Romans, Lesson 19: Jesus Comes to You in the Word and Does the Doing

Pantokrator in interior dome of Church (610x406)When we take in the macro structure of Romans, we find:

Romans 1-8: God’s inclusion of the Gentiles Romans 9-11: God’s inclusion of Israel Romans 12-15: Gentiles and Jews getting along

Paul still deals with the question, “How do we understand the role of Israel in the New Covenant?”  Today’s lesson delves into Paul’s second primary response to why many Gentiles will inherit what God promised to Israel, while most of Israel will not.

 

“Israel’s” Failure and Why

Read Romans 9:30-33

Verses 30-31 is an awkward construction.  Here’s is pastor’s “wooden” translation, which may help us follow Paul’s line of thought, where using uses the imagery of a race.

“The Gentiles, not pursuing righteousness, overtook righteousness, the righteousness from faith.  Israel, however, pursuing a Torah of righteousness did not reach the Torah.”

In the Old Testament, the verb “pursue” usually referred to people who chased others to overtake them, especially in battle (see, Genesis 31:23, Exodus 15:9).

“from faith”: The preposition “from” (Greek, ek) shows faith gives the righteousness demanded.  As we follow Paul’s discussion of faith, God gives us faith in Jesus, whose faithfulness saved, and saves, us.  The ludicrous example Paul uses shows Gentiles “overcoming” righteous, which faith gave them in a footrace they didn’t even know they were running.  The Israelites knew they were in a race and ran it with all their might.  Since their righteousness was based on following the Torah, which they were pursuing, they could never reach it.  This example deals with salvation, not living the Christian life.

  • Discuss: What purpose does this in-your-face description of why one is righteous serve?

 

Paul quotes Isaiah 28:16 with a section of 8:14 (stumbling over the stone).  The original context for these verses was Judah’s unbelief that God would deliver them in a time of war.  In response, God promised to lay a foundation stone in Zion (28:16), which Isaiah 8:14 described as “a rock one stumbles over.”  This rock is YHWH, God, who will become a “sanctuary” for those who trust in Him.  Messianically, this refers to Jesus.

Read Romans 10:1-4

  • Israel is outside God’s family. Their zeal is not “according to knowledge.”  What does Paul mean?

 

“knowledge”: Greek, epignosis.  In the beginning of his letter, Paul referred to idolaters in Romans 1:28, who “did not see fit to acknowledge [epignosis] God.”  Paul isn’t simply referring to “head knowledge” but “acknowledging.”  This is the difference between cognition and recognition.

In Romans 1, the idolaters knew God existed, but they did not wish to acknowledge Him by recognizing His claim on them.  Here, Paul is doing the same: when God came to give salvation in the person of Jesus, the Messiah, those who were “zealous for Torah” did not recognize and acknowledge Him.

  • How does Israel seeking to establish their own righteousness show a misplaced trust?

 

Excursus: The End of the Law

Here, Paul uses “law” (Greek, nomos) to mean “Torah.”  He’s writing to Jews who have made an idol of the Torah and trying to follow it as the source of their righteousness.  Instead of trusting in the Messiah, in whom the Torah pointed, they trusted in the book more than the Person, more in their righteous following of the Torah than in the righteous fulfiller of the Torah, who gives His righteousness to those who trust in Him.

“end”: The English word “end” is ambiguous, which can mean “termination.”  The Greek word here, telos, has the added nuance of “goal.”  Jesus is the goal of the Torah, what it was pointing to all along.  Jesus was “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2).  “The Torah and the Prophets [bore] witness to” Jesus as the righteousness of God (Romans 3:21).  Not to recognize Jesus as the Messiah also means not understanding the Torah itself!

So, Paul wrote in Romans 9:31: “Israel, however, pursuing a Torah of righteousness did not reach the Torah.”  To refuse Christ because you are defending the Torah is no defense of the Torah but a “seeking to establish their own” righteousness (Romans 10:3).  Those who refuse to acknowledge Christ based on the Torah also refuse to acknowledge the goal (telos) of the Torah, Jesus.

