|Romans: The Clearest Gospel of All
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
If there is any church or denomination that faces the great danger of repeating the sad history of Israel, it is ours, because we have so much in common with them we are vulnerable to follow the same mistakes that they have made. That is why I think it is important that as we look at the sad history of Israel in studying Romans 10 that we take heed to the words of the great man Santana when he said, If we fail to know history, we are doomed to repeat it.
I would like to begin by pointing out three main areas wherein the Jews failed. Then I would like to analyze how Paul brings out this problem in Romans 10. Then we will apply it to ourselves. The Jews failed in three main areas:
What did God mean? Turn to Galatians 3 and there the apostle Paul tells us what God actually meant when He gave Abraham the promise in Genesis 12:3. Galatians 3:16:
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say and to seeds, meaning many people, but and to your seed, meaning one person, who is Christ.
Because the Jews felt that salvation was by inheritance and by the works of the law which God gave the Jews through Moses, they failed to see that Christ was the fulfillment of the promise. Therefore, they rejected the gospel and they perverted the promise to salvation by works and by inheritance.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.
This is the tragedy of Israel, literal Israel. And their history has been recorded in Scripture that we may avoid this tragedy. That is why I want you to turn now to Romans 10 and we are going to look at this chapter. We are going to look at it in great detail because it has some very important lessons for us. Notice how Paul begins Romans 10:
Brothers, my hearts desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.
The word desire actually means good will so hes saying, My sincere good will for my people, my supplication, my prayer to God is that my own people, literal Israel, may be saved. Now hes simply repeating his concern which he expressed in Romans 9:3, where he said:
For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race....
We may look at this statement and say, Well, after all, Paul was a Jew and it was natural for him to have a burden for the Jews. But when you look at the facts, this is quite amazing because his own people, the Jews, hated Paul. They looked at him as a traitor. They were the ones who actually nabbed him and grabbed him and handed him over to be killed. He was hated by the Jews. He was despised by them because they looked upon him as a traitor. You only have to read the book of Acts and you will find this is true. But in spite of this, Paul had a tremendous burden for his fellow Jews.
It is my prayer that we may have a similar burden for our fellow Adventists. I was going to say fellow Americans, but do you know something? In the North American Division, we have more Seventh-day Adventists who no longer attend church than those who do. And unless you and I have the burden that Paul had, these folks will remain out and, eventually, Satan will pull them out of Christ. It is my prayer that we may have the same desire, the same good will, the same supplication and the same concern that our people may be saved.
Then in Romans 10:2-3 he pinpoints, he nails down the problem:
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 that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to Gods righteousness.
They did not lack zeal but they did lack knowledge and I want to spend some time on that. Ill tell you why. Today there are many Seventh-day Adventists who have a tremendous zeal for God but without knowledge. This is one of the reasons why there are so many offshoot movements cropping up all around us. These people are not bad people. They are sincere. They really want to do the will of God. They see the church failing, they see all kinds of weaknesses. They see standards coming down in the church and, out of zeal for God, they are trying to do their best, but the question is, Is it according to knowledge?
Lets remember, Paul knew what he was talking about because he was a victim to this problem himself. Turn to Philippians 3, where Paul describes his own situation as a Pharisee before his conversion. First look at verse three because thats the statement that we need to remind ourselves constantly in terms of what it means to be a Christian. Philippians 3:3:
For it is we [Christians] who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh [their own nature]....
And then in verses four to six he tells the Philippians, Look, if anyone can boast about what they are and what they have accomplished, I can do more than you.
Then he gives a list of things that he was and what he had accomplished as a Pharisee before his conversion. Look at the first part of verse six:
...As for zeal [for God], persecuting the church....
When Paul instigated the stoning of Stephen, when Paul was going on his way to Damascus to take captive the Christians, do you realize that, in his heart, he thought he was serving God? He had a zeal for God but was it according to knowledge? The answer is no. When God confronted him on the Damascus road and said, Paul you are not persecuting my enemies; you are persecuting Me when you touch my people, it came as a shock to Paul. But Ill tell you, Paul was one Jew who was willing to repent, and I thank God for it. Otherwise, we would have had half the New Testament missing in the Bible.
The Jews had a zeal for God but zeal without knowledge can be dangerous. It can be futile. Thats exactly what happened. A zeal for God will not save them, otherwise Romans 10:1-2 is meaningless. I want my fellow Jews to be saved. They have zeal for God but, unfortunately, it is not according to knowledge.
Then, in verse three, he pinpoints where they failed in their knowledge:
Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to Gods righteousness.
You will notice the word righteousness appears twice in verse three. Here Paul is pinpointing two systems of salvation. We can say, the right way or the wrong way, but I prefer to say, Gods method of salvation and mans method of salvation. Let us be absolutely clear that the two cannot be mixed together. They cannot be married together. It is one or the other.
