September 18, 2022, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, Alabama. James Jackson, Senior Pastor
Good morning! Please turn to Romans 10.
I want you to imagine the world’s biggest college football fan. I’m not going to say the name of any particular team. But just imagine the fan. Everything in his wardrobe is the team’s colors. Every dog he’s ever owned is named after either a quarterback or a coach. He never misses a game. Not even for his own daughter’s wedding. The fact is, his daughter would never think of getting married on game day anyway because her daddy raised her right.
This man can tell you the score of every game since 1974. He knows all the stats. His ringtone is the school fight song.
But let me ask you something: on game day, when this Number One Fan comes to the gate of the stadium, what’s it going to take for him to through the gate? Will it matter that his twin sons are named Bryant and Denny? Will it matter that he has houndstooth seat covers in the F-150? No. One thing, and one thing only, will get him through the gate on Game Day:
A ticket. Either you’ve bought a ticket or a ticket has been bought for you. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how enthusiastic a fan you are, you aren’t going to see the game.
Romans 10 is all about what it takes to get through the gate on Judgment Day. It’s about man’s responsibility when it comes to salvation.
And if talking about man’s responsibility in salvation gives you some whiplash after last week, I can’t blame you. After all, Romans 9 is all about God’s sovereign choice for us to be saved. If it’s all up to God from before the foundation of the world, then what does our choice have to do with it at all?
In order to answer that question, Paul once again uses Israel as a case study. Last week we saw that Israel is the best example of God’s election. God chose Israel as His special possession, and in the same way, if you are following Jesus, it’s because God chose you. God drew you to Himself.
But in chapter 10, we see that Israel is also the best example of rejecting God. God rejected Israel because Israel rejected the gospel. And just as that is true for Israel, it is also true for us, If someone doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus, it isn’t because they aren’t elect, or they aren’t predestined, or whatever. It’s because they have rejected Jesus.
So let me pray for us, and then we will dive in to chapter 10 to see how this works.
You might remember how Romans 9 began. In verse 2-3, Paul said that he had
2 … great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
In other words, Paul would give up his own relationship with Jesus if it meant his fellow Israelites would come to faith. But he’s not going to water down the gospel message in order to get there. Remember last week we said that to be a gospel-centered church means you have unceasing anguish for the lost, plus uncompromising faithfulness to the gospel.
Paul begins chapter 10 in a similar way. Look at verse 1:
10 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them 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, being ignorant of the righteousness of 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.
It’s not that the Jews lack enthusiasm. Paul says, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. And zeal—which is a word that comes to us straight from the Greek—the Greek word is zelos—means to be hot or fervent. Passionately enthusiastic. Zeal without knowledge is fanaticism.
When Paul says “For I bear them witness,” it’s like he’s saying, “I know what I am talking about here,” because this is Paul’s story. Zeal characterized Paul the apostle when he was Saul of Tarsus. He was a very zealous Jewish man. He was so zealous that he dedicated his life to going house to house, rounding up followers of “the way” (that’s what they called this new sect before they called it Christianity) and dragging them off to prison and to death. This is how he described himself to the church in Galatia:
13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers (Galatians 1:14)
Paul was hardcore. His knowledge of Judaism went beyond what the other guys he was in seminary with knew.
I want you to notice something from Paul’s testimony. Turn to Acts 22 real quick. This is Paul making his defense before the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem after he’s been arrested for preaching the gospel, he told them,
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, (Acts 22:3-4)
So Paul is zealous. He goes on to tell them that he had been sent to Damascus “with letters from the brothers” (meaning, the Jewish leaders, so he was going on their authority) to arrest all the followers of The Way in Damascus.
Listen to how Paul described what happened next:
6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
How does Paul answer?
8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’
So Paul had zeal. But it wasn’t according to knowledge. When he encounters Jesus face to face, it changes everything.
Notice what it says on the back of your listening guide. There were two primary words used in the Greek New Testament for knowledge. There’s gnosis, which is basic intellectual understanding of something. But then there’s epignosis, which is described as thorough understanding, discernment, or recognition. This is the word that’s used in verse 2, and it’s the word that is always used in reference to knowledge of God and His truth.
Remember this, because it’s going to help us understand something else in a few minutes.
Back to Romans 10. Verse 3 says that the Jews are “ignorant [they don’t have epignosis] of the righteousness of God, and are seeking to establish their own.”
Paul spent his entire life in Judaism trying to establish his own righteousness. And you can’t do it. God’s righteousness is a gift. It’s not something you earn, it’s something you are given. And verse 4 says it is available to “everyone who believes.”
What does it mean that Christ is “the end of the law?” Does it mean that we don’t have to keep the law anymore? No. It means that we have to stop thinking the law can save us. Christ is the telos—the fulfillment, of the law. The purpose of the law was never for salvation. Paul described it in Galatians 3 as a guardian, or a tutor—meant to show the Jews that they were helpless. The idea was that when they realized they failed to keep the law, they would be driven to grace.
But instead, the Jews did the same thing lots of people do today. We say, “Well, if we can’t obey the Bible, then we will just spend more time studying the Bible.” This leads to the other problem.
The Problem of knowledge without zeal: Intellectualism
Keep in mind that the church in Rome was made up of people from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. We’ve already seen that the Jews big issue was zeal without knowledge [epignosis ] of Jesus. But the Greeks were a lot more into philosophy. You might remember how Luke described the culture in Athens in Acts 17:
21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. (Acts 17:21)
The Greeks loved philosophy. To this day we still study the great thinkers of Paul’s day—Plato, Aristotle, Socrates. They were extremely proud of their intellectual pursuits.
And you guys know me enough to know that I can be the same way. I can get really caught up in the latest book I’m reading or the latest idea I’ve heard. I love talking about stuff like that.
