Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Romans 10:9-10

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

V9-10 – The word of faith is this: Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead to be saved. What a great couplet of verses! “Confess” is a powerful word. It literally means “to agree with another.” In this case, when a person confesses that Jesus is Lord, he or she is agreeing with God the Father that what He said about His Son is true. See 1 John 5:9-12.

Since the time of Christ, believers have been demanded to denounce Christ as King and confess allegiance to the king of the land. Failure to do so meant death. In Scotland in the 1700’s, a woman and her mother were captured by loyalists to the king. They were taken to the ocean and strung on crosses that were stuck in the sand during low tide. The mother was placed 20 feet farther out than the woman. They were then given the opportunity the confess loyalty to the king of Scotland rather than Christ. And as the tide came in, and as the mother was taking her last few breathes before the water covered her over, the loyalists mocked the woman and asked her what she saw. She replied, “I see Christ and victory over the grave.” Moments later, the waters covered her over as well. During Reformation times, Confessions of Faith were drafted to unify believers in the truth of Scripture. The Belgic Confession of Faith, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the London Baptist Confession of Faith are three such confessions. It would do us well to familiarize ourselves with the theology of these confessions, as they have much to offer as we strive for consistent theology in our day. What a powerful word Paul chooses in “confess.”

And what is it that must be confessed? “Jesus is Lord!” Paul uses this same language in Philippians 2:11. The context of the Old Testament he just quoted referred to the Lord, and Paul is now applying that to Jesus Christ. Isaiah 43:11 “I am the LORD, and apart from Me there is no savior.” 45:21 “Declare what is to be, present it—let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but Me.” So Paul is telling us that this Jesus whom we must confess is none other than the Creator God of the Universe, the Almighty, the Lord, Jehovah. He is the Savior. And the Savior is the Lord. There is no other. We cannot separate, as many liberal theologians do today, the Lord and Savior aspects of Jesus Christ. He is not one or the other. He is both.

A Christian by dictionary definition is one who professes to follow or confesses faith in Jesus Christ. But we also learn from Scripture that profession or confession does not mean possession. There’s more to it than mere confession. 2 Timothy 2:19 “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,' and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’” Titus 1:16 “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” 1 John 2:3-4 “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” So genuine confession requires possession, and that’s basically what Paul is saying in these two verses. Confessing with the mouth is part of it, but belief from the heart is another. This confession that Jesus is Lord requires action, and that action only results from genuine belief from the heart.

Notice that the believing actually precedes the confessing (v10). Confession is the outward and audible expression of one’s inward faith. Many have an intellectual, head-knowledge concerning Christ, but this is not enough (see Acts 8:37 – the missing verse). God works in a person’s heart to bring them to salvation (Acts 16:14). When Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:3 that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit,” he is not saying that intellectual assent cannot be achieved by unbelievers. He is saying that a genuine confession, which requires more than lip-service, cannot be made by unbelievers. Everyone who truly believes will confess Christ.

However not everyone who confesses Christ is a true believer. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’” The gospel must be obeyed from the heart. Notice again Paul’s prayer in Romans 6:17 “Thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.” It is from the heart that our actions become realities. Luke 6:45 “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Matthew 15:19 “Out of the heart come evil thoughts [and deeds], murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

So we confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that what? God raised Him from the dead. Belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ is essential for salvation. Our faith is in a living Savior. Romans 4:25 “Christ was raised for our justification.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-14 “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Again, what a great pair of verses here in Romans 10:9-10!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Romans 10:5-8

Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them" [Leviticus 18:5]. But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' [Deuteronomy 30:12]" (that is, to bring Christ down) "or 'Who will descend into the deep?' [Deuteronomy 30:13]" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart" [Deuteronomy 30:14], that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming...

V5-8 – The right way to be right with God is by faith and not by law. Paul’s point in quoting Leviticus is that Moses’ “gospel,” (“Do and live,” i.e., perfect obedience to the law brings life), is “the righteousness that is by the law.” Yes, it’s simple to understand, but it’s not really “good news,” not really “gospel,” because, as we saw in Romans 3, it is impossible for sinful man to obey the whole law. (This was also evident to the Old Testament readers from verses like 1 Kings 8:46). Thus, what man could not do by law, God did do by grace. Romans 8:3-4 “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” So Paul sees that perfect obedience brings life, but he also sees that perfect obedience is impossible for all but Christ. Therefore, Paul sees Christ in Moses’ gospel. Christ’s perfect obedience brings life for all who believe. This is fairly straightforward.

