Hey there friends - thanks for all the positive feedback on yesterday's blog and for returning today. Romans 10 continues with a similar discourse as yesterday but brings the gentiles into the fold. However, despite having very 'progressive' minded section titles ("Salvation is for All", for example) this is another section of the canon that can be a little conflicting with it's message. Is salvation really for all or is only for those that profess faith? We'll break down the chapter in greater detail below, but, I just wanted to give you a note of what to expect as you read for yourself. Further, never be discouraged if you find scripture that you're reading to be difficult to process. It's not a sign that you are not intelligent enough or faithful enough or learned enough in scripture. Sometimes it's just hard to understand! I rely on the work of commentaries, other blogs, and conversations with other pastors to make sense of it myself. I just want you to know that Joyce and I are really proud of you for engaging with this series and for coming back each day to study scripture. Keep up the great work and stay inspired by your efforts!
Scripture to Read
10 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened.
Just want to quickly point out that this is Paul speaking about his peers, the Jews, even though he refers to a vague "Them" in the second half of verse 10. This is a continuation of his exhausted plea from Romans 9 about his longing for his peers to accept Christ as the fulfillment of the prophecies. That Jesus is both prophet (which Paul will later exhort the prophet Isaiah) and Law (his other quotes come from the Book of Deuteronomy also known as the Book of the Law.) Paul is a master at weaving just the right scripture to reinforce his points. I'm really stuck with verse 2, and is something I want to incorporate into my daily prayer routine. What does it mean to have zeal? What does it mean to be enlightened? Is one bad and the other good? Can they be moralistic on their own or do we give them those meanings? I often described myself as "zealous" for the truth but in this context I'm getting the idea that Paul argues Zeal (and thereby certainty) is the enemy of discernment. I've shared this before in our blogs but one of my favorite stories from an amazing professor I had was her moment of enlightenment. She knew she was truly prepared to accept her doctorate when she looked around, laughed, and said "I don't know anything." I can only hope in my own faith journey that I can have that same awareness as her. For the Jews who were tied to the law, they were zealous that it was the right and only way to worship God. Have we fallen into pits of thinking there is only way to worship God? Are we zealous about who God is or still open to questions? What does enlightenment mean to you?
“I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation which did not call on My name. “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts…” Isaiah 65:1-2
Paul uses this passage from Isaiah as he lays out his ever-deepening concern for his brothers, the Jews. These who had all the knowledge, all the history were focused on the wrong things – religion. They were so steeped in their traditions they were doing everything they possibly could to be acceptable in God’s eyes. The irony was these things meant nothing. Jesus had come and gone from their sight and they rejected him.
The beauty of these verses from Isaiah, however, is the tenacity of God regardless. His hands are stretched out to them.
This is comforting on so many levels. Even in our deepest rebellion and waywardness, God’s hand is stretched out… reaching. Even when we lose our way or get caught up in our own traditions and mindsets of how to reach God; He has not wavered in this stance.
9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Alright time to wrestle with the difficult section. Well, its not necessarily difficult but it is ripe for questions of clarification. As Christians, we should believe - even enthusiastically believe that Jesus has Saved us and made us anew by the Spirit. We should be living into that hope and eager to share it with others. However, what Paul isn't so clear about is what happens to those that do not accept that? What about our agnostic and atheist friends? What about our Jewish and Muslim friends? What about those that follow Eastern religions? Are they all simply doomed as a result of their unique paths? That's not clear here and the lack of clarity can be frustrating. Instead of speculating or focusing on what isn't here I would prefer to focus on just what is. Because believe it or not, this is a very forward thinking suggestion.
The beauty of true knowledge is that faith unlocks the key to righteousness (justice) and we do not have to “work” to obtain it. No longer would Salvation be found in works, or even within an ethnic or national origin. Not only are those inefficient means to produce Salvation, but they are also exclusive to particular individuals. Through Jesus, the Gospel is available to all people who call on the name of the Lord. It is a deep, complex mystery, yet, so basic at the same time.
Praying with Praise
I'm going to share a Christmas hymn here but it feels perfect for Romans 10 as it captures the idea of weaving old prophecies with the new covenant of Jesus and what he offers to us. Let's join together in song or simply in meditation for a moment of gratitude for God.
Come see the baby
Crib for a bed
His mother Mary
His sweet head
The starlight was shining
The wise men were led
Come see the baby
And worship Him
His name is Wonderful Counselor
Mighty God, Prince of Peace
Everlasting Father Emmanuel
Holy One, Son of God Savior of the world
Come and adore Him
On bended knee
He came to ransom
Someone like me
What could I offer
What could I bring
Come and adore
Him King of Kings
And the greatness of His reign will never end
Let there be peace on earth
And all goodwill to men
Come let us worship Him
His name is Wonderful Counselor Mighty God,
Prince of Peace Everlasting Father
Emmanuel Holy One, Son of God
The Savior of the world