Paul’s Heart’s Desire And Prayer Was For Israel’s Salvation; We Weren’t Saved Because We Lacked Knowledge; We Created A Judaism That Did Not Provide Righteousness; We Did Not Submit To God’s Righteousness Which Is Based On Faith In Messiah; Salvation Is Simple; It Is Not Based On Human Effort; It Is Easily Accessible To The One Who Hears the Good News And Responds With Faith And Declares The Truth
So far in his letter to Messiah’s Community in Rome, the Rabbi has informed us that God has saved us with a great salvation, a salvation that we have not earned or deserved. We are saved by God’s grace when we respond to the Good News about Messiah with faith. God has killed our old nature. He has removed us from the control of our old, horrible master, sin. He has freed us from the law of sin and death. He has given us a new nature. He has given us new life. He has given us His Spirit who lives in us, who does so many good things for us. He has promised to resurrect our bodies and give us eternal life and an amazing inheritance.
But, the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome may have started thinking: how reliable are these great promises? Reliable enough to suffer for? Reliable enough to die for? After all, God made a lot of promises to the Chosen People, and things don’t seem to be working out too well for Israel. If God’s promises to Israel won’t be fulfilled, how can we trust God’s promises to us?
And what about Israel? Is God finished with the Jewish people? How should we understand Israel? How should we relate to Israel? These are the questions that Rabbi Paul deals with in chapters 9, 10 and 11.
In chapter 9, the Rabbi listed the tremendous advantages that the Chosen People were blessed with. Yet, in spite of these advantages, the majority of Israel failed by rejecting the Messiah. The majority were in a state of disobedience and would not receive the promises God gave us. That was not God’s fault. God was not unfaithful to His word to Israel because not all Israel are Israel. The true Israel is the faithful remnant of Israel – and God was fulfilling His word to them.
Paul was deeply grieved and was in constant anguish because he understood that the majority of the Chosen People, whom he loved, were far from God; lost; dead in their trespasses and sins; not saved; not righteous; headed to Hell, not Heaven; headed to death, not life. This knowledge caused him to pray for his people from a very deep place within himself. Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelis is that they may be saved.
That they may be saved: How different Paul’s attitude toward his people and their salvation was from the attitude reflected in the teachings of the Kinzers and Dauermanns and Hagees – who teach that Israelis who reject Messiah Yeshua are saved.
Since the arrival of the Son of God, belief in God that does not include Yeshua, even zeal for God that does not include Yeshua – is not enough for salvation. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Paul could testify, solemnly declare as true that the Jewish people had zeal for God; but he could also testify that that wasn’t enough. Belief in God, even zeal for God, must be based on knowledge – specifically, the knowledge that Yeshua is the risen Messiah, and the Son of God and the living Lord and the one and only Savior.
Sadly, Non-Messianic Judaism is not based on that knowledge. Therefore Non-Messianic Jewish people are not saved. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the other religions and philosophies of the world are not based on that knowledge. Therefore none of the adherents of those religions and philosophies are saved.
Human beings are not righteous. They are not right with God. They are not in a right relationship with God. They are in a state of alienation with God. And God has only one way to make unrighteous people to righteous people – by extending His grace to them when they have faith in Yeshua. Refusal to submit to this one way of becoming right with God, and substituting any other way results in spiritual catastrophe. Sadly, that’s what the majority of the Jewish people did 2,000 years ago and what they continue to do today. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
One of the greatest problems in first century Judaism was that it had lost the understanding of how salvation is received. The Jewish people knew that we needed salvation; and that God had provided a way for salvation to be given – but instead of understanding that salvation is not earned by human effort, by works, by law-keeping, by Torah-observance – but salvation is received when a human being has faith in God; when he humbly comes to God and offers God the blood of atonement that God has provided – then that person will be saved. Then that saved person uses the law as his guide for right living. Torah-observance didn’t save anyone. But anyone who was saved observed the Torah.
However, the problem was that most of the Jewish people were not approaching God with this understanding. Most of us were approaching the law in a legalistic way, as a list of dos and don’ts, and assuming that if we observed enough of them, our good deeds would outweigh our bad deeds, and we would be saved. God would consider us to be righteous. Therefore the focus was on observing as many of the commands of the law as possible. It was a law/works/human-effort approach to salvation, not a grace/faith approach to salvation.
Yeshua tried to correct our misunderstanding of the law, but He was rejected by the leaders and Torah-teachers. The majority of the Jewish people followed the leaders and Torah-teachers and continued in their legalistic kind of religion and rejected the real righteousness that God was providing through Yeshua.
Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
Ironically, Non-Messianic Judaism, which is based on the law, doesn’t understand one of the greatest purposes of the law – which is to lead us to the Seed of the Woman, the Redeemer, the Messiah – who alone is able to make the Jewish people, and the other peoples, righteous. Messiah is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Many of the things that God designs accomplish more than one purpose. God designed the law to accomplish many purposes.