For example, take Pauls own incident. We read Philippians 3:3, but if you read verses 7-9, Paul tells us in this letter that when he discovered Christ he realized that his own righteousness not only could not save him but was like filthy rags. It was dung. It was refuse. He was willing to give all of it up that he may win Christ and be found in Him, having His righteousness which is through faith and not through the works of the law. Philippians 3:7-9:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the supassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 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.
So he is saying here that the Jews did not accept Gods way of salvation, and this is because they failed to see the purpose of the three fathers. The outcome was that they failed to understand what these three fathers meant and the next thing they failed to understand was why God gave them the law. We can make the same mistake because God has restored the law in our church. But have we understood the significance and purpose of that law? Or are we making the same mistake as the Jews?
They failed to accept Gods righteousness because they had established their own righteousness and, therefore, they refused to give it up in exchange for the righteousness of Christ. Now I am emphasizing this because God is saying the same thing to us through the message of the Laodicean Church: You have to buy from Me white raiment. Revelation 3:17-18:
You say, I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Do you know what the word buy means in the Middle East? To this day, in many of the remote areas, you do not buy with money but you exchange. Buying means giving up what you have for what you want. If you want to buy a pair of shoes and you look at the tag and it says $50 and you have $50 but you cant keep that $50 and have the shoes. Otherwise, you are a thief. And like giving up the $50 in exchange for the shoes, you have to give up your righteousness in exchange for Christs righteousness.
Galatians 5:4 makes this absolutely clear:
You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
I want to emphasize that Paul is discussing here the method of salvation. He is not discussing here the law as a standard of Christian living. We will come to that when we come to Romans 13 where Paul will say that the true Christian does fulfill the law because in him there is love and love is the fulfillment of the law. But he is discussing here the law as a method or system of salvation. And he is saying in Galatians 5:4 that, if you accept Christ, the law method is out. If you accept the law method, then you are fallen from grace and Christ has become of no effect.
Going back to Romans 10:3, I want to look at the word ignorant or they did not know:
Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to Gods righteousness.
In English, the word ignorant means not to be aware of. But thats not what Paul meant. Did the Jews not know the gospel? When we come to the end of chapter 10 you will discover that they knew the gospel. Their ignorance was deliberate and persistent. It was not that they did not know. They knew, but they deliberately refused to acknowledge, to submit to the righteousness of God which saves us. In Romans 10:4, Paul makes a very difficult statement:
Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Why is this verse difficult? Because of the word end. The Greek word tellos has two meanings. It can mean fulfillment or it can mean termination. Which did Paul mean? Did he mean that Christ fulfilled the law for righteousness to those who believe, or did he mean that he terminated the law for righteousness?
Bible scholars have wrestled with it and you have one thing in this camp and another in another camp and there are some very reliable scholars who take both camps. And thats the camp to which I belong. But I need to explain it because, if I stop there, you will go and tell the brethren that Pastor Sequeira teaches that Christ did away with the law. I am not teaching that, but I do believe that Paul had in mind termination because I feel that, as I read Paul, he often would use words that have more than one meaning because he tried to squeeze an awful lot of thought in a short statement.
Let us look at both meanings. First the word fulfillment. Christ is not like human beings. He is righteous. God is righteous. Hes perfect and, therefore, God cannot save us bypassing the law. When the policeman stops me for speeding (which he hasnt yet), but when he catches me and forgives me he is doing a wonderful thing but he is not doing a righteous thing. Because he is not paid to forgive me. He is paid to uphold the law. And the law says that if you break the speed limit you should receive a citation.
God cannot do that. He cannot say, I love you human beings and since Im sovereign, Ill forgive you. He cant do that. Hes not only a God of love but He is a righteous, Hes a holy, Hes a just God. So, in order to save us, Christ first of all had to qualify to be our Savior.
How did He qualify? He joined Himself to us. He became one with us and that took place at the incarnation. Having done that, qualifying now to be the second Adam, He had to do two things to save us in order to satisfy the law. We covered this when we studied Romans 3:31. He obeyed the law perfectly because the law of God says, If you obey me perfectly, you can live. Otherwise you cannot live. In Christ, we have perfect obedience to the law, but that obedience could not cancel our disobedience.
Christ did not come to save the righteous. He came to save sinners. He did not link Himself to sinless men. He linked Himself to fallen mankind that He may redeem us. Then he took that humanity to the cross and He surrendered it and, at infinite cost to Him, because Hed joined Himself to us, He surrendered that cross to the full wages of sin: God abandonment. By His doing and dying He fulfilled the law perfectly so that He became our righteousness. He fulfilled the law that everyone who believed Christ is the end of the law, the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to all who believe. That, folks, is good news.
