Paul begins his explanation of Israel’s failure in the beginning of chapter 10 as he did in chapter 9, with an expression of his deep and abiding love for his people. The chapter division signals a shift in Paul's emphasis from God's dealings with Israel in the past, specifically, before Christ's death, to His dealings with them in the present.
Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. Romans 10:1 NASB
By "brethren," Paul is referring to the predominant Gentile congregation in Rome. He wants them to share his desire for the salvation of Jews. Paul’s “desire” for their salvation springs from his great sorrow:
that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. Romans 9:2 NASB
Who is “them” in 10:1? The plural pronoun refers to the antecedent Israel, since Paul had just addressed their failure to arrive at the law of righteousness that they pursued:
but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Romans 9:31 NASB
So Paul tells us that his heart’s desire and prayer is for the salvation of Israel. Does that seen strange to you? I want to look at this from two different directions. First of all Paul is no hyper-Calvinist. In chapter 9 he emphasized the fact that they were unbelieving because of the sovereign elective choice of God. In other words, God didn't choose them all. And so the issue of chapter 9 is an issue of election. It is an issue of sovereign choice:
For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. Romans 9:15-16 NASB
So salvation does not depend upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's choice.
So the doctrine of God's sovereignty might lead some to give up praying for people’s salvation. They may think, “If God decides who will be saved and who won't, then why pray in the face of God's eternal decrees?” But not Paul. He understands God’s sovereignty better that anyone and yet he prays for the salvation of his kinsman according to the flesh. With this in mind notice what Paul told the Philippians:
The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 NASB
Paul is telling the Philippians and all believers to practice what we see in him. That would mean that we are to pray for the lost, would it not? Paul prayed for all kinds of things, he believed in prayer. And he taught that believers were to pray:
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; Colossians 4:2 NASB
This word "devote” is the Greek word proskartereo. It first meant: “to be strong towards, to endure in, persevere in.” It came to mean: “adhere to, persist in, to continue to do something with intense effort,” with the possible implication of despite difficulty. The present tense of "devote" further emphasizes the idea of persistence of prayer.
One thing seems clear from this verse: it is God's will that we pray. Sometimes we struggle to know the will of God for our lives. But there are some things that you do not have to struggle to know. One of them is that God's will is that you pray.
Everyone may not be able to give a definition of prayer, but I believe that everybody knows what prayer is, because I think that everybody prays. I think that even atheists pray when things get really bad. Whenever you're in trouble, or in a crisis, whenever all hell is breaking loose around you, even an atheist probably throws up a prayer just in case he or she is wrong. Everybody prays.
Non-believers pray many times out of desperation, with a hope that something might happen as a result. They're not really sure that anything is going to happen, but just in case, they probably ought to pray. So they pray whenever they're in a bind. They pray whenever they're facing a challenge, whenever they're facing a hard situation at home or at work, or whenever they're having a personal crisis. They want help. And if God is willing to help them, they're willing to receive that help.
"What is prayer?" The bottom line is: prayer is asking God for things. I know that we should come to God with more than asking. We should come with confession, thanksgiving and praise. In a broad sense, prayer includes all that. But, speaking precisely, prayer is asking God for something.
In answer to the question what is prayer the Westminster Catechism states, "Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of His Spirit, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies."
Be sure to notice the main thing: "Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God." That is the main meaning of prayer. Now think about this for a moment. God's will is that we, his creatures, ask Him for things. And it is not just His will, it is His delight:
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight. Proverbs 15:8 NASB
If prayer is asking God for things, and He delights in our prayer, then God loves to be asked for things. Would you agree with that? Isaiah tells us that God is eager to hear our prayers and respond to them:
"It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 NASB
In fact, He takes special steps to see to it that He is constantly beseeched:
On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; 7 And give Him no rest until He establishes And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Isaiah 62:6-7 NASB
So God loves being asked for things so much that He appoints people to "give him no rest" but to "remind the Lord" and "never keep silent." Remind Him of what? Remind Him of his promises. Remind Him of his goodness. Remind Him of his mercy. Remind Him of His love for His people. Why do I need to remind God of all of that? Surely He doesn't need to be reminded by me. No, He doesn't. But what you're doing is not just reminding the Lord, you're reminding yourself. You're remembering who God is when you pray by recounting His promises. You're reminding yourself of who God is. You're quoting His promises back to Him because it builds your faith in God. It shows you that God wants to do something.
