GOD SENT THE GOOD NEWS OF SALVATION TO THE WORLD
- THE GENTILES RECEIVED IT (PROVOKING ISRAEL)
- BUT ISRAEL STUBBORNLY REJECTED IT
Frank Thielman: The majority of those among Israel who have heard the gospel persist in their unbelief, despite hearing the good news of Israel’s redemption from the messengers God has provided. God has sent people to proclaim the gospel in accord with Isaiah’s prophecy that he would send messengers to proclaim Israel’s eschatological redemption joyously.
Thomas Schreiner: Paul has just asserted that one must call on the Lord to be saved. In this paragraph he emphasizes that Israel had every reason to believe, and yet it was prophesied that they would fail to believe. Verses 14–15 outline the steps necessary to facilitate calling on the Lord. The logical progression of thought is sketched in with a series of rhetorical questions. The culmination of the series is expressed in the first item—calling on the Lord, connecting to the claim in verse 13 that one must call on the Lord to be saved. It follows, then, that the last item in the series (being sent in v. 15a) represents the foundational element in the logical train of thought that climaxes with calling on the Lord for salvation. . . The point of the whole is that the messengers have been sent and the gospel has been proclaimed. The train of thought in the passage is interrupted by the claim in verse 16 that not all have obeyed the gospel, but then in verse 17 Paul reverts to the argument of verses 14–15, positing that faith comes from hearing and hearing through the message about Christ. The interruption in verse 16 indicates that hearing the gospel is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for salvation. Even though the Jews have heard the gospel, they have not obeyed, just as Isaiah prophesied (53:1). Thus the main theme in verses 14–17 is that Israel has not believed even though they have heard (D. Moo 1996: 662). Verse 17 summarizes the flow of thought of the paragraph. Faith would not exist without hearing the gospel, and the word proclaimed is nothing other than the gospel of the crucified and resurrected Lord.
In verses 14–17 Paul emphasizes that one must hear the message of the gospel in order to believe it and be saved. Paul stresses further that Israel has indeed heard the message of the gospel (v. 18), and the OT also predicted that the gentiles would be included in the people of God (vv. 19–20). Still Israel remains recalcitrant (v. 21).
Douglas Moo: The immediate jumping-off point for this paragraph is the quotation of Joel 2:32 in Romans 10:13. This prophecy promises salvation for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.” In verses 14–21, Paul works back from this “calling on the Lord” to the steps that come before it: belief → preaching of the gospel → being sent to preach the gospel (vv. 14b–15). . .
Gentiles, who did not seek God, are finding him (10:20; cf. 9:30), while Israel, though offered God’s grace, continues stubbornly to reject it (10:21; cf. 9:31–32). Although 10:13, then, is the immediate trigger for these verses, the paragraph ultimately picks up Paul’s indictment of Israel from 10:2–3. Despite her zeal, Paul has charged, Israel is guilty of not understanding and submitting to God’s righteousness in Christ, but Israel has no excuse for not responding.
Michael Bird: We should not underestimate the missional theme that runs through Romans 9-11. After all, the gospel is for the Jew first and then the Gentile (1:16), and Romans 9-11 is about the gospel in relation to the story of Israel in past, present, and future. In the divine plan Jews and Gentiles have interlocking destinies since Gentiles get in on the coattails of Israel’s covenantal promises (9:1-5; 11:18-25), Gentile inclusion will eventually prompt Israel to jealousy (10:19; 11:11, 14-15, 30-31), and in this way ethnic Israel and promissory Israel will both be saved (11:25-26). Paul’s prayer for Israel’s salvation (10:1) will one day come to fruition when God’s call and love overpowers Israel’s “stumbling,” “hardening,” and “disobedience” and leads them into his mercy (11:28-32).
Understandably then, Paul, as the Jewish Christian apostle to the Gentiles (see 1:1, 5, 13-16; 11:13; 15:18), takes a moment in 10:14-21 to place the Christian mission to both Jews and Gentiles on the map of prophetic promises. First, he places the mission in the coordinates of Isaiah 52-53 and proceeds to describe the mission’s urgency and the necessity of preaching the gospel for people to come to faith (Rom 10:14-17). Second, Paul pulls in parts of the Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah to lament Israel’s failure to acknowledge that God had always intended to bring the Gentiles into salvation (10:18-21). This paves the way for Paul to argue in 11:1-32 that God is far from done with Israel since Israel’s salvation is still on the cards as God will use the nations to provoke Israel to jealousy. Viewed this way, the primary issue is not Israel’s failure, but God’s mission to Jews and Gentiles and its surprising effects.
