10:1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of my fellow Israelites is for their salvation. 10:2 For I can testify that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not in line with the truth. 10:3 For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes.

That they may be saved – eis sōtērian, ‘unto salvation’.  The following verses (5-11) will explain how this salvation will come about.

The righteousness that comes from God – According to Wright and others, his ‘covenant faithfulness’.

Their own [righteousness] – ‘Of course, the phrase about ‘their own righteousness’, glimpsed out of context in the dark with the light behind it, with a glass of Wittenberg beer in hand and another already on board, could no doubt be read as indicating that these Jews were guilty of proto-Pelagianism, imagining that by doing ‘good works’ in the sense of making the moral effort to keep Torah they were earning favour, or indeed ‘righteousness’, with God.’ (Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God).

‘In Rom 10:3 Paul, writing about his fellow Jews, declares that they are ignorant of the righteousness of God, and are seeking to establish their own righteousness. The wider context, not least Rom 9.30-33, deals with the respective positions of Jews and Gentiles within Gods purposes and with a lot more besides, of course, but not least that. Supposing, I thought, Paul meant seeking to establish their own righteousness, not in the sense of a moral status based on the performance of Torah and the consequent accumulation of a treasury of merit, but an ethnic status based on the possession of Torah as the sign of automatic covenant membership? I saw at once that this would make excellent sense of Romans 9 and 10, and would enable the positive statements about the Law throughout Romans to be given full weight while making it clear that this kind of use of Torah, as an ethnic talisman, was an abuse. I sat up in bed that night reading through Galatians and saw that at point after point this way of looking at Paul would make much better sense of Galatians, too, than either the standard post-Luther readings or the attempted Reformed ones.’ (N.T. Wright, explaining how he came, in around 1976, to the position that was little later associated with the names of Sanders and Dunn, http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_New_Perspectives.htm)

‘Paul’s critique of his fellow Jews was not that they were legalists trying to earn merit but that they were nationalists trying to keep God’s blessing for themselves instead of being the conduit for that blessing to 3ow to the Gentiles. “Seeking to establish their own righteousness,” I came to believe, meant that they were seeking to maintain a status of covenant membership for themselves and themselves only.’ (N.T. Wright)

Christ is the end of the law

‘The word “end” can designate either the “goal,” “outcome,” “purpose” toward which something is directed, or the “end,” “cessation.”‘ (HSB)

So, does Paul mean that Christ is the termination (end), or the terminus (goal) of the law?

If he means the first of these, how would this fit with other scriptures?-

Mt 5:18 “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.”

Rom 7:12 ‘The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.’

According to F.F. Bruce, ‘the case for understanding telos as ‘termination’ is presented by Käsemann; the case for ‘goal’ by Cranfield. The two senses are combined by Barrett: Christ ‘puts an end to the law, not by destroying all that the law stood for but by realizing it’.’

Calvin is happy with both connotations.  So also is Moo, who says, ‘Christ, Paul is saying, has all along been the goal to which the law has been pointing; and, since that goal has now been attained – Christ has come – the pursuit of the law should now be at an end. This verse stands along with Mt 5:17, as a key expression of a dominant NT theme: the culmination or ‘fulfilment’ of the old covenant law and all its institutions in Jesus the Messiah. With that culmination comes also God’s intention to offer righteousness to anyone who believes, Gentile as well as Jew.’ (see Rom 9:30 10:12-13) (NBC)

Murray Harris agrees that ‘It is certainly defensible to say that Christ is the goal of the law, if the law’s purpose was to produce righteousness (Gal 3:22), for Christ himself fulfilled the law (Matt 5:17) and so has become believers’ righteousness (1 Cor 1:30). What the law was intended to do—but in the event was unable to do, given human frailty and sinfulness—Christ was successful in accomplishing for others. In that sense, he achieved the law’s goal.’ (Navigating Tough Texts)

But, adds Harris, the immediate context favours the sense that ‘Christ’s provision of righteousness in salvation marks the end/termination of the law in its imagined potency to produce righteousness.’

Again: ‘On this view, it is possible that “until everything is accomplished” in Matthew 5:18 looks forward to Christ’s own accomplishment—his provision of a right standing before God (= righteousness) for everyone who believes.’

