Romans 10 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?
‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for
‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’
Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.’
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
‘I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.’
But of Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’
There are times when the traditional splitting up of the original text of the Biblical manuscripts into chapters can cause confusion. This is one of them. The narrative starts at 9:30, when it becomes clear that the “they” of 10:1 refers to the people of Israel who have “stumbled over the stumbling-stone” of trying to achieve righteousness by work rather than through faith, in contrast to the Gentiles or Greeks. In chapter 10, Paul is teaching the Jews what they needed to do in the brave new world brought in by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
It’s not that Paul thought that the Jews were totally deluded – after all, they did have a zeal for God. It was just that they were going about things in a way which would not lead them to true righteousness. Paul felt that they were too hung up on the demands of the law which, with its behaviour-centred minutia, had been elevated above the precepts of God. Paul makes it clear that the situation is not irredeemable. There was, and is, a simple way back: “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
I remember as a small boy going to the “wee mission” at the end of the street where we would watch blurry black and white films and sing choruses. “Romans 10 and 9 is a favourite text of mine” was a popular one (at least with the leaders).
Good enough for Glasgow tykes and good enough for everyone. None of the old excuses were valid any more. Simply stop being disobedient and contrary people. And believe, irrespective of ethnicity, gender expression or sexuality or the way in which the worship of God through Jesus is expressed.
My Lord, I have nothing to do in this world, but to seek and serve thee; I have nothing to do with a heart and its affections, but to breathe after thee; I have nothing to do with my tongue and pen, but to speak to thee, and for thee, and to publish thy glory and thy will.
The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon. He is a member at Upton-by-Chester URC.