Summary: Faith and Knowledge
November 28, 2010
Romans is a tough book, is it not?
Last week we compared some of its teachings to the discovery that the world is actually round instead of flat. What a surprise it must have been!
Learning about the sovereignty of God has challenged and reversed much of what I’ve always thought. I always thought that God loved everyone and that everyone has a free will to love Him back if they’ll only accept His offer. Meanwhile, He’s going from man-to-man hoping that just one more will be saved before Judgment Day.
But this isn’t what Romans teaches, is it?
We’ve learned that God is sovereign and that He has foreknown (or loved) some before the earth began. Those whom He foreknew He predestined to be called and justified and glorified.
You’ll notice that it’s those who are loved beforehand who are called—not every person in existence. You’ll also remember that a man can’t come to the Father unless he’s drawn (or called) by the Spirit (Jn. 6:44). It’s important that we keep this in mind as we study Romans 10 because the two main themes are faith (or belief) and knowledge.
Taken out of context these verses are used to say that any man can come to God at his own leisure and be saved whenever he wants. But this contradicts the rest of the book, and we have to interpret it in that light.
The questions to keep in mind are (1) how does a man obtain faith and (2) how does a man receive knowledge?
We know that faith is a gift from God (Rom. 12:3), we know that Jesus is the author of our faith (Heb. 12:2), and we know that faith results in justification (Rom. 5:1). Men don’t conjure faith from within—God gives it to those whom He has chosen to show mercy (cf. Rom. 9:14-18).
We also know that to receive knowledge is to receive mercy. Remember Jesus’ prayer in John 17:3—“This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life is knowledge of God.
I recommend reading Justification by Christ Alone by Samuel Richardson (1647) for a better understanding of this concept. It’s only about 50 pages, but it covers the topic nicely; you can search for it on the internet and find it free.
Belief (or faith) and knowledge are necessary for salvation, and they both come from God. But the Jews didn’t accept this—they trusted in their heritage for salvation. But what does Scripture say? Look ahead to Romans 11:
What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8just as it is written, "GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY." (Rom. 11:7-8).
The ability to understand and believe what is heard is given by God to His elect. It’s very important that we understand these terms coming into Romans 10.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.
Again, Paul isn’t angry at the Jews; he’s not seeking revenge for all they’d done to him.
And I think it’s an interesting point that he prays for their salvation. You know, God knows those who are His from the foundation of the world, but Paul doesn’t. And so, he has a heart for his kinsmen, and he prays for them.
2For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.
The Jews took great pride in knowing the Scriptures, but they didn’t have the knowledge which comes from God. Jesus says, “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (Jn. 8:47).
And this is how they could search the Scriptures and still reject Christ. They had been blinded, according to God’s sovereign choice, from seeing the truth.
3For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.
The Jews weren’t interested in Jesus; they wanted to find favor with God through their own works. But Paul reminds them that, according to their own Scriptures, they have to be perfect if they hope to be found righteous through the law.
That’s why Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
If a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by [the faith of-KJV] Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal. 3:21-22).