SUMMARY.--Paul's Desire for Israel. The Jews Zealous, but not According to Knowledge. They Seek a Righteousness of Their Own Rather than God's Plan of Righteousness. The Righteousness by Faith Described. Shown to be for Gentiles as well as Jews. Hence, the Gospel must be Preached to All Men. The Unbelief of the Jews Predicted by the Prophets.
1-4. Brethren. In 9:3, the "brethren" refers to his countrymen, his Jewish kinsmen, brethren according to the flesh. Here it means his brethren in Christ, those united by spiritual ties. My heart's desire and prayer for Israel. Concerning Paul's deep solicitude for the salvation of his countrymen. See 9:1-3. 2. They have a zeal of God. They were religious, conscientious, zealous, but mistaken and fanatical. For examples of their mistaken zeal, see Acts 21:27-31; also 22:3. Even mistaken zeal is better than indifference. 3. Being ignorant of God's righteousness. It is now shown that their zeal was not according to knowledge. They had no knowledge of God's plan of righteousness, righteousness by believing upon Christ, but rejecting it they sought a righteousness of their own, of works, secured by keeping the law, and by obeying the traditions of men (Mark 7:7, 8). On the other hand, they refused to submit to God's righteousness through faith. 4. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. The meaning is that the whole law pointed to Christ, and his righteousness. They were its object. Yet the Jews clung to the law, and refused to believe upon Christ, in whom the law met its fulfillment. To every one that believeth. As long as the Jews remained in unbelief, they were cut off from Christ. He who believes submits to God's plan of righteousness.
5-11. For Moses describeth the righteousness of the law. Paul now shows the Jews who cling to the law that the law itself is against the law as a way of securing righteousness. Moses writeth. In Lev. 18:5. That doeth the righteousness, etc. He who keeps the law in all respects blameless shall have life. But Paul has elsewhere shown that no one can keep the law perfectly. That righteousness, then, requires a perfect obedience, a sinless life. What Jew could say that he had never sinned? 6. But the righteousness which is of faith. That is, "God's righteousness" in contrast with that of the law. The passage that follows is quoted freely from Deut. 30:11-14. Paul modifies it somewhat in order to bring out more strongly its spiritual application. It was applied at first to certain commands addressed by Moses to Israel, but its spirit applies to the gospel. Say not, Who shall ascend into heaven? The Jews expected a Savior, reigning upon the earth, a visible king of an earthly kingdom, and hence said, "Bring down Christ from heaven, where you say he is, and we will believe upon him." 7. Or who shall descend into the abyss? Another stumbling block with the Jews was the death and burial of Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, they held it to be proof that he was not the Christ. They still were wont to demand that they should see the Risen Christ with their own eyes, or that he be produced from the realms of the dead. To have met the demands of the Jews would have been sight rather than faith. 8. But what saith it? What does God's righteousness demand? It replies that we do not have to go either to heaven or to hades to lay hold of salvation, but that the word is nigh thee. The gospel is at hand. Faith in it, nourished in the heart and openly confessed, will secure salvation. This is more fully explained in the next verse. 9. Because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord. For the importance which Jesus attached to confession, see Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8, and compare Acts 8:37. To openly confess Christ in those days of persecution was a trial of faith of the severest kind. Note distinctly that there is no promise here to a concealed faith. And shalt believe in thine heart. That is, with all the heart. The belief must not be only a mental assent, but a belief that brings the whole man into loving trust and obedience to Christ. Such a faith is referred to in 1:5, where the "obedience of faith" is described. Thou shalt be saved. Such a faith confessed unites its subject to Christ as his loving subject, and imparts to him the righteousness of those who have died to sin and been freed from the law. See 6:1-4. 10. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. Such a belief, the faith that saves, is a power over the life. It influences the actions and brings us into "the obedience of faith," in yielding to Christ, wherein is found pardon. With the mouth. The faith of the heart must be openly confessed. This is a test of the faith. Unless Christ had provided such tests as confession and obedience we could not know whether ours was really a belief of the heart. That our faith moves us to confession is to us an assurance of salvation. The whole Christian life is a confession. 11. For the Scripture saith. The Scripture (Isa. 28:16) has predicted a salvation by faith, when it says, "He that believeth shall not be put to shame," and hence such a plan of righteousness was provided for in the Jewish Scriptures.