This tells us that God, the Creator of the Universe, who holds our life in his hands and rules the world, is the kind of God who loves to be asked for things. Why does God not only will that we ask Him for things, but delight in it and take steps to see that it happens? What's behind this delight in our asking Him for things? What attribute of God causes Him to delight in our asking Him for things? Love! What does love do? It gives!
And call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me." Psalms 50:15 NASB
God answers our call for help so that we get the rescue, and He gets the honor.
God wills that you pray. He wills that you ask Him for things. And not just wills it, but really delights in it, because it comes from the very nature of who God is. He is love - He is a giver. Why is he a Giver? Because He is utterly self-sufficient and delights to overflow and show us His glorious fullness and strength and wisdom, and that He will give us whatever we need. God loves to show the fullness of His grace in meeting the needs of humble, dependent that is, praying people, because it magnifies His riches.
So prayer is not some small thing. It is not some marginal thing. It is not some incidental thing in the Christian life. Prayer gives honor and glory to God as the giver of all things.
From Genesis to Revelation, we find believers praying to the Lord. Abraham, Joseph, David, and Daniel offer wonderful examples of believers bringing needs and praises before the Lord. They did so consistently, even if it meant personal peril. Prayer was a priority for them. We can surmise that one of the critical reasons for their deep spirituality was that prayer had a place of priority in their lives.
The same is true in the New Testament. We see that our Lord gave priority to prayer. We follow through the book of Acts and see the early believers praying privately and corporately. Paul's epistles are filled with examples of his own prayers, demonstrating that he gave priority to this spiritual discipline.
Sometime we allow our theological convictions to become excuses for not praying. That is an unfortunate mistake. J.I. Packer explains that there is no conflict between God's sovereign foreordination and the effectiveness of prayer in the believer's life. He writes, "God foreordains the means as well as the end, and our prayer is foreordained as the means whereby He brings His sovereign will to pass" [Concise Theology, 189]. Along this same vein, R.L. Dabney has written: "God does not command it because He needs to be informed of our wants, or to be made willing to help. He commands it because He has seen fit to ordain it as the appointed means for reception of His blessing" [Systematic Theology, 717].
How many of you understand binary numbers and how they are used to make a computer work? How many of you use a computer? You mean to tell me that you use a computer even though you don't understand how it works?
How many of you understand how prayer can work when God is sovereign? How many of you pray? We can't change God's purposes, and if our prayers could shape God's policy, then the Most High would be subordinate to the will of man, and that is a terrifying thought. We know that we are commanded to pray, but because we don't understand how prayer can work when God is sovereign, we disobey His command to pray.
We don't have to know how a computer works to use it. And we don't have to understand how prayer works to pray. All we need to know is that God commands us to pray. How many of you have ever had an answer to prayer? Do you believe that God answers prayer? Sure you do. Since we believe that God answers prayer, why don't we pray more?
Believer, think about it, prayer is an opportunity for us, God's children, to talk to Him personally. That is mind-boggling when you think about it. Prayer is perhaps the greatest privilege we can experience. That we, fallen human beings, should be redeemed and privileged to walk into the very presence of God with boldness, as the Book of Hebrews says, and speak to God about whatever is on our minds, is beyond our ability to comprehend. We can lay on Him the desires and burdens of our hearts and have Him listen with the desire to respond and give us the desires of our heart. That is amazing! Sometimes when I think about this, I am dumbfounded that I do not spend much more time in prayer. What a privilege!
