Romans 10

This review of Romans 10 is provided by Sarah, an Evangelical

Verses 1-4
Paul seems to be saying that the Israelites are zealous—passionate, devoted, and earnest—about following God, but their zeal does not result in righteousness, because the God from whom righteousness flows is not the one they are seeking after. In lieu of having God’s righteousness, it seems that the Israelites have done what Paul warns the Colossians against: created regulations that “have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but [they] lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (2:23).

Verses 5-8
Paul paraphrases Deuteronomy 30:11-14:  Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Verses 9-13
Paul exposits the passage in Deuteronomy. The path to righteousness is not impossible; we need not climb up to heaven or cross the sea to get it. All that is necessary is having faith—trusting God with our hearts—and from the overflow of the heart, testimony pours forth. But just as a marriage certificate is no good to a husband in love if the wife’s heart is absent, intellectual assent and verbal affirmation are worthless to God if our hearts are not inclined toward his. It is our hearts that God wants, and he is eager to include in his embrace all who desire inclusion.

Verses 14-15
In order to trust God with their hearts, people need to know who he is. How can they know if no one tells them?

Verses 16-21
Hearing the message does not always result in acceptance. God has offered himself to Israel and his advances have been rebuffed.

Verses one through four can seem to be saying that earnestly seeking God does not necessarily result in finding him, but I don’t think they are (because that seems to me to contradict the rest of scripture). So do what you will with those verses, but I don’t think they can be used as a bludgeon to inform people that they’re in the wrong religion and they need to get into the right one before they can find God.

I believe evangelicals tend to disastrously misuse verse 9. I grew up being taught that if we believe that Jesus was resurrected (that it actually happened historically) and speak it out loud, we are saved. But this is no more beautiful, compelling, or life-giving than following a faith that necessitates our good works for salvation. Jesus gives the greatest commandment as, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” In the end, we are saved not by obedience and not by a formulaic prayer. We’re saved by the love Christ has for us and the love we have for him. And love is the means as well as the end. John 17 says it is eternal life to know God (who, John says elsewhere, is love). Communion with God is salvation, and it is reached the way any communion is reached—through relationship.


14 thoughts on “Romans 10

  1. Pingback: Paul’s Epistle To The Romans | Songs From The Wood

  2. “the God from whom righteousness flows is not the one they are seeking after”

    The true God of Abraham is the God who “justifies the ungodly” by faith apart from works (Romans 4:4-8, contra the JST).

    “We’re saved by the love Christ has for us and the love we have for him.”

    Sarah, I am wondering if you could explain your thoughts on this. As I read Romans, “love is the fulfilling of the Law” (Romans 13:10), but even understood properly as that, the Law cannot save us. In other words, our love for God can’t save us, our zeal for God can’t save us, etc. Only trusting in the person and promises of Jesus Christ, who is our external righteousness (counted to us by faith), saves us, justifies us, and leads to our fulfilling of the Law (i.e. love). From your comments on verses 9-13 I assume you agree.

    Grace and peace,


  3. Sarah said:

    I believe evangelicals tend to disastrously misuse verse 9. I grew up being taught that if we believe that Jesus was resurrected (that it actually happened historically) and speak it out loud, we are saved.

    Well, it does say that if you take it out of context. 🙂

    I’d be curious to hear your take (or that of anyone here) on verse 10:

    For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.[NIV]

    (Some translations refer to righteousness here rather than justification.)

    What do you think Paul sees as the difference between justification and salvation? Some evangelicals tend to use the terms synonymously, but I think Paul is making a distinction here. And what does it mean to profess/confess one’s faith? Is Paul referring to more than saying words here?

  4. Sarah, I like how you worded your conclusion on how salvation comes: Christ loves us, and we love Him back.

    I do not believe that we are simply saved by Christ loving us. Yes, He does all the work, but everything He has done will be meaningless if we reject Him (i.e. we do not love Him). I think of this as a spiritual equivalent of the leading a horse to water adage. Christ can lead us salvation, but He can’t (won’t) make us accept it.

  5. Aaron,
    I agree that the God of Abraham is the God who justifies the ungodly by faith apart from works. Perhaps where we disagree is that I do not equate loving God with the law (or consider it to be a “work”). Call this whatever you want–choosing to accept salvation, or loving God, or whatever (I equate those two); I believe we play a conscious role in our salvation. We don’t work for it, but we can choose to receive the gift or choose to reject it. To trust God is to love him. You cannot trust him without loving him or love him without trusting him; they go hand in hand. I worded it that way because I’m sick of all the evangelical language regarding salvation lacking the main point, which is abiding in a loving, intimate relationship with God that brings us intense joy.

    Good question! I don’t have a take on verse ten. All I know is, it isn’t what I thought, because I fully intellectually believed and spoke it aloud to people, and I had no joy/salvation. Can you tell me your thoughts on it?

    Alex, thanks, and I agree.

