Lesson 10: Salvation through Faith alone (9:30-10:21)

Paul focuses all of chapters 9 through 11 on the problem of Jewish rejection of their Messiah and its relationship to the faithfulness of God in his promises to Israel.  As we saw in chapter 9, Paul answered this question by emphasizing the sovereignty of God in choosing a faithful remnant within unfaithful ethnic Israel.  “It is not as though God’s word had failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (9:6). This answer led to two objections to God's sovereign choice in electing a remnant.

But now Paul changes direction. He switches from God's sovereignty in salvation to Israel's responsibility. Israel's rejection of Jesus is the negative side corresponding to the positive side of God saving an elect remnant. But why would Israel, for that matter anyone, reject Jesus and the gospel?  In these verses, he answers why Israel rejected their Messiah and failed to obtain righteousness.

Paul does not just focus on Israel’s inability to obtain righteousness, but how righteousness–and thereby salvation–is actually obtained. It is only by confessing Jesus as our risen Lord (10:9-10).  Confessing means faith–that is, belief from the heart (10:10)–in the words of Christ (10:17)

Israel’s failed attempt to obtain righteousness (9:30-10:4)

Israel did not obtain righteousness because they sought it in the wrong way (9:30-33)

vv. 30-31 They pursued the law to obtain righteousness

Paul concludes the previous section, 9:6-29, asking, “what shall we say then?[1] Paul answers by summarizing the contrast between the believing Gentile and the unbelieving Jew. Despite all the spiritual blessings and benefits God has given Israel, only a small number of them had put their hope and trust in his Son. The situation is more surprising since the “Gentiles” did “not pursue righteousness.”  They were not interested in God’s salvation and were not seeking a right relationship with him. They were idolaters, lovers of money and pleasure (2 Timothy 31ff). This is a very unexpected result. We would have expected Israel to embrace their Messiah and the Gentiles to reject him.  But just the opposite happened. 

Nevertheless, the Gentiles “attained righteousness.” The word for “attained” emphasizes that when they heard of God’s righteousness, they accepted it, grasping it “by faith.” This is the reason the Gentile believers received salvation.  It was by putting their faith in Christ Jesus.  On the other hand, Israel “pursued a law of righteousness,” wanting to obtain righteousness through their obedience to the Mosaic law.[2]  Their pursuit of keeping the law was well known. Their entire focus was on obedience to the law. But they “did not succeed in reaching that law.”  Although they tried to obtain righteousness by keeping the law, they never succeeded. Israel, who had all the benefits of God’s gifts, did not receive the righteousness they longed for.  In the following two verses, Paul explains why this happened.

v. 32a Answer: They pursued works of the law to obtain righteousness

This shocking contrast between the Gentiles and Israel raised a second question. “Why” would such a thing happen; that is, why did the Jews not reach the righteousness they sought? Paul gives two answers to this question.[3] Paul’s first answer is, the Jews tried to meet the requirements of the law “based on works” and not “by faith.” So, the problem was not the law itself (7:12) but trying to obtain righteousness through keeping the law.

How could they have it so wrong? Because they tried to obtain righteousness by keeping the law through their own efforts rather than by faith and trust in God; that is, by loving God with all their heart, soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).  By this method of works, righteousness is an impossible goal to reach. This is a very sobering answer.  Paul is saying, one can seek fellowship with God the wrong way.  There is only one way to have fellowship with God: though union with Christ. The fundamental problem with seeking righteousness by obedience to God’s law is underestimating one’s own sin. And by so doing, they thought they were good enough to stand before God.  Paul will come back to expand on this answer in 10:3-4.

vv. 32b-33 And so they stumbled over Christ

So, no amount of obedience can make one righteous.  The penalty of sin is death and good works cannot overcome this.  The second problem with seeking righteousness by one’s own efforts is, it underestimates the cost of salvation.  The penalty of sin, which is the cost of salvation, required the death of Christ.  Because of these two underestimations, Israel “stumbled over the stumbling stone.” The “stumbling stone” is an Old Testament reference to Israel’s Messiah. When their Messiah came, Israel did not recognize him, assuming they could be righteous on their own. These reasons are the same for most people today who reject Christ but still believe they are good enough to go to heaven when they die; they do not see the depth of their own sin nor the penalty of death it deserves.

