1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:1–3, NKJV).
Israel was lost. Only the gospel of Christ, not the Law of Moses, would save them (Rom. 1:16; Acts 4:12). Therefore Paul, himself a Jew who previously persecuted Christians, earnestly desired and prayed for their salvation. He was convinced their zeal for God did not save them. Misguided by their allegiance to the Law, they refused to submit to God’s plan of salvation. Even now, many religious people who are zealous for God contradict the gospel in their zeal (Matt. 7:21-23). We should not confuse passion for God with God’s approval. Scripture says God wants sinners to be saved and “to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). God will not save us from our sins when we are ignorant of the truth of Christ (John 8:24). The example of Israel warns us not to establish our own way of salvation like they did (“their own righteousness,” Rom. 10:3). They believed their salvation was through the Law of Moses and rejected “the righteousness of faith” revealed in the gospel (Rom. 10:4-8). We must be careful not to make a similar error. We must submit to God’s righteousness by faith in Christ and obedience to His gospel (Rom. 10:3, 9-13; 6:17-18). Then we can be confident of our salvation, regardless of whether we are a Jew or a Gentile (Rom. 8:1-2; Gal. 3:26-29).
42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42–43, NKJV).
Were the many rulers who believed in Jesus saved? If so, they were saved without confessing Jesus. Yet, Jesus said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). Although the rulers believed in Him, they were lost (Rom. 10:9-10). Again we ask, were the many rulers who believed in Jesus saved? If so, they were saved by loving the praise of men more than the praise of God. Yet, Jesus said we must love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Those who love others more than Jesus are not worthy of Him (Matt. 10:37-39; Luke 14:26-27). Like the parents of the blind man Jesus healed, they feared being put “out of the synagogue” (banished from the congregation of Israel, John 9:22). Although the rulers believed in Him, they were lost. Faith only does not save sinners. Faith only did not save the Jewish rulers who failed to confess Jesus. It did not save demons (Luke 8:27-33; James 2:19). It will not save you and me. Believers in Jesus Christ have “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). What we do with our faith is the difference between being lost and being saved. Faith prompts submissive and enduring obedience to do the will of God (Heb. 5:9; Phil. 2:12-13). That is the faith that saves the soul (Heb. 10:36-39).
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:36–39, NKJV).
The Hebrew Christians faced persecution for their faith (Heb. 10:32-34). These pressures and fears tempted some to drift back into the shadows of the first covenant, presumably, to avoid persecution (cf. Gal. 6:12). But such neglect and even willful rejection of Christ exposed them to God’s vengeance (Heb. 2:1-3; 10:26-31). God delivers His people from sin’s punishment of sin by faith (Heb. 10:37-38; Hab. 2:3-4). So, these Christians were encouraged to endure the present trials of faith and not shrink back to destruction (Heb. 10:39). Endurance is accomplished by doing the will of God and therefore receiving God’s promise of eternal life (Heb. 10:36). So, they needed to continue to be faithful through their present trials of faith. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Again, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). May we also hear and heed the inspired exhortation given to the Hebrew saints: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (Heb. 10:35).”
29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law (Romans 3:29–31, NKJV).
Law cannot save the one who violates it (Gal. 2:21; 3:21). Law identifies the transgression (sin) and applies just punishment (Rom. 3:19-20; 3:23; 6:23; Gal. 3:10-11). By definition, a system of law is not a system of grace. While the Law of Moses was “holy and just and good,” it did not contain a means of “eternal redemption” (Rom. 7:12; Heb. 9:12; 10:1-4). Therefore, it is essential to acknowledge (the) law’s nature, purposes, and limitations. In the context of today’s passage, Paul laid out what law does (identifies sin and holds the sinner guilty) and what it cannot do (justify the guilty, Rom. 3:19-20). Sinners are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24). Christ’s death appeases divine wrath “through faith,” saving Jews and Gentiles who have faith in Jesus by grace (Rom. 3:25-26; Eph. 2:8-9). The gospel is God’s power to save Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 1:16-17). Therefore, (1) God justifies Jews by faith (v. 30). Faith is the means of justification for Jews, not the Law of Moses (Acts 15:11; Rom. 10:3-4), and (2) God justifies Gentiles through faith (v. 30). The salvation of Gentiles is completed or finished through faith without adding anything to it (Acts 15:9-10). The “law of faith” does not discount obedient faith but rewards it with salvation (Rom. 3:27; 6:17-18). So, we uphold (establish) God’s law as we understand its nature, purposes, and limitations (Rom. 3:31).
30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here (John 14:30–31, NKJV).