Paul's prayer for his Jewish brothers indicates that we're not supposed to sit back and try to figure out God's decree, we're supposed to proceed with prayer and evangelism. Notice how a Calvinist prays, “My prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” Now I know that Paul wasn’t a Calvinist, but Calvin was a Paulist.
Paul prays that God would save them. If you believe that God has the right and power to raise the spiritually dead and to grant faith to the disobedient and have mercy on whom he will have mercy, then you pray that God will do that. You ask God to actually save them—give life to the dead, make them alive spiritually.
But if you are an Arminian, if you believe that God does not have this right but that man has the right of final self-determination—that man is deciding who and how many will inhabit God's final kingdom—then you will not be able to ask God to actually save anybody. An Arminian can’t pray. "God, take out their heart of stone and give them a new heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19). They can't pray, "Lord, circumcise their heart so that they love you" (Deuteronomy 30:6). They can't pray, "Father, put your Spirit within them and cause them to walk in your statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27). They can't pray, "Lord, grant them repentance and a knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25–26). They can’t pray, "Open their eyes so that they believe the gospel" (Acts 16:14). If they asked God to do any of these things, they would be saying that God is the one who actually saves.
How does an Arminian pray if they really believe that man and not God must make the ultimate decisions about salvation? People who really believe that man must have the ultimate power of self-determination can't consistently pray that God would convert sinners. Why? Because if they pray for divine influence in a sinner's life, they are praying that God would change their will. So either you give up praying for God to save people, or you give up the idea that man has a free will.
At the end of an evangelistic meeting as a couple of hundred people came down to the front after the sermon, the evangelist said to the thousands in the stands, “You have prayed for those who now stand before me and that is good. You will pray for them tomorrow and that is good. But there is no use of your praying for them now, for not even God can help them now, they must decide for themselves.” That evangelist must serve a different God than the God of the Bible. If God is unable to help us, then we are all damned.
So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. Romans 9:16 NASB
Alright, so by Paul’s prayer for Israel we see that he is no hyper-Calvinist. He knows that God is sovereign over everything, including man’s will, so he prays that God would bring men to Himself.
The second thing that I see from Paul’s prayer for Israel is that he didn’t hold grudges or bitterness but was a man who believed in and practiced forgiveness. Let me remind you of Paul’s testimony:
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 2 Corinthians 11:24-25 NASB
As you can see the Jews didn’t treat Paul very well. If fact they wanted him dead:
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, Acts 14:19-21 NASB
What are Jews from Antioch and Iconium doing in Lystra? Those Jews in Antioch, who drove Paul and Barnabas out, had obviously followed them. Some of these Jews would have traveled more than one hundred miles just to persecute Paul!
Can you even imagine what it would be like to have a group of people pick up rocks and throw them at you until they thought you were dead? This would have to be a very painful experience! Yet, Paul is praying for these very people! People who constantly physically hurt him and tried their best to kill him. And his response is to pray for their forgiveness. He's very much in line with his Savior and Stephen, who prayed for their killers. Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Stephen prayed, "Lay not this sin to their charge." And here is Paul who has been maligned and persecuted and ridiculed by the Jews, who has been tracked down by the Judaizers who have tried to undo his teaching, who have persecuted him with zeal and he says, "I have a deep desire for their salvation, so much so that I pray to God that they would be saved." That is a forgiving heart. This is what Christianity is supposed to look like. Paul told believers to live like this:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32 NASB
We are to forgive, “Just as God in Christ also has forgive us.” Paul fleshed out Christianity, he was just like his Lord, and so are we to be. How are we doing? Forgiveness is not a option, it is a mandate. We are to be like our Father in heaven, and He is a forgiving God. We are His representatives and we are to model his character. In a world where revenge is a virtue, the forgiving person will stand out, they will be noticed for God's glory. Forgiveness isn't easy, but it is commanded.
