NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER TEN (Lesson XX)
Albert Barnes calls Paul’s message: all those who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, a “uniform promise,” meaning, “the same for everyone.” It was certainly encouraged by Peter on the Day of Pentecost,1 and Paul received the identical instructions from Ananias at his conversion.2 For Barnes, this is not only proper but indispensable. It is proper because we must start by confessing our sins against God. Then it is indispensable because He alone can pardon us. By calling upon God for salvation is more than just saying, “Get me out of here so I can get on my way and do what I want to do.” To call on Him is to acknowledge Him as Sovereign, Father, and Redeemer. So it is only right that we give Him all our reverence and respect.
Also implied in this is that when we call on Him we must do so with solemn and sincere feelings. It should reflect our humility that we come to Him as sinners and our desperate need for a pardon. We must also go to Him with a willing heart to be what He wants us to be, and with joy that we are receiving eternal life. When all of this is followed, this passage teaches us that salvation comes to all who are willing to do so. Believe me, if God has called you to repentance through the Holy Spirit, when you arrive He will not throw you away as unwanted or unworthy because He finds some flaw or irreparable damage done by sin. His invitation and the assurance it brings extends to all nations and to all people at all times regardless of their condition.3
H. A. Ironside said it was not a new thing that God desired to speak to the Gentiles. If there is anything new, it is the manner He chose in which to get the message of salvation to them. Why should this, then, not be a surprise to the Jews. After all, did not Israel know that God was going to reach out to all people of all nations through them? They should have known because of what God said to Moses about finding others who would love and obey Him.4 Also what God said to Isaiah with uncompromising boldness.5 Surely words like these could only apply to the heathens of the Gentile world. As for Israel, with all their privileges, God was forced to tell them: “All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people. But they follow their own evil paths and their own crooked schemes..6”7
Paul takes the frustration we hear in God’s words to Isaiah into the opening verses of the next chapter. There we will see how the Apostle shows God got ready to institute His plan of election. First He starts with Israel and then continues with the Gentiles to this day. But let us not forget that although the major outreach of God’s grace went way beyond the borders of Israel to non-Jewish peoples, it does not mean He had forgotten His promise to Israel. Many Jews are turning to Christ every day, but Paul’s heart reflects God’s heart in wanting them all to turn to Jesus as the Messiah. The wall that once divided the Jews and Gentiles has long ago been broken down. So the only wall that is still standing is the one the Jews built between themselves and Christians. Still, the grace of God is offered through Jesus Christ to all who own their guilt and confess Him as their Savior.8
Charles Hodge points out that when God looks at the Jews through the prism of the precepts He gave them, and then looks at the Gentiles through the prism of paganism they chose, He sees the same thing. Not only are they both His creation, and both are under His dominion, but both are sinners. This is why God laid down equal terms for salvation to all people; Jews and Gentiles alike. This allows God to deal evenly with everyone because His mercy is free and sufficient for all.9
This cuts across all lines: skin color, race, ethnicity, nationality, age, and gender. That means all, whosoever will, without any limitation, who call on Him, will be saved. Not only is this Paul’s doctrine, but a teaching that is in one accord with all those of old who spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance. That’s why Paul was so upset with people who proposed that salvation was only for the Jews. As long as it was taught under Jewish Law, it was restricted. That’s why God sent His Son to broaden and widen the path to salvation by way of the cross.10
Preacher Charles Spurgeon shares a personal anecdote related to these verses. He writes: “Someone once said to me, ‘I think that the Church of Rome cannot be the Church of Christ. I do not think that the Church of England is the Church of Christ. Do you think the Baptists are the Church of Christ?’ And my answer was, ‘The Church of Christ is to be found mixed up in all churches, and no churches at all.’ It is a people that God has chosen from among mankind, and they are to be found here and there and everywhere, a spiritual seed that God has marked out to be His own; and they are known by this – that they call upon the Lord, and, as Paul says here, ‘the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him’.”11
Frédéric Godet calls this universal salvation, meaning, all-inclusive, leaving out no one. That corresponds with Paul’s message here in verse 12 that he confirms in verse 13. And the only way to accomplish this was to replace the Law of Moses given only to the Jews and expand it to include everyone. Paul speaks of a partition, a wall, that separated the Jews from the Gentiles.12 So not only did Jesus tear the veil in two that separated worshipers from the Holy of Holies, but also destroyed the wall that kept the Gentiles outside the Temple. And once this wall once broken down by the work of the Messiah, those who join together to worship God are now more than a single body of Jews but a combined body of all believers.
