Chapter ten continues Paul’s teaching on Israel, specifically focused on their present state in the Church Age. Paul’s deepest desire and prayer “on behalf of [his] fellow Israelites is for their salvation” (Romans 10:1-4). The problem is that they are still seeking to “establish their own righteousness” rather than “the righteousness that comes through God.” True righteousness is obtainable only in Christ, because “Christ is the end of the law.”
The problem with trying to gain righteousness through the law is that no one can live up to it perfectly (Romans 10:5-8). Instead, Christ has already come down from heaven (without our help) and rose from the dead (again, without our help), so the message of faith is based solely in him.
Romans 10:9-10 is often used by those who share the gospel and by those who hold to Lordship Salvation, for different reasons. Those sharing the gospel of salvation sometimes say, “Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart in order to be saved.” This adds the unnecessary step of verbal confession for salvation. Lordship Salvation advocates point here and say, “You must acknowledge Jesus as the Lord of your life in order to be saved.” This adds the requirement of full submission, which an unbeliever cannot do.
The correct interpretation is based in the context of the present state of the Jewish people. In Romans 10:13 Paul quoted from Joel 2:32, where “the name of the Lord” is God’s personal name, Jehovah. In Romans 10:9, a Jew must “confess…that Jesus is Lord.” In other words, in order for a Jew to be saved today, he must confess or acknowledge that Jesus is Jehovah, the very thing the Jewish people at large have refused to do since Jesus was on Earth. This is an essential requirement for salvation, something that comes easier for Gentiles than Jews.
Paul concluded this chapter with a series of questions that are often used by missionaries, because their truth is relevant throughout this age (Romans 10:13-21). How does a Jew (or anyone) believe if no one will approach him with the truth of the Messiah? A person cannot believe without first hearing the true message of Christ. Of course, Paul admitted, that creation speaks to God’s power (as told in Psalm 19:4), but that is not enough. A short series of quotes from Moses and Isaiah shows that Israel has continually rejected the Savior, to their loss and others’ gain.