But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart (in the original, It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say ) , Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down). The parenthesis is St. Paul's own; the original has, after "heaven," and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). Again the parenthesis is St. Paul's; and he has substituted "into the deep" ( εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον ) for " beyond the sea. " The original is, Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart : that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that (or, because ) if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God 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 . The apostle's purpose in varying from the original is obvious from his interposed comments, and from the application that follows. It seems to be as though he had said, "See how, with a slight alteration, the passage in Deuteronomy becomes an exact description of our Christian doctrine." The most marked alteration is the substitution of "into the deep" for "beyond the sea." The "sea" in the original, to which the term "abyss" is applicable (cf. Job 28:14 ; Psalms 107:26 ), may have suggested the word; but St. Paul here evidently means by it the regions of the dead, imagined as subterranean, equivalent to the Hebrew Sheol, and the Greek ἅδης . For use of the word in this sense, cf. Psalms 71:20 , ἐκ τῶν ἀβύσσων τῆς γῆς πάλιν ἀνήγαγές με cf. also Luke 8:31 and Revelation 9:1 , Revelation 9:2 , Revelation 9:11 ; Revelation 11:7 ; Revelation 17:8 ; Revelation 20:1 , Revelation 20:3 ; in which passages ἡ ἄβυσσος seems to denote the penal abode, corresponding to the Greek idea of Tartarus; but the word itself does not contain this idea, which is by no means intimated here. It may be taken to denote Hades, into which Christ "descended." Some commentators suppose the previous expression, "ascend into heaven to bring Christ down," to mean bringing him back to earth from heaven, whither he has ascended now. But the mere fact of its coming first, as well as the general sense of the passage, shows it to refer rather to the Incarnation, and what follows to the Resurrection. These were the two grand stages in the great work of redemption; both were required that "the righteousness which is of faith" might effectually be brought "nigh unto us." The impossible task of effecting either was not required of man; God has done both for us, and we have but to "believe in our hearts," that "the word" of his grace may be nigh us, in our mouth and in our heart, that we may do it. Thus all that was intimated or foreshadowed by that old passage in Deuteronomy is in its fullest sense to us fulfilled. In verse 9 the applicability of the words, "in thy mouth, and in thine heart," to the gospel dispensation is shown; the two expressions, properly understood, denoting all that is required of us. Confession of the Lord Jesus with the mouth must be taken to express generally, not only fearless avowal of the Christian faith, but also consistent life, according to the full meaning of our Lord's words in Matthew 10:32 ; Mark 8:38 ; Luke 10:26 ; Luke 12:8 , etc. Confession of the Lord Jesus with the mouth, too, would have a peculiar significance then, when Christians were often so sorely tempted to deny him under persecution (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3 ). We may observe also how "the mouth" is elsewhere regarded as the index of the heart; as the main bodily organ whereby character is evinced and expressed (cf. Matthew 12:34 , Matthew 12:37 ; Matthew 15:11 , etc.). Further, the belief spoken of is belief in the heart— a living operative faith, not intellectual conviction only. Nor is belief that God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead to be taken as meaning belief of this one article of the Creed alone; it carries with it belief in the gospel generally, the doctrine of the Resurrection being here, as elsewhere, regarded as the central doctrine on which all the rest depends (cf. I Corinthians Luke 15:17 ; 1 Peter 1:21 ). "Haec summa Evangelii est. Nam, cum credimus Christum excitatum esse e mortuis, credimus sum pro peccatis satisfecisse, et in coelis regnare, ut nos ad imaginem suam perficiat" (Bucer). In Luke 12:10 , where the offices of the heart and of the mouth are denoted in general terms, the distinction between "unto righteousness" with respect to the one, and "unto salvation" with respect to the other, is significant. By faith alone we are justified; but by confession in actual life, which is the fruit of faith, our salvation is secured.
Gracious terms of salvation.
The blessings of the gospel were designed for, and were offered to, Jews and Gentiles alike, with the most perfect impartiality. The descendants of Abraham, the disciples of Moses, did indeed enjoy an advantage; but, instead of profiting by it, they turned it against themselves. The apostle here teaches that if any of his kinsmen and countrymen come short of Christian privilege, the fault is their own, and cannot be laid to the Divine Author. St. Paul so presents the gospel as to exhibit—
I. ITS CONTRAST TO THE LAW . The former dispensation promised life to those who obeyed the Law. By life is meant more than continuance of existence and national and territorial advantages; the expression conveys the promise of Divine favour and acceptance. Perfect obedience would secure life; but such obedience no Hebrew, and indeed no mortal man, has rendered. The old covenant did indeed assure to the upright and pious Jew the blessings of salvation, and enjoined obedience upon all its sons. But it was only human pride and self-righteousness which could deem the life of even the holiest such as to merit the favour and fellowship of God. Christianity, on the other hand, provides all spiritual blessings as a free gift—the gift of grace.
II. ITS SIMPLICITY AND ACCESSIBILITY . To exhibit this, the apostle borrows language from the Book of Deuteronomy. What the Lord, by Moses, said of the commandment published to Israel, that Paul says of the gospel. The Divine righteousness speaks; and what is its message to men?
1. It is a message which gently reproaches those who complain of the difficulty of understanding and realizing the will of God. How especially does this apply to Christianity! We have not to soar to heaven, or to plunge into the abyss; for Christ, the Son of God, has condescended to come down from the celestial heights that he might dwell among us; he has risen from the dead, conquering sin and death for us, and leading us in the way to God. Thus the Lord has deigned to make the truth of God intelligible, and the grace of God real and near.
2. But the Divine righteousness, speaking, assures us of the nearness of the Word of life to the hearers of the gospel, personally and individually. How could the word which quickeneth be nearer, more accessible? It is "in the mouth, and in the heart," of every Christian. Pause to think how true this is. Your English Bible is in your hands; the gospel is preached at your own doors; the creeds, the prayers, the thanksgivings, are framed and uttered in your own familiar speech; the name of Jesus is a household word; the simplest can understand the message of the gospel, the terms of life eternal; the child, the unlearned, the feeble, the aged, appreciate the truth as it is in Jesus; Christianity gains many a convert from among the poor, the vicious, the very heathen. All this is a testimony to the Divine adaptation of the gospel to human nature; it meets our deepest wants and supplies them, it creates its own witness by its own success.
III. THE TERMS IT PROPOUNDS . They are two.
1. Faith— as this whole Epistle tells, and tells again and yet again. The righteousness is of faith; "with the heart man believeth." A provision which attests the infinite wisdom of him who made it. The condition is one which can be fulfilled by men of every rank and age and culture; yet it is one profoundly affecting the moral and spiritual nature. It is profitable to man and honouring to God.
2. Confession— a condition, doubtless, very different in the apostles' days from our own, but, as the Lord teaches us, ever indispensable. Men have not the right to say in what way confession shall be made. But it must not be withheld.
IV. THE BLESSINGS IT SECURES . These also are two.
1. Righteousness— the new, Divine, Christian righteousness, that which is the gift of God; a righteousness which is by grace, but which is real, genuine, and eternal.
2. Salvation— by which we are to understand the final and complete enjoyment of what the gospel brings and promises. The end of your faith is the salvation of your souls. It is not only deliverance from sin and danger; it is the participation in the Divine nature, and in the eternal life.
APPLICATION . Let the hearer of the gospel think, not merely of the mysteries which belong to religion, but of the simplicity of what is most essential for him to believe. You have not to climb a lofty tree in order to pluck the fruit; the bough hangs low, and you have but to reach out your hand. You have not to climb the mountain crag, and cross the dangerous bog, in order to come at the water of life; the stream flows by your side, and you have but to stoop and drink.
