In our last lesson, we examined Roman 9:1-18. Paul is specifically talking to his Jewish people, and he has been letting them know how much he loves them and wants them to understand that salvation only comes through Christ and that God has every right to offer salvation to the Gentiles as well. He has been teaching them that those who are part of true Israel are not those who can trace their lineage back to Abraham, but it is anyone who loves God and obeys His will.
We were looking at some the objections that Paul was answering that his fellow Jews might ask about. As we begin this lesson, we will start with another objection the Jews might have about what Paul has said.
Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"† 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?"† 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
Paul had just said that God will have mercy on who He will have mercy and will harden whomever He wants to harden. Though I already showed that we have a free will and God doesnít force us to do anything, Paul is entertaining the idea that if we have no choice in matter of how we will be, whether good or evil, then how can God find fault with us?
Now, we might expect a different answer from Paul, but he chose to answer this question in different way. Basically, he is saying that if were true that we have no choice in the matter of what we will be, who are we to accuse God of being unfair. He created us, and He has all the power.
Paul uses an illustration that the Jews would understand because it was common for someone to be using clay and a wheel to make vessels. However, I believe there is deeper statement being made by this illustration because while the potter is certainly in charge of how the vessel will be used, there another aspect to this because the quality of the clay will also determine what the potter can use the clay to make. A great example of this comes from the time of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 18:1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying:† 2 "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words."† 3 Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. †4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. †
In this example, God is going to use Jeremiah to proclaim an important message to Israel using this potter and the clay. If the clay is too wet, it can collapse, but the potter will not let the clay to go to waste, he will try and reform it into something that is usable. Letís notice the lesson that is taught.
Jeremiah 18:5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:† 6 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!† 7 "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,† 8 "if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.† 9 "And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,† 10 "if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.
So, the point is that God is control of Israel and all nations. God is like the potter because He has us in His hands. Now, if we choose to be rebellious people and become like wet clay, then we too can be destroyed in the hands of God. However, if we are living for God and obeying His will, then we are going to be the perfect kind of clay that can be molded into a vessel of honor instead of dishonor.
Back in our text in Romans, Paul is clearly stating that God is in control and that we have no right to complain or make judgments against our Creator. However, Paul is not teaching that we have no choice in what we become. To say that would contradict the other verses we have looked that teach that we have a freewill and the right to choose.
Now that Paul has established that God in control has the right to choose, he is now going to show that God has the right to choose between believers, whether Jew or Gentile, and unbelievers.
Romans 9:22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,† 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,† 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?† 25 As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved."† 26 "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,`You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God."† 27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.† 28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth."† 29 And as Isaiah said before: "Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah."
I think if most people were in the place of God, we wouldnít exist right now, but our God is a patient and merciful God. We truly deserve that wrath of God, and God does indeed dish out His wrath, but He also gives us time to repent. As Peter said:
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
God put up with a lot from the Jews, but He also put up with a lot from the rest of the world. However, He wanted us all to have the opportunity to be saved. Verse 23 shows that the riches of His glory would be shown to the vessels of mercy. Now, the Jews might think only they would be a vessel of mercy, but Paul shows that Godís plan was for everyone, both Jew and Gentile. Those who are called are those who have obeyed the Gospel. It is only through obedience to Godís will that He can form us into vessels of honor.
Paul uses Hosea as a voice for the Gentiles who can be saved under the new covenant:
"I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved."† 26 "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,`You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God."
There is no greater honor than to be called, ďsons of the living GodĒ. We should be thankful that God has had a plan in place from the beginning that included us all and not just the Jews.
In verses 27-29, Paul points out how Isaiah talked about how only a remnant of the Jews would be saved, which is reference to how they were taken into captivity because of their rebellion, but God allowed a small number of them to be saved and return. If God had not spared this remnant, there would be no seed left, which means there would be no Jews because they would be wiped out like Sodom was.
You would think that the remnant would be first in line to accept the Gospel, but they were not. While some of the remnant did obey the gospel, many did not. So, the question becomes, why did only a small remnant of Israel accept Godís plan? Paul answers this question in the following verses:
Romans 9:30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;† 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.† 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.† 33 As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
Paul gets right to point showing that Israelís problem with the doctrine of Christ was not Godís fault or the Gentileís fault, it was Israelís fault. When a Jew read this, it would make them feel like God wasnít being fair if what Paul was saying was true. The Jews pursued righteousness through their works. They did what they thought would make them righteous, but the Gentiles didnít ever pursue God or do works that were taught in the Law, but many of them were able to obtain righteousness through faith.