Paul also explains Israel’s failure by an illustration from Isaiah.  He combines two verses (Isaiah 27:16 and 8:14) to show, the Jews could not accept a crucified Messiah. Paul had stated in an earlier letter, the cross was a stumbling block and an offense to them (1 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 5:11; see also 1 Peter 2:8). Quoting Isaiah, Paul states, Jesus was a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” This is exactly what Simeon prophecies when the infant Jesus is brought to the temple. There Simeon told Mary, “Behold this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed” (Luke 2:34).  Jesus also uses a similar metaphor when referring to the Jewish leaders; he states, “Have you not read this Scripture: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?”  (Mark 12:10-11).

Israel’s ignorance of how to obtain the righteousness of God (10:1-4)

vv. 1-3

In these verses, Paul restates his concern, similarly to the beginning of this section (9:1-3), that his “heart’s desire and prayer” was for his fellow Israelites to be “saved.”  He knows that his “brothers” rejection of their Messiah and his gospel will result in their eternal condemnation on the day of judgment. His prayer is that they will come to a saving knowledge of their Messiah before it is too late.

Paul recognizes his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters have a great “zeal for God.”  He knows this because he had the same zeal (Galatians 1:14). Although this zeal was for God, it was a misdirected zeal.  The reason, Paul states, is because it was “not according to knowledge.”  Of course, they had a great deal of knowledge of God’s law.  They knew their Scriptures very well.  However, their great mistake was, they did not accept God’s way of making people right with himself. They did not accept the meaning and necessity of the cross. God’s way of righteousness was to place their sin and punishment on his Son and to place his Son’s righteousness on them.  This Great Exchange of sin for righteousness could only be received through faith. But they refused to accept God’s way. They could not fathom God would come in human form and die on a Roman cross for them (1 Corinthians 1:23). And so, they clung to their old way of getting right with God through keeping the law.

v. 10:1 Paul’s sorrow over their mistake

Paul is so overwhelmed again by his people’s rejection of Jesus; he cries out in a lament.  It is Paul’s “heart’s desire” as we saw so powerfully in 9:2-3. Because of God’s sovereignty, Paul’s “prayer to God for them” is that all Israel “may be saved.”  It is important to note even though Paul has stated it is God’s sovereign choice to establish a faithful remnant within unfaithful Israel, he still prays for the salvation of all Israel. Paul is not a fatalist; he knows God has put it in his heart to pray for their salvation.  This, then, is important for us today to continue to pray for our unsaved family, friends, co-workers and neighbours.  Although tension exists between God’s sovereign choosing and our prayers for salvation, both are consistently taught in Scripture. 

vv. 10:2-3 They had zeal without knowledge

Paul reiterates Israel’s failure to obtain righteousness. Their failure was not just in keeping the law but that they did “not submit to God’s righteousness”; that is, they did not accept their own sinfulness nor the imputed righteousness of Christ.  Their religious piety for God was not in question.  But this fervour or “zeal for God” was without “knowledge” for they were “ignorant of the righteousness of God.” That is, they could not understand the spiritual truth of the gospel. The great contrast is the “righteousness of God” and “their own righteousness.” As a result, they were not able to “submit to God’s righteousness.”

Christ is the end of the law (10:4)

v. 4

Verse 4 is the summary statement for all Paul has already said in chapters 1 through 8. It is one of the most significant of Paul’s theological statements concerning the gospel and its relationship to both Jews and Gentiles. In the rest of chapter 10, Paul will bring out the implication of this statement. The verse is as follows:

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

The meaning of the phrase “Christ is the end of the law” has resulted in a great deal of debate. First, the word “law” refers to the Mosaic law. The Greek word often translated as “end” can mean “goal,” and so “Christ is the goal to which the law points; and when the goal is reached, the law also comes to an end.”[4] The emphasis, however, is that Christ is the fulfilment of all the law demands (Matthew 5:17). Once Christ came, the requirements of the law were fulfilled, resulting in the culmination of the law (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14). Of course, this does not mean there is no law for Christians.  Now Christians are under the “law of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2).  The Mosaic law is also “profitable” and so should be studied and understood by the faithful Christians (2 Timothy 3:16).[5]

Paul continues his thought by saying that the law is ended “for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Christ has fulfilled the law so that justification (righteousness) may be attained through faith in Christ.  The law itself was never given as a method for justification since it was not possible to meet its demands.  However, Paul states that this is just what the unbelieving Jews were trying to do; they sought to establish their justification before God through obedience to the law.      

Israels flawed understanding of obtaining righteousness (10:5-13)

Misunderstanding righteousness based on faith (10:5-8)

Paul now quotes Moses twice, contrasting two methods for justification; one by works of the law (v. 5) and the other by faith (vv. 6-7). Paul points out that these two contrasting methods already existed in the Old Testament. As well, Paul includes a running commentary on how Moses’ statements apply to the gospel.  This distinction in how justification is obtained enables Gentiles to be included in the elect people of God.[6]

v. 5 Righteousness by works

In verse 5, Paul’s quotation is from Leviticus 18:5.  But before he begins the quote, he states, Moses is writing “about the righteousness that is based on the law.”  This refers to the attempt by Israel to obtain their own righteousness through obedience to the law (9:31-32; 10:3). Surprisingly, it is not part of Moses’ Leviticus quote. Rather, it is Paul’s understanding of what the law meant to Jews in Paul’s day.  For Paul, the word “righteousness” means justification before God; those who are justified are no longer under condemnation (8:1). However, when we read the original quote and context in Leviticus, Moses does not seem to be speaking about justification that leads to salvation; that is, eternal life.  Instead, Moses warns the Israelites not to engage in pagan worship as the Egyptians did when they were still in bondage.  When they entered the land of Canaan, they were not to practice the detestable worship of the Canaanites. Instead, they were supposed to obey the law that the Lord God had given them on Mount Sinai.  The text is as follows:

You shall therefore keep my statues and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:5)

God was instructing them how to live in their promised land in order that he would bless and prosper them. He did not mean an Israelite would receive eternal life (salvation) by doing the law. Paul, however, clearly has eternal life in view and not just earthly life in the land of Canaan. So, has Paul misunderstood what God was saying through Moses? Not at all. He is simply describing how Jews understand righteousness. By the time Paul was writing to the Roman church, orthodox Jewish tradition had, indeed, understood Leviticus 18:5 to mean promised eternal life by keeping the law.[7]    This was also the issue Paul had been addressing in 10:2-3.  It is also how Paul interprets this Leviticus quote in his other letter to the Galatians (Galatians 3:12).  Paul’s point then is, if one is trying to obtain righteousness by keeping the law, it must be done perfectly; this is, of course, an impossible task.

But why had the Jews of Paul’s day interpreted Leviticus like this?  They understood Judah had been sent into exile in Babylon because they had not kept the law.  They also believed Assyria had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel for the same reason.  So, when they returned from exile (see Ezra and Nehemiah) they believed they needed to keep the law in order to be right with God.  The Pharisee movement continued to develop from this way of thinking to the time of Paul. Israel was certainly required to obey the law, as the quote from Leviticus makes plain.  And the law was not difficult to understand, as the following quote (vv. 6-8) states.  However, it was never meant as a means to obtain righteousness.  Righteousness was always a gift of grace from God to those Israelites whose hearts were faithful to him.

vv. 6-8 Righteousness by faith

Paul quotes Moses again in these verses, this time from Deuteronomy.  Paul begins with contrasting a righteousness from the law with “righteousness based on faith.” However, once again, Paul’s quote does not match exactly what Moses said. 

Moses spoke about the law to be obeyed, while Paul interpreted Moses as speaking about Christ. However, Paul is not saying, Moses predicts the gospel by speaking about the law.  The connection Paul is making is, both the Mosaic law and the gospel of Christ are easy to understand and are readily available to everyone.[8]  Moses had stated, his teaching was “not too hard for you, nor is it out of your reach” (Deuteronomy 30:11 nasb). Moses then uses dramatic imagery of going to the highest of heaven or going beyond the sea. Moses said that his teaching on the law did not require anyone to make such drastic trips to obtain or understand the law. Instead, Moses says that “the word is very near you” and it is so close that it is “in your mouth and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:14).  So, Moses’s purpose was not to let the Israelites evade accountability for breaking the law by claiming they did not know or understand it.

Paul is saying the same thing about the gospel.  This is Paul’s running commentary. The gospel, like the law, is not remote or difficult to understand. There is no need to “ascend into heaven” (v. 6) or to “descend into the abyss” (v. 7) because the gospel is as near as “your mouth” and “your heart” (v. 8).  As John Stott writes, “The whole emphasis is on the close, ready, easy accessibility of Christ and his gospel.”[9] In the same way God was “near” to the Israelites in giving them the law, so now God is “near” to Jews and Gentiles in giving them his Son, Jesus Christ.