A forgiving person glorifies YHWH, but an unforgiving Christian brings much pain upon themselves:
"Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." Matthew 18:32-35 NASB
These words are for believers. Jesus said, "What happened to that man will happen to you unless you learn to forgive one another." The torturers will come and take you away and torture you. What torturers? The hidden torturers of anger and bitterness that eat your insides out; the torturers of frustration and malice that give you ulcers, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, and lower back pain; the torturers that make you lie awake at night on your bed stewing over every rotten thing that happens to you; the torturers of an unforgiving heart who stalk your trail day and night, who never leave your side, who suck every bit of joy from your life.
Dr. Norman Walker, in his book, “Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices” writes this, "One of the most insidious causes of ulcers and cancer has been discovered in the victim's nursing resentments for a long time, all to often ever since childhood. Unless resentments are completely dissolved, they can frustrate otherwise most effective attempts to help the patient."
Alright, back to Romans 10:
For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. Romans 10:2 NASB
Paul says, I pray for them, he says, because I bear them witness. What does he mean by that? “I testify” – the word means to affirm something you've seen and heard. Paul had first-hand information. He was a Jew who had zeal and not knowledge:
For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. Galatians 1:13-14 NASB
Paul can testify to this because he had been there. This is his Christian evaluation of his pre-Christian experience. Zeal is not simply a feeling, it is something that you put feet to. In Philippians he talks more about his Jewish heritage.
circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. Philippians 3:5-6 NASB
Zeal had also characterized Paul's life, which in many ways duplicated Israel's experience as a nation. It kept him from believing on Christ as well. Paul and Israel both had zeal for God, but it was zeal that lacked knowledge, knowledge that Jesus is the Messiah:
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 1 Timothy 1:12-13 NASB
Paul was zealous but he was ignorant and in unbelief.
The Lord Jesus spoke about Israel's zeal also. Jesus told His disciples, when I leave you, you are going to suffer a great deal of persecution from people who think that when they kill you, they are really doing God service:
"They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. "These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. John 16:2-3 NASB
Israel had zeal but it was not according to knowledge. Israel does not have knowledge. Israel is ignorant. What a statement. What an incredible statement. That these people whose very life had been bound up in the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of truth had no knowledge and were ignorant of the truth.
Paul is talking about the Jewish people who had received God's revelation, God's self-disclosure on the pages of Scripture but were ignorant of His righteousness. This lack of knowledge was not due to a lack of revelation or innocent ignorance on the part of Israel. It was a willful and obstinate rejection of the truth as taught in their Scriptures about their Messiah. They studied the Scriptures but missed their meaning.
Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; And their honorable men are famished, And their multitude is parched with thirst. Isaiah 5:13 NASB
He's referring to the Babylonian captivity. Their ignorance cost them. The “knowledge” that Israel lacked was that Jesus was the Messiah. Paul can testify to this because he had been there.
For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. Romans 10:3 NASB
It is not that they are ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God (NIV) they are ignorant of God’s righteousness. “They are ignorant of what God’s covenant faithfulness consists of and they are seeking to establish a covenant status of their own.
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, Romans 3:21 NASB
So, apart from Torah, God’s faithfulness to the covenant “Has been manifested”– this is a perfect tense in Greek, "stands manifested." Manifested is from the Greek word phaneroo, which means: “to render apparent.” It means the unveiling of God through a historical event. The covenant faithfulness of God is revealed through one who will do and be what Israel should have done and been. God will be faithful to the covenant with Abraham, through the one faithful Israelite–Jesus!
So Israel being ignorant of God’s covenant faithfulness in Jesus the Messiah was "Seeking to establish their own righteousness”– some have argued that this does not refer to an attempt by the Jews to establish their own righteousness by works. But refers to a Jewish preoccupation with their own righteousness rather than that of the Gentiles. N.T. Wright says, “This does not refer to a status they might have achieved by moral effort, by climbing up a ladder called “works,” but to a status that would be theirs and theirs only.”
