Paul’s wish for Israel is his heart’s desire. How deep was this desire! How it moved him! This powerful desire leads him to pray to God for them. God is the One who can help. Paul prays for their salvation.
We might ask, “Why pray to God? He desires the salvation of all. Our prayer cannot change His will, for we are praying for what He wants”. Christians must pray for all men (1 Timothy 2:1), and for different things for men as they have need and as Christians have need. Paul’s prayer is concerned wholly with the salvation of Israel. It is God’s will that His children speak to Him about their sincere desire for the salvation of the lost. We must pray according to God’s will. The fact that it IS God’s will should cause us to pray for it. Paul prayed because he knew they were lost. This hurt him greatly and caused him to pray.
Today if we say that people are lost, men say that we do not have love. Paul did not say they were lost because he hated them. He loved them!
Why were they lost? It was not because they were lazy in their attention to God. Paul wrote that they have a zeal for God. This means that they had a lively and burning interest in doing things for God. But their zeal made their condition even sadder, because their zeal was not in accordance with knowledge. They worked hard, but they were ignorant about God’s ways.
Knowledge is not enough. People with knowledge can be lost. But if a person does not have knowledge, all of his work is for nothing. A person must have knowledge in order to please God. Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). The truth cannot make us free unless we “know” it.
But the Jews were ignorant. They did not know how God saves men, how He justifies men, how He gives men righteousness. They did not know about God’s righteousness. In their ignorance they tried to establish their own righteousness, thinking that they could do this by keeping the Law. The result was they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
What Paul writes about the Jews is true of every denomination or human system of religion. Ignorance of God’s righteousness leads men to be zealous to establish a righteousness by “faith only”, or by some other means which is not from the Bible. Their zeal for God will not save them, just as the zeal of the Jews did not save them.
Paul knew what he was writing about. He was one of those Jews, and before his conversion (Acts 9) he was relying on the Law for righteousness. And it was all because he was ignorant. Verse 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Because the Jews tried to find righteousness by keeping the Law, they did not receive it. Christ is the end of the law. The word “end” in this verse means “the goal, or purpose” of the Law. The Law of Moses did not bring righteousness. It pointed to Christ, who brought righteousness. The whole Law was fulfilled in Jesus. Without Him the Law was incomplete. He is “the end of the Law”.
This verse does not teach that the Law ended when Christ came. It is true that the law came to an end when Jesus was crucified (Colossians 2:14-17), but in this verse Paul is talking about the goal of righteousness. The Law could not bring righteousness. It could only point to Him who would bring righteousness. Those Jews who rejected Christ rejected “the end” of the Law. Christ brings righteousness to everyone who believes.
Paul had earlier written to the Galatians (3:21) “If a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law”. But law alone cannot give righteousness. The reason is described in the quotation from Leviticus 18:5 which Paul gives in this verse: “the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness”. The conclusion is that the one who seeks righteousness by the Law must keep ALL of the Law. He has to live by that righteousness.
Here is the weakness of the Law. In order to be righteous by the Law the people had to keep ALL of it and never break it. But because of the weakness of the flesh of those who were under the Law, no one ever kept it perfectly (Romans 7:7-25). Therefore no one became righteous by keeping the Law.
Jesus came to bring righteousness. He kept the Law—every bit of it. He had the righteousness which came from the Law. He showed what the end (goal) of the Law was.
The righteousness based on faith is different from the righteousness based on the Law. Righteousness by faith does not require sinless obedience. We need only to submit to the will of Christ. You show that you will follow Christ when you make the simple confession of Jesus as Lord when you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead.
We must truly believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. Only then can we confess that Jesus is Lord. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the proof that He is Lord (Acts 2:36).
Believers do not any longer look for Christ to come to this earth and be raised from the dead. We do not say in our hearts, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)”. We know that He has done that already. We believe that His sacrifice brings us righteousness.
How simple is this salvation! It does not require perfect law-keeping. It requires faith!
We can be sure that the one who believes and obeys the gospel of Christ is saved. It is as sure as it is possible for God to make it. The word of God, which is always correct, tells us about this salvation. We can have no doubt. We can know that we are saved when we do what the Bible says. If we doubt that we are saved when we have done what God tells us to do in His word, then we are showing that our belief is not true belief.
In this verse, righteousness and salvation mean the same thing. This verse clearly shows that we are not saved by faith only. Mark 16:16 is another verse which shows that one must do more than believe in order to be saved.
A person must believe in order to confess truthfully. You cannot truly confess until you have true faith. But if it is true that we are saved by faith only, it means that we are saved before we confess! But if we are saved before we confess, we cannot confess resulting in salvation. Clearly this verse shows that we have to confess before we can be saved. Therefore, we have to do something after we believe in order to receive salvation.
It is possible to believe and to refuse to confess. John 12:42-43 says—“Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God”. It is clear that these rulers were not saved. Yet they believed!
This is a quotation from Isaiah 28:16 which is a prophecy of the Messiah. Those who believe in Christ will not be disappointed. They can be sure that they will receive what is promised.
The entire verse says: “Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed’”. The believer can be sure because Christ is the tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. Christ will never fail. He has been tested. He was put to death and Hades could not hold Him. He won over the powers of death and the tomb. The believer will not be disappointed.
Joel wrote in Joel 2:32: “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered”. In Acts 2 Peter quoted this text, and it is clear that “the Lord” is Jesus Christ. Paul makes the same application here. And the verse says, “Whoever”. This is why there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. “Whoever” means every person who calls. Christ is abounding in riches for all who call on Him.
The Jews who believed in Christ did not fully understand this truth until some years after the gospel began to be preached. It was not until Peter’s vision in Acts 10 that he understood that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he who fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him (Acts 10:34-35). What Joel wrote, and what Paul writes here, go together with what Peter learned.
Those who love God and who love all men give great thanks to God for this truth. Christianity is for all men who will listen to and obey the gospel.
What does it mean to “call on the name of the Lord”? It does not mean simply to pray and ask Him to save us. We call on the name of the Lord when we put ourselves under Christ and do what He says to do.
In the book of Acts the stories of how people became Christians show how we call on the name of the Lord. It is not by prayer. Saul of Tarsus prayed for three days. After that the preacher told him, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). When Saul got up and was baptised, he was calling on the name of the Lord. He was doing what the Lord told him to do to be saved. We must do the same. Those who pray but are not baptised in order to have their sins washed away have not called upon the name of the Lord as the Bible says they must. They therefore do not have the promise of this verse. They have not been saved!
In 1 Peter 3:21 Peter writes: “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. In baptism we appeal to God for a good conscience. That is the same as saying that we call on the name of the Lord.
It is very sad that men teach we can be saved by faith without baptism. Their teaching keeps people from calling on the name of the Lord to be saved!
A person calls on the name of the Lord because he believes. He believes because of the things preached to him. He cannot believe unless someone preaches to him.
This means that the salvation of a man depends upon whether he hears the gospel. God does not save people directly by sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts. This is why Jesus gave the Great Commission. Jesus said to His apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). People must hear in order to be saved.
People who teach we do not have to be baptised to be saved sometimes say that the reason we do not have to be baptised is that baptism depends upon the actions of someone other than the one being saved. In other words, they say that because a second person is involved, it cannot be true that baptism saves.
But belief requires another person, too. A person cannot believe without a preacher! God’s plan for salvation makes our salvation depend upon whether someone teaches us or not. Thus, the objection that because baptism requires another person to help does not make any sense. God’s plan depends upon other people.
This verse is not teaching that a church must send a preacher, or that God must “call” a person to preach. The words here mean that the message of the gospel had to be given to men who were chosen by God to deliver it. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles to guide them into all the truth (John 16:13) and commanded them to teach them to observe all that I commanded you (Matthew 28:20). They were the ones who were “sent”. The message of the gospel was given to the apostles. If God did not give the message to official messengers, no one could hear and be saved.
The message was given to the apostles, not to the church. The church is the pillar and support of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15) and each Christian is to teach others. But the message came from God through the apostles and prophets. The apostles were “ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20) and “earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). People today are messengers, preachers, evangelists—but they are not ambassadors or earthen vessels because people living today are not the ones to whom the gospel was first given.
A popular religious teaching is that God gives faith to a man directly through the Holy Spirit. The questions Paul asks in verses 14 and 15 show that this teaching is false. These questions show that a man gets faith from the teaching of the gospel. There is no verse which says man gets faith in any other way.
Paul’s statement about the feet of those who bring good news is taken from Isaiah 52:7: “How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Isaiah was speaking about the messengers who said that Israel would return to Judea from captivity in Babylon. But the words mean more than that. They speak a universal truth and especially apply to those who bring the good news of salvation from sin.
The word “beautiful” in verse 15 seems also to mean “timely”. Jesus came at the right time (Galatians 4:4), and the gospel was preached at the time God planned.
Verses 16-18: 16 ¶ However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
18 ¶ But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.”
The King James Version translates verse 16: “But they have not all obeyed the gospel.” To “heed” means to “obey”, and “the good news” is “the gospel”. All those who heard the gospel did not obey the gospel.
The reason God wants the gospel to be preached is to cause people to obey (heed) it. Paul began the book of Romans by saying that he had “received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles” (Romans 1:5). He ends it by writing, “but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26). The gospel was preached to all nations in order to produce obedience from faith.
But why did not all obey the gospel? They heard the gospel but did not obey. Jesus commanded the apostles to preach the gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15), and they did that. “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world”. Within one generation the gospel had been preached to the whole world (Colossians 1:23).
It was not God’s fault that they did not obey. He planned the whole way of salvation. It was not Christ’s fault. He carried out the plan by dying on the cross. It was not the fault of the Holy Spirit. He delivered the gospel to the apostles. It was not the fault of the apostles. They faithfully preached the message just as the Holy Spirit gave it to them. And they preached to all men.
The reason why most did not obey the gospel is because those who heard either did not believe, or when they believed they did not obey. God does not force people to be saved. Each person must respond to the gospel with his whole heart and obey. When men harden their hearts against the gospel, they are to blame. They are causing their own destruction. God has done everything to save them, but they reject His gospel.
Now look at the statement: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ”. The word of Christ is contained in the Bible. The whole power to produce faith is in the words of the Bible. Everything we must believe is found in the Bible. And anything which is not taught in the Bible is no part of saving faith.
Because that is true, and because it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6), we understand that we can only please God when we do what is authorised in the New Testament. Now we know how to be accepted by God. We must act by faith, which Paul calls “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). We must do just what God tells us to do in His word, the New Testament.
If we do something which is not authorised by the New Testament, we cannot expect to please God. Such actions are not “by faith”. When we do what we want to do instead of what God tells us to do in the New Testament, we are being disobedient and are acting by our own authority, not God’s. When this happens we are in danger. In the judgment day we may find ourselves among those to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS” (Matthew 7:23). This is the most serious matter we can think about.
If we are careful to do only what is authorised in the New Testament, we will be able to find exactly how to walk to please God. The just shall live by faith, and we must walk by faith.
Also, the spirit of faith is, “I believe, therefore I speak” (See 2 Corinthians 4:13). No man has the right to speak anything which is not found in the Bible. “Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God” (1 Peter 4:11). God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3).
Finally, when we obey there has to be someone who tells us what to do. If we obey, we show by our actions that there is someone whose word must be followed. However, we cannot obey until we know what to do. The one whom we obey has to tell us. That is what God has done. He did this when he sent the preachers (the apostles) with His message. When we read and study this message, we find what God wants us to do. Then we obey because we believe Him and believe that He has the right to command us. Proper obedience comes out of faith.
God’s prophets told the Jews about His plan. There were many prophecies which said that Gentiles would be God’s people. When Moses prophesied just before Joshua led Israel into Canaan, he saw that the Jews were going to be unfaithful to God. He prophesied that God would punish Israel, and he wrote: “They have made Me jealous with what is not God; They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21). This was a clear prophecy that God would give His blessings to that which is not a nation, that is, a nation other than Israel. These blessings would be so great that Israel would become jealous.
Isaiah’s prophecy is very clear. It is found in these words in Isaiah 65:1: “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name”. The prophecies were there. So the answer to the question “Surely Israel did not know, did they?” is, “They should have known. It was written by their prophets that the Gentiles would be blessed by God”.
Why did the Gentiles not seek after God? And how were they able to find God when they did not seek Him? Jesus said, “Seek, and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7), yet they found God without seeking Him.
They did not seek God because they were ignorant of Him. They worshiped idols and were filled with wickedness. They could not seek God because they knew nothing about Him.
Therefore, God looked for them. When He found them, they were happy and listened to the gospel. Their souls were saved. Many burned their books and destroyed their idols when they understood the glad message about salvation.
The Jews and the Gentiles were in different conditions when they heard the gospel. The Jews had great advantages because God had given them the Law and the Prophets (Romans 3:1-2). This should have caused the Jews to listen to the gospel with open hearts and good understanding. They should have been quicker to listen than the Gentiles. But it was the other way around.
How did God feel about the Jews? And what was their attitude toward Him? Verse 21 quotes Isaiah 65:2 in which God said, “All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people”. God was longsuffering. “All the day long” He stretched out His hands, trying to get them to accept His blessings. But there was only a “remnant” who listened to Him. Most of the Jews rejected salvation through Jesus Christ.
The Jews rejected the gospel because they hated it and were angry with its message. They were “disobedient and obstinate”. The word “obstinate” means “stubborn, unwilling to change”. They heard the gospel. God had pleaded with them “all day long”. He did that first through the Old Testament prophets to prepare them for the gospel, then He sent Jesus and the apostles and all the other preachers. They stoned Stephen and put James to death. They persecuted the followers of Christ without pity. When Jesus preached they argued with Him and told lies about Him.
This was caused by their foolish pride. First, they rejected Jesus because He was not the kind of Messiah that they thought God would send. They would not change their minds even when Jesus showed through His miracles and His teachings that He was the Son of God. They were too proud to change. And second, they hated the Gentiles. They did not want them to be saved. Therefore although God had given them every advantage, they closed their hearts to Jesus and to the gospel.