The book of Romans addresses a conflict between Jewish and gentile Christians that has, at its heart, a misunderstanding of Christian teaching. Jewish Christians in the Roman church relied on their Jewishness, not faith, to ensure their relationship with God. Gentile Christians, already somewhat disposed to antisemitism, believed that the grace of God, not faith (and surely not Jewishness), ensured their relationship.
In chapters one through eight, Paul focuses on the importance of the life of faith.
In chapter nine, he returns to the importance of Jewish heritage he mentioned in chapter three. But important or not, being Jewish will not take the place of having faith. Faith is the litmus test of a child of God. It was precisely the Jews’ lack of faith that opened the door to gentile conversion.
Chapter ten highlights this issue even more. He contrasts the notion that good standing with God comes by works with the more biblical notion that righteousness comes by faith, and proves his point in favor of tghe latter with Old Testament quotations from Deuteronomy 30, and Isaiah 28. Since good standing with God (righteousness) does not come by one’s Jewishness, but by faith, it opens the door to everyone – not just Jews – to be God’s people. He proves that point with a quote from Joel 2 and Isaiah 52.
But despite the fact that Paul’s point is made from the Old Testament, and Jewish people should know better, still, they live without faith.
This is not just a message to a people of long ago about a controversy no longer relevant. The message for us is that there is nothing in the whole of the Christian life more important than living the life of faith. Without it, nothing else really matters or counts.