Let it be remembered that the ninth chapter of Romans sets forth
the condition of Israel according to the flesh they who are called Israel.
They are "accursed from Christ." They "followed after the law of righteousness,"
but did not attain to righteousness, because they sought it not by faith,
but by works." The Gentiles, therefore, gained the precedence over
them, because they sought righteousness in the right way, namely, by faith.
Thus were fulfilled the words of Christ to the self-righteous Jews: "The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you;" and again, "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." Matt. 21:31, 43.
But the Lord did not cast off his people because they stumbled at the Stone which he had placed for a foundation. He endured with much long-suffering even the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. So the apostle continues:
The Glorious Gospel Romans 10:1-21
1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven (that is, to bring Christ down from above): 7 or, Who shall descend into the deep (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 that if thou shalt confess with they mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. 19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. 20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. 21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
Zeal without Knowledge. "It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing." Zeal is very necessary to the accomplishment of anything; but zeal without knowledge is like a wild horse without bit or bridle. There is plenty of activity, but it is of no use. Or it is like the man who displays great zeal and earnestness in reaching a certain place, but who is traveling in the wrong direction. No matter how zealous a man may be, he will never reach a place that is north of him by traveling southward. Ignorance nullifies zeal. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Hosea 4:6.
Israel's Ignorance. They were "ignorant of God's righteousness." It is a kind of ignorance that did not cease with the generation then living, and which is not confined to any certain people. But that which made it so much worse in this instance was that this ignorance of God's righteousness was coupled with the highest profession of serving him.
God's Righteousness. The righteousness of God is something besides a name. It is something far different from a form of words, or even the mere statement of a law. It is nothing less than the life and character of God. As there can not be sweetness apart from something that is sweet, so there is no such thing as abstract righteousness. Righteousness must necessarily be connected with some living being. But God alone is righteous. See Mark 10:18. Therefore wherever righteousness is, there God must be active. Righteousness is the essential characteristic of God.
Form and Fact. The Jews had "the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law;" but they had not the truth itself. The law of God, as written on the tables of stone, or in a book, is as perfect as it could possibly be. But there was just the same difference between that and the real law that there is between a photograph of a man and the man himself. It was but a shadow. There was no life in the written characters, and they could not do anything. They were simply the statement of that which exists only in the life of God.
Empty Righteousness. The Jews very well knew that the words on the stone or in the book could not do anything; and since they were ignorant of the righteousness of which those words were but the description, they went about to establish a righteousness of their own. This they would never have done if they had not been ignorant of God's righteousness. Of that the psalmist says, "Thy righteousness is like the great mountains." Ps. 26:6. They were trying to produce from themselves the essential attribute of God.
Such an effort, no matter how great the zeal, could end only in miserable failure. Saul of Tarsus was "more exceedingly zealous of the traditions" of the fathers than any others of his class, yet when he came to a right understanding, those things that were gain to him he was obliged to count but loss. That is, the more he did to establish his own righteousness, the worse off he became.
Submitting to Righteousness. If the Jews had not been ignorant of God's righteousness, they would not have attempted to establish a righteousness of their own. They tried to make God's righteousness submit to them, whereas they should have submitted to it. God's righteousness is active. It is his own life. Just as the air will rush into any place where there is an opening, so the righteous life of God will fill every heart that is open to receive it. When men try to handle the law of God, they invariably pervert it, and fit it to their own ideas; the only way to have its perfection appear is to submit to it, allowing it to rule. Then it will work itself out in the life. "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good-pleasure." Phil. 2:13.
The End of the Law. "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." 1 Tim. 1:5. Charity is love, and "love is the fulfilling of the law." Rom. 13:10. Therefore the end of the law is its perfect fulfillment. That is self-evident. It makes no difference in what sense the word "end" is taken. Suppose it be used in the common sense of "object." It is very plain that the things which it requires shall be done. Or use the word "end" in the ordinary sense of the farthest extent, and we have the same thing. You arrive at the end of a law only when you reach the utmost limit of its requirement.
Christ the End of the Law. We have seen that the end or object of the law is the righteousness which it requires. So it is said that Christ is the end of the law "for righteousness." The law of God is the righteousness of God. See Isa. 51:6, 7. But this righteousness is the real life of God himself, and the words of the law are only the shadow of it. That life is found only in Christ, for he alone declares the righteousness of God. Rom 3:24, 25. His life is the law of God, since God was in him. That which the Jews had only in form, is found in fact only in Christ. In him the end of the law is found. Does any one say that "the end of the law" means its abolition? Very well; when they find the abolition of Christ, they will have found the abolition of the law, and not before. Only a study of the life of Christ will reveal the righteousness which the law of God requires.
To Whom? To whom is Christ the end of the law for righteousness? "To every one that believeth." Christ dwells in the heart by faith. Eph. 3:17. The perfect righteousness of the law is found only in him. It is in him in absolute perfection. Therefore since Christ dwells in the heart of the believer, in him only is the end of the law attained. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." John 6:29. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness."
