Studies in the Epistles of Paul
Contrast between law and gospel
Throughout this section of Romans, Paul uses the Old Testament for support. (There are more quotes per verse in these chapters than anywhere else in the New Testament.) In Romans 10:5, he quotes Leviticus 18:5: “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The one who does these things will live by them.’” The old covenant included faith, but it emphasized obedience. Since no one could do everything the law required, it could never be a means of righteousness. The new covenant, however, is based on Christ, so it succeeds where the old covenant could not.
“But the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)” (Romans 10:6-7, quoting parts of Deuteronomy 30:4, 12-13). In Deuteronomy 30, Moses told the Israelites that God did not choose them because they were righteous, so they should have known that God could reveal himself to sinners, including Gentiles. Moses told the Israelites that the commandments are revealed rather than hidden. God’s word for them was readily available. Paul applied this principle to Christ and the gospel—the word of God in the gospel is easy to obtain.
“But what does it say?” Paul asks in verse 8, and then he quotes Deuteronomy 30:14: “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” Deuteronomy goes on to say “so you may obey it,” but Paul does not quote that, for he is applying the principle to the gospel, not the law. He says instead, “…that is, the word of faith that we preach.” The message about righteousness through faith is near you — it is not hard to find.
Paul shows how accessible true righteousness is: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (verse 9). Paul is not giving a new formula for salvation that requires spoken words — he is showing how the words mouth and heart apply to the gospel. It is Christ (not the law) that should be in the heart and mind.
“For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation” (verse 10). Paul puts faith and confession as parallel ideas, not distinctly different, and he puts righteousness and salvation as roughly equivalent terms. The law required obedience, but the gospel requires acceptance.
Everyone is invited
“For the scripture says,” Paul notes in verse 11, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” This is quoted from Isaiah 28:16, which says that God will lay a cornerstone in Zion for a sure foundation, and people who have faith in this cornerstone will not be found short on the day of judgment. Paul quoted the entire verse in 9:33; here he just repeats the part about believing in Christ as the key to salvation.
Paul then repeats a favorite theme: “For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (verses 12-13, quoting Joel 2:32). Salvation comes by calling on the Lord, looking to him for salvation. In Joel, the Lord was Yahweh, but Paul uses the verse for Christ, showing that he accepted Jesus as God.
Salvation comes by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord. The problem is that Paul’s own people are rejecting the message. He highlights this in verse 14: “How are they to call on one they have not believed in?” They have to call on the Lord to be saved, but if people think he is a crucified criminal instead of the Messiah, they won’t call on him.
“And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (verses 14-15). Salvation comes in response to the preaching. But the problem can’t be solved by sending more preachers — preachers have already been sent, and most of the Jews still haven’t believed. So where in the sequence is the problem for the Jews?
Israel hears but does not believe
Messengers were sent: “As it is written, ‘How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news’” (verse 15). This is quoted from the Greek version of Isaiah 52:7, which uses the common New Testament verb for preaching the gospel. In Isaiah’s day, the good news was the prophecy of the people being restored to their land.