We have started to examine Paul’s extensive discourse on the salvation of Israel—a matter of earnest concern for Paul. Starting from chapter 9, Paul defends the faithfulness of God despite Israel’s stumbling and underscores God’s sovereignty in election. In the present chapter, we will be looking more closely at Israel’s misguided zeal and how it fails to attain the righteousness that is by faith.
Did You Know...?
- “End of the law” (10:4): The Greek word for “end” (telos) can mean not only termination but also achievement, goal, and fulfillment. [ref]
- “What he has heard” (10:16): This Greek word (akoē) is repeated in verse 17, thereby connecting the two verses. It is difficult to use the same English translation in both verses because whereas the word means “hearing” in verse 17, in verse 16 it means “the thing that is heard” (i.e., message).
Record the contrasts made in this passage with respect to Gentiles and Israel.
What is the law of righteousness that Israel pursued but failed to reach?Hide Answer
The word “law” here does not refer to the law God had given to Moses, but should be understood as a more general term that means “principle.” The same sense of the word is also found in Rom 3:27, where the Bible contrasts the law of works and the law of faith. Thus, we may interpret the law of righteousness as the principle that God had established for man to attain righteousness, namely, through faith. Israel failed to reach it because they tried to pursue righteousness by works (Rom 9:32). But Gentiles were able to attain this righteousness by faith (Rom 9:30).
Who is the stumbling stone prophesied by Isaiah and quoted by Paul here?Hide Answer
1 Pet 1:1–18, where Peter also cites the words of Isaiah, he interprets the stone as a reference to the Lord Jesus. In a similar vein, Jesus also alluded to the cornerstone that the builders rejected, found in Psalm 118:22, and implied that He Himself was that cornerstone (Mt 21:42–44). Israel stumbled over the stumbling stone by rejecting Jesus as the Christ.
What is the difference between pursuing righteousness by works and pursuing it by faith?Hide Answer
The contrast between pursuing righteousness by works and pursuing it by faith is elaborated later on in Rom 10:5–13. Essentially, righteousness by works requires perfect observance of all of God’s commandments—an achievement, if achievable at all, that one could boast about (cf. Rom 4:2). On the contrary, the righteousness that is by faith involves trusting and calling on the Lord Jesus, whom God has put forward as a propitiation to redeem us from sin. We who are thus justified have nothing to boast before God.
How have you attained righteousness by faith?
In what ways can we imitate Paul’s compassion today?Hide Answer
Paul cared deeply about the salvation of his unbelieving Jewish brethren and prayed to God for their salvation. In the same way, we can pray for the salvation of others, starting with our own family members and extending to all the people in this world. Also, we ought to share the good news of salvation whenever we can just as Paul committed his whole life to preach the gospel.
What does it mean to have zeal for God but not according to knowledge?Hide Answer
The verse that follows (10:3) explains that the Jews were ignorant of the righteousness of God but sought to establish their own. In other words, they thought they were zealous for God, but the way they went about it was not according to God’s way. Paul had at one point been also ignorant (1 Tim 1:13). His misguided zeal made him persecute the followers of Christ.
Why is it important to be zealous for God with knowledge?Hide Answer
As can be seen in the examples of the unbelieving Jews and Saul before his conversion, being zealous for God blindly can make a person oppose God’s will. Similarly for us today, being fervent without knowledge of the teachings of the Bible often does more harm than good. We need to submit to God and follow His ways while serving Him with zeal. Only then can our dedication be acceptable to God.
Explain the difference between seeking to establish one’s own righteousness and submitting to God’s righteousness.Hide Answer
Seeking to establish one’s own righteousness means attempting to be justified before God based on one’s works (cf. Rom 9:32). Such righteousness, however, is based on one’s own standard and merits rather than God’s. God’s righteousness, on the contrary, is fulfilled through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 3:23–26). To submit to God’s righteousness means to acknowledge that we are sinners and to believe Jesus as our Lord (cf. Php 3:8–9). But faith in Christ is not simply agreeing that Jesus has paid for our sins. It also involves living a Christ-centered life (cf. Gal 2:20, 5:16–24).