How to receive righteousness by faith (10:9-10)

v. 9

Paul now summarizes the gospel by continuing to use Moses's imagery of mouth and heart.  He states that the “word is near you” (v. 8) “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.”  This is one of the earliest Christian confessions.  It emphasizes both inward belief and trust: that is, the “heart,” which is a life lived “according to the Spirit” (8:5). Saving faith also includes an outward confession: that is, the “mouth.” Both these things are an essential part of a saving faith in Christ.

v. 10

In typical Hebrew parallelism, Paul repeats what he said in verse 9.  The parallel between “justification” and “saved” is important. There is no real difference between these two words in meaning. To be justified is to be credited (counted, imputed) with the righteousness of Christ, and so we are saved from condemnation on the day of judgment (8:1).

The universality of righteousness by faith (10:11-13)

v. 11

This verse begins with the word “for” meaning it builds on what was previously said and moving the thought forward. Paul again quotes Isaiah and states, the gospel is for “everyone” equally (Isaiah 28:16). He highlights this in the next verse by saying, “there is no distinction.” And just in case we are still unsure, he repeats for a third time, quoting the prophet Joel, that salvation is for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” (Joel 2:32).

Paul has already quoted Isaiah 28:16 in chapter 9, verse 33. He states, “everyone who believes in him [Jesus] will not be put to shame.” In Isaiah, the object of belief was God, but here it is Jesus. Also, the word for “believes” is not mere intellectual assent, simply agreeing the gospel is true.  The meaning is to entrust oneself entirely to Jesus.  It is a living trust informing all aspects of life. Although trust is necessary, it is not sufficient. It must be a trust resulting from a loving relationship with Jesus.  The foundation of trust is love. Paul himself makes this clear in his famous chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13).  This is the full definition of Christian faith.  Yes, it includes belief and trust but these are grounded in a loving relationship with Jesus.

Because this loving trust is in Jesus, who is the Son of God, it is not a misplaced trust; we will not be “put to shame” by our trust in him.  Following on from the great chapter of God's sovereignty (chapter 9), we know God is able and willing to accomplish all he has promised.  The phrase, “put to shame,” is an interesting one for Paul to use.  It could mean that the believer’s hope will be vindicated on the day of judgment.  However, the emphasis is on the believer relationship with Jesus.

v. 12

There is “no distinction between Jew and Greek” because the relationship with the Lord is the same for both. This is the positive side of 3:22, where Paul also says, “there is no distinction for all have sinned.” Until the time of Christ, God had dealt differently with Israel than with other nations.  But now, since the gospel was proclaimed, God has dealt the same way with all people.  He is the “Lord of all” people. However, only those who “call on him” will receive “his riches.”  Paul explains the meaning of “call on him” in the next verse.  The meaning of “his riches” most likely means the righteousness of God credited (counted, imputed) to those who place their trust in him. It can also mean rich in mercy and blessings.

v. 13

For the third time, Paul includes all people when he states, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This statement is a quote from Joel 2:32. To “call on the name of the Lord” means to worship him. It is, therefore, similar to the meaning of “believe” or “trust” (vs. 9, 10). The phrase is often used in both the Old and New Testament to mean thanksgiving, praise and worship, and a life of obedience and trust (Genesis 4:26; Isaiah 64:1, 7; Psalms 116:14-15; 79:5-6; Acts 2:21; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:22). The phrase “name of the Lord” implies a dependent intimacy only available to those who are in union with Christ.

As well, verse 13 highlights human responsibility in our relationship with God.  The word “everyone” not only implies independence from ethnic origin, social status, or gender (Galatians 3:28) but also, no one is ever refused who desires to be “saved.”  In chapter 9, Paul spoke of God’s sovereignty in salvation; here he speaks of human responsibility.  Although this seems to be a contradiction for us, they are not for God. Scripture consistently maintains both teachings without apology or explanation to resolve the antinomy.  It is important to accept both equally without devaluing the other.

In many ways, verse 13 is a restatement of verse 11.  The phrase “calls on the name of the Lord” is similar to “everyone who believes.” And “saved” is similar to “not put to shame.”

These misunderstandings resulted in Israel’s Disobedience (10:14-21)

Why does someone reject or accept God’s salvation? Paul’s answer to that question in chapter 9 was God's sovereignty, that is, God’s free choice. But then he asks the same question again in 9:30-33: how could it be Israel would have stumbled “over the stone stumbling,” Jesus Christ? Now in 10:14-21, Paul, again, asked the same question: why does someone reject the gospel?

