Israel’s Unbelief, Rom. 9:30 – 10:21
This writer is mildly grateful that the NIV takes the most difficult chapters of Romans in large
chunks! The more Paul has to say, the less needed from the country preacher. Please take time
to read today’s Scripture. The supplied heading, “Israel’s Unbelief,” covers the end of chapter 9
and all of chapter 10. In this section of the letter, Paul is addressing God’s rejection of the Jews
because of their rejection of Christ.
At the end of chapter 9, Paul contrasts the pursuit of justification before God on the part of the
Gentiles and the Jews. The Gentiles had largely not pursued God in Old Testament times, but
many were eager to obey when Jesus was revealed and preached (Acts 13:46-48). By contrast,
the Jews had the Law and promises, but failed to attain right-standing before God. They sought
righteousness by law-keeping and rejected God’s Son. Paul quotes Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16 to
demonstrate the contrast. To the Jews, Jesus became a stone over which the Jews tripped, a
stumbling stone. To the Gentiles, Jesus became the foundation of their faith and salvation (1
Pet. 2:7-8). Let us build on the rock, not the sand (Matt. 7:24-27).
At the beginning of chapter 10 Paul expresses his love and concern for the Israelites, his fellow
countrymen. Paul says the Jews were zealous, but their zeal was not based on knowledge. They
sought right standing before God based on a legalistic approach to the Law. When Jesus was
revealed, they still clung to the Law instead of believing in the one who could save them. An
interesting note—the Greek word zelos is translated by both “zeal” and “jealousy” in the New
Testament. The meaning depends on the context. Paul states that Christ is the end of the
Law—meaning that he is the goal of the Law. Its purpose was to bring the Israelites to Christ
(Gal. 3:24). The Law could not save, but it pointed to the Savior (John 1:17).
Beginning at verse 5, Paul contrasts the way of the Law with the way of the gospel. Through
Moses, God demanded that Israel keep his every command. Israel would fail because she was
bent on finding righteousness on her own terms. The word of Christ, the gospel, makes no
demands for superhuman feats. We do not have to ascend to heaven to bring Christ down;
neither do we descend into the deep to bring him up from the dead. The gospel is about faith,
or trust in the Lord. At this point many say Paul teaches salvation by faith alone. On the
contrary, he teaches that true faith will lead us to do whatever God requires.
Paul concludes that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32). This
involves both trusting and obeying the one whose name is invoked (Acts 22:16). When Paul saw
the light, literally and spiritually, he understood that Jesus is the only way to salvation. He spent
the last decades of his life proclaiming the gospel of Christ. Often the Jews rejected the
message, and the Gentiles obeyed. Instead of being jealous of the Gentiles, the Jews should
have become more zealous for God. In the closing verses of chapter 10, Paul piles up Old
Testament references to demonstrate that God invites both Jew and Gentile to come to him
through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The invitation stands for all today (Matt. 11:28-30).
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.