I. (:14-17) SALVATION DEPENDS ON FAITH RESPONSE TO GOSPEL PROCLAMATION
A. (:14-15) Causal Chain of Gospel Proclamation and Response
Frank Thielman: He had spoken of the simplicity of receiving salvation: it was available to anyone, whether Jew or Greek, who called upon the name of the Lord. Now he raises the question of whether those Jews who have rejected the gospel have actually received a fair chance of hearing, understanding, and embracing it. With his questions, Paul admits that for the Jews to call upon the Lord, the Lord must send heralds out with news of who he is, and they must communicate their message to the Jews, who must, in turn, believe it.
His quotation of Isaiah 52:7 (cf. Nah 1:15 [2:1 Heb. and LXX]) shows that God has provided all these requirements to his people. In its original context the passage was about God’s redemption of his people from the oppression of their enemies and the establishment of peace, happiness, and salvation through the reign of God himself over them (Isa 52:1–12). Isaiah had depicted a herald running across the mountains surrounding Jerusalem to bring the good news of victory over their enemies to God’s people. Isaiah understandably described the feet of such a welcome messenger as “beautiful” (na’wu; cf. Song 1:10).
Paul understood his own proclamation of the gospel, and that of the other apostles, to be the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Bob Deffinbaugh: Paul has said that even though God chooses those upon whom He will bestow the gift of salvation (chapter 9), men are responsible for their rejection of the gospel. So now we must go one step further. If the gospel is truly universal in scope, including both Jews and Gentiles, then it should be proclaimed universally. God is sovereign in the initiation and accomplishment of salvation, but man is responsible for its proclamation.
- (:14a) Calling on Jesus Requires Faith
“How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?”
Some people have a Major Problem = “How can salvation depend on missionary outreach? Surely those who haven’t heard the gospel won’t be condemned.”
Assumption: “If Christ is the only way to God, and people cannot know Christ apart from missionary proclamation, then Christianity is invalid.”
Paul’s Response: “Wrong. Since Christ is the only way to God, and people cannot know him apart from missionary proclamation, then missionary work is essential.”
- (:14b) Faith Requires Hearing the Gospel
“And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?”
Grant Osborne: In the task of evangelism, an effective witness must include more than being a good example. Eventually, someone will have to explain the content, the what and the how of the gospel. Modeling the Christian life is important, but someone will need to make the connection between the mind of the unbeliever and the message of the gospel. There should never be a debate between those who favor lifestyle evangelism (one’s living proclaims the gospel) and confrontational evangelism (declaring the message). Both should be used together in promoting the gospel. Do people know of your faith by your actions? To whom can you communicate the life-changing message of Christ?
- (:14c) Hearing Requires a Preacher
“And how shall they hear without a preacher?”
- (:15a) Preaching Requires Sending
“And how shall they preach unless they are sent?”
“Sent” – verb form from which we get the noun “apostle” = to send on a mission with a commission; prefix “apo” – emphasizes “from, separation from the one sending you in terms of distance”;
the messenger has the full powers and is the personal representative of the one sending; there is a close connection between the sender and sent one;
119 of the 131 NT occurrences are in the Gospels and Acts.
- (:15b) Preachers Commended
“Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those
who bring glad tidings of good things!’”
Grant Osborne: In the verse quoted from Isaiah 52:7, the herald is bearing good news to Judah about the end of their exile in Babylon and their return to their own land. His feet were beautiful to them, for his good news was so welcome. The message was what he brought, but it was those worn and dusty feet that brought him. Those feet were beautiful because they represented the messenger’s willingness to be sent with good news. Only now the message was not just for Israel, but for the whole world.
B. (:16) Chink in the Chain = Failure of Jews to Respond in Faith
“However, they did not all heed the glad tidings;
for Isaiah says, ‘LORD, who has believed our report?’”
Frank Thielman: The expression “not all obeyed” uses the common rhetorical device, called litotes (λιτότης) or meiosis (μείωσις) in antiquity, which deliberately understates the truth “not to deceive someone but to enhance the impressiveness of what we say.” Here, then, Paul means that very few obeyed. . .
Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 53:1 LXX demonstrates again that Israel’s disobedient response to the gospel does not mean that the word of God has failed (Rom 9:6). Israel’s rejection of the glad tidings that Paul and other apostles were preaching in his own time corresponded in the apostle’s thinking to Israel’s rejection of the beautiful news of God’s redemption in Isaiah’s time (Isa 52:7; 53:1).