This is the church, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s because we have one Redeemer, one Savior, one Lord, and one Master. And when He returns to resurrect and rule and reign, we will all have one King. The people of Israel never imagined anything like this, even though their own Scriptures clearly told them so. Everyone came to the cross equally as sinners so everyone will leave equally as believers to share the Good News that this is now for everyone. And there is one other factor. By sharing the same Lord, what He has to offer us is no less available to one person than it is to another. As the Psalmist said: “You will lead me to the path of life; being in your presence fills me with joy,; and your right hand is filled with eternal pleasures..13”14
Professor F. F. Bruce discovers a gem in what Paul says here. When we go back to Romans 3:22, the words “no difference” or “no distinction” was not good news for the Jews. It means they were lumped together with the Gentiles as those needing to get right with God. Now Paul uses the same words to convey the fact that in Christ Jesus there is no difference or distinction. No longer are we called Jews or Gentiles, but Christians. We all came through the same gate to receive the same grace, mercy, forgiveness, and pardon. And now we all live by the same faith and hope in the return of the same Messiah.15 Bruce also notes that this quote by Paul from Joel 2:32, echoes what Peter said to explain the events that marked the first Christian Pentecost.16
Master Bible scholar Karl Barth believes we should take an exegetical view of Paul’s words. We are looking at a truth that is beyond the inventive capabilities of mankind. It comes as a revelation of what was until now unknown that includes both the final question and answer with both the death and resurrection of the Messiah. The question is: who can be saved? The answer is all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
He did not come to start a new religion. In fact, by the time He left there had been no new denomination or church group founded so that later on they could be compared or contrasted with one another. He had written no new books or established a new set of rules. He had taken what was given to Him by the Father and expounded on it is such a way as no one had ever heard before. Instead of His teaching being cut and dried, it was fresh and vibrant and the living word. He represented a relationship with God that combined friendship and liberty. For once people were able to see over the horizon and understand what was yet to come. No wonder when the religious leaders of the Jews sent some soldiers to bring Jesus back for questioning, they came back and said, “No man has ever spoken like this Man speaks.”17
By the resurrection of Jesus, the past, present, and future of human existence could be understood from a new perspective and directed towards a different destiny than what the mind could imagine. The Law had a goal, but it was shrouded in the fog of unbelief, misbelief, and disbelief. But the light of Jesus helps those who believed to see what His coming was all about. For those in the past, and even some in the present, could not comprehend all that had happened. The full depth, height, breadth, and length of the turmoil around them could not be perceived. It was like feeling the wind but not knowing where it came from, or hearing a sound but not knowing its source. They needed an explanation.
So the Law appeared to tell them, and in conjunction with the Law, a religion was developed for them to express their understanding of what to do. This Law and religion have been around for centuries. While it may not be all that was asked for or needed, it did create a longing and anticipation to call upon the One who sent it. And by doing so, it revealed God to be God. That brought into focus life and death. Both were not that hard to comprehend since they rule and hang above humans from the cradle to the grave. What made it turn out to be incomprehensible was the real possibility of resurrection and eternal life.
Barth wants to know if people will able to recognize and identify the coming universal tribulation without also giving an explanation of the universality of salvation, of which it is only a shadow? There is also the question concerning the secret meaning of life which is manifested in every Law and in every expression of faith as calling upon the Lord who is the deep and hidden answer to these questions. People tend to call upon God in desperation without realizing that He has already answered.
People then end up suffering more because of doubt and fear and, therefore, think they need more help. That was the case between God and man, as manifested in Jesus. Jesus was already the master of His situation because He knew in advance of His resurrection. This is the way we should look at our times of trial, testing, and tribulation. Instead of sighing and questioning, we should see that within these things meant to harm or hurt us are the seeds of God’s divine salvation and divine healing. After all, if nothing ever went wrong, why then, would there be a need for God to help us get through troubles. But it exactly the opposite. We need those things to learn how great and mighty is our God.18
1 Acts of the Apostles 2:21
2 Ibid. 22:16
3 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
4 Deuteronomy 32:21
5 Isaiah 65:1
6 Ibid. 65:2
7 Harry A. Ironside: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
8 Ironside: ibid.
9 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 537
10 Hodge: ibid., p. 538
11 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
12 Ephesians 2:14
13 Psalm 16:11
14 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc cit.
15 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, p. 203
16 Acts of the Apostles 2:16-21
17 John 7:46
18 Karl Barth: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.