Chapter # 10 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2
March 31, 2009
6 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:)
7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
8 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;
1901 ASV Translation:
6 But the righteousness which is of faith saith thus, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:)
7 or, Who shall descend into the abyss? (That is, to bring Christ up from the dead.)
8 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:
- I. The Principle of "Faith".
- A. Paul, quoting Moses, identifies the antithesis to "the righteousness of the Law".
- 1. The quote comes from a compilation of Deuteronomy 8:17/9:4 (the "Say not in thy heart" segment) and Deuteronomy 30:12-14 (the "Who shall ascend into heaven/Who shall descend into the deep" segment).
- a. The "Say not in thy heart" segment is set within the issue of the question of one's own personal qualifications for the results that have occurred. In 8:17 it is why one is "wealthy" and in 9:4 it is why God has cast the nations out of the land that He is giving to Israel. The caution regards two fundamental issues: what a person says "in his heart"; and why the particular results under consideration exist.
- 1) What a person "says in his heart" is an expression of true conviction; the way one actually sees the processes of life.
- 2) The danger is that Israel might "say in his heart" that God has favored him for his righteousness. Moses debunks this immediately and then re-debunks it in 9:6 with the insistent, "Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people."
- 3) This segment of Paul's quote from Moses "fits" his thought in Romans 10 in that he has been attempting to make it absolutely clear that "Life" does not come from self-righteousness. Just as the "good land" did not become Israel's because Israel was so much "better" than the displaced nations, neither does "eternal life", rooted in the righteousness of faith, become one's possession by means of "the establishment of one's own righteousness". Grace moves completely outside the pale of actual human "performance" issues.
- b. The "Who shall ascend into the heaven ... who shall descend into the abyss" segment is set within Moses' prophecy about the final regathering of Israel from all of the nations "whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee" (Deuteronomy 30:1) and has, as its foundation, the "circumcision of thine heart" (30:6). The outcome is that they will actually "do all His commandments" (30:8) as the outworking of the "faith" toward which Paul is pointing in Romans 10. This, in Paul's mind, is the reason for his blending of Deuteronomy 9 with Deuteronomy 30. The Israelites disobeyed the injunction of 9:4-6 and the outcome was that they suffered the very same thing at the hands of other nations that the nations that they drove out of the land suffered at their hands. This is what Deuteronomy 30 both prophesies and acknowledges.
- 1) Paul's use of Moses' words is not very straightforward. Moses says that "the commandment is not in heaven that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven and bring it unto us ... neither is it beyond the sea (abyss) that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us and bring it to us...".
- a) There is no "obvious" reference to the Messiah in Moses' words, but Paul inserts the ideas of "bringing Christ down" and "raising Him from the dead" into those words. This is why I say that Paul's use is not very straightforward.
- b) But what Paul did was to take the principle of Moses' words (a human attempt to make God's words "too hard to do") and attach them to the real issues of difficulty -- the incarnation and resurrection of the Christ.
- 2) Paul's point is the same as Moses': the word is near, both in the mouth and the heart. In other words, "faith" is not concerned with "how hard" a matter is, but with "Who" is committed to its accomplishment. If, as Moses affirmed, the "doing" of the words of God will occur after He has circumcised their hearts, after He has regathered them from the nations, then, obviously, the issue of "doing" because the word is "in their mouths and in their hearts" is the outworking of the activity of God on their behalf to make His words "doable".
- a) The real issue of "doing" the words of God is not the level of "activity difficulty" (moderate strength and health makes it possible to do anything that God says "do" at the level of overt action); it is the level of "motivation". Fear, anger, distrust, opposition -- all of these "attitude" things are what makes the "doing" impossible.
- b) The circumcision of the heart is what allows the word to actually get into the heart so that it can, then, be actually "done" both in motive and act.