Romans 10:1-21

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2009-04-19 12:53.

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Addressing believers as “brothers,” Paul continued to express his loving concern for his fellow countrymen. In his “heart” or deep inner self he wished that they would attain salvation, being reconciled to God through Christ as his beloved children, and this was expressed in his prayer for them. (10:1; see the Notes section for additional comments.)

Based on his own experience, he could testify to the reality of the zeal for God his fellow Jews had, but it was not a zeal “according to knowledge.” (10:2) Their zeal was based on seeking to gain merit through law observance. They did not “know” or recognize that an approved relationship with God could only result through faith in his Son and the provision for forgiveness of sins made possible through him.

The unbelieving Jews remained in ignorance concerning the “righteousness of God,” failing to recognize how the righteousness of which he is the source could be attained. Therefore, they endeavored to establish their own righteousness or right standing with God on the basis of law observance and did not submit to his “righteousness” or his arrangement for humans to gain an approved relationship with him. (10:3)

Regarding the divinely appointed way to gain God’s approval, Paul added, “For the end of the law [is] Christ for [resultant] righteousness to all who believe.” The reference to Christ’s being the “end of the law” may be variously understood, and this is reflected in the renderings of translations. (10:4)

One meaning could be that the law ends with Christ, making it obsolete. “Christ makes the Law no longer necessary for those who become acceptable to God by faith.” (CEV) “Christ ended the law so that everyone who believes in him may be right with God.” (NCV)

Another significance would be that the law finds its fulfillment or full meaning in Christ. “The Law has found its fulfillment in Christ so that all who have faith will be justified.” (NJB) “Christ gives the full meaning to the Law.” (CEV, footnote)

A third possibility is that, in Christ, the goal or purpose of the law is attained. “For Christ has accomplished the whole purpose of the law. All who believe in him are made right with God.” (NLT) Denn mit Christus ist das Ziel erreicht, um das es im Gesetz geht: Jeder, der an ihn glaubt, wird für gerecht erklärt. (For with Christ the goal, which the law is about, is attained: Everyone who believes on him will be declared righteous.) (German, Neue Genfer Übersetzung) Denn mit Christus ist die Absicht des Gesetzes vollkommen erfüllt. Wer an ihn glaubt, wird vor Gott gerecht gesprochen. (For, with Christ, the purpose of the law is completely fulfilled. Whoever believes on him will be declared righteous before God.) (German, Neues Leben)

Regardless of the precise significance of “end,” the main thought is that faith in Christ, not law observance, is the basis for being granted a right standing before God. Flawed humans simply cannot faultlessly live up to the law and obtain divine approval on the basis of personal merit.

Concerning the righteousness attainable on the basis of the law (literally, “righteousness out of the law”), Paul quoted from Leviticus 18:5 and referred to the word as having been written by Moses, “The man who does them [the commandments] will live by them.” Accordingly, faultless law observance would mean life for the individual. (10:5; see the Notes section.)

The “righteousness” or right standing with God that stems from faith is not dependent on human effort. To back up this thought, Paul personified the “righteousness from faith” and quoted it as speaking words that paraphrased Deuteronomy 30:12-14. “Do not say in your heart [your inner self], Who will ascend into heaven?” The purpose of such an ascension would have been to bring Christ down. (10:6) It was also unnecessary to ask, “Who will descend into the abyss?” The reason for this descent would have been to raise Christ from the dead. (10:7)

In the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint, there is no mention of descending into the abyss, but the reference is to crossing to the other side of the sea. Paul may have made the connection to ascending because Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the law. The apostle possibly drew on the event involving Jonah when referring to the descending into the abyss. Upon being tossed into the sea and thereafter swallowed by the large sea creature, Jonah came to be in the “abyss.” (Jonah 2:4-6) Jesus mentioned the sign of Jonah in connection with his future resurrection, and so it seems reasonable that Paul would have thought of this sign. (Matthew 12:39, 40)

Thus the apostle made it clear that there was no need for anyone to ascend heavenward to bring Christ down in order to reveal how his Father’s approval could be attained nor was it necessary to descend into the abyss, for Christ had already been raised from the dead. No extraordinary human effort was needed to obtain the right standing with God that resulted from faith.