The simplicity of the gospel.
The apostle here contrasts the simplicity of God's plan of salvation with the efforts which men have made to work out a righteousness for themselves. Salvation is gained—
I. NOT BY OUR OWN GOOD WORKS . "Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the Law, That the man who doeth those things shall live by them" ( Romans 10:5 ). If this were the condition of salvation, how hopeless would our condition be! None of us could say that we had made ourselves free from sin, or that our works were perfect and faultless, or that we had fully and faithfully kept all the commandments of God.
"Not what these hands have done
Could save this guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh hath borne
Could make my spirit whole."
II. NOR BY MIRACULOUS INTERVENTION . "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?" ( Romans 10:6 , Romans 10:7 ). The desire which is here expressed still survives. Not content with the Word of God and the invisible, but real, spiritual presence of Jesus with his Church, and the power of the Holy Spirit, many zealous Christians think it is necessary to have a more visible manifestation of the supernatural. Hence we have the doctrine of the real presence; alleged appearances of the blessed Virgin at Lourdes and at Knock; and, on the other hand, an undue stress laid upon the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
III. BUT BY THE PERSONAL RECEPTION AND CONFESSION OF JESUS CHRIST ,
1. The Holy Scriptures are the means used to bring this salvation near to us. "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach" ( Romans 10:8 ). In contrast with ceremonial or legal observances, in contrast with all miraculous appearances, the apostle here magnifies the reading and preaching of the gospel as the Divine method for the salvation of souls. "The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation."
2. Faith, which is the condition of salvation, is an act of the human mind. Not by bodily labours or sufferings, not by appearances to our bodily senses, but by the Spirit of God and the Word of God working upon our spirits, and producing faith in us, do we receive salvation. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness" ( Romans 10:10 ). It is to the spiritual and not to the bodily nature that the appeal of religion is to be made. It is the spiritual and not the bodily nature that we must cultivate if we would see the kingdom of God.
3. Yet this faith will have an outward manifestation,. "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation" ( Romans 10:10 ). If our faith in Christ is real, it will show itself. We shall not be ashamed to make public acknowledgment of him.
4. Thus salvation is brought within the reach of every one. "The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved" ( Romans 10:12 , Romans 10:13 ). This plan of salvation brings the gospel to the Gentile as well as to the Jew. "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek" ( Romans 10:12 ). Wherever there is a heart seeking after God, that soul need not wait to work out a righteousness for itself. "Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved." What a contrast the simplicity of the gospel is to all human systems of religion and all man-made methods of salvation! The more we keep to the Word of God, and the less we mingle with it human tradition and ecclesiastical shibboleths, the more shall we be blessed in bringing souls to Christ.—C.H.I.
The freeness of salvation.
The apostle's heart yearns for his people. For he recognizes their sincerity in much of their grievous mistaking of the ways of God. They had zeal for God, though the zeal was unreasonable and irreligious. Unreasonable; for how can man make himself just before God, guilty and sinful as he is? and why should the Jew think that, if this were possible, only one small portion of the race should be suffered to work out its righteousness? Irreligious; for instead of the humility as regards one's self, and the charity as regards others, which are two essentials of the life in God, there was a proud self-assertiveness, and a narrow bigotry. They must learn that God's favour is by grace ( Romans 10:5-11 ), and for all ( Romans 10:12-21 ). We have here-the freeness of salvation.
I. THE ERROR OF THE JEWS .
1. Ignorance. "Of God's righteousness." That is, of the fact that the justification of a sinner can only come of God's free grace. Surely their Law might have taught them this: negatively, for it should have made them realize their own utter imperfectness and impotence; positively, for had they not read ( Genesis 15:6 ) that Abraham was counted righteous through faith in God? and ( Habakkuk 2:4 ) that all just ones shall live by faith?
2. Self-sufficiency. "Seeking to establish their own." That is (see Godet), as a monument, raised, not to God's glory, but to show forth their own achievements. Here was the pride of man, which must be brought down before any way can be made towards God ( Matthew 5:3 ).
3. Disobedience. "Did not subject themselves." For the very faith whereby we receive God's free forgiveness is an act of submission, an abnegating of our false pride, a yielding to a way which is higher and better than our own (see Romans 1:5 ; Romans 6:17 ).
4. Frustration of the very purport of their own Law. "For Christ is the End of the Law." All was designed to lead to him; the holy commands were to make them know their guilt and weakness, and crave for pardon and grace; the sacrifices and ceremonies were at once to stamp the fact of sin more deeply into their consciousness, and to give them a glimmering hope of propitiation and purifying. To Christ all these things directly and indirectly tended; but the veil was on their eyes, that they "should not look steadfastly on the end of that which was passing away" ( 2 Corinthians 3:13 ).
II. THE TRUTH OF GOD .
1. " The righteousness which is of the Law " was, that it should be done by man's efforts, conjoined with the grace of God. For, according to God's intent, grace was with the giving of the Law: pardon, for realized imperfection; help, for realized frailty; the coming of Christ, as the end of all its precepts and ceremonial. But if man would ignore this element of grace, there was nothing for him but a perfect fulfilling of an impossible righteousness! Doing it, he should live by it. They tried; the world has tried: the end thereof is death!
2. " The righteousness which is of faith " hath taught us better things.
Yes, the faith which works by love: accepting with all our heart the free forgiveness which is through Christ's death, and acknowledging him with our whole life as our true Lord and King. So no shame, but perfect liberty and perfect love.—T.F.L.
The word of faith.
Men are quick to excuse their non-acceptance of Christianity. In order to obviate the pretence of the gospel being a system complicated to examine and conform to, the apostle quotes from Deuteronomy (using the passage in a justifiable, though altered signification) to exhibit the simplicity and brevity of the gospel requirements. Nothing impracticable is demanded of would-be converts. The "word of faith" is close at hand and intelligible, ready to be uttered and trusted.
I. THE TWO ESSENTIALS TO ENJOYMENT OF THE BENEFITS OF THE GOSPEL . Belief and confession.
1. Belief naturally precedes confession, if the latter is not hypocrisy. Speech on religious questions that is not the utterance of a deep-seated conviction is like Ahimaaz running without tidings to deliver. An untimely avowal should be deprecated; the confession should stream forth from the fountain of belief; otherwise the want of correspondence between the outward declaration and the inward assurance will work deadly mischief. Let not the child's Catechism be heavily laden. To sensitive minds the gap will seem to widen with growing intelligence, and they will deem the alienation from the early standard greater than it is, leading perhaps to a position of ultimate antagonism.
2. The essentials are few in number. Unlike the minute details of the Mosaic ritual, the law of Christ is short and easily comprehended. This apostolic declaration judges our own preaching and creed, showing that we are in danger of making the gate narrower and the road longer to the kingdom than Christ ordained them. The tendency of hoary Christianity is to multiply the requisite articles of doctrine and observance, making the initiation burdensome, the novitiate cumbrous.
3. On the other hand, less than the apostle insists on cannot prove a bond of Christian fellowship. Occasional communion there may be between those who differ respecting the fact of Christ's resurrection, each recognizing the other's sincerity and desire to press forward to the light; but experience attests the impossibility of enduring religious co-operation on a slighter basis than that laid down in the text. Fundamental divergence of opinion curbs free utterance, checks the fervour of prayer, makes all parties uncomfortable in their association.
II. THE PRODUCT OF FAITH . "Righteousness." Distinguish between the assent of the understanding and the trust of the heart. "Believing with" or "in the heart" not only accepts the resurrection of Christ as an historical fact, but sees in this a spiritual truth, that Christ is the Mediator, the Redeemer, able and willing to work an ethical resurrection in all who commit themselves to his care and tuition. Such a faith rejoices in the great verity; the will gladly submits to Jesus Christ as God's approved Agent of reconciliation. And thus faith imparts righteousness, connecting the sinner with the Saviour, the weak with the Strong One, the ignorant with the All-wise.
III. THE RESULT OF CONFESSION . "Salvation" As human nature is constituted, the expression of a sentiment in word or deed lends it distinctness and potency. What the orator does for the multitude, when he translates into growing language their vague aspirations and inarticulate feelings, clothing, fixing, clarifying, and intensifying them, is what an open avowal of his religious faith often effects for the individual. It discloses what was wrapped up in the inner being, and the embodiment gives place and form to the idea. Sentiment unexpressed is liable to fade away like vapour uncondensed. Confession is a real act; it makes the man commit himself definitely to a certain course of behaviour, and assists him to realize his ideal. Most are deficient in moral courage, and all that strengthens determination makes for salvation, it is easier for an avowed than for a secret disciple of Christ to refuse to yield to the solicitations of the worldly, to join them in unprofitable amusements and practices. Then, too, confession redounds to the glory of God, who honours them that honour him. In heaven it will be no signal tribute to own him, for all there sing his praise. On earth is a sphere of distinction possible by standing up for the true, the right, the good. And so Christ promises to confess those who have confessed him. A manly declaration may confirm the faith of wavering brethren, and thus save ourselves and others. Timidity which seals the lips is a sower retaining the seed in his bag, and allowing the waiting soil to go unblessed with golden crops.—S.R.A.
Confession of a risen Saviour.
In the previous chapter we saw a Christian patriot lamenting that so many of his fellow-countrymen, through rejecting God's mercy manifested in Christ Jesus, were becoming mere vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. At the same time, he sees in Divine sovereignty, its incidence and its justice, the real clue to the philosophy of history and the progress of the world. In the present chapter he discusses the rejection of Israel and its reasons, and the nature of that acceptance and salvation which the Gentiles received after the Jews had despised them. In the verses now claiming attention we have the apostle leading his readers up to faith in and confession of a risen Saviour.
I. THE MISDIRECTED ZEAL OF THE APOSTLE 'S COUNTRYMEN . ( Romans 10:1-3 .) The apostle's desire and "supplication" (so Revised Version) for the Jews was that they might be saved. But, alas! their misdirected zeal was preventing their salvation. For instead of submitting to the righteousness which is of God, instead of making their way to Christ, who is the End to whom the Law when properly understood leads, they were going about with the one object of establishing their own righteousness. This zeal Paul knew himself experimentally. For years he also had aimed at Law-keeping, and in his self-ignorance he thought that " touching the righteousness which is in the Law" he was "blameless" ( Philippians 3:6 ). But the Law-keeping may be in the letter and not in the spirit. The spirit of the Law is love; yet Paul and the Pharisees tithed mint and anise and cummin, while they lived lives of hate, and hesitated not to persecute Christ-like people even to the death. To keep self-righteousness before the soul as the end of life is simply misdirected zeal. It keeps us away from Christ and all the bliss which his fellowship implies. And so a day came when Paul saw that his roundabout way, going about to establish his own righteousness, was a delusion, a snare, a loss, and not a gain, for it kept him long years from Christ. Let us be clear that we are not under a similar delusion. Let us give up self-righteousness and take God's better way.
II. A RISEN SAVIOUR IS THE END OF THE LAW AND OBJECT OF FAITH . ( Romans 10:4 .) Now, the moment we are led to take a spiritual view of God's Law, to see that it demands perfect motive as well as decent outward morality, we see that we cannot keep it in its length and breadth; and therefore, instead of living by Law-keeping, we are condemned by the Law as its transgressors. Self-righteousness is seen to be self-deception. Condemnation is seen to be our natural state. Then is it that Christ and his perfect righteousness dawn upon our condemned and polluted souls. We see that he has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and so the Law serves its purpose when it lays us down at the feet of Christ, to be justified by faith. Instead of trusting our own righteousness, we see in our risen Saviour the true Object of faith and Source of righteousness. We pass out of shame into confidence in his finished work. £
III. THIS RISEN SAVIOUR IS EASILY FOUND . ( Romans 10:6-9 .) The idea of the human heart is that by some prodigious effort salvation must be secured. Abana and Pharpar are further off, as well as likelier rivers, than this brawling Jordan hard by, and so Naaman cries out, "May I not wash in them, and be clean?" Only ask us to do some great thing in order to salvation, and our self-righteousness will be secured, and we shall be satisfied (cf. 2 Kings 5:12 , 2 Kings 5:13 ). A far-off salvation suits man's taste the best. Set it in heaven, and he will rack his brains for some ingenious device by which he will fly away and be at rest. Set it beyond the sea, and boats will be built and the voyage undertaken with alacrity (cf. Deuteronomy 30:11-13 ). Make salvation to consist in a bringing of Christ down from above, and men like Titans will try to scale Olympus. Make salvation to consist in a descent to the lower world to bring Christ up from the dead, and many will try a journey like Orpheus after the lost Eurydice, to bring the Saviour from the shadows. But we have got to see that the risen Saviour is not so far away or so hard to find as this. As Charles Kingsley once wrote to a lady, "My object has been and is, and I trust in God ever will be, to make people see that they need not, as St. Paul says, go up into heaven, or go down to the deep, to find Christ; because he, the Word whom we preach, is very near them, in their hearts and on their lips, if they would but believe it; and ready, not to set them afloat on new and untried oceans of schemes and projects, but ready to inspire them to do their duty humbly and simply where he has put them—and, believe me, the only way to regenerate the world is to do the duty which lies nearest us, and not to hunt after grand, far-fetched ones for ourselves." £ In the Word of the gospel the risen Saviour comes near to every one of us. We do not require any prodigious effort to reach him. We have simply to open the eye of faith, and there he is.
IV. THE RISEN SAVIOUR MUST BE CONFESSED WHEN FOUND . ( Romans 10:10 , Romans 10:11 .) Faith in a risen Saviour who is waiting to be found of us must prove its genuineness by the confession of his Name. It is when we take the Lord's side deliberately that we have tested the reality of our faith. There is a cowardly tendency to believe, but not confess; to get the benefits of salvation without running a single risk for our Saviour. But such a selfish, easy-going faith is mere delusion. Whoever really believes in Jesus will not be ashamed to confess him. And consequently we are encouraged first to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and then to confess him as our risen Saviour before men. There is undoubtedly a disposition to separate salvation from confession of Christ. It is thought to be wise and prudent to accept of the benefits Christ can offer, and at the same time to be silent about them. "Secret discipleship" is thought to be a masterpiece of wisdom. Everything is thus gained, and nothing risked or lost. But is everything gained? Is nothing risked or lost? Is the secret disciple ever likely to become a man of nobility and courage? Does he secure even self-respect? Must he not feel very much as a debtor who is always trying to shirk his obligations and ignore the debt? Or take the matter in the concrete. Was Nicodemus noble as he visited Jesus by night, and kept his discipleship a secret from the Sanhedrin? Was Joseph of Arimathaea noble as he gave his heart to the despised Saviour, but continued afraid to confess him? Neither man became noble until the Crucifixion brought decision, and they vied with each other what respect they could show to the remains of their great Master. Or would Saul of Tarsus have ever become the noble apostle of the Gentiles if he had sneaked into Damascus after his conversion, and resolved to risk nothing for his new-found Saviour? The manly character which Saul cultivated by confessing Christ was an infinite gain. It thus appears that confession of Christ is the wise test of the reality of our faith in him. May we all stand the test, and not be ashamed of him!—R.M.E.