NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER TEN (Lesson XIII)
When our thoughts, words, and deeds use the Word of God as a guide and motivator, our obedience then becomes one of principle, not obligation. As Paul told the Philippians: “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”1 Paul then goes on to tell how Christ, even though He was on the same level as the Father, did not regard that as being something to cling to, but, as God’s Son, gave up His exalted privileges in exchange for a humble position in becoming Mary’s son. Not only did He take on human form, but in doing so had to deal with all the limitations and needs of the flesh. He even went to the cross in obedience to His Father’s will and died as a criminal. But after doing so, God raised Him from the dead and elevated Him again to His divine position in heaven.
So how does this relate to us? It becomes a matter of principle by which our attitude and motivation are affected. Jesus was willing to give up one thing in order to receive another thing that His heavenly Father ordained for Him. Our Lord subjected Himself to a status much lower than what He previously possessed for the sake of others. Not only that, but He freely consented to enduring hardships and trials in order to carry out His Father’s will. As a result, He was despised by the world, made fun of for His faith and the audacity of calling Himself the Son of God. It ended up costing Him His life. But in doing so, He was able to save others and God rewarded Him by raising Him from the dead to have with everlasting life up in heaven. Since Jesus did that for us, can we do any less for Him?
John Calvin sees Paul’s statement concerning the “message of faith” being interpreted as a “word of promise.” That is, the Gospel itself because it must be understood in its relationship to faith. For we are told that faith is the substance of things hoped for but as yet unseen.2 And these things hoped for are the promises of God coming true. In this, we can see the distinction between the Law and the Gospel. And from this differentiation, we learn that while the Law demands works, the Gospel requires nothing more than faith. And when faith is brought to God, His grace is received. And that grace allows for the forgiveness of sins. And once those sins are forgiven, then justification is given to stand before God in as being right with Him. But not by the self-righteousness of works, but by the righteousness available through the work of Christ on the cross and resurrection. So the big difference between what Paul was preaching and what Moses told the children of Israel is that salvation has a different source. It is no longer the Law, but Christ.3
John Bengel has an interesting way of internalizing what Paul is saying here. As a believer, there is no reason why you should go looking for Christ in a church building or up in the sky. As soon as you believed, the Spirit of Christ took up residence in your heart. So don’t seek the Lord at a distance, but look within you. You will find Him there. This is true not only during the beginning phase of your faith but during your whole journey.4 This is reflective of what the Psalmist said: “Search for the LORD and for His strength, and keep on searching! Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the decisions He has made.”5 And just remember, as a new creation in Christ Jesus, you are one of His miracles. Because once this happens then you are eligible for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to exercise His gifts.
Adam Clarke sees Paul answering his own question about where to find the blessed assurance of salvation. There is no need to travel the world in search of the source of God’s saving power. It’s as close as saying by faith, “Father forgive me.” God never intended to make the way to salvation difficult or complicated. It was as simple as Christ’s death on the cross. And having faith in His death and resurrection is clear for all to know, