This review of Romans 10 is provided by Sarah, an Evangelical
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).
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.
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.
In order to trust God with their hearts, people need to know who he is. How can they know if no one tells them?
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.