A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 10:5-13. 2). Alternative ways of righteousness.
Paul has already stated three antitheses – between faith and works (9:32), between God’s righteousness to which we should submit and our own righteousness which we mistakenly seek to establish (3), and between Christ and the law (4). Now he draws out the implications of the latter by contrasting *the righteousness that is by the law* (5) with *the righteousness that is by faith* (6). He does so by appealing to Scripture, quoting a text on each side. He thus sets Moses against Moses, that is, Moses in Leviticus against Moses in Deuteronomy.
On the one hand, *Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The man who does these things will live by them’* (Rom.10:5; Lv.18:5). The natural interpretation of these words is that the way to life (i.e. salvation) is by obedience to the law. This is how Paul himself understood the sentence when he quoted it in Gal. 3:12. But ‘clearly’ , he added in that context, ‘no-one is justified before God by the law’, because no-one has succeeded in obeying it. The weakness of the law is our own weakness (8:3). Because we disobey it, instead of bringing us life it brings us under its curse, and that would be our position still if Christ had not redeemed us from the law’s curse by becoming a curse for us (Gal.3:10ff.). It is in this sense that ‘Christ is the end of the law’. Righteousness is not to be found that way.
So, on the other hand, *the righteousness that is by faith*, which Paul now personifies, proclaims a different message. It sets before us for salvation not the law but Christ, and assures us that unlike the law, Christ is not unattainable, but readily accessible. The passage Paul quotes (from Dt. 30) begins with a stern prohibition, which the righteousness by faith endorses: *Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) (6) or “Who will descent into the deep?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)’ (7). To ask such questions would be as absurd as they are unnecessary. There is no need whatever for us to scale the heights or plumb the depths in search of Christ, for he has already come, died and risen, and so is accessible to us.
What, then, is the positive message of the righteousness of faith? *What does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart’, that is*, Paul explains, *The word of faith* (the message requiring a response of faith, i.e. the gospel) which *we* (apostles) *are proclaiming* (8). Taking his cue from the reference to the people’s ‘mouth’ and ‘heart’ in Deuteronomy 30:14, just quoted, Paul now summarizes the gospel in these terms: *That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’* (the earliest and simplest of all Christian creeds), *and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved* (9). Thus heart and mouth, inward belief and outward confession, belong essentially together. ‘Confession without faith would be vain…But likewise faith without confession would be shown to be spurious.’ *For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved* (10). The parallelism is reminiscent of Hebrew poetry in the Old Testament, and the two clauses in verses 9-10 are held together rather than separately. Thus, there is no substantive difference here between being ‘justified’ and being ‘saved’. Similarly, the content of the belief and that of the confession need to be merged. Implicit in the good news are the truths that Jesus Christ died, was raised, was exalted, and now reigns as Lord and bestows salvation on those who believe. This is not salvation by slogan but by faith, that is, by an intelligent faith which lays hold of Christ as the crucified and resurrected Lord and Saviour. This is the positive message of ‘the righteousness that is by faith’.