In Romans 1:18-2:29, Paul presented the problem of all humanity, our fall from grace in sin and our need of salvation from God. Then in chapters 3-8, he outlined the plan that God had to save all of humanity, all of mankind that was willing to trust in Him for their salvation. Now, in chapters 9-11 it is as though Paul were going back to the beginning and answering the question posed all over again. Why are God’s people the Jews, not trusting in the Messiah? Why have so many people from nations without special revelation, been saved?
The Jews do in fact know who God is and that He is Holy. The problem is that they have misunderstood the righteousness required to be in a relationship with a holy God. They thought that the Law was a way for them to earn their own righteousness. They thought that through religion they could earn their way to God. However, true righteousness is not a perfection that we achieve—it is the perfection of God that brings glory to His name—His righteousness given to us. This is the truth that God has allowed other nations to understand. However, it is also a warning.
Just as God’s people who possessed His special revelation could miss the point and think themselves capable of meriting God’s salvation, so too could the people of the new covenant. In fact, when we look at the long history of Christendom, we can’t help but confess that we often have. There are just as many lost, religious “Christians” around today as lost Jews.
This whole message of the Gospel has nothing to do with religion. We are dependent on the merciful grace of a loving God and what He has done to save us, not any efforts of our own.