Romans 10:1-4
Why Israel Was Rejected

Truth Contenders Sunday School Class
Two Rivers Baptist Church
Nashville, TN, USA

For Sunday, 28 December 2003

Handout: Why Israel Was Rejected


Blue: word from text to be discussed or defined

Green: on handout

Ink: to be filled in on handout

Red: Question aloud to class


Romans 10:1-4 (ESV):

1 Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

vv 1-3 - Who are "they/them"? [Intended to focus the class on the central personal subjects of the text - the Jews]

The tenderness of Paul

v. 1 Paul is tender toward his unbelieving kindred. In English, the word "desire" is neutral -- we have good and bad desires, for and against people. The Greek word here means to desire with a kind disposition. It literally means "good thoughts." It's the same word translated "good will" in Luke 2:14, "on earth, peace, good will toward men."

v. 1 If God is sovereign in salvation, why pray for the lost?

  • We don't know who all is elect.
  • We ought to long to see people believe.
  • We ought to express our desires to God.
  • Prayer keeps our attitude right about ourselves, others, and God, so that we sow the seeds of the gospel in humility, with compassion, and by faith.

The zeal of the Jews

v. 2 A zeal for God - Paul says, "I can vouch for the fact that they're giving it their best shot." Why was Paul able to vouch for them on this point? (See Phil 3:4-6) It's as if he says, "If they don't achieve a right standing with God, it's not for lack of trying." For Jews in New Testament times, it was not a problem of laziness.

v. 2 Not according to knowledge - Passionate for the wrong things, pursuing the wrong things. The usual Greek word for "knowledge" is gnosis. But here it is epignosis: revealed knowledge, world-view, proper understanding. The New Testament era Jews (as a nation) devoted their lives to obtaining a righteous standing before God. But they failed to properly take into account the nature of God's created order and the nature of His plan of redemption for it. When we fail to fully recognize the extent of the Fall, at the very least we underestimate God's remedy for it, working in vain to try to obtain what He graciously provides for us.

The Jews were attempting perfect obedience to the Law. Is the Law bad? Is it invalid? What's wrong with trying to obey God's Law? Nothing, in itself. The problem is not that the Law is bad, but that it's too good. The purpose of the Law is to teach us our inability to achieve righteousness in the power of the flesh.

Ignorance of righteousness

v. 3 Ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God - What about it did they not know? That the righteousness we need is a gift. We can't earn it. It can be received only by faith in the promises of God about the person of Christ and his work on our behalf.

Why didn't they know? Because they didn't have the New Testament?

  • The passages Paul quotes in the following passage are all from the Old Testament.
  • Throughout the New Testament Paul quotes OT passages in support of justification by faith alone.
  • Ps. 40:4, 6, 11. As early as King David, this was inscripturated.
  • Hosea 4:6. They rejected it. Ignorant in that they ignored it.

Justification by faith alone -- Isn't that what Paul has been telling us all along? Rest from working to make yourself righteous, and receive the righteousness of Christ from God by faith as a gift?

v. 3 "They did not submit"? I thought the problem was lack of faith. What's this about submission?

  • The gospel is something we submit to, something we obey. The obedience of faith (Rom 10:15; 1:5; 16:26. II Cor 9:13. II Thes 1:8).
  • "Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe." [E.g., typing, cooking, equestrian skills.] James: "Show me your faith…" No disagreement between Paul and James.
  • Not obeying is a sure sign that you don't believe; obeying is a sure sign that you do. But even Paul admits that the Jews did work very hard at obeying, right? Doesn't that indicate that they did believe? But did they really obey?
  • Obedience must be perfect: one tiny slip and you're toast. Sermon on the Mount: lust = adultery, hate = murder, etc. Not a new set of rules, but clarification of the meaning of the old ones. Jesus did not raise the bar. It had been that high all along. Obedience to the Law must be perfect in spirit more so than in letter.

v. 4 Does the phrase, "for righteousness" belong with "the end of the law" or with "to those who believe? That is:

  1. Christ ended the reign of the law in order that salvation would be by faith instead; i.e., fulfilled the law to give righteousness-to-everyone-who-believes? Or,
  2. Faith in Christ means the end of working for righteousness through law-keeping, the end of the-law-for-righteousness?

(It's an advanced question. The best commentators are divided on which Paul meant. Both are true, and both complete his line of thought reasonably well, just diferently.)

Those who receive the gift righteousness by faith in Christ no longer seek to establish their own. In what ways do we Christians today seek to establish our own righteousness instead of relying on Christ as we should?

Great Bible study software:

David J. Finnamore
Orlando, FL