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The Validity of Righteousness by Faith

To outdo the “Torah,” Paul will quote from the Law (Torah) and the Prophets, providing the “two witnesses to establish a fact (Deuteronomy 19:15).

Read Romans 10:5

  • If someone wants to be righteous based on the Torah (Leviticus 18:5), what must he do?

 

Read Romans 10:6-7

OT Source (Septuagint) Paul’s Use What Paul is doing
Deuteronomy 8:4: Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, “It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land” Do not say in your heart The Jewish Christians would understand the subtext, which came from the rest of the verse: We are not God’s people because of our righteousness
Deuteronomy 30:12: Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us… Who will ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down) “it to us” = “bring Christ down”: Jesus was God’s presence for us on earth
Deuteronomy 30:13: Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us

 

Psalm 107:26: They mount up to the heavens and descend into the deep

 

Who will descend into the abyss? (to bring Christ up from the dead) Paul interprets these passages Messianically, tapping into both Deuteronomy and the Psalms.  He finds their fullest understanding in Christ
 that we may hear it and do it? not quoted Paul implies Jesus, the Messiah does the commandment doing when it comes to salvation

 

Deuteronomy 30:14: But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart
and in your hands, that you may do it. not quoted

Instead, Paul says, “the word of faith we proclaim”

Paul switches from living out the faith to how faith becomes one’s own.  Faith comes with the delivery of the word/Word.

 

The “word of faith” is proclaimed to God’s people during the worship service.  In that setting, what does the proclaimed “word of faith” do for the true “Israel,” who have faith in the Messiah.

Read Romans 10:9-10

  • What is the result of believing and confessing?

 

  • When will “they” (the true Israel, who believe in the Messiah) be saved?

 

“confess”: Greek, homolegeo, “same say,” that is, to speak what already exists somewhere else.  To confess is not saying something original but, instead, repeating or saying what exists somewhere else.  In these verses, confessing with the mouth is speaking what is already in the heart.

 

19, Confessing, the Connection between the Heart and Mouth

 

Read Romans 10:11-13

Paul returns to his use of Isaiah 28:16 and 9:33, finishing with a quote from Joel 2:32.

  • Operating with Paul’s view of salvation (not our own, which we may bring), how can one “call on the name of the Lord”?

 

What God uses to Save His People

Paul now goes on to tell how people get the Word in their hearts, which their mouths can confess, starting with a quote from Isaiah 52:7.

Read Romans 10:14-17

  • Whom does God use to deliver His Word into His people’s hearts?

 

“obey the Gospel”: Paul uses wordplay here.  The Greek verb, obey, hypakouo, is derived from the word to hear, akouo.  Paul plays on what he just said: Faith comes from “hearing” (akouo) the Gospel; obeying the Gospel is a further extension of hearing.  The hearing empowers the doing, just as akouo is the source for the word, hypakuou.  So, if someone hears the Gospel but refuses to do, to obey, the problem is not with the Gospel but the person who refuses to let the second-half of hearing (doing) have its way with him.

  • How does one “get” faith?

 

  • What is to be the content of the sermon?

 

Paul now switches from “we” and “you” to “they,” now referring back to the unbelieving Jews who have rejected Jesus as the Messiah.

Read Romans 10:18-21

Paul’s flow of thought:

Paul’s Quotation His Point
Psalm 19:4: Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. The psalm proclaimed the glory of the Lord “told” in the span of the heavens.  Paul applies this to the proclamation of the Gospel, beginning at Jerusalem (Romans 15:19).  If a worldwide proclamation has gone out from the heart of Israel, then Israel cannot claim not to have heard the Gospel.

 

Deuteronomy 32:21: I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry. Israel provoked God with what was not a god, idolatrous worship.  In response, God will provoke Israel to become “jealous of those who are not a nation, Gentiles, to show someone’s standing with God is His doing.

 

Isaiah 65:1: I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me. The Gentiles “found” and had revealed to them a God they did not “seek.”  Belonging to the people of God is His doing.

 

Isaiah 65:2: All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people. Belonging to God is His doing; not belonging is your doing, by being “disobedient and contrary.”

 

Link to the next Lesson.

 

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