Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Romans 11 is one of the hardest chapters of the Bible to understand. Looking at the first 24 verses we learn from Paul God’s plan of salvation for both Jew and Gentile. Using the illustration of a grafted olive tree, the root and trunk are God’s plan of salvation. Israel was the natural branches for the Lord’s blessing of salvation, but due to their disobedience we now live in a time when their position has taken a back seat so that the Gentiles, now grafted in as a wild olive branch, can know the blessing of salvation for them also.

The overarching message of this passage is that God knows what he is doing and that salvation is only through Christ alone. Paul has made this clear throughout this letter. He continues to show his mercy and grace on both Jew and Gentile, for none is excluded from the truth of the gospel.

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

David McCullagh:

Well, as we come to this section of Romans, we're coming into two of the hardest chapters that Romans has for us. And you perhaps thought that some parts have been difficult so far, and that might be because of how Paul writes. He's not given to how we ordinarily speak in English with our pauses. He can go for lines and lines without even a comma of a break. And he has a tendency of repeating, uh, and repeating things only in different ways so that Rather than initially understanding that he's saying the same things twice, we could easily jump and think that he's saying something different. But he now tackles a hard concept to understand, particularly a concept for the Jews. Because as we'll get to chapter 11, it speaks of the remnant that God has kept from Israel, and how the Gentiles, or the Greeks, are grafted into the faith. through faith. Now that's going to be hard work in the next couple of weeks to try and fathom. But here in chapter 10 what Paul is doing is beginning to set the scene for what is to come and again he's coming with good news for us. He wants us to understand what the playing field is before he begins to tackle what is the hardness of understanding this engrafting into the community of God and even trying to determine who this remnant is and how they become that remnant from Israel. Now he's here speaking of salvation for all and that's the playing field he wants us to And he's spoken of this before, but this is his great conclusion of this topic because it needs to be known so that as we approach chapter 11, there's no question of doubting what Paul is saying in that chapter. Well, let me begin by telling you a story. A story that's told of a family who were out in the woods for a winter hike. The river that flowed through the forest that they were in was particularly high that day due to the winter rains and the melting snow. They knew the forest well and followed their normal path. And there was a point when they needed to cross the river. In spring and in summer, this is easy, but with the higher water level, it meant that there was no option but to traverse the river. Someone the year before had put a plank of wood across. But the water level was high enough to spray water onto it, making it unsafe. But to complete their hike, they needed to get across. The husband offered to carry his wife across, and she gave him a look that meant OK, but, of course that but was a yet, she would have to trust him. She knew he had carried an injured hiker for miles a few years earlier, but she would now need to trust this older version of her husband in this moment. over these waters. To get to the end of the hike, it wouldn't be sufficient for her to think he can do it. She had to think it, and then climb on his back. Saving faith is the theme of Romans 10. And if we treat this hiking story as a metaphor, saving faith knows that Jesus can carry us across the gap from death to life, and it climbs. You see, salvation is Paul's burden, and we've known that from Romans chapter 9 verse 30, and we'll see it now to verse 13 in chapter 10. We will see his repeated use of terms such as saved, righteousness, and believe, or faith. Previously, Romans taught that gentiles attained a righteousness, that is, by faith, while Jews, lacking faith, stumbled over Christ. And in fact, they took offense at Christ. And this is what Paul told us in those verses of Romans 9, 30 34. And Paul longs for the salvation of his countrymen, but most did not receive salvation because they pursued it by works of the law. We're told that they had a zeal for God in verse 2, but their zeal was misdirected. So they missed the righteousness that God provides by faith in Christ. Well, Paul now moves on in chapter 10 to verse 5 to talk about righteousness by law or by faith. And he returns to Moses so that we can learn about righteousness based on the law, because in verse 5 Paul says, For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live And that's a dangerous statement. It's a dangerous place to be in. And I recognise many churches up and down the land put the Ten Commandments in some shape or form in their buildings, either in stained glass windows or in plaques, and it's not a bad