Too Busy- Chapters 10 and 11 of Romans

Romans 10-11

The reality is that these two chapters deserve much more time and space than they will get in this brief commentary. This is part of what comes when you are gone for a week and don’t really have access to resources! With that in mind I will offer a link to Bible Gateway which includes both chapters if you would like to read them. My busyness led to the delayed post!

Chapters 10 and 11 fall into the three chapter section of chapters 9-11 and this is a section where Paul addresses the question about, “What about the Israelites?” Paul has been addressing this all throughout the entirety of this letter, but he is trying to give a little more clarification.

Paul doesn’t want his Gentile readers to think for a moment that the Israelites are kicked out for good and no longer have a spot among God’s people. What he wants to be seen underlying all of these verses is that the resurrection of Jesus is God fulfilling His covenant through Abraham. To give a commentary on these chapters is not a quick endeavor, but this commentary will be very brief and address minimal sources even though they are implied.

Chapter 10 and 11 both contain several references to the Old Testament and to various prophets. In chapter ten it seems that Paul is trying to get across the idea that God never intended for Abraham’s descendents to hoard the blessing for themselves, but that they were to be a blessing to the world. The implication for this is quite revolutionary. The implication is that God does NOT care about national boundaries, but cares about his people being defined by faith.

For the Jews this created a problem and they began to believe in a god that looked a lot like them. Their focus on the law missed God’s focus on love and they found themselves defined predominantly by what they do not do (this seems to be a common problem in our day as well), instead of the blessing that God’s love provides. We are all guilty of this at times it is why William Barclay writes, “Men have an infinite and fatal capacity for shutting their minds to that which they do not wish to see, and stopping their ears to that which they do not want to hear.”[1]

Paul then in verses 9 and 10 lays out what really is a very formative set of verses that say so much in so few words, “9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

I would say a quick summary to this chapter in this way: Hear, Believe, Confess, Share. Hear the message that Christ preaches, not the message that you want to hear. Make sure we don’t create a God in our own image. Believe that Jesus is Lord. Confess or profess with your mouth and life that Jesus is Lord. Share the good news with all that you encounter. This is a simplistic view of chapter 10, but I hope a helpful one.

Chapter 11 is the culmination of Paul’s three chapter conversation on the place of the Israelites in this new thing God has done through the church. I am hesitant to use the word because as Paul shows throughout this section it is the continuation of God’s promises throughout the Scriptures and the fulfillment of the prophets’ voices. Chapter 11 is a warning to the Gentile believers that if they are not careful they can fall into the same trap as the Israelites.

The trap that Paul is wanting them to avoid is the same one that he has already addressed, it is the temptation to move toward arrogance as God’s people instead of humbly remembering that God’s grace is a gift, not a right. This gift is given through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul then paints a unique picture with a tree as the center of the picture.

An olive tree is a tree that is unique in that it can last for nearly forever, but is also unique as it can be grafted together with other olive trees to create what would then be a stronger tree. Paul uses the analogy that the Israelites have been cut off because of their lack of faith and the Gentiles have been grafted on because of their faith. He does say there are some Jews still connected to the tree at the present time, as he himself would be one.

He is laying out something that would take much more time to really explore, but the gist is this, it is never too late to be grafted in to God’s family, even when you have had a time of unbelief. This is a powerful reminder for all of us that there is never a time that God in his relentless, pursuing, love that he never gives up on any of us and he desire that all should be a part of his family tree.

Finally, it is important to note that Paul is hopeful for the unbelieving Jews (and really the unbelieving Gentiles as well) that through the transformed lives of the Gentiles that the Jews will be moved to jealousy at what God is so obviously doing among the Gentiles believers. Paul’s hope is that through the jealousy at what the Gentiles have received that they will turn back to God and be grafted back into his family.

This hope that Paul has should define all Christians. Our lives should be so transformed by God’s grace that we find others drawn to the love that defines our life. Jealousy in this way is worth hoping for.

An illustration of this would be my children. Just last night I was giving them each a popsicle and they had two choices. My daughter picked one, but upon seeing my son’s choice quickly changed her mind. Maybe, if Christians lived lives fully defined by God’s love manifested through the resurrected Jesus, then the whole world would choose the same. God’s love is relentlessly pursuing all and it is happening through His people who model the transformed life. My prayer is that we would be made worthy through His grace and that our lives would bring others to Jesus. My prayer is that our lives are the message of God in the world.

[1] Barclay, 150

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