Paul's Epistle to the Romans

 

(34) Present State of Israel

Romans 10:1-4

Scripture

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.
2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

 

Introduction

We have seen the present state of Israel; they are lost. That is their condition today. They are lost just as the Gentiles are lost. The reason is that Christ is the end of the law of righteousness. Now Paul turns from the sovereignty of God to the responsibility of man. He began this thought in the closing verses of chapter 9.

 

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.

In the first three verses of chapter 10, Paul reiterates his feeling for his relatives, the Jews. He has already expressed this in the first three verses of chapter 9.

Paul’s teachings were revolting to the unconverted Jews. They considered him a traitor and an enemy of Israel. But here he assures his Christian brethren to whom he was writing that the thing that would bring the greatest delight to his heart and the thing for which he prays to God more attentively than anything else for Israel is that they may be saved. He is expressing the caring attitude that he has for his people, and a fervent desire for their salvation. Spiritual desires should always be turned into prayer.

Israel is responsible for her unsaved condition. Jesus has said to them, “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:43-44). That was the condition of Israel back then, and it is their condition today. Jesus says that the reason they are in such a state—unable to have peace—is that they did not recognize their time of visitation. So Paul says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. Now notice the three great features in his statement:

  1. Israel, with all they possessed (see Romans 9:4-5) of religion, were not saved. They rejected the Gospel. There was a time when Paul would have agreed with his people, for he himself opposed the Gospel and considered Jesus Christ an imposter. Israel considered the Gentiles in need of salvation, but certainly not the Jews. In several of His parables, Jesus pointed out this wrong attitude (read about the elder brother in Luke 15:11-32 and the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 for two examples). Israel would have been happy for political salvation from Rome, but she did not believe she needed spiritual salvation from her own sin. You can be religious and still be lost. Israel had a God-given religion, but they needed to be saved. They had religion, but not righteousness. They have more than any other nation, but they were lost. Paul’s desire was that Israel might be saved. The sad thing is that though they are lost, they did not recognize their true condition. It is the same today; our churches are filled with people who believed they are saved, but are not.
  2. Israel was savable. Even though they have forfeited their original election to salvation, by their failure to accept the righteousness that comes by faith, the Jew can be saved the same way Gentiles are saved. Salvation comes only to those who believe in God’s Son, Jesus. And it comes by way of God’s grace.
  3. They are on the same plane before God today as Gentiles, and should be evangelized as any other people without Christ. There is no difference today, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Even though he is the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul takes no satisfaction in Israel’s rejection of God. He bears witness to the fact that the Jews have a definite zeal (see below—zeal, zealous) for God, but not according to knowledge, and therefore, he does not condemn them as godless and irreligious. Their religious zeal was apparent from their careful observance of the rituals and ceremonies of Judaism, and from their intolerance of every contrary doctrine. But zeal is not enough; it must be combined with truth (knowledge). Otherwise, it can do more harm than good.

Ever since Israel returned to their land from Babylonian captivity, the nation had been cured from Idolatry. In the temple and in the local synagogues, only the true God was worshipped and served, and only the true Law was taught. The Jews were so zealous that they even added some laws of their own making to God’s laws, and made them equal to God’s law. .

The problem with Israel is that her improper motives have caused her to have a zeal for keeping the Law, but not for being the nation God would have her be. They missed seeing both that God requires a righteousness, which they can never achieve or attain by their own effort, and also that God is ready to freely give them this righteousness—simply in response to faith. Paul said that Christ is the end of the Law, which probably means that Christ supersedes the Law. In former days, Paul had shared their religious zeal (see Acts 22:3; and 1 Tim. 1:13), and that was the reason for his heart’s desire and supplication for the Jews. However, zeal that is not regulated by knowledge leads to the substitution of error, and inspires a persecuting spirit. Paul’s attitude is an example to us to pray for those who have a zeal for God based on wrong beliefs.

 

Acts 22:3

I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.