They are saying that this critique is directed against a nationalism and ethnocentrism that excludes Gentiles. By their “own” he means a covenant status that is for Jews and Jews only. This is not about self-effort, it is about confining grace to the Jewish race. They see the covenant as being about them being God’s only special people.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:4 NASB
Schreiner writes, “Romans 10:4 is one of the most controverted verses in Pauline literature.”
John MacArthur writes, “Now the word "law" here in verse 4 is general. It isn't necessarily talking about Mosaic law, it's just talking about the idea of law.” So Christ is the end of the idea of law? That makes no sense! He is talking about Israel and Israel’s law was Torah. Paul is saying Christ is the end of Torah for covenant membership to everyone who believes.
The word “end” is from the predicate nominative telos. Unfortunately, that text may be taken in several different ways grammatically. Telos can be taken in the sense of goal. Christ is the goal of the law. In other words, everything in the Mosaic law tended toward the coming of Jesus Christ. It all pictured Christ as the Lamb of God.
Christ is the "end" of the law in the sense that those sacrifices pointed forward to him; they illustrated what he would do when he came. He is the burnt offering. He is the meal offering. He is the peace offering. He is the sin offering. He is the trespass offering. He is the drink offering. He is the offering of the red heifer. He is all of the offerings. He is the end of the law. He is the antitype of all of these types expressed in the First Testament.
The word "end" may also have the sense of termination. Christ is the termination of the law. He is the finish of the law. The Lexical data endorses the definition “termination” rather than “goal”.
If our text said that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, we could say that's historical. As in the end of the Temple.
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18 NASB
Jesus said that “all” the law had to be fulfilled. This would not only include all prophecy but it would include all the legal mandates of the law. The penal aspects of the law would have to be fulfilled before it could pass away. So it would not pass away until Jerusalem was destroyed. This had not happened at the time of Paul’s writing of Romans. So Paul is not talking about the historical end of the Torah.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:4 NASB
Christ is the end of the law for covenant membership “to everyone who believes.” Now that qualifies the rest of the verse. If that wasn't there we could interpret it historically. But this verse is saying Christ is the termination of the law for righteousness only to people who believe. And to “everyone” who believes, Jew and Greek.
Let me remind you of what we saw in chapter 7:
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. Romans 7:4 NASB
The “you” here is plural, referring to Jewish believers. Paul draws an inference from the previous illustration of the husband who died, noted by “you also.” Just like the husband died in the previous verses, you also died. “To die” is a passive indicative, you were “made dead” to the Law. The passive voice points to the sovereign, gracious work of God in applying the work of Christ to them regarding the reign of sin and jurisdiction of the Law. It points back to believers having become united with Christ in His death.
They used to be in a covenant relationship with the Law, they used to have this obligation to which they were mandated to bring about fulfillment. But, that's changed. They were made to die to the Law. Literally, you were put to death, you were killed in regard to the Law. Well the death is clear. It is their co-crucifixion with the Lord Jesus when their representative died on the cross.
By faith they have been united with Christ (as 6:5 says) so that His death becomes their death. And therefore, Paul says: You have died to the Law. Christ bore the punishment that the Law required, and Christ fulfilled the perfect obedience that the Law demanded. So in Him they were released from the Law.
The Jews were married to the Law. That is, they were bound to the Law, bound to the obligation the Law demanded from them, bound to maintain the Law, to keep the Law and they would be judged on their faithfulness to the Law. But when they died in Christ, the Law no longer had any hold on them, it cannot condemn them, it has been satisfied, the punishment has been rendered in full, and they now have a whole New Covenant relationship. They have a new husband, the Lord Jesus Christ. So Christ is the end of the law for covenant membership to everyone who believes. Not just Jews, but Jews and Greeks.
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