The Weekend, June 27 & 28 –
It is the weekend and so our reading covers both Saturday and Sunday. We have been reading in the book of Romans and today our reading is from Romans 10:1-21. I invite you to read the Scripture first and then return so that we might think a bit more about what Paul has written. Thanks
The mystery of God is the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. How can we understand the three-in-one tri-unity of God? It is a mystery, but in any language that does not affirm it, you can be sure there is heresy. What we often run up against in thinking about the nature of God is our own finite limitations. We are limited in our comprehension of seeming paradox – when truths sit alongside each other and yet seem to be opposite of each other.
This is where we find ourselves in Romans 10 – the paradox of Romans 9 – both are true. In Romans 9 Paul made the case for Israel’s rejection of the Gospel by stating that God is like a Potter, sovereignly able to decide who he makes and for what reason he makes them. God has elected some to salvation and left the rest go there merry sinful way. Paul used the story of God and Pharaoh as an illustration of this election. Was God unfair? No, for nothing that happened to Pharaoh was not originally inside of Pharaoh – God left him to do what he naturally did. So God let Israel reject the Messiah – he was not unfair to them, it was their choice that caused them to do so.
Now in Romans 10, Paul turns the coin over to reveal the other side – that human beings choose God because God loved them (crucial to remember, go back to Rom. 5:8, 8:28-30; and 1 John 4:10). In Romans 10, Paul outlines the necessity of any person choosing to love and trust God in return.
The argument Paul makes is a continuation of chapter 9. Why did Israel reject the Gospel? In Romans 9 Paul said it was God’s elective choice.
In Romans 10 Paul says it was Israel’s responsibility and disobedience that were the root causes.
We see Paul’s heart on display – he wished Israel would respond to God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus (10:1-4). While they have zeal, it is misplaced religion, not true faith. Religious works are framed by Paul: “... being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (10:3-4). The Greek word for “end” is “teleos” and it means Christ Jesus is the completion, the goal, the one who fulfilled as of the righteous requirements of the Law. This had been Paul’s argument before. Go back and read Rom. 6:15 and 7:4,6. We are released from the requirement of Law as the means to be right with God. Christ fulfilled it for us.
Paul reminds us in 10:5-13, that the human factors concerning the need to understand and respond to the Gospel are not hidden. In a series of Old Testament quotes from the book of Deuteronomy, Paul states it clearly – it is not our efforts, but divine grace brought about by Christ’s finished work. “ because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (10:9).
The Reformers saw it clearly, salvation is “by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone”. Our responsibility as a human is not “effort”, but “believe, believe, confess” – “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved” (10:10). It is a work of God that begins in our heart and moves its way to the mind and affirmed openly through the mouth – Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord – this is what I firmly believe. The Gospel is not difficult to understand, but difficult for many because it is unconditional surrender to Christ Jesus to be Savior and Lord.
Paul continues: “the Gospel is available for all”, it is for all ethnic groups, all ages, all kinds of people from farmer to banker to children and old people to beggar and pastors – no one is outside of the Grace of God to trust in Christ. The only unifying qualification is “believe” – “trust/believe in Him” (vs 11), “call on Him (vs 12 & 13) and ask Him to save you.
Paul reminds us that this is the reason for sharing the Gospel one on one, and for proclaiming the Gospel in our churches. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (10:14-15). While we are sometimes nervous in sharing the Gospel, it is an honor to participate in God’s message of Grace through Faith in Christ.
Would that every Christian, and every Church have this as their heart’s desire. This is what creates the necessity of evangelism and Missions. We share the good news of the Gospel wherever there is an absence of that good news – whether in a household, a neighbor, a friend, or even a stranger – there is no greater news for eternity’s sake.
Lastly, Paul returns to Israel’s unbelief. If sharing the good news – the Gospel – is so great, how do we understand its rejection? Paul returns to the Old Testament and the book of Isaiah. If the message of the Gospel is understandable, and if faith is “awakened” in hearing the message, and it clearly shows us that Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of that message (“the message is heard through the word of Christ” – vs 17) and if it is not as if they didn’t hear it (vs 18), nor understand what is about (vs 19), then why is it rejected by some?
The stumbling block for Israel was their “envious(ness) by those who are not a nation” (vs 19) – the Gentiles. They didn’t like who is included. Paul makes it perfectly clear, like it or not, “...I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (10:20). It might be that this stumbling block was not just the Jewish problem, but in reverse, it was also a Gentile problem. Christ Jesus is Lord of all, not just some.
Look at Romans 9 and 10 together this weekend if you can. We learn from them that God’s Sovereignty, his election and purposed grace work to call those who will come to him by “hearing, believing, and confessing” Christ to be their Savior and Lord. Who is it for? “But of Israel, he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people’” (10:21). It is for people... Jews, Gentiles, Men, Women, White, Black, Asian, etc... people who do not know God is seeking them long before they realize it and respond to him.
The argument Paul makes could be made still today. Why does anyone believe? They believe because God calls them, and Justifies them through His effective grace and faith. When we respond by faith, trusting in Christ Jesus as Savior, we are receiving the gift of God – free and clear. When a person rejects the Gospel they are rejecting God – in any human sinful nature, it is easy to do. That’s why we pray and share the Gospel as good news – you never know when it will hit home!