 

Paul began with his roots as a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia; his education at the feet of the well-known Jewish teacher, Gamaliel; and his instruction in Judaism. He then gave special emphasis to his zeal as a Jew. He had persecuted the Christian faith, filling the prisons with those who believed in Jesus.

 

 

 

1 Timothy 1:13

Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

 

Formerly, Paul was a blasphemer of Jesus, not knowing He was God. A Pharisee couldn’t slander God. He “did it ignorantly in unbelief” (Acts 26:9), and therefore he obtained mercy.

Persecutor— the idea is of pursuing as one chasing an animal.

 

 

 

 

 

ZEAL, ZEALOUS

Enthusiastic devotion; eager desire; single-minded allegiance (2 Sam. 21:2; 2 Kin. 10:16; 19:31). The psalmist wrote, “Zeal for Your house has eaten me up” (Ps. 69:9). When Jesus cleansed the Temple, His zeal reminded the disciples of the psalmist’s words (John 2:17). Even before he became a Christian, Paul was zealous toward God and the law of Moses (Acts 22:3; Phil. 3:6).

 

 

 

3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

This is where they failed. They were ignorant of God’s righteousness revealed in the Law and the rest of the Old Testament, and ignorant of the fact that God imputes righteousness on the principle of faith and not of works.  “God’s righteousness” stands for both His own character and His direction (guidance) and the acts by which He reckons righteousness to the believing sinner. The Jews did not know the meaning of Righteousness from God’s point of view; therefore, they substituted human effort for God’s way of salvation in Christ, which shows a complete misunderstanding of God’s attitude toward man. They have read the Law and memorized the Law, but have never internalized the truth of the Law about God’s righteousness and consequently they are seeking to establish their own righteousness, and in so doing they have not submitted to the righteousness of God. Their knowledge was incomplete or they would not have stumbled over Christ, the stone of stumbling, while trying to produce a righteousness of their own by keeping the Law. They tried to win God’s favor by their own efforts, their own character, and their own good works. They consistently refused to submit to God’s plan for reckoning righteousness to those ungodly sinners who believe on His Son. To earn righteousness is to gain counterfeit righteousness. Any attempt to establish one’s own righteousness is open rebellion against God and His method of establishing righteousness in us.

They were proud and self-righteous, and so they refused to learn. There is an ignorance that comes from lack of opportunity, but Israel had many opportunities to be saved. In their case, it was an ignorance that stemmed from willful, stubborn resistance to the truth. They would not submit to God. They were proud of their own good works and religious self-righteousness, and would not admit their sins and trust the Savior.

The godly Presbyterian preacher, Murry McCheyne, was passing out tracts one day and handed one to a well-dressed lady. She gave him a haughty look and said, “Sir, you must not know who I am.”  In his kind way, McCheyne replied, “Madam, there is coming a day of judgment, and on that day it will not make any difference who you are.”

The Jews were zealous for God, but because of their insufficient knowledge, they refused to accept the marvelous grace of God, who came to them in the Lord Jesus Christ, and they refused to accept the gospel fact stated in the next verse.

