Hot or cold

Slices

Prepare

‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (v 13). So simple, so hard. Pray for someone you love for whom this truth seems too hard.

Bible passage

Romans 9:30 – 10:13

Israel’s unbelief

30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’ 33 As it is written:

‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall,
    and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.’

10 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’But the righteousness that is by faith says: ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or “Who will descend into the deep?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’ 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Paint effect clouds

Explore

Our younger grandchildren still love a treasure hunt. Sweets are hidden and they search. ‘Getting hotter,’ we say, or ‘Cold, cold, colder.’ Israel searched for God’s truth, but in the wrong place. ‘Cold,’ says Paul. ‘Freezing.’ Meanwhile, the Gentiles stumble upon the truth. ‘Hot, boiling… you’ve found it!’

This is all so upside down and it leads to the next question. ‘What can we say?’ (v 30). In reply, another piece is added to the jigsaw, and it’s a big one: Faith. God waits and longs for people to come to him, to receive the gift of life he offers. That gift is none other than Jesus Christ, his only Son. A gift, however, has to be received, without merit or payment. But there lies the rub. God’s own people, making every effort to earn the gift, stumbled over Christ (vs 32,33). The Gentiles, with nothing to offer, stumbled into his arms and were welcomed home. Again, the irony of it breaks Paul’s heart (10:1).

Faith is the key. No frantic searching high and low, waving our credentials, but a simple turning to Christ, who watches and waits. Now, no more shame, but hearts open to his truth and voices confessing his goodness (vs 10,11). Is that your story?

Author
David Bracewell

Respond

‘Nothing in my hand I bring / Simply to thy cross I cling’ (‘Rock of ages’, Augustus Toplady, 1775)
 

Deeper Bible study

‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith … it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.’1

For the Jewish believers, it must have seemed unfair. The Gentiles, who hadn’t made any effort to follow God’s laws, have received God’s gift of righteousness (v 30). Meanwhile Jewish people who had zealously pursued the Law, believing that this would bring them righteousness, have missed their goal (v 31). How can we understand this? At the centre of this misunderstanding is Jesus, the stumbling block (vs 32,33).

The Messiah Jesus had always been the intended fulfilment of God’s faithful love (v 33). God’s people, blind to what God has been doing, stumble in the dark over Jesus, the rock of their faith. Christ’s achievement through his death and resurrection is wonderful (and simple) – all we have to do is believe (10:9). The difficult thing for the Jewish believers, and for all of us today, is that it’s not about ‘works’ (vs 31,32). There is a compassionate frustration in Paul’s words. They haven’t got it completely yet – Christ is the fulfilment of the Law on our behalf (v 4). We can’t do anything about getting his righteousness for ourselves (vs 6–8). The good news is that God in Jesus has come to us.

The famous words of verses 9 and 10 have been used by some, paradoxically, to bring another level of legalism, requiring right understanding and articulation of the theological underpinnings of faith, but Paul here is not separating out mind and expression of faith. Rather, the words suggest a unity of the whole person.2 This is heart believing. So, when a friend who can no longer speak clearly (perhaps because of dementia), whispers ‘Jesus’, we know that they are calling on ‘the name of the Lord’ (v 13). Jew or Gentile, we stand equal before God (vs 12,13). ‘Anyone who believes in him’ is saved on the basis of faith in Christ alone (v 11, italics added).

Am I trusting in Christ alone?

1Eph 2:8,9  2 See John Stott, The Message of Romans, IVP, 1994, p283

Author
Emlyn and ’Tricia Williams

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year: 1 Samuel 27,28; 1 Corinthians 1

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