The Pulpit Commentary

Romans 10:1-21 (Romans 10:1-21)

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Romans 10:4 (Romans 10:4)

For Christ is the end of Law unto righteousness to every one that believeth . The word "end" ( τέλος ) might in itself mean

which is the evident meaning of the word in 1 Timothy 1:5 and 1 Peter 1:9 . This last seems best to suit the line of thought in this place. The Jews evinced ignorance, i.e. of the real meaning and purpose of Law, in resting on it for justification. This is St. Paul's constant position in speaking of the office of Law—that it could not and was never meant to justify, but rather to convince of sin; to establish the need of, and excite a craving for, redemption; and so prepare men to appreciate and accept the righteousness of God in Christ which was its τέλος (see especially ch. 7.; and cf. Galatians 3:24 , ὥστε ὁ νόμος παιδαγωγὸς ἡμῶν γέγονεν εἰς χριστὸν ἵνα ἐκ πίστως δικαιωθῶμεν ). νόμος being here anarthrous, we translate it according to the rule observed in this Commentary. The apostle has, indeed, in view the Mosaic Law; but it is the principle of law, as such, that he is speaking of. He next proceeds, as elsewhere throughout the Epistle, to quote from the Old Testament in illustration of the contrast between the two principles of justification, and this with the intention of showing that even in the Pentateuch that of justification by faith was intimated, and thus that it was all along the real τέλος of the Law. "Nam si prophetas suae sententiae testes citasset, haerebat tamen hic scrupulus, cum Lex aliam justitiae formam praescriberet. Hunc ergo optime discutit, quum ex ipsa Legis doctrina stabitit fidei justitiam" (Calvin).

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Romans 10:2-4 (Romans 10:2-4)

False righteousness and true.

Paul's desire for the salvation of his countrymen and kinsmen arose from his clear perception of their spiritual destitution and need. They might hide their condition from themselves, but it was clear enough to him. The measure of true light which they enjoyed made it the sadder that many of them refused to accept and to walk in the full light of the Sun of Righteousness. And the apostle's sympathy was excited on their behalf all the more because he understood their case so well.

I. ZEALOUS RELIGIOUSNESS MAY BE MISDIRECTED BY IGNORANCE . The apostle does not charge the Jews with neglecting, far less with despising, religion. In their own way they were very religious, and many of them were found willing to put forth great efforts and endure many sacrifices for their religion. They had "a zeal for God." They hated idolatry; they revered their Scriptures, their temple, their priesthood, their sacrifices and festivals; they prided themselves upon their ceremonial purity and their scrupulous observances. Yet, with all this, they were not commended by the apostle. Their zeal was without knowledge. We meet with similar characters in our own time. Some persons consider that if there is religiousness with sincerity, that is sufficient. It is a great mistake. We need light as well as warmth, knowledge as well as zeal. If truth has been revealed, our first duty is to learn and receive it.

II. THERE IS A FALSE AND UNCHRISTIAN CONCEPTION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS . The Jews are censured for seeking to establish "their own righteousness." The Law, indeed, was good in itself. For those who perfectly obeyed it, it was a means of salvation. But the Law is Condemnation to those who trust in it and yet do not conform to it. And, as a matter of fact, the Law was "weak through the flesh," was insufficient for the salvation of sinful men. It is no foundation for a sinner's hopes. Further, the Hebrews were too much accustomed to regard their religious acts as services rendered, for which Divine recompense and payment are due. This is a notion still prevalent, but it is radically unscriptural and unreasonable. We cannot be justified by the works of the Law, and we can earn nothing as a right from God.


1. The relation between Christ and the Law. The word "end" may be taken literally. The Law, as a dispensation, came to an end when Christ appeared. The Law was to the Israelites a Conductor to lead them to Jesus. But the word "end" may mean more than this; it may mean the purpose and design of the Law. The Law was given in order to reveal both the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of man. It thus prepared the way for the coming of him whose obedience fulfilled the Law, and whoso redemption secured pardon and liberty for those whom the Law was powerless to save.