But what did he mean when he said, Christ is the end of the law? First of all, I need to point out a problem. It is in your Bible but not in the original. You will notice in verse four the word law is preceded by the definite article and also in verse five. It does not exist in the original. So what did Paul mean by law? The word legalism in English has no similar word in the Greek language. They had no word in Greek called legalism in Pauls day, so Paul would often used the word law to mean legalism.
Legalism is when we try to save ourselves by our own works. Christ brought that to an end. Why? Because, as I read Romans 5:18:
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
If all men were reconciled to God, were justified by the doing and dying of Christ, then legalism was terminated. So Christ, on the one hand, fulfilled the law for righteousness for us and He terminated the works of the law, which is legalism as a means of salvation. The reason I know that this is what he has in mind is because the context is dealing not with the law as a standard of Christian living but as a method of salvation which, in English, we call legalism.
Now we go to verse five of Romans ten and there is a problem here.
Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: The man who does these things will live by them.
Again, the word law does not have the definite article. The man who does these things will live by them. Now whats the problem with this text? Well, it is not a problem, really, but it is a problem if you misuse this text. So I want to remind you. I have covered it many times and I want to repeat it again: please dont read a text out of context. Ive had more than one person come to me with Romans 10:5 and read the last part of verse five and say Look, even Paul teaches that we must keep the law in order to live. Paul said nothing of the sort.
What Paul is doing here is contrasting righteousness by faith with righteousness by law keeping. Thats what he is doing here. And he says, This is the difference: if you want to be saved by the law, you cant be saved by the law through faith but by performance. In other words, you cant go to the law and say, Law, I have heard you. I believe in all the Ten Commandments. The law will not say back to you, Since you believe in all the Ten Commandments, you may go to heaven. The law will not do that because thats not the platform upon which the law works. The law says, If you believe in me, that means nothing to me. My rule is: If you obey me, if you do what I tell you, then you can live. So you cannot have righteousness by faith through the law because the law demands performance. He is quoting here, of course, from Leviticus 18:5:
Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.
If you Jews want to be saved through the law, two things are required:
If you fall on one point, I will condemn you. Gal.3:10:
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.
That is how you are saved through the law.
But verse six contrasts the righteousness of faith in this way. There are two methods here he is discussing. He is not preaching salvation by works of the law. He is simply saying in verse five, If you want to be saved by the law, you must do what the law requires. But if you want to be saved by faith, this is the way [Romans 10:6-8]:
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 word of faith we are proclaiming....
Now Paul is using typical Middle Eastern logic. This is not Western logic, so let me explain to you in very simple terms what Paul is saying here. There are two ways to be saved. This is mans way. According to mans way, God is up there or God is down there, He is somewhere, and, if you want to be saved, you have to come up to His level. In other words, God is not saying, I feel sorry for you. Ill try to help you. No.
This is the foundation of every pagan religion. Man must do what God wants him to do. Then he will say, Heaven is yours. For example, whats the difference between the cross of Christ and pagan sacrifices? Some of them were human sacrifices. What was the difference? When pagans offered sacrifices, they were doing it to appease an angry god. When Christ died on the cross, He was not dying to appease an angry god. God was already in Him, reconciling the world to Himself. The eros religion is man trying to reach up to God, people trying to seek God that they might be saved. Remember what I said? Roman Catholics go to Rome that they may find God. The Muslims go to Mecca that they may find God. and Adventists go to camp meetings that they may find God.
But Paul says, You dont have to go to find God, He comes to you through the message of the gospel. This is the way, says Paul in verse eight, The word is near you. In other words, God, first of all, did not ask you to come up. I want to remind you of Romans 5:6-10:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from Gods wrath through him! For if, when we were Gods enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
For while we were helpless, while we were ungodly, while we were sinners, while we were enemies, God redeemed, reconciled. Christ died for us while we were sinners.
God doesnt say, You do your best and I will make up the difference. No. God said to His Son, Go down there while they are still helpless, while they are incapable of saving themselves, and redeem them. John 3:17:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
On the cross, Jesus said, It is finished. When He prayed in John 17:4, He said:
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
But Christ did not only save us. That was wonderful, but now, having gone to heaven, He doesnt believe in retirement. He is working up there, interceding for us. But He did something else. He sent the Holy Spirit down here. Please, Holy Spirit, convict these people about my good news. Convict them that without Me they cannot be saved.
And so it is all of God and all I can do is to say, Thank you, God for your salvation. That is righteousness by faith. And out of a grateful heart I will say, For me now to live is Christ. This is the difference.
