The connection of the opening verses of Romans 10 with Romans 9 is full of instruction for the soul. To many a mind it may seem illogical; but this is only the narrowness and infirmity of man who is apt to reason from himself, not from the truth. God’s revelation affords the only sure basis; for He alone sees all sides of every object, He alone imparts the suitable affection and enables one to form the sound judgment.
So here the apostle had refuted Jewish assumption of inalienable privilege necessarily bound up with every member of the Abrahamic family, and proved, on the contrary, their ruin and indebtedness to the sovereign mercy of God. Again, he had opened out with irresistible force and clearness the Old Testament scriptures, which declare that God would call Gentiles in His grace, yea, that the mass of Israel should perish for their rebellious unbelief and a remnant only be saved, namely, whoever believed on Christ the stumbling-stone, who therefore is in principle as free to the Gentile as to the Jew. But this amazingly comprehensive and connected sketch of the revealed ways and certain counsels of God as to man on the earth did not at all interfere with his ardent love for Israel. Men often pervert a scanty portion of such knowledge to shut up their bowels of compassion from those who are to blame and under God’s peculiar chastening. But it was not so with the apostle: “Brethren, the delight47 of my heart and the supplication toward God for them [is] for salvation.” The substitution of “them” for “Israel,” required by the more ancient and better authorities, appears to me really stronger as being more expressive of affection than the common text. It was needless to define more clearly for whose blessing he was so earnestly interested, and this the more because of their great danger. The threatenings in the prophecies verified in Israel’s deepening unbelief drew out his strong crying to God on their behalf, and this for salvation. For what short of it could satisfy a heart that loved them? To say that “internal as well as external evidence is against”
αὐτῶν and for
τοῦ Ἰσραήλ proves nothing but the unfitness of him who could so speak to judge of questions which demand not learning only but critical acumen and spiritual discrimination.
“For I bear them witness that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” “Zeal of God” is an objectionable rendering, like “faith of the Son of God” in Galatians 2:20. The Greek genitive is far more comprehensive than the English possessive case, and admits of an objective force as readily as a subjective. “The love of God” in that tongue equally means God’s love to us or ours to Him: the context alone decides. Here there can be no question of the intended force. The Jews were zealous for God but not according to right or true knowledge (
κατ᾽ ἐπίγνωσιν). This filled the apostle’s heart with so much the more affectionate care; for their zeal carried them the farther in the wrong direction, as ever must be in divine things where faith does not regulate according to the revealed mind of God.
“For they being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own righteousness have not been subjected [or submitted themselves] to the righteousness of God.” No doubt, these self-righteous Jews were not justified before God. But the apostle goes farther, as indeed the principle goes deeper. They ignored the righteousness of God, not merely the doctrine of justification, though this of course follows. But they were ignorant of God’s righteousness revealed in the gospel. Man’s merits composed the basis of their hopes, eked out by divine promises, by priesthood, rites, and observances. Messiah Himself was regarded as the crown and complement of their privileges, not as a suffering substitute and a Saviour in the power of His resurrection after having borne their judgment on the tree. Hence they could only see an arbitrary choice backed up by their own confidence in their superior claims and deserts, but no ground of righteousness on God’s part such as the Christian knows there is by virtue of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; no thought of God as through atonement just and justifying him that believes in Jesus. The grace of the Saviour by His work enables God to act righteously in accounting just us who believe, while it humbles us who own the truth of our utter sinfulness instead of leaving us to gratify self by setting up a righteousness of our own and hence keeping us from submitting to His righteousness in Christ as the sole ground of justification before Him.
