Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 10:16-21

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

18 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.”

19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
    with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

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Last week’s post introduced Romans 10, the theme of which is obeying God by obeying Jesus Christ.

John MacArthur explains why Paul had to do this. Paul’s Roman audience were Jewish converts (emphases mine):

Paul has to deal with this in this epistle to the Romans because he can’t get by this hurdle. He’s presenting justification by grace through faith and somebody’s going to say, if this is really the truth, this new covenant, this new message is really the truth, this message which contradicts the old truth, if this is really it, then why doesn’t Israel believe it, because they’re the people who have always received the Word of God? And it was obvious that they were rejecting it. It was obvious the Jews had rejected Jesus Christ and had Him crucified. If this is the truth from God, how is it that the people of God have rejected it? How can it be? And so Paul, in order to defend his doctrine of justification by grace through faith, has to explain the unbelief of Israel. And that’s exactly what he’s doing in chapter 10.

In chapter 9 he showed how the unbelief of Israel was already fit into the plan of God, so it didn’t surprise God. It didn’t thwart God’s plan. He already had knew it. He already had planned it into the plan. And now in chapter 10 he describes how it is that they could be so ignorant and why they reject it.

Here are the verses from Romans 10 preceding today’s reading. These are in the Lectionary:

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); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 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. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

This is why men and women of the cloth should be focussing on preaching the Bible rather the troubling issues of our day. When we are at peace with God — and not rebelling against Him and His Son — we are at peace with our fellow man and woman.

Returning to Paul’s audience, they had an imperfect faith. Therefore, he needed to explain certain doctrines to them and make it clear that God’s people — Israel — had always been rebellious, dating back to the time of Moses.

Paul says that both Jew and Gentile have been rebellious, reinforcing Israel’s rebellion by citing Isaiah 53:1 (verse 16).

Matthew Henry discusses this lack of obedience and the purpose of Scripture:

All the Jews have not, all the Gentiles have not; far the greater part of both remain in unbelief and disobedience. Observe, The gospel is given us not only to be known and believed, but to be obeyed. It is not a system of notions, but a rule of practice. This little success of the word was likewise foretold by the prophet (Isaiah 53:1): Who hath believed our report? Very few have, few to what one would think should have believed it, considering how faithful a report it is and how well worthy of all acceptation,–very few to the many that persist in unbelief. It is no strange thing, but it is a very sad and uncomfortable thing, for the ministers of Christ to bring the report of the gospel, and not to be believed in it. Under such a melancholy consideration it is good for us to go to God and make our complaint to him.

MacArthur discusses the word ‘obey’ in Greek:

The word to “obey” is hupakou. We get “acoustics” from it. It means “to hear,” and hupo means “under,” to hear under. To hear under means to get under somebody in submission like a servant, to line up under somebody. They have not heard it submissively with a heart of obedience. It is a rich word, beloved, by the way, and it implies that salvation has inherent in it obedience. It has inherent in it submission to Christ. And that’s obvious if you study Scripture. In all the messages of salvation there is a sense of obedience. In other words, it isn’t just believing. It is affirming that I will line up under and obey, that I will submit.

That’s a tough message, given today’s protests against submission throughout history.

If we are to submit at all, it must be to God first. We submit to Him by submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to say that faith comes from hearing the Gospels and solid preaching, for only through them do we build up our faith (verse 17). I refer you to my statement above about today’s clergy and their grave error in ignoring both.

Henry says:

The beginning, progress, and strength of faith, are by hearing. The word of God is therefore called the word of faith: it begets and nourishes faith. God gives faith, but it is by the word as the instrument. Hearing (that hearing which works faith) is by the word of God. It is not hearing the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but hearing the word of God, that will befriend faith, and hearing it as the word of God. See 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

Paul reminds the Romans that Scripture always said that Gentiles would be received into the fold as God’s people. Paul cites Psalm 19:4 as proof (verse 18):

