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“SAVED BY FAITH”
Sunday, May 16, 2021:
COMMENTARY (THE UGP CURRICULUM)
Lesson: Romans 10:1-10; Time of Action: 56 A.D.; Place of Action: Paul writes to the believers in Rome from Corinth
Lesson Text: Romans 10:1-10
King James Version (KJV)
I. ISRAEL’S FUTILE ZEAL FOR GOD (Romans 10:1-2)
1. 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.
II. ISRAEL’S MISUNDERSTANDING OF GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS (Romans 10:3-7)
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.
4. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
5. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
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.)
III. ISRAEL’S HOPE (Romans 10:8-10)
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;
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.
Golden Text: “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” (Romans 10:9).
When the power of the gospel is released by the Spirit, it can do what human effort cannot do—change lives forever. The problem is getting people to listen and by faith trust Jesus Christ for salvation. People are not saved because of their religious enthusiasm. They are saved as they respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This week’s lesson reminds us of how powerful the gospel message is and that salvation only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
II. THE LESSON BACKGROUND.
In the closing verses of Romans chapter 8, the Apostle Paul wrote about the love of Christ and how believers can never be separated from it (see Romans 8:31-39). Then Paul immediately thought about his own Jewish people who were separated from that love, because they had rejected Jesus Christ. Paul had once been among the unbelieving Jews, but now he longed to see them saved just like he was. In Romans 9:1-7, Paul, a Jew himself, expressed his deep personal sorrow over his people’s rejection of the Messiah as he illustrated the distinction between those who were natural born Jews and those who were spiritual Jews (see Romans 9:8-13). He then defended God’s right to make that distinction by reminding his readers that God’s mercy is under His sovereign will (see Romans 9:14-24). Paul closes chapter 9 with a message confirming that the prophets had foretold that God would show mercy to the Gentiles receiving them into salvation by faith (see Romans 9:25-33). Our lesson comes from chapter 10.
III. ISRAEL’S FUTILE ZEAL FOR GOD (Romans 10:1-2)
A. Paul’s prayer for Israel (Romans 10:1). Our first verse says “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.”
The Apostle Paul begins this chapter by referring to all his readers as “Brethren” or “brothers.” The use of this term indicates that he was about to express a deep heartfelt appeal to the sympathy of his fellow Christians. Then he said, “my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” In chapter 9, we see just how deeply Paul’s concern was for the nation and people of the Jews. He indicated that he was deeply troubled that so many of them were enemies to the gospel, and far from the way of salvation. Because of this, Paul said that he had “great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart” (see Romans 9:2) for Israel. In Romans 9:3, Paul even said “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Moses expressed the same sentiments for Israel when he was faced with their unbelief (see Exodus 32:30-32). The Jews were Paul’s own countrymen and he agonized over them (see Romans 9:2). But to be willing to suffer God’s curse for them was a strong statement of love. Even though many of Paul’s fellow Christians at Rome were Gentiles, Paul revealed that he was particularly concerned with the salvation of his fellow Jews, who as a people were chosen by God and given a special role in His plan of redemption which included multiple blessings.
Note: Israel was blessed when God adopted them as His own people (see Exodus 4:22-23). He gave them His glory in the tabernacle and the temple (see Exodus 40:34-38; I Kings 8:10-11). The glory that Moses saw on Mount Sinai also came to dwell with Israel (see Exodus 24:16-17). God gave Israel His covenants; the first one to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and then additional covenants to Moses (see Exodus 19:3-8) and to David (see II Samuel 7:8, 16). He also gave them His Law to govern their political, social, and religious life and to guarantee His blessing if they obeyed (see Deuteronomy 28: 1-14). The purpose of all of these blessings was so that Jesus Christ, through Israel, might come into the world (see Romans 9:4-5). All of these blessings were given freely to Israel and to no other nation. But in spite of these blessings, Israel failed. When the Messiah appeared, Israel rejected Him and crucified Him. Therefore, they needed to repent and put their faith in Him (see Acts 2:36-39; 3:12-19).
Not only was it Paul’s “heart’s desire” that Israel “might be saved,” it was also his “prayer to God.” Unfortunately, “prayer” alone is never enough to bring people to salvation, not even the Jews. Paul found this to be true when he came to a city on his missionary journeys. He would first seek out a Jewish synagogue and preach the gospel there (see Acts 13:14:17:1-2; 18:4). But all too often, the Jews in those cities would reject the gospel message causing Paul to turn to the Gentiles and preach to them (see Acts 13:46-48). Likewise, when we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others and they refuse to accept it, we too, must move on to the next opportunity. Indeed, Paul was greatly concerned about his own Jewish people, for there was a time when he too had been just as spiritually blind as they were (see Acts 9:1-2; 22:3-5; 26:10-12; Galatians 1:13).
