Paul’s anguish over his, “…brothers according to the flesh,” emerges once again as he reflects on national Israel’s ignorance of, “the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own” (Romans 10:3). Only that which can bring an end to righteousness attempted under the Law is God’s righteousness. This truth, reaching back to the promises of God in Eden, to Noah, and covenanted with Abraham, the Lord has revealed in Jesus Christ for Jew and Gentile alike: “For Christ is the end (Greek: telos, signifying completion or fulfillment) of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (10:4). Christ fulfills the Law, making a new covenant possible established in His righteousness and blood atonement. In this only, based on faith in Christ, has God’s righteousness and salvation been made known for all.
Here, then, we have the other major theme within Romans: God will have mercy on whom He has mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He has compassion (Exodus 33:19 cited in Romans 9:15). God’s mercy and compassion are also inclusive of Gentiles. This has always been the plan: “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved’” (Hosea 2:23 cited in Romans 9:25). The salvation of Jew and Gentile stands in view, with no one coming to the Father except by the crucified Jesus Christ.
The text for this Sunday includes several Old Testament citations as Paul moves from the thesis that, “Christ is the end of the Law” (10:4). A citation from Leviticus 18:5 confirms, “The person who does these things (in the Law) will live by them” (10:5). Living in obedience to the Law is a way of life. However, this does not lead to righteousness before God because human nature and the human condition are not capable of fulfilling God’s Law according to the exacting standard of the Law. The righteousness of God comes only through faith in Christ. Faith in Christ constitutes faith in God’s Word and Person. His Word and Person are put to action in the availing life, atonement, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God.
The righteousness of God comes only through faith in Christ. Faith in Christ constitutes faith in God’s Word and Person.
Paul resorts to Deuteronomy 30:11-14 as well. This text from the hand of Moses focuses on God’s covenantal promise. What man cannot (as a matter of ability) accomplish, God has accomplished through His son Jesus. This is the righteousness, “…that comes from faith” (10:6a). Consequently, Paul continues, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into Heaven?’ (that is to bring Christ down) or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith we proclaim)” (10:6b-8).
Then, Paul states the Gospel as plainly as can be found anywhere in the New Testament. All God has provided is in the Word. This Word is a divine proclamation of promise, eliciting responses of confessing and believing. To emphasize it, Paul cites from early Christian tradition and does so in acrostic poetic formulation (A to A, B to B, C to C), to couple his meaning three times over.
A If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord
B and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
C you will be saved.
B For one believes with the heart and so is justified,
A and one confesses with the mouth
C and so is saved (10:9-10).
The confession, “Jesus is Lord… God raised Him from the dead,” constitutes the most basic Christian confession of the truth and is the Word that saves and justifies. Such belief and confession result from the work of the Holy Spirit bringing faith, repentance, and confession. Consequently, “No one who believes in [Christ Jesus] will be put to shame” (10:11). Paul cites the second half of Isaiah 28:16, to proclaim that God's promise of salvation is for all. There is only one promise, one people, one Lord: “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on Him” (10:12). Ephesians 4:4-6 expands upon this theme. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (10:13).
The confession, “Jesus is Lord… God raised Him from the dead,” constitutes the most basic Christian confession of the truth and is the Word that saves and justifies.
The next section explains the rationale of preaching. Both content and purpose are in view. Paul asks four questions to emphasize the dependency of the Word upon the immediate proclaimer (the preacher/messenger) and, so, the ultimate preacher-messenger of this promise, namely the Lord. “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim Him? And how are they to proclaim Him unless they are sent?” (10:14-15a). The “sending” brings to mind Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples as apostles (John 20:21-23), as He says to them, “He who hears you, hears me” (Luke 10:16).
Each question builds on the previous one, taking the pericope to a resounding conclusion: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (10:15). The text identifies the messengers of God portrayed in the prophecy of Isaiah. As the Israelites return from captivity in Babylon, the heralds in Jerusalem are called to go to the temple mount and shout aloud God’s promise of restoration to those who return from captivity. Jesus, Paul has been saying, has led a far greater exodus, one that includes Jews and Gentiles, indeed, an exodus achieved by a Passover Lamb never to be eclipsed, whose blood established an everlasting new covenant. The Isaiah text continues with the messenger of God who, “…announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7). So, too, the message of the New Testament is that God reigns on Earth as He does in Heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Preachers should have a field day with this text.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in Romans 10:5-17.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Romans 10:5-17.
God’s Greater Story-Check out this wonderful sermon series on Romans 6-14 by our own David Schmitt.