Romans 10:1-4, 10-15
To begin the new year, I want to pick up where we left off in our study of Romans and bring a three-part series entitled “Everything Culminates in Jesus.”
First, recognizing that Jesus is the culmination of the law. Essentially, this means that everything in history and in life points to Jesus.
Second, Jesus is the root of salvation. Once recognizing that everything culminates in Jesus, we surrender to him and are saved.
Third, Jesus is the head of his body, the church. This last part shows that Jesus is the culmination of everything when we are ready to live out our faith in the context of the local church.
Recognizing Jesus, being saved by Jesus and embodying the fullness of Jesus in the context of His church. Everything culminates in Jesus.
It’s all about Jesus. Jesus is the culmination of the law, he is the root of salvation, he is the head of the church. Broadly speaking, Jesus is the culmination of everything we do.
In this three-part series, we will be covering Romans 10-12. Up until to this point, Romans may have read more like a theological textbook. A lot of cold, hard doctrinal principles that we are called to live by. And as we dig deeper into Romans, its easy to forget that these books of the Bible were actually personal letters addressed to particular churches. A congregation, a local community of believers. He had particular people in mind, the leaders, he was aware of the problems they faced and so each of these letters were written as Paul’s way of offering pastoral advice and counseling.
The book of Romans is no different. When Paul wrote Romans, this letter to the church at Rome, he had 2 audiences in mind. The church at Rome was a divided church. You had a Jewish Christian minority on one side, they were born again, they were believers of Jesus Christ, yet they wanted to follow many of the Jewish laws and rituals. And on the other side, you had a Gentile Christian majority that said forget the Jewish traditions, we are free in Christ, aren’t we? We hear this and we think, what’s the big deal? How come they can’t get along?
We have to understand that people who grew up Jewish thought they were special so they didn’t associate with other nations much. So Jews, by their exclusivity, put themselves on a pedestal and so putting any Jew together with a non-Jew or Gentile was like mixing oil and vinegar.
In Romans 10, Paul is speaking to the Jewish Christians and in Romans 11, Paul has a word for the Gentile Christians. And Romans 12 is the climax of this entire book. He has been building up to his final argument, his thesis. That the gospel can unite these 2 disparate groups that normally would have nothing to do with one another. And through the power of the gospel, these two groups can form one body, a church.
When the gospel is embodied and lives are transformed, it is possible for groups of people who don’t know each other, who don’t naturally get along, who even hate each other or who despise one another, who can’t even stand being in the same room together to become brothers and sisters in Christ. This is what Paul has been building toward — the gospel breaks down all barriers. It breaks down racial barriers, socio-economic barriers, generational barriers. And that person you hate or have nothing in common with, because of the mercy of God, you can now say, that’s my brother, that’s my sister. This is the power of the gospel when it is embodied in a local community of faith, a church.
That’s a little preview of where we will be going in the next few sermons. This focus on church is the direction that I believe God wants to take us for 2011. To be the church that brings glory to the name of God and testifies to the transforming power of the gospel.
Let’s read Romans 10:14 again.
Rom 10:14 – 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
When we read this verse, I think we tend to focus on the missional or evangelistic application of these verses. In other words, we read this as a calling to preach to the Gentiles, or in our language, people who’ve never heard the gospel. As a college student, these were the key verses for our mission trip to Tokyo. And we were reciting these verses as missionaries, how can the Japanese believe in the one they have not heard? That’s the whole reason we were there. To let the people there know that there is a God and that they can actually know and believe in him. These verses are often applied in this way.
And you can apply this passage for evangelism, but we must read the context to get at its primary meaning. Rom 10-11 will tell you that the verses that we just read are talking about Israel.
Rom 10:1 – 1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.
The primary focus of these verses is the nation of Israel, those who had already heard about God. Therefore, we must apply this passage first and foremost to those who have already heard the message, people just like us.
So then, before we think about those who have not heard the gospel message, we have to ask, as people who are part of a church, have WE believed and responded to the one whom was sent? That’s what the text is addressing.
We will study how Israel rejected God and chose religion over a relationship with Him. And as a result, they were not used by God as intended as a light to the Gentiles, and secondly, they were blind to who Jesus was and rejected him, also.
The question I want to wrestle with today is, if Israel was God’s chosen people yet, they rejected him, then how do we as believers know whether or not we are doing the exact same thing?
Hopefully we’ll see that it’s when Jesus is NOT the culmination of all that we do. For this was the mistake that the Jewish nation made. Jesus has to be the culmination of all that we do. Otherwise, we are just practicing religion.