And I love, love, love studying the Bible. The other day Miranda put something on Facebook—“Anyone who knows me knows I love [blank].” I immediately said, “The Bible.”
I love the Bible studies that are happening all over Glynwood right now. I love what our women’s ministry is doing. I love that nearly 30 men showed up this past week to begin a Bible study together.
I love studying the Bible. But I have to ask the question, what are we doing with everything we are learning?
When I worked at Lifeway, I remember getting a customer service call from someone who was asking about when the next Beth Moore Bible study was coming out. And I was recommending some of the other Bible study writers LifeWay had. And this woman really said this to me. She really said, “Well, let me ask you—do they get into all that application stuff? Because I don’t really like all the questions about how you’re supposed to apply it to your life. I just want a deep Bible study.”
This is what Paul warned the Corinthians about in 1 Corinthians 8. The issue of the day was whether or not it was acceptable for a Christian to eat food that had been offered to idols. Some thought it was fine, because the idol wasn’t real in the first place. Others thought it would ruin your witness. They all had their ideas, they all had their arguments, and it was causing division in the church. So Paul wrote to them:
8 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:1-3)
Knowledge wasn’t solving the problems in Corinth. It was actually creating them. Because even though people knew a lot, they weren’t acting in love toward one another. They weren’t following the new commandment Jesus gave, that they would love one another as He had loved them.
In other words, it isn’t what you know, it is who you are known by.
So, zeal without knowledge can’t save you. But neither can knowledge without zeal. So many people, when you ask them how they can know for sure they are going to heaven, will either give you a “zeal” answer or a “knowledge” answer.
The zeal answer is talking about all the things they do for God. I go to church, I’m a good person, I take care of my family. I pay my taxes. I give to charity.
The knowledge answer is when they say, “Well, I’m going to heaven because I believe in God. I’ll ask kids, “what does it mean to be a Christian, and their answer is, “It means that you believe in God.” And with all the love in my heart, I want you to know that no one ever got to heaven because they believed in God.
Remember what James said in his letter? “19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
The union of the two: Gospel
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This passage is probably the clearest answer to the question, “How can I be saved.” Paul says it comes down to two things: confessing with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead.
You’re like, well, isn’t that knowledge? Yes. It starts with knowledge. Paul David Tripp says that before you can worship the king of kings and Lord of Lords, you have to know the fact of facts—that according to Hebrews 11, God exists, and He rewards those who seek him.
But this isn’t just gnosis. It’s epignosis. It’s recognizing Jesus is Lord. We don’t really understand the word Lord in our constitutional democracy. We don’t have lords and kings, we have representatives and presidents. But if you have epignosis—full knowledge and recognition that Jesus is the supreme authority over your life, then its going to change how you behave. Go back to Paul on the Damascus road. He said, “Who are you, Lord?” And when the answer came back, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” it changed everything for Paul. He had been zealous against God; he became zealous for God.
What about the second part—“believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead.” Again, that’s a fact that ought to change a person. If God has the authority to cancel death, then doesn’t that mean He has absolute authority in your life?
When you place your trust in someone who has this kind of authority over life and death, then it’s like verse 11 says: You’ll never be put to shame.
This invitation for salvation is offered to everyone. You might have walked away from Romans 9 with lots of questions about election and God’s sovereign choice. But make no mistake. God bestows his riches on all who call on him—verse 12. And, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (verse 13).
Paul closes chapter 10 by reminding us of our responsibility not just to respond to the gospel, but also to proclaim the gospel.
Look at the last section with me:
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
The word for preaching is kerysso, which meant to be a herald. Heralds were the guys who stood on the street corners and said “Hear ye, hear ye,” when there was a message from the king. So understand in this sense that preaching wasn’t what happened in the pulpits. It was what happened in the streets. The message had to leave the church and make it into the streets.
With these four questions, Paul emphasizes: [click for each one]
- The necessity of belief: You can’t call on someone you don’t believe in.
- The necessity of a testimony: How can they believe in whom they haven’t heard. You’ve probably heard the quote from St Francis—Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words. St. Francis didn’t say that. He said, “When necessary, use words.” Words are necessary. Faith comes through hearing.
- The necessity of the gospel: How can they hear without a proclamation? This is The transmission of a body of truth that is not someone’s opinion but the authoritative revelation from Christ and His apostles.
- The necessity of intentionality: How can they preach unless they are sent? We’ve all been sent. Every week we end the service by telling you you are sent.
I think this circles back to Paul’s “anguish for the Jews” in 9:1 and his heart’s desire and prayer for them to be saved in 10:1. Paul wants more preachers to be sent to His brothers.
At the same time, he recognizes that it may not do any good. In verse 16, he admits that the Jews have not all obeyed the gospel. Then Paul asks two questions he already knows the answer to. Have the Jews not heard? They have. Did they not understand? They did. It wasn’t a lack of understanding that has kept them from Jesus. It is a lack of submission. The word in verse 16 is “obeyed,” even though some translations read, “They have not all accepted the gospel. It really should be “obeyed.”Go back to verse 3: the Jews were so busy seeking to establish their own righteousness that they refused to submit to God’s righteousness.
As a result, Romans 10 ends with the image of God “holding His hands out all day long to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Have you ever tried holding your hands out for a long period of time? There’s some military movie I saw where new recruits had to hold their rifle at arms length for as long as possible. Imagine holding your hands out in front of you for as long as you could? How tired would you get? How long before they just gave out?
We know God doesn’t get physically tired. But the implication in verse 21 is that God is getting weary of holding out the gospel to a disobedient and contrary people.
And to that point, I will say, as Paul does elsewhere, that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. Or between the Jew and you. Is God getting tired of holding out His hands to you? Then repent. Confess. Believe. Receive.