This is the reason God accepted so many Gentiles while only a small number of the remnant of Jews were being saved and made righteous under the new covenant. Though the Gentiles had little to do with God before, when they heard the Gospel, they believed and obeyed it. They had no problem accepting Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, but the Jews did. In fact, Paul quotes from Isaiah of how he prophesied about how Jesus would be a stumbling block for the Jews. He certainly was. Many of them would not listen to what He had to say, and they ignored or tried to explain away all the miracles He did. Even after He died and was raised again, many of them continued to deny all the evidence that showed that He was the Son of God.
However, you will notice at the end of verse 33, that the prophecy included hope for the Jews because some of them would believe in Jesus and would also obey the gospel and become faithful Christians, thus they would not be ashamed.
Letís continue with chapter 10.
Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.† 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.† 3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.† 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
In chapter 9, Paul already made it clear how much he loves his Jewish brethren and would become accursed for them in their place, but we know thatís not possible. Again, he expresses that his heartís desire and prayer to God is for Israel to be saved. Do we have this same desire for our fellow man? Do we pray to God that the lost might be saved? Paul was always concerned for the lost but especially for Israel since they should know better.
Paul could bear witness that his fellow Israelites had a strong zeal for God because he used to be just like them. Notice what he said to his fellow men as he gives his defense:
Acts 22:3† "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.
Paul certainly understand their zeal, but he also understands that zeal by itself will not make you be right with God if it is not according to knowledge.
NET Proverbs 19:2 It is dangerous to have zeal without knowledge, and the one who acts hastily makes poor choices.
Other versions use the word desire, but the thought is the same. I am sure many of you know religious people who are zealous for God and talk about Him often, but they lack the proper knowledge of Godís Word.
When Paul says they are ignorant of Godís righteousness, he is not saying they donít understand that God is righteous because they know that. What he is saying is that they are ignorant of His plan by which God makes people righteous through the New Testament teachings. Instead of seeking out the truth from Godís Word, they use their zeal to establish their own righteousness, which of course means they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.
There are many examples of this throughout the N.T. where Jesus would correct the Jewís teachings they had added to the Law such as the Sabbath and washing of hands (Mt. 15). They came up with all these traditions and began to hold them equal and sometimes even higher than Godís Word.
How many religious people do you know that are like this? Some of them are really committed to their brand of religion. Since they are a zealous about it, they can get others excited about it and cause other people to blindly follow their way. I love seeing people who are full of zeal especially when they a full of zeal for God, but many are like Paul was before he allowed himself to be pricked in the heart by the truth from Godís Word.
I wish we could take all the zealous people of this world who are ignorant of Godís righteousness and open their eyes so they can see they have a misdirected zeal. I want them to be like Paul who said the following about his thoughts after his zeal was redirected toward the truth.
Philippians 3:8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ† 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
Paul desperately wants his fellow Jews to understand this, but they donít.
Finally, Paul says:
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
This is difficult teaching for the Jews to accept because it means they must give up what they have practices all their lives and accept a new truth under a new covenant. Though some things from Law of Moses were restated under the new covenant, many things such as keeping the sabbath, feast days, circumcision, animal sacrifices, etc would no longer be binding under the N.T.
Jesus is the one who made this happen. Paul clarifies what the purpose of the old covenant was:
Galatians 3:24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
He also says the following about the old covenant.
Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,† 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.† 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.† 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,† 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
The message is clear. The Law of Moses has served its purpose because we now have Christ and the new covenant that came through His sacrifice on the cross. If we are going to be pleasing to God, then we must have our zeal directed by the righteousness of God as taught under the new covenant and not the old.
Next, we are going to examine verse 5-13, which teaches us that faith is the foundation for our salvation. Letís begin with just reading the verses.
Romans 10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them."† 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, "Do not say in your heart,`Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down from above)† 7 or, "`Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).† 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart " (that is, the word of faith which we preach):† 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.† 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.† 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."† 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.† 13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
Letís break this down starting with verse 5.
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them."†
Once again, Paul is making the point to his fellow Jews that you cannot obtain righteousness through keeping the Law of Moses perfectly. Paul seems to have Leviticus 18:5 in mind.
Leviticus 18:5 `You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.†
However, the problem was one would have to keep the Law perfectly or they would be accursed.
Deuteronomy 27:26 `Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law by observing them.' And all the people shall say,`Amen!'
Galatians 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."
James 2:10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
Paul is driving the point home that it is impossible to obtain righteousness through the works of the Law of Moses, but he is going to show that we can obtain righteousness through the system of obedient faith/grace through Jesus.†
6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, "Do not say in your heart,`Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down from above)† 7 or, "`Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart " (that is, the word of faith which we preach): †
Paul is personifying the righteousness of faith as a speaker, which is referring to the faith/grace system we are under. Remember, Paul is mainly addressing his fellow Jews and what he writes next comes from Deuteronomy 30:11-14, which is part of Mosesí farewell speech to the Israelites.
Deuteronomy 30:11 "For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off.† 12 "It is not in heaven, that you should say,`Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'† 13 "Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say,`Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'† 14 "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.†
Do you see the similarities? What do you think Paul is teaching his fellow men? He is teaching them same thing that Peter taught them (Acts 2:22-24; 30-32). Jesus has already come down from heaven and has already been raised from the dead. Many of these Jews struggled with Jesus being the Messiah because He didnít fit their idea of the Messiah. They thought the Messiah would come and set up a physical kingdom like it was under King David, but they were wrong.
They all had access to the truth that Paul and others has been proclaiming, but they had failed to accept that truth. True salvation comes through the wonderful word of faith that they were preaching, which the Word of God and the message of the cross.
†9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.† 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.†
Many in the denominational world who teach that faith only saves will run to these two verses, but there is a problem because faith alone would mean just that, faith alone. Yet, in this text, we have confessing Jesus as Lord, which would be in addition to faith alone. In order to get around this, they would say that confession is simply an expression of your faith. I have no problem with saying that if you have faith in God, then you will confess Jesus as Lord. However, what would keep us from allowing our faith in God to repent or to be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins as the Scriptures also teach (Lk 13:3: Acts 2:38)? I canít think of any reason not to follow these other commands that have to do with salvation.
What about those who believed in Jesus, yet would not confess Him as Lord?
John 12:42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;† 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
I think Jesus says it best in:
Matthew 10:32 "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.† 33 "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
This should cause a real problem for the faith only doctrine if they will simple consider these verses we have looked at. They would have to say these men who would not confess but believed were saved, but we know this isnít true based on what Jesus has just said.
In our verses in Romans, Paul was not giving the entirety of Godís plan of salvation as he doesnít mention repentance or baptism, but he was simply saying that those who do believe in Jesus will confess Jesus as the Lord, which is certainly part of Godís plan of salvation, but we must never take one or two verses and claim that this is all that one must do to be saved. Faith, confessing, repentance, and baptism work hand and hand and not separate and apart from each other. We know the Scriptures clearly teach that baptism is the point our sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38), but not by baptism alone.
Also, the grammar behind the word Ďconfessí in our text carries with it the idea of a continuing action. While we confess Jesus as our Lord as part of our salvation, we are to continue to confess Jesus as our Lord throughout our Christian lives. We should never be ashamed of our Lord.
Paul goes on to say:
11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."† 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.† 13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
Paul quotes Isa. 28:16 in verse 11, which is certainly true because if you believe on Him, then you will not be put to shame. Again, believing on Him includes more than just belief alone or we are going to have to say the demons who believed in Jesus would not be put to shame either (Jam. 2:19). Believing on Him includes everything that is involved in becoming saved.
The Jews wouldnít like verse 12, but it is true. Under this system of faith/grace, salvation is available to all, whether Jew or Greek, because the Jews were not the only people God cared for or would save, which is why Paul said there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. God is rich toward us all. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Once again, we have a phrase that some religious groups will run to, which is ďcalling on the name of the LordĒ. They will associate this with the idea of the ďsinnerís prayerĒ or ďasking Jesus into your heartĒ, but this is a grave misunderstand of this phrase.
Letís dig a little deeper and find out what else Godís Word says about ďcalling on the name of the LordĒ. On the day of Pentecost, Peter quotes Joel and said: ďAnd it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved (Acts 2:21).Ē
When the people heard this saying, they did not get the idea that all they had to do was ask Jesus into their hearts. Instead, they asked Peter what they must do (Acts 2:37). Peter let them know that ďcalling on the name of the LordĒ included repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38), which shows that ďcalling on the name of the LordĒ is associated with being baptized, and it is more than just invoking His name or asking Him into your heart to be saved.†
Jesus made it clear that it takes more than a verbal plea such as Lord Lord to be saved because a person must obey the Fatherís will (Mt. 7:21; Lk. 6:46). So, ďcalling on the name of the LordĒ includes obeying the gospel (Rom.10:13-16).
We call also see this with what Ananias told Paul in:
Acts 22:16† `And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'†
Without a doubt, ďcalling on the name of the LordĒ in no way is limited to just confessing Jesus as Lord because it also includes repentance and baptism as I have clearly shown, but we should not let these verses distract us from the important message Paul is teaching, which is that salvation doesnít come through keeping the Law of Moses perfectly nor is it just for the Jews because itís for everyone who has an obedient faith to God through Jesus.†