Summary: This sermon examines Paul’s eagerness for Israel’s salvation as well as the error of the Israelites.
Let’s read Romans 10:1-4:
1Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4)
The vital question, with which the Apostle Paul deals, is no doubt, “How is a person saved? And, how does my salvation relate to the salvation of the Jews and the salvation of the Gentiles?”
One thinks of the theme verses of the letter, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17).
Today, however, people are not very interested in such a question, which in itself, of course, may be symptomatic of a deeper problem in human nature. What people are interested in is, “How can I be happy?”
One commentator, named Luthi, says:
Whatever aspect this “happiness” may assume for each individual person, the question of happiness rules our thoughts and holds passionate sway over our imagination. This is under-standable: God certainly does not blame us for liking to be happy. What father does not want his children happy? This is particularly true of our Father in Heaven: if anyone wishes us to be happy, then it is He. But God alone knows what is good or harmful for the human race, and He knows that all our happiness is as fragile as a soap bubble. But however much it may please Him when His children make soap bubbles and enjoy themselves a little and are happy, it pleases Him much more when His children are saved. How will the world be saved? This is His passionate concern; this is why the way to salvation is and remains the burning theme of the Letter to the Romans.
Last Saturday and Sunday the young people of our church spent a happy weekend on the shores of Lake Biel (Bienne). During it, one of the party who plays the guitar sang us a song about a man who leaves his home by the North Sea, and makes his fortune in foreign lands. But in spite of his happiness, he is homesick. In his mind’s eye he can see the open sea and the yellow bloom flowering on its shore, and he seems to hear the cry of the sea gulls. The song is interesting for the insight shown in the words: “I have found happiness, but still I long for home.”
Fortunate the man for whom happiness is not sufficient! Fortunate the man who knows the great nostalgia, the longing for more than just pleasure, for as the German philosopher Nietzsche says, all pleasure lacks eternity.
Luthi is right. Paul speaks to those into whose lives “God has breathed his great nostalgia,” and who now wish more than anything else to be at home with him. In this great nostalgia is found, not only happiness, but also that eternal joy that alone satisfies.
In Romans 9 Paul stressed the divine side of our salvation, laying great emphasis on the sovereignty of God in saving and hardening. That side of the divine program should have its stress, and the apostle gives it here. Paul and Jesus are the great preach¬ers of the sovereignty of God in our salvation (cf. John 6, etc.).
But divine sovereignty should always be balanced by human responsibility. We are required by God to respond to the message of grace. Our human responsibility is plainly set forth in the Word (cf. Acts 16:31). And that is the emphasis of Paul in Romans 10.
We rejoice in both doctrines, divine sovereignty in grace, and human responsibility to submit to the Word of grace. With that comment we turn to the exposition of the letter to the Romans.
I. Paul’s Eagerness for Israel’s Salvation (10:1-2)
First, I want you to notice Paul’s eagerness for Israel’s salvation.
Paul declares his eagerness for Israel’s salvation in verse 1: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” It is a beautiful expression of the apostle’s concern for his own flesh and blood. And it is a pattern that ought to be true of us, too.
The Psalmist says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! ‘May they be secure who love you!’” (Psalm 122:6). Is that your concern? If you are in tune with the apostles and with our Lord, I am sure it would be.