Thomas Schreiner: Supporting the notion that most Jews have disbelieved is the citation of Isa. 53:1, which conforms to the LXX almost exactly. It is likely that the larger context is in Paul’s mind here, since he has already cited Isa. 52:7 in Rom. 10:15. Isaiah 52:13–15 proclaims that gentiles will see and understand the message about the suffering servant of the Lord. Paul saw this text fulfilled in the gentile mission, where many accepted the message of the crucified Christ. But the Jews stumbled—as Paul did before his conversion—at the message of a crucified Messiah (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23), concluding that it was scandalous to identify one cursed of God as the Messiah (Deut. 21:23). Thus they did not believe the report of the apostolic preaching. We also see here the inseparable relationship between faith and obedience, a relationship noted with the phrase “obedience that flows from faith” in Rom. 1:5 (cf. 16:26). The parallelism between ὑπήκουσαν (he obeyed) and ἐπίστευσεν (episteusen, he believed, 10:16) demonstrates that the Pauline concept of faith always involves commitment and submission to the lordship of Jesus (cf. 10:9). For Paul, faith is not merely verbal assent but also entails a wholehearted commitment to God.
John Schultz: Nobody in Israel understood the purpose of Jesus’ suffering and death, although the whole Old Testament testified to it. The two men who walked to Emmaus on the day of Jesus’ resurrection voiced the general feeling of all the disciples when they said: “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” They all thought they had been wrong. We read Jesus’ answer in Luke’s Gospel: “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” It was not until “He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” that the light began to dawn.
C. (:17) Connection between Faith, Hearing and Proclamation of the Gospel
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
Frank Thielman: “The word of Christ” (ῥήματος Χριστοῦ) is an objective genitive construction describing the word that Paul and the other apostles preached about Christ. It is identical to “the word of faith” that according to 10:8 Paul and his coworkers preach and that, like the word of God described in Deuteronomy 30:14, is easy to appropriate. Just as in Isaiah’s time, however, many within Israel have failed to heed this lovely and easily obeyed message.
Thomas Schreiner: Paul presumably inserted the verse to sum up and emphasize what he stated in verses 14–15. . . The message about Christ centers on his death and resurrection, which are communicated in Isa. 53. The inbreaking eschatological salvation that is proclaimed by God’s messengers (Rom. 10:15; Isa. 52:7) focuses on God’s Son, who has inaugurated the age to come by virtue of his death and resurrection. Thus the saving proclamation of the gospel always involves the proclamation of Jesus as Lord, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead (cf. Rom. 4:25; 10:9–11; 1 Cor. 15:1–4). . .
We have already seen that Paul doesn’t contemplate the possibility that people will be saved by responding positively to natural revelation. All people without exception reject the revelation of God heralded in nature and turn to idolatry. Romans 10:14–17 verifies this interpretation, since it excludes the idea that salvation can be obtained apart from hearing the gospel.
Grant Osborne: This statement expresses the main theme of this section. People need to hear the Good News of salvation in Christ in order to believe it (10:14). Faith does not respond in a vacuum or respond blindly. Faith is believing what one has been told about God’s offer of salvation and trusting the one who has been spoken about.
II. (:18-20) NO EXCUSES FOR JEWISH REJECTION
A. (:18) Jewish Rejection Cannot Be Blamed on Lack of Revelation
“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.’”
Grant Osborne: Some might argue that the Jews weren’t given enough chances to hear or that somehow the message should have been made clearer for them. Perhaps Isaiah’s complaint (“Who has believed?” 10:16) was the fault of the messenger. But Paul emphatically responds that of course they heard. The message had been preached far and wide, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (see 1:16). . .
As the loopholes close for the Jews, they close for everyone else, too. If the Jews are not excused for their unbelief, how can the rest of us think there might be some excuse for us? In the end, some may wish they had heard more, but God will declare that what they heard was enough. In the meantime, those of us who have heard have little excuse for our apathy in passing on the Good News!
Frank Thielman: This counterproposal itself uses the voice of Psalm 19:4 (18:5 LXX; 19:5 Heb.), although Paul does not introduce it as a quotation of Scripture. He is probably recalling the language of the psalm and its broad claim that God is not a hidden and mysterious being but has revealed himself to everyone (cf. Rom 1:19–20). What the psalm says about creation Paul says about the proclamation of the gospel. Both are God’s revelation of himself, and both have made him known on a wide scale. Paul was under no delusion that every Israelite had heard the gospel. Like the psalm, he is speaking poetically rather than with scientific precision and is making his point by means of hyperbole.
