Israel Needs the Gospel
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. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” (Leviticus 18:5) 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (Deuteronomy 30:12) (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (Deuteronomy 30:13) (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:14) (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 28:16) 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32)
We see here again the heart of Paul as he shows that it’s the central desire of his heart that the nation of Israel would be saved. He explains that Israel has a zealous religious system, full of hard-core devotees and people who have pledged their lives to the service of the temple, but their religious fervor is for naught as they have abandoned the core doctrines of God. Instead of worshiping the God who established their religious system, they worship the temple and the rituals themselves. Just as it was in the days before the Babylonian captivity, the people have abandoned the God of their forefathers, for religion – living like the rest of those in the world and trusting in their genealogy and rituals to save them from their refusal to adhere to the core commandments of God – to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37), and that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39) – both of which encapsulate the core tenets of God’s moral laws, the Ten Commandments. If they had known those things they would have known that Jesus – the Son of God, is the promised Messiah, and all the signs and wonders that He did on this earth fulfilled the promises of His first coming. As I write this, it’s the day after Palm Sunday when the Lord came into Jerusalem from Bethany on a donkey signifying that he was coming in peace. He wept over Jerusalem saying that because of their unbelief in Him and His redemption that God would strike them down and destroy the city (Luke 19:28-40). In 70 AD, about 15 years after this letter was written, God did exactly that, and the city has been in the hands of non-Jews for 1,893 years, until 1967 when they took part of the city back. Jesus is the end of their old religion as God has presented them with the promised One who takes away the sins of the world. They wanted a mighty king, however, and, unfortunately, that’s what they will get in the end. If they refuse to accept Jesus as their rightful King and repent of their sins, turning the control of their lives over to Him, they will be damned along with the rest of the world until Jesus’ second coming when He comes in on a horse, signifying that He is coming not in peace but against all mankind in war (Revelation 19:11).
Moses makes his case stating that those who say they are of the lineage of Abraham should live according to the law that God has presented them with. The law demands that you follow it and, when you see that you are failing, you repent before God and you turn and wait for the promised messiah who was to come and offer forgiveness instead of covering for their sins. Covering what we’ve been over already in this walk through the letter to the Romans, the law cannot bring salvation, but can only condemn you. The righteous (or salvation) of faith says that God is the one who does the work and that we are mere recipients who agree with God about our condition and turn our lives over to Him to do with as He sees fit. It is that faith in God that, even in the face of persecution, we cannot deny. When we confess that from our hearts and ask God to redeem us and transform us, we surrender our rights to determine what is right in our own eyes and relinquish the control of our lives to God alone.