The law teaches us that there is a divine Law Giver, and He has the right to command us and we have the duty to obey His commands.
The law was designed by the Law Giver as the constitution of the Chosen Nation. It gave us a God-designed framework which enabled us to have a successful national life.
The law was designed to clarify right and wrong.
The law is good, but it stirs up sin in us, and reveals how sinful we are. Knowing that we are sinners, and that there is something dark at the core of who were are is a very good thing to know.
The law was designed to restrain sin.
The law teaches us that there are consequences for obedience and for disobedience, and it is far more blessed to be obedient. The law was designed to encourage righteous living and discourage sinful living.
The law, when properly understood, and received with faith, especially the laws about loving God with all our heart, and offering the blood of an innocent animal, provided temporary atonement.
The law, when not mixed with faith, couldn’t save anyone. The law, when mixed with faith, could save everyone.
The law was designed to point us to the Messiah and our need for the Messiah – who alone can provide us with final atonement.
The law is great and did great things, but the law also has some weaknesses.
The law was designed for Israel, and given to Israel, not the nations. The law was limited in its reach.
The law was designed to be temporary, not eternal. It couldn’t last forever as an operating system. It was limited in duration.
The law provided a limited and temporary atonement. The blood of bulls and goats and sheep and pigeons is incapable of atoning for human beings who are made in the image of God, who are more valuable than animal are.
The Rabbi makes it clear that approaching the law with a deficient understanding of what it can do and what it can’t do; and approaching the law in a legalistic way; approaching the law apart from faith – results in spiritual catastrophe. Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law (quoting Leviticus 18): “The person who does these things will live by them.”
The person who does these things, which means he focuses on observing the commands of the law with the hope that he will be saved, will live by them – but the problem is that the law demands 100 compliance. And no human being has ever observed the law the way it demands – except for Yeshua. Everyone else has fallen short and will fall short of doing everything the law requires. No one will ever achieve the 100 percent observance that the law requires.
The person who approaches the law in a legalistic way, as a list of does and don’ts, and hopes that his good deeds will outweigh his bad deeds, and hopes he will live by doing these things, will not live by these things. Approaching the law with a focus on law-keeping; on Torah-observance leads to a dead end. He will not live by these things, he will die by these things.
The righteousness that comes from misunderstanding the law and approaching it in a legalistic way is a false righteousness that will not save anyone. However, there is another way, a simple and easy way that results in true righteousness, a righteousness that will save everyone – the Jewish people and the people of the nations, and that is the way of faith.
Rabbi Paul wanted the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome to know that being saved by grace through faith, not works, not human effort, was not something new. The Lord never intended salvation to be complicated or difficult for us to achieve or hard to find. Just as God made salvation simple and faith-based and easily accessible to the Jewish people under the Sinai Covenant, so He has made salvation simple and faith-based and easily accessible to everyone today.
Shortly before he died, Moses said this to the nation: Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Under the Sinai Covenant, God wanted the Jewish people to know Him and have faith in Him and understand His law so we could experience His salvation. So He revealed Himself and His law to us. We didn’t have to go on a difficult, dangerous or impossible journey to find the law. We didn’t need to cross the sea or try to climb our way to Heaven. The law had been revealed to us and was close to us. We had received part of it from God Himself when He spoke the Ten Commandments from Sinai. Moses had written down the rest of it. Moses had been teaching the law to us. We had been thinking about it. We had been talking about it. The law was right there – in our mouth and in our heart. The law, which had been made assessable to us, when properly understood and received with faith, was able to be successfully observed, and resulted in salvation.
The same principle was operating with Messiah’s arrival and the institution of the New Covenant. The way of salvation is simple. It is not difficult. It is not based on human effort – how hard we work. Salvation is easily accessible – to the one who simply hears the Good News and responds with faith. So, Paul takes the passage from Moses and modifies it to apply to the New Covenant. But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Messiah down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). The Lord is not to be blamed for the Jewish people, or anyone else, not being saved because God has made salvation simple and easy and accessible. No one needs to do the impossible task of ascending into Heaven to access a salvation that is only found there, because Messiah has already come down from Heaven through the incarnation. He has made salvation accessible to us. No one needs to go on a dangerous journey into the depths of the Earth because Messiah has already done that by His death and resurrection. All anyone has to do is respond with faith to the simple message about the Messiah that was being proclaimed everywhere, and they will be saved.
The Rabbi continues with the quote from Moses and applies it to his day. But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim. Just as Moses proclaimed the law to Israel, so that it was close to us, accessible to us, in our mouths and hearts because we were thinking about it and talking about it, and since the Lord’s Representatives and other Messianic Jews and Christians had been proclaiming the Gospel throughout Israel, and to Jewish people and peoples throughout the Roman empire, so that everyone was hearing about it and thinking about it and talking about it, so the Good News about the Messiah was in the mouths and hearts of people throughout the Roman empire.
