Randy White | June 22, 2023
Romans 10:1-10 is often interpreted as a plea for individual salvation, widely used in gospel presentations and perceived as the foundation for the doctrine of salvation by grace. However, a deeper dive into this passage within its full biblical context suggests it is not about individual salvation in the dispensation of grace, but a call for the nation of Israel to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and thus achieve their national salvation. This article proposes a reconsideration of the common interpretation, arguing that this misunderstanding has implications on our biblical understanding and gospel presentations.
A Plea for Israel’s Messianic Salvation
In this passage, Apostle Paul reveals his desire for Israel’s salvation (Rom 10:1). However, rather than referring to individual salvation, Paul’s longing is better understood in a national context. The notion of salvation here pertains to the fulfillment of God’s promise of establishing the kingdom of Israel under the Messiah. This interpretation aligns with Paul’s conclusion that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:26), which is indicative of national, not individual, salvation.
Recognition of Jesus as the Messiah
The failure of the Israelites to recognize Jesus as the Messiah is highlighted as a stumbling block to their national salvation. Paul commends their “zeal for God,” but wishes it were “according to knowledge” (Rom 10:2). However, this knowledge is not about the mystery of individual salvation as a gift, separate from the Law, which would imply a departure from their zeal for the Law. Instead, it concerns understanding the difference between “God’s righteousness” and “their own righteousness” (Rom 10:3), leading them to submit to God’s righteousness, which is the end goal of the Law.
A Call to Complete Faith in the Messiah
In the verses that follow, Paul makes an argument for faith in the Messiah as the fulfillment of the Law. He references Moses’ words to emphasize that those who adhere to the Law shall live by it (Rom 10:5), which implies that righteousness can indeed be obtained through the Law. However, Paul insists this is insufficient without faith, which leads to the “end of the law” (Rom 10:4), Jesus Christ.
Paul then adapts a passage from Deuteronomy 30:12-14, making an interpretive shift from having faith in the Law to having faith in Christ (Rom 10:6-8). He argues for the need of a national confession and belief in Jesus as the Messiah, an action that will lead to Israel’s national salvation (Rom 10:9). The interpretation that this refers to individual salvation can result in a misunderstanding of Paul’s message, given that the biblical context of these verses indicates a national perspective.
Misplaced Usage in Gospel Presentations
Using Romans 10:8-9 in gospel presentations to represent individual, grace-based salvation can lead to confusion as it deviates from the intended message. The passage is directed towards Israel, outlining what the nation must do on a national scale to attain salvation.
Paul reiterates his claims in verse 10, emphasizing that righteousness, which Israel was lacking, comes from belief (a heart issue) and confession (a mouth issue). He concludes his argument by quoting Isaiah 28:16 (Rom 10:11), underlining that Israel’s failure was not due to lack of zeal or works, but due to disbelief that led them to reject the Messiah sent to be their Savior.
Romans 10:1-10, when read in context, is a clarion call for Israel to recognize Jesus as their Messiah, leading them to their promised national salvation. Its improper use as a gospel message promoting individual salvation has resulted in confusion and misinterpretation of the Apostle Paul’s teachings. As such, in our biblical interpretations and gospel presentations, it is crucial to distinguish between God’s distinct plan for the nation of Israel and the dispensation of grace offered to individuals. Understanding this difference allows for a more accurate interpretation of biblical truths and a more faithful representation of the gospel.