Paul's letter to the Romans
Searching the scriptures
Friends, their salvation is my deepest desire, and I am praying
to God for it. I am in no doubt as to their devotion to
God, but their zeal is not aided by understanding. They
have failed to discover God's road to righteousness and are trying to go by
their own route. What the law actually leads to is Christ,
and the justification of everyone who has faith.
When Moses speaks of being justified by the law his words are: 'Those who do this will gain life by it. (Lev 18:5)' But righteousness rooted in faith says: Don't imagine you have to bring Messiah down, as in 'Who will go up to heaven?' or that you have to bring him back from the dead, as in 'Who will descend into the abyss?' We read: 'The word is so close to you, on your lips, in your heart. (Deut 30:12-14)' That is, the word of faith which we proclaim. If the confession 'Jesus is Lord' is on your lips, and in your heart is the faith that God raised him from death, then you will know salvation. You believe in your heart and are justified; you confess with your lips and are saved.
The scripture says: 'No one who believes in him will be put to shame. (Is 28:16)' It makes no distinction between Jew and Greek. We all belong to the same Lord who has riches enough for everyone who calls on him: 'All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. (Joel 2:32)' But people won't call on him if they don't believe in him. They won't believe in him if they haven't heard about him. They won't hear about him unless there is a messenger. And they'll never have a messenger if none is sent. As scripture also says: 'How beautiful are the footsteps of those who bring good news! (Is 52:7)'
But not all have responded to the gospel. Isaiah says:
'Lord, who has believed our message? (Is 53:1)'
So faith is kindled through a message, and the message comes through
the word of Christ. But is it really true that Israel has not
heard? Indeed they have: 'Their voice has spread
throughout the earth, their message to its furthest bounds.
(Ps 19:4)' Then did they fail to appreciate the
message? I quote Moses again: 'I will make you jealous
of people who are not a nation; through a foolish nation I will stir
you to anger. (Deut 32:21)' Isaiah is even more
direct: 'I was found by those who were not looking for me; I
revealed myself to those who never asked about me.
(Is 65:1)' And he is speaking of Israel when he says:
'All day long I have held out my hands to a defiant and contrary
people. (Is 65:2)'
Paul's diligent use of the ancient writings helps to fill out our picture of him. He is powerfully committed to his Jewish heritage and expects to deepen his understanding of God's purposes and methods by searching the scriptures. His quotations seem to underline the fact that God has problems with his chosen people. But they do not suggest that God is defeated, or that Paul has given up hope for the salvation of Israel.
paraphrase and notes by Evan Lewis