  6. Man, I keep forgetting to sign into my regular blog. The blog I was signed into above is just going to be around for a few more weeks…it’s for a class.

    Aaron, I should add that I also believe our love for God is a response to his love for us, which is important because I’m not saying that I am just capable of loving God all on my own, and that that saves me. To accept his love is to love him.

  7. It seems significant to me that what counts is “only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6), not “faith which is love.” That Paul still even sought to distinguish between things that he otherwise affirmed as inseparable and inter-descriptive (loving faith and faithful love), etc.

    Probably one personal reason I fight hard for the distinction is the tendency of religious people to subsume the entirety of their religious system (10 commandments, ordinances, and temple rituals included) under the term “love”, to say that this love is only possible because of God’s love, and then to essentially establish a righteousness that is still their own.

    The righteousness that one finds in Jesus is ultimately an external righteousness. In a way it actually becomes our own, and it is internalized over time. But even when we are glorified, resurrected, morally sinless, full of unimaginable joy and holiness in the Holy Spirit, we will say, “CHRIST is my righteousness!”

    On a related note (yes, relevant to your affinity for Eastern Orthodoxy :]) – Severing the fruit of love from the legal beauty of the gospel, or collapsing them the two, seems to me to be a long-term way of undermining a pursuit of loving relationship with Jesus. The “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” in Romans 8:1 is a basis for the actual heart-fulfillment of the law in 8:4. He condemned sin in the flesh in 8:3 so that we would live according to the Spirit in 8:5. Penal substitution, escape from eternal condemnation, legal imputation, justification by faith alone (and not by any other good works, by they distinctively external works of cultural Jewishness or internal good works of the heart), they are beautiful pillars of the much bigger, multi-faceted gospel.

    G’night and grace and peace,


  8. Thanks, Sarah!
    I think your take on Romans 10 is simple, to the point, and well balanced. I could feel God talking through you.

  9. Sarah said: “In the end, we are saved not by obedience and not by a formulaic prayer. We’re saved by the love Christ has for us and the love we have for him. And love is the means as well as the end. “

    I like this. I think it’s consistent with both Paul and the Gospels.

    I think it reflects the most straightforward way of taking advantage of the gospel. A loving relationship is not about law. You cannot compel love. In some sense, you cannot even will yourself to love. In my experience its something that you surrender to that actions follow from.

    John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

    God dwelling in us seems to be the goal of Christianity, and the type of faith He wants seems to be that which produces this sort of love, i.e. the feeling drive and motivation that guides our actions.

  10. In response to me, Sarah said:

    Good question! I don’t have a take on verse ten. … Can you tell me your thoughts on it?

    That was sneaky.

    Oh, I’m trying to figure it out. I’m leery of trying to read too much into a particular verse, or in applying theological constructs to a test where none was intended. If Paul had known how carefully people would be parsing his words 2,000 years later, who knows how he might have said things differently?

    Anyway, here’s the verse from the NET Bible:

    For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.

    Here, having righteousness isn’t so much about being holy but by being in the right position with God — no longer in a position of being guilty but in having the slate wiped clean of sin. Here, it’s the same as being justified (and the verse is sometimes translated that way). Paul seems to be saying that in order to be in that position, all we have to do is believe (in context, believe in the Resurrection).

    But to have salvation, one has to confess with one’s mouth. So the questions are, what is salvation, and what does it mean to confess?

    At least in this section, Paul doesn’t make clear what he means by salvation. But he says in verse 1 that it’s what he wants for every person, and it seems to be something greater than justification. He may be referring to something like a growing relationship with God. I don’t the feeling that he’s talking merely about the afterlife (in other words, he’s not saying, do this and you’ll stay out of hell). He may be referring to something that has to do with becoming the kind of people God meant for us to be. In any case, Paul seems to be using the word to refer to something that is inherently and wholly good.

    Now that I’ve not really answered that question, what does Paul mean by to confess with one’s mouth? Possibilities (some of them overlapping) I see:

    1. He could be talking about simply uttering the words. To me, that kind of magical thinking doesn’t seem likely here.

    2. He is likely referring back to verse 9, where the confession is that of confessing Jesus the Lord, or that Jesus is the Lord. At the very least, that would suggest recognizing that Jesus is sovereign. Or it could mean trusting in him as ruler.

    3. Confession here could symbolize doing something beyond mere believing.

    4. This was an era of persecution, and in some circles it was possible for persons to be punished for believing in Christ. So perhaps Paul was suggesting that to receive salvation it is necessary to put oneself on the line, so to speak.

    5. There could be a hint of the distinction between justification and sanctification. Justification comes through faith, but sanctification comes through putting our faith into practice.

    6. Speaking could suggest making a commitment, again a step beyond mere belief.

    What I need to do next is to do a word study of Paul and see how he uses the word σωτηρία (salvation).

  11. Sarah asked me:

    Eric, have you read any of NT Wright’s stuff?

    No, but he’s on my list of writers to check out.

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