A man I tried to nourish in the word of God finally, after over a year, let his ears be tickled by false believers, who led him away into bad theology. He adopted their idea that God loves everybody and so everyone has the ‘chance’ to be saved. By their influence, he now firmly believes (against scripture) that God would never send a man to hell. And so what began as truth has now been discarded for the fables of men.
Few people accept that God is the Potter, Who will choose some to glory and others to dishonour. They allow their emotions to contradict plain scripture, and learn how to offer very bad interpretation instead of what God really said.
In this chapter we see how Paul wanted everyone to be saved. Yet, he knew that this would never happen, because God predestinated those who would be saved, and there would be very few of these. Human desire never supersedes God’s will!
Paul also explains that the Gospel is not hard to understand. It is freely given as a gift – there is nothing complex about it. However, in life, many people try their best to make it complicated with their human explanations! It is, however, a fact, that the statement ‘Only believe and you shall be saved’ contains within it a set of beliefs that must also be accepted, whether before salvation or after it. Otherwise salvation is false.
Verses 1 - 3
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
We have seen that Paul grieved because his fellow countrymen rejected Christ, their promised Messiah. Here, Paul wishes with all his heart that Israel might be saved. He already knows that not all will, or can, be saved, because God chose who would be saved before the world began. Yet, he wishes for the salvation of many.
In the beginning, the new Church consisted only (or mainly) of Jewish believers, who were converted in their thousands. After a while Gentiles were added to the Church. But the numbers never reached the same levels as before, possibly because of the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersal of the Jews (The Diaspora). One day, according to scripture, the numbers of Jewish converts will again rise remarkably, as they take on the mantle of preaching the Gospel. For now, though, Paul was saddened by the way many Jews were so hostile to the completion of their own word from God, by the Messiah.
Paul (like Jesus) acknowledged the zeal of the Jews for God. Unfortunately, it was more of a ‘punitive zeal’, which seems to suit the state of the Jews at that time. Though they had plenty of zeal, they no longer had the true knowledge of God. They were so legalistic, they had no heart-love for God or men.
This made them ignorant concerning God’s righteousness. That is, the things that God loved to see and hear, that made people accepted by Him. Instead, the Jews thought that their own version of righteousness was acceptable. They ignored what God wanted and got on with their lives devoid of genuine belief. All sects and cults do this: they assign, subtract, or invent brand new versions of the ‘truth’.
Verses 4 - 9
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
The way to salvation was no different. Moses taught (because God taught him) that the Jews had to obey the law and give sacrifices to be accepted by God. But Christ ended all that. Now, belief in the Christ is sufficient. (This, of course, has many ‘layers’ of truth underpinning it. By ‘belief’ is not meant simply accepting that Christ is the Saviour… because even Satan believes that. It includes God giving His salvation by grace alone, etc. Therefore, no man can claim to be saved if he says he ‘believes in Jesus’ and yet does not believe the underpinning truths).
The salvation given by Jesus Christ does not cause a man to secretly ask “Who will go up to heaven, to bring Christ down to earth? Or, who will go down to the deep to bring Christ back from the dead?” Most readers will shake their heads at that statement, because it seems to be indecipherable. So, what does it mean?
The statement explains righteousness: we do not have to try and climb into heaven to find it, nor need we dig deep. Rather, it is given to us freely. If we try to find it by our own means we are no better than those cultists who make up their own religion… Romanists, for example, try to bring Christ down to earth in a biscuit, and charismatics try to make Christ obey their lust for miracles. As Matthew Henry said, there are “no knots to discourage us” in salvation – it is straightforward.
No, God’s righteousness in us causes us to say that God’s word is within us, because it is faith, not works. This faith says that God raised Christ up from the dead. If this is what we believe, then we will be saved.
Many Christians make hard work of salvation, as if it were some kind of complex test. But it is not. God chooses who will be saved. At some time in the person’s life, the Holy Spirit regenerates that person, and the word of God starts to settle and take hold. Then, the person is saved, and goes on to live a life of holiness. It is straightforward. (Those who do not follow this pattern are probably unsaved to begin with).