2. Observe the way in which the higher righteousness is secured through Christ. This is described by three several expressions in this passage—knowledge, subjection, belief. The ignorant are without the means of obtaining justification; the unsubmissive rebel against the means; the unbelieving reject the means. It is the will of God that faith should be accounted for righteousness. This is a principle as old as Abraham; yet its most mighty working is apparent in the case of those who believe in Jesus. The doctrine of justification by faith is here plainly revealed, and its superiority to all rival doctrines plainly exhibited.

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Romans 10:1-4 (Romans 10:1-4)

Israel's strength and weakness.

The apostle returns again to the tender solicitude for the spiritual welfare of Israel which he had already expressed in the beginning of the ninth chapter. He was no blind bigot. He could recognize the good qualities even of those from whom he differed. He knew how far Israel had departed from the truth of God, and yet he is quick to perceive that, even amid their errors and sins, there is much that is commendable in their character. What an example for every Christian, and especially in these days, when ecclesiastical divisions are so numerous and so sharply defined, to recognize what is good even in those from whom we differ most widely!


1. Israel's zeal was an element of strength. "I bear them record that they have a zeal of God" ( Romans 10:2 ). The apostle does them the justice of recognizing their zeal for God. Here he could speak with sympathy, the sympathy of personal experience. He knew how, before his conversion to Christianity, he himself had been influenced by the same sincere, though mistaken, desire for God's glory. "I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the Law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day" ( Acts 22:3 ). Here is the same sympathetic recognition of Jewish zeal. This quality, when rightly applied, was their strength. It well fitted them to be the bearers of God's message, and the channel of his blessings, to the world. A people without zeal will never accomplish anything permanent or great.

2. Zeal without knowledge was their weakness. They had a zeal of God, "but not according to knowledge." Zeal is not necessarily an unmixed blessing. Yet there are many who commend earnestness, utterly irrespective of the motives from which it proceeds, the methods it adopts, or the ends it has in view. On this principle the doctrines held or the character exhibited are of small importance, provided only there is earnestness and zeal. Mohammedanism and the Inquisition would therefore be both laudable, because they exhibited zeal. Zeal without knowledge may become the opened floodgate for a torrent of evil. Zeal in religion may lead to any excesses if it is not restrained and tempered by the wisdom which God's Word imparts.

II. WORKS WITHOUT FAITH . "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" ( Romans 10:3 ). Thus it is plain that sincerity and morality will not save the human soul or procure acceptance with God. The essential condition of salvation is faith. Faith will lead us to accept God's plan of salvation, and to be guided by his Word in our efforts to obtain it. St. Paul's description of the Jews here might be appropriately applied to our Roman Catholic and ritualistic brethren. They too have a zeal for God. Their zeal and earnestness cannot be questioned. But their zeal is often not according to knowledge. They too are "going about to establish their own righteousness." They substitute works for faith, and by legal observances, by rites and ceremonies, by lastings and penances, they seek to work out s righteousness for themselves. Christ and his Word are too much set aside, and Church and priest and the commandments of men are set up in their place. Let us admit their strength, let us imitate their zeal, while affectionately "speaking the truth in love" we point out and avoid their weakness.—C.H.I.

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Romans 10:1-11 (Romans 10:1-11)

The freeness of salvation.

The apostle's heart yearns for his people. For he recognizes their sincerity in much of their grievous mistaking of the ways of God. They had zeal for God, though the zeal was unreasonable and irreligious. Unreasonable; for how can man make himself just before God, guilty and sinful as he is? and why should the Jew think that, if this were possible, only one small portion of the race should be suffered to work out its righteousness? Irreligious; for instead of the humility as regards one's self, and the charity as regards others, which are two essentials of the life in God, there was a proud self-assertiveness, and a narrow bigotry. They must learn that God's favour is by grace ( Romans 10:5-11 ), and for all ( Romans 10:12-21 ). We have here-the freeness of salvation.


1. Ignorance. "Of God's righteousness." That is, of the fact that the justification of a sinner can only come of God's free grace. Surely their Law might have taught them this: negatively, for it should have made them realize their own utter imperfectness and impotence; positively, for had they not read ( Genesis 15:6 ) that Abraham was counted righteous through faith in God? and ( Habakkuk 2:4 ) that all just ones shall live by faith?