As Theodoret of Cyrus observed in the fifth century, Jesus himself had sent his apostles first to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:6), and Acts regularly shows Paul going first to the Jews (e.g., Acts 13:46). Paul’s point, then, is that in the wide proclamation of the gospel (cf. 15:19), the Jews have hardly been neglected.
Thomas Schreiner: One should not press Paul’s words inordinately here. The purpose is not to say that all missionary work has been accomplished, for as Rom. 15:24 demonstrates, Paul had plans to evangelize Spain (Cranfield 1979: 537). What these words indicate is that the mission has been extended to include gentiles (cf. Col. 1:23). God’s general revelation thus functions as a type and anticipation of the gospel message, which extends to all peoples. . .
the meaning of 10:18 can be summarized briefly. Paul affirms that Israel has certainly heard the gospel. The proof of this is that the gospel has even been proclaimed to the gentiles. If the gospel has been proclaimed to the gentiles—in fulfillment of the OT prophecies that the kingdom of God would encompass the whole world—then the age of fulfillment has dawned, and Israel has certainly heard the good news that Isaiah (52:7) foretold would be proclaimed. Of course, Paul isn’t claiming that every single Israelite has heard the good news, and thus the statement here is hyperbolic.
B. (:19-20) Jewish Rejection Cannot Be Blamed on Any Hidden Agenda Regarding Gentile Inclusion
- (:19a) No Surprises in God’s Agenda for Gentile Inclusion
“But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they?”
2 OT quotations in support of this contention – Moses and Isaiah
Thomas Schreiner: What Israel knew from the OT was that the gentiles would be included within the circle of God’s saving purposes and that Israel would resist his saving work. Thus the Jews can level no objection against Paul’s gospel because it is more successful among gentiles than Jews. Paul insists that this state of affairs was predicted in the OT and was known or should have been known to the Jews.
Douglas Moo: Having demonstrated that Israel has heard, Paul now wants to probe more deeply into the nature of this “hearing.” Was it superficial? Not at all. Israel, Paul affirms, understood. What they understood is that God could very well act in such a way as to include Gentiles in his people and to bring judgment on his own people Israel (vv. 19–21). Moses, Paul suggests, was the “first” in a long line of prophets to suggest that God would eventually extend his grace beyond the confines of Israel. Those who are “not a nation” (cf. “not my people” in 9:26) will stir up Israel’s jealousy, predicts Moses in Deuteronomy 32:21. Paul announces a theme he will take up later to explain the oscillation in salvation history between Jew and Gentiles (11:11–14).
John MacArthur: Now that’s the theme of Romans 10, self-imposed ignorance. They were ignorant. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the truth. It was they rejected the truth. It wasn’t that it was not available to them. It was that when it was available they refused to see it. And they cultivated a kind of blindness from which they never could extract themselves.
Now in the tenth chapter of Romans then, Paul is dealing with the whole matter of Israel’s blindness. He is dealing with the fact that they have missed the Savior, they have missed the Messiah, they’ve missed the Lord Jesus Christ and they’ve done it because of their tremendous ignorance, tremendous ignorance.
- (:19b) Gentile Inclusion Prophecied — Intended to Provoke Israel to Jealousy
“At the first Moses says, ‘I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation,
By a nation without understanding will I anger you.’”
Thomas Schreiner: In Deut. 32:21 is a specific prediction that Israel would be stirred to jealousy by a foreign people. The provocation of the Jews to jealousy by the gentiles figured largely in Paul’s estimate of salvation history, as Rom. 11:11, 14 demonstrate. From the latter verses we know that the jealousy and anger incited in Israel has a salvific consummation, according to Paul, but such a theme is not yet necessarily present in 10:19, since being provoked to jealousy here is parallel with being angered.
- (:20) Gentile Inclusion Prophecied — Due to God’s Gracious Sovereign Election
“And Isaiah is very bold and says, ‘I was found by those who sought Me not,
I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.’”
Frank Thielman: Testimony that Israel has understood the gospel comes not only from Moses but from Isaiah who speaks of God’s willingness to make himself known even to those who are not seeking him. God has done this in the case of gentiles who have heard the gospel, and some of them have believed. If God makes the gospel clear even to gentiles, who know nothing of his ways, then surely unbelieving Israel, with its advantage of God’s revelation in Scripture, has understood the gospel.
