on Romans 10 :21
But to Israel he saith - In the very next verse, (Isaiah 65:2), All day long have I stretched forth my hands, manifesting the utmost readiness and willingness to gather them all together under my protecting care; but I stretched forth my hands in vain, for they are a disobedient and gainsaying people. They not only disobey my command, but they gainsay and contradict my prophets. Thus the apostle proves, in answer to the objection made Romans 10:16, that the infidelity of the Jews was the effect of their own obstinacy; that the opposition which they are now making to the Gospel was foretold and deplored 700 years before; and that their opposition, far from being a proof of the insufficiency of the Gospel, proved that this was the grand means which God had provided for their salvation; and having rejected this, they could expect no other. And this gives the apostle opportunity to speak largely concerning their rejection in the following chapter.
I. In the preceding chapter are several quotations from the law, the prophets, and the Psalms; and as the apostle seems to take them with considerable latitude of meaning, it has been thought that he only uses their words as being well calculated to express his sense, without paying any attention to their original import. This principle is too lax to be introduced in such solemn circumstances. Dr. Taylor has made some judicious and useful distinctions here. After observing that, if we allow this principle, no argument can be built on any of the apostle's quotations; and that it must have been an indifferent thing with him whether he did or did not understand the Scripture - as, on this supposition, they would serve him as well without as with the true meaning - he adds: the apostle was a strict and close quoter of the Scripture; but he did not always quote them in the same manner, or for the same purpose.
1. Sometimes his intention goes no farther than using the same strong expressions, as being equally applicable to the point in hand. So, Romans 10:6-8, he uses the words of Moses, not to prove any thing, nor as if he thought Moses spoke of the same subject, but only as intimating that the strong and lively expressions which Moses used concerning the doctrine he taught, were equally applicable to the faith of the Gospel. So, in the same manner, Romans 10:18, he quotes Psalm 19:4, though it is likely (see the note on Romans 10:18) that those expressions were used by the ancient Jews in application to the Messiah as the apostle applies them.
2. Sometimes the design of the quotation is only to show that the cases are parallel: or, that what happened in his times corresponded with what happened in former days. So Romans 2:24; Romans 8:36; Romans 9:27-29; Romans 11:2-5, Romans 11:8-10; Romans 15:21.
3. Sometimes the quotation is only intended to explain a doctrinal point, as Romans 1:17; Romans 4:6-8, Romans 4:18-21; Romans 9:20, Romans 9:21; Romans 10:15; Romans 15:3.
4. Sometimes the quotation is designed to prove a doctrinal point. Romans 3:4, Romans 3:10-19; Romans 4:3-17; Romans 5:12-14; Romans 9:7, Romans 9:9, Romans 9:12, Romans 9:13, Romans 9:15, Romans 9:17; Romans 10:5, Romans 10:11, Romans 10:13; Romans 12:19, Romans 12:20; Romans 13:9; Romans 14:11.
5. Sometimes it is the intention of the quotation to prove that something was predicted, or properly foretold in the prophetic writings, as Romans 9:25, Romans 9:26, Romans 9:33; Romans 10:16, Romans 10:19-21; Romans 11:26, Romans 11:27; Romans 15:9-13.
These things duly considered, it will appear that the apostle has every where shown a just regard to the true sense of the Scripture he quotes, in the view in which he quotes it.
These rules may help to vindicate the quotations in all the apostolic writings. And it is evident that we cannot form a true judgment upon any quotation, unless we take in the intention of the writer, or the view in which he quotes.
II. The apostle here makes a just and proper distinction between the righteousness or justification that is of the law, and that which is by faith in Christ. And, in his view of the former, shows it to be absolutely impossible; for if no man is to live thereby - to have spiritual and eternal life, but he who does these things; then salvation on that ground must be impossible; for,
1. The law makes no provision for the pardon of sin.
2. It affords no helps for the performance of duty.
3. It makes no allowances for imperfections in duty, or for imperfections is our nature.
4. Its commandments, necessarily, suppose a righteous soul, and a vigorous body; and it does not lower its claims to the fallen state of man.
on Romans 10 :21
But to Israel he saith - The preceding quotation established the doctrine that the Gentiles were to be called. But there was still an important part of his argument remaining - that the Jews were to be rejected. This he proceeds to establish; and he here, in the language of Isaiah Isa 65:2, says that while the Gentiles would be obedient, the character of the Jews was, that they were a disobedient and rebellious people.
