Israel and the Good News
30What does all of this mean? It means that the Gentiles were not trying to be acceptable to God, but they found that he would accept them if they had faith. 31-32It also means that the people of Israel were not acceptable to God. And why not? It was because they were trying to be acceptable by obeying the Law instead of by having faith in God. The people of Israel fell over the stone that makes people stumble, 33 just as God says in the Scriptures,
“Look! I am placing in Zion
a stone to make people
stumble and fall.
But those who have faith
in that one will never
1Dear friends, my greatest wish and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2I know they love God, but they don't understand 3what makes people acceptable to him. So they refuse to trust God, and they try to be acceptable by obeying the Law. 4But Christ makes the Law no longer necessary for those who become acceptable to God by faith.
Anyone Can Be Saved
5 Moses said a person could become acceptable to God by obeying the Law. He did this when he wrote, “If you want to live, you must do all the Law commands.”
6 But people whose faith makes them acceptable to God will never ask, “Who will go up to heaven to bring Christ down?” 7Neither will they ask, “Who will go down into the world of the dead to raise him to life?”
8All who are acceptable because of their faith simply say, “The message is as near as your mouth or your heart.” And this is the same message we preach about faith. 9So you will be saved, if you honestly say, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death. 10God will accept you and save you, if you truly believe this and tell it to others.
11 The Scriptures say no one who has faith will be disappointed, 12no matter if that person is a Jew or a Gentile. There is only one Lord, and he is generous to everyone who asks for his help. 13 All who call out to the Lord will be saved.
14How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? 15 And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord? The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news. 16 Yet not everyone has believed the message. For example, the prophet Isaiah asked, “Lord, has anyone believed what we said?”
17No one can have faith without hearing the message about Christ. 18 But am I saying that the people of Israel did not hear? No, I am not! The Scriptures say,
“The message was told
everywhere on earth.
It was announced
all over the world.”
19 Did the people of Israel understand or not? Moses answered this question when he told that the Lord had said,
“I will make Israel jealous
who are a nation
I will make them angry
who don't understand
20 Isaiah was fearless enough to tell that the Lord had said,
“I was found by people
who were not looking
I appeared to the ones
who were not asking
21 And Isaiah said about the people of Israel,
“All day long the Lord
has reached out
to people who are stubborn
and refuse to obey.”
As far as most people are concerned, sincerity counts when it comes to religion. It doesn’t matter that the religions of the world often teach doctrines that are mutually contradictory. What counts is a person’s sincerity: so long as the practioner is sincere about what s/he believes, their belief system is valid and they can be “saved.” The Apostle Paul encountered this near-universal doctrine of religious sincerity in his own missionary travels.
Romans 9 begins with the Apostle recounting all of the blessings God had bestowed upon the nation of Israel, like dwelling with them in the Jerusalem temple, and giving them the covenant and the Mosaic Law to follow. These institutions were meant to lead the Israelites to place their faith in Jesus the Messiah, just as Paul taught the Galatians (see Galatians 3:23-25). However, that did not take place (vv 1-3).
Paul argues that the Jews misconstrued God’s gifts to them and sought to do what his gifts were never meant to do: save them; i.e., make them righteous before God. And because God never intended these gifts to have saving power, they don’t! Consequently, Jews trying to obey the Law in order to be saved are lost. Imagine: large groups of people who believe in the supremacy of the God of Israel, and who seek diligently to live according to the Law he revealed to them, are completely lost. Clearly for Paul, sincerity doesn’t save. What saves is faith in Jesus and what he accomplished on the cross: “So you will be saved, if you honestly say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death. God will accept you and save you, if you truly believe this and tell it to others” (vv 9-10).
Heavenly Father, I recognize that I cannot save myself. Doing good works, no matter how well-intended and sincere, will never save me. No one can save me except the Lord Jesus Christ. This day I reaffirm/affirm my faith in him as my Lord and as my Saviour. Amen.
Wayne Baxter is Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek at Heritage College & Seminary in Cambridge. He earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies (specializing in Early Christianity) at McMaster University and his Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of three books as well as numerous scholarly articles. Wayne is ordained with the Christian & Missionary Alliance and has pastored churches in Windsor, Ottawa, and Toronto. Books: Road to Renewal: Seven Prayers That Will Change You (Eugene: Resource Publications, 2017 forthcoming) Growing Up to Get Along: Conflict and Unity in Philippians (Castle Rock: CrossLinks, 2016) We’ve Lost. What Now? Practical Counsel from the Book of Daniel (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2015) Israel’s Only Shepherd: Matthew’s Shepherd Motif and His Social Setting, Library of New Testament Studies 457 (London: T & T Clark, 2012)