Understanding Romans 10

The 21 verses in Romans chapter 10 present a challenge to the reader.  This chapter is often used as a basis for the idea that a spiritual seeker can find the salvation of our Lord by faith alone.  Verses contained within the chapter are often referenced by those who hold to this belief.  Therefore it is important to study this chapter to find its core meaning and application.  In this lesson we will look into this chapter and reveal its purpose and intent for mankind.

The book of Romans was written by the apostle Paul to the Christians at Rome about 58 AD.  The church at Roman was composed of natural Roman citizens, Jews who had migrated there and other gentiles that lived in the area.  Rome's population make-up was very diverse given its central nature in the government of the known world at that time and this diversity allowed the faith of the church to be known worldwide (Romans 1:8).  Paul's audience, therefore, had a wide range of culture and religious backgrounds.   The book is not one of conversion, since those receiving the letter were already Christians (Romans 6:1-6).  Roman's was written to encourage, correct and unify the Christians of that great city for a life of service to Christ via letter in lieu of a personal visit.  This is called being "established" by Paul in 1:11.

Chapter 10
1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.

The chapter begins with a statement by Paul concerning his utmost desire for the salvation of the Jews.  The Jews, as a whole, had rejected the savior and Paul is beginning the process of letting the church know they will need to be involved in converting them.  Thus the 10th chapter is a conversion chapter within a book that is not a conversion book.

2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

There are many who thoroughly fit this description today.  People who have deep caring convictions toward God and act on those convictions.  Paul himself at one time fit into the category so he could say he was a witness to this firsthand.  The challenge the Jews faced in the passage is the same faced by many today, those convictions were/are not based on knowledge of God's plan and purpose.  Let it never be said that we follow our convictions unless they are based in God's Word and Will for us.

3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

It has been said ignorance is bliss.  When it comes to our spiritual lives this could not be further from the truth.  The Jews were ignorant of God's righteousness so they sought to create (or in their case maintain) their own.  As Christians we must not do things, including our worship, out of ignorance.  We must know what we are doing to what God would have us to do.

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Paul employs a teaching method in this verse called "begin with the end in mind."  In order words he points out the end reward (Christ and His salvation) by starting at the beginning of the Christian journey, belief.

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them."

The Jews were very familiar with the law and that it made many physical requirements to be maintained.  Paul references Lev 18:5 to (*ensure*) enforce this fundamental truth that to enjoy God's Righteousness His follower must be willing to act on their love.

6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down from above)
7 or, " 'Who will descend into the abyss?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):

Notice how this verse starts a new thought because it starts with the word "but."  The preceding four verses all build on one another (they start with the word "for").  As Christians Paul is telling the church at Rome (and us) that they/we have an important, but limited role in the conversion of the Jews (and those around us).  They/we do not have to do anything extraordinary since Christ Himself has already done this when He died, as buried and raised again.  That is the core of the gospel and we had no part in it, but we must present it with our mouths and hearts to those around us.  In this context the gospel must be presented to the Jews, in our lives to those around us.

9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

If this verse Paul begins to lay out that word which is near to us in our mouths and hearts.  These are the teachings that he wants the church at Rome to present to non-believing Jews.  He will present the ideas in the order in which they are needed by the unbeliever starting with the most basic so as to meet the seeker where they are in their journey.

1. Faith, leads to - 2. Confession

11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."

Paul uses phraseology from Isa 28:16; 49:23 & Jer 17:7 reinforces that absolute faith is the first step to find redemption.  

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.

This verse seems a little out of place but given the context it can have two meanings.  1) It is possible that some at Rome, especially the non-Jews, thought the job of converting others was not their job.  Paul removes that doubt by letting them know everyone has the same responsibility.  2) It is possible that the church at Rome may misunderstand that the gospel is only for the Jews and it would not be presented to the gentiles.  Paul's statement would address this error as well.

13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

This verse is often used by those who profess that we can pray Jesus into our lives and /or hearts and received His saving grace.  Neither this verse nor the context, however, provides clear instructions on how someone who's new found faith moves them to action should "call" on Him.  We know from verse 16 that obedience is required but the method of obedience is a mystery in this context.  So then we must ask the question, "did Paul (who wrote this very text) ever call of the name of the Lord, and if so how?"  The answer to this question holds the key to salvation.

1. Faith, leads to - 2. Confession, leads to - 3. ?Calling on the name of the Lord?, leads to - 4. Salvation

Let's begin by recognizing every time (106 times) the phrase "name of the Lord" is used it refers to the power/authority of God not using His actual proper name.  Thus prayer calling "Jesus" into our lives does not fit with the rest of the biblical context.

Now let's answer our question from above.  When Paul was told to go see Ananias for instructions on how to become a Christian he was presented the gospel and then told:

Acts 22:16 (NKJV)
16 'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'

With absolute clarity this verse let's see what calling of the name of the Lord is.  It also completes the picture for us:

1. Faith, leads to - 2. Confession, leads to - 3. Baptism, leads to - 4. Salvation

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 unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!"

Paul lets the church at Rome, and us, know that the world is lost and needs the gospel.  It is the responsibility of Christians to present it to them or they cannot even reach step 1.  The encouragement is also to support those who have made it their mission to preach the gospel.

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?"
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Again we see this word "obey."  The very nature of this word means action brought on by faith after hearing the gospel presented.
18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world."

Paul asks a rhetorical questions for the benefit of those who he is tasking with spreading the Word.  Perhaps some thought that the gospel would be a new concept to those they were to evangelize.  However the gospel has already reached the ends of the world.  Side Note; this is a good verse to study when asked if the lost tribes are accountable.  The answer is yes because at one time the gospel was global and if a culture has lost it, it is because they have left God.

19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: "I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation."
20 But Isaiah is very bold and says: "I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me."
21 But to Israel he says: "All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people."

Paul expounds on the fact that the Jewish nation had the prophets, were waiting for/seeking the savior, knew the signs and still rejected the Lord.  The gentiles "found" the Lord even though they were not seeking Him.   Generations of being "God's people" had made the Jewish nation arrogant and self-righteous.  In this chapter Paul longs for them to come to Jesus at last.

Chapter 10 of Romans presents a challenge to the church in Rome to present the gospel of our Lord to the Jews who need His redemption.  Paul gives them the method to start to teaching of the gospel by presenting it in its most basic form and then moving forward from there.  The non-believing Jews must first be taught to have faith, and only after that step could they move forward in their journey to Christ.  Using biblical context we can clearly see this step by step progression:

1. Faith, leads to - 2. Confession, leads to - 3. Baptism, leads to - 4. Salvation

Christians today have the same charge, to seek and save that which is lost and to do it the way that God's Word tells us to.