‘It should be remembered that Paul’s polemic was directed against that false interpretation of the law which had erased the whole concept of grace from the Old Testament.  According to the Judaizers salvation was gained by a meritorious obedience to the law.  Such was Paul’s former course, and his kinsmen are still blinded by the same error (Phil 3:9).  Unbelievers expect to attain righteousness by the works of the law, but this relationship to the law has been terminated by Christ for all believers, who therefore no longer regard it as the instrument of their justification.’ (Wilson)

‘There is no believer, Gentile or Jew, for whom law, Mosaic or other, retains validity or significance as a way to righteousness, after the revelation of the righteousness of God in Christ.’ (Denney)

Stott thinks that the expression ‘Christ is the end of the law’ means that Christ has ‘abrogated’ the law.  ‘But,’ he adds, ‘the abrogation of the law gives no legitimacy either to antinomians, who claim that they can sin as they please because they are “not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:1,15), or to those who maintain that the very category of “law” has been abolished by Christ and that the only absolute left is the command to love.  When Paul wrote that we have “died” to the law, and been “released” from it (Rom 7:4,6), so that we are no longer “under” it (Rom 6:15), he was referring to the law as the way of getting right with God.  Hence the second part of verse 4.  The reason Christ has terminated the law is so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.  In respect of salvation, Christ and the law are incompatible alternatives.  If righteousness is by the law it is not by Christ, and if it is by Christ through faith it is not by the law.  Christ and the law are both objective realities, both revelations and gifts of God.  But now that Christ has accomplished our salvation by his death and resurrection, he has terminated the law in that role.’

10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is by the law: “The one who does these things will live by them.” 10:6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 10:7 or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), 10:9 because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

“Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” – From Deut 30:12.  Calvin: ‘If it is alleged that this interpretation is too forced and subtle, we should understand that the object of the Apostle was not to explain this passage exactly, but only to apply it to his treatment of the subject at hand. He does not, therefore, repeat what Moses had said syllable by syllable, but employs a gloss, by which he adapts the testimony of Moses more closely to his own purpose.’  For Rogers and McKim (Authority and Interpretation) this suggests that Calvin was not committed to biblical inerrancy in the sense in which that doctrine is usually espoused today.  But Calvin also says: ‘If, therefore, we take these statements of Paul as having been made by way of amplification or as a gloss, we shall not be able to say that he has done violence or distorted the words of Moses.’

“The word” – Gl ‘rhema‘, carrying ‘the idea of the divine initiative which, in the form of the spoken word, brings new life and new possibilities.’ (Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God)

The Torah is fulfilled, then, and covenant membership obtained, when anyone – Jew or Gentile – hears the gospel and receives it.  It is not on the basis of ethnic identity or racial privilege.

v9 ‘When a Christian said these words in a Jewish context, he was declaring his faith that Jesus of Nazareth was to be identified with God – the same God whom the Jews had spoken of as “the Lord.” In a pagan context, where people believed in many different gods and goddesses, the person who confessed “Jesus is Lord” was declaring that there is only one true God who had revealed himself in and through Jesus. And at a time when the Roman emperors were claiming to be divine and demanding that all citizens in the Empire should say “Caesar is Lord,” Christians openly confessed their allegiance to Jesus as the supreme authority in heaven and on earth by saying “Jesus is Lord.” (Colin Chapman, Lion Handbook of Christian Belief, 18f)

‘The huge defect with the ‘New Perspective’ is that it denies or obscures the believer’s assurance of salvation. By making ‘justification’ / ‘righteousness’ a process the Christian must forever harbour doubts that he or she does in fact enjoy God’s favourable verdict. But Paul will have none of this. ‘If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved’. (Rom 10:9) The impact is intensified when we realise that Paul is speaking about individuals; the verbs ‘you confess…you believe…you will be saved’ are singular. As I confess Christ, believe in him, I will be saved. The time is foreshortened. It is as if I am in the Kingdom of God now, at this moment, immediately. This is God himself speaking, in his Gospel-word.’ (Paul Barnett)

Wright suggests that we have in vv9-13 a very clear and complete statement of Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith: ‘the faithfulness of God; the work of the Messiah as the ground and basis for it all; belief in God’s raising of Jesus as the tell-tale signal that precipitates the divine verdict ‘righteous’; and the confession ‘Jesus is lord’ as the public, outward behaviour (signalling, of course, an entire world of obedience to this Jesus) which is the pathway from the initial ‘justification’, based on nothing other than faith, to the final ‘salvation’ which is based on the whole of life—life lived in the Messiah and in the power of the spirit.’ (Paul and the Faithfulness of God).

'Jesus is Lord'

‘The most frequent name for God in the OT, Yahweh (LXX Kyrios, “Lord”), now becomes the Church’s favorite name for Christ. The Church’s earliest confession of faith in Christ was in all likelihood “Jesus is Lord” (cf. Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:9–11). Hence, all that can be said about the name of Yahweh—that prophets prophesy in that name (Jer. 20:9), the righteous trust in that name (Isa. 50:10), people call upon that name (Ps. 105:1), etc.—can be and is said about the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:17f.; Jn. 14:1; 1 Cor. 1:2).’

G.W. Hawthorne, ISBE (2nd ed.), art. ‘Name’

10:10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 10:11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 10:12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 10:13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

There is no difference – ‘Rom At 3:22 Paul spoke of the absence of ‘distinction’ between Jew and Greek in a negative sense—all without distinction have sinned. Here he makes the corresponding positive statement—all without distinction have the same Lord, and enjoy the rich resources of his goodness and glory (cf. Rom 2:4; 9:23.’ (Barrett)

10:14 How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? 10:15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.” 10:16 But not all have obeyed the good news, for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 10:17 Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.

