This chapter consists of two main parts: verses 1-13; verses 14-21.
As at the beginning of chapter 9 so also here Paul reveals his tender affection for his kinsmen. He states that his prayer to God is that they may be saved. He testifies that they have a zeal for God, but deplores the fact that this zeal is not based on proper insight into God’s revelation concerning the way of salvation (verses 1, 2).
Israel’s tragic error consisted in this, that they sought to establish their own righteousness and refused to accept the righteousness provided by God in Christ. It is Christ, he alone, in whom the law attained its goal, so that, as a result, there now is righteousness for everyone who exercises saving faith (verses 3, 4).
It was Christ who came from heaven and who, in his people’s stead, suffered the agonies of hell. The hard work was done by him, and should therefore not be attempted by us. Moses (Deut. 30:11-14) already made clear that Canaan was God’s free gift, not the product of human exertion. As it was with Canaan so it is with salvation in general. It is given to those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, “if on your lips is the confession, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and in your heart the faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved … For the Scripture says, ‘No one who puts his trust in him will ever be put to shame’ ” (verses 5-11).
Ethnic considerations play no part in the bestowment of salvation: “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. For the same Lord (is Lord) of all and richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (verses 12, 13).
In the second part of this chapter Paul, by means of a series of questions, arranged in effect-to-cause order, stresses the supreme importance of taking to heart the messsage of the duly authorized preacher. He who accepts his message accepts Christ. He who rejects it rejects Christ. It is understood, of course, that this is true only when the preacher truly represents Christ and actually conveys Christ’s message.
To those who in the proper frame of mind listen to the gospel, blessings abound. To them the feet of those who bring good news are indeed beautiful (verses 14, 15).
There are many, however, who refuse to accept the gospel, as Isaiah proves by saying, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Everyone should therefore examine himself to see whether he really belongs to the company of those who heed whatever it is that God, through the proclamation of the word, is saying.
Excuses will not avail. The gospel is being circulated far and wide, reminding us of the heavens which all around are declaring God’s glory (verses 16-18).
Israel too not only heard God’s message, but understood it well enough to be responsible for its lack of faith. Rejection and replacement are God’s penalties imposed on the rejecters. Moses declared. “I will make you envious of a non-nation. And with a nation (that is) senseless will I make you angry” (Deut. 32:21b). And Isaiah was so bold as to say, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me” (Isa. 65:1). Concerning Israel he said, (65:2) “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate-literally contradicting-people” (verses 19-21).