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

In what respect is Christ the end of the law? It is that Christ is the goal or purpose for which the law was given. In this respect it would mean that the law was aimed at bringing us to Christ and that He came to fulfill the law and thus give it validity (see Isa. 42:21 and Mt 5:17). Christ is the terminal point of the law. With the arrival of the Lord Jesus, the old order, of which the law was a significant part, has been done away with, and the new order of the Holy Spirit of God has been instituted. Our Lord made it clear. He said in effect, “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse” (Matt. 9:16). The principle expressed here is that Jesus Christ has come to bring in a new dispensation altogether, which cannot be fitted into the system and customs of the old Jewish nation. The principle taught here by illustration is that the rule of the Law must be replaced by that of Grace, which will now have free reign in the hearts of all believers. Skins were frequently used in the ancient East as liquid containers. The strength of fermentation of the new wine would be too much for the partly worn, old, or inelastic skins and would cause them to break. The Mosaic Law was given to lead men to Christ; it wasn’t given to save men. Paul said to the Galatian believers that “…the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). The law was our schoolmaster. A schoolmaster is really the trusted boy-leader or child-escort employed to safeguard a boy from six to sixteen, and who watched over his morals and manners. He was not the teacher and he had no authority to punish. His business was to see that the child went to the right place and did the right thing. Such was the purpose of the law, to prescribe right conduct and impose certain checks. The law convicts of sin, restrains from sin, and condemns for sin; but the law cannot save from sin. The Law was not given to save us, but to show us that we needed to be saved. It takes us by the hand, brings us to the cross of Christ, and says, “Little fellow, you need a Savior.” The Law ended with Christ. “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). Without an effective relation to Christ, one deprives himself of spiritual blessing. One either attains salvation by his own works or he attains it as a free gift of God (see Rom 11:6). Having been saved by grace, the Galatians, who were reverting to the law for Christian living, were actually falling short of the standard of grace by which they were saved. The frustrating result would have been similar to the believer in Romans 7 who was struggling to live under the law (see the discussion on that passage). This does not teach that children of God can lose their salvation by falling out of grace. Paul is contrasting grace and law.

There is one qualification to Christ being the end of the law for righteousness. He is only the end, to everyone who believes. Those who attempt to establish their own righteousness do not find Christ as the end of the law and consequently do not discover true righteousness. If they had only believed on Christ, they would have seen that He is the end of the law for righteousness. The purpose of the law is to reveal sin, and to convict and condemn transgressors. It can never impart righteousness. The penalty for breaking the law is death. In His death, Christ paid the penalty of the law, which men had broken. That Christ is the end of the Law as stated is explained best by Galatians 3:23–26 (see below); where the meaning is, that we were kept in bondage under the Law until Christ came. There was no way of escape from the domination of the Law. The condemning power of the Law was not an end in itself. But its restraints were necessary so that Christ might be welcomed when He came. When a sinner receives the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, the law has nothing more to say to him. Through the death of his Substitute, he has died to the law. He is through with the law and with the futile attempt to achieve righteousness through it.

 

Isaiah 42:21

The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will exalt the law and make it honorable.

 

Israel was brought into covenant relationship with the Lord, but did not walk worthy of her high calling. The Lord exalted the law. It was honorable to Him. But Israel disobeyed it, and as a result was given over to robbery, plunder, and prison.

 

 

Matthew 5:17 

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

 

Having laid the foundation of the message in the summary statements of the Beatitudes’ Jesus now proceeded to show the superiority of His message to that of the law of Moses. He makes it clear that He had not … come to destroy the law. That is, the New Testament gospel is not contrary or contradictory to the Old Testament law; rather it is the ultimate fulfillment of the spiritual intention of the law. Where the law had degenerated into legalism by the Pharisees, Jesus now takes the law beyond mere outward observance to the inner spiritual intention of God. For He had come to fulfill the law and all its implications. In his earthly life, Jesus accomplished this by meeting its strictest demands and going beyond its mere outward requirements. As our Savior, Jesus not only bore our sins, but He has also established a perfect righteousness, which is given to us as a gift of God. Our sin was thus imputed to Him and His righteousness was imputed to us.

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Galatians 3:23–26  

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

The Judaizers wanted the Galatians to go back to Moses, but that was not far enough. We must go back to Abraham where the promise started. The law did not annul the promise; the law was given to reveal sin and prepare the way for Christ to come and fulfill the promise. The law is a tutor, not a savior; a mirror, not a cleanser.

 

 

 

Romans 11:6 

And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

 

Grace cannot include works. They are mutually exclusive. If works are to be added to grace, as the Jews thought, then grace is completely cancelled out. Salvation is a free gift and no payment at all can be made, else it would cease to be free.

 

 

 

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