But then Paul moves on to quote Deuteronomy 30:12-14, and when we examine that context, we must wonder why Paul chose this passage to explain the righteousness according to faith, given that Moses says in Deuteronomy 30:11, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” This passage seems a strange place to turn if Paul is trying to point out the impossibility of self-righteousness and trying to drive people to Christ for righteousness. Most Jews, as we’ve seen, were striving to establish their own righteousness, so this passage seems to support their efforts. Moses seems to be saying that self-righteousness is not only possible, but that it’s “not too difficult.” Paul, however, found the reality to be that is was too difficult. Not a single person other than Jesus Christ attained the law’s requirements. So what do we make of this? Several interpretations of this have been offered.

Perhaps, say some scholars, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30:12-14 to show, as Moses did, that we don’t have to go up to heaven or down to the deep to gain righteousness. Christ has already come down from heaven to bring righteousness to us, and He has already been raised from the dead to justify us. Righteousness is near to us. Paul says, “Just believe.” Other scholars modify this view slightly, saying that Moses was pointing out how close and how simple the law was. It was written for them on tablets, “do and live;” it was even in their hearts and mouths. Thus Paul takes the simplicity and nearness of Moses’ “gospel,” “the righteousness that is by the law,” and says, “You thought that was easy and near, just check out my Gospel, ‘The righteousness that is by faith.’ It really is easy and near!”

Another view of this text is much more complicated. Follow me: In v6, Paul begins the quote of Deuteronomy 30:12 with a quote from Deuteronomy 9:4-6, which is God’s warning to Israel not to think that their own righteousness was the reason for God giving them possession of the Promised Land. “After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, (or “do not say in your heart”) ‘The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.” It’s not about you.

Now keep that text in mind and look back in the context of Deuteronomy 30 a little further, specifically to v1-6, where Moses anticipates the return from exile or judgment. V6 says, “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” Paul sees that the perfect obedience of Israel would only come in the day when God fulfills His new covenant promise perfectly and forever changes the heart of Israel. To seek one’s own righteousness at this time would be like trying to do what only God could and did do. Paul reads this with Christ in mind. Christ would bring this to pass. His blood would be the blood of the new covenant. Someday there would not only be perfect justification, there would also be perfect sanctification. The commandments really would be easy, as Moses seems to say. But it would only be through Christ.

So each time Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30 in our Romans passage, he sees Christ. Each time Moses refers to the commandment being easy and near, Paul substitutes Christ. In v6-7, Paul quotes Moses saying, “Who will ascend into heaven or descend into the deep (to make the commandment doable and easy)?” Moses is saying that you don’t have to ask those questions, you don’t have to do those things, because the commandment is already doable and easy. And Paul is applying that to Christ. He is saying, “You can’t go up to heaven or down to the depths to make Christ come down or to make Christ be raised. There is nothing you can do to earn Christ’s righteousness.” Paul puts the earthly life of Christ and the risen life of Christ in the place of our obedience to the commandments.

In other words, Paul sees in this Old Testament text as pointing to the day when Christ would be both our justification and our sanctification (both our righteousness and obedience). Moses teaches that we must have a perfect righteousness that is doable—but none do it. Therefore, Paul infers that Christ will come, live, die, rise, and thus do the perfect obedience for us and credit it to us. And then, because of that great justification, we will one day, with a perfectly circumcised heart, obey God perfectly with ease and joy.

And there’s one final interpretation here that I’d like to offer: Paul, in quoting Moses from Deuteronomy 30, is using two phrases (Go up to heaven or down to the deep) that had become very common in Jewish literature to stand in for things that are impossible. Paul is saying, “Look, in the way of salvation by faith, God is not asking you to perform some monumental task of ascending into heaven, or descending into the abyss to gain righteousness.” And as Paul says as we move into v8, just believe, because the word is near you. God hasn’t required us to do “Mission: Impossible.” Jesus has come from heaven to be near us, and He has been raised up from the dead to be near us, in order that we believe on Him. Those are just a few interpretations of this passage.

So Paul’s quote in v8: “What does Moses say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’” is intended to show that all along Moses was teaching that the way to righteousness was through faith and not by works. It might be hard for us to see that. But we know it’s true. And Paul says, “The word that is near you is the word of faith that we are proclaiming!” And so as we move into v9-10, which we'll look at next time, we see that we respond with faith, with the confession from our mouth that Jesus is Lord as we believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead and the result is that we will be saved. That’s amazing!