thing to do. But I would argue it is dangerous. Because in displaying the Ten Commandments as a list of rules, We are led to believe that all we have to do is keep the Ten Commandments and we will be saved. Well, Moses says, well, if you, if you live by the Ten Commandments, that's how you're going to be judged. And the reality is, none of us can live by the Ten Commandments. Not any single one of us. Please don't sit there thinking I've kept every one of them. You have not and you will not. And we will take time to look at those commandments to understand how indeed we break every single one of them. So if we want to live by the Ten Commandments, then we will be judged by them. But we will never be able to keep them. And in using Moses here, the view Paul describes is that There has to be a heart change because that's what Moses understood. Moses knew that the commandments were good. Don't get me wrong. They are good and beneficial. But they will never save us and Moses knew that. And he was the one to whom they were delivered. Because what does Moses go on to say in Deuteronomy 10 verse 16? Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. What is he looking for? He's looking for change within. He's not looking for the outward change that circumcision would bring, that was the sign and the seal of the old covenant. He's looking for transformation of heart. That actually the truth of our heart would be the sign and seal of the covenant. And so Moses is challenging the perspective that following the law is enough because it's not enough. Circumcision was the sign and the seal of the covenant and its practice would not save just as the sign and the seal of the new covenant, baptism, doesn't save either. The law could convict of sin and it could direct those seeking God toward the love of God. It guided Israel in many ways towards a personal, and indeed as a nation, corporate life, reflecting God's holiness and expressing devotion to him. But keeping the law was never designed to be a paint by number exercise in constructing a picture showcasing our own righteousness. That would have been a misunderstanding of what live by them in verse 5 meant. It was a misunderstanding common in Paul's own time and it is still a misunderstanding today. Ask many people why they think they might go to heaven and they will say something like this. I try to keep the Ten Commandments. Or, I think I'm a pretty good person. I think we could all argue that one, particularly about other people. Personal moral status or achievement are viewed as sufficient to, to gain God's approval and ward off judgment. Indeed, if there be any judgment at all, the world would think. But living by this law, our own law, will not save us. And so we turn to verses 6 and 7 to what is a righteousness. by faith. And there Paul says, what 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. This is the other approach to faith. to the law, one that points to the gospel message. Paul describes it first by quoting Moses to point to the righteousness based on faith, rather than establishing personal righteousness through law keeping, which is and always has been an illusion. Paul quotes with slight variation here from Deuteronomy chapter 30 and verses 11 to 14, because in this passage Moses says that this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it. Now people may go to great lengths imagining how to understand and comply with the Law's many demands. This is the point of why Paul is saying, Ascend into heaven or descend into the abyss. This is overthinking what Moses says. Whenever he says this is, it's not a big, as big as a mystery for us, because he says it's not too hard for you, neither is it far off. Faith is not about the works we will do to invoke Christ to us. He is here already. It's not too hard, and neither is it far off, because Christ is here. We don't have to run and get him. He's with us. But the Israelites objection to Moses and thereby God's commands that someone needed to ascend into heaven to obey them was, was tantamount to saying centuries before Christ's incarnation, we need to bring Christ down, that is the Messiah. And the objection that someone was to plumb the depths of death's abyss was the height of saying centuries before Christ's burial and resurrection, we need to bring Christ up from the dead. It was never humanity that was ever going to do this on their own. It was an initiative of God for humanity's sake, so that again Christ could be with us. You see, we cannot act to justify ourselves in this way. Only Christ can justify, and not by law, but by his work and promise received by faith, as Paul now points out in verses 8 and 9. And verse 8 challenges the idea of action on our part in verses 6 and 7, because he focuses on words. and words we know that are in our mouths and in our hearts. He describes this word as the word of faith. In other words, Sorry, too many words here. He's talking about the Gospel. And here is the simplicity or the simple heart of the message. How do you know you are truly saved? In verse 9, Paul says, 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. This is how we know. Paul