He begins by asking diagnostic questions. Paul is asking: Is the reason they do not believe because no one told them about the gospel? Or is it because they have not heard the gospel?  Or is it because they did not believe the gospel when it was told to them? He then responds none of these are why people reject the gospel.  Then, in the last verse (v. 21), he answers: The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.

How God accomplishes Salvation (Righteousness) by faith (10:14-17)

vv. 14-15

Paul now explains the citation from Joel, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” (“call on him” v. 14), with four rhetorical questions. He does this by tracing the sequence, in reverse order, in which a believer comes to saving faith. Again, “call” means to worship and trust the Lord.  Paul begins with someone who worships Christ. However, it is necessary to “believe” in the Lord before this can be done.  And to “believe” in the Lord means a saving faith in the Lord. To have a saving faith in the Lord, a person must have “heard” about Christ and the gospel.  But it is not simply hearing facts about Jesus; it is hearing them through “someone preaching”; that is, the gospel's message is believed when heard through a messenger of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:20; 13:3).[10]  And finally, these messengers must be “sent” by God.

Paul quotes Isaiah to show the importance of preachers whom God sends to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  In its original context, the quote celebrates the good news that the Jews had been released from exile in Babylon.  Paul reapplies this to the gospel's good news that believers are now released from the power of sin and death.

When we reorder the sequence, Paul’s argument for evangelism is clear: God sends preachers, preachers present the message of the gospel, people hear the message through God’s messages, some people believe the gospel, those who do call on the name of the Lord, and those who call are saved.  The order is stated in negative terms and highlights the importance of evangelism in the way God calls people to himself.

v. 16

Paul now applies the evangelistic efforts of verses 14 and 15 to Israel.  He concludes, “they have not all obeyed the gospel.”  The “they” within the context of this section is the nation of Israel.  If God has determined how the gospel is proclaimed among his people, then why have not all accepted it?  Paul quotes Isaiah, who foresaw their unbelief: “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” Isaiah predicted the rejection of the coming Messiah of Israel in the fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

The apostle John in his gospel also quotes the same verse when he states, despite all the signs Jesus did, the majority of Jews still did not believe in him.  John then observes, their rejection of Jesus was so “the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled” (John 12:38).

v. 17

Still, they should have believed since it was not difficult to understand (vv. 6-7), and so they are responsible for their unbelief. The reason is given in verse 17, where Paul summarizes the order of evangelism: “faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” “Faith” is a gift of God to all who hear the gospel preached.

The phrase “word of Christ” means both the gospel message and the person of Christ.  Still, why did they not believe? Given that they had all the benefits and blessings of God’s unique covenants and were expecting their Messiah, why did they reject him when he did come?  Paul now dismisses two explanations for why this could have happened and then gives his own reason.

Israel has heard, known and rejected God’s message of salvation (10:18-21)

vv. 18-20 Not the reasons why the Jews rejected Jesus

The first reason Paul rejects – it is Paul asking the question “But I say” and not an opponent – is the Jews did not hear about the gospel. He makes it clear, “indeed they have.”  For evidence they heard, he quotes Psalm 19:4.

       “Their voice has gone out to all the earth,

                  and their words to the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18b)

The difficulty is, Psalm 19:4 does not deal with the proclamation of the gospel “to all the earth.” Instead, it talks about creation and how the created world proclaims the glory of God.  It is, of course, entirely unreasonable to think that Paul did not know this.  He has applied the reference to creation to the church and the gospel.  We could even say this is a typical rabbinical lesser-to-greater argument, although not explicitly given: if the revelation of creation proclaims God’s glory, how much more does the revelation of his gospel?[11]  The meaning of “to all the earth” refers to every location where the Jewish community existed.

Someone might argue, although they heard, they did not understand the gospel. It is possible to hear without understanding, as Jesus himself stated in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:19).  But Paul also rejects a lack of understanding because they did not accept their own Messiah.  This time Paul quotes Moses to prove this position (Deuteronomy 32:21).

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” (10:19b, quoting Deuteronomy 32:21)

Moses contrasts faithless Israel with the Gentiles whom God is using for his purposes in moving forward his plan of salvation.  Surprisingly, it is the Gentile no-nation that is a “foolish nation” without understanding and not Israel. The implication, although not explicitly stated, is that Israel, with all its blessings (9:4-5), is a nation who should have understood the significance and meaning of the gospel.  However, rather than accepting the gospel, they became jealous and angry at its proclamation to the no-nation of Gentiles (Acts 13:44-45 and many others).  Paul now quotes Isaiah, who also agrees with Moses that Israel understood.

