1Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.
2For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.
3For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
As Paul mentioned in the last chapter, he has a great burden that Israel will turn from their hardness of heart and embrace the Messiah. To that end he prays. The Jews had and still have a zeal for the things of God, but they are misled and following lies. They need to know God’s righteousness through Christ rather than trying to attain to righteousness on their own apart from God. They must surrender themselves and admit their sinfulness, subjecting themselves to the intervention and provision of God through Christ.
4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
The law must show people their own sinfulness and then their end will be to turn to Christ in faith. Yet the Jews deceived themselves into thinking that they were actually keeping the Law. This was utter pride and self-righteousness. They loved the Law more than their God. They would not receive mercy.
5For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.
6But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: "DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?' (that is, to bring Christ down),
7or 'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)."
Man is notorious for trying to attain to their own righteousness, yet the person who relies upon keeping rules will be judged by their own performance. This inevitably will condemn them because no one fulfills all of the requirements of the Law. They try to bring God down to their level by reducing what true holiness and perfection is. They assume God will judge them on a lesser level. Others say that God would never send a person to hell because Christ will be merciful because of His love. They expect His love to undo His justice. This will not happen. Those who rely upon religious performance and self-righteousness by doing good works will be disappointed. Christ has set the standard high and God will enforce it. He will not have mercy on anyone who rejects the provision of His Son whom He loves.
8But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Deuteronomy 30:14 shows that salvation is of the inner man. It is something that proceeds out of the mouth and is a reality in the heart because of an inward faith. The saving truth of God’s Word is accomplished through faith in it. A person must confess verbally that Jesus is Lord, submitting thus to His authority in repentance from sin. He must also believe in his heart that He died for sin and was raised from the dead. The profession and inward belief according to the Word of God is what saves a person. It is impossible to have an inner belief of salvation without being willing to make an outward profession of faith. Yet many make outward professions and have no inward possession of faith. The heart and the mouth both play a role in salvation, and only God sees the true state of the heart.
11For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;
13for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."
God gives an open invitation to mankind, calling them to respond in faith. If they do, they will not be disappointed, particularly when they face God on judgment day. God is not partial to Jew or Gentile, extending grace to the entire world. He is Lord of all, not just of the Jew. He abounds in riches of grace and mercy, willing to save whoever will call upon His name. It is not as if He doesn’t have enough mercy to go around. The issue is that man is stubborn and unwilling to repent, choosing to love the things of this world rather than God who made the world.
14How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
15How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"
God has ordained a method and sequence for how the kingdom grows, the gospel is shared, and the truth is propagated. First of all let us note that the message we bring is good news of good things. When men understand that they are sinners, they are able to recognize the gospel for what it really is- good news. The gospel is a demonstration that the God of the universe that they have rejected still loves them and demonstrated His love by sending His own Son to die for their sins on the cross. It really is a beautiful thing. Yet how will anyone hear this message unless they are first sent. They must be sent out from the body of Christ. In one sense we are all commissioned by Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). In a practical sense however, each local body of believers ought to be training and sending out evangelists into the community and preparing missionaries for the world. Those sent must preach the good news. Preaching is God’s chosen means for sharing. The Greek word “kerusso” implies a public proclamation and heralding of the truth with a certain gravity and authority. This doesn’t mean that we have to go to the street corner and shout at people, though some may be called to preach in such a manner. The issue is that we are bold in our witness, approaching others and not waiting for them to come to us, and that we understand that we have the most important message of all. Like a king’s messenger, we had better get the message out to all the world. Preaching is not a mere conversation and sharing of opinions with one another. It is saying that the gospel is the truth and the world must receive it or else. There is an imperative element with preaching. Yet there is no need to cause any unneeded offense; the gospel will likely do all of that for us. We should be as gracious and loving as we can. Some preachers seem to hate the lost, which is not God’s attitude at all. We must love them to such a degree that they are drawn to the truth of the message of the gospel. No person will ever believe unless they hear the message of God from a herald, and no one will herald unless they are sent.
16However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?"
Israel had heard the message of God over and over again. Christ was even born to live and walk in their midst. Yet they rejected both the prophets God sent as well as His own Son. They heard the good news but they did not heed it. Saving faith responds in repentance to the truth. Yet the task of the believer is to be faithful in sharing the message. We cannot control the response of the hearer; we just need to make sure that they hear.
17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
No one can be saved merely from observing good deeds and actions. God has spoken to us in these later days through His Son, and people must hear the gospel of Christ which is the Word of Christ in order to be saved. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God. Good works, holiness, love, unity, and hope (among other fruit of the Spirit) are necessary to maintain a pure testimony before the lost and open their eyes to the truth. Yet saving faith is never generated simply by watching the good works of others. The unsaved can only respond in faith to a message. Our actions incarnate the message of Christ which casts a fragrance of life or death into the air, but ultimately the issue is propositional truth and a response to it. This is why we, like the early church, must be active in evangelism in addition to our good deeds. It is said of the early church that there was almost never a conversation that went by without a Christian sharing the gospel. May it be like that in our day.
18But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have;
"THEIR VOICE HAS GONE OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH,
AND THEIR WORDS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD."
Concerning Israel, they have indeed heard. The Word of God through the Law and the prophets was sufficient for their salvation, yet they did not listen.
19But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says,
"I WILL MAKE YOU JEALOUS BY THAT WHICH IS NOT A NATION,
BY A NATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WILL I ANGER YOU."
20And Isaiah is very bold and says,
"I WAS FOUND BY THOSE WHO DID NOT SEEK ME,
I BECAME MANIFEST TO THOSE WHO DID NOT ASK FOR ME."
21But as for Israel He says, "ALL THE DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND OBSTINATE PEOPLE."
God has worked further mercy out of Israel’s stubbornness and refusal to receive the gospel. The gospel went to the Gentiles because of God’s doing and mercy, not because of their begging for it to come to them. They didn’t ask to be the people of God, but God went to them. We can’t expect people to pound the front doors of our homes and churches down to hear the gospel. We must take it to them and pray for God to call them to salvation in His great mercy. Israel had indeed been angered by the message that they had rejected God despite their adequate knowledge of how to respond to Him in faith. They despise the fact that the “unclean” Gentiles can be the people of God. Thus, they reject and hate Christ as the Messiah, not caring for the message He came to preach. Yet the hardness of the heart of Israel is salvation for the Gentiles.