Verse 4 has given rise to very various opinions. One which has prevailed from ancient times and perhaps still more among moderns, is that Christ is the accomplishment of the law. But there seems no ground whatever to confound
πλήρωμα. Others again take it in the sense of “object” or “aim.” But the simplest meaning as decided by the context appears to be “termination,” though we know it is also used for “issue” or “result.” And in this meaning the representatives of the most various systems coincide: Augustine and Luther on the one hand; Meyer, De Wette, etc., on the other. “Christ is [the] end of law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” The Christ of God is made unto us righteousness. “By law is knowledge of sin.” Righteousness cannot be had thus; only the believer is justified. Yet so sure is this result, that it belongs to every believer.
The apostle then contrasts the two systems and this by citations from the law itself. “For Moses describeth the righteousness that is of the law, that the man that has done the things shall live in virtue of them. But the righteousness that is by faith thus speaks, Say not in thy heart, Who shall go up to heaven? that is, to bring Christ down, or, Who shall go down into the abyss? that is, to bring up Christ from among dead (men). But what saith it? Near thee is the word, in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach, that if thou confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from among dead (men), thou shalt be saved.” (Vers. 5-9.) Faith applies when all is lost under law and its righteousness is impossible.
First then is quoted Leviticus 18:5, which is indeed a general recognized principle of the law, as the spirit is embodied in many passages. The ground of the other side is found in Deuteronomy 30. I do not agree with those who conceive that the apostle has put the smallest strain upon the latter citation. As in the former he speaks of life or living, not of eternal life which is God’s free gift and only in Christ; so in the latter his use of Deuteronomy is most profound. Moses is setting before Israel, not only the consequences of their unfaithfulness, but the divine mercy which meets them in their ruin when their heart turns to Him spite of the broken law. Now Christ really lies under the law however veiled. “The Lord is that spirit,” where those who read only the letter see nothing of Him and abide in death. But He is ever before the Holy Ghost. Hence the righteousness of faith did not cast the repentant Jew upon his own efforts, let them be ever so great.
“Say not in thy heart Who shall ascend to heaven? that is, to bring Christ down, or, Who shall descend into the abyss? that is, to bring up Christ from among dead (men).” Man could do neither. Had it been possible, neither would have suited the glory of God. He in grace meets man. It was the Father who sent His Son into the world. It was by the glory of the Father that He was raised from the dead. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son;” and God raised Him from the dead. On both truths the scriptures of the New Testament are most explicit. But what says Moses in this very passage here cited? “Near thee is the word, in thy mouth and in thy heart.” The blessing is at the doors. Christ is given and preached. It is for man to name Him with his mouth and to believe with his heart. There is no question of heights to be scaled or depths to be sounded, which would put honour upon human earnestness and ability. Christ is proclaimed for the simplest to confess Him, and to believe on His name. “That is, the word of faith which we preach, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from among dead (men), thou shalt be saved.” The outward expression is put first, not of course as most important, but as that which first comes into notice to the praise of Jesus: nevertheless it is of no value for the soul save as the embodiment of faith. “In thy heart” does not seem to be meant as a measure of affection, however truly there ought to be love for Him who first loved us. It does suppose however that the heart is interested in the truth, and that it is brought to desire what it hears to be true, instead of any longer fighting against it — brought to rejoice in the conviction that it is the truth of God.
Hence, believing in thy heart as well as confessing with thy mouth, the blessing is thine. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in thy heart that God raised Him from among the dead, thou shalt be saved. It will be observed that there is here no mention of death, but of resurrection. Death does not of itself imply resurrection; but resurrection does necessarily involve death. Jesus then is confessed to be Lord: why fear, why be anxious, if He who has undertaken to save is above all? You believe in your heart that God raised Him from among the dead. It is not only then that love came down to meet you and suffer for you, but power has entered, where Jesus was crucified in weakness. God entered the grave of Jesus in power and waked Him up — has raised Him and given Him glory, that our faith and hope might be, not in Christ only, but in God. He is for thee. He has proved it in raising up Jesus from among the dead. “Thou shalt be saved,” — not forgiven only — but “saved.” “If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
Thus we see in Deuteronomy, when the legislator has closed all the precepts and rites of the law, and shown Israel rebellious and ruined under that order of things, he does not fail to hint at the resources of grace. He supposes the Jew cast out of the land because of his infidelity to the legal covenant and of course to God Himself. Nevertheless though he could not draw near after that manner, the word was nigh him, in his mouth and in his heart. This is the word, says the apostle, which we preach. It is Christ, end of law to every one that believes. So it will be at the close of the age for the godly Israelite, who from his land of exile turns to God in the sense and acknowledgment of the people’s ruin. If unbelievers were hopeless because they could not go up to Jerusalem, or cross the deep, for tithes or feasts or sacrifices, faith accepted the word which met their need in grace where they were. Christ ended law, yet was righteousness for the believer, and for every believer. It is too late to speak of living when the law is broken and you are banished in consequence under the sentence of death. Christ then is the one spring of confidence; but if for righteousness, He also closes law to every believer. The word of faith speaks a wholly different language from that of the law. Confessing Jesus as Lord (or the Lord Jesus) and believing that God raised Him from the dead is the word of faith; and it is not received only but preached. God is energetic in His grace and sends out the message far and wide.
Thus there is the very reverse of looseness or a merely imaginative ingenuity in the apostle’s employment of the Pentateuch. The gospel anticipates indeed but is on the same principle of grace towards all which Deuteronomy 30:11-14 holds out to the outcast Jew. For, according to the outward letter and man, their case will be seen to be hopeless. But with God all things are possible; and faith rests on God, who brings out in due time what was then among the secret things that belong to Him, in contradistinction to His revealed ways in the law. In Christ now revealed all is plain; and the Christian does not wait for a future day. To him it is indeed always the time of the end; and he looks for Jesus day by day, knowing that He is ready to judge the quick and the dead, and that God is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. The repentant Jew in the latter day will by and by be awakened to recognize the reality of His grace towards him; and he will find the word very nigh him, in his mouth and in his heart, ashamed alike of his sins and of his self- righteousness, broken in spirit and looking to God and to the resources of His mercy. So does the soul that receives the apostolic preaching now.
He had used the order of mouth and heart as in the original words of Moses. And so in fact it is that the gospel goes forth and exhorts men. We hear the confession of the mouth and trust the belief of the heart accordingly. But it is plain that the inner reception of the word must precede and accompany the outer expression of it in order to a true and full work in a man. The apostle knew this better than any of us, and lets us hear it in his next words: “for with [the] heart faith is exercised48 unto righteousness, and with [the] mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Thus the whole case is accurately stated, every objection anticipated and met. Without believing there can be no righteousness. We are justified by faith and in no other way. But if there be no confession of Christ the Lord with the mouth, we cannot speak of salvation; as our Lord said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not [baptized even though he might have been] shall be damned.”
“For the scripture saith, No one believing on him shall be ashamed.” (Ver. 11.) Assuredly he whom God justifies can have no reason to be ashamed, but rather to be always confident and to rejoice in the Lord always. And here the apostle triumphs in the indiscriminate favour of the gospel. As before in Romans 3:23 he had insisted that there is no difference, for all sinned and do come short of the glory of God; so now there is none, “for the same Lord of all [is] rich toward all that call upon him.” And this he fortifies by a citation from Joel 2:32; “for every one soever who shall call on the name of [the] Lord shall be saved.” There he stops. On the great future day all Israel shall be saved; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as Jehovah has said, and in the remnant whom Jehovah shall call. Meanwhile the Spirit avails Himself of His own comprehensive promises preceding the clause which specifies that localized blessing and gives all possible breadth to the “whosoever” so dear to the large heart of the apostle of the Gentiles; He had indeed foreseen and provided for all. And it is as beautiful to hear the apostle using the part which falls in with his broad argument as it is to know what comfort the special promise in the entire verse will bring to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the day that is coming.
