Dan Popp
Ears to hear
Romans: The most important book ever written
By Dan Popp
April 21, 2011

If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. — Jesus (Luke 16:31b ESV)

We've been talking here in the Romans Book Club about God's plan for the Jews outlined in chapters 9 through 11. The culmination of Paul's discourse will be the astounding statement, And so all Israel will be saved (11:26). What does that mean? How could that happen? Those are the things we're learning now, as we pick up our discussion at Chapter 10, verse 9.

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. [NIV]

means to "say with," to agree, to admit. Lord is the Master of all. Saved, as we have said, means "safe." There is no challenge to the intellect here — just a challenge to all other would-be Lords and their followers. Think of how many religious people sneer at the idea that we can be saved — and know it as certainly as we know that Jesus rose from the dead.

For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. [ESV]

David said, "I believed, therefore I spoke." (Psalm 116:10)

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. [KJV] ...will be saved from shame. [NEB]

The emphasis is on whoever.

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. [KJV]

That's a quote of Joel 2:32a. Regarding the last days he prophesies: "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (NKJV)

Since Jesus is Lord, as all Christians confess, Paul is unmistakably asserting that anyone who calls on the name of JESUS shall be saved. But when Joel penned his prophecy, the name of GOD was on the scroll.

    There is yet another name which is particularly assigned to God as His special or proper name, that is, the four letters YHWH (Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 42:8). This name has not been pronounced by the Jews because of reverence for the great sacredness of the divine name. Therefore, it was consistently pronounced and translated LORD. — Principles of Translation, New American Standard Bible

Unless you have a version like the Jerusalem Bible that renders "Yahweh" for the Divine Name, your Bible will probably follow the convention of using LORD, in all caps, wherever "YHWH" appears in the text. By the way, Jesus accepted this convention. When He quoted the scriptures He didn't pronounce the Name, or substitute "Yahweh" — He just said, "Lord," like everyone else. (See Matt. 4:10, for example.) There's no point in trying to be more "authentic" than Jesus.

So Joel wrote that "Whoever calls on the name of [Yahweh] shall be saved," and Paul wrote that whoever calls on the name of [Jesus] shall be saved. It's no wonder the Jews were so enraged with Paul and the other apostles: this is blasphemy! — if Jesus is not Jehovah. "I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another," said He (Isaiah 42:8). "I, even I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior." (Is. 43:11) Yet the formerly timid Peter said of Jesus of Nazareth, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

Far from being a heresy arising after Jesus had gone and could no longer control the message, the deity of Christ was part-and-parcel of the good news from the very beginning. It was the reason the religious leaders wanted Him crucified! (See John 5:18, John 19:7)

But back to our text: We want to know how it happens that whoever — Jew or Gentile — may find safety in the kingdom of God. And we discover that, just as there is one name, there is one way.

How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? [NKJV]

As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" [NRSV] ...who believed the hearing? [Int]

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. [ESV] ...and hearing by the word of God. [KJV] ...by the preaching of Christ. [RSV] ...by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ. [Amp]

What is this word of Christ? It's easier to say what it isn't. It isn't the Bible. The word used here for word is rhema, not logos. Logos is the all-encompassing, eternal Word; rhema is more like a single scripture. Young translates it literally, a saying of God.

Most commentators identify this word of Christ with the gospel. Remember that Paul opened his letter by saying that the good news is the power of God unto salvation (1:16). But perhaps this verse is a summary of the regression Paul had just given in verses 13-15: Salvation — Calling — Believing — Hearing — Preaching — Sending. In short, faith results from hearing, which can ultimately be traced to a word of Christ. That word, then, would be the sending word — the word, "Go."

What Romans 10:17 cannot be saying is what we might read into it: that everyone automatically gets faith by exposure to the gospel, or the Bible. This was not true in the case of the Pharisees, who had memorized the five books of Moses, and it is not true of many Bible scholars today. Paul deals with the same subject in Hebrews 3 and 4, so it's helpful to refer to that passage. 4:2 reads, "For indeed we have had good tidings preached unto us, even as also they [the Jews delivered from Egypt]: but the word of hearing did not profit them, because it was not united by faith with them that heard." (ASV)

When God speaks, we have a choice to make. The word brings faith only if we bring faith to the word.

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 end of the world." 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." [ESV]

If the Gentiles are the foolish non-nation, and many of them believed the good news, then Israel had more than enough understanding to have trusted in Jesus.

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." But of Israel he says, All day long I have stretched out My hands to a people unyielding and disobedient and self-willed — to a fault-finding, contrary and contradicting people. [ESV, Amp]

As another aside, the early Christians believed that this scripture, All day I have stretched out my hands, was a prophecy of the cross.

Again and again Paul points the finger of blame for the Jews' rejection of Messiah not at God the Predestinator — but at them. As the apostle had proven in the early chapters of this letter that the whole world is utterly condemned before God, Paul now paints the bleakest, blackest picture of Jewish prospects. There really isn't any way the situation could be more hopeless for the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.


© Dan Popp


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