Continuing now into Romans chapters 10 and 11, we recall that Paul declared in verse 4 of chapter 10 that Christ is the end, or ultimate objective of the Law. His saving work was completed at Calvary. Now, although righteousness-by-law says that, ‘the man who does these things will live by them’, faith does not challenge the complete accomplishment of the work of Christ. It does not ask who will ascend into heaven to bring Christ down, or descend to bring Him back in resurrection. No, faith goes along with Deuteronomy chapter 30 which Paul here quotes, “The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.”
We might just pause here to note that in these three chapters of Romans, chapters 9, 10 and 11, in which the apostle grapples with the deep things of divine election and sovereignty, he repeatedly quotes from the Old Testament scriptures; especially from Deuteronomy, Isaiah and the Psalms. He is longing that the case he is making will get through to some of his dearly beloved Jewish brothers and sisters, people who knew and revered the writings of Moses, of the prophets, and of David in the Psalms. They revered them as the very oracles of God. These are what undergird my case, Paul claims, about the grace of God in Christ.
‘Romans ten and nine’, runs the old gospel chorus, ‘is a favourite verse of mine’; and with good reason too! ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’. By these words many a rejoicing Christian has been given assurance of eternal salvation. The heart believes, the mouth confesses: truths deeply significant to those of Paul’s day who may be risking their life in saying, “Jesus is Lord.”
In the closing verses of chapter 10, Paul brings forward more Old Testament scriptures to present to the Jews who were seeking to establish their own righteousness while not submitting to God’s. To call effectively on God was not possible apart from believing on the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This faith could only result from hearing the gospel conveyed by the preacher sent by God, as Isaiah himself had been, who is again quoted, ‘”How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”‘ words with a particularly wonderful application to Christ. With sadness, this chapter has to close with another Isaiah citation, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
Well, I ask then, says the apostle, ‘Did God reject His people? By no means!’ Romans chapter 11 is another passage in this marvellous treatise which illuminates profound purposes of God nowhere else similarly expounded in the New Testament. For example, the truth that God provided for ‘a remnant chosen by grace’ from Israel, as in Elijah’s day. Because the mainstream of Israel sought righteousness by works and not by faith, they were hardened by God; solemn thought, as witnessed again by Isaiah’s and David’s wonderful writings.
And now comes a deep and wonderful truth about Israel’s fall. Was it beyond recovery? Not at all! A key passage is chapter 11 verses 11 and 12. ‘Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fulness bring!’
People who are not Jews, who believe in Christ are like a wild olive branch grafted into a pure root; not to be proud about this indeed, but to remember how dearly God longs to graft in again Jews, the natural branches, who believe.
‘Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.’ Then a glorious national salvation will come to Israel, pointing to the triumphant day of Christ’s return. ‘As far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs’. God’s gifts and His callings are irrevocable, and He ‘has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all’.
Yes, God is sovereign, and man is responsible, as shown in the working of God in grace to both Jews and Gentiles. And His eternal purposes, though incomprehensible in full to our small minds, will be accomplished to His glory.