way.  While in Roman/Greek culture “kurios” was primarily a title of respect, the word had a much richer, fuller meaning in Judeo/Christian culture.  In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament that was used by many first century Jews, the word “kurios” was the word used to translate the Hebrew word Yahweh or Jehovah – the saving name for God. 

 

Thus, in the Judeo/Christian culture, to say or “confess” Jesus is Lord was to acknowledge His identity as God incarnate.  Any religious system that does not recognize that Jesus is God or that understands Jesus to be something or someone less than God, will not lead person to saving faith.  Lord Jesus (kurios iesous) or Lord Christ  (kurios christos) is the earliest confession of the church about Jesus Christ.  Saving faith recognizes that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He is God, and as such    deserves our total, complete, undivided allegiance.

 

Saving faith recognizes what Jesus has done.  Notice the reference to the resurrection in last part of verse 9 -  "...believe in your heart that God raised Him from the   dead…" That statement is significant for two reasons: 

·         It brings to mind the redemptive work of Jesus.  He came to our world to provide the solution to our sin problem.  He achieved that by going to the cross, laying down His life, and being raised from the dead by the power of God.   

·         It reminds us of the continuing presence of Christ in our lives.  I like the way William Barclay puts it:  “THE CHRISTIAN MUST BELIEVE NOT ONLY THAT JESUS CHRIST LIVED, BUT ALSO THAT JESUS CHRIST LIVES.  HE MUST NOT ONLY KNOW ABOUT CHRIST; HE MUST KNOW CHRIST. HE IS NOT STUDYING AN HISTORICAL PERSONAGE, HOWEVER GREAT; HE IS LIVING WITH A REAL PRESENCE.”  (Barclay on Romans, p.148)

Saving faith understands both who Jesus Christ is and what He came to our world to accomplish on our behalf.

 

Verses 11-13 affirm that God gives all people, Jew and Gentile alike, the opportunity of responding to Him with saving faith.

 

Romans 10:14-21 – While this passage is difficult and the thought is sometimes hard to follow, the basic thrust is clear.  These verses make it clear that Israel is without excuse for rejecting the gospel.  Two objections are raised by an imaginary opponent in defense of Israel: 

Verses 14-18 – Four questions are asked that imply Israel was not at fault for her failure to respond in faith to God because she lacked preachers of God’s Word.  Paul refutes this objection by quoting from Isaiah 52:7 (v.15), Isaiah 53:1 (v.16), and Psalm 19:1 (v.18)

Verses 19-20 – Israel was not at fault for her failure to respond in faith to God because the message was unclear.  The quotations from Deut. 32:31 (v.19) and Isaiah 65:1 (v.20) imply the message was clear enough for Gentiles to understand, so Israel is without excuse.

Verse 21, quoting Isaiah 65:2, spells out the real reason for Israel’s failure to respond to the gospel – she was a “…disobedient and obstinate people…”

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