There is a right way to seek righteousness and a wrong way to seek righteousness. Unfortunately, the largest portion of Israel chose the wrong way. They misconstrued the purpose of the law and sought to justify themselves before God on the basis of works. In response, God hardened their hearts and made them fit for destruction. Yet, the calling of God is irrevocable, and according to His sovereign purpose, those who were chosen by Him did receive the gift of righteousness.
The final image we were left with in Romans 10 is that of God reaching out in compassion to Israel only to find them stubbornly and defiantly rejecting His offer of salvation. We are thus left with the question: “Will God wash His hands of them?” Paul’s emphatic answer is “May it never be!” Drawing upon his own personal testimony as well as the experience of the prophet Elijah, Paul reasserts that God will secure the remnant he has chosen for Himself among ethnic Israel.
In Romans 10:15, Paul had built up to a crescendo of praise to God for how He sent out preachers of the Word. But it is that triumph of the ministry of proclamation that makes the plight of lost Israel all the more grievous. Here in Romans 10:16-21, Paul returns the the subject of why Israel rejected their Messiah, and in their plight, we find the rebellious heart of all sinful men exemplified, as well as the compassion of God to save all who will respond to outstretched arms.
As Paul wrote to the church at Colossae, his heart for their well-being and spiritual health bled through every word. These verses are a prayer of sorts for their deepening love and burgeoning knowledge of Christ, who Himself is the Christian’s and the church’s greatest wealth and treasure. As Morningview stands on the cusp of a significant capitol campaign for the renovation of our building, the focus is set upon drawing near to, depending upon, and treasuring Christ.
John Murray has rightly noted that calling upon God’s name for salvation does not occur “in a vacuum; it occurs only in a context created by proclamation of the gospel on the part of those commissioned to proclaim it.” What Paul does here with this series of questions in verses 14 and 15 is walk us backwards from the sinner calling upon the Lord to the original cause of God sending His messengers to preach. What we are meant to understand is that the proclamation of God’s Word is God’s ordained means to draw His people to Himself in saving faith.
Two of the verses from this text in Romans 10 have appeared in virtually every biblical gospel tract over the last half century. They describe how saving faith is appropriated in the concert of heart belief and verbal confession. In this sermon, we explore the nature, the expression, and the result of true faith, as well as God’s confirmation of His promise that He abounds in riches for all who call upon Him in faith.
At this point in chapter 10, Paul is continuing to use the tragic error of the Jews to highlight the incredible gift of God’s grace to the nations. As the Apostle quotes from Deuteronomy 30, he is demonstrating how Christ is the fulfillment of everything God promised to Israel. Through the clear contrast of law and gospel, we are meant to realize once again that human effort has no part in our salvation and that God, in Christ, deserves all the glory in our gospel obedience and witness to the nations.
With the beginning of Romans 10, Paul is continuing to use the spiritual plight of his own people as the reference point for explaining that God’s sovereign purpose of redemption includes all the peoples of the world. As Paul again expresses his personal burden for Israel, he helps us to understand the proper heart toward the lost and the ignorant zeal of works righteousness, but his focus is verse 4 where he reminds us that true righteousness is a gift of God through Christ our Lord.
As we reach the end of Romans 9, Paul is wrapping up his very directed discussion of the doctrine of election. There is a shift in these final verses to view the subject from man’s perspective. The only possible explanation that Gentiles, who do not pursue God at all, have attained righteousness is because they believed, and that exercise of faith is a gift of God. The Jews, on the other hand, have pursued righteousness diligently, but because they trust in their works and not in Christ, they have not attained it. Faith, or lack thereof, is the reason Christ is a cornerstone for some and a stone of stumbling to others.
As we near the end of Romans 9, Paul is careful to teach that God’s sovereign purpose in election includes Gentiles. Inclusion of them was not an afterthought nor a late addition, but part of His eternal plan from the very beginning. Just as God had chosen a remnant of Israel after disavowing them, God also chose Gentiles to receive His grace. Even more, the only reason anyone is saved is because God Himself spares them from destruction and makes them His own.