How is Christ “the end of the law”?Hide Answer
Christ is the end of the law in the sense that He is final goal of the law. The Bible tells us that the law was put in place to make us aware of our sins until the coming of Christ, through whom we may obtain righteousness by faith (Rom 3:19–20; Gal 3:23–24; Heb 10:1–10). The stipulations of the law were a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ (Col 2:16–17).
What is the requirement for being justified based on the law?Hide Answer
“The person who does the commandments shall live by them” (Rom 10:5). That is to say, justification based on the law requires perfect observance of all of the commandments all the time. But since no one is able to keep the law perfectly, everyone who relies on works of the law is under a curse, as Scripture says “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (Gal 3:10).
How can a person obtain the righteousness based on faith?Hide Answer
As this segment continues to elaborate, the righteousness based on faith is obtained by confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in our heart that God raised Him from the dead (Rom 10:6–13). Unfortunately, this passage has often been misinterpreted to mean a one-time and momentary acceptance and confession of Christ. But as we have looked at under previous study questions, faith in Christ is a total, life-long commitment to Him.
Study the passage in Deuteronomy 30, which Paul cites here. What is the context of Moses’ words?Hide Answer
Deuteronomy 30 contains Moses’ solemn declaration to the Israelites that obedience to God’s commandments is the sure way to life and length of days but disobedience would result in destruction.
How does Paul interpret the teaching of Moses in terms of Christ’s saving work?Hide Answer
Moses told the people that what he had commanded them was not impossible to attain. It was in fact very near them. It was in their mouth and in their heart, so that they could do it (Deut 30:11–14). All God wanted was for His people to obey Him out of sincere trust in Him. That is how a person obtains righteousness based on faith. Paul interprets what Moses commanded the people as a reference to the “word of faith” (Rom 10:8) and “word of Christ” (Rom 10:17), i.e. the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.
What is Paul’s point in citing the passage in Deuteronomy 30?Hide Answer
The righteousness that God offers is not far from us. We do not need to ascend into heaven or descend into the abyss to attain God’s righteousness. Christ has already accomplished the righteousness of God by coming down from heaven and rising from the dead. We just need to confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead. In other words, the way to attain God’s righteousness is to call upon Jesus as our Lord with a heart-felt conviction.
How would you respond to someone who cites verses 9 and 10 to show that baptism is not necessary for salvation?Hide Answer
Too often this passage is used as the basis for the argument that baptism (or footwashing and Holy Communion) is not necessary for salvation. Proponents of such a view insist that the sacraments as well as living a Christ-centered life are all man’s work in addition to confessing Jesus with the mouth and believing Him with the heart. Such a line of reasoning creates a false dichotomy between obedience to Christ and faith in Christ when the two are in fact intricately connected. We cannot truly believe in Christ but deny that He washes away our sins freely through the baptism He has commanded. Baptism is to be accepted with faith in the saving grace of Christ (Col 2:11–12). Merely calling Jesus Lord without submission to His words is not true faith (cf. Lk 6:46).
How does justification by faith transcend the barrier that existed between Jews and Gentiles?
What is Paul’s overall point in verses 14 to 17?Hide Answer
Paul’s point in these four verses is that salvation by calling on the name of the Lord is made available through the preaching of the word of Christ, namely, the gospel. Through the preaching of the gospel, everyone has the opportunity to hear about Christ and believe in Christ.
How do these verses reveal the importance of preaching?Hide Answer
People must hear about the Lord Jesus Christ before they can believe in Him and call on His name to be saved. Therefore, preaching the gospel is instrumental in leading people to salvation. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Rom 10:15; Isa 52:7). Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ wherever we go is such a noble cause because others can receive the gift of eternal life as a result.
What does the series of Scriptural citations in verses 18 to 21 show?Hide Answer
Although Israel had the opportunity to hear the gospel, they had been persistently disobedient to God. On the other hand, God had chosen the Gentiles, whom the Jews regarded as having no part in God’s kingdom.