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Romans 10:1-21

IV.          God's Purpose with Israel - 9:1-11:36

A.            Israel's Fall - 9:1-33

B.            Israel's Fault - 10:1-21


1.             The negation of the gospel's purpose - 10:1-8


a.              Paul's desire - v. 1


The sincerity of Paul's words can be tested by reading this verse in the light of 9:1-5.


This declaration must not be divorced from its context. Paul's passion for the salvation of Israel is not inconsistent with his belief in the doctrine of predestination. The eternal purpose of God, set forth in chp. 9, is not incompatible with his prayer in chp. 10. Our attitude towards people is not to be governed by God's secret counsel concerning them. If anyone should argue that the truth of divine election (chp. 9) negates the necessity of prayer (chp. 10), he must explain why Paul felt no such tension. Human logic/reasoning says: “Why bother praying for people if they are elect or non-elect by God’s sovereign decision? They either will or won’t come to salvation because of God’s predestination, not your prayer.” But Paul will not let us reason this way.


b.             Israel's dedication - v. 2


See Mt. 23:15; Gal. 1:14; Acts 22:3; 26:9ff.; Phil. 3:4-9. Zeal in and of itself is morally neutral. Its ethical character is determined by the object on which it is focused. Zeal that is divorced from knowledge of the gospel is no better than apathy. Sincerity is no substitute for the truth.


"The proper word for zeal without knowledge, commitment without reflection, or enthusiasm without understanding, is fanaticism. And fanaticism is a horrid and dangerous state to be in" (Stott, 280).


c.              Israel's delusion - vv. 3-8


1)             concerning the Law's power - v. 3


Cf. Rom. 9:30-33. Their ignorance was of God's prescribed manner for attaining a righteous standing in His presence. They pursued righteousness as if it were attainable by doing good works (9:32), rather than by faith.


2)             concerning the Law's purpose - v. 4


The Law of Moses was never intended to be a means whereby one might attain a righteous standing with God. It was always and only a pointer to Christ, through faith in whom one may be saved.


In what sense is Christ the end (telos) of the law? Three options:


Christ is the fulfillment of the law (Mt. 5:17), in the sense that all OT types, figures, institutions, and ritual pointed to and were fulfilled in him.


Christ is the goal of the law (Gal. 3:23-26) in the sense that the Law existed primarily to lead people to faith in the Messiah. Its purpose was not to save, but to send the sinner to Christ.


Christ is the termination of the law (Rom. 6:14; 7:4) in the sense that the Mosaic Law as a covenant has ended. God's people are no longer legally or morally bound to the stipulations of the old covenant.


3)             concerning the Law's preaching - vv. 5-8


Paul's point seems to be that even the Law itself proclaimed salvation by faith and not by works. Salvation is not a matter of searching high and low or of working to win God's favor. God has already made provision for us in Christ Jesus. We do not have to scale the heights of heaven to procure it: Christ Jesus has already come down from heaven with it. We do not have to descend into the depths to bring it up: Christ has descended into death and has been raised on our behalf. In other words, salvation is not a matter of performing some magnificent physical deed. It is already here, present and available. All one need do is believe. Stott explains:


"Storming the ramparts of heaven and potholing in Hades, in search of Christ, are equally unnecessary. For Christ has come and died, and been raised, and is therefore immediately accessible to faith. We do not need to do anything. Everything that is necessary has already been done" (284).


2.             The nature of the gospel's principles - 10:9-13


a.              its requirements - v. 9


1)             confession of Christ's lordship - v. 9a


2)             belief in Christ's life - v. 9b



Excursus on the Lordship Debate


What is at stake in the Lordship Debate?


·          Those who affirm "Lordship" salvation oppose the idea that one may have saving faith without submitting to the Lordship of Jesus in daily obedience. We are saved by faith alone, but not by the faith which is alone (Sola fides iustificat, sed non fides quae est sola).


·          Saving faith is a working faith. That faith by means of which we are justified is the kind or quality of faith that produces obedience and the fruit of the Spirit. In the absence of obedience, in the absence of fruit, in the absence of submission to the lordship of Jesus, there is doubt whether the faith is saving.