is making a definite and definitive statement of how we know and how we love the gospel. We live it in word and in heart. We confess what we believe about Jesus Christ. And in both spoken word and in heart. and in the depths of our hearts. That's why the church throughout its generations has recited creeds and has formed creeds, so that we can gather around as one voice of people what we believe about God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, both in our mouths and in our hearts. That's why our testimonies are not simply a collection of stories of how bad we used to be and how good we now are through Jesus Christ. Our testimony should be about Jesus and who he is and what he has done to save us. And so to conclude his point, Paul takes verses 10 to 13, stating how this works out in active application. In verse 10 he says, For with the heart one believes and is justified and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. There are only two people who know our hearts. Ourselves and God. No one else knows the true depths of what's in there. Even our closest friend will not know the true depths. And we can easily, as I said earlier in our service, we can easily fool ourselves, but we can't fool God. Don't even try. Deep down, we know the truth about ourselves. We know our sins. But the heart of the gospel is this very verse that we know Christ deep within. And we speak of his wonderful work of salvation. This is the truth of the gospel that should give rise in our hearts to great hope and to great joy. Because this is where we find true liberation. And all too often we get a wee bit touchy about that word liberation. We think of it, from our perspective, in negative terms. We think of freedom fighters as liberators who go against the status quo. That's not the liberation we're talking about. The liberation, when it comes to scripture, is freedom from sin and the devil. And so the true liberation comes in verse 12, because look at what Paul goes on to say. 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 his name. Aren't these absolutely wonderful words? This means that each of us here tonight, there is nothing that hinders us. from coming to Christ. Our ethnicity, our culture, and our religion will not be held against us to come to Christ. He showers his salvation on us when we come seeking it. He doesn't hold back. This morning we asked the question, whose are we? But tonight we need to ask, who are we? Are you? Like, looking into a mirror, what reflection do you see? Because what is holding you back from coming to Christ? Going back to our hiking metaphor, the wife knew that she could get on her husband's back to go across the river, but that wasn't enough to get across the river. She had to actually do it. And we, we honestly live in a place of great blessing where we know the gospel, in fact we know it inside out. But it's not enough to know it, that that only keeps us on one side of the riverbank. We need to believe it and we need to live it so that we can get across the river. And to leave the metaphor, to go to our eternal home, to cross the Jordan, and to enter into heaven. Knowledge will not get you into heaven. Only taking that step of faith with Jesus Christ. So who are you? There is no sin too great. No rejection too strong. And no shortcoming we, we perceive unforgivable. Jesus Christ is calling tonight to you. To come and to know Him and to know His great salvation. Don't hold back. Don't resist. Come and find forgiveness and find rest in Him. Because there is salvation in no other name given among us but in Jesus Christ. And His love is great for you. And if you don't believe me, That he will receive you, whatever you feel within your heart as to why you can't come to him. Look at what Paul says in verse 13. For everyone. No one is held back, no one is kept away. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, not might be saved or possibly will be saved. Definitely will be saved With our mouths and with our hearts Knowing that we can get across the river And putting our trust in the only one who can carry us across You see, everyone is you It's me He will not hold you back So trust in him With your very soul tonight But Paul doesn't finish there because he goes on to finish the passage with a number of rhetorical questions in verses 14 to 21. And the point that Paul is driving at here is concluded in verse 17 where he says, trying to help us how we understand what, what Christ has done for us. So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ or as some of your translations might have the word of God. This is a logical statement. How can people know of Christ and his wonderful salvation if they don't hear about it? And this is the challenge to those who do know the message both in word by confession and in heart. We're good at telling stories, aren't we? We have no problem repeating stories that we hear about people and circumstances. And at times we do this through hearsay rather than from accurate sources. And I'm going to put my hand up and say I am as guilty as any of us here tonight. But that doesn't make it right just because I confess my guilt. We