True Knowledge of the Word
In Romans 10, Paul speaks of his desire that Israel (all the tribes) would be saved—and, indeed, he then tells us how God fully intends to accomplish this through the New Covenant.
1 Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I bear witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.
Zealous but Ignorant
Their ignorant zeal was very ironic, because the priests and rabbis in Jerusalem studied and discussed the Word all the time. Their knowledge of the Word was tremendous, but their traditions and assumptions caused them to misunderstand it. Their favorite topic of discussion was the coming of the Messiah, but because they assumed he would come to overthrow the Romans, they missed Him when He came. Why? Because they had "zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge."
3 For not knowing about God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
In other words, they did not understand that the Old Covenant was temporary and was designed to fail. All have sinned, and no man could be justified under the terms of the Old Covenant. This was true particularly for those religious leaders in Jerusalem and for those who followed their instructions. But it was also true going all the way back to Moses, and so it included most of the Israelites in past generations.
The Goal of the Law is Christ
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Many have misinterpreted this to mean that the Law itself has come to an end. However, the Greek word telos refers to a goal or completion of a time or distance. It is from the root word tello, "to set out for a definite point or goal." Strong's Concordance says: "the point aimed at as a limit, i.e., (by implication) the conclusion of an act or state."
He also uses the word "termination" and "result" as its meaning. In other words, the goal or terminal point of the Law—the place where the Law was to lead us—is Christ Himself. One might view the Law as the path to Christ. One follows the path in order to arrive at its conclusion or result. This is what Paul had in mind also in Gal. 3:24,
24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
The Law was not evil, nor was it abolished. It was the pathway to Christ. If anyone wants to come to Christ, he should follow the path that leads to Him. As a tutor, the Law has value. As a justifier, the Law is a failure, not because it is unrighteous, but because its standard of righteousness is higher than sinful man can obtain by his own works.
How to Attain Immortal Life through the Law
Romans 10:5 continues,
5 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. (NASB)
A better translation is found in The Emphatic Diaglott,
5 For Moses writes of that righteousness which is from the Law, "That the man performing these things shall live by them."
Paul was referring to Leviticus 18:5, which says,
5 So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.
In other words, if a man performs all the things written in the Law, then he will "live by them." His gift of Life (immortality) depends upon his ability to conform fully to the mind of Christ—as expressed in the Law—from the moment of birth. The problem is that no man has succeeded in accomplishing this, apart from Jesus Christ Himself.
For this reason, all those who are zealously trying to find perfection by self-effort, discipline, and hard work are unable to succeed. They lack knowledge of the New Covenant.
Moses Shows the Alternative Route: Faith
6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks thus: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or 'Who will descend into the abyss?' (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"—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
It is interesting that Paul quotes Moses in Deut. 30:12, 13 in regard to "the righteousness based on faith." Moses, then, was not ignorant of faith, but instructed the Israelites in faith. He told them that they did not need to go to heaven to hear the Word, nor did they have to go to the abyss to receive knowledge of the Word.
Instead, God had given the word of revelation to us here on earth, and ultimately, Christ is the embodiment of the Word (John 1:1). Even as God came down upon Sinai to reveal the Word to Israel, so also did Jesus Christ come to earth to reveal the Living Word to us. Jesus Christ is the Salvation Word itself.
Salvation, then, comes by confessing Jesus Christ as the Word. It requires believing that He died for sin and rose again for our justification. This is the "knowledge" that the priests and rabbis did not possess. Their "zeal" was thus insufficient.
Jesus Christ is the Word
It is apparent from Paul's quotation of Deut. 30:12, 13 that he equated Jesus Christ with the Word spoken at Sinai. We did not need to go to heaven to behold Him, nor did we need to go to the abyss to receive this knowledge. The word came to us as flesh and blood to reveal this plan of restoration and salvation.
Moses himself explained to Israel that the commandments were designed to bring us blessing and prosperity as a nation (Deut. 30:9). Jesus Christ was the embodiment of that Word and of those Commandments.
In Moses' day the Word had come down from heaven and had manifested to the people as fire. The voice which they heard identified that fire as Yahweh. Jer. 23:29 says, "Is not My word like fire?" Thus, when John 1:1 equated the Word to Jesus Christ, we see that Jesus Christ was not only the Creator but also the Word given at Mount Sinai.
The Fire that came down upon Mount Sinai out of which came the voice of God is the same as the manna that also came down from heaven. Both depicted Jesus Christ, the Word of God. Furthermore, even as the Israelites refused to hear the Word in Exodus 20, so also did they reject the manna in Num. 11:4-6,
4 … and the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, "Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we used to eat in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.
On another occasion, Numbers 21:5 tells us,
5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food."
The manna was Jesus Christ, who said in John 6:49-51,
49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.
We see, then, that the Israelites had prophetically rejected Jesus Christ from the days of Moses. The Word was right there with them, and yet they could not receive it. No one had to go to heaven or cross the sea to bring it to them. Instead, Jesus Christ came to them from heaven by the spoken law and in the manna. So obtaining the word was "not too difficult" for them.
Paul quotes Moses in Romans 10:6-8, but then in verse 9 he explains to us exactly what that Word is:
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.
