In the previous verses, Apostle Paul says that in verse 4, Christ is the end of the law for those who believe in Him (this is similar to Rom. 7:4, where it is written that we have been released from law through the death of Christ, so that we might now belong to Christ.)
-Here in Romans 10, verse 4 goes on to say now ‘righteousness of God’ is available for everyone who believes in Christ.
Then in verses 9-10, Paul shares about the two important steps involved in making a saving response to follow Christ.
A. BELIEVING IN ONE’S HEART that Jesus died on my behalf and paid the penalty of my sins and that God raised him from the dead.
B. CONFESSING WITH ONE’S MOUTH that Jesus is the resurrected Lord.
–Again, in verse 13, Paul goes on to say that because of Christ, the opportunity of salvation has been opened for everyone, irrespective of their race, nationality, language, caste or moral status.
Let us remember that Paul is writing to an audience (the disciples of Christ at Rome), that includes both Jews and Gentile believers and Paul himself was Jew who was trained as a Pharisee under one of the most famous Jewish teachers of his time, named Gamaliel.
So, as he writes the book of Romans, the Holy Spirit led him to highlighting how ‘Gospel’ is not something new, but that which was prophesied and proclaimed by the prophets of YHWH in the Old Testament. He quotes several OT Scriptures in this chapter to highlight this connection.
And as Paul quotes Joel 2:32 in verse 13, Apostle Paul is emphasizing that even in the OT, God’s scope of salvation was not limited to the Jews but to ‘everyone’ who would trust in God and call upon His name.
And in using this verse for Lord Jesus, Apostle Paul presents Jesus to be no one other than God of the Old Testament, who took the human form.
Today we are going to look at verses 14-21 through the following three points:
1. The Reason to Proclaim the Message of Gospel (vv. 14-15):
Paul Highlights The Responsibility Of The Local Churches (and every individual disciple of Christ) to proclaim the Gospel. But the question is how did the Church get this responsibility and why is it so important to preach the Gospel?
1.1. How did the church get this responsibility? When the Lord Jesus rose from the dead and he was about to ascend to heaven, he told his final words to his disciples (which was the Church in its nascent form). These words are recorded in Matt. 28:18-20. So, the responsibility to proclaim the gospel is given to the Church by Lord Jesus Christ, himself.
-You may say I am not a Pastor or an evangelist so I am not responsible to share the Gospel. Well it is true that few have been called to serve as full-time ministers of the Gospel, but it does not mean that other disciples of Christ are freed from their responsibility to proclaim the Gospel.
How can I say that? Because our very calling and identity as disciples of Christ is tied with proclaiming the Gospel. Let us read Mark 3:14,
He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach
-You may say that I am not a good orator or someone who could connect well with people. Well it is not our ability but our availability to serve God that enables us to be His effective witnesses. Apostle Paul expressed this beautifully while describing his ministry of sharing the Gospel in 2 Cor. 3:5-6,
Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
It is important to make note that in verses 14-15, Apostle Paul highlights the Church’s obligation to engage in Gospel ministry through sending. This is where I believe that it is the responsibility of the individual disciples of Christ who are not engaged as full-time ministers of the Gospel to stand in supporting financially those who have been called to serve as missionaries and pastors.
In consumerist societies, when desires keep on increasing and incomes do not generally increase in the same proportions, the temptation is to stop giving our offerings to our church. But when we read the Bible, it is written that a Gospel worker deserves his wages (1 Tim. 5:18).
Let this be our commitment to the Lord, that we will not stop bringing our tithes and offerings to the local church – because it is not just our statement that our ultimate trust is on the Lord (not on money), but it is also our participation in the Great Commission – because those who send will be rewarded in the same measure with those who are sent.
1.2. Why is proclamation so much stressed? But you may ask, why is it such a big deal to proclaim the Gospel? Can we not keep living as good and law-abiding people and by loving everyone? Some also quote the Bible saying, ‘by the love that you share among yourselves, people will know that you are my disciples – John 13:35. So is it really so important to proclaim the Gospel?
1.2.1. The first reason is because the nature of the Gospel:
We must understand what is the Gospel?
