I. The Israelites were pursuing righteousness the wrong way (1-5)
II. This righteousness can only be achieved through genuine faith from the heart (6-13)
III. The process of accepting the gospel includes a preacher preaching, someone hearing, and then believing (14-17)
IV. The Israelites rejected the gospel so God intended to use the Gentiles to show them they should believe (18-21)
1. Who is the “them” in verse 1? Direct this towards newer comers and explain interpretation based on context. Remind that chapter/verses were not in the original context.
2. In what ways can we see that the Jews had a zeal for God? What did this zeal lead them to do? How about Paul’s own life examples? What does the phrase “not in accordance with knowledge” tell us? What verse tells us that both knowledge and zeal are both important? Worship in spirit and in truth.
3. If they didn’t subject themselves to the righteousness of God, whose righteousness was it? What is the difference between man’s righteousness and God’s? Man’s is outward, in the flesh, and wrong motives.
4. What does it mean that Christ is the “end of the law for righteousness”?
6. How can faith based righteousness “speak”? Then what does Paul mean? What do verses 6-7 mean about going into heaven and down to the abyss? Faith based righteousness doesn’t need to go to heaven to believe Christ is there or go to the abyss to see that Christ really died.
8. What is the word of faith?
9. What two things are necessary according to this verse to be saved? Why confess? Does a confession guarantee true belief? What does the phrase “as Lord” mean?
11. Are any of you disappointed you believed in Christ? What about the people who professed belief and then something happened in their life and they grew angry/bitter towards God? Do they prove this verse wrong?
12. How about between Indians and Westerners? Is the same Lord, Lord of us all?
13. Who is this invitation to?
14-16. Paul doesn’t answer these questions so how should they be answered?
17. If someone asks you how they can increase their faith, what would you say? Hearing what? Songs? Lectures? Why is the Word of Christ so important?
18. Who is the “they” in verse 18?
19. Why did God intend to make Israel jealous? When will this occur? Isn’t jealousy a bad thing? Why or why not?
20. Who is the “those” in verse 20?
21. What does verse 21 tell us about God’s character? Patience.
Verse by Verse Commentary:
Intro – This chapter continues into more detail about Israel’s rejection of the gospel and separation from God. Remember back in chapter 8 we learned that God’s love is so deep nothing can separate us from it. Naturally people would question why then the Israelites were separate from God. Weren’t they God’s chosen people, elect and predestined? Paul answered this question in the first part of chapter 9. All of Abraham’s physical descendants were not chosen. Only some were. Just as all of his physical descendants weren’t elect so not all of the Gentiles were not elect. In the middle part of chapter 9 Paul took a break from this point for a little bit to defend God’s justice and sovereign choice. At the end of the chapter, he got back to his point of showing that Israel rejected God and that God started to work among the Gentiles. You might wonder why Paul spends so much time talking about Israel’s rejection and God’s calling of the Gentiles. Any thoughts?
1. Jesus was a Jew. Gentiles might wonder why the Jews rejected one of their own. If the Jews rejected their own Savior, why should others believe in Him.
2. To many people, Christianity was just one sect of Judaism. Some Gentiles might think they need to convert to Judaism to become a Christian. But by showing that Israel rejected Christ, it is clear that Christianity wasn’t just a new sect.
3. Most importantly, the entire Old Testament is focused on God’s working with the Israelites. Many would wonder, as Paul has already shown, if God’s plan had somehow failed when the Israelites rejected the Messiah. Did God waste all His time and blessings on them? Seeing that it was all part of God’s plan, shows us that God is sovereign.
4. Paul demonstrates that the blessing of God is not a birthright given based on ethnicity. It is through faith. In other words, we can learn from Israel’s mistakes and not repeat them. You see that much of the Bible records people’s mistakes. Why? So that we don’t repeat the same mistakes others made.
5. Gentiles can learn that God’s grace indeed extends to all people who have faith in Him, not only a select group. This is an encouraging doctrine.
1-5 – Firstly the “them” refers to the Jews. When you see a pronoun, you should look back at the context to see what group it is referring to. Looking at the context is the most important rule for proper Biblical interpretation.
Notice again Paul’s sincere desire for their salvation. It came from his heart. He grieved for them as we saw in the previous chapter. His work wasn’t done out of obligation only, but he had the right motivation, love from the heart (remember 1 Cor 13). Also notice that this heartfelt longing for their salvation is connected closely with prayer. The logic is simple. If you care for someone, you will pray for them. So the question for us is, do you pray for others? You see a relative or a friend without Christ and hope they will become a believer. Do you pray for them or just keep on hoping? What exactly did Paul pray for them? He prayed for their salvation. He didn’t just pray for health, prosperity, or happiness. He hit the crux of the issue, their salvation. This is by far the most important issue in their life and all else fades in comparison. Do not be preoccupied with worldly requests.
