NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER TEN (Lesson XXXI)
Adam Clarke sees Paul proving, by answering the objection raised in verse 16, that the unfaithfulness of the Jews was caused by their own stubbornness. In fact, the opposition they were now making to the Gospel was foretold and criticized 700 years earlier. And with the acceptance of the Gospel by the Gentiles it was proof that the Jew’s opposition would not in any way keep the Gospel from reaching those who were lost. Furthermore, by the Jews having rejected this Gospel, they could expect no other gospel to come. Having turned their back on Jesus the Messiah, there would no other messiah coming to take His place. The same is true today. Anyone who turns away from reaching God and heaven as outlined in the Scriptures, need not look for another path. There is none!1
For Scottish Bible scholar Robert Haldane, if Moses was hinting about the calling of the Gentiles, Isaiah screamed it out loud. It was a two-edged sword message. On the one hand, telling the world that the door was opening to the Gentiles to come in and enjoy a seat at the table with Abraham and become part of the family of God through Jesus Christ was remarkable! On the other hand, telling the Jews that because of their obstinance and unbelief, their name card on the banquet table with Abraham had been removed. Not only that but since their invitation to become part of the family of God through Jesus Christ had been returned unanswered, it was obvious they had no interest in changing their ways in order to enjoy the blessings of salvation through Christ Jesus.
But that’s not all. While Haldane sees the wall that kept the Gentiles out of being included in Abraham’s promise for so long having been knocked down, at the same time he sees the Jews trying to erect that wall again because they couldn’t accept God’s decision to enlarge the family of believers. With the Jews, God had employed the outward means of righteousness through the Law to lead men to obedience. This was done without the accompanying influence of His grace applied through the Holy Spirit. With the Gentiles, God used the inward means of righteousness that was accredited to them for their obedience through faith, just as it was with Abraham. The Jews had been chosen through Abraham, the Gentiles through grace. The Jews had their lineage and circumcision to submit as proof of a covenant, the Gentiles had nothing to offer. The Jews sought salvation based on merit, the Gentiles sought salvation based on mercy.2 In other words, the Gentiles were walking by faith and the Jews by sight.3 How odd that the Gentiles who were once on the outside looking in are now on the inside looking out. Meanwhile, for the Jews it is exactly the reverse, they’re now on the outside looking in.
When viewing this from today’s perspective, Albert Barnes believes there are a number of things we can learn. First of all, the unconverted in this world are in serious danger without the Gospel. They are sinful, polluted, and wretched. In some countries like India and China, the pagan temples are still around, but in other highly industrialized countries, they have erected their own temples where they gather to worship in self-indulgence and immorality. Secondly, the power of the Gospel still brings salvation to those who believe. And it is not just for one nation.
When it is preached in all the languages of the world it brings about tremendous change in the lives of those who are touched by its power and redeeming grace. Thirdly, the Gospel has not undergone any revision to remain relevant. The Gospel preached today is the same spoken of by Jesus Christ when He gave the great commission to go into all the world and preach it to every person who would listen. Fourthly, those who are touched and changed by the Gospel must themselves be ready to go and share it with others. As was quoted by Paul, “How beautiful are the feet of those that preach the gospel of peace.”
Charles Hodge focuses on the mercy of God in this verse. It shows how God was willing to deal with the most depraved and despised sinner with tenderness and compassion. To love the unlovable. As Paul saw it through the eyes of Isaiah, all the day long He extends His arms of mercy, even to the disobedient and the doubters. This will be testified to by all those who are saved and all those who perish. Everyone will be compelled to acknowledge the glory of God’s patience, as well as their own confusion and self-condemnation. Every soul that is saved will bow before Him who saved them and confess that He is the one who did the work to make it happen. Meanwhile, those who refuse to listen or decline the call and are then destined for eternal separation from God will also have to admit that the person who made that happen was no one other than themselves.4
Charles Spurgeon laments that so many who hear the Word and hear it most often, still turn away from it in disgust and apathy. Meanwhile, others who hear it for the first time and are moved and shaken by its clarity and power, are blessed from the beginning. Spurgeon used this illustration to describe some of those who regularly attended his Metropolitan Tabernacle in London that some of them were just like pieces of rubber from India. They are easily impressed, they yield to every truth that is uttered, but they soon get back into their same old shape again.
Remorsefully, after twenty years of hearing the Gospel says Spurgeon, they’ve become what they were before, only this time, they are hardened and will not bend. That is difficult for any pastor to admit. At the same time, Spurgeon recounted how when he dropped in on even the most irreligious individual, whose heart was as hard as a piece of stone, the very first tap of the hammer of the Gospel was enough to shatter the stone so effectually, that it never gets hard again.5
Frédéric Godet is impacted by what is said leading up to verse 21. It is the emotional contrast between the conduct of Israel and that of the Gentiles in receiving the Gospel. The Israelites react with stubborn resistance while the Gentiles respond with openness and pliability. The Lord is represented as a Father figure, who from morning to night stands with arms outstretched to receive His children. But instead of hugs and joyful laughter among the Jews, they experience nothing but refusal and contradiction. No one reading this can come away with the impression that this rejection is God’s fault. It is the hardheartedness of the Israelites themselves. Yet, praise God, where sin abounds God’s grace is there in greater quantity.
This story of the Jews and Gentiles seems to come to an end, at least for a season. God’s efforts toward His rebellious people seems to be over. Only the Gentiles now appear destined for all the glory once ascribed to the descendants of Abraham. But Godet asks that we all wait until we read Chapter 11. Once more God will allow the overflowing of His grace to reach out again to Israel. Only this time, instead of feeling pain and disappointment at the Jew’s response, our heavenly Father will see a more glorious and victorious result.6 When that will happen no one knows but God. But let’s pray that it comes sooner rather than later to the glory of God.
Karl Barth offers his definition of this “guilt” on the part of the Jews. He says we must stop and consider this: “Guilt is not innocence. Guilt means we can but we won’t.” It is a case of an unwillingness on the part of many to give up what they have for what God has to offer. It’s the refusal to come down from a lofty pinnacle of self-pride and bow humbly at the feet of a new Master. In a way, the Jews simply wanted to sit comfortably in their tents and not go out, like Abraham, to meet the God who has come to see them.7 Unfortunately, this is one characteristic of all people who are stubborn in their opposition to God.8 God is not a tyrant nor a dictator. He is a loving, caring heavenly Father who wants to protect His creation from the coming disaster on the Day of Judgment.
John Stott hears this message from Paul: God has been actively holding out His arms to Israel to enter His Promised Land ever since He had Moses lead them out of Egyptian bondage. He is like the father of the Prodigal Son in Jesus’ parable.9 But the only response He has received from the Jews is that they are comfortable in the pig pen with the estranged relationship they have with Him. Sort of like a wife and husband who are separated. They don’t want a divorce, but they don’t want to live together anymore.
On the other hand, the Gentiles who have had no interest to ask or even seek God are open to His invitation to enter a new relationship. So when the Jews find out that God has another love, they are jealous. But God tells them, I did it on purpose to see if you even cared about our love affair. In spite of this, however, the Jews are determined to remain a disobedient and obstinate people until God apologizes. When reading this, you can almost feel God’s disappointment, His dismay, His grief.10 The same can be said today of those who live in a Christian nation where the spires of churches, topped with crosses, are seen throughout the land, yet they drive by without giving it a second thought. Oh God have mercy on all of us!
Methodist preacher Charles Simeon imagines these closing words of Paul as an altar call. He hears Paul saying to the Jews, you must seek Him if you want to find Him. It must be you calling out to God, not God calling out to you. Yes, He is sovereign and dispenses His blessings to whomsoever He will, and under whatever circumstances He deems necessary. But you must desire His blessings. And if you have no desire to seek them, then you are choosing the consequences. And what consequences will they be?
Look at all those over the centuries who have turned away from God. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah. Thank Him for the patience He has already exercised on your account. Take into consideration his long-suffering in reaching out to you with the hand of salvation. Even at this moment, He is waiting to be gracious to you. And once you are His you can be content as you go on your way weeping with gladness, bearing the seed of His Word for sowing, so that you can come back with shouts of joy, bringing bundles of grain from the harvest He has given you11.12
As the Apostle Paul closes out this part of his letter to the church in Rome, we not only hear the cries of desperation by the Prophet Isaiah, but they are magnified by Paul’s own grief at the plight of his people, the Jews, and their belligerent denial of Jesus as the Messiah. From Moses, down through the Prophets, continuing through Jesus the Messiah’s time here on earth up until Paul, the Jews had shown a rebellious spirit in complying with God’s Word and Will for them. The Apostle was hoping that this time they would listen. Today if a minister expresses the same passion for the lost they are criticized as being insensitive to people’s personal freedoms to be who they want to be. But the day is coming went it will no longer be a gentle invitation to be saved, but a cry desperation by God’s servants for all to come in while there is yet time. That day may be closer than we think.
1 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 209
2 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 516-517
3 2 Corinthians 5:7
4 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 546-547
5 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
6 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
7 Cf. Exodus 19:17
8 Karl Barth: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
9 Luke 15:11-32
10 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 Psalm 126:6
12 Charles Simeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
THE END OF CHAPTER TEN