Romans 10:1-13 – Jewish law or Jesus as Lord? Righteousness: by Law or Faith?


RIGHTEOUSNESS: by Law or Faith?


Romans 10:1-13.


Overview so far …




ILLUS.: Ever hear some one say something like – “Why wouldn’t God accept me – I’m not bad?”  — or at a funeral “She was a good person, never did anyone any harm – I’m sure she is in heaven!”


If anyone could claim to be good in respect of the God’s Law {that is the Jewish Laws including the 10 commandments} it was the Jews esp. those of the religious variety. Of course you must remember that the apostle Paul was such a one – he had studied in Jerusalem under the top Jewish teachers of the day!

His zeal for the Jewish faith was unsurpassed – as seen in his persecution of the early Christians.


The issue is – “How do we gain credibility/acceptance with God?” — Amongst the young people of today [possible us older ones as well] they talk about “street-cred” – if you like what we are talking about here is ‘divine cred’.

Paul has argued through this letter that we gain acceptance with God through Christ alone.


His objectors say “Paul you are throwing out the OT Law – the instructions God gave to Moses – and you are forsaking the Jews!”




Romans 10:1  Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.


At the beginning of chapter 9 Paul declares his willingness to forfeit his own soul if it would secure the salvation of the Jews – here he reaffirms his love and expresses his deep desire to see the Jews saved.


The fact the majority of Jews have rejected Jesus is firstly, to do with God’s election purposes – {chapter 9} God is sovereign and he chooses who will be his.

BUT that is only half the story – so secondly, is going on now to show that Israel have rejected the Messiah [Jesus Christ] because they are willful, disobedient and stubborn.


Nevertheless Paul is heart broken that they are left out and longs that it were not so.




Paul in this section is dealing with Israel’s misunderstanding of God’s requirements for righteousness.


2.1. Zeal is not enough!

Romans 10:2 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. [insight – knowledge with understanding] (NIV)


Paul knows how zealous and sincere these Jews were – he had himself been like that! If it was sincerity that is required then they are first in the queue!


But their zeal was without knowledge – their enthusiasm without understanding!

Sincerity alone is always insufficient – because we can be sincerely mistaken. These zealous Jews could not see the wood for the trees! They were so obsessed with the minutiae of the Law that they could not see its overarching purpose!

{ insight – knowledge with understanding – they knew the Law but did not understand it}

They were so concerned with their traditions, with their rituals and practices, which they zealously defended and propagated, and missed the most important thing – a true relationship with God!


This has always been, and still remains a problem with all religions, and Christianity is not excluded so we would be wise to take heed!


2.2. Self acclaimed righteousness is not enough. [v.3]


Romans 10:3 3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (NIV)


What is righteousness?

a)  God’s righteousness is seen as his holy character a quality that God’s possesses – his purity/holiness.

b)  but more that, it is a quality that moves God to reach out in mercy and salvation to his creation – that is to reassert his ‘right’ over the world.

c)   His righteousness, far from condemning sinners as we might expect reaches out in salvation – it offers forgiveness for our sins and cleansing from unrighteouness [1 John 1v9]


The purpose of the law [in particular the 10 commandments and in general the OT] – was to reveal God’s righteousness [and human unrighteousness].

The Jews were zealous for the Law but their understanding of its purpose was deficient – as a result they sought  righteousness in the wrong place.    ….  sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (NIV)


How [did the Jews then and many people today] seek their own righteousness – to gain favour/acceptance with God.

Any people who are conscious that God is righteous and humans are unrighteous, naturally look for ways to be fit to stand in God’s presence


There are two ways:-

  • by good works and religious practices and rituals to try and gain enough ‘Brownie points’ with God. This is trying to establish our own righteousness — but this is doomed to failure —

Isaiah 64:6 6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (NIV)

  • by submitting to God righteousness – receiving it as a free gift through faith in Christ

Philippians 3:9 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (NIV)


In the next section Paul will appeal to the OT to show that this was not his idea but has been the way to righteousness all along!


The Law, given by God to the Israelites, through Moses – 10 commandments and all the other civil and ceremonial laws – were given after the exodus from Egypt – in other words God rescued them before they had the law – He never rescued them because the kept the Law. They thought if they observed the Sabbaths, Festivals and food laws that would qualify them to be God’s chosen people.

Like some people today who think they are Christians because they have been ‘christened’ and married in Church – and born in a Christianised country –

ILLUS.: But being born in a garage doesn’t make you a motor car.


The Law was given to show them ‘How to Live’ in response to God’s goodness to them – having the Law didn’t make them righteous!


2.3.  Old Testament Law is not an end in itself.


So Paul is advocating that there is no contradiction between the Law and Christ – he is not driving a wedge between the two – on the contrary they go together – and any devoted Jews in the OT would have seen in Christ the fulfilment of the Law – The ‘End’ – the terminus.

Jesus is not just the bonus on top of the Law – The whole OT is bound up in Jesus.


The Law had its place in pointing us to God BUT now that Christ has come the Law is redundant – The Law was like a sign board pointing to Christ – Why does anyone want the sign board when you have the One to whom the sign points.


ILLUS.: It would be like having a photo of a loved one – and then when she arrives – sitting looking at the photo instead of at her.




Paul has just contrasted a number of things:-

  • faith and works
  • God’s righteousness and human righteousness
  • The Law and Christ


He now contrasts and looks at the implications of the Righteousness that is by Law and the righteousness that is by faith.


3.1. Righteousness by the Law.

Romans 10:5     [FOR] 5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” (NIV)

[FOR]  – Paul goes on to substantiate what he said in v.4.


To silence his opponents Paul goes to the Jewish sources that they hold so dear.

Moses –

Leviticus 18:5 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD. (NIV)

The natural interpretation is to say that the way to salvation is by the obeying the Law. The problem of course is that, although salvation by Law is theoretically possible, total obedience to God’s Law is impossible.


Paul has already touched on this in chapter 8.

Romans 8:3 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering…

The weakness of the Law in not that the Law itself is weak BUT they because of Human nature people are incapable of obeying the Law.

Romans 3:9-10 & 20

9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written:

“There is no-one righteous, not even one; ……

. 20 Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (NIV)


Because of our weakness – our bent towards sin – we are unable to keep God’s Law and consequently the Law rather than bringing salvation – condemns us as Law breakers.


Does this show that Paul is then at odds with the OT – Moses – is he accusing Moses of being wrong?  NO!


3.2. Righteousness by Faith.


Romans 10:6-8 6 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) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: (NIV)


These verses come from Deut. 30 — part of the Law also written by Moses.

These are calling the Jews, not to a legalistic law-keeping, but to a faith-righteousness, to a transformation of heart.


Righteousness by Law is unattainable – BUT righteousness by faith in Christ is NOT unattainable, on the contrary it is readily accessible.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it. (NIV)


This blessing that is sought is not difficult to attain – you don’t have to scale the heights or plumb the depths or travel across the seas – NO! – what is need is a reorientation of the heart and that comes by faith.


In the light of Christ’s coming Paul is saying to His Jewish-Christian readers “Listen, there is no need to try and reach heaven  – Jesus has already come from there — there is not need to plumb the depths to overcome death — Christ has already done that in his resurrection. What you are seeking can be, and is, yours by faith.”

That is, its in your hearts and in your mouth.


What is the word of faith – the message requiring a response of faith i.e. the gospel.


This is the message of the gospel – we can gain credibility/ acceptance with God by responding by faith to his offer of salvation.       HOW?? – by inward belief and outward confession – heart and mouth!


Inward belief and outward confession – heart and mouth!

Salvation  – right standing with God – is not unavailable, unrevealed, unknowable – God is not trying to make it difficult for us to know him – just the opposite – everything that is necessary has already been done – we don’t have to do anything. Salvation is easily accessible to all who will believe.


All that is required of us is to believe in our hearts that it is true – and to confess with our mouths that ‘Jesus is Lord’

‘Jesus is Lord’ – was the earliest confession of the Church – at a time when the emperor was considered Lord.

It was not just a private belief – there was expected to be public confession – Jesus expected his followers to pin their colours to the mast – He said ‘If you are not for me then you are against me!’

Are you and I prepared to stand up for Christ – not in a brash arrogant way – I believe that more and more as Christians we are going to have to stand up and be counted for Christ – it is not going to be easy – it never has been and Jesus never said that it would be.


ILLUS.: As society moves away from biblical principles we are going to have to make a stand –  if you refuse to work on a Sunday you might not get the job you want – if you take a stand against abortion on demand or object to gay/lesbian relationship being equated to marriage – or if we insist that Christ is the ONLY way – and many other issues —-


By saying ‘Jesus is Lord’ we are saying that he is the only way to God – that his teachings are right and those that contradict biblical teaching is wrong.

Do you ..

Romans 10:9 9 …. you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,…… (NIV)


ILLUS.: [Max Dearly] – Dreamt I was on trial as a Christian last night. The prosecutor only called two witnesses. The first witness was Satan. He said he had never heard of me – I never caused him any trouble.

The second witness was Jesus. He said he hadn’t heard of me either!

The jury found me not guilty! me!


Salvation is easily accessible.


If it is true that salvation is easily accessible it is also true that it is equally accessible.


Salvation is equally accessible.


Romans 10:11-13 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts 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.” (NIV)


Remember that Paul is dealing in these chapters with the question of the relationship of Jews and Gentiles – Here he repeats that God doesn’t make a distinction between Jews and gentiles regarding salvation – it is equally available to all.  Christ is Lord of All and he blesses All who call on him.

God makes no distinction on the ground of nationality, language, race, sex or social standing – ALL are equal in his eyes!


See how Paul here balances what he said in Chapter 9 – God is sovereign – he chooses who will be his – he elects.

Well here the invitation is open to all –

Anyone/everyone who trust in Christ will be saved!!



(RIGHTEOUSNESS: by Law or by Faith?)


Romans 10:1-13



     – Zeal is not enough.

      – Self acclaimed righteousness is not enough.

      q Old Testament Law is not an end in itself.





       Righteousness by the Law.

            – impossible because of human weakness


       Righteousness by Faith.

             –Inward belief and outward confession –  heart and mouth!

             – Salvation is easily accessible

             – Salvation is equally accessible


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