Romans 10 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Romans 10
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

(1) My heart’s desire.—Strictly, the goodwill of my heart. The earlier portion of this chapter is occupied with a more particular exposition of the cause of Israel’s rejection, which has been just alleged. They sought to do a hard thing—to work out a righteousness for themselves—instead of an easy thing—simply to believe in Christ.

This chapter, like the last, is introduced by an expression of the Apostle’s own warm affection for his people and his earnest desire for their salvation.

For Israel.—The true text is, “for them.” “Israel” has been put in the margin as an explanatory gloss, and thence found its way into the text. What made the rejection of Israel so peculiarly pathetic was that they were not a mere godless and irreligious people. On the contrary, they had a sincere zeal for religion, but it was a misdirected and ill-judged zeal.

For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
(2) A zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.—It would be difficult to find a more happy description of the state of the Jews at this period. They had “a zeal for God.” “The Jew,” said Josephus, “knows the Law better than his own name . . . The sacred rules were punctually observed . . . The great feasts were frequented by countless thousands . . . Over and above the requirements of the Law, ascetic religious exercises advocated by the teachers of the Law came into vogue. . . . Even the Hellenised and Alexandrian Jews under Caligula died on the cross and by fire, and the Palestinian prisoners in the last war died by the claws of African lions in the amphitheatre, rather than sin against the Law. What Greek,” exclaims Josephus, “would do the like? . . . The Jews also exhibited an ardent zeal for the conversion of the Gentiles to the Law of Moses. The proselytes filled Asia Minor and Syria, and—to the indignation of Tacitus—Italy and Rome.” The tenacity of the Jews, and their uncompromising monotheism, were seen in some conspicuous examples. In the early part of his procuratorship, Pilate, seeking to break through their known repugnance to everything that savoured of image-worship, had introduced into Jerusalem ensigns surmounted with silver busts of the emperor. Upon this the people went down in a body to Cæsarea, waited for five days and nights in the market-place, bared their necks to the soldiers that Pilate sent in among them, and did not desist until the order for the removal of the ensigns had been given. Later he caused to be hung up in the palace at Jerusalem certain gilded shields bearing a dedicatory inscription to Tiberius. Then, again, the Jews did not rest until, by their complaints addressed directly to the emperor, they had succeeded in getting them taken down. The consternation that was caused by Caligula’s order for the erection of his own statue in the Temple is well known. None of the Roman governors dared to carry it into execution; and Caligula himself was slain before it could be accomplished.

Justice must be done to the heroic spirit of the Jews. But it was zeal directed into the most mistaken channels. Their religion was legal and formal to the last degree. Under an outward show of punctilious obedience, it concealed all the inward corruption described by the Apostle in Romans 2:17-29, the full extent of which was seen in the horrors of the great insurrection and the siege of Jerusalem.

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.
(3) God’s righteousness.—See Romans 1:17; Romans 3:21.

Their own righteousness.—A righteousness founded on their own works.

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
(4) The end of the law.—“End,” in the proper sense of termination or conclusion. Christ is that which brings the functions of the Law to an end by superseding it. “The Law pursues a man until he takes refuge in Christ; then it says, Thou hast found thine asylum; I shall trouble thee no more, now thou art wise; now thou art safe.” (Bengel.)

For righteousness to every one that believeth.—So that every one who believes may obtain righteousness.

For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
(5) For Moses describeth.—The Law required an actual literal fulfilment. Its essence consisted in works. “The man which doeth these things shall live.”

By them.—The true reading is, probably, in iti.e., the righteousness just mentioned. “The man who doeth this righteousness” (according to a more correct text) “shall live in and by it.”

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:)
(6) But the righteousness.—In opposition to this righteousness of works, so laborious and so impracticable, the Apostle adduces another quotation to show that the righteousness which depends on faith is much easier and simpler.

The original of the quotation has, indeed, a quite different application. It referred to that very law which the Apostle is depreciating. Moses had described the Law as something quite easy and accessible; but history had shown that, especially in the development in which the Law was known to the Apostle, the words were really much more applicable to his doctrine of a righteousness which was based upon faith. He therefore regards them as spoken allegorically and typically with reference to this.

The righteousness which is of faith speaketh.—This faith-righteousness is personified as if it were speaking itself, because the language used is applicable to it.

That is, to bring Christ down from above.—The Apostle adds these interpretations so as to give a specially Christian meaning to the words of Moses. All that these had meant was that the Law was not remote either in one direction or in another. The Apostle in the phrase “ascend into heaven” sees at once an allusion to the ascended Saviour, and he interprets it as if it implied that the Christian must ascend up to Him, or; what comes to the same thing, as if He must be brought down to the Christian. In like manner, when mention is made of descending into the abyss, he sees here an allusion to the descent of Christ into Hades. Again, he repudiates the idea that the Christian is compelled to join Him there in literal bodily presence. A far easier and simpler thing is the faith of the gospel. All the Christian has to do is to listen to it when it is preached, and then to confess his own adhesion to it.

Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
(7) Into the deep.—In the original, beyond the sea. The word which St. Paul uses is found in the LXX. for “the sea,” but here means the abyss of Hades.

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;
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.
(9) If thou shalt confess with thy mouth.—Interesting as containing the earliest formal confession of faith; that in Acts 8:37 (see Note there) is not genuine.

There is no opposition between the outward confession and the inward act of faith. The one is regarded as the necessary consequence and expression of the other. In the next verse this takes the form of Hebrew parallelism, in which the balanced clauses are regarded as equivalent to each other.

The Lord Jesus.—Jesus as Lord.

Hath raised him from the dead.—Comp. Romans 4:25. Though the death of Christ apprehended by faith is more especially the cause of the Christian’s salvation, still the Apostle regards the Resurrection as the cardinal point; for without the Resurrection the proof of the Messiahship of Jesus would have been incomplete, and His death would not have had its saving efficacy.

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
(11) Whosoever believeth.All who believe shall be saved, for, &c.

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.
(12) For the same Lord over all is rich.—Rather, for the same Lord (is Lord) over all, abounding, &c. Christ is the Lord alike of Jew and of Gentile. (Comp. Ephesians 4:5.)

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
(13) Upon the name of the Lord.—Originally, as meaning “of Jehovah,” but with especial reference to the Messianic Advent. Here, therefore, it is applied to our Lord.

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?
(14-21) Thus there is a distinct order—belief, confession, invocation. But before either the last or the first of these steps is taken the gospel must be preached. The Jew, however, cannot plead that the gospel has not been preached to him. It has been preached both to Jew and Gentile. Both Moses and Isaiah had foretold the conversion of the Gentiles, and Isaiah had also foretold the unbelief of the Jews.

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!
(15) The happy consequences of this preaching were already intimated by the prophet Isaiah.

Preach the gospel of peace.—These words are omitted in the group of oldest MSS., and should be left out in the text. The whole of the quotation is not given by St. Paul.

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
(16) Applying this condition of the necessity of preaching to the gospel, we nevertheless see that, as a matter of fact, all did not accept it. Just as Isaiah had said.

The argument does not run quite smoothly. The Apostle has two thoughts in his mind: (1) the necessity that the gospel should be preached before it could be believed; (2) the fact that, although it was preached (and accepted by many among the Gentiles), it was not accepted by the Jews. He begins to introduce this second topic before he has quite done with the first. Romans 10:17 goes back to and connects logically with Romans 10:15, while Romans 10:16 anticipates Romans 10:19; Romans 10:21.

Our report.—So Authorised version, rightly. The Greek word means literally, our hearing. Here it is, the message preached by us, but heard by those who listened to it.

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
(17) So then faith cometh.—Inference from the prophecy just quoted. Before men can believe, there must be something for them to believe. That something is the word of God, which we preach and they hear. It must be remembered that the word for “report” in Romans 10:16, and for “hearing” in Romans 10:17, is the same, but with a slight difference of meaning. In the first place, both the act of hearer and preacher are involved; in the second place, only the act of the hearer.

By the word of God.—We should read here, without doubt, “by the word of Christ”i.e., by the gospel first delivered by Christ and propagated by His ministers.

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.
(18) Have they not heard?—The relations of hearing to belief suggest to the Apostle a possible excuse for the Jews, and the excuse he puts forward interrogatively himself: “But, I ask, did they (the Jews) not hear?” Yes, for the gospel was preached to them, as indeed to all mankind.

Their sound.—Here, the voice of the preachers; in the original of Psalms 19, the unspoken testimony of the works of nature, and especially the heavenly bodies, to natural religion (“What though no real voice or sound,” &c.).

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.
(19) Did not Israel know that the preaching of the gospel would be thus universal, and pass over from them to the Gentiles? Yes, certainly, for Moses had warned them of this.

First.—In the order of time and of Scripture.

I will provoke you.—In requital for the idolatries of the Jews, Moses prophesied that God would bestow his favour on a Gentile nation, and so provoke their jealousy; and the Apostle sees the fulfilment of this in his own day.

No people . . . a foolish nation.—Terms used by the Jews of their Gentile neighbours. They were “no people,” because they did not stand in the same recognised relation to God. They were “a foolish nation,” because they had not received the same special revelation, but, on the contrary, worshipped stocks and stones.

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.
(20) Is very bold.—Comes forward and tells them the naked truth.

I was found.—The original of the quotation referred to the apostate Israel; St. Paul here applies it to the Gentiles.

But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
(21) To Israel.—With regard to Israel.

He saith.—Isaiah, speaking as the mouthpiece of God.

All day long.—This quotation is from the next verse to the preceding, and there is no such distinction in the persons to whom it is addressed as the Apostle here draws.

Gainsaying.—A people which refused the proffered salvation.

Courtesy of Open Bible