It is important to understand that Romans chapters nine, ten, and eleven are a parenthetical explanation of why Israel, who had been given the Law and the Prophets, had missed out on the gospel and Jesus, and further, why the gentiles, were now experiencing the grace of God and were receiving the benefit of the gospel when they had not served God at all in the past.
Even though the explanation is for the Jews, those of us who are Gentiles can benefit greatly from an understanding of these three chapter passages. For my purposes, I want to focus on chapter ten, verses one through seventeen at this time and will perhaps deal with chapters nine and eleven later on.Rom 10:1-21 KJV Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. (2) For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. First we see that being zealous for God is not enough. The zeal has to be accompanied by knowledge.What was it that they lacked knowledge of? Paul answers in the next verse.
(3) 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. Paul has spent the first eight chapters telling about the difference between law righteousness, righteousness that comes from obeying the law, and the righteousness of God which is a righteousness imputed for having faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He says above that they have been so focused on establishing righteousness by legal means that they have ignored and not submitted to the righteousness of God which is righteousness from faith apart from the law and law obedience.
(4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. Christ Jesus is the goal/end of the Law for righteousness. In other words, since the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the only way to establish righteousness is to believe the gospel. Paul had proved in the first eight chapters that even in the Old Covenant, all who were righteous were righteous because of their faith, and for no other reason. No one is righteous because of adherence to a legal code.
(5) For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. Here Paul is quoting Lev 18:5. He is acknowledging the reason that the Jews would believe that they could attain to righteousness from obeying the law. There is another passage that would lead the Jews to believe that they could attain to righteousness from obeying the law. Deu 6:25 KJV “And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.”
(6) 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:) (7) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) (8) 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; Now Paul shifts gears. He quotes the passage of Deut 30 that speaks of the days of the New Covenant when Israel will have their heart circumcised by the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The passage that he refers to is Deu 30:1-6. Deu 30:1 explains that there will be a future time when Israel will have experienced both the blessings and the cursing’s of Deu 28 and makes reference to circumcising the heart. It is prophesied in Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26. Paul is saying that Deu 30:1-6 finds it fulfillment in the word of faith that they are preaching… in other words, the gospel.
(9) 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. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (11) For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (12) 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. (13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. In verse 9-13 Paul explains explicitly what the word they preach is. The contents of the word of faith is stated in Romans 10:9-13; Confess with the mouth and believe in the heart; that is the condition set by Paul. Written above then, is a concise statement of the gospel. One must confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead. This is a redemptive decree. It states unequivocally that if one confesses with the mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believes in one’s heart that God has raised him from the dead, one SHALL be saved.
(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, 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! In this well-known passage it is obvious that Paul’s complete focus is the gospel of Christ. He only mentions preaching in conjunction with the gospel. Preach, preaching, or preached is found in 127 verses in the New Testament and it is mentioned 134 times in those verses and it is ONLY and ALWAYS referenced with the gospel. It is used no other way. According to the New Testament writings there is no other purpose for preaching except to preach the gospel.
(16) But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? (17) So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Here Paul quotes Isaiah 53:1. He wants his readership to understand that he is solely speaking of the gospel. It is very important to see Romans 10:17 is saying that faith cometh by hearing the gospel. It is definitely not saying what so many popularly teach. Faith does not come from just any ole preaching of the scripture. Faith only comes from preaching the gospel. Jesus and his first century followers changed the meaning of the phrase word of God from Torah to gospel. Jesus taught a uniquely redemptive purpose to the scripture. This is plainly proclaimed in John 5:39-40 and Luke 24:27; 43-45. In the past, I have issued a challenge, to take all of the verses in the New Testament with the phrase word of God in them, and to substitute either scripture or gospel in place of the phrase. When one does that it is easy to see that their meaning in using the phrase was gospel or Jesus the living gospel and not scripture. Again, please do not think that I am downplaying the scripture or its inspired status. I am not. I am rather showing the extent that Jesus taught his followers to go to in emphasizing and underscoring the redemptive purpose of the scripture.
With this in mind let’s turn our attention to Romans 10:17. In the KJV it reads, “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” So then, let me ask the question; did Paul mean that faith cometh by hearing scripture or gospel? Well, when you look at it in context it becomes rather obvious that he meant the gospel. The sentence could easily be stated that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the gospel of Christ.
Let’s take a look at this verse in some of the new versions of the scripture.
NASB “Rom 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
HCSB “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.”
ESV “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Why is that so? The answer is that there are a number of original Greek texts from which the translations are made, and further there are many variations within those texts. Some say word of God and some say word of Christ. The Byzantine Text or Textus Receptus which the KJV was translated from says word of God, but the Westcott Hort and the Nestle-Aland say word of Christ. The Greek is as follows: It is the rhematos christou (word of Christ) or the (rhematos theou) the word of God.
When one realizes that the first century apostles meant the gospel or the word of Christ when they wrote word of God it becomes less of a problem. The newer versions call it the word of Christ because the translating scholars believe that it is far more likely that the original scripture had the word of Christ in Romans 10:17. I believe that the original text could have had the word of God there but I have proven beyond doubt that in most cases in the New Testament, and in ALL cases from the book of Acts forward they meant gospel or Jesus the living gospel when they wrote the phrase word of God.
It does have interesting implications that go against the common explanation of this verse. Faith does not come from hearing just any ole scripture passage. Faith comes by hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since rhematos (a variation of rhema) more rightly means spoken word, it would suggest that faith cometh by hearing the spoken word of Christ.