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 Message of "Faith".
A. The word is near.
1. This description seems to come out of Moses' questions about who will go the long distances necessary to procure the words -- as far as Heaven is high and as far as the Abyss is deep.
a. Moses says that his audience might say, "Who shall ... make us to hear it, that we may do it?" twice so that he might affirm that "this commandment is not "too hard" or "too far off".
b. Moses, however, had already preceded his claim by saying that it would take an active work of God in circumcising their hearts to actually get them to obedience, and their "objection" seems to support that. When people have no wish to be in harmony with God, any "excuse" will do to keep from "hearing" and "doing".
2. What was Moses' point? The words, at first blush, do not seem to carry any sense. In what sense would the Israelites ask, "Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it [the commandment] unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?" or "Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?"
a. Clearly, Moses anticipated resistance to his "commandment", as indicated by his "it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off".
b. This resistance must have arisen out of the very nature of the "commandment": Turn unto the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
c. Moses had already said of the Israelites, "Ye are a stiffnecked people" (Deuteronomy 9:6) and "...the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day" (Deuteronomy 29:4). In addition, in the very context of chapter 30 he says that the Lord's "circumcision" of their hearts was not to happen until long ages from the time in which his actual "commandment" was being given.
d. Thus, his "point" in saying "the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it" must have been two-fold: first, to overcome the resistance that attempts to claim that the word is too far away; and, second, to encourage the mouth/heart submission that leads to "salvation".
3. Paul's use of Moses contains his own "explanatory" words.
a. The "ascent into heaven to get" is understood by him to refer to the necessity of bringing Christ down.
b. The "descent into the abyss" is understood by him to refer to the necessity of bringing Christ up from the dead.
c. These explanatory words indicate that Paul understood the "principle" of the Mosaic commandment to be wrapped up in the Christ rather than in the individual Israelite. This goes along with his argument in Romans 5 that the real issues of Sin and Reigning in Life (5:17) are immediately tied to Adam and Christ rather than their progeny. Sin and Death came through Adam and Righteousness and Life came through Christ.
d. This means that Paul's general theological perspective was that "faith" is not about what specific individuals can do, but about what Christ did by the will of the Father.
4. Thus, the "nearness" is about the "already accomplished deeds of the Christ" from Incarnation to Resurrection. There is no "far off" (i.e., extremely difficult) task for a man to "do". The difficult task has already been done, and it was done by the "Who?", God the Father of the Christ. Thus, the actual reality of "faith" is that the message about what God has already done is preached and men either "believe" it, or not. "Faith" is not about a long process of getting one's house in order so that he might be acceptable to God; it is about "believing" what is declared to have been done by Grace.
B. It is in your mouth.
1. This "mouth" issue is explained by Paul to be, "...if thou shall confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord" (10:9).
2. However, in the repetition of the explanation of 10:10, the "mouth" element is made secondary: man's "belief" unto righteousness is a matter of the "heart" and, then, confession is made with the mouth unto salvation.
3. But there must have been a good reason for Paul to put the "in your mouth" segment first, given the fact that the logical order would be to put the heart first. The implication is that one's use of his/her mouth has a part in "the message of faith". But it is critical to understand that the "confession with the mouth" is directed by Paul's own words, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved", to mean that "confession" is God-ward, not man-ward.
a. "Salvation" is, according to 10:9, the consequence of mouth-confession and heartbelief.
b. But 10:13 says "salvation" accrues to the one who "shall call upon the name of the Lord".
c. Few there are who would say that this 10:13 "call" is not God-directed; but many are there who wish to make the 10:9 "confession" a "before men" reality. This is misguided because the words are all in the same flow of thought [those who wish to appeal to Luke 12:8-9 for a "necessary" confession before men need to use Luke's flow of thought in Luke 12 to make their case, not Paul's words in Romans 10].
C. It is in your heart.
1. The doctrine of the needed circumcision of the heart in both Moses (Deuteronomy 30:6) and Paul (Romans 2:29) is a prerequisite for this "it is in your heart" declaration. It is pretty much impossible for the "word of faith" to get into a hardened heart unless the barrier of that hardness is removed. This agrees with Luke's comment in Acts 16:14 regarding how "the Lord" had "opened" Lydia's heart "that she attended unto the things that were spoken".
2. Thus, the "message" of "faith" is that God not only has done all of the "hard" work (the Incarnation to Resurrection perfectly righteous Life of Christ), He has also done all of the "other" work (getting the message to the person who is to hear it and circumcising the heart sothat the hearing bears fruit).
D. The bottom line is this: "salvation by works of Law" is rooted in extensive rule-keeping while "salvation by faith" is rooted in the momentary human response to the proclamation of what God has done to provide eternal life. By "momentary" I mean that it occurs at a point in a moment of time, not that it only lasts for a moment. Salvation occurs in a moment, but its impact is forever.