Friday, July 22, 2016

Ignorant of the Righteousness of God: Romans 10 Commentary

Romans is a complex epistle in many ways. Paul gives his best explanation of the gospel, and the mystery of Christ in Romans, and he does it in more detail than in any other letter. Chapters one through eight offer an in-depth, step by step development of the gospel emphasizing the righteousness of God as a free gift based on faith in Christ. Then chapters nine, ten and eleven are parenthetical in nature. He uses them to explain why the Gentiles were brought into the new covenant, and why much of Israel was excluded. I think that chapter eleven offers a radical outcome, but that is for another post. Chapter nine begins by showing that God had asserted his election throughout much of the Old Testament. Now, I don't want to lead you to believe that I am a five point Calvinist, or scare you away because of it, and if by chance you are one, take the time to read this anyway. I believe that election has more to do with the Jew-Gentile distinction then it does with arbitrary eternal salvation and damnation. I see too much election in the scripture to eliminate God's sovereignty, and I see too much choice to immediately dismiss universalism.

My purpose for selecting this passage however is not so much to discuss election, as to point out some places where it is mis-interpreted by mainstream evangelical dogma and doctrine. Also, I think that there is a strong case to be made, that this passage directed at first century unbelieving Jews has a lot of relevance for the current evangelical church. This is especially true in view of my paradigm shift that sees the scripture as solely redemptive, and the Word of God as the gospel, rather than scripture in general. With the above points made, I will continue with this commentary on Romans chapter ten.

Romans 10:1-21 NKJV  Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.  (2)  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  (3)  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.  I think that this verse could have the language changed slightly and be very pertinent today. I could read, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the evangelical church is that they may be truly and completely saved." Not so much that they are not saved, but rather that they do not understand salvation as God intended it. Paul had two meanings in my estimation: 1.) eternal salvation. 2.) Salvation from the oncoming destruction of the temple and the judgment of Judaism. Paul is far more interested in the salvation of the Jews from judgment for rejecting the Messiah. However, today's message for the church would be that the zeal they have for God is not according to knowledge. Evangelical dogma and doctrine is too steeped in error. The error is the leaven of the Pharisees that has permeated church doctrine. Most people are trying to establish their own righteousness rather than simply submitting to the righteousness of God offered as a gift for faith in Christ.

(4)  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. It does not mean that Christ is the end of the law per se. He is however, the end of the law for righteousness. One cannot determine the righteousness of a saint by the law. Since the vast majority of the evangelical believers adhere to a legal, constitutional reading of scripture, they cannot avoid using the law as the measuring stick for righteousness. They therefore are in fact NOT SUBMITTING to the righteousness of God. Submitting to God's righteousness is trusting in the declaration that one is made right by faith alone. It is a fearless assurance that one is made the righteousness of God. Most saints do not really believe that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. Most are concerned about establishing their own righteousness by the things they do and say. This prevents the gospel from supernaturally producing love in the believer, and stifles and stymies the true transformation process. When a saint uses the law to establish their own righteousness they are not using it lawfully (1Tim 1:8.) The only lawful use of the law is to drive one to Christ. The legal, constitutional reading of scripture in the end makes it impossible to use the law lawfully.

