Romans 10 (NRSV)
“There really is no need for any Christian mission to the Jews. They are and remain the people of God, even if they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Why this is so only God knows. Christians should concentrate their missionary activities on those who do not yet belong to the people of God, and they should court them with a holistic witness in word and deed rather than with polemical argument and cultural legislation. The long history of Christian anti-Semitism calls for repentance, not triumphalist claims of spiritual superiority.”
–Eric W. Gritsch, 1995
How do you think Paul would respond to Gritsch’s idea that the Jews do not need to know Jesus as Lord and Savior?
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
No longer is obedience to the law the basis for our relationship with God. Jesus has fulfilled perfectly all the law demands; when we believe in him, we receive “the righteousness that comes from God.” It is not our work that saves us, for only Christ’s work on the cross can do that.
Centuries before Paul, the prophet Jeremiah had told the people of Israel this new way was coming:
Jeremiah 31:31-33 (ESV)
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Salvation Is for All
5Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7“or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Instead of having to go to great lengths to achieve righteousness by the law, we can immediately receive righteousness by faith, by trusting in the word of the gospel. This is cause for great joy!
10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”
12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Psalm 91:15 (ESV)
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
14But 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? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
That shall turn their hearts to the right,
A story of truth and mercy,
A story of peace and light,
A story of peace and light.
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
And the dawning to noon day bright,
And Christ’s great kingdom
Shall come on earth,
The Kingdom of love and light.
We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
That shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
A song that shall conquer evil,
And shatter the spear and sword,
And shatter the spear and sword.
We’ve a message to give to the nations,
That the Lord who reigneth above
Hath sent us His Son to save us,
And show us that God is love,
And show us that God is love.
We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
Who the path of sorrow hath trod,
That all of the world’s great peoples
May come to the truth of God,
May come to the truth of God!
Kiri te Kanawa sings “How beautiful are the feet” from Messiah by George Friedric Handel. accompanied by The Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Sir Georg Solti conducting. Click HERE to listen.
16But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
For most of history, and even for most of the Christian era, it is true that most people could not read. They learned through listening. Even today, a commonly accepted statistic is that one in five adults in the developing world — almost 862 million people — cannot read or write.
When I tell Scripture by heart to a group, I often introduce it with this verse. To hear a good story told well, with enthusiasm and vigor, is a riveting experience! It can make you feel as if you were present at the event being told; it makes the “there and then” seem “here and now.” Speaking and telling the Word of God is another way, I think, in which the Word can become flesh, and dwell among us. And as we hear the Word, may we grow in faith.
18But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael
“All the day did I spread out My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”
The metaphor is of a mother opening her arms to call her child to her embrace. It has often helped me when my faith and love burned low. If God could go on doing such a loving thing “all day long” for years, and years, could not I go on loving and stretching out my arms too? And so I learned to pray, “Love through me, Love of God.”
He is the God of Patience and of Comfort (Romans 15:5) as well as the God of Hope (Romans 15:13). Paul must often have been discouraged and disappointed, but deep in his heart these lovely names were spoken. They can help us as they must have helped Paul.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.