Doing to Live and Living to Do. The righteousness which is of the law, that is, men's own righteousness (see Phil. 3:9), is on the principle of doing something in order to live. The mere statement of the case is sufficient to show its impossibility; for life must necessarily precede action. A dead body does not do something in order that it may live, but it must be given life in order that it may do something. Peter did not tell the dead Dorcas to do some more charitable work, to sew some more garments, in order that she might live, but in the name of Jesus he restored her to life, in order that she might pursue her good works. The man that doeth those things shall live in them, but he must first live before he can do them. Therefore the righteousness which is of the law is but an empty dream. Christ gives life, even the eternal and righteous life of God, which works righteousness in the soul that it has quickened.
Christ the Word. Verses 6-8 of this chapter are a direct quotation from Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Moses had been rehearsing the law to the people, and exhorting them to obedience, and told them that the commandment was not "far off," so that they needed to send some one to bring it to them, "but the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." Paul, writing by inspiration of the Spirit, quotes the words of Moses, and shows that they refer to Christ. Christ is the Word, the commandment, which is not "far off," which needs not to be brought down from heaven, nor to be raised from the dead. Let the reader compare these two portions of Scripture very carefully, and he will clearly see that the real commandment of the Lord is nothing less than Christ.
Law and Life. This truth was not necessarily hidden till the New Testament was written. The thoughtful Jew in the days of Moses could clearly understand that only in the life of God could the righteousness of the law be found. Moses said: "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live; that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him; for he is thy life, and the length of thy days." Deut. 30:19, 20.
In setting the law before the people, Moses set before them the life of God, and that is to be found only in Christ. "I know that his commandment is life everlasting." John 12:50. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17:3.
The Word Very Near. Remembering that the word is Christ, we read, "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach." Is Christ so near as that? Indeed he is; for he himself says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." Rev. 3:20. It is not alone to the good that he is near, but he is "not far from every one of us." Acts 17:27. So near is he that "in him we live, and move, and have our being."
We can not reach out our hand without finding him. Christ is in [near] the heart even of wicked men, waiting for them to recognize the fact that already exists, and will in all their ways acknowledge him; then he will dwell in their hearts "by faith." He will then direct them in all their ways. In nothing is the love of Christ more fully shown than in his dwelling with sinful men, and enduring all their hatefulness, in order that by his patience he may win them from their evil ways.
Belief in the Resurrection. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." He "was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification." Rom. 4:25. And "he died for all." He tasted death for every man. Therefore he was raised for the justification of every man. To believe in the heart that God hath raised him from the dead, is to believe that he justifies me. The one who does not believe that Jesus does cleanse him from sin, does not really believe that God has raised him from the dead; for we can not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, without believing that for which he was raised. The resurrection of Jesus is much less generally believed than is commonly supposed.
Not Ashamed. The root of the word "believe" indicates a foundation, something upon which one can build. To believe on Jesus is to build upon him. He is the tried Stone, the sure Foundation, the Rock. Isa. 28:16. Whosoever builds upon him will not be obliged to flee in confusion when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat upon his house; for he is the Rock of Ages.
No Difference. The keynote of the gospel call is "whosoever." "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Rev. 22:17. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." No distinction is made; "for there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek."
Read again the second and third chapters of Romans, and the fourth also. Indeed, the whole book of Romans gives a death-blow to that wicked idea that God is partial, and that he favors some people more than others. The idea that God has special blessings for one nation of earth that he has not for others, no matter whether that one nation be called Jews, Israelites, Anglo-Saxons, Englishmen, or anything else, is a direct denial of the gospel of the grace of God.
The Gospel to All. The thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth verses show the steps necessary for salvation. First, men must call upon the Lord. But in order to call upon him, they must believe in him. But they can not hear without someone being sent. But preachers have been sent, yet all have not believed and obeyed, although they have all heard.
What have they all heard? They have all heard the word of God. In proof of this, the apostle says that faith comes by hearing the word of God, and adds: "Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." All in the world have heard, and there is no excuse for unbelief on the part of any. Read again Romans 1:16-20.
Glorious Preachers. The gospel of Christ is "the glorious gospel." It shines its way into the heart. See 2 Corinthians 4:4. So it is fitting that those who preach it should be arrayed in glory. The sun, moon, and stars are the beautiful "preachers" whose words have gone to the ends of the world. They preach the glorious gospel of Christ. They are a continual example of the right way to preach the gospel they shine forth the glory of God.
So the apostle says to us who have heard and believed the word, "Ye
are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar
people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you
out of the darkness into his marvelous light." 1 Pet. 2:9. The gospel is
the revelation of God to men. "God is light," therefore the proclaiming
of the gospel consists in showing forth his light. "Let your light so shine
before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father
which is in heaven." Matt. 5:16.