In Rom. 10:16, while talking about Israel’s response to YHWH, Paul quotes Isa. 53:1, which says, “Lord, who has believed our message, to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
Here, ‘message’ is parallel with ‘the arm of the Lord’ or with Lord, himself.
Q. So, according to this verse, who is the message? YHWH is the message.
As we move to verse 17 of Romans 10, we find that message is the word of Christ or word concerning Christ (which we refer to as the Gospel).
Q. So, what can we learn about the Gospel from verse 17? Gospel is both the God (Christ Jesus) as well as the word concerning Him. Since the Church has been entrusted with this two-sided message with God on one side and message about Him on the other, it must be ‘verbally’ proclaimed.
Let us remember that God does not want anyone to perish in their sins (2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore, He has commissioned his Church to engage in His mission of saving the world.
Are we going to be like those whose feet are considered beautiful in verse 15?
1.2.2. The second reason is because Salvation is in no other name:
Isa. 44:8 – In this verse, God is asking His people to be his witnesses because there is no other God besides the God of Israel. There is no other rock on which people can rest, apart from YHWH. Why? He goes on to say in Isa 45:21, that there is no one who can save (or offer salvation).
Similarly, in the New Testament, we read in Acts 4:12,
“For there is no other name in heaven or on earth that can save us, except the name of Lord Jesus Christ.”
But what happened to Israel?
In verse 16, while discussing about Israel, Apostle Paul writes that in rejecting the message of YHWH, they also rejected YHWH, because the message was not just a message but it represented YHWH himself.
What we can learn from Israel’s response to God?
2. Israel’s Rejection of the Gospel (v. 19-21): In these verses, Apostle Paul quotes two different OT passages to show that God already knew that Israel will rebel against Him (by following false gods) and reject His message and therefore, He had also planned beforehand how He would deal with them.
v. 19-20: He would cause jealousy to arise in the hearts of the Israelites by reaching out and extending his favor on the Gentiles.
But in spite of this, the Israelites continued to reject the prophets of God and did not call upon YHWH (Rom. 10:21).
Generally, when we read about Israel, we think of them as wicked people because they have witnessed so many mighty deeds of God, and yet they rebelled against Him and rejected His message.
And when we think about them as wicked people, we assume that we could never ever have responded to God like them. But on the basis of my personal experience as well as through observing the lives of other Christ-followers, I have realised that we can also become like them, if we are not watchful and alert, even after believing upon Christ as our personal Savior. Let me share three ways that we can discern from this passage:
2.1. Rom. 9:32(b) – No personal relationship with YHWH: They followed the written law of Torah but lost contact with YHWH. And in their zeal to obtain righteousness through keeping the ‘law’, they failed to recognise the ‘Messiah’ and stumbled over him. We can also believe in the Gospel, but live our everyday lives without having any ongoing personal relationship with Jesus.
2.2. Rom. 10:3 – Self-Centered Lives: The fact that they sought to obtain righteousness by keeping the ‘law’ was a reflection of a deeper spiritual problem – their lives were centered around themselves, not on God. As a result, they did not submit to God to obtain His righteousness, which was not on the basis of works. Sometimes, we try to do good works in order to please God (which is the same as attempting to establish our own righteousness.)
2.3. Isa. 65:5 – Holier than Thou Attitude: Since God had originally revealed himself to them, they began to feel superior about themselves. In the same way, it is possible that we as Christ-followers may develop a superiority complex and look down upon others as sinner and evil people, and not have the desire to share the Gospel with them.
I believe that genuine Christ-followers who have experienced forgiveness cannot have ‘a holier than thou’ because they have realised that if they have been reunited with God, it was not because of anything they have done, but it purely because of what God has done in sending His Only Begotten to die on our behalf.
If after having believed upon Christ someone has a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, then it simply means that they have not yet fully understood the Gospel of Lord Jesus Christ. Can a small thief look down upon a big thief?
Let us remember that if it were not for God’s grace, we would not have received forgiveness, and if God stops dealing with us out of His grace (because of Christ) we cannot survive for a second.
Therefore, instead of having a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, let us have compassion and deep burden for those who do not know Christ and let us commit ourselves to proclaim the Gospel to all, so that no one may perish!
Dr Vikas Ram is a Researcher based in Bangalore.
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash