For many, chapters 10-11 of Roman can be a little bit perplexing. We just read about the gospel, the great truth of salvation proclaimed by Paul in the previous chapters of the book, and we may be looking forward to the next level of completion of the truth, something more like what is covered in the chapter 12 of the same book.
But here we are, seeing the apostle staying there, almost as if he’s hesitating to march on, belaboring on some points at the same plateau.
What is it that was in the heart of the apostle?
Two things: (1) the fate of the Jews; (2) the universality of the gospel.
The apostle returns to his own race and Jewish brothers. The Jews are God’s people chosen at the time of the Old Testament to God’s testimony. But the Jews fell short of the covenant that was set between God and the people. They lived according to the requirements of the law, but have thoroughly proven that they were unable to. So the “gospel of law” turned out to be bad news to Jews, not because the law was evil, but because the people were sinful.
Now that a new gospel (which in fact is not a different gospel but the completion of the same gospel as we start to understand the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament, but that is another topic), the “gospel of grace” is proclaimed, it seems that not only did Jewish lose their privilege which they had in the times of the Old Testament, but in fact the very gospel became a stumbling stone for them. Many Jews felt not only stumped but in fact offended hearing that God is now preaching the gospel on an entirely different basis to everyone on earth who may hear.
Has God completely rejected and abandoned his people? Apostle Paul turns to his people to tell them that God has not.
But do Jews have any justification to complain about the fact that the eyes of God are now turned to Gentiles (non-Jewish people)? Pouring out his love to his own people, apostle Paul tells them they have no reason to complain. In fact, despite the unfaithfulness of Jews, God has taken that as an opportunity to manifest his complete plan of salvation, the universal salvation for everyone, Jews and Gentiles.
Only when we have become aware of this background can we start to understand why in chapters 10-11 apostle Paul quotes the Old Testament (especially the book of Deuteronomy which concerns the covenant between God and Jews) so frequently and rigorously to support his arguments.
What a vessel God has in apostle Paul! Paul is a true Jew, the Jew of the Jews, but at the same time a true new man with a new life that is based on the gospel of grace, not according to the law that was preached to the Jews in the old times.
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Romans 10:3-4:
The hope of Israel is now based on faith in Christ, as it is for everyone. It is the same gospel which the apostle announced — that if any one confessed with his mouth the Lord Jesus, and believed in his heart that God had raised Him from the dead, he should be saved.
Precious, simple, and positive truth of the gospel!
Thus now for the Jew, as for every one, it is a matter of the belief of the heart.
On this matter, J. N. Darby said it the best in the “Synopsis of the Books of the Bible”. In the following, I will both quote and paraphrase the comments made by brother Darby regarding this chapter and add my own understanding and emphasis. Those who are interested in brother Darby’s original writing, please read it in the “Synopsis of the Books of the Bible”.
Observe, it does not say, “If you love in your heart,” or, “If your heart is upright towards God.” It says, “If you believe in your heart.”
A man believes with his heart. He really believes when he has a heart genuinely interested in the thing, with his affections engaged in the truth. When the grace of God is spoken of, he desires that what is told him should be the truth. He desires the thing, and at the same time he does not doubt it. He believes not because he’s part of it, but in the truth of the thing itself, and he regards the truth as being important to himself.
It is not the state of one’s affections (however important that is) that is the subject here, but the importance and the truth of that which is presented by the word — its importance to yourself, as in your needing it for your salvation, a salvation that you are conscious of needing, that you cannot do without — a truth of which you are assured, as a testimony from God Himself. If you are such a person, the Spirit of God affirms to you that salvation belongs to you.
The object of faith is not the psychological or mental aspect of one’s effort, but it is the objective truth which God assures every one who does believe.
Faith is further manifested by the proof of its sincerity. What simplest sincerity of proof can you produce? Is it not a public confession of the name of Christ? If some one is convinced that Jesus is the Christ, but refused to confess Him, his conviction would evidently be his condemnation. May it never be like that!
The faith of the heart produces the confession of the mouth; the confession of the mouth is the counterproof of the sincerity of the faith and honesty, a kind of honesty in making the claim which the Lord has upon us in grace. It is the testimony which God requires of us when we receive grace at the outset. It is to sound the trumpet on earth in face of the enemy. It is to say that Christ has conquered, and that everything belongs to Him by the matter of rights.