All day long - Continually, without intermission; implying that their acts of rebellion were not momentary; but that this was the established character of the people.
I have stretched forth my hands - This denotes an attitude of entreaty; a willingness and earnest desire to receive them to favor; to invite and entreat; Proverbs 1:24.
A disobedient - In the Hebrew, rebellious, contumacious. The Greek answers substantially to that; disbelieving, not confiding or obeying.
Gain-saying - Speaking against; resisting, opposing. This is not in the Hebrew, but the substance of it was implied. The prophet Isaiah proceeds to specify in what this rebellion consisted, and to show that this was their character; Isaiah 65:2-7. The argument of the apostle is this; namely, the ancient character of the people was that of wickedness; God is represented as stretching out his hands in vain; they rejected him, and he was sought and found by others. It was implied, therefore, that the rebellious Jews would be rejected; and, of course, the apostle was advancing and defending no doctrine which was not found in the writings of the Jews themselves. And thus, by a different course of reasoning, he came to the same conclusion which he had arrived at in the first four chapters of the Epistle, that the Gentiles and Jews were on the same level in regard to justification before God.
In the closing part of this chapter, the great doctrine is brought forth and defended that the way of salvation is open for all the world. This, in the time of Paul, was regarded as a novel doctrine. Hence, he is at so much pains to illustrate and defend it. And hence, with so much zeal and self-denial, the apostles of the Lord Jesus went and proclaimed it to the nations. This doctrine is not the less important now. And from this discussion we may learn the following truths:
(1) The pagan world is in danger without the gospel. They are sinful, polluted, wretched. The testimony of all who visit pagan nations accords most strikingly with that of the apostles in their times. Nor is there any evidence that the great mass of pagan population has changed for the better.
(2) the provisions of the gospel are ample for them - for all. Its power has been tried on many nations; and its mild and happy influence is seen in meliorated laws, customs, habits; in purer institutions; in intelligence and order; and in the various blessings conferred by a pure religion. The same gospel is suited to produce on the wildest and most wretched population, the same comforts which are now experienced in the happiest part of our own land,
(3) the command of Jesus Christ remains still the same, to preach the gospel to every creature. That command has never been repealed or changed. The apostles met the injunction, and performed what they could. It remains for the church to act as they did, to feel as they did, and put forth their efforts as they did, in obeying one of the most plain and positive laws of Jesus Christ.
(4) if the gospel is to be proclaimed everywhere, people must be sent forth into the vast field. Every nation must have an opportunity to say, "How beautiful are the feet of him that preaches the gospel of peace." Young men, strong and vigorous in the Christian course, must give themselves to this work, and devote their lives in an enterprise which the apostles regarded as honorable to them; and which infinite Wisdom did not regard as unworthy the toils, and tears, and self-denials of the Son of God.
(5) the church, in training young men for the ministry, in fitting her sons for these toils, is performing a noble and glorious work; a work which contemplates the triumph of the gospel among all nations. Happy will it be when the church shall feel the full pressure of this great truth, that the gospel may be preached to every son and daughter of Adam; and when every man who enters the ministry shall count it, not self-denial, but a glorious privilege to be permitted to tell dying pagan people that a Saviour bled for all sinners. And happy that day when it can be said with literal truth that their sound has gone out into all the earth; and that as far as the sun in his daily course sheds his beams, so far the Sun of righteousness sheds also his pure and lovely rays into the abodes of human beings. And we may learn, also, from this,
(6) That God will withdraw his favors from those nations that are disobedient and rebellions. Thus, he rejected the ancient Jews; and thus also he will forsake all who abuse his mercies; who become proud, luxurious, effeminate and wicked. In this respect it becomes the people of this favored land to remember the God of their fathers; and not to forget, too, that national sin provokes God to withdraw, and that a nation that forgets God must be punished.
on Romans 10 :21
10:21 An unbelieving and gainsaying people - Just opposite to those who believed with their hearts, and made confession with their mouths.