1Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God. 5 For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. – Romans 10:1-4 NLT
Paul describes his relationship with the Jewish believers. He cared about their well being. That sorrow he was feeling is sometimes acknowledged, but most of the time discredited. Paul states clearly that the people of Israel love God, but they have “misdirected zeal”.
What does he mean by “misdirected zeal”? Does it matter?
There are many individuals that claim to know and love God, but believe they don’t need Jesus, they can talk to God directly. In our culture it is referred to as universalism. It is the idea you can worship whatever you want, there is only one God and it will be alright. They believe there are many ways to heaven and Jesus happens to be one of them.
What do you believe will happen to the Jews and anybody else who believe in God but not in Christ?
Jesus is the most complete revelation of God, we cannot fully know God apart from Christ; and because God appointed Jesus to bring God and man together, we cannot come to God by another path.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 ESV
And there is salvation bin no one else, for there is no other dname under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:12 ESV
Paul describes the Jews as passionate believers in God with many practices in place to ensure that they are saved and acknowledging God. Rather than living by faith in God, the Jews established customs and traditions. We must remember though, that they did acknowledge the Mosaic law of God, but also held the customs and rituals as vital in their salvation. Their whole reason for creating their laws was to assist and ensure that they were acceptable to God. There is no human effort, no matter how sincere, that can be a substitute for the righteousness God offers us by faith. The only way to earn salvation is to be perfect – and that is impossible.
If God knew we could not be perfect and our salvation is based on faith, why did he give the law in the first place?
According to Paul, in the book of Galatians (3:18), one reason the law was given was to show people how guilty the are. The other big reason was that it taught people about the sacrificial system, and that way they could really appreciate what Jesus did when he came and died for their sins.
How does the sacrificial offerings of the Mosaic law relate to Jesus as a sacrifice?
6 But the salvation that comes through faith says, “You don’t need to search the heavens to find Christ and bring him down to help you,” and, 7 “You don’t need to go among the dead to bring Christ back to life again.”
8 For salvation that comes from trusting Christ—which is what we preach—is already within easy reach of each of us; in fact, it is as near as our own hearts and mouths. 9 For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation.
11 For the Scriptures tell us that no one who believes in Christ will ever be disappointed. 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect: they all have the same Lord who generously gives his riches to all those who ask him for them. – Romans 10:5-12 TLB
Have you ever been asked “how does one become a Christian?”. Right here in verses 8-12 Paul gives us a beautiful answer, or at least a place to start. “If you confess with our mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Many think that it is some complicated process, but it is not. The challenge that we can probably all attest to is that it might be simple, but it is not easy.
Note that it says ‘believe in your heart’. That is a lot more than just lip service. As we know, believing in our heart is a process. We have probably all experienced times in our life when we wanted to do something, even proclaimed it, but it was not in our heart, and we did not live it out. “I am going to exercise more”, “I am going to eat healthier”. Or for some we can relate to the times in the past when we were doing something we should do and said over and over again we were going to stop and didn’t. We were just providing lip service. But then there came that moment when something happened, and everything changed. We know in our heart, our motivations and purposes and intentions changed. That is what Paul is talking about in this verse. Many walk around spouting Jesus is Lord, but it is in their mind, not in their heart.
Then we get a verse that can be confusing and can be misinterpreted. It is verse 11.
As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame” – Romans 10:11 NIV
Paul is not saying that Christians will never be put to shame or be disappointed. Paul is actually a great example of just the opposite. There will be times when people will let us down and when circumstances will take a turn for the worse. Jesus even declared in the Beatitudes:
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. – Matthew 5:10-11 NIV
What Paul is intending to say is that God will keep his side of the bargain. Those who call on him and follow his ways and obey his commandments will be saved. God will never fail to provide righteousness to those who believe.
Now reading through this section in context we can put verse 13 into perspective. The concept is easy but truly calling on the Lord is a lot more difficult than we initially thought.
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18 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.” – Romans 10:14-18 ESV
Now Paul backs up what we were just talking about. To be able to believe in something you have to be told, you have to have the ability to know.
Can you think of anything you just instantly believed in without knowing?
This section of scripture also reemphasizes Jesus calling of the great commission of going to out and sharing the Good News and making disciples. How are people going to be saved if no one tells them. How are your friends, co-workers and family going to have the opportunity to be saved if you don’t share with them.
Remember, you’re not a salesman working on commission. Don’t be upset if they don’t immediately jump up and profess Christ as Lord. You might be planting a seed, you might be watering one that is about to sprout. We are told to share the Good News, not convince and argue the matter. The Holy Spirit will do the hard work.
19 But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation,
By a nation without understanding will I anger you.”
20 And Isaiah is very bold and says,
“I was found by those who did not seek Me,
I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
21 But as for Israel He says, “All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” – Romans 10:19-21 NASB
A lot of times when we come to sections like this we just kind of skim through it and figure it is just some quoted fluff for some purpose. But that would be very unfortunate if we did that to any scripture, but learned what it means. Because this section is so relevant to our own lives.
We must remember who Paul is writing to, the Roman church, led by Gentiles and then rejoined by Jews that fled and then returned. Many Jews that looked for the Messiah refused to believe in him when he came. God offered salvation to the Gentiles, “which is not a nation,” and “a nation without understanding” (verse 19).
This is where some our stories actually come alive. Just like the Gentiles, many of us did not even know about a Messiah found and believed in him, once we learned. The Jews and Pharisees studied the Law and scriptures and knew of a coming King, but the Gentiles did not. Not until God inspired the Word to be shared to all.
Some religious people are spiritually blind, while those who have never been in a church are sometimes the most responsive to God’s message. Because appearances are deceiving and we can’t see into people’s hearts, beware of judging beforehand who will respond to the gospel and who will not.