And then he expounds on this in Romans 10:9-10:
...If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Jesus being raised from the dead is the greatest evidence that God gave that sin was conquered. If it wasnt, Christ would have remained in the grave.
...You will be saved.
Not you may be saved but you will be saved. Romans 10:10:
For it is within your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
This confession is not what some Pentecostals do, raising the hands and saying, Praise the Lord, I am saved. The confession is going and telling others about what you have received through Jesus Christ. The confession is witnessing Christ. But it is not enough to believe in Jesus. It has to come from the heart. It is not enough to say, I believe in Jesus. I confess him. There has to be a heart response, for I read in Romans 10:11:
As the Scripture says, Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
I have heard something that is horrifying to me. I have been given to understand that some folks believe that, when we go to heaven, all our sins will be displayed during the thousand years for us to criticize each other. I want to give you two texts. Please let the Bible speak to you. James 5:19,20:
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
If there is a person who has left Christ who has gone out of the way and you, as a believer, go and find him and bring him back to the church, you have done two wonderful things:
The second text I want to give you is a statement that is addressed to us: Revelation 3:18. There are three things Christ is offering to the Laodicean Church. I want you to look at the second one.
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
The white clothes is the righteousness of Christ. Why should we buy from Him? Why should we exchange our righteousness for His righteousness? Why? Please look at the text:
...Buy from me white clothes to wear, so you can cover [with His righteousness, not ours] your shameful nakedness....
Yes, your sins and mine will come up in the investigative judgment, which is taking place now, but you will not be there. The only ones who will see it are the angels and, by the way, they already know all of your sins. So that is nothing new to them. But thank God He will never display our sins before the universe or before the believers. Why? Because in Christ our sins will be blotted out completely.
Here is another text. In Romans 9:30-32 it explains that the Jews rejected righteousness by faith but the Gentiles accepted it:
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.
So they were saved while the Jews were lost. Look at the last part of Romans 9:33, talking to the Jews who had allowed Christ to be a stumbling block:
...And the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
I thank God that my sins will not be displayed, because you may think Im a good fellow. All you know is the outward Sequeira but you dont know me inside. I tell you, Im rotten inside just like you are. We all wear the same cap.
Look at Romans 10:12 onward:
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile...
In Galatians he adds even more, like there is no difference between male and female or between a slave and free person. We will come to that in chapter twelve, too.
...The same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
It doesnt matter who you are. God has the greatest desire that everyone will be saved. But He will not force that salvation upon you, because He has given you a free will. But He wants to save you.
Then he goes through a list of questions [Romans 10:14-15]. The answers are obvious:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?
You cant call on somebodys name and not believe in it.
And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!
May I remind you that today we have in the western world the idea that a preacher is somebody who is employed by the denomination to preach the gospel. That is not the New Testament teaching. The work of preaching is the work of every member. Read Acts 8 and see what the early Christians did. The members scattered and went about preaching Christ. Ill tell you, we need that desperately in this country.
We think about the mission field. I spent 18 years in Africa. Our young people there are on fire for Christ. It is here that I have the problem. We dont have that incentive.
When I was chaplain in Nairobi University and the university was closed down because of a strike, these kids went out on their own, without incentive, without a budget, without promotional programs from the brethren. They went out and baptized a hundred souls in three months because they were on fire for Christ. Thats true. Economically, they have no future. Ill tell you, their economic loss is a blessing in disguise.
I pray for the day when this country collapses economically; then maybe our people will be turned on. Its a tragedy that we have to face crises to bring life into the church. But I pray that we will see what these folks are doing. Can we have frontier missions in America for our own people? We need that, too. I pray for this country. It gave me status privileges but I want Americans to be turned on for Christ.
Where did the Jews go wrong? Look at Romans 10:16:
But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
But here comes the question. Are the Jews lost because they have not heard the gospel? Are the Jews actually ignorant about the good news of salvation? The answer is no. Romans 10:18:
But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Of course, to Paul that meant the Roman Empire where the Jews were scattered. Romans 10:19:
Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.
Yes, the gospel has gone to all the world but what has happened? The Gentiles said, Thank you, God! But the Jews said, We dont want Him. Romans 10:20-21:
And Isaiah boldly says, I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me [the Gentiles]. But concerning Israel he says, All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.
Please dont tell me we are not like the Jews. What greater deception can come to those who think they are all right when they are all wrong. Im quoting Ellen G. White about our church. If we were not obstinate, the work would have been finished long ago. As my professor Heppenstall said, If the Adventist Church had done its job, we would not have had the last two world wars. Therefore, we must take the blame to a large degree.
Go to 1 Corinthians 10:11-12. It is my prayer that we will take heed to this counsel (he was speaking about the Jews and their history):
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you dont fall!