2. Self-sufficiency. "Seeking to establish their own." That is (see Godet), as a monument, raised, not to God's glory, but to show forth their own achievements. Here was the pride of man, which must be brought down before any way can be made towards God ( Matthew 5:3 ).

3. Disobedience. "Did not subject themselves." For the very faith whereby we receive God's free forgiveness is an act of submission, an abnegating of our false pride, a yielding to a way which is higher and better than our own (see Romans 1:5 ; Romans 6:17 ).

4. Frustration of the very purport of their own Law. "For Christ is the End of the Law." All was designed to lead to him; the holy commands were to make them know their guilt and weakness, and crave for pardon and grace; the sacrifices and ceremonies were at once to stamp the fact of sin more deeply into their consciousness, and to give them a glimmering hope of propitiation and purifying. To Christ all these things directly and indirectly tended; but the veil was on their eyes, that they "should not look steadfastly on the end of that which was passing away" ( 2 Corinthians 3:13 ).


1. " The righteousness which is of the Law " was, that it should be done by man's efforts, conjoined with the grace of God. For, according to God's intent, grace was with the giving of the Law: pardon, for realized imperfection; help, for realized frailty; the coming of Christ, as the end of all its precepts and ceremonial. But if man would ignore this element of grace, there was nothing for him but a perfect fulfilling of an impossible righteousness! Doing it, he should live by it. They tried; the world has tried: the end thereof is death!

2. " The righteousness which is of faith " hath taught us better things.

Yes, the faith which works by love: accepting with all our heart the free forgiveness which is through Christ's death, and acknowledging him with our whole life as our true Lord and King. So no shame, but perfect liberty and perfect love.—T.F.L.

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Romans 10:4 (Romans 10:4)

The end of the Law.

The desire for righteousness has embodied itself in diverse and some of them grotesque forms. Gather together the Pharisee with his phylacteries and ablutions; the Chinaman burning his bits of paper for ancestral worship; the Hindoo bathing in the sacred river, or prostrating himself under the idol-car; the Roman Catholic telling his beads and performing his penance; and the moral youth, who never omits his daily portion of Scripture, or his morning and evening prayers, and would scorn to tell an untruth; and one would scarce imagine that the same motive actuates all these. Yet they all bear witness to man's anxiety to be righteous in the sight of the Supreme Being, and those are abnormally Constituted who are never conscious of this yearning. It was not this strong desire for righteousness which the apostle tried to alter in the Jews, but the antiquated imperfect method to which they still clung after the one sure way of justification through faith in Christ had been proclaimed.

I. CHRIST THE TERMINATION OF THE LEGAL ECONOMY . The rending of the veil at the Crucifixion indicated the passing away of the old dispensation, with all its gorgeous rites and external splendour. There arose another order of priesthood, from which the exclusiveness of the former caste was absent. Jesus the High Priest came not of the tribe of Levi. It is no longer necessary to become a Jew in order to reap the privileges of access to God. Christ has released men from the yoke of the Law, with its fasts and feasts, its observance of days and seasons. He has changed our state from pupilage to manhood; from slavery to a "reasonable service." Wherever a Christian is found, there is a spiritual priest and a living temple; wherever Christians meet, there is a holy convocation. The tabernacle disappeared when the temple was erected, and the earthly temple is no longer needed when the glorious building rises, reared without hands. The Jews who would not receive this teaching had to be convinced, by the capture of Jerusalem and the burning of their "beautiful house," that "the old order changed, giving place to new." The forerunner of Christ was the last of the Old Testament prophets.

II. CHRIST THE DESIGN AND SCOPE OF THE LEVITICAL DISPENSATION . We cannot understand the Law unless we regard it as pointing unmistakably to the coming Messiah, preparing his way; a preliminary education of mankind and of one nation in particular; like a stock on which a new rose is to be grafted. The sacrifices, the moral and ceremonial precepts, were predictive, were prophecy acted in symbol and type. The chrysalis displays tokens of the winged perfect insect. "The Law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ." So that when men inquire, "To what purpose was all this cost of legislation and ritual?" the reply is that it paved the way for something better; it was the "shadow of good things to come."

