Seeing People Saved

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” Romans 10:1-2 (English Standard Version)

Here in the writings of Paul to the Roman church addresses a heartfelt love for the unsaved—the “they” that he is referring to is the people who have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. The context of the passage reveals that he is in fact referring to the Jewish people who had resorted to Pharisee-ism in an attempt to earn their own salvation.

The context to the passage also reveals that Paul was praying for these people that he was preaching against. In the previous chapter he says of Israel, “who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.” Romans 9:31a (English Standard Version) In the height of all his arguments against the Jewish legalism, he also was quick to point out how much desire he possesses within his heart toward them, and the desire that they might be saved.

Furthermore, it is not merely a sentiment towards the unbelieving Jewish, but a desire that he would see the whole world under God. This pattern of redemption occurs again in 11:11–12, 15 — we can see that this is a prayer not only directed at Jewish unbelieved, but of all peoples, in this mirroring God’s own desires that all may be saved, and none would be cast into hell.

In this passage he is not arguing here for a superficial saving—but a full salvation with justification, sanctification, and glorification. The word used for saved is soteria, translated literally means to save both physically from the fires of hell, but also in a moral sense. He is arguing more than a sinner’s prayer to save these, but a complete life change to bring them back. More than church attendance weekly to appease the human conscience, but a daily surrendering of everything to God, that He would increase and we would decrease.

Moreover, he does not merely desire, but he is praying to God—of whom He is the master of all souls. The commitment of the desires of his heart translates specifically into prayer to God. I wonder how often that we would take things into our own hands, instead of giving it up to God. There are few people who would give up their whole lives to save the world, but even fewer like Paul would give up their lives to God.

I am reminded of the hymn, “Rock of Ages” that we sang in church the other day that has stuck in my mind for quite a few days. This particular stanza was the one that stands out to me:

““Not the labour of my hands/

can fulfil Thy law’s demands;

could my zeal no respite know,

could my tears forever flow,

all for sin could not atone;

thou must save, and Thou alone.”

(Toplady, Augustus. Rock of Ages.)

There is a wonderful helplessness that is translated through to the lyrics of this song. The story for the inspiration is interesting too, where he was travelling along a cliff-face when a storm quickly approached and starting pouring down. Upon finding shelter in a gap in the gorge—the rock that was protecting him gave the inspiration and he scribbled down lyrics on a playing card.

Therefore, when Paul says that the Israelite has a zeal for God, what he is saying here is no mere compliment, but a whole-hearted yearning for souls. Matthew Henry states that: “The unbelieving Jews were the bitterest enemies Paul had in the world, and yet Paul gives them as good a character as the truth would bear. We should say the best we can even of our worst enemies; this is blessing those that curse us.”

I am continually reminded and convicted of how we should approach those who disagree with us—it is an important dialectic between voicing out our disagreements, but also love. I find in Christianity today, there are commonly only 2 positions: one that does not mention sin, and one that emphasizes only sin. We have the Westboro and the Crystal Cathedral–both of which are disastrous to the Gospel because they cannot injure nor mend. They have not the Gospel within them, only a personalised Jesus who cannot save.

Paul points out that the sin of the unbelieving Jews was that their zeal was not according to knowledge. God gave them the Law and they hung so tightly to it without understanding—so much so that when the Messiah came onto this earth, they did not recognise him. When he came to fulfil the very Laws that they were following, they did not know him, and even disowned him.

 Where does the line between what we preach against, and what we remain silent over and pray occur? How honest are we in our dealings with those that disagree? Do we desire that they be saved for merely another debate to occur?

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About JN
what happened to dignity / never see it on MTV.

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