·          Opponents of lordship salvation insist that such a view introduces works into the gospel and compromises grace. Faith should, but may not, produce works of obedience. According to this view, you can be a Christian without necessarily being a disciple; you can receive Jesus as Savior without necessarily submitting to Him as Lord. How you live and what you believe after you profess faith in Christ has no bearing on whether you really believed in Him in the first place.


·          On this view, it is altogether possible that a born-again believer may repudiate the faith, turn his back on Jesus, and become an unbeliever. However, advocates of the non-Lordship position generally affirm eternal security. Thus heaven will receive saved unbelievers!





1)             In Romans 10:9 Paul identifies the confession of Jesus as Lord to be an essential element in the gospel message.


2)             The Greek word Kurios ("Lord") is used more than 6,000x in the LXX to translate the name YHWH. Many of these OT texts referring to YHWH are applied to Jesus in the NT. For example, its use in Joel 2:32 is applied to Jesus in Romans 10:13. Thus, confession of the "Lordship" of Jesus entails, at minimum, the confession of his full and perfect deity. Jesus is YHWH incarnate. In Phil. 2:10 Paul describes the title Kurios as "the name which is above every name," which can only be the name of God himself. Thus, as Cranfield notes, "the confession that Jesus is Lord meant the acknowledgment that Jesus shares the name and the nature, the holiness, the authority, power, majesty and eternity of the one and only true God" (2:529).


3)             In Romans 10:9 the confession of Jesus as Lord refers to the lordship he exercises by virtue of his exaltation. It points to his investiture with universal dominion. Thus, "the hearer of the gospel message is called upon to affirm an article of faith, namely, that by virtue of his death and resurrection, Jesus has been exalted to a place of sovereignty over all men" (Alan Chrisope, Jesus is Lord [Evangelical Press, 1982], 62-3).


4)             This confession involves the acknowledgment of the rightful authority of Jesus Christ over the life of the believer. According to George E. Ladd, this confession "reflects the personal experience of the confessor. He confesses Jesus as Lord because he has received Jesus Christ as his Lord (Col. 2:6). He has entered into a new relationship in which he acknowledges the absolute sovereignty and mastery of the exalted Jesus over his life" (Theology of the NT, 415).


Q: "Can we believe in Jesus Christ in the biblical sense of that term if we do not intend to submit to his authority?"


5)             The doctrine of Lordship Salvation views saving faith neither as passive nor fruitless. The faith that is the product of regeneration, the faith that embraces the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross energizes a life of love and obedience and worship.The controversy is not a dispute about whether salvation is by faith only or by faith plus works. All agree that we are saved by grace through faith, apart from works (Eph. 2:8-10). But the controversy is about the nature of the faith that saves. According to Lordship Salvation,


Sola fides iustificat (faith alone justifies), sed non fides quae est sola (but not the faith which is alone).


6)             We must distinguish between the content of faith and the consequences of faith. To say that faith issues in good works does not mean faith is good works. To say that works are the expression of faith does not means works are the essence of faith.


7)             Lordship salvation does not teach that Christians can't sin. It does teach that Christians can't live complacently in it. Lordship salvation does not say Christians will be sinless. But it does insist that Christians will sin less. Christians do sin, but they don't practice it (1 John 3:6). Christians sin; sometimes seriously. But if they are Christians, they will suffer for it (Heb. 12). Complacency and contentment in sin are the hallmark of the unregenerate soul. Conviction is the sign of the saved one. In other words, the Christian will sin, but it will make him miserable.


8)             Thus lordship salvation recognizes a distinction between the implicit acknowledgment by the new convert of the principle of Christ's rightful authority over his life and the explicit practice of progressive submission to the Christ who is Lord. Receiving Christ as Savior and Lord does not mean the new convert is wholly committed. It does mean he is committed to being holy.


9)             Lordship salvation insists that repentance is essential to the gospel message (see Luke 24:47). Says MacArthur:


"If someone is walking away from you and you say, 'Come here,' it is not necessary to say 'turn around and come.' The U-turn is implied in the direction 'come'. In like manner, when our Lord says, 'Come to Me' (Mt. 11:28), the about-face of repentance is understood" (34).


10)          This controversy also focuses on the grounds for assurance of salvation. Advocates of lordship salvation recognize three grounds:


The first and preeminent ground for assurance of salvation is the inescapable logic of John 3:16. Christ died for sinners. All who believe in Christ's death have eternal life. I have believed in Christ. Therefore, I have eternal life. We can have assurance we are saved because we know God's word is true concerning the saving work of Christ and the eternal destiny of those who embrace it by faith.


