Saturday after the Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Romans 10:1-21 (NKJV)
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel 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 they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.” 20 But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” 21 But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
A sect particularly prominent in the American South terribly distorts verse 16 of today’s reading. They so key on the idea of “obeying the Gospel” that they make the New Testament era one of more severe Law than the Old Testament. For instance, they condemn the use of musical instruments in worship because there isn’t a direct command from God that we must. We might wonder why have air conditioning in their church buildings…or why the Scripture (Eph. 5:19) that calls for “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” speaks of “making melody” by using a verb that referred at its root (and until around AD 125) to “plucking a stringed instrument.”
Instead, we simply remember that “the Gospel” is not law, but promise! A law is obeyed; a promise or invitation is received—heard and believed (v. 9-10). Do actions flow from this? Of course…but not slavish fear like that mentioned above! Rather, such new obedience comes from the confidence that salvation doesn’t come from our works, but from Jesus’ works on our behalf.
The word translated “obey” in v. 16 is frequently used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word “hear.” The Greek word is actually a combination of the words for “hear” and “under.” We might translate, “not all have come under the hearing of the Gospel,” that is, “not all have acted in accord with the Gospel.” The Holy Spirit is so concerned that we get this right that He even has St. Paul explain this “obedience” right in the same verse: “not all have believed our report!”
That is far worse than simple disobedience: it is the rejection of the only remedy for the damnation our disobedience has wrought!