To establish this point, Paul had the “righteousness from faith” speak with the words found in Deuteronomy 30:14, “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.’” The apostle then identified this “word” as being “the word of faith which we [he and fellow believers] proclaim.” (10:8)

It appears that the apostle’s application is based on Deuteronomy 30:6. “YHWH your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed [offspring] so that you will love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” These words parallel the prophecy about the new covenant found in Jeremiah 31:31-34. The law of the new covenant was foretold to be written on hearts, resulting in a true knowing of YHWH and an approved relationship with him because sins would be forgiven.

It was on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial death that the new covenant came into being. Accordingly, the thought about a righteousness stemming from faith or trust was expressed in Deuteronomy, for the words revealed a relationship that YHWH would bring about and which would lead to genuine love for him, a love from the “heart” or inner self. He made this relationship possible through his Son, and this is the “word” or message that Paul and other believers proclaimed. They themselves had embraced it, and it was part of their inmost selves (in their hearts). This “word” was also in their mouths, for they, as God’s beloved children whose inner selves had been transformed, proclaimed the message to others.

With specific reference to the “word of faith,” Paul continued, “If you confess Jesus Christ as Lord with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes for righteousness, but with the mouth one confesses for salvation.” (10:9, 10)

The confession or acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord involves more than a mere expression of the lips. For believers, it means accepting him as their owner who bought them with his precious blood and living a life that harmonizes with his teaching and his example of self-sacrificing love. (Luke 6:46; John 13:13-17, 34, 35; 1 Peter 1:17-19; 2 Peter 2:1)

The resurrection of Jesus is the confirmation that he is indeed the Son of God. Therefore, faith in him of necessity also means that the believer’s heart or inner self is fully convinced that his Father resurrected him. The unconditional acceptance of Jesus as Lord and the faith rooted in the inner self that God raised him from the dead result in salvation. Believers cease to be dead in trespasses and sins and enjoy a newness of life as God’s approved children.

The faith or trust that originates from the heart or the inner self, the real person, results in righteousness or a right standing before God. With the mouth, the faith stemming from the heart is expressed and so is “for salvation” or confirms the salvation that has come into the believer’s possession. The confession or acknowledgment of the mouth reflects the faith of the inner self.

In the world of unbelievers, the believer may become an object of hostility or disdain. Faith in Jesus, however, will never lead to shattered hopes or disappointments, “for the scripture [Isaiah 28:16, LXX] says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (10:11; see the Notes section.)

No believer is excluded from this comforting assurance, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek (Greek being representative of all non-Jewish peoples). Jesus is “Lord of all” and is “rich to all who call upon him.” (10:12) All who call upon him, putting their faith in him and looking to him for help and guidance, are assured of his generous response. According to John 1:14 and 16, from the fullness of his kindness, he imparted kindness upon kindness to his disciples. Jesus manifested a disposition of matchless love, and believers continue to be the objects of his loving care and compassionate concern. Their salvation is assured and to be enjoyed in the fullest sense upon coming into possession of the sinless state of God’s beloved children.

The assurance is expressed in the quotation from Joel 2:32 (3:5, LXX), “For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” (10:13; see the Notes section for additional comments.) This calling is an expression of faith and constitutes a recognition of Jesus as the Lord who has been granted all authority in heaven and on earth. The forgiveness he effected through his death for the human family made salvation possible, delivering believers from the condemnatory judgment to which sin leads. In view of what he has done for them, making the ultimate sacrifice so that they might live as his Father’s approved children, believers rightly look to Jesus for his continued aid and guidance.

To be able to call on Jesus, one would first have to believe in him. By means of questions, Paul drew attention to the aspects that needed to precede one’s coming to be in a position to be able to call upon the name of Jesus. “How, then, will they call on one whom they have not believed? But how will they believe on one of whom they have not heard? But how will they hear without [someone’s] preaching? But how will they preach if they are not sent?” (10:14, 15) Proclaimers of the message must be sent out. Their proclamation needs to be heard and believed to be acted upon with a calling upon the Son of God.

That there would be individuals sent forth to announce the message or glad tidings about Christ is implied in the quotation from Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful [are] the feet of those proclaiming glad tidings of good things!” The approaching feet of those sent to announce good news would be a welcome sight to those who would be receptive to the message. (10:15)

“But not all” would heed or respond favorably to the glad tidings, “for [as Paul continued] Isaiah [53:1, LXX] says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” (10:16; see the Notes section for additional comments.) The question implied that, despite the proclamation of the message, many paid no attention to it, dismissing it as not deserving to be believed.

Accordingly, belief, faith, or trust results from responsiveness to the “report.” Paul added, “but the report through the word of Christ [God, according to other manuscripts].” (10:17; see the Notes section for additional comments.) The phrase, “through the word of Christ,” could be understood to mean that the report or message needing to be heard relates to Christ or that he is the one “through” whom it came originally.

For it to be heard, a report or message must be proclaimed. So, with reference to the Jews, Paul raised the question, “Have they not heard?” (10:18) In the Greek text, there are two words meaning “not” and could signify “really not” or “absolutely not.”

Paul answered the question with a quotation from Psalm 19:4 (18:5, LXX), “To all the earth their sound went out, and to the boundaries of the habitable land their utterances.” (10:18)

In its original setting, the words of the psalmist applied to the impressive testimony about the glory or splendor of God that the heavenly bodies conveyed without audible speech or words, and which testimony reached all regions of the earth. The apostle could fittingly appropriate the language of the psalmist, for the glad tidings about Christ had been proclaimed throughout the Greco-Roman world. (Compare Colossians 1:5, 6, 23.) Therefore, the failure of the Jews to respond to the message could not be attributed to their not having had the opportunity to hear it.

The apostle Paul raised yet another question, “Did Israel not know?” Based on the answer he provided when quoting words he attributed to Moses, the apostle was asking about Israel’s not knowing that the good news would be proclaimed to the non-Jewish peoples. The answer is (Deuteronomy 32:21, LXX), “I [YHWH] will make you jealous [with what is] not a nation; I will provoke you with a senseless nation.” (10:19) The jealousy and provocation would come about when the Israelites saw non-Israelite people (without the standing of a nation God had constituted and without the wisdom contained in the law) in a more favorable situation than they were.

Paul referred to the words of Isaiah (65:1, LXX) as being even bolder in establishing that God would be dealing favorably with non-Israelites. “I was found among [literally, ‘in,’ but not in all manuscripts] those who did not seek me. I became manifest to those who were not inquiring for me.” (10:20; see the Notes section.) The fact that they were not seeking nor inquiring reveals that they had no relationship with YHWH. They were not his people.

As for Israel, Isaiah (65:2, LXX) continued, “[The] whole day [long] I [YHWH] have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” (10:21) Accordingly, from their own Scriptures, the Israelites knew that non-Israelites would receive God’s favorable attention while they themselves were acting contrary to his appeal to them.


In Romans 10:1, the oldest extant manuscripts read, “Brothers, indeed the wish [more literally, ‘good pleasure’] of my heart and the supplication to God for them [is] for salvation.” Numerous later manuscripts include the “is” that is missing in the early manuscripts. Still other manuscripts read “Israel” instead of “them.”

For Romans 10:5, the oldest extant manuscript (P46) supports the reading, “The man who has done them will live by [literally, ‘in’] them.” Other manuscripts say, “The man who has done it [them or no pronoun, according to still other manuscripts] will live by [literally, ‘in’] it.”

According to the oldest extant manuscripts, Paul did not use the Greek word pás (everyone) in his earlier quotation (Romans 9:33), but here, in Romans 10:11, he did. His apparent reason being that the one who believes can be anyone who believes and, therefore, “all” who believe are included in the assurance of not being put to shame.

In the Masoretic Text, Joel 2:32 (3:5) refers to calling on the name of YHWH (the one represented by the name). The apostle Paul appropriated the words (Romans 10:13), and the context indicates that his focus was on Christ. This is in harmony with what the Father decreed respecting his Son. “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NAB)

The quoted question in Romans 10:16 appears in a context relating to the coming Messiah. (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) Appropriately, therefore, Paul used it when commenting on the unresponsiveness of many Jews to the message about Christ.

In Paul’s quotation in Romans 10:16, the word for “report” is akoé. This term can relate to the faculty of hearing, the hearing itself, or the content of what is heard, the message, news, report, or rumor. The word akoé appears twice in Romans 10:17. This raises the question as to whether akoé, in verse 17, should be understood to relate to the content of the message (or to what is heard) as it is in verse 16. Maintaining consistency in the translation of the Greek would favor rendering the term as “report,” “message,” or “proclamation” in verses 16 and 17.

The Septuagint text of Isaiah 65:1 basically has the same words as Romans 10:20, but they are in reverse order. “I became manifest to those who did not seek me; I was found by those who were not inquiring for me.”