NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER TEN (Lesson XIX)
When it comes to identifying true Christians, this is what John saw in his revelation: “For He is LORD over all lords, and KING of kings and His people are the called and chosen and faithful ones.”1 We see this reflected in the Greek word ekklēsia which is translated as “church” 115 times in the Final Covenant.2 Thayer in his Greek Lexicon tells us that it basically means those who are called out from their homes to gather in one place. This has led to the phrase: the “called-out ones.”3
That’s why, Paul says, all of those who were called, chosen, and are faithful have full access to all the riches of God through Christ Jesus. Paul told the Corinthians: “You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus was: though He was so very rich, yet to help you He became so very poor so that by being poor He could make you rich.”4 Paul was not talking here about material wealth such as land, precious metals, jewels, or possessions, but about those things that God holds in store for those who love Him. One of those riches Paul describes to the Ephesians: “So overflowing is His kindness toward us that He took away all our sins through the blood of His Son, by whom we are saved; and He has showered down upon us the richness of His grace – for how well He understands us and knows what is best for us at all times.”5 Later he tells the Ephesians about God being rich in mercy,6 and how very rich His kindness is,7 the unfathomable riches given to the Messiah,8 the unlimited treasure of His glory,9 the riches of our unity with secret riches of God’s plan of putting Christ in our hearts as our hope of glory.10
But these riches are not indiscriminately scattered around and allowed to fall on whoever happens to be in the right place at the right time. Even King David recognized this when he said in his prayer: “Adonai, you are kind and forgiving, full of grace toward all who call on you.”11 And in one of David’s praise songs, he sang: “Adonai is righteous in all His ways, full of grace in all He does. Adonai is close to all who call on Him, to all who sincerely call on Him. He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. Adonai protects all who love Him.”12 Even the prophet Isaiah learned that God will not be an uninvited intrusive Lord. He told the children of Israel: “Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call upon Him now while He is near.”13
But Paul is not finished. He knows there must be a series of prerequisites in place before everyone for whom Christ died and rose again can benefit from all the riches that God has placed at Christ’s disposal. It isn’t that whosoever will may come and receive the blessings in Christ, but whosoever believes in Him may come and be blessed.
Early church writer Ambrosiaster takes what Paul wrote here as another way of treating all those who are sinners because of unbelief, and when they are converted exalting them together with all other believers. The reason for this is because apart from Christ there is no other salvation in God’s presence. So when people are born-again, God does put them in different groups based on their importance or special status. Paul wanted the Jews to know that their privileged status as descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, nor having been given the Law to afford them a head start in knowing Him, gave them any advantage over the Gentiles.
At the same time, he told the Gentiles believers that although they were deemed to be infidels and heathens by the Jews, yet God accepts them on the same basis as He does the Jews. Paul says here that God does not bestow His riches on those who simply believe He exists but on those who call upon Him for salvation. So after believing, the mind will not cease to ask God for more understanding so they will better know what they need.14
To put this same thought in today’s circumstances, it would more or less state that the church cannot save you, and not being part of a church cannot keep you from being saved. All who are saved have come to that salvation through Jesus Christ. That then opens the door to not only what the Body of Christ has to offer, but also what you can get directly from God to keep you walking toward the destiny He has for all who believe. That’s why it is so important that believers become part of a church that knows its purpose and mission in God’s kingdom.
For Reformer Martin Luther, these verses went contrary to the way salvation was being preached in the church in his day. No one could come to the Father and call on Him for salvation outside the church. It had to be granted through the sacraments of the church in order for it to be accepted. Paul faced the same problem in his day with the Jews claiming rights over the covenant between God and Abraham, and no one could have access to God unless they went through the Temple with the proper offerings and sacrifices.
But Luther also sees another truth in what Paul says here and it relates to how generous and giving God is to those who call on Him, especially for assistance. He admonishes many who go to God in prayer for acting like beggars. He puts it this way: “we act poor when we pray.” That is not how a child of God should ask their Heavenly Father for what they need. He also reproves those who are timid and bashful when they ask God for their needs. As Luther sees it, God has a lot more in hand to give us then what we ask for. But instead of this being criticism on the believer’s ability to pray, it is a critique on God’s ability to give. But God does not let that stop Him. He is always prepared to give us more than we ask for because He knows what we need.15
Calvin feels that God’s riches Paul is talking about is the abundance of His grace and mercy by which salvation is granted. The fact that after God offered His plan of salvation first to the Jews, and even with their refusal He still continued to send out the message to the Gentiles. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus spent some 33 years teaching and healing in Israel, yet in a very short time after His ascension He called Paul and sent him to the Gentiles? And the inscription on the cross not only reads: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, but Savior of the world.16
So what does Paul want us to deduce from this? Since faith alone is required, and since faith is available to everyone who believes, then wherever faith is found there the goodness of God will manifest itself. So God is not looking at the differences between people of various races, colors, ethnicities, or stations in life to decide who should or should not receive an invitation to the cross. All He is looking at is faith.
Furthermore, since God is the Creator and Maker of the whole world, why should He not feel free to show Himself as loving and kind to all who will acknowledge and call on Him as their God. Why have infinite mercy and never-ending grace if it is only meant for a few? Believe it or not, if every sinner on the planet knelt at the same minute and prayed for forgiveness, there would still be enough power in the blood of Jesus to wash every one of them clean in the twinkling of an eye.17 Calvin points out that even though Paul’s reasoning is sufficiently strong, yet he calls on the prophet Joel to testify in support of God’s generosity to those who worship Him.18
John Bengel sees a fine line here between what Paul says about people calling on the Lord for salvation and God calling on them to be saved. It is already established that whoever wills to call will be saved, but God wills that they should call on Him for their salvation.19 In other words, it is not just because it is the choice of some to call on God for salvation who will be heard and granted their freedom from sin, but that God is the only one they can call on for salvation. Bengel joins Luther and Calvin in admiring God’s abundance of mercy and grace by saying: “No multitude of believers, however great, can exhaust Him; He is never compelled to act within limits.”20
Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards gives us this interesting series of verses we can compare to what Paul is saying here in Romans 10:12:21
1 Kings 8:39b
John 2:24 and John 16:30, and Acts 1:24
1 Timothy 6:15
Revelation 17:14; 19:16
Acts 10:36; Romans 9:5
John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17
Luke 24:25; Hebrews 1:6
1 Revelation 17:14 – Living Bible
2 See Matthew 16:18; 18:17; Acts of the Apostles 4:47; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:14; Revelation 1:4; et. al.
3 See 2 Corinthians 6:17
4 Ibid. 8:9
5 Ephesians 1:7-8
6 Ibid. 2:4
7 Ibid. 2:7
8 Ibid. 3:8
9 Ibid. 3:16 (See Philippians 4:19)
10 Colossians 1:26-27; 2:2-3
11 Psalm 86:5 – Complete Jewish Bible
12 Psalm 145:18-19
13 Isaiah 55:6
14 Ambrosiaster: On Paul’s Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.
15 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 148
16 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
17 Calvin: ibid.
18 See Joel 3:5
19 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 325
20 Bengel: ibid.
21 David S. Lovi. The Power of God: A Jonathan Edwards Commentary on the Book of Romans (p. 237)