Summary: This is the 18th of 30 Studies on the Book of Romans and talks about how the Jews rejected the Righteousness of God that He so freely offered them.
1Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Paul continues to express his desire and prayers for his fellow Israelites that they would put their faith in Jesus, and be saved. He recognises that they do have a passion to get into an intimate relationship with God, which is a good thing, but adds that their passion is not accompanied by knowledge. Merely desiring to do something, and not knowing how to do it can be frustrating. They were desiring to be righteous, but yet when Jesus came and offered His righteousness to them free of cost, they rejected both Him, and His gift – how sad is that? He says that they were not aware of the gift of God’s righteousness that was being made available to them, through Jesus, but instead, were clinging on to their own righteousness, which was no righteousness at all.
Isaiah says in Isaiah 64:6: “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Jesus was the one who fulfilled the law, and therefore could be called righteous. He then offers this righteousness free of cost, to anyone who believes in His work on their behalf.
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Moses (and the OT prophets) said in several places (Leveticus18:5; Nehemiah 9:29; Ezekiel 20:11,13,21) that for one to be made righteous in God’s sight, he would have to obey the law and he would then be able to live well, and live long on the earth. But we’ve already established that no man (except Jesus) could obey the law completely, and therefore no one but He could be made righteous by the law. Since He was righteous, He was eligible to be the spotless ‘Lamb of God,’ who could ‘take away the sins of the world.’ Since He bore the penalty for the sins of the whole world when He died on the cross, was buried and resurrected from the dead, now all those who put their faith in His work on their behalf, can be freed from the penalty of sin, they can receive forgiveness of their sins, and be justified (made righteous) by God.
Paul goes on to quote from Deuteronomy 30:11-14 - 11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
Paul says that those who are made righteous by faith will no longer say, “Who can go into heaven to bring us the Word of God so we can live by it?” because Jesus had already come down from heaven. Nor will they say, “Who will go down to the abyss to bring the word of God from there, because Jesus, after His death, went down to, and ascended from, the abyss. But rather, those of us who believe in Jesus have the Word of God so close to us – it’s in our hearts and mouths, and so we can live by it now. It’s this message of faith that Paul is preaching about. He goes on to say that those who profess the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and who believe that God the Father raised Him from the dead, will be saved.