Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have so far learned that the Law condemns and Faith redeems. Christ has come to all men, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, and all who call on His name are saved. All men are sinners condemned by our own faults, but in Christ we have salvation. However, in the last chapter we saw that God shows mercy to whom he wills, and this has largely been evidenced by the lack of believers among the Jews and the abundance among Gentiles.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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!
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.
18 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.
19 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.
20 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.
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
Ignorance of Righteousness
The Jews are a zealous people, and a religious people (insofar as they’re not among the atheist Jews that are so common in the United States, that is). The problem is, they don’t know what they’re zealous about. They are so focused on the Law and the covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that they’re ignorant to the truths of God’s righteousness. God is perfection in righteousness, and there is no way for fallen man to be sufficiently righteous to pass in His eyes, but the Jews seem convinced that this is not true. Their righteousness is not good enough, and the only thing they can do is to fall on His mercy and righteousness.
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promise, God and man sent to us to take our place. He is the end of the law – not the termination of the law, but its fulfillment and ultimate goal. He gives this righteousness to all who believe, and it really is that simple.
The Righteousness of Law and Christ
Moses’ law and writings (that is, the Pentateuch or first five books of the Old Testament – the Torah) teach us about the law and righteousness, but it is not the same as God’s righteousness. The righteousness of the law is imparted only upon those who are 100% in compliance with the law 100% of the time. Upon violating the law, one loses the righteousness of the law – we see this on earth, where law-abiding citizens are not generally under threat but law-breakers are subject to arrest, punishment, and potentially execution.
However, the righteousness by faith is something different entirely. We do not do anything for this righteousness – we do not have to go to Christ. We do not need someone to go get Christ for us, because he has come to us of his own accord. The Word is with us (“Emmanuel” – God with us), in our mouths and in our hearts.
If we confess with our mouths that Jesus is the Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead, then we are saved. The Word is with us, and we need nothing else, for the word in our hearts gives us faith and the word in our mouths gives confession.
It doesn’t matter who you are. Whether you be Jew or Gentile, man or woman, child or adult, wise or fool, there is one God who has come to us. Whoever calls on His name shall be saved, and no power in heaven or hell or earth shall prevent it.
Preaching and Belief
In order to be call on Christ, you have to believe. It is irrational for one who does not believe to call on Him, in the same way it is irrational for a Christian like myself to call on the Flying Spaghetti Monster and hope for any kind of salvation. If I do not believe, why on earth would I call on that in which I do not believe for help?
In order to believe in something, though, you also have to know what it is. Suppose there were a tax accountant spirit called Yarglsplat that makes tax troubles magically disappear – had I not told you about Yarglsplat just now, how can you be expected to call on it? And, even if you know the name, if you don’t know he’s the magic spirit of tax accounting you can’t be expected to call on him to help with your tax troubles. We preach Christ so that all may hear, and by hearing they might believe and be saved.
For this reason, preaching is a high calling not to be taken lightly. We possess the greatest news mankind has ever known, but if we had not been told this news we could not celebrate as we do. A messenger bearing terrible news may be hated, but who hates the bearer of good news?
The Disobedient Jews
The trouble is, the Jews have not all obeyed the gospel or accepted the news they have received. Even in the days of Isaiah, he lamented that no one seemed to be listening to the news he brought, though he was a prophet of the Most High. You have to hear the news in order to believe it (obviously), and even though they heard the news they did not listen. In the days of Isaiah, they did not listen to Isaiah (and the same is true of the other prophets), and now that the Christ they prophesied has come they continue not to listen and believe.
Moses prophesied that God would anger the Jews by coming to the Gentiles, who would hear his gospel and worship. This actually reflects the story of the prophet Jonah, who was sent to Nineveh with a message and refused to go so that they could not hear it. When God forced him to go, he delivered the news but expected these Gentiles not to listen (and so be judged). When they obeyed and were spared, Jonah was irritated. The same is true today, for there is nothing new under the sun.
Isaiah took it one step further, saying that God would be found by those who did not seek him. This, of course, means the Gentiles who were not given the promises nor the Law and so had no way to know to seek after Him. When he did come to the Gentiles, we believed and were saved, but though God revealed himself often to the people of Israel they remained disobedient. They were this way as far back as the days of Moses, when they followed God as a cloud and a pillar of fire and saw him atop the mountain with Moses, yet made idols the second Moses’ back was turned. This is their curse, it would seem, and Paul has lamented it throughout the epistle.
Let us Pray
Mighty Lord, creator and sustainer of all creation, author and perfecter of our faith, we thank you that you are Emmanuel – God with us. We have done nothing to merit any attention or gifts from You, and yet we have received them in abundance because of your unending mercy and grace. You loved us while we hated You, and out of that love You saw fit to send us Your Son Jesus, the Christ you promised and the deliverer we didn’t realize we desperately needed. For this, we owe you all praise now and forevermore.
We pray now not only for ourselves, but for the people of Israel who are the children of the covenant. For You, gracious Lord, saw fit to reveal yourself to us who sought you not and save those who despised you, but we are saddened that the seed of Abraham continue to seek after a false righteousness they cannot possess. Grant them, Lord, the fullness of the blessings you have showered on us adopted children, for the sake of their fathers, according to Your Will.
We thank and praise you for all you have done and continue to do for us, Lord. Let our hearts be always full of the Word, and let us not be silent but confess with boldness that Jesus is Lord. Bless your Church, the body of Christ, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ who is our head.
We ask all these things in the name of our Father in Heaven, and of our Lord Jesus Christ at his right hand, and of the Holy Spirit now with us.
May the good Lord go before you to lead you,
Behind you to encourage you,
Beside you to befriend you,
Beneath you to uphold you,
Above you to protect you,
And within you to inspire you.
Go in the peace and power of our Almighty and Gracious Lord.