The Word of salvation that was spoken from Mount Sinai was the word of faith in Jesus, whose Hebrew name, Yeshua, means "salvation." Yahweh expected Israel to believe Him and to have faith in Him, though He had revealed Himself only as a fire.
Years later, Yahweh came to earth in bodily form and appeared to us under the name of Yeshua (Jesus). Again, He expected us to have faith in Him and to act upon that faith by obedience.
It is significant, then, that Israel's refusal to hear the Word for themselves (Ex. 20:18-21) prophesied their rejection of the Word made flesh in the New Testament. When they told Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die," they were establishing a long-term heart problem in which they claimed to accept Moses but not Jesus Christ.
Yet one cannot truly believe in Yahweh and yet reject Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 5:45-47,
45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe in My words?
Furthermore, to believe in Jesus Christ as a mere teacher, prophet, or good man is insufficient. One must believe in the actual work that He came to do on earth, that He died for our sins, and that He was raised from the dead.
Conveying the Word to All Nations
This word was given directly to Israel at Mount Sinai, and so Israel did not have to cross the sea to hear it. Other nations, however, were not so fortunate, because the world was a much bigger place in those days than it is today. Some nations did not hear the word for thousands of years, and some have not yet heard. Though its availability was localized in Moses' day, it was a word for all men, for Paul tells us in Rom. 10:11-13,
11 For the Scripture says [in Isaiah 28:16], "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; 13 for "whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" [Joel 2:23].
Paul interprets the "whoever" and "whosoever" in a universal sense, showing that this word given to Israel at Sinai is not just for them alone. It was certainly more difficult for others to hear the word—because of long distances—but nonetheless, the word applied equally to everyone.
There are many who have taught that the Law is exclusively for Jews, and that the ethnos are given a different revelation. Such teaching is entirely foreign to Paul's thought process, for he quotes Moses regularly and applies the word to all men equally.
Yet the main problem has been the restriction in distributing the word to all men. Paul addresses this in the next verses:
14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written [in Isaiah 52:7], "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!"
God gave the word directly to Israel, but then He required preachers to distribute that word to the rest of the world. This was Israel's advantage, for they were the first to receive the word. Most of the others had to wait for God to send apostles to them, bearing "glad tidings of good things."
Some waited for many generations. This would be terribly unfair, if those sitting in darkness were to be lost forever or—worse yet—were to burn in hell forever. But we see from Romans 5 that God's intent is to save all men either in this life or in the next. The ones sent out with that Salvation-word (i.e., the Jesus-word) did not succeed in their mission, because not all men had ears to hear. Men everywhere were just like the Israelites. Some had ears to hear, but the majority did not.
16 However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says [in 53:1], "Lord, who has believed our report?"
Certainly, Isaiah was faithful in presenting the Jesus-word in his time, but not all took heed to his prophecy. Isaiah 53, of course, is the great prophecy of the suffering Messiah, which comes shortly after his prophecy of "the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things" (52:7). If we were to finish that verse, we would see that it says, "who announces salvation [Yeshua], and says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
The "glad tidings," then, are specifically prophesied to be an announcement of Yeshua and a proclamation that "Your God reigns." Hebrews 1:8, 9 says,
8 But of the Son, He says, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His Kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteous-ness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions."
Isaiah tells us that not everyone believes this report. They do not believe that Yeshua is the Yahweh of the Hebrew Scriptures, nor do they believe that He would come to die as the Lamb of God in Isaiah 53. They do not believe that He is the rightful Heir of all things or that all things have been put under His feet. Paul well understood this lack of faith, for he confronted it daily.
17 So faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.
Faith does not come merely by hearing the word of God, but specifically by the word of Christ. The King James Version reads, "the word of God," but the Greek texts read "the word of Christ." It is not enough to claim to believe "the word of God" apart from faith in the One who inspired that word—Jesus Christ.
18 But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; "Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world." [Ps. 19:4]
The Stars Declare God's Handiwork
Paul says that the gospel of Christ was written in the stars in the beginning. The constellations stand as a witness, pouring forth eloquent but silent speech to all. Psalm 19 tells us,
1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God . . . 2 night to night pours forth speech. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. [Even so] 4 Their line [solar pathway, "the ecliptic"] has gone out through all the earth, and their utterance to the end of the world.
Gen. 1:14 tells us that God created the stars and said, "let them be for signs." Psalm 147:4 tells us that God is the One who named the stars,
4 He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.
God named the stars and constellations to reveal His plan of salvation. It establishes His Virgin birth (Virgo), His dual nature as Son of God and Son of Man (Centaur), His death on the cross (crux) as the Ram (Aries) and the Goat (Capricorn), His victory over the serpent (Scorpio), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the result of His work (Aquarius), the Church and the Overcomers depicted by the sign of the two fish (Pisces), His second coming (Taurus) at the feast of Tabernacles (Pleiades), and finally His rule as the Lion (Leo) of the tribe of Judah.
This Gospel of Jesus Christ has been twisted and misused over the centuries, but nonetheless, it yet has presented the truth of the Word for centuries to those who lived before the apostles could come to tell them the Good News.