(5)  For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "THE MAN WHO DOES THOSE THINGS SHALL LIVE BY THEM."  This is from Leviticus 18:5. It clearly states that for a person to made right by the law they must do them, all of them, never break them ever, not even one (James 2:10.) I love this analogy: Imagine one could connect a linked chain between two sky-scrapers. The chain represents the law. Imagine that the chain is strong enough to hold a little seat that one can peddle across the chasm. Imagine a person seated on this seat peddling across between the buildings. Imagine that when one gets two thirds of the way across one of the links breaks. Scary thought right? That is precisely the case of counting on law righteousness. Breaking one law is the same as breaking one link in the chain. Disastrous is the only word to describe it. No one will ever be made right by the deeds/works of the law. So again, a question that I ask over and over throughout this blog; why do so many preachers and teachers place so much emphasis on the law of sin and death (Rom 8?) In other words, why is their so much focus put on sin and law? Yet, most sermons to saints are filled with law and sin.... is it any wonder that they bring about fear of the law of sin and death?
(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):  Paul gives illumination to the Old Covenant scripture at this point. This quote is from Deuteronomy chapter thirty. Paul is saying that he has finally been given the correct interpretation of what the passage meant. It was a prophecy that was meant to point to the time when righteousness would be given for faith in Christ Jesus. He is saying here that the "word that is near you" mentioned in Deu 30, is really the word of faith that Paul and the other apostles are preaching. It is not the law per se. It is the gospel! How do we know this? It is simple: Paul goes on to say; (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.  Romans 10:9-10 is a concise definition of the gospel. One believes the report, the message of the gospel for their righteousness, and one confesses this belief for their salvation. Furthermore, he connects this to the message of Deuteronomy chapter thirty which is in effect a New Covenant promise and prophecy found in the Old Covenant. Neither Israel nor anyone else would get at the promises of Deuteronomy 28-30 through law obedience. It would only come to and through the ONE SEED, and it would only come from faith in the report! The important message in the New Covenant is not the one about the law of sin and death. The important message of the New Covenant is righteousness by faith!

(11)  For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES ON HIM WILL NOT BE PUT TO SHAME."  (12)  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  (13)  For "WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED."  Now Paul gets back to his parenthetical argument. Salvation was never meant for the Jews only. This is eternal salvation that Paul is speaking of here. Election of the Jews was not meant to make them the only ones God would bless. Election was meant to bless all people, especially those who call on his name. The Jews were elected for a specific purpose. That was explained in Romans 9:4-5 NKJV  "who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;  (5)  of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen." They were elected to be the way in which God brought forth the Messiah and the New Covenant. They were given the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the law and the promises. The most important promise was the SEED and the gospel.

It becomes clear that the following passage first and uniquely pertains to Israel, but then, on a larger scale after the death burial and resurrection of Jesus, it pertains to all people including the Gentiles. (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!" This was the point of the Old Covenant and the election. It was to bring the good news of the New Covenant and the promised SEED of Abraham. Paul quotes Isaiah the Prophet (Is 52:12.) The importance of the gospel message is heralded by the prophet. Isaiah is uniquely important in the prophetic message of the gospel and the SEED, and the Jews were given a very important place in this mission but had actually failed by not recognizing that Jesus was Messiah. Paul is alluding to justification of why many were going to be judged and that the Gentiles were given a place in the New Covenant. This again is part of his parenthetical argument. 
(16)  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?"  Here Paul reminds the reader of the warning question of Isaiah 53. It begins, "who has believed our report?" Isaiah chapter fifty-three is all about the suffering servant. I always wondered how anyone could read Isaiah 53 (one of my favorite gospel passages) and not conclude that it was describing Jesus and his mission. I later found out from an unbelieving Rabbi that the Jews interpreted this passage to refer to them. They see Israel the nation as the suffering servant. Israel has not obeyed the gospel. Here is another place where believing and obedience are synonymous. Most of the Jews of the first century did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Isaiah's prophecy had come to pass indeed.

Next comes one of the most mis-interpreted verses in the entire bible: (17)  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Let me set it straight right now. Faith comes from hearing the gospel. It does not necessarily come from hearing the scripture. First, by the very context of this passage it is obvious that in this case, Paul meant gospel in writing word of God. In fact, most all of the other translations render the verse as is done in the NASB (so then faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.) The reason for the difference is that in some ancient manuscripts it reads word of God, and in others it reads word of Christ. In either event, it is clear from a context standpoint grammatically that gospel is the intended meaning. Yet, so many preachers, Sunday after Sunday isolate the one verse, Romans 10:17, and use it as a proof text to insist that faith comes from hearing any the scripture no matter what covenant. Paul however was using it as a reason that the Gentiles were getting ahead of so many Jews. It was because of the fact that they had heard the gospel and believed it and Israel, had heard the gospel over and over from the beginning and did not believe.

(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."  (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 finishes the chapter with the way in which Israel's rejection of the gospel had been prophesied. He will go on in-depth in chapter eleven how God will indeed keep his promise to Israel. That will be an interesting commentary and I will attempt it fairly soon, but for Sunday this week, I will continue with Ephesians chapter two.

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