III. CHRIST THE REALIZATION OF THE MOSAIC IDEAL . The holiness which the Law ever kept in view, endeavouring to raise men to its standard of righteousness, has been exemplified in Jesus Christ. Wherein the Law was weak, Christ was strong. His condemnation of sin was thorough and effective, and the perfection of his sacrifice renders any subsequent atonement needless. To enter into the spirit of his offering is to "purge the conscience from dead works" and to give rest and peace to the troubled—the region in which the Law was inoperative. The message of Divine love sounding from the cross has a constraining influence over the affections and life of the Christian, which the Law aimed at and failed to achieve. New Testament saints have frequently attained to an enlightenment of mind and conformity to the Divine will which was sighed after in vain by patriarch, psalmist, and prophet. Christ bring his followers into communion with God, and by faith in him are they sanctified. Love is proved a stronger principle than terror, knowledge than ignorance, example than precept. In abrogating, Christ fulfils the Law.

CONCLUSION . See, then, what faith does. It looks at Christ instead of a Law of ordinances. It is no longer tied by enactments and fearful of non-compliance, for it beholds the face of Jesus, "the Lamb as it had been slain." We may trust Christ as our Redeemer and Guide, without understanding or acknowledging all these points of superiority over the former covenant; as a woman knows she will be benefited by a certain medicine, though she could not name its ingredients, nor state the method of its working; or as a man may journey on the railway who comprehends little of the application of steam to locomotives, etc. And faith is content to submit to God's righteousness, instead of seeking to establish its own. It relies not upon personal desert, but upon the provisions of mercy furnished in Christ. It is humble, and tries not to patch together a human garment to hide deformities and deficiencies. Accepting the gracious offer of God, faith discovers new elements of strength and joy in the very position assumed.—S.R.A.

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Romans 10:1-11 (Romans 10:1-11)

Confession of a risen Saviour.

In the previous chapter we saw a Christian patriot lamenting that so many of his fellow-countrymen, through rejecting God's mercy manifested in Christ Jesus, were becoming mere vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. At the same time, he sees in Divine sovereignty, its incidence and its justice, the real clue to the philosophy of history and the progress of the world. In the present chapter he discusses the rejection of Israel and its reasons, and the nature of that acceptance and salvation which the Gentiles received after the Jews had despised them. In the verses now claiming attention we have the apostle leading his readers up to faith in and confession of a risen Saviour.

I. THE MISDIRECTED ZEAL OF THE APOSTLE 'S COUNTRYMEN . ( Romans 10:1-3 .) The apostle's desire and "supplication" (so Revised Version) for the Jews was that they might be saved. But, alas! their misdirected zeal was preventing their salvation. For instead of submitting to the righteousness which is of God, instead of making their way to Christ, who is the End to whom the Law when properly understood leads, they were going about with the one object of establishing their own righteousness. This zeal Paul knew himself experimentally. For years he also had aimed at Law-keeping, and in his self-ignorance he thought that " touching the righteousness which is in the Law" he was "blameless" ( Philippians 3:6 ). But the Law-keeping may be in the letter and not in the spirit. The spirit of the Law is love; yet Paul and the Pharisees tithed mint and anise and cummin, while they lived lives of hate, and hesitated not to persecute Christ-like people even to the death. To keep self-righteousness before the soul as the end of life is simply misdirected zeal. It keeps us away from Christ and all the bliss which his fellowship implies. And so a day came when Paul saw that his roundabout way, going about to establish his own righteousness, was a delusion, a snare, a loss, and not a gain, for it kept him long years from Christ. Let us be clear that we are not under a similar delusion. Let us give up self-righteousness and take God's better way.

II. A RISEN SAVIOUR IS THE END OF THE LAW AND OBJECT OF FAITH . ( Romans 10:4 .) Now, the moment we are led to take a spiritual view of God's Law, to see that it demands perfect motive as well as decent outward morality, we see that we cannot keep it in its length and breadth; and therefore, instead of living by Law-keeping, we are condemned by the Law as its transgressors. Self-righteousness is seen to be self-deception. Condemnation is seen to be our natural state. Then is it that Christ and his perfect righteousness dawn upon our condemned and polluted souls. We see that he has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and so the Law serves its purpose when it lays us down at the feet of Christ, to be justified by faith. Instead of trusting our own righteousness, we see in our risen Saviour the true Object of faith and Source of righteousness. We pass out of shame into confidence in his finished work. £

III. THIS RISEN SAVIOUR IS EASILY FOUND . ( Romans 10:6-9 .) The idea of the human heart is that by some prodigious effort salvation must be secured. Abana and Pharpar are further off, as well as likelier rivers, than this brawling Jordan hard by, and so Naaman cries out, "May I not wash in them, and be clean?" Only ask us to do some great thing in order to salvation, and our self-righteousness will be secured, and we shall be satisfied (cf. 2 Kings 5:12 , 2 Kings 5:13 ). A far-off salvation suits man's taste the best. Set it in heaven, and he will rack his brains for some ingenious device by which he will fly away and be at rest. Set it beyond the sea, and boats will be built and the voyage undertaken with alacrity (cf. Deuteronomy 30:11-13 ). Make salvation to consist in a bringing of Christ down from above, and men like Titans will try to scale Olympus. Make salvation to consist in a descent to the lower world to bring Christ up from the dead, and many will try a journey like Orpheus after the lost Eurydice, to bring the Saviour from the shadows. But we have got to see that the risen Saviour is not so far away or so hard to find as this. As Charles Kingsley once wrote to a lady, "My object has been and is, and I trust in God ever will be, to make people see that they need not, as St. Paul says, go up into heaven, or go down to the deep, to find Christ; because he, the Word whom we preach, is very near them, in their hearts and on their lips, if they would but believe it; and ready, not to set them afloat on new and untried oceans of schemes and projects, but ready to inspire them to do their duty humbly and simply where he has put them—and, believe me, the only way to regenerate the world is to do the duty which lies nearest us, and not to hunt after grand, far-fetched ones for ourselves." £ In the Word of the gospel the risen Saviour comes near to every one of us. We do not require any prodigious effort to reach him. We have simply to open the eye of faith, and there he is.

IV. THE RISEN SAVIOUR MUST BE CONFESSED WHEN FOUND . ( Romans 10:10 , Romans 10:11 .) Faith in a risen Saviour who is waiting to be found of us must prove its genuineness by the confession of his Name. It is when we take the Lord's side deliberately that we have tested the reality of our faith. There is a cowardly tendency to believe, but not confess; to get the benefits of salvation without running a single risk for our Saviour. But such a selfish, easy-going faith is mere delusion. Whoever really believes in Jesus will not be ashamed to confess him. And consequently we are encouraged first to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and then to confess him as our risen Saviour before men. There is undoubtedly a disposition to separate salvation from confession of Christ. It is thought to be wise and prudent to accept of the benefits Christ can offer, and at the same time to be silent about them. "Secret discipleship" is thought to be a masterpiece of wisdom. Everything is thus gained, and nothing risked or lost. But is everything gained? Is nothing risked or lost? Is the secret disciple ever likely to become a man of nobility and courage? Does he secure even self-respect? Must he not feel very much as a debtor who is always trying to shirk his obligations and ignore the debt? Or take the matter in the concrete. Was Nicodemus noble as he visited Jesus by night, and kept his discipleship a secret from the Sanhedrin? Was Joseph of Arimathaea noble as he gave his heart to the despised Saviour, but continued afraid to confess him? Neither man became noble until the Crucifixion brought decision, and they vied with each other what respect they could show to the remains of their great Master. Or would Saul of Tarsus have ever become the noble apostle of the Gentiles if he had sneaked into Damascus after his conversion, and resolved to risk nothing for his new-found Saviour? The manly character which Saul cultivated by confessing Christ was an infinite gain. It thus appears that confession of Christ is the wise test of the reality of our faith in him. May we all stand the test, and not be ashamed of him!—R.M.E.

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