How are they to believe in one they have not heard of? – TNIV translates: ‘How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?’ It has been noted that ‘both the NIV and the TNIV mistranslate the Greek masculine pronoun hos (him) with the neuter form “one” even though it quite obviously refers in context to the Male Person, Jesus Christ. See also, Jn 3:34, Rom 5:14.’

‘Many commentators favour translating the relative pronoun as denoting the person who is heard rather than the message that is heard (Stott, Hendriksen, Dunn, Murray, Morris). The one people are to believe in is the one preaching to them.’ (Source).  In support of this interpretation we might add the names of Fitzmyer, Barrett.

Fitzmyer: ‘The Greek vb. akouein governs the gen. and means “listen to someone,” not “hear about.”’

‘The point is that Christ is present in the preachers; to hear them is to hear him (cf. Luke 10:16), and people ought to believe when they hear him.’ (Morris)

‘One of the saddest statistics of our day is that 95% of all church members have never led anyone to Christ.’-Dr. D. James Kennedy

How are they to preach unless they are sent?

The ‘chain of revelation’

This theology of the shaliach or “sent one” is developed fully in the Gospel of John as part of the “chain of revelation.”

  1. First, God “sends” his Son as the living revealer, the very voice of God (logos in Jn 1:1–18, Jesus as the “sent one” some thirty times).
  2. Then the Father and the Son send the Spirit to “convict” the world (Jn 16:8–15).
  3. Finally, the triune God “sends” the believer with the message of salvation (Jn 17:18; 20:21–23). When we preach, the Godhead speaks through us!

(Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, p439, re-formatted)

v17 ‘It is no use moaning that we seem to suffer from a chronic unbelief, or envying others (“I wish I had your faith”), as if our lack of faith were like our temperament, a congenital condition which cannot be changed.  For God himself has given us the means to increase our faith…We have to take time and trouble to hear in order to believe.’ (Stott, Understanding the Bible, 189)

John Owen referred to this verse in his famous discussion of definite atonement.  Naselli summarises Owen’s argument: ‘it is unbecoming of God’s wisdom to send Jesus to die for all humans without exception while knowing that millions of humans never hear this good news. “What wise man would pay a ransom for the delivery of those captives which he is sure shall never come to the knowledge of any such payment made, and so never be the better for it?”. Or what physician with “a medicine that will cure all diseases” would intend to heal all without exception, but then tell relatively few people about his medicine?’

10:18 But I ask, have they not heard? Yes, they have: Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. 10:19 But again I ask, didn’t Israel understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous by those who are not a nation; with a senseless nation I will provoke you to anger.” 10:20 And Isaiah is even bold enough to say, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I became well known to those who did not ask for me.” 10:21 But about Israel he says, “All day long I held out my hands to this disobedient and stubborn people!”

Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world – This is a verbatim quotation from Psa 19:4 (LXX; 18:5 there).  There are a couple of interpretative challenges with Paul’s quotation.

(a) The first challenge is that of the appropriateness, or relevance, of the quotation.  The words quoted from Psa 19:4 refer to ‘natural revelation’, whereas Paul is thinking of ‘special revelation’.

Some think that Paul is using biblical language to express his own thought.  ‘Paul probably quotes Ps. 19:4 (v 18b) not as a prophecy of the preaching of the gospel, but simply in order to use its language to assert the widespread proclamation of the gospel to Jews throughout the Mediterranean world’ (NBC).  But Morris thinks that this is ‘very unlikely’, because even though Paul does not employ a standard quotation formula he does quote the exact words of the psalm.

Hendriksen thinks that Paul ‘is not trying to tell us that the Old Testament Psalm was describing the universal spread of the gospel. What he means is that what in Ps. 19 applies to the language of the heavenly bodies is also applicable to the spread of the gospel.’

Similarly, Osborne, following Moo and Hays, suggests that Paul ‘uses the language of the psalm to say that in the same way that God has revealed himself in nature to the ends of the world, he has also revealed himself even more clearly through the gospel via the universal mission of the church.’

(b) The second challenge has to do with the extent of the gospel’s reach.  Did Paul really think that the gospel had already reached ‘the ends of the earth’?

On the rapid spread of the gospel, see Rom 15:22–24; Phil 1:12, 13; Col 1:6, 23; cf. John 12:19; Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 17:6.

Bruce thinks that Paul is implying a ‘representative universalism’; the gospel was in process of reaching the four corners of the world, with no people group excluded from its reach.  The spread of the gospel is, in principle, as extensive as that of the light of the heavenly bodies.  Morris, Edwards, Osborne and others take a similar view.

v19 ‘In other words, God will—as Moses warned [Deut 32:21]!—bring in people who are not from Israel, people who will then share ‘the sonship, the glory, the covenants’ and so on, and who will thus make Israel itself realize the result of turning away from God, failing to submit to his righteousness and refusing to believe in the messianic good news.’