Jesus was about to be arrested, tried, and condemned to death by crucifixion. We marvel at God’s love for us by which He “gave His only begotten Son” for the redemption of sinners (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16; 4:8-10). Today’s passage adds another element to God’s love for us; the Son’s love for the Father. Jesus’s death on the cross was not only the great expression of divine love for humanity but also the great expression of His obedient love for His Father (Rom. 5:8; John 6:38; 10:18). Christ’s love for the Father compelled Him to do the Father’s will, becoming “obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). His sacrificial, selfless obedience makes Him the Exemplar of love. You see, previously in today’s passage, Jesus had told His apostles, “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus holds His disciples to the same standard He followed; to express our love for Him through faithful obedience. We ought not to view obedience as a legalistic approach to discipleship but as love’s full measure of devotion. As John wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). It is no wonder that Jesus saves those who obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9). Today and hereafter, “arise, let us go from here” and in love obey the Father and the Son.
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:5–8, NKJV).
Justification is acquittal from sin’s guilt; to render innocent and free from sin’s penalty of eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Today’s passage explains justification is synonymous with forgiven by God. When forgiven, our sins are “covered,” removed from God’s sight (remembered no more, v. 7; Heb. 8:12; 10:17; washed away to exist no more, Acts 22:16). This forgiveness occurs by faith, not by the works of law (v. 6; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:16). Note that the sinner’s faith is “accounted for righteousness” so that his sins are not imputed to him (v. 5, 8). Just as Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness, our faith is imputed to us for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). The “works” of Romans 4:7 are works of law, i.e., law-keeping. Righteousness by works (law-keeping) can only occur through sinlessness (which would remove the need for grace, Rom. 4:2, 4). But Abraham sinned and needed grace like us all (Rom. 3:23-24). Faith, not works, was reckoned to him for righteousness. (1) This passage does not say God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. The sinner’s faith is imputed for righteousness (Rom. 4:5). (2) This passage does not say obedient faith attempts to merit salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). Obedient faith (like Abraham had) is the faith that justifies the ungodly (James 2:17-24; Rom. 4:5). Trust and obey Jesus, and your faith will be accounted for righteousness. You will be forgiven (Mark 16:15-16).
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household (Acts 16:30–34, NKJV).
What does it mean to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” for salvation? Before one can do so, he or she must hear the word of the Lord since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). So, Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord” to the jailer and his house (v. 32). Believing on Jesus Christ for salvation mean more than agreeing and confessing He is “the Christ, the Son of God,” since demons did as much (Luke 4:41; James 2:19). The jailer’s conversion shows us when sinners believe and are saved in Christ. This sinner was convicted of the truth when he heard God’s word. He repented of his transgressions (indicated by washing their wounds) and was immediately baptized (v. 33). Then there was great rejoicing because he (and his family) had “believed in God.” Some try using this passage to deny water baptism is essential for salvation. If that is true, why were they baptized immediately? Why was the rejoicing after baptism and not before it (v. 34)? Saving faith is not like the faith of demons. It trusts Christ and obeys from the heart His commands to repent and be baptized (Rom. 6:17-18; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). That kind of faith saves the soul (Matt. 7:21).
4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. (Luke 5:4–6, NKJV)
How would you react if you were a fisherman and a carpenter told you where and how to catch fish? Many would disregard such counsel as ignorant, presumptuous arrogance. But Peter did not react that way. The one advising Peter (the fisherman) had already gained the multitude’s interest by His miracles and His teachings (Lk. 4:40-44; 5:1). Indeed, Jesus had previously healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a high fever (Lk. 4:38-39). Peter’s humble faith in the word of Jesus is our lesson today. Our experience, our knowledge, our labor, our frustrations – none of these rise above the power and authority of Christ’s words (v. 5). Spiritual blessings result when we divest ourselves of every obstacle of our stubborn will and obediently yield to the word of Christ (v. 6). What if Peter had said, “I will, but I must rest first,” or “I will do that tomorrow when the conditions are more favorable,” or, “I don’t feel that will do any good?” The excuses used to resist the gospel of Christ are many (Acts 24:25). Instead of making excuses for not following the word of Christ, trust His word is the truth. “Launch out into the deep” (v. 4). He will bless you for obeying Him (Matt. 11:28-30). Jesus says to believe and obey His gospel, and He will save you (Matt. 7:21; Mk. 16:15-16).
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:15–16, NKJV)
Whatever our profession, we are “slaves” of the one we obey (v. 16). Being under grace does not sanction sin (v. 15). Liberty in Christ is not freedom to determine what is or is not sin. God’s word does that (1 Jno. 3:4). Freedom in Christ is not a cloak for wickedness (1 Pet. 2:16). Sons of light do not walk in the darkness of sin (Eph. 5:6-8). Our liberty in Christ is freedom from sin’s bondage and death (Rom. 6:6-7, 11, 18). Having been “set free from sin,” we have “become slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22). We volunteer to be slaves of sin or obedience. We chose to become slaves or righteousness when we obeyed the gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17, 3-4). Now, our course of life is to present ourselves as slaves of obedience leading to righteousness (v. 16). Making conscious decisions to obey Christ protects us from sin’s death as it produces holiness (Rom. 6:19-22).