Romans 10:2 I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4 For Christ is the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.
Chapters 9-11 of Paul’s letter to the Romans have some things very hard to understand. But, Paul didn’t avoid the hard things that were needed to bring unity in the Roman local church – neither should we.
Paul acknowledges in our passage today that the Jews had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. People who have a zeal without knowledge are doing something, but it is the wrong something and counts for nothing. People who work very hard, but at the wrong task are working without knowledge and need to be taught what to do. A boss would need to approach them and say, “I see you like to work hard, but what you are doing is the wrong thing. Let me show what to do so you get the right thing done.” The proper response of the employee should be, “Thanks, I will start working hard at the right thing.”
Paul is approaching the Jews, who are seeking to establish their own righteousness by keeping the Law, in the way the boss approached the zealous employee. He commends their zeal for God, but tells them they have a zeal without knowledge. The Jews are ignorant of the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God is necessary to have eternal life and is gained two ways. The first way to be righteous is by keeping the Law, that is, never sin by not keeping one part of the Law (Romans 10:5; James 2:10). The second way to be righteous is by believing what Christ did on the cross (Romans 5:6-8). The first option was not available to the Jew because all have sinned (Romans 3:23). The second option is the only option for the Jew to be righteous and accepted by God.
Paul commends the Jew who is trying to keep the Law to be righteous, but corrects him and shows him that the only way he can be righteous is by faith in Jesus Christ. Are you trying to be accepted by God by being good and doing good things – by your works? You will never earn acceptance by what you do. You need to believe Jesus died on the cross and by His death on the cross He paid the penalty of sin for us. By believing he paid a debt we couldn’t pay when He died on the cross, we are pardoned from our sins and are made righteous in God’s sight. We are accepted by God into His presence for an eternity. We could never be good enough on our own, but by believing in Jesus Christ we are perfectly good. What a gift!
Unity comes from clarifying the wrong things a person is doing and seeking to restore him. Certain Roman saints were pushing opinions rather than truth and were condemning rather than correcting (Romans 14:1-4). This divides rather than unifies. We need to be like Paul and seek to unify by identifying the things causing disunity and seek to correct them with the truth.