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March 14, 2018

“Who Can Be Saved?”

Romans 10:5-21


Paul is continuing to struggle in this passage between God’s promises and Israel’s response to those promises.  He begins by referring to the “righteousness that comes from the law.”  He has already established that no one can be righteous, acceptable to God, by keeping the law since everyone, Jew and Gentile, breaks God’s law (Rom. 3:1-31).  Our only hope is the gift of righteousness that comes from faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-26).

Faith in Jesus then is all that is necessary for salvation.  This faith is defined in more than one way.  One obvious example is confessing Christ and believing in him with our heart (Romans 10:9-10).   In very broad terms Paul quotes from Joel 2:32, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Paul then goes on to another question. “How can they call on one in whom they have not believed?”  This question applies to both Jew and Gentile.  Paul’s next quote is from Isa. 52:7, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”  Paul then has to acknowledge the tragic fact that Israel has heard.  The whole Old Testament has prepared them for Jesus.  The irony is that Gentiles who did not seek God have been found by God.  God has shown himself to people who were not looking for him, vv. 19-20 (Isa. 65:1).  Israel, on the other hand, have been a “disobedient and contrary people.”

In effect Paul is saying that the Gentiles who were not looking for God have come to him through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Israel, however, who knew God, who had experienced his promises, turned away from their own Messiah in Jesus Christ.

Paul then is describing a perplexing and contradictory reality.  He goes from those who have not heard to asking about those who’ve heard but still reject.  How then is God’s grace which is for “all the Gentiles” (Rom. 1:5) a fulfilment of God’s plan for Israel whom he insists God has not completely abandoned (Rom. 3:3-4)?  We face the same question, why do some people believe in Christ and others do not?  Wouldn’t Paul have to admit that salvation in some important sense does in fact depend on us (Rom. 9:16).

Paul will continue this discussion in his next chapter.

Eternal and loving God, I thank you that you have called me by your grace and have enabled me to find you.  May I rejoice and live in your goodness, love and mercy.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.