At the end of chapter nine Paul has explained why the Jews have not attained righteousness through the law. Chapter ten begins with Paul again expressing his earnest desire and prayer to God for their salvation. He recognizes that before meeting Christ he also was zealously pursuing the law without a true understanding of the law giver. Chuck Swindoll describes Paul’s feelings about his fellow Jews:
“Paul wept for them. He was heartbroken. He remembered the fellow students with whom he traveled and studied when he left Tarsus to learn under the tutelage of Gamaliel and other rabbis. He remembered former friends and fellow Pharisees, all pursuing the wrong objective with zeal, determination, and sincerity. Instead of embracing their Messiah, they passionately and sincerely pursued a righteousness of their own making, supposing it would be enough to please God. Paul knew from his own experience the futility of sincere zeal without correct knowledge (Acts 22:3; Gal. 1:14). In the case of Paul’s kindred Jews, they failed to understand both the character of their God and how to please Him.”
Paul understands the thinking of the Jews described in verses 2-3 because it describes his own attitude before encountering Christ. However, now (verse 4) he declares that Christ is the “end” (fulfillment) of the law which they have pursued. The Greek word (telos) has a double sense which can mean goal and also termination. It can refer to an aim, a purpose, or the intended result of an action. Christ is the goal at which the law aimed as He is the embodiment of God’s perfect righteousness. This righteousness is only available to us through believing in Christ.
Paul illustrates the righteousness which comes by faith with quotes from Deuteronomy 30 along with his commentary (verses 6-8). The words about ascending to heaven or descending to the abyss describe people attempting to do the impossible. We can’t reach up far enough to obtain God’s righteousness. Nor can we go low enough to pay the price of our sin. Instead Christ has come down to us from heaven, and He also rose up from the dead. In this way what was beyond our reach is now “near” (verse 8) by faith.
Paul then spells out (verses 8-10) the gospel message of how the “word of faith” brings salvation. The righteousness which is unobtainable by any human effort is to be received by faith. He describes our response as having two parts (of one whole), one inward and the other outward. To be saved we must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe (have faith) in our heart that God raised Christ from the dead. This salvation through faith in Christ gives us the righteousness of God.
next: continue chapter 10