Christ has indeed conquered even before you choose to believe, but now He has conquered in your personal territory, and you ought to make announcement of that victory, otherwise there would be no evidence that you are part of the victory. The confession brings in God in answer to your calling the name of Jesus. It is not those few words you say which bring in righteousness, but it is the public acknowledgment of Christ, which gives expression to the faith by which you now have participation in the righteousness of God.
Such is the participation in the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, so that it may be announced, “He believes in Christ unto salvation; he has the faith that justifies him before God.”
This is not a small matter. So many people think that they believe in Jesus Christ but cannot make a positive and unequivocal statement of his faith in public! People think it’s a small matter because one may be simply shy or even has a right to see that as a personal private matter to decide whether or not to make a statement. It is not a small matter, nor a private matter, dear friend. This is a point on which the human heart perplexes itself, and often tricks itself. An inability to make a public confession to Lord Jesus is strong evidence that there is still unbelief and self-righteousness remaining in one’s heart.
It is impossible that an awakened soul should not feel the necessity of having the heart set right and turned to God. Not submitting to the righteousness of God, he falsely thinks to make the grace of God depend on the state of his own affections, not knowing or accepting the fact that God loves us while we are still sinners.
The state of our affections is important, but it supposes a relationship already existing, according to which we love. We love because we are loved of God. Now His love has done something — has done something according to the divine glory, and according to our necessities. The task was given to Jesus, and Jesus has accomplished what was required, in order that we may participate in divine righteousness; and thus He has placed every one who, acknowledging that he is a lost sinner, believes in Him, in the secure relationship of a child and of a justified soul before God, according to the perfection of the work of Christ.
Salvation belongs to such a soul according to the declaration of God Himself. Loved with such love, saved by such grace, enjoying such favor, the saved soul cultivates affections suitable to the gift of Jesus, and to the knowledge the soul has of Him and of His goodness.
It is evident that, if it is “whosoever” believes in Jesus, the Gentile comes in as well as the Jew. There is no difference; the same Lord is rich unto all that call upon Him. It is beautiful to see this form of expression, “There is no difference,” repeated here. The apostle had used it before with the addition “for all have sinned.” Sin puts all men on a level in ruin before God. But there is also no difference for every one who calls upon His name shall be saved, because “the same Lord over all is rich unto all”.
On this declaration, the apostle also lays out the background and justification for the ministry of evangelization.
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace.” It may seem a bit odd to some of us why the apostle suddenly switches from the topic of Jews to the topic of evangelization. But it has a special connection in this particular context. The apostle took the opportunity to explain to Jews why and how the ways of God that were accomplished in his ministry is justified.
We should remember a very important aspect of the gospel mission which started at the time of apostle Paul. Paul was appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ as the apostle to the Gentiles to preach the gospel beyond Jews and Judea. The fact that the gospel reached Europe and then other parts of the world to benefit all of us today all started from that great juncture. Preaching the gospel may seem to be a natural thing for us to at least consider (if not actually to do), but it was nothing but natural for the Jews at the time.
In dealing with these questions among the Jews, the apostle naturally and masterfully rests on the authority of their own scriptures. The Jews acknowledged that the Gentiles did not know the name of the true and living God. It was therefore necessary to proclaim Him in order that they might call upon Him. It is on this ground the whole ministry of the apostle was justified to Jews.
But he applies this principle for evangelization to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles. That is, he considers not only Gentiles, but also Jews themselves need to hear the announcement of the goodness, for it had become clear then that the law was not the announcement of good news, because the law did not bring salvation to Jews.
He quotes Isaiah to the same purpose. Since it was proclaimed— a truth thus publicly preached — that Israel had not believed, therefore Jews ought to have faith in the same New Testament truth preached according to the gospel of grace.
When we read these chapters, consider the fact that apostle Paul (and ultimately the Holy Spirit) is deeply concerned of Jews at the time of the proclamation of the gospel of grace to Gentiles. It is something that we should not only carefully consider but also appreciate. As Gentiles, we tend to be self-centered even when it comes to the gospel. But our God never neglects anything that’s important. Let us learn how to be mindful of the same thing that is in the heart of God.