Second, according to Romans 8:16 (and other texts), the Holy Spirit awakens our hearts with the inner, subjective, intuitive confirmation and confidence that indeed we are God's children.


Third, the reality of the root is born out by the fruit. Loyalty, love, and obedience bear witness to the reality of one's profession. Where there is no fruit, there may be no root. See John 8:31; Heb. 3:14; 1 John 2:3-4,19.


See the study by John Piper, Letter to a Friend: Concerning the So-Called 'Lordship Salvation.’


What are some of the practical effects and implications of this controversy?


b.             its results - v. 10


1)             righteousness - v. 10a


2)             salvation - v. 10b


c.              its recipients - vv. 11-13


Rom. 10:11 = Isa. 28:16


Rom. 10:13 = Joel 2:32


The deity of Christ is especially highlighted in v. 13. Note two things. First, "to call upon the name of the Lord" is the language of prayer and supplication directed to God. As Cranfield notes, "the fact that Paul can think of prayer to the exalted Christ without the least repugnance is, in the light of the first and second commandments of the Decalogue, the decisive clarification of the significance which he attached to the title kurios as applied to Christ" (2:532). Second, the ease with which Paul applies to Jesus an OT text that speaks of YHWH reflects the confidence of conviction concerning his deity. Cf. also


Luke 1:76 and Malachi 3:1

Rev. 1:13ff. and Daniel 10:5-7

Heb. 1:8 and Ps. 45:6-7

John 12:37-41 and Isa. 6:1-12

2 Cor. 3:16 and Exod. 34

1 Pt. 2:3-4 and Ps. 34:8

Phil. 2:9-11 and Isa. 45:20-25

1 Pt. 3:15 and Isa. 29:23

Rev. 1:17 and Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12


3.             The necessity of the gospel's proclamation - 10:14-15


The subject of these verbs is surely the same as that of the third person plural verbs in 9:32; 10:2,3, namely, the Jews. "At this point Paul is concerned to show that the Jews have really had full opportunity to call upon the name of the Lord in the sense of vv. 12 and 13, and are therefore without excuse" (Cranfield, 2:533).


The central issue here is that salvation does not simply happen willy-nilly, as if in a vacuum. Rather "it occurs only in a context created by proclamation of the gospel on the part of those commissioned to proclaim it" (Murray, 58).


·          Paul's belief in the sovereignty of God in salvation, as expressed in Rom. 9, in no way diminished his belief in the absolute necessity of preaching the gospel. Paul did not believe that divine election negated the requirement that one believe in order to be saved.


·          Two questions are also raised here: (1) Is salvation ever possible without faith? (2) Is faith ever possible without hearing?


a.              to call, one must believe


b.             to believe, one must hear


c.              to hear, someone must preach


d.             to preach, someone must be sent


4.             The neglect of the gospel's privileges - 10:16-21


a.              Israel's rejection - vv. 16-17


Verse 17 is why we place so much emphasis on preaching, exposition, and application of the Word of God. Faith does not come by any other means, neither by hereditary descent nor by church attendance nor participation in the sacraments. Spurgeon said it best:


"Faith cannot be washed into us by immersion, nor sprinkled upon us in christening; it is not to be poured into us from a chalice, nor generated in us by a consecrated piece of bread. There is no magic about it; it comes by hearing the word of God, and by that way only."


[Transition: But surely Israel has a legitimate excuse for not believing, don't they? Perhaps they never heard the gospel. Or perhaps if they heard it, they didn't know what they were hearing.]


b.             Israel's responsibility - vv. 18-21


1)             Israel has heard - v. 18


Rom. 10:18b = Psalm 19:4.


By quoting Ps. 19 Paul "is not trying to tell us that the OT Psalm was describing the universal spread of the gospel. What he means is that what in Ps. 19 applies to the language of the heavenly bodies is also applicable to the spread of the gospel" (Hendriksen, 352).


2)             Israel has known - vv. 19-21


In saying they do know, Paul is not contradicting 10:2-3 where he affirmed Israel's ignorance. In one sense they know, in that the knowledge has been made accessible to them, and yet they do not savingly know, in that they have rejected it.