In chapter ten, Paul links the sovereignty of God with the moral responsibility and freedom of man. What we find is that salvation is a choice of faith. You do not need to climb up into heaven to bring Christ down, or go down into the grave to bring him up from the dead. In other words, if you were planning to work your way into heaven, this is what you would have to do. You would have to climb into heaven and bring Christ down to earth, and then after he had been here a while and died, you would have to go down into the grave, make him alive and bring him up—all by your works. How are you doing so far? Well, obviously you cannot, and the best part is you do not have to. The word is already in your mouth that Jesus is Lord; only believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, and you will be saved.
That reminds me of a story. As I remember it, a little boy was studying synonyms and antonyms. His teacher said, “What is the opposite of lost?” He answered, “Saved.” The teacher said, “No, that is not right. The opposite of lost is found.” The little boy responded with, “I’ll tell you this: When you get saved, you’ve been found!”
The word saved is a tremendous word for us as believers. It depicts our being found by the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, whenever we are saved, we have been found. It is God’s initiative, God’s effort, and God’s action that brings us to him. We are lost and need to be found. The Lord, in his mercy, searches for us until he finds us. This is the process by which he presents to us the realities of our lost situation of being without Christ, and the alternative; the surrender of our lives to Christ. This is what we refer to as salvation.
However, contrary to popular opinion, there is only one way to heaven. Tragically, many do not travel that way. That is the subject Paul addresses in this section of Romans.
My brothers, from the bottom of my heart I long and pray to God that Israel may be saved! I know from experience what a passion for God they have, but alas, it is not a passion based on knowledge. They do not know God’s righteousness, and all the time they are going about trying to prove their own righteousness they have the wrong attitude to receive his. For Christ means the end of the struggle for righteouness-by-the-Law for everyone who believes in him (Romans 10:1-4)
Most translations render verse four as, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes,” Or somewhere close to that.
God has set before us two avenues that we can choose. The first is a righteousness, which is generated by our own action, by our own initiative. What Paul is trying to emphasize is that righteousness does not come by human efforts. He said that Israel had sought righteousness, but the righteousness they sought was their own righteousness. A righteousness attained by human endeavor. He said that they had a zeal for God, which was good, but that zeal was not grounded in knowledge. What did he mean?
Israel loved God—in their own way. Although theirs was not a “faith-by-works” kind of faith, they still loved the Law. They loved the righteous requirements outlined in the Law of Moses and went about trying, by their own human endeavor and initiative, to fulfill that Law. They were very zealous; there is no doubt about that. However, Paul says that it was a zeal without knowledge. He was not talking about a zeal without knowledge of the Law. In fact, Israel had a great knowledge of the Law. God’s expectation was known down to the most minute detail. Not only that, they added to the Law a whole body of literature of inferred requirements that were to be lived out.
Many of those requirements were not what the Law meant at all. Some of them were ridiculous. For instance, in their interpretation of the Law, it stated that on the Sabbath day you could not do any work. According to their tradition, work amounted to lifting a burden equivalent to the weight of two dried figs. For instance, you could doctor a person who was sick on the Sabbath day in order to maintain his health, but you could not make him better. Today there are Jews who set automatic timers for their lights so that the lights will turn on and off on the Sabbath by themselves. It seems ridiculous to us as Gentiles—or does it? We have our own set of requirements, don’t we? Hmmm, good question . . . what they did not understand, for the most part, is God’s gift of Grace. I’ll explain this later.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome