Getting saved, the short course
Misdirected passion of the Jews1Dear family, I pray to God that the Jews will be saved. I want this with all my heart. 2I can tell you they have a passion for God. But it’s misguided. They don’t know any better. 3They don’t understand how people get on good terms with God. They don’t realize that it’s because of what God does. They think it’s because of something they have to do. So they miss out on connecting with God.
4The Messiah finished the work that the Jewish law started: putting people on good terms with God. Now, God accepts everyone who believes in the Messiah.
Say it out loud, “Jesus is Lord”5The law had its way of putting people on good terms with God. Moses explained it this way, “Anyone devoted to these laws must show it in the way they live.” 6Faith has its way of putting people on good terms with God. Here’s what our Bible says about that. “There’s no need to talk about who will go up to heaven and bring the Messiah to us. 7And there’s no need to ask who will go down to where the dead stay and bring the Messiah back to us.”
8The Bible says this, too. “God’s word is right there with you. You feel it in your heart and you speak it from your lips.” This is what we preach about faith. 9Say out loud that Jesus is Lord. Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. If you can do that, you’re going to be saved. 10If we believe this in our hearts, we’re on good terms with God. And if we said out loud, we’re saved.
11The Bible says, “No one is going to regret putting their faith in him.” 12Jew. Not a Jew. Makes no difference. There’s one Lord. He’s the Lord of everyone. He’s generous in his kindness to everyone who asks him for help.
Ask for salvation, and you get it13The Bible says, “Everyone who asks for God’s help will be saved.” 14But how can people ask for God’s help if they don’t believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they’ve never heard of him? And how can they hear about him unless someone spreads the word? 15And how can they spread the word unless someone sends them on this mission? The Bible says, “It’s a beautiful sound, the feet of those who bring us the good news.”
16The bad news is that not everyone believed the good news. Isaiah asked, “Lord, has anyone out there believed what we’ve been telling them?” 17We’ve got to hear the message before we can put our faith in it. The message I’m talking about is the good news. It comes from Christ.
What happened to Israel?18Haven’t my fellow Jews heard the good news? They sure have. As the Bible says, “Their voice rings out to the entire world. Their words reach everywhere on earth.” 19Didn’t the people of Israel understand what they heard? Listen first to what Moses said to them: “I’m going to make you jealous of people who aren’t even a nation. I’m going to make you angry at people who don’t understand a thing about me.”
20Isaiah later boldly added: “People who weren’t even looking for me found me. People who weren’t even asking about me now know me very well.” 21And he said this about Israel: “I’ve stood here all day long extending my hand to these people who absolutely refuse to accept it.”
“On good terms with God” is often translated “righteousness.”
Leviticus 18:5. The Greek words are phrased ambiguously. Some Bibles say Paul meant that if people what to live, they better obey the laws.
Bible experts debate what Paul is trying to say. He may be paraphrasing or at least referencing Deuteronomy 30:11-14. There, Moses says the law isn’t out of reach. “It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?'” (New Living Translation). Some scholars say Paul may also have been referring to a teaching in the Gospel of John. “No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven” (John 3:13 New Living Translation).
“The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it” (Deuteronomy 30:14 New Living Translation).
“Anyone who trusts in it will never be disappointed” (Isaiah 28:16 New Century Version).
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32 New Living Translation).
“How lovely on the mountains / Are the feet of him who brings good news” (Isaiah 52:7 New American Standard Version).
It’s unclear if Paul meant that the message was about Jesus, by Jesus, or both.
Deuteronomy 32:21. Paul seems to be applying the quotation as a prophecy about God inviting non-Jews into his kingdom.
“All day long I stood ready to accept people who turned against me” (Isaiah 65:2 New Century Version).
Christianity started as a branch of the Jewish religion. The first Christians were Jews, like Jesus and his disciples and the apostle Paul. But by some 30 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is about the time Paul wrote his letter to Christians in Rome, most Jews wanted nothing to do with the Jesus Movement. Why do you think Jews—then and now—would struggle over Paul’s main idea: “The Messiah finished the work that the Jewish law started: putting people on good terms with God. Now, God accepts everyone who believes in the Messiah” (10:4)?
If Christianity was such a hard sell to Jews during Paul’s ministry—which it was, since they beat him up, stoned him, and ran him out of town time and again—why do you think Christianity was so popular when it first started as a religious movement inside the Jewish religion?
Paul might seem to be saying there are two ways to get on good terms with God: “The law” (10:5) and “Faith” (10:6). If you had to argue that Paul couldn’t possibly be saying something like that, how would you defend yourself?
Bible experts debate what Paul was trying to say in 10:6-7. “There’s no need to talk about who will go up to heaven and bring the Messiah to us. And there’s no need to ask who will go down to where the dead stay and bring the Messiah back to us.” Which of the following guesses would make most sense to you?
- We don’t have to call the Messiah down from heaven or raise him from the dead because God already did that for us.
- We don’t have to go looking high and low, from heaven to hell, to find salvation. It came to us.
- Salvation isn’t far away. We can find it in God’s word “right there with you. You feel it in your heart and you speak it from your lips.” (10:8).
There’s a debate among Bible experts regarding what Paul says in Romans about predestination. In some places, Paul seems to say that God picked the people who would be saved: “God knew who would become his children. That’s why he chose them to take on the characteristics of his Son and to become the first among many of God’s children” (8:29). But here he says “Everyone who asks for God’s help will be saved” (10:13). Which is it?
LIFE APPLICATION. “Say out loud that Jesus is Lord. Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. If you can do that, you’re going to be saved” 10:9). Do you think it’s that simple? Can we simply say that Jesus is Lord and believe that he rose from the dead and then go on living a selfish and sinful life?
LIFE APPLICATION. What do you think a Christian looks like? In the short course, Paul says a Christian is someone who acknowledges that Jesus is the leader of their life and that God raised him from the dead (10:9). If that’s Christianity 101, what would a graduate course in Christianity say a Christian looks like?
LIFE APPLICATION. Do you think the call to ministry is unique—different than a desire someone has for any other kind of job? Paul starts this letter to the Romans by saying he was “called to be an apostle” (1:1 New International Version). And he may be referring to himself as someone sent to “spread the word…on this mission” (10:15).