But this predicted opening the door so widely to all that call on the name of the Lord gives rise to a new development of the argument. As the Gentiles did not call on the name of Jehovah, a fresh instrumentality begins to appear with a view to awakening them from the dust of death and furnishing such a testimony as should draw out their hearts toward Him. It will be needed by the Israelites scattered up and down the earth among the Gentiles when their hour of national restoration draws nigh; but the Spirit applies it here, as He doubtless intended it, with admirable foresight to the Gentiles meanwhile. They must be called by the gospel in order to call on the name of the Lord for salvation. Preaching is thus eminently characteristic of the ways of God not under law, but since redemption. For “how shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without one preaching? and how shall they preach unless they shall have been sent? According as it is written, How beautiful the feet of those that announce glad tidings of peace, that announce glad tidings of good things!”
The law did not call any one. It regulated the ways of the people to whom it was given; and hence with it was bound up a priesthood which transacted their spiritual business with God, drawing near to Him in the sanctuary and representing the people there, with both gifts and sacrifices for sins. But the gospel supposes a wholly different state of things, in which the grace of God acts energetically, giving and producing what is according to Himself, on the proved ruin not merely of the Gentiles but of the Jews in the rejection of their own Messiah. Hence it goes out freely toward all, not merely to the Jews but to the Gentiles; and if these were the more necessitous, to them the more emphatically. Was the guilt, was the ruin, indiscriminate? So is His mercy; and the gospel is the witness which calls souls, not to do their duty as the tenure of life, but to believe in the Lord Jesus whom God raised from the dead, to believe for righteousness and to confess for salvation. Thus it becomes a question not of the law; for on this score a Jew was himself condemned and the Gentiles knew nothing of it, and, if they did, could find in it no better hope than the Jews. For salvation is what a lost sinner wants; and as God’s word demonstrates such a condition to be that of His own people, and salvation therefore to be their true want, so not even a Jew could deny the Gentiles to be lost sinners in the fullest sense. Would they then deny the Lord to be the Lord of any or of all? Would they affirm that He was poor, that He was not rich enough to meet the most deplorable need of all who should call upon Him? They might spare themselves the trouble of solving a question perhaps too knotty for Rabbis: God had decided it Himself long ago as Israel was sliding faster and deeper into the fulness of revolt from Jehovah. He had associated deliverance with calling upon His name; not with observance of law, which in fact those who had it had broken; and He had proclaimed it in terms so large as to encourage and warrant any one whatever. Consequently then the dealings of grace imply a testimony to be heard and believed by all that call upon His name; and this again, one to preach or proclaim it duly sent of God.
The cheering announcement of Isaiah 52:7 is the authority here cited; but here again we may observe the wisdom of the citation. The apostle does not quote the latter clause of the verse “that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” For in truth, according to the just sense of prophecy, the very reverse appears from that day to this. The days of vengeance were at hand for that Christ-rejecting generation, not of salvation for the holy city. And Jerusalem is still trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. But assuredly the joyful tidings must come, for the mouth of Jehovah has spoken it; and then how beautiful, yea, on the mountains (which the apostle did not cite) the feet of him that publishes glad tidings of peace, that tells glad tidings of good things, that publishes salvation, saying to Zion, Thy God reigneth! No dust will make their very feet otherwise than beautiful because of the good news they bear. It is not as in Nahum the fall of Nineveh, nor yet of Babylon, for Babylon, as punisher or punished, is heard of no more after Isaiah 48. We have from Isaiah 49-57 entered the still more solemn charge which the prophet lays in Jehovah’s name against His people, not for idol worship but for the rejection of the Messiah. Yet here we have the glad tidings of His pardoning and delivering mercy after reaching the lowest depths of rebellion. The apostle shows that in this as in so many other respects the gospel anticipates what repentant and restored Israel will receive from God in the latter day, (and may we not add?) in if possible a deeper form of the truth. For grace, as we know it in Christ (even beyond earthly glory itself, let it be ever so pure as in that day), gives the deepest motives to the earnest spread of the good news: and who so fit to apply the prophecy thus as that indefatigable minister of the gospel, through whom mainly the gospel was even then present in all the world, and bearing fruit and making growth, as we learn in Colossians 1?
No; the watchmen of Jerusalem cannot yet raise their voice nor sing together; for Jerusalem is still in the hands of the cruel foe, and the hearts of the Jews are still under a tyrant more deadly still; but eye to eye shall they see when Jehovah restores Zion, and the waste places of Jerusalem shall burst out and sing together after ages of desolation; for Jehovah will at length have comforted His people and redeemed Jerusalem when He makes bare His holy arm before all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of their God. But the grace of God is not idle nor inefficient. Zion remains in the hands of the stranger because Zion’s sons received not their divine King, but slew Him on the tree by the hands of lawless heathens who could be swayed by them and join them in that fatal deed, out of which God has caused to shine the richest mercy for both, if they but heed His message. Hence He is sending out His gospel (as this epistle styles it), as Paul also had received grace and apostleship for obedience of faith among all the nations in behalf of Christ’s name.
We see clearly too in this how the ministering of the preacher is tied to the gospel itself. How debasing as well as groundless to foist in man here as if he must be the sender, where the whole scope is to make nothing of him and to glorify God in all things by Jesus Christ our Lord! In no part of scripture is man said to send out the preacher: God keeps this prerogative in His own hands. Hence, said our Lord here below to the disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth labourers into his harvest. And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, etc. These twelve Jesus sent out.” He was man, and could pray and bid His disciples pray; but He was God, Emmanuel, Jehovah, Messiah; and so as Lord of the harvest He could and did answer the prayer by constituting the twelve His apostles and sending them forth on their mission. And if once dead, He is risen and alive again for evermore, and still He from on high has given gifts to men. Believe not the enemy’s lie that, because He is unseen, He has abdicated His headship or abandoned for one moment His loving care in supplying all that is needful for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Others who intrude into His place of sending out ministers of the gospel are but usurpers; and those who submit to be so sent are consenting parties (and for what?) to their Lord’s dishonour. His will, His word, is plain enough: all that is wanted is an eye in us single to Christ. We shall then see clearly how deeply all this concerns His name, even if it cost us everything in this world. Doubtless the gospel comes through men, however truly sent from above men: only it is not for a man, or for any number of men, to arrogate the Lord’s rights, who entrusts to His own servants His goods, to one five talents (to another two, to another one, to each according to his several ability); and who on His coming will reckon with those servants. Such is the doctrine of the divine word as set out dogmatically in the epistles and maintained even in the parables of the Saviour. How false is the practice of Christendom; and how hollow the evasions or apologies (they cannot be fairly called interpretations) of theologians! Why sell themselves to do this evil? Are they blind to results plain before all other eyes? Do they heed not the warnings in the unerring word of God of still worse ills at hand?
Thus prophecy speaks, not of a law to be done or of ordinances to be kept, but of a testimony in which God has complacency as being of His own grace, and so a matter of faith. Even the Jew who had the law could only be blessed by the good news. The law had wrought ruin and condemnation and death for no fault of its own, but of Israel who had broken it and fallen under its curse. Good can only come by grace through a testimony sent them from God. But the prophet adds more in the following chapter, the solemn witness of unbelief even among the Jews. “But they did not all obey the glad tidings. For Esaias saith, Lord, who believed our report? So then faith [is] of report, and the report through God’s word.”49 (Ver. 16, 17.) Israel too, it is here shown, was to be in part at least unbelieving, if the prophet is to be credited; for the apostle abounds in testimonies from the Old Testament to make good his solemn charge against the rebellious people of God, and vindicate hence the going forth of the good news to the Gentiles. It was not merely Paul but their most illustrious prophet long ago who gave this appalling picture of Jewish unbelief. But being a question of a testimony sent out to be heard and believed, the way was open to reach the Gentiles who had not the law.
