A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Exercise of Human Responsibility in Rejection - Romans 10:1-21
When you bring unbelieving sinners into the presence of God's sovereignty, there is a frequent common response. Their reasoning follows a similar pattern. They charge God with being responsible for what they are - for their sin and unbelief. As taught in chapter 9 of Romans, the unbeliever will begin to argue like this: "If God is sovereign - if He is the potter and we are the clay, then I am not responsible for my lost and sinful condition. I am just what God made me."
The apostle, in the tenth chapter, addresses his argument to this response. In the course of the tenth chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul does not apologize in any way for what he has said in the ninth chapter on divine sovereignty. There is not the slightest hint of retreat from what he has taught in the ninth chapter. However, he does demonstrate to the unbelieving sinner that God is NOT responsible for his lost condition. Man alone is responsible and he cannot hide behind divine sovereignty nor use the doctrine of election as an excuse for his sin.
First of all, Paul has discussed election in chapter 9; divine sovereignty always comes first. After that he talks about human responsibility in chapter 10. Israel has rejected the gospel. God has rejected Israel because the people have rejected the gospel. In this tenth chapter Paul brings out and establishes three main facts, which conform with the idea of this chapter.
Verse 8 asks, "What saith it? The Word is nigh thee." It is right near you, in your mouth and in your heart. The first fact that the apostle insists upon is that the gospel is within reach of all. You see how that may apply in this very objection. The Jew says, "I am what I am because God made me that way." Paul says, "The Word is close to you in your Scriptures. You could have believed if you had wanted to."
Verse 11 declares, "For the Scripture saith, whosoever." Again in verse 13, "whosoever". That word occurs twice. In the twelfth verse the word "all also occurs twice. "Whosoever" and "all." The second fact is simply this: the gospel is offered to all.
"They did not all obey? (v. 16). Look at the last verse - "All day long have I stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." But they were disobedient. The third fact is this: the gospel is not obeyed by all.
Those three facts form the outline of the chapter:
1. The gospel is within the reach of all.
2. The gospel has been offered to all.
3. The gospel has not been obeyed by all.
That is the answer, very simple but very crushing, to those who hide behind divine sovereignty.
Consider the introduction (vv. 1-4), where several matters come to our attention. There are people who say (and they are Christians, or at least they call themselves Christians) - "God has cast off the Jew. That is the end of it." But Paul did not feel that way. He said, "My heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved."
A wonderful encouragement emerges in this first verse, in contrast with the preceding chapter. When some people are shown what Paul has taught in the ninth chapter, they are apt to say, "There is no use to pray. If God does as He pleases, if He is a sovereign God, what is the use of praying? You cannot change His mind." Actually, the sovereignty of God should be an incentive, not a discouragement to prayer. The only kind of God who can answer prayer is a sovereign God! If God were not sovereign, we would all be doomed right now. We would not dare pick out a sinner and pray for him. When I see a man that looks absolutely hopeless, I can pray for him exactly because my God is a sovereign God who does not have to give that man what he deserves.
For that reason, the apostle Paul did not show any inconsistency whatever between what he taught in the ninth chapter and what he teaches in the tenth chapter. Those very people God had rejected, he now reaches toward, praying that they might be saved. We get our heads started along one line and can thing of nothing else, but the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to present two sides of a truth like this, in order that we might understand and have consolation, and also be encouraged to pray.
Verse 2 bears further witness about these people. They have "a zeal for God." The Jew did have that, didn't he? The apostle himself, before he was converted, went out to kill people because he was zealous for God. The reason the Jews gave for opposing this gospel that Paul preached was because God had given the law. They opposed Jesus of Nazareth because they had a zeal for the name of God, and Jesus claimed to be God. Paul say, "I know them. They have a zeal for God."
But what is the matter with them? This zeal was "not according to knowledge." Did the Jew know anything about God? Oh yes, he did. He knew something about God. He was not totally ignorant about God. The English version does not give the precise meaning of the Greek word. That word "knowledge" means "a full knowledge." The Jew had some knowledge, but here is where he fell short - he did not know God in Christ Jesus! He knew Him as He was revealed in the Old Testament, but he did not know Him in Christ Jesus, and so his zeal was a mistaken zeal - "not according to the full knowledge." All religious persecution has been based upon a partial knowledge, a zeal for God growing out of partial knowledge.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 64)