B. Israel’s misplaced zeal (Romans 10:2). This verse says, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.”
Here Paul gives a reason for his heartfelt desire for the Jews to be saved. Speaking as a witness on their behalf, he said “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God.” The word “zeal” means “enthusiastic” or “eager.” In essence, Paul was saying “I can say one thing about them, they are really enthusiastic about God and try hard to follow Him.” The Jews’ “zeal of (for) God” was seen in their opposition to the gospel, for they had respect for the law which they knew came from God. Paul understood this “zeal” because he had shown it when he persecuted the church thinking he was doing it for God. Although the Jews were enthusiastic about God, Paul also added that this enthusiasm or eagerness was “not according to knowledge.” The term “knowledge” can also mean “understanding.” It’s true that God gave the Jews the law for which they were so zealous; but they didn’t know or understand that by the appearance of the promised Messiah, the law was like a schoolmaster to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:24-25). Jesus introduced a new lifestyle and a new way of worship. As the Son of God, He gave the most convincing evidence that proved that He was the Messiah; and yet they didn’t know Him and didn’t want to know Him. They rejected the “knowledge” of their own Saviour and maintained their man-made traditions (see Mark 7: 3, 8, 9, 13). This is why the Pharisees, who were the most zealous people, were Jesus’ greatest opponents. People can be sincere in their beliefs and even be zealous about those beliefs, but that doesn’t mean they have the correct “knowledge” or understanding. Prior to his Damascus Road conversion experience, Paul himself was sincere and zealous, but he was sincerely wrong in persecuting the church; and his “zeal” would not excuse his actions that were opposed to God’s will.
IV. ISRAEL’S MISUNDERSTANDING OF GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS (Romans 10:3-7)
A. The end of the law (Romans 10:3-4).
1. (vs. 3). This verse says, “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.”
Now Paul gives two reasons why the Jews failed to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. First, he said “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness.” The term “righteousness” means a right relationship with God. The Jews were “ignorant” of God’s way of being right with Him through faith in Jesus Christ which is found in the gospel message. The second reason the Jews failed to believe the gospel was because they were “going about to establish their own righteousness.” Instead of following God’s way of “righteousness” through faith in Jesus Christ, the Jews came up with their own way to achieve “righteousness.” What God’s people did not understand was that “righteousness” is not something we achieve, but what we receive through faith (see II Corinthians 5:21). Paul then summed up both reasons for the Jews’ failure to believe the gospel when he said that they “have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” Israel was “ignorant of God’s righteousness,” not because they had never been told, but because they refused to learn. There is an ignorance that comes from the lack of opportunity, but Israel had had many opportunities to be saved. In the Jews’ case, their ignorance came from a willful, stubborn resistance to the truth. They would not submit to God! They were proud of their own good works and religious self-righteousness and would not admit their sins and trust the Savior. Paul had made the same mistake before he met the LORD (see Philippians 3:1-11).
2. (vs. 4). This verse says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.”
Such things as keeping the Sabbath Day rituals and the offering of sacrifices were seen by many as the way to God. While each of these had a place under the old covenant, the law, their primary purpose was to point the way to Christ (see Galatians 3:24; Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1). Therefore Paul said “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” The word translated “end” means “the fulfillment, aim, or purpose of a thing.” “Christ is the end of the law” in the sense that through His death and resurrection, He has ended the ministry of “the law” for those “that believeth” or who believe. As far as Christians are concerned, the law has ended. The “righteousness” of “the law” is being fulfilled in the life of the believer through the power of the Spirit (see Romans 8:4), but the reign of “the law” has ended (see Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14). In Romans 6:14, Paul said “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” The whole “law” pointed to Jesus; so for a Jew to reject Him and attempt to live under “the law” was to miss the whole point of “the law” that was given to Israel.
B. Righteousness of the law (Romans 10:5). This verse says, “For Moses describeth the righteousness, which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.”
Paul quoted from the Old Testament to prove to his readers that they did not even understand their own “law.” He began quoting from Leviticus 18:5 saying, “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law.” That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.” In other words, Moses had described “the righteousness which is of the law” by stating the purpose of “the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.” In other words if Israel obeyed “the law,” they would live by it. The problem was that even though the Old Testament stressed obedience to God’s “law,” no human being was ever able to perfectly obey it. If someone could attain “righteousness” by keeping “the law,” it would mean that they had perfect obedience. But Jesus Christ alone perfectly obeyed “the law” of God, so He was qualified to be a sinless sacrifice so that all who believe would “be made the righteousness of God in Him” (see II Corinthians 5:21).
C. Righteousness by faith (Romans 10:6-7).
1. (vs. 6). This verse says “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:).”