“But I say, Did they not hear? Yes indeed, Their voice went out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world” (
οἰκουμένης, the habitable earth). The apostle quotes from Psalm 19 a striking and most apt illustration of the universality of God’s testimony. For we readily see that the psalm divides into two parts, the works of God and the law of Jehovah alike testifying, one outward and universal, the other dealing with those who possessed it. The heavens belonged to no land in particular, nor do the sun and stars shine for Israel alone. They are for man in the earth at large according to the beneficence of Him whose rain falls on just and unjust, and whose sun is made to rise on evil men and on good. Just so, whatever the circumscribed sphere of the law, the gospel goes forth in the grace of God without restriction. God is not indifferent, if the Jews were, to the Gentiles; He pities and has given a testimony to them in their dark ignorance. Compare Acts 14:17; Romans 1:20. This however is general, though enough to assert and exemplify the principle.
The good tidings then came by a testimony sent of God through those who preached, not by the law which could only show the Jew his duty and convict him of sin because of his failure under it. The only hope of good therefore for a sinner is from the gospel; but, if so, it goes out not to some only but to all mankind. And as Isaiah proved that the message would be slighted by the Jews (they that preached having to complain to the Lord, “Who hath believed our report?”), so the Psalms bear witness to a universal testimony of God in creation as illustrative of the principle that He thinks of and cares for, and would be known by, the Gentiles. Granted that the law dealt with Israel, has God nothing but the law? And what had the law done for them? or rather what had they done under it? “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” This is wholesome no doubt, and should be humbling; but what a sinner evidently wants is far more that this, even salvation, and to this the law does not pretend, but the contrary. It can kill, not quicken; it can condemn, not justify. Grace alone can pardon, reconcile, bless, and this righteously through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. But this is the voice of the gospel, not of the law, and goes out, as being grace, to sinners indiscriminately, be they Gentiles or Jews matters little or nothing. They are needy, guilty, lost; and God is saving such by the faith of Jesus proclaimed in the gospel, which goes out accordingly to all the world, being in no way tied to the land of Palestine or any other.
It was in vain again for the Jews to allege that this was a dealing without warning on God’s part. He had not kept it so absolutely a secret that they should not have been apprised by His word in their hands. “But I say, Did Israel not know? First, Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy through [that which is] not a nation, through a nation without understanding I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold and saith, I was found by those that sought me not; I became manifest to those that inquired not after me. But to Israel he saith, All the day long I spread out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people.” Thus not only is the general principle illustrated from the psalms, but the lawgiver is himself summoned to give his ancient testimony to the future intention of God in provoking the Jews to jealousy on the occasion of His ways with those who were not a nation, or a foolish nation — an evident allusion to His mercy to the Gentiles, not abandoning His people, but provoking them to jealousy, and in fact drawing out their irritation. Still more explicit is the greatest of the prophets, who says outright that God should be found by those who were not seeking Him, and make Himself manifest to those who did not ask after Him — a description certainly anticipative of His call of the Gentiles; the more suitable because in the same context He says to Israel that He spread out His hands all the day long to a people disobedient and contradicting.
A Jew would not deny the law, the psalms, and the prophets; no honest mind could dispute the interpretation. The application is incontestable. From the beginning, in their greatest prosperity, and when their ruin was predicted formally and fully, such was the uniform declaration of the Holy Spirit. They should not have been ignorant. God had taken care to testify the unbelieving obduracy of Israel and the calling in of Gentiles. These find God under that gospel against which the Jews more than ever rage and rebel.
47 The word
εὐδοκία means benevolent wish, or good will, where it goes beyond complacency and good pleasure. Compare the usage of the verb
εὐδοκέω. It is more than
48 Literally, the verse runs, “it is believed. . . and it is confessed. . .”
49 B C D E, with some cursives, versions, and fathers, read
Χριστοῦ “Christ’s” for “God’s;” F G, etc. omit either.