Verses 10 - 12
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
To be accepted by God, the man’s heart believes, and his mouth declares his belief and faith. God’s word tells us that those who believe will not be ashamed. ‘Not be ashamed’ means not to be disappointed.
In the matter of salvation, there is no difference between a saved Jew and a saved Gentile. This is because, the Jesus Who saves only sees the heart, not the nationality. “He is rich unto all that call upon him”. Scripture tells us that God gives all his gifts in abundance, so that His blessings overflow. Sadly, few Christians today recognize God’s blessings, or they receive so few because of their unbelief and sin. The term was familiar to the Jews Paul was writing to, because Jews ordinarily began prayers to God by invoking His name: “call upon him”.
Using this as background, Paul said that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This is true – but who exactly are the ‘whosoever’? Does it mean literally anyone and everybody? No, it does not, as the rest of the text (the context) proves. As in other texts, such as John 3:16, it refers only to those who are called by God and chosen to salvation.
Thus, those who are already elect will eventually call upon the name of God, because it is part of the ‘process’ of God’s will.
Verses 14 & 15
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?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
But, says Paul, how can people call on a God in whom they have not believed? Yes, they knew of God, Jehovah, but they were still stuck in the ways of old Judaism and so did not believe in the Christ amongst them. And how could they know of the Christ amongst them unless they first heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him if they do not have a preacher?
Not only that, but how can any man go and preach unless he is first sent by God? Those who preach the Gospel are beautiful to God, because they bring good tidings to lost souls.
Note the vital fact here – preachers must be sent by God! This is something few preachers understand. Some think preachers are men trained in a Bible college, and who are given a title of ‘Reverend’. Others think preachers are those who think they ought to preach and so begin by ‘giving it a go’. Others think preachers are chosen by their fellow believers because they are good at speaking. But, none of these apply!
The true preacher is often reluctant to speak; yet he is drawn to it by a solemn and persistent burden in his heart and soul, until he must speak at all costs. It almost consumes them. They may not even speak fluently, but haltingly. They may not have much of an intellect, but God fills their mouth. They will have no pretensions and will not be arrogant. Their only concern is to minister (by mouth or by letter) to others, because God demands it.
Also note that people must know about the Gospel before they can be saved. This fact is deep, especially when we consider ‘lost tribes’, etc. See if you can meditate on the implications of this and come up with scriptural answers, not emotional ones.
Verses 16 - 21
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
The trouble is, says Paul, though the Jews had a preacher, including the best preacher Who ever lived, and many others besides, they would not obey the Gospel. Some did, but most did not. As Isaiah said – who believes us?
We get faith by hearing the truth from the word of God (verbally or in writing), said Paul. So, did the Jews not hear this word of God? Yes, they definitely heard it, he said: the preaching went out to “all the earth” and was heard by everyone. It is quite possible that Paul had the Day of Pentecost in mind, when Jews from every known nation heard the Gospel in their own tongue. I therefore believe that the Gospel was indeed spread to every corner of the earth, very quickly: the Jews who were in Jerusalem on that day went home and told their families and friends. Between them all, they spoke to traders and travellers, soldiers and sailors.
And so God’s word spread quickly. It explains how Christians were in Britain, for example, almost from the beginning, hundreds of years before Rome sent its false envoys. It is how the Roman army came across bishops when they first invaded Britain.
But, says Paul, did Israel know? Yes, he said; Moses told them. God chose a people who could sometimes be very foolish, and could often be mistreated (as in Egypt). Yet, as Isaiah boldly said: God chose a people who did not want to know about Him, and made Himself known to them, whether they liked it or not. Though Israel was constantly disobeying Him, God looked after them, stretching forth His hands in comfort and support, to those who wanted to disobey and who regularly did not listen!
Is this not just like us? We disobey regularly, but God continues in His love for us, holding out his arms in kindness. And worse for our consciences – God knows in advance we would do so, and yet He still keeps and nourishes us.
© August 2009