In contrast to Moses’ words that the one who practices “righteousness” by keeping the law shall live (see verse 5), here Paul quoted Moses again (see Deuteronomy 30:12-13) saying, “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:).” In other words, “the righteousness” based on “faith” which produces a right relationship with God says the following: “Do not say in your heart, who will ascend into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down.” Paul gave us the spiritual understanding of Moses’ words. He was telling his readers that God’s way of salvation was not difficult or complicated. It’s true that “Christ” is in heaven; but we don’t have to go to heaven (as if we could) to find “Christ” and bring Him down to help us. The truth is Jesus Christ has already come down from heaven to help us.
2. (vs. 7). This verse says “Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)”
Paul continued to make the point that salvation was not difficult or complicated by adding “Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)” Just as the sinner does not have to go to heaven to find Jesus Christ, neither would they have to go among “the dead” to bring Christ back to life again. Just as Jesus has already come down from heaven to save the sinner, He has also risen from “the dead” once, so He’s not among “the dead” anyway. Paul’s point once again was that the sinner does not have to perform difficult works in order to be saved. The gospel message of salvation is that Jesus Christ has already done the necessary work. No one needs to do anything more; the work is finished.
V. ISRAEL’S HOPE (Romans 10:8-10)
A. The word of faith (Romans 10:8). This verse says “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.”
Having said what the righteousness that comes from “faith” does not say (see verses 6 &7), here Paul asks the question, “But what saith it?” or what does the righteousness that comes from “faith” say? Paul then proceeded to answer the question. He said “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart.” Here, Jesus Christ can be substituted for the term “word.” The idea is that no one has to go to heaven or to the world of the dead to find Christ for salvation because “The word (or Christ) is nigh thee.” In other words, Jesus Christ, Who is the “Word” (see John 1:1, 14) is near us. Paul went on to say that “the word” was “even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ—“the Word of faith”—is available and accessible to everyone. The very “Word” on the lips of the religious Jews was the “Word of faith.” The very law that they read and recited pointed to Jesus Christ.
B. Confess with the mouth (Romans 10:9-10).
1. (vs. 9). This verse says “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.”
Here, Paul said that two things are required as conditions of salvation.
First, He Said “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the LORD Jesus.”
To “confess…the LORD Jesus” means that we openly profess a relation to Him and dependence on Him as our “LORD” and Saviour, owning Christianity in the face of all the allurements and troubles of this world, and standing by Him through all circumstances. But we should not confuse confessing “the LORD Jesus” with confessing our sins which could be rightly understood as part of repentance (see Matthew 3:1, 6; Acts 19:18). Even though Paul didn’t mention repentance here does not mean that turning from sin in genuine, heartfelt repentance is not necessary (see Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30). The fact that confessing our faith in Jesus Christ is necessary is seen in Jesus’ words: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (see Matthew 10:32-33).
Second, But simply stating that we believe in Jesus is not enough unless we truly “believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead.”
Belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not optional; it is the essential core doctrine of the Christian faith (see I Corinthians 15:1-4, 13-14). The “heart” represents the inner person where faith exists. The “mouth” must then express what is in the “heart.” The last part of this verse confirms that confession and belief results in salvation, for “thou shalt be saved” or delivered from the power of sin (see Romans 6:14; 8:2), from the penalty of sin (see Romans 5:9; I Thessalonians 1:10), and one day from the very presence of sin (see Romans 8:18-23; I Thessalonians 4:16-17; I John 3:2).
2. (vs. 10). Our final verse says “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Notice that in the previous verse, the order was “confession” and then believing. But here Paul reverses the order because there must first be faith or belief in “the heart” before there can be an acceptable “confession” with the mouth. Concerning faith, Paul said “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” This implies more than accepting the fact that a man named Jesus lived on earth and did some amazing things. A person may even believe that Jesus was deity. But they have not accepted Him as their personal Saviour and committed their lives to Him. This is confirmed in John 12:42-43 where it says, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” It’s not believing if it’s not with “the heart” or heart-belief. In the last part of this verse, Paul said “and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The point of this verse is that believing leads to “righteousness,” that is, a right relationship with God and confessing Jesus Christ leads to “salvation,” that is, a deliverance from sin.
Paul’s Jewish brethren had a zeal for God, but they didn’t understand that true righteousness could only be achieved through faith in Jesus Christ. In this week’s lesson, Paul reaffirmed the righteousness that comes through faith. He also made a strong case for the power of the gospel itself to bring people to salvation. As believers in Jesus Christ ourselves, we should be encouraged to share the gospel with our unsaved friends and family. But remember, it’s not our responsibility to save people; instead, we are simply to present the gospel, the good news and then let God do the rest.
PRACTICAL POINTS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. A ministry without a deep and focused concern is likely to be ineffective (Romans 10:1).
2. Having a misguided zeal can be worse than having no zeal at all (Romans 10:2-3).
3. The only way to please God is a way not of our own making; we please Him through the righteousness that comes through faith (Romans 10:4-7).
4. Confession without faith is meaningless, and faith without confession is unthinkable (Romans 10:8-10).
***The Sunday School Lesson, Union Gospel Press Curriculum; The Bible Expositor and Illuminator***