The Righteousness Of The Law
“For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.” (Romans 10:5)
We have now before us a contrast between two differing types of righteousness: that which is of the Law (Rom. 10:5), and that which is of Faith(v. 6-11). Contrary to the accusations of the his Jewish critics (e.g., Acts 18:13, 21:28), the Apostle Paul never repudiated the clear, cut-and-dry teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures, nor did he disparage the Law of Moses. In fact, Paul refers to the words of the Lord to Moses from Leviticus 18:5, agreeing that a man who keeps the Law shall live (or, be saved, receiving eternal life). That Salvation could be obtained by the flawless keeping of the Law of Moses was a concept never refuted by the Apostle Paul.
The problem with man being saved by the righteousness which is of the Law is not that the Law is deficient, but man is. The breakdown is not on the part of God or His Law, it is in man’s inability to keep it. A person can never be saved by the keeping of Law because no one is able to perfectly follow its requirements. We may set about to establish our own righteousness through meticulous observance of God’s Law, but the moment we fail in a single part we are doomed!
That man, in theory, can be saved by his completely unblemished obedience and observation of the Law of Moses is not a premise overturned by the Message of the Gospel. Yet such a premise is really not possible in practice. No individual can blamelessly adhere to the rigid requirements of the Law, perfectly obeying every precept without a single infraction. And perfect obedience is exactly what the Law demands. Man cannot be saved by perfect obedience because he simply cannot provide it. Neither can man be saved by imperfect obedience because God cannot accept it. If we are to be saved by our own righteousness, it is an all-or-nothing proposition. Yet even Moses, the great Law-giver, alluded to another righteousness that could be procured by Faith.
The Righteousness Of Faith
“But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;” (Romans 10:6-8)
Shortly before his death, Moses illustrated the free access which any and every Israelite possessed to learning, knowing, and following the commandments and will of God. Paul reflects these words from Deuteronomy 30:11-14 in this passage of Romans. For as the statutes and ordinances of the Law abided near unto them, even in their own mouths, so does the Word of Faith which brings Salvation. One of the most remarkable attributes of the Law of Moses in the nation of Israel was its ubiquitousness in everyday life. The words of the Law permeated every aspect of civil and religious life, at least so long as the nation remained faithful to God. It was written on their doorposts, upon their gates, and in their hearts and minds (cf. Deut. 11:18-20). They taught it to their children and spoke of it as they worked and as they sat at home.
Conventional human wisdom suggests that the words of the Divine are available only to the initiated. Mystics throughout the ages have sought to understand the will of God by climbing mountaintops, descending into caverns, or by journeying to the remotest parts of the Earth. They have removed themselves from society, pursuing a life of self-imposed exile from the company of others in order that they might find the solitude and quiescence to contemplate the mysteries of the Universe. But knowing the will of God does not require such drastic methods.
Just as the Law of Moses was not ascertained through such endeavors, neither is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not need to bring Christ down from Heaven because He has already come to Earth. Neither do we need to bring Him up from the dead because He has already risen. He is indeed nigh unto every one of us and the gift of Salvation is as close to any man as his very next breath. God has not made the Gospel complicated or Salvation arduous to obtain. Paul told the Corinthians that he feared that their minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3). God has not hidden Himself away in some temple or cathedral, barring access to all but the most resolute and sanctimonious. He is not far from every one of us, for in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:27-28).
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)
Here we have what is perhaps the closest thing to a simple formula for Salvation to be found in the entire Bible. If you shall confess and believe, you shall be saved; if you shall believe and confess, you shall be saved. I would like to end this post by taking a little closer look at the elements of these two verses:
Many people have interpreted this to mean a public declaration of faith in Jesus Christ. That is to say, a single statement made in front of a church congregation for the purpose of proving that the new Christian is not ashamed of his new-found Lord (cp. v. 11). Many churches, pastors, and evangelists are absolutely adamant that such a process must be observed or else the faith is not effectual and the Salvation is not genuine. But to add such a requirement is to risk adding a “work” or act to the conditions of Salvation. Whenever we add anything to faith alone as a prerequisite to Salvation, we are in danger of convoluting works into the Message of the Gospel.
Even so, confession appears right next to belief in Paul’s description of the necessary elements of the Salvation process. Is he saying here that confession, then, is also a requirement for a person to be saved? It is worth noting that Verse 9 states confession then belief while Verse 10 has the order reversed. Additionally, Verse 11 talks about belief while Verse 13 refers to calling upon the name of the Lord (confession). It seems that the Apostle Paul is inextricably weaving belief and confession together in the process of Salvation. This doesn’t mean that confession must precede faith or vice versa; it means that, in the Apostle’s eyes, they are both two sides of the same coin.
The entire Message of the Book of Romans is Salvation Sola Fide, by faith alone. In fact, the Apostle Paul’s whole ministry was built around this simple concept. Yet the Apostle understood and believed that a real saving faith in Jesus Christ will inevitably compel the believer to confess the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word used here for confession literally means “to say the same thing” or “to agree.” It means to go from denying the Lordship of Christ to agreeing with it. If the Spirit of the Lord is in us, we will speak the Truth, specifically that Jesus Christ is Lord. This doesn’t mean that we must recite some particular prayer or rehearse a statement of faith that someone leads us to repeat. No, this really isn’t talking about a single, specific moment in time at all. It is about a new way of life, a new way of comunicating, indeed, it is about all things becoming new in Him (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17).
While these things are not requirements for Salvation, they will, to one degree or another, spring forth from the faith which the Lord instills in us. We don’t need to get up in front of a congregation and make a statement in order to be saved, nor do we need to declare to every person we meet that we are Christians. But if we are truly trusting in Christ and have been saved, our words and deeds should reflect this (or at least not contradict it!).
What Exactly Are We “Confessing?”
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus…” (Romans 10:9a)
We are instructed here to confess (or agree) the Lord Jesus. A more precise rendering of this might read, “That if thou shalt confess that Jesus is Lord…” What is actually being said here is that we are agreeing that Jesus Christ is the Lord, He is the LORD of the Old Testament. In many English Bible translations, the word LORD (with all capitals) is substituted in the Old Testament where the personal name of God (Jehovah) was originally written. This is done to reflect the use of a substitutionary Hebrew word that was used whenever the Scriptures were read aloud; God’s name, Jehovah, was considered too holy to be uttered aloud. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek for the benefit of those unfamiliar with Hebrew, the very same Greek word was used for LORD (Jehovah) as we see here in Romans 10:9. In other words, the confession being made is that Jesus Christ, the Lord of the New Testament, is Jehovah the LORD God of the Old! Paul clearly taught the Deity of Jesus Christ.
What Exactly Are We “Believing?”
“…and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9b)
One non-negotiable Truth that must be believed is the literal, physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We as Christians might disagree on many other points of doctrine but this is one area where the writers of the New Testament were inflexible. Paul dedicated much of the end of his First Epistle to the Corinthians to the absurdity of claiming faith in Christ while rejecting the reality of His Resurrection (1 Cor. 15). We are told very little about the errors of the Sadducees, but one thing we are repeatedly told is that they denied the resurrection of the dead and, subsequently, the Resurrection of Jesus (e.g., Matt. 22:23, Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27, Acts 4:1-3). To divorce the Resurrection from the Gospel is to do no less than corrupt the Message of the Gospel entirely (For more about the significance of the Resurrection, Click Here).
Until next time. To God goes all glory. In service to Him,