Their voice[a] goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,

MacArthur says the Psalm refers to natural revelation of God’s glory:

what David is saying in the Psalm is that the stars and all the celestial bodies proclaim to the whole earth that there is a God, right? That’s what we call in theology natural revelation. But all of the stellar bodies, all of the glory of space communicates that there is a God. And Paul borrows this verse and says this is a symbol and this is a foreshadowing of how the gospel will extend to all the earth, even as the testimony of the stars and the stellar bodies do. It’s a marvelous truth. The testimony of heaven, he says, is like a measuring line that marks out extent. And he uses the term, “their line is gone out,” like a guy who marked out the extremities of an area and says the testimony goes to the very limits of the perimeter. And here Paul says that their sound went into all the earth. Their words to the end of the world, same idea, only he says as the stars have touched the earth with natural revelation, the gospel touches the earth with special revelation.

Then Paul cites from the time of Moses as a way of saying that rebellious Israel never understood submission and obedience (verse 19). As a result, God punished His people through conflict with a Gentile — ‘foolish’ — nation. ‘Foolish’ in that context means that the Gentiles did not yet know about God. The citation comes from Deuteronomy 32:21:

They have made me jealous with what is no god;
    they have provoked me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are no people;
    I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

That conflict is a spiritual one, as MacArthur says:

what he is saying there is, you knew, Deuteronomy told you that, that the day would come when God would embrace a no people, that’s a Gentile people, a foolish nation, that’s a Gentile nation, and provoke you to what? A jealousy about His relationship to them. You knew that, that was in Deuteronomy 32:21. And if you read the thirty-second chapter of Deuteronomy, verse 5 in that chapter marks the unbelief of Israel and verse 20 marks the judgment of God and verse 21 is this verse. I’m going to turn to another people, another nation, non-Jewish, Gentile and bless them and provoke you to jealousy.

That is what happened when Christ was ministering to the Jews of His day. Many rejected Him, so He sought another people, the Gentiles:

this prediction of Moses could find its fulfillment only in the conversion of the Gentiles through the gospel of Christ. They were the no people brought into intimate relationship with God. And the Jews should have remembered Deuteronomy 32, they should have repented, they should have seen the truth of the gospel as it went to the Gentiles. You see, Jesus made this so clear to them. He kept saying to them. Remember how in chapter 21 and 22 of Matthew He kept saying to them, “Look, I’m going to turn from you to this other people. You don’t want to come to the banquet? I’ll get some people who will come to the banquet. You don’t want to serve Me? I’ll find some people who do. You want to kill My servants and kill My Son? I’ll give out My vineyard to someone else who is worthy of it.” In Luke 14, “You don’t want to come to My great supper? You don’t want to eat this feast? Then I’ll go in the highways and byways and I’ll call the lame and the blind and the halt and all the rest of them in here.”

Henry gives us a practical application of the verse from Deuteronomy:

God often makes people’s sin their punishment. A man needs no greater plague than to be left to the impetuous rage of his own lusts.

How true!

Paul concludes his discussion of disobedience with Isaiah 65:1-2, wherein the prophet says he was prepared for people who would listen to him after he had to stop preaching to a rebellious Israel (verses 20, 21). Here are the verses:

65 I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
    I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
    to a nation that was not called by[a] my name.
2 I spread out my hands all the day
    to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
    following their own devices;

There are numerous references in the Bible to God’s judgement on mankind by removing the possibility of faith and leaving people to their own devices. See Matthew Henry’s comment above about God’s making our sin our punishment if we do not repent.

Henry says that Israel not only refused to submit to God, they also quarrelled with Him:

One word in the Hebrew, in Isaiah, is here well explained by two; not only disobedient to the call, not yielding to it, but gainsaying, and quarrelling with it, which is much worse. Many that will not accept of a good proposal will yet acknowledge that they have nothing to say against it: but the Jews who believed not rested not there, but contradicted and blasphemed. God’s patience with them was a very great aggravation of their disobedience, and rendered it the more exceedingly sinful; as their disobedience advanced the honour of God’s patience and rendered it the more exceedingly gracious. It is a wonder of mercy in God that his goodness is not overcome by man’s badness; and it is a wonder of wickedness in man that his badness is not overcome by God’s goodness.

When we are truly at peace with God, we are also at peace with humanity. That is the only way forward in this world.

Next time — Romans 11:2b-6