Thomas Schreiner: In 10:20 the point is that God has revealed himself to those who did not seek him or ask for him. In both 9:30 and 10:20 the electing work of God is the decisive reason for the inclusion of gentiles. It would be a mistake, then, to conclude that the strong emphasis on election in chapter 9 is jettisoned in chapter 10.
Steven Cole: By Isaiah’s boldness, Paul is referring to the astonishing nature of God’s grace. He pursues and saves those who were not seeking after Him, but were content in their pagan ways! This shows that salvation is not due to a good streak in sinners, but totally to God’s sovereign grace. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ today, it is not because it was originally your idea to seek Him and find Him. Rather, He intervened in your life to reveal Himself to you. His Spirit convicted you of sin and showed your need for the Savior. He moved in your heart to respond in faith to the gospel.
III. (:21) SALVATION STUBBORNLY REJECTED BY REBELLIOUS ISRAEL
A. Persistent Reaching Out to Israel with Gospel Invitation
“But as for Israel He says, ‘All the day long I have stretched out My hands’”
B. Persistent Rebellion by Stubborn Israel
“to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
Frank Thielman: Just as God’s merciful appeal to recalcitrant Israelites provides an analogy to his merciful approach to foolish gentiles, so Israel’s stubborn refusal to obey God in Isaiah’s time provides an analogy to their unbelief and opposition to the gospel in Paul’s experience. . .
In 10:20–21, then, Paul returns to the picture with which he began in 9:30–31. Gentiles who neither pursued righteousness nor sought after God have found God and the righteousness he gives. Many within Israel, however, despite having the Scriptures and a zeal for God, have not submitted to God’s righteousness and remain disobedient to the gospel. By the time Paul reaches the end of this section, he has demonstrated that Israel’s own Scriptures anticipated this turn of events, however surprising it might be.
John MacArthur: Why did the Lord reject Israel and turn to the Gentiles? Because all day long He stretched forth His hands to a disobedient and opposing people. He couldn’t get them to respond. “Disobedient” literally means to refuse to believe, to refuse to believe. They refused to believe Him. “Contrary” or “opposing” literally means to deny or to speak against, antileg, to speak against, to contradict. And so, God says you were ignorant of your Scriptures. If you had known the prophecy of Moses and you had known the prophecy and the words of Isaiah, you would have known that the day would come when Israel would be rebellious and I would reach out to the nations. I would go beyond you to provoke you to jealousy. And when that happened… This is what he’s saying: When that happened, when Israel didn’t believe and Jesus started reaching to the Gentiles and when the church went out to the Gentiles, a thinking, knowledgeable, believing Jew who understood his Old Testament should have said to himself, “This is that which was spoken by the prophets. It’s happening. Therefore this is the Messiah and this is the true message.” They should have concluded that. “All day long” means patiently and continually. “Stretched forth My hands” means lovingly to embrace you, to welcome you to intimacy and to security. A loving God has reached out to these people again and again and again and they have resisted in disobedience.
Bob Deffinbaugh: The sum and substance (v. 21). Israel is without excuse for her unbelief. It is not so much a matter of ignorance, but of obstinance. It is not so much a matter of misunderstanding, but of disobedience. Here is Israel’s real problem, obstinance and disobedience.
Grant Osborne: Finally, from Isaiah 65:2, Paul explains that God had been gracious to his people, patiently holding out his hands to them and calling them, only to have them turn away. That God held out his hands to his people indicates a gesture of dual purpose: one of welcome and of giving. But God’s welcome was spurned and his gifts were rejected.
The disobedience of Israel was judged by God’s welcome to the Gentiles (even though that was in his plan all along). But he will still accept his chosen people if they will only return to him. He remains faithful to his promises to his people, even though they have been unfaithful to him. God still holds out his hands.
Douglas Moo: In 10:21 Paul finally turns back to the failure of Israel, the issue that has dominated this section. He quotes Isaiah 65:2 to make two points:
- God continues to extend his grace to Israel (he “holds out his hands” to them),
- and Israel continues to rebel (they are “disobedient and obstinate”).
Michael Bird: Whereas Paul thinks that Isaiah 65:1 refers to Gentile inclusion, he understands Isaiah 65:2 as putting Israel back in the spotlight, or we might say “shame light”: “But concerning Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people’ ” (v. 21). Israel is in that position because, as Paul said back in 9:30-33, they are pursuing righteousness by Torah with the result that they have not attained their goal. They have stumbled over the messianic stone and tried to establish their own righteousness. Instead of being the renewed people of God who herald the message of God’s mercy to the nations, Israel has become stubborn and recalcitrant to what God is doing for the nations through the Messiah.