12-15. For there is no difference. The Jew objected to salvation by faith, instead of by the law. Paul has just shown that righteousness could not be obtained by the law, secondly, that the prophets had predicted salvation by faith. But the Jew is now supposed to object that this salvation was for Jews only, yet Paul is preaching it to the Gentiles. Hence he declares that it is for Greek (Gentile), as well as Jew, as shown by the passage just quoted in verse 11. It says, Every one that believeth, etc. (Isa. 28:16). He further shows that "the same Lord is rich to all that call upon him," of whatever race, by a second quotation from the prophets, found in Joel 2:32. 13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. To "call upon the name of the Lord" implies, (1) That the true God (Jehovah, in the Hebrew quotation) shall be approached in worship, and (2) that there shall be something more than saying, "Lord, Lord," etc. (Matt. 7:21, 22). The language, wherever used, implies coming to the Lord and calling on him in his appointed way. Compare Acts 22:16; 2:21; Gen. 12:8. This promise of Joel, since it says "whosoever," is not limited to the Jewish race. 14. How shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? The passages quoted from the prophets show that the Gentiles also were to have the opportunity of salvation. Hence the duty of preaching to them is now shown. They could not "call upon the Lord" (see verse 13) without faith. But there could be no faith in the Lord unless they had heard of him, since knowledge is an element of faith. But they could not hear the gospel story until it was preached to them. Hence, preaching to the Gentiles was essential to carry out the purposes of God. 15. But how shall they preach, except they be sent? Those must go out to them who have knowledge of the gospel. Hence it was needful that the apostles and evangelists be sent. Hence Christ said, "Go into all the world and preach to every creature." Thus Paul shows the duty was laid upon him to preach to Greek as well as Jew. As it is written. Isaiah 52:7. This message was to the Gentiles blessed tidings, and the passage quoted from Isaiah shows, under a figure, how those would rejoice who believed the glad news. See Acts 13:48.
16-18. But they have not all obeyed the gospel. All had not yet heard it, and hence could not obey it. To those who receive the gospel it is glad tidings. These fulfill the prediction of the prophets. But many are in unbelief, and hence do not obey the gospel. (Note that the gospel is to be obeyed.) This need not surprise us, for Isaiah predicted this also, when he said (Isa. 53:1), Lord, who hath believed our report? 17. So, then, faith cometh by hearing. Hence the need of preaching. If God by a miracle wrought faith in the heart, he could dispense with the preacher. But the divine arrangement is that it should result from hearing the word of God preached. For an example of the gospel plan, see Acts 18:8. 18. Have they not heard? Who are alluded to? Both Jews and Gentiles. The objector might say, Well, if faith comes by hearing, so few have heard that we are not responsible for our unbelief. Nay, says the apostle, the opportunity to hear has been very widely extended. In the language of the Psalmist (19:4), Their sound (that of the preachers of the gospel) is gone out into all the earth. When the vast multitude converted on Pentecost were scattered to their homes, they carried the gospel into all parts of the civilized world. Paul was now writing to the church in Rome, where no apostle had ever been.
19-21. Did not Israel know? Why, the Jew is supposed to object, if the gospel has been extended so widely, is the greater portion of Israel in ignorance that the Gentiles were to be saved? Paul replies that Israel should have known: (1) Moses foretells the call of another people to the favor of God. (2) 20. Isaiah still more plainly predicts the salvation of the Gentiles in 65:1, and (3) in the next verse (65:2) he predicts the falling away of Israel. 21. All day long, etc. Quoted from Isaiah 65:2. It presents the figure of a parent, with hands extended, appealing to a wayward child. That child was the Jewish nation. It was cast off because it would be cast off. It refused to listen to appeals. See Matt. 23:37. The apostle is far from ascribing the rejection of Israel to a divine decree, but he assigns the cause to Israel itself. Just so the Savior says in the passage (Matt. 23:37) just referred to, "How often would I have gathered, etc., . . . but ye would not." The divine wish was that Israel should be saved, but Israel stubbornly refused.