Because the message was in peoples’ mouths and hearts, the mouth and heart must be involved in our salvation. If you declare with your mouth, “Yeshua is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Our words reveal what we believe at the core of who we are. With the heart one must believe that Yeshua is the Son of God who came from Heaven, and who died and who was raised from the dead. He is the risen Messiah, the living Lord and Savior. And with the mouth public profession must be made that Yeshua is that living Lord.
Hearing the Gospel. Believing the Gospel. Confessing that Yeshua is the living Lord. This is the way of salvation.
This is a salvation that is simple. It’s not complicated.
This is a salvation that is not difficult. It is based on faith, not works. All we do is believe the truth and then proclaim the truth.
This is a salvation that is real. It is deep, not shallow. It comes from the heart.
This is a salvation that is inherently evangelistic. If you declare with your mouth. This is not a one time declaration – the day you are saved. It is an on-going declaration. It is a daily declaration.
Every day we need to be using our mouth to declare that Yeshua is Lord. Every day we are to be looking for opportunities to tell others the Good News about Him. If we have no passion for the Gospel, not enough concern for the salvation of others to open our mouths, no desire to help people who are alienated from God be reconciled to Him so they can live forever – something is seriously wrong.
Some suggestions to make evangelistic opportunities happen:
At family gatherings, ask the host permission to pray before the meal.
Take control of conversations and ask the person this one simple question: Who do you think Jesus is? Where they are right, agree with them. Where they are wrong, correct them. Where they are lacking information, teach them.
Use Greetings. When being greeting by someone, and they ask you, “Hi. How are you?” Instead of saying “good,” try saying something like: I am blessed because Jesus the Messiah has help me so much How are you?
I am thankful because God sent the Messiah to help me. How are you?
I am blessed because my life has so much more meaning now that I know what Jesus the Messiah has done for me. How are you?
When a customer service representative or bank teller asks, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”, try responding: Yes. Thank you for asking. I want you to know that the purpose of life is not working for (fill in the name of the company). The purpose of life is to be reconciled to God before you leave this world, and you do so by knowing who Jesus Christ is and becoming loyal to Him. I want you to know that, and that’s what you can do for me today.”
Instead of resenting sales calls, use them as opportunities to proclaim the Good News. When someone calls you, try saying something like: Thank you for calling. I’m not sure I want your product or service, but I would like to tell you that the purpose of life is not to make a lot of money selling (fill in the name of the good or service), but the purpose of life is to be reconciled to God before you leave this world, and you do so by knowing who Jesus Christ is becoming loyal to Him.
Take advantage of holidays like Chanukkah, Christmas, Passover, Easter, Rosh HaShana: Send holiday cards to friends, family and co-workers. If you use a store-bought card, add your own prayer to it. This year, instead of a store bought Christmas card, write a short letter explaining what Christmas means to you.
Add a prayer or Bible verse to birthday cards, anniversary cards, graduation cards.
Have some good pamphlets available: Include one when leaving a tip, or include one when paying a bill.
Wear a Jesus Made Me Kosher t-shirt in public while doing errands, working out at the gym, out on a walk. The slogan is funny, true, and starts conversations.
Join us when we share the Good News at the Ann Arbor Art Fair; the Thanksgiving Day Parade; Arts, Beats and Eats; the Woodward Dream Cruise.
Use jewelry like a star with a cross combined, or that symbol of a fish, star and menorah that merge together.
Name Your Wireless Router: A lot of us have a wireless router. They broadcast a signal to your neighbors. They can be given a name that points to God. Mine is named “Messianic Salvation.” Other possibilities: John 3:16, Isaiah 53, etc.
Have Lunch With A Co-Worker: If you are in a work environment where it is difficult to share your faith, invite a co-worker to lunch and talk during a meal.
Be able to give your story how God touched your life in three minutes. People are interested in people. Write it out and practice it until it is tight and points people to the reality of God.
Invite people to Shema, or arrange for them to meet me or Rabbi Glenn.
Lord give us a heart like Paul – whose heart’s desire for the Jewish people was that they may be saved. And give us a heart for the other peoples to be saved.
Lord, help us to pray like Paul, who prayed for the Israelis to be saved. And help us pray for the other peoples to be saved.
Help us understand that zeal for You is not enough. Zeal must be accompanied by knowledge about Messiah.
Thank You that You have made salvation simple and faith-based and easily accessible to everyone today – that if we hear the Good News about Yeshua, and understand that Yeshua is the risen Savior and confess that He is our Lord, we will be saved.
Thank You that You have chosen us to help in the salvation of others. Help us be full of Your Spirit, and bold and courageous and wise bearers of the Good News. Help us learn how to make evangelistic opportunities happen – not wait for them to happen.