Romans 10: The Righteousness of God

The discussion of Israel’s salvation continues as we move through Romans chapter 10. Paul acknowledges that Israel has a passion and desire to serve God. They err, however, because they desire righteousness according to their definition and not according to God’s. Paul indicates that when they seek God’s righteousness through Jesus Christ, they will find it. Christ is the fulfillment of the law established by Moses. The Israelites that make this connection through faith in God’s Son will access God’s righteousness and the path to salvation.

The concepts that follow in verses 5-13 are intricately woven together to demonstrate that:

  • The old law of Moses attempted to establish righteousness through works, but could not absolve sin
  • The righteousness established through faith starts in the heart, then is confessed by the mouth
  • Faith and confession play major roles in the salvation of man: “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Jesus Christ is the object of this faith, of course, and there are no preferences, distinctions, or differences in the one that calls on Him. From verses 12 and 13: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

In the relationship between righteousness, works, and faith, there are many mysteries. Men attempt to confirm the nuances of these relationships, and reach limited success due to the limit of their reach. I will not attempt to codify righteousness, works and faith in the context of our salvation and relationship with God. I will quickly point out, however, that the righteousness produced by faith and strengthened by confession receives a premium in these verses. Reading verses 5-13, one tends to conclude that the relationship of righteousness produced by faith is a great deal closer to the state of salvation than is the righteousness produced by works. But we must resolve these statements with others in God’s Word, such as found in James chapter 2 and Romans 2:13, where the effect of works cannot be denied. What is our conclusion – what is more important or has a greater bearing on our salvation – faith or works? The answer is that there must be a balance of both. The righteousness that we attain through faith in Jesus Christ spurs us on to good works, which glorify God. It is a delicate and encouraging cycle of hearing, believing, submitting, and acting. Faith is made perfect in works.

In the latter portion of the chapter in verses 14-21, Israel is the subject again, and once more unfavorably. But through Paul’s explanation of why much of Israel is lost, he walks through some of the plan of salvation. Firstly, there is the need to be exposed to the teaching and the preaching so that people have the opportunity to believe. Then, hearing the good news is necessary so that the seed will be planted. Once the truth is heard, people will either believe or they will not. Once belief resides in the heart, the action of repentance from those sins forbidden by God follows, after which confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God takes place. Completing the salvation plan under Christ is the obedient act of baptism, shown in Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, and I Peter 3:21.

The lament of Israel continues to the end of this chapter, as Paul pulls verses from Nahum, Isaiah and Deuteronomy to demonstrate how Israel has had opportunities aplenty to cling to God. The Word of God and the prophecies of Jesus Christ have been proclaimed at large for all to hear for a sustained period of time, leaving no Israelite an excuse. Indeed, the passages invoked by Paul here have an ironic feeling to them because many of God’s people, the very ones that heard the teaching and preaching over the years, deny Christ. But the Gentiles prove themselves believers of God’s Son and will have the salvation that so many erroneous and proud Israelites forsake.

The conclusion of the chapter, then is that salvation is available for all, despite the nation of Israel having been God’s chosen nation prior to the dispensation of Jesus Christ. But when thinking of the personal value that this chapter can have for us today, we may find a more useful meditation in the concepts of faith, works, righteousness, and confession.

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