have a message, and we have a message of the gospel that is proved genuine and it's true. We have its reliable source before us in the very Word of God, but all too often is it is a message that we keep quiet about, and we would rather talk about anything and indeed everything else than this truth. Why? We are challenged that this is an unloving message because of its exclusivity. So we stay quiet. We are told it is irrelevant because of its age. We are confronted by supposed errors. And what is our response? We fear. We feel we can't answer the questions. We feel we're being laughed at and mocked. We are afraid we will be rejected and persecuted. But isn't this what we're told is going to happen to us? Because listen to what Jesus says to comfort us in Matthew 5 verses 10 to 12. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice. And be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Jesus assures us. Look at it there in red. It is his very words. He's told us persecution is going to come because of our confession of the faith and our proclamation of it. But what does he say happens? Well if we are persecuted for that very good job, well then ours is the kingdom of heaven. Mhm. You see, he simply asks us to be faithful to what we believe because it is a matter of life and death. Great is your reward in heaven. Surely that is worth anything the world would throw at us. But you might say, that's his job, referring to me. Well, I cannot be in your home every minute of every day. You cannot rely on me to be where you need the gospel proclaimed, because that would be 50 different places at any one time. No, each believer is required to make defense of the gospel and proclaim it in situations that present themselves. And again, Paul wants to assure us that there is great blessing in taking this stand. Because in verse 15 he quotes from the prophet Isaiah and indeed what we sung earlier in Awake, Awake, O Zion. As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news. And the sad reality is that many will hear, but they will reject the truth of the gospel. But that doesn't stop us. Paul confirms this force in verse 21. But of Israel he says, all day long I have held out my hands. But who is it to a disobedient and contrary people who will not turn and who will not know the Lord and his salvation? And people will reject the gospel that we proclaim for all kinds of reasons, none of which are valid, by the way, in the light of eternity. And this shouldn't discourage us from the task of proclaiming the Word of God so that lives can be transformed and changed. We continue to proclaim because it is the very Word of God. Paul's message of chapter 10 is the truth, that salvation is for all who will hear. and who will respond. Be attentive to this word. You have received the challenge this evening, and whenever we are confronted with Christ, we have to do something with it. What would you do with Christ? Will you just cast him aside and say, he's not for me? Or will you be like the, the wife on that hiking trip where she knows her husband, She can get on her husband's back, but will she actually take that step of faith and trust him to get her across the river? Chapter 10 assures us that none of us here will be rejected if we seek the Lord to take us across the river. So we must be attentive to the gospel in our own lives, but we must also share it, because we cannot keep that talent of gospel knowledge hidden and locked away. It is to be shared in word and deed so that the world will know the truth of the risen Savior, that indeed they will know the very heart of the gospel is Jesus Christ. And if you don't know how to do that, well then join us for midweek, one hour in your week on a Wednesday night. Come! Because we're going to sit around tables and we're going to talk about it. So that no one has to do it on their own. That we do this together and we learn together so that we can proclaim together. This is not about one person going out as a single into the world. We do this as the church. This is the beauty of the church. Will you come along on Wednesday night so that we can learn how to grow in this together? One hour. Is that too much to ask? Will you come to Christ? Will you come to him tonight, yes for salvation, but for strength? Will you know him? Will you seek that very strength to proclaim this wonderful truth that he offers? We each are confronted with Christ. We each must respond. My prayer is that we will respond as he intends. That we will love him and we will proclaim him. Let's pray. Our Father God, we thank you that your word is a good word. We thank you that it has stood the test of time and it will continue to stand because it is truth. As we each have been confronted with Christ this evening, may we each respond, not in a way for someone else, but for ourselves, because we each need to do that so that we can have great assurance and hope in the gospel. Thank you for what Christ has done for us. Thank you that this is the great demonstration of your love. Thank you that you've done it all. So continue to call us and draw us closer to yourself, we pray, in Jesus name.

Leave a Comment