“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; quoting Isaiah 65:1)

Paul interprets Isaiah by also using a lesser-to-greater argument: if the spiritually ignorant Gentiles understood the gospel, then Israel, with all its spiritual blessings, should have had no difficulty in understanding. Paul’s emphasis is not on the Gentiles' acceptance but on Israel’s rejection. So, Paul, having quoted both Moses (law) and Isaiah (prophet), has made it clear the Jews are without excuse for rejecting Jesus Christ.

v. 21 The reason why the Jews rejected Jesus

Earlier (10:3), Paul said they were “ignorant of the righteousness of God.” But this was a willful ignorance because they had failed to trust in God for their righteousness. Because of their self-righteousness, they unsuccessfully pursued a God-righteousness (9:31). They should have known from their Scriptures not to attempt to establish their own righteousness by law-keeping (Deuteronomy 9:4-5; Isaiah 28:16). They, therefore, understood the gospel sufficiently to be held responsible for rejecting it. The self-righteous Pharisees rejected it, while unrighteous tax collectors and sinners accepted it (Mark 2:16; Luke 15:1-2).

So here, in verse 21, Paul contrasts the believing Gentiles with the unbelieving Jews. However, Paul’s quote of Isaiah 65:2 also has a note of hopefulness.  When God says, “all day long, I have held out my hands,” there is an implication God has not rejected his people.  He has held out his hands even though they are “disobedient and obstinate” in their attitude to the gospel. God continues to be faithful to the promises to his people, although they have been unfaithful to him. God holds out his arms even now. This hope anticipates Paul’s prophecy that “all Israel will be saved” (11:26).[12]

Summary of Chapters 9 and 10

What shall we say then about the faithfulness of God concerning his word (9:6)?  Chapters 9 and 10 have given two complementary answers:

1.      God’s sovereignty (9:6-29): God’s word has not failed because God’s promises never included all of Abraham's biological descendants. In his free will, God chose those he desired to bless.

2.      Human responsibility (9:30-10:21): God’s word had not failed because it was Israel’s responsibility to accept God’s way of righteousness when they heard and understood the gospel. This they were unable to do.


Questions for Reflection

Study it

1. [10:1] Compare v. 1 with 9:1-3. What is Paul’s primary concern for his kinsmen? For what does Paul pray?

1. [10:2-3] Paul states Jews have a “zeal” for God not based on knowledge. What was the problem with zeal?

2. [10:4-10] What are the two ways of seeking acceptance with God contrasted here?  How do they oppose each other? Was there one way in the Old Testament and the other in the New?

3. [10:11-13] What does Paul say about the universality of obtaining a righteousness before God?

4. [10:14-15] What does Paul say about evangelism?  What steps does he outline?

5. [10:16-21] Why did the Jews not believe in the gospel and their own Messiah?

6. How would you answer the question whether God’s word has failed Israel?

Live it

1. Although chapter 9 teaches about the sovereign free will of God in establishing a faithful people, in 10:1 Paul says his “prayer to God for Israelites is that they may be saved.” How does the sovereignty of God and prayer for salvation work together?

2. Can you identify a kind of zeal in Christian churches that is also not based on knowledge?

3. What reason would you give if someone asked you why you believe you have eternal life and will not be condemned?

4. What is our responsibility when we hear the gospel?

5. What have you learned about evangelism from this passage?


[1] This is the sixth time Paul uses that phrase in the letter. Three times it begins with a false assertion (6:1-2; 7:7; 9:14) and three times introduces a possible conclusion (4:1; 8:31; 9:30).

[2] Cranfield, 508.

[3] It is worth noting that Paul does not say that Israel’s rejection was because of God’s electing choice. Instead, he says it is because of their own wrong choices.  So, this chapter highlights both God’s sovereign election (9:6-29) and human responsibility (9:30-10:3). Paul is not contradicting himself.  As John Stott writes, “‘antinomy’ is the right word to use, not ‘contradiction’” (Stott, 278).

[4] Schreiner, 40 Questions, 69.

[5] Moo, Romans, 660.

[6] Ibid, 662.

[7] Schreiner, 40 Questions, 62.

[8] Stott, 284.

[9] Ibid, 284.

[10] Stott, 286.

[11] Stott, 288.

[12] Ibid, 505.