The Jews had a kind of a zeal for God. For example when they tithed, they tithed down to the smallest herb. They tried their absolute best to keep the Sabbath and even all the extra rules that had been added. They would travel for days to go the Jerusalem for the feasts. They would fast. They would travel the world to make proselytes (you can see they followed Paul around on his missionary journeys trying to win his converts to Judaism or trying to get Paul in trouble). Sure, some of them did these things out of personal motivations, not zeal for God. But some also did them because they really believed what they were doing was right. Paul is a perfect example. He did most of these things and he also zealously persecuted the church. Php 3:4-6. Don’t be mistaken. People with the wrong beliefs can be very zealous. For example Mormons (required two year mission each). JWs preaching door to door. David’s father, etc. However the problem with the Jews and all of these groups is that their zeal didn’t have a solid foundation. The things they did weren’t based on the truth. In other words, their beliefs and doctrines were wrong.
Let’s say for example I am leading a trip hiking up a mountain. I am confident of this shortcut to reach the peak faster. So I lead all the people on this shortcut. We march fast, working hard to get through the jungle, perspiring all the way. I very excitedly remind everyone to keep up and push the pace. What I don’t know is that this shortcut leads exactly the opposite way from where we want to go. All of my zealous efforts, are WORSE THAN USELESS. Because our work wasn’t based on knowledge (which way is right and which way is wrong), it would have been better to do nothing since now all of the way has to be re-hiked. This is what it is like to have zeal without knowledge. Many believe that it doesn’t matter what religion you believe in as long as you are sincere and passionate. This couldn’t be more wrong. It is not good to hold a wrong belief passionately no matter how you look at it.
See John 4:24. Worship in spirit and truth. The Jews were not criticized for their zeal, but they were criticized because it was misplaced. We need to evaluate our lives and make sure that yes, we have zeal, and that this zeal is based on truth.
Their key problem seen in verses 3-5 is that they tried to work their way to heaven instead of realizing that the only way to be truly righteous is through Christ. This is the way of all false religions. The core of each is that we must DO enough good things on our own to satisfy God. Why do you think all false religions have this basic belief? Because man invents false religions and man’s logic tells us we need to compensate for or problems.
What is the difference between man’s righteousness and God’s righteousness? The first may or may not be correct first of all because we evaluate it based on our logic. For example, white lies are good to man, but bad to God. Also man’s good deeds are often a result of wrong motivations. They are not from the heart, but are a means to an end. However, the righteousness of God stems from a pure heart.
Christ is the end of the law. In other words He fulfills the law. All the law is actually foreshadowing Christ’s coming. The law shows you that you cannot solve your problem of sin. Christ shows us that He did solve the problem if we believe in Him. Verse 5 is completely true, but the problem is no one can completely fulfill the law in its every detail and that is why we need Christ.
6-8 – In verse 6, Paul basically says if this faith-righteousness could talk, this is what it would say. If it were a person speaking to someone without faith, this is what it would say. The first phrase is as if it was said by a person without this faith. The person without faith challenges the idea that Christ is in heaven. It says, “Can you see him there?” “How do you know God really exists?” “If you haven’t been in heaven, how do you know it exists? How do you know Christ is there?” Sounds familiar doesn’t it? These arguments are nothing new. Basically the person of faith says it is not necessary to see it to believe. It would be disrespectful to Christ’s character to say we don’t believe it because He said it and need proof to see Him in heaven ourselves. Remember that we have faith in what we don’t see. If we see it, it doesn’t require faith. Macarthur puts it like this. “faith does not require some impossible odyssey through the universe to find Christ.”
That second phrase tells us the same point. We don’t need to go into the abyss to know that Christ really died and was really raised from the dead. Faith believes it. We don’t need to go to heaven or to hell to prove Christ’s words because He has shown us already through His Word taught by Himself, the prophets, and finally the apostles.
9-13 – These verses elaborate more on exactly what is the “word of faith”. What is the core gospel message. Remember that we discussed Romans is almost like an extended gospel presentation? Which point on the bridge would verses 9-10 be? It is believing, believing in Christ. The “Romans Road” is another kind of gospel presentation. These verses are used in that gospel presentation in much the same way that John 5:24 is in the bridge.
What elements of the gospel can we see in these verses?
1. We see that we must believe in Jesus AS LORD. This means we don’t just accept the facts (although we do that too) about Christ. It is not enough to accept the fact that there is a God and He had a Son named Jesus. I was reading in Mark this week that the demons saw Jesus and proclaimed “this is the Son of God.” But they didn’t surrender their lives to Him or repent. They acknowledged the fact, but rebelled against it. Explain more the concept of Lordship. Obviously when a person believes, he is not suddenly perfect. However, he is willing to submit his will, to Christ’s.
2. Confess. Believers are to confess Christ openly. Jesus said He will be ashamed of those who are ashamed of Him. Open confession tends to show that the belief is genuine and firm. It is a way for us to identify with Christ in front of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Why would someone not confess Christ publicly? Fear of persecution. Any examples from the Bible? Nicodemus.
3. Believe in your heart. Some who confess might not be saved. Why would someone confess if they didn’t really believe? Maybe they want to please their parents, gf, or bf. Maybe they enjoy the activities of their local church. Maybe they thought they could get some benefit. If this is their motivation, they are not really saved. The qualification to believe in your heart shows that the belief must be genuine and sincere.
4. Confess Jesus. Jesus is the only way of salvation. Believing anything other than Christ raised from the dead is insufficient for salvation.
If we believe in Him, we will not be disappointed. This exact phrase was also seen in the last chapter. Are you disappointed for believing in Christ? See questions up top. It is possible that someone who thought they had a relationship with Christ could be disappointed. Why might this be the case? They had the wrong expectations. They thought Christ might make them healthy and wealthy and problem free. When a problem comes, they blame God and become bitter. The problem is that they really believed in a false god, one of their own making and their own imagination. It was this false god that disappointed them, not the true Living God who never made a promise that no trials would happen to them. We should have the attitude of Job in Job 2:10-11.
Just as there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, there is non between American and Chinese. All believers are members of God’s kingdom no matter where they are from. And a quick reminder that it is no different serving God in America than China. Wherever you go, it can be difficult, but it is rewarding.
13. Here is yet another invitation to whoever will call on the name of the Lord. The invitation is to whoever. Anyone has the option to take it.
Verses 14-17 –
These are very well-known verses often used by missionaries and evangelists to show the need for us to take the gospel to the lost. Although they are specifically referring to the Israelites rejection, they can refer to anyone. The same principles hold true for any group of people or any individual. These verses show clearly the need to both hear and believe. While we cannot make someone believe we can let them hear, which is the necessary first step that has to come before believing. The application is clear. If we care for someone or a group of people, we should pray for them, and we should also make sure that they hear. We should give as many people as we can the opportunity to hear the good news and respond. Do they all believe? Not at all. Many don’t. Many even didn’t believe in Isaiah, the great prophet. This is a reminder that belief is not in a vacuum. And neither is it normally accomplished through some miraculous presentations of the gospel by God or His angels. It is normally through God’s people who are sent to preach. So you should ask yourself, who among your friends and family and co-workers and classmates hasn’t heard? Then, take it upon yourself to give them this opportunity. If you do, you will have beautiful feet. See mine? :D
Faith is built up by knowledge of the truth that comes as we listen to and study God’s Word. Faith in the gospel begins with hearing the Word of God. And even after you believe, if you want to grow in faith, you need to continue to study and read God’s Word. How does the Bible, help us grow in faith? We can see the many times God has fulfilled His promises, taken care of His people, done miracles, shown His power, vindicated His character, answered prayer, etc. These things will help us to have faith in God when we face similar situations.
18-21 – Paul then anticipates another argument from his opponents. They might question if Israel really heard and rejected the truth. Maybe they never heard the truth. If they did, surely they would have received it. He refutes this argument in verse 18 by showing that God’s words had gone out not only to Israel, but to all the world.
Then in verse 19, Paul shows us that even in Old Testament times this rejection was prophesied by God, showing that He is sovereign and it didn’t catch Him by surprise. He planned to use the Gentiles as an example to the Jews almost like He wanted the Jews to be an example to the Gentiles before. We should understand that jealousy itself is not necessarily evil. God Himself was jealous when Israel was worshiping other gods. Also, if a husband sees his wife with another man and becomes jealous this is natural and proper. They are one and he should feel indignant. Jealousy is evil when it is misguided and misplaced, when we have no right to said person’s attentions or affections and still want them for ourselves. In God’s great power, He will use the Gentiles to show Israel the blessings He has for them and encourage them to repent so that they can once again be His people.
Verse 21 shows us God’s amazing patience and longsuffering as well as the Jews rebellion and hard hearts.