Do not seek own righteousness. Seeking righteousness through the law is a vain pursuit. Righteousness through Christ is very near. The good news, preaching, and belief. The forgotten gospel.
Do not seek own righteousness
1Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of my fellow Israelites is for their salvation. 2For I can testify that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not in line with the truth. 3For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4)
Paul starts out this chapter expressing the same emotion as in chapter 9 concerning his longing for his countrymen to accept and understand the gospel of salvation that he has been trying to convey to them. He observed that through they were truly zealous for God, their zeal is not based on the truth, with deep contemplation of the meaning and substance of what they're doing in their relationship with God.
Their zeal must be in line with the truth, or knowledge based on the King James translation, or intellect based on the Vietnamese translation. Jesus spoke of the importance of wisdom, or knowledge, in the faith life. For example in Luke 14:28 and Luke 14:31 where He spoke of a man who embarked on the project of building a tower, or a king who is preparing to go to battle with another. He taught that these folks must excercise their mind, and use their wisdom, to make sure they have what it takes to accomplish the tasks, or to win the battle. Therefore a person who rely on zeal to do what is required by the law, should also use their mind to consider whether such endeavor will bring them the righteousness of God. The obvious answer is NO, but it almost never fails that the majority of Christians, including of course the Romans, attempt to live out their faith like those are superstitious.
The Romans Christians attempted to establish their own righteousness when they rely on their fleshly strength to perform what is required by the law. But the righteousness of Christ can only be established by Christ alone.
Seeking righteousness through the law is a vain pursuit
5For Moses writes about the righteousness that is by the law: “The one who does these things will live by them.” (Romans 10:5)
In this passage, Paul shows us that the seeking of righteousness through the law is impossible. His synopsis of Mosaic law appears to be an exhortation, an advice, but his true intention is that it is a warning: whoever wants to get right with God through the law, will live by it, or will die upon failure. James 2:10 shows that it is a guaranteed death to all who rely on the law: “For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”
Righteousness through Christ is very near
6But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we preach), 9because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 13For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.(Romans 10:6-13)
Contrary to the hopelessness of the pursuit of righteousness through Mosaic law, the righteousness through Christ is not as far as having to go to heaven to bring Him down, or to go to the abyss to bring Him up from the dead. Salvation, God’s righteousness, the status of becoming children of God, is so near to us, as Paul described it, as near as a twitch of your lips, a stir in your heart, and is the very faith that Paul is now trying to show us in this letter.
Virtually all of the world’s religions show an impossible distance between the believers and their savior. Unfortunately many Christians fall into the same trap when they need to find a solution to their lives’ troubles. They’d travel far and near to receive healing from someone who they heard have the gift of healing, or to get a handle on their spiritual life from a great preacher. But the gospel and all they need for godliness and contentment, or even God himself, is “near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” God is not nearer to anyone else than the one who is now in need of Him.
“Confess with your mouth” means to acknowledge our helplessness and sinful condition and to place our trust solely on Christ. Many believe that this is a public confession of the faith, but this interpretation runs against the fundamental truth of salvation is by grace and through faith alone. Jesus does not trust the testimony of man for the simple reason: can righteous almighty God trust depraved man destined for eternal damnation? In John 2:23-25 we read: “23Now while Jesus was in Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover, many people believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs he was doing. 24But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people. 25He did not need anyone to testify about man, for he knew what was in man.” Let us consider another problem with the public confession interpretation. Jesus came to save the weak, the helpless, the coward not unlike His own disciples, then does it make sense if He’s now asking sinners to do what only the courageous and mighty can do? If we consider the context of passages in which Jesus or Paul express the need for public confession of Christ, the target audience are NOT those who face the threat of brutal persecution, of not having even the least amount of needs met for their family’s subsistence, but are those that must face the choice that requires them of letting go of their treasures, such as riches, power, social position. Prime examples are religious leaders of the time of Jesus or Paul. The choice they make is between gaining “the whole world” or the salvation of “their souls.” Therefore the challenge to make public confession is only aimed at them.
The kingdom of God is so near. It is as near as in your heart with feelings that cannot be expressed to anyone, but fully understood by the Spirit of God who can groan, and give a testimony for us. It really is so near, as near as on your lips when you utter cries for help in your valley of the shadow of death. That is how near the kingdom of heaven is to you. Near your mouth and in your heart whether you’re Jews of Gentiles. Seek and you will find.
The good news, preaching, and belief
14How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them ? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.” 16But not all have obeyed the good news, for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17)
The good news of salvation is proclaimed by those who were sent by God, in order that those who heard the message being preached were presented with an opportunity to lift their eyes heavenward. But Isaiah had prophesied that not all who hear the gospel will believe.
Matthew 28:16-20 is often used to encourage believers to go out and preach the gospel: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” And then just as often, the only thing that is taught to the downliners are not the message, but the very act of getting more disciples. Much like multi-level marketting business in which the focus is not on the products, but on the techniques of getting more salesmen. The products they sell are virtually never used, or never studied to know what they are. It’s an abomination if Matthew 28:20 is used in such manner. The ones who are sent do not know what they’re talking about, or they only know it in theory, just enough to get folks into the church. If I were to use the language of salesmenship, the only product they need to sell is the gospel, but sadly few know what it is.
The word of Christ is not the great commision in Matthew 28:20, but it is this: the Word is Christ, Jesus Himself, the One God sent to earth as a payment for man’s sin once and for all. That word says that mankind should be wise to check their lives against the law of God to see their own depravity in order that they may receive the free gift of forgiveness. The word of God being preached is not Mosaic laws including the ten commandments, because the law lead them to death (Romans 7:10), but is the new law of the spirit of life which says faith in Christ will give eternal life. Be sure to know the true gospel, then the Lord who sends will choose whom, and the time, to proclaim His glorious name.
The forgotten gospel
18But I ask, have they not heard? Yes, they have: Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. 19But again I ask, didn’t Israel understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous by those who are not a nation; with a senseless nation I will provoke you to anger.” 20And Isaiah is even bold enough to say, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I became well known to those who did not ask for me.” 21But about Israel he says, “All day long I held out my hands to this disobedient and stubborn people! (Romans 10:18-21)
In this passage, we see more clearly that Paul is writing with more emphasis toward the Romans church which is steeped in the Jewish tradition. He challenged them with this question: Are you sure you’ve never heard of the gospel of salvation? You really don’t know what I’m talking about? Let’s contemplate this fact, this is the very church in Rome that Paul is writing this letter for, a church not unlike ours today. What caused them to be where they are today from among the zealous first Christian churches in the book of Acts?
From the context of this letter of Paul, the Romans church acts as if it never heard of the gospel of salvation, or if they did, they never really undertood what they heard. Does our modern church fare better than the Romans church of old? Maybe worse because at least in the church at Rome then, there were still folks who were still alive, at the writing of this letter, who witnessed the signs and wonders performed by Jesus.
Dear pastors, and Sunday School teachers, of the Romans church, what have you taught God’s children that they know nothing of the gospel? All the activities, or programs, or trainings, are not signs of true life, because as it is written in Revelation 3:1 of churches that were well known to be alive yet dead. The central focus of your sermons and Sunday School lessons at Rome were the ethics and morality of this world, but you left the message of grace based salvation through the blood of Christ for rare evangelistic occasions, and you keep preaching the law, or something that has its undertone for Sundays, so much so that Paul has now to ask: “… have they not heard? Yes, they have: Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. But again I ask, didn’t Israel understand?” Now do you know why few can answer where they would stand if they were to meet God tonight?
- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen
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