Bible Study with Jairus – Romans 10
Romans 9 talks about the Israelites being temporarily abandoned by God. The Gentiles—who did not pursue righteousness—were instead justified by faith (Romans 9:30). Meanwhile, the Israelites who were pursuing a law that would lead to righteousness failed to reach that law (Romans 9:31). Why? And what warning does this have for Christians today?
At the beginning of our meeting, a man asked a question about Romans 10:5-8 where it says, “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on 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 abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim).” This man’s question was, “Moses words that Paul is quoting are very difficult to articulate and understand. What exactly is Paul talking about?”
First, I shared some of my own Bible reading experiences with this man. When we read a verse in the Bible, we should also pay special attention to the preceding sentence and the following sentence. Usually, the author has his own logic as he writes. The Bible is ancient and translated from other languages, and we sometimes read it with a dull mind and a lack of illumination. We don’t often understand the logic behind it. But when you pay attention to the previous and following verses, you will gradually understand what the author is saying.
Second, especially when reading the New Testament, pay close attention to the Old Testament verses the author quotes. You need to go back to the Old Testament to see the background and importance of these quoted verses, so you can understand why the author chose these particular verses out of all the verses in the Old Testament. Remember, the New Testament author’s train of thought and the verses he quoted from the Old Testament may express the same meaning. Since he can only quote a few sentences and not the entire Old Testament, it is important to pay attention to the background of the Old Testament verses.
Third, we should pay special attention to the first sentence of each chapter. Although the Bible was not originally divided into chapters, the translators may have received inspiration from the Holy Spirit as they split the Bible into chapters. I feel these chapter divisions have the intention of the Holy Spirit on them. So, figuring out the first verse can help you understand the main point of the entire chapter.
We will apply three principles to answer the question raised by our brother. The first is to pay attention to context. I feel when Paul quoted the words of Moses in verses 5 through 8, it was mainly to illustrate verse 4: where it says, “It turns out that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” To illustrate verse 4, let me give you an example I have used before. When I was young and lighting firecrackers, I always put a piece of paper on the firecrackers because I was afraid to burn myself. I would light the paper, which would light firecrackers’ fuse, and then the firecrackers would explode. The law is like that paper, and the people pursuing the law are like lighting the paper, which will eventually bring about an explosion, which in this case would be the coming of Jesus Christ. But if the paper’s fire goes out during the burning process, the firecracker will not be ignited. Similarly, the Israelites will be able to find Christ in the process of pursuing the law because the end of the law is Christ. But if they misunderstand the law, they will not be able to find Christ.
In Luke 2, the Holy Spirit revealed to an Israelite named Simeon that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:26). So when baby Jesus came to the temple, Simeon was able to recognize Him as Jesus Christ. In that same section of Scripture, the prophetess Anna also recognized the baby as Jesus Christ. Later, Peter, the disciple, a Galilean, also recognized Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). All three people were Israelites, and as a result of pursuing the law, they were able to find Christ. This should be the end of all Israelites. But many Israelites fail to recognize that Jesus is Christ. What went wrong?
Choosing Life or Death
To explain this, we need to apply the second principle. Paul’s verse is from Deuteronomy 30, where Moses explained God’s law to the second generation of Israelites. After telling them about God’s law and God’s leading for Israel, Moses instructed the Israelites to obey God’s commandments and turn to the Lord with all their heart and soul (Deuteronomy 30:10).
Then in Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Moses said, “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” Then Moses goes on to say in verse 15, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”
If the Israelites obeyed God’s commandments, they would be blessed; if they deviated from God’s commandments and worshiped idols, they would be cursed. This is connected with the inspiration for Romans 8 and 9. We saw in Romans 8:6 where Paul said, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” That verse can be applied here to explain this chapter. Paul is saying it is a question of how to choose. When dealing with the law, the Israelites must choose whether to obey God’s law or rebel against God and worship idols, to choose between blessings and curses.
The same is true in the New Testament. We need to choose whether we will set our mind on things that are above or things that are on earth as Paul wrote in Colossians 3:2. If we think about spiritual things—things that are above—there is life and peace. But if we set our mind on the flesh, there is death. This is the theme of this passage in Deuteronomy and explains why Paul quoted Moses’ words, both here and in Romans 8.
Confessing that Jesus is Lord
In Romans 10:9-13, Paul continues to talk about verse 8: “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” Salvation has been accomplished through Jesus Christ, not through our efforts in the flesh to keep the law. As Paul said before, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:3). As long as we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved. In verses 11 through 13 Paul writes, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. 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. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Could the truth be any clearer than this? Yet, why didn’t the Israelites understand it? Why did they pursue the law and not find Christ at the end of the law like Simeon, Anna, and Peter? Is Christ wrong? No. Is the law wrong? No. So what went wrong?
Remove the Veil
This truth is implied in Paul’s Old Testament quotation from Deuteronomy 30, where it states that the Israelites disobeyed and rebelled. Paul noted in Colossians 3:5 that they have chosen idols and have “covetousness in their hearts, which is idolatry”. Samuel told King Saul that obeying is better than sacrifice and rebellion is equivalent to divination. In 1 Samuel 15:23 he said, “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” When we have idols in our hearts, it means we have a veil lying over our hearts. Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 3:15-17, “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This passage can also be used as an explanation in Romans 10. The Israelites are very near to salvation, because salvation is in their hearts, in their mouths. So as long as their hearts turn to the Lord, the veil will be removed, and they will be able to receive God’s salvation. But when a person has a veil in his heart, he will think about his own efforts and say to himself, “How is the hard work of keeping the law justified? Who will go to heaven and earth for me?” This is why Paul quoted Moses’ words of heaven and earth.
Actually, there is no need to go to heaven and earth, because Jesus Christ has completed this already. As long as we believe this, we can receive His salvation.
It is a pity that people have veils over their hearts. It’s like a piece of paper in a window blocking the light, causing their minds to be darkened. Therefore, it’s not that God didn’t provide salvation for the Israelites, nor is the law wrong. The Israelites had a veil over their hearts, causing them to misread the law allowing themselves to be led in the wrong direction. True obedience to the law will lead you to seek and find Christ because Christ is the end of the law.
Calling on the Name of the Lord
The third principle we mentioned above is to pay attention to the first sentence of each chapter. Romans 10:1 says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” This verse fully reveals the meaning of what Paul is going to say in this chapter. Paul was anxious, and clearly, salvation was near to the Israelites. As long as their hearts turned to the Lord, the veil would be removed. If they confessed with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and believed in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead, they would be saved. Romans 10 says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But they had a veil over their hearts and could not see the accessibility and wonder of the Lord’s salvation.
When I was in the Local Church Movement, the teaching I received was that when you are preaching the gospel, you should pay special attention to calling on the name of the Lord. I have put this into practice many times. I’ve observed many times that I can tell whether the person is seeking the Lord by noticing whether the person is willing to call on the name of the Lord and whether the person is sincere or just pretending when calling on the name of the Lord. Most who are willing to sincerely call on the name of the Lord to pray will be most likely saved. Later, I discovered that the people who refused to call on the name of the Lord, or pretended to call on the name of the Lord but were just going through the motions, are not likely to get saved, or were not ready to receive salvation at that time.
Then in verses 14-15, Paul said, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Paul revealed the burden of the gospel again. We need to receive burdens and be sent by God to preach the gospel. People will only believe when they hear the Lord’s words, and only by believing will they call on the name of the Lord. Only by calling on the name of the Lord will you be saved. Paul specifically quoted the verse in the Old Testament, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15). Paul also clearly said that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
In verses 16-21, Paul talked about the situation in which the Israelites heard the gospel but refused to obey. In verse 16 he quoted Isaiah, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” Did the Israelites hear these words? Paul said, “But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18). In verse 19 Paul once again quoted Moses, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” He again quoted Isaiah in verses 20 and 21, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” And in 21 quoted, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
In other words, the Israelites did hear the gospel. However, we see in verse 16 that they did not obey the gospel. The Israelite’s rebellion was idolatry, and this idol became a veil over their hearts. When they were reading the Old Testament and the Law of Moses, they misunderstood God’s law thereby not finding Christ by pursuing the law.
I have used the three principles of Bible reading that I mentioned above to answer the man’s question, which was, “What exactly does Paul mean when he quoted Moses’ words of heaven and earth.” We should now understand that the verses Paul quoted make sense. We just needed to understand Paul’s thinking. Let me say this again: the Bible is very easy to understand; the difficulty lies in our minds being too complicated. If our minds were like children’s and we didn’t have a veil, the Bible would light up for us.
When I was done sharing this, the members of our study collectively sighed agreeing that this lined up with their experience. One man said that it’s terrible that we can have a veil over our hearts and not even realize it. This veil makes people think that their way is the only right way. Likewise, Paul had a veil over his heart when he was persecuting and killing God’s people thinking that he was serving God. This is sad, but true.
Examine Your Heart
Do you have a veil over your heart today? Perhaps you do and you aren’t aware of it. Do you have other idols besides God in your heart? Do you love the world? Do you rebel against God in your life? Maybe God has asked you many times to repent of certain things or forgive certain people, but you refuse to obey Him. Do we love our denomination more than we love God Himself and the entire body of Christ?
We need to fast and pray, humble ourselves before God and examine our hearts through prayer to see if we have a veil. If we have a veil, as long as our hearts turn to the Lord, the veil will be removed immediately. If we don’t know whether we have a veil on our hearts, or how to remove it, we can practice calling on the name of the Lord. Because everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. When you call on the name of the Lord over and over again, the Lord will illuminate your heart, allow you see the veil on your own heart, and let you be enlightened. The practice of calling on the name of the Lord is one of the best, simplest, and most effective practices that I learned in the Local Church Movement. It’s a pity that many people don’t know how beneficial this truth and practice is, and how it deserves to be promoted. Unfortunately, due to busy work schedules, many people who do know this lack sufficient practice and have lost many opportunities to be blessed.
I hope that through the study of this chapter, God can help you see the veil in your heart and remove it. Let’s practice constantly calling on the name of the Lord, asking the Lord for help, so that we can experience miraculous salvation. The most practical and effective practice is to kneel and call on the name of the Lord for more than half an hour before we do anything after we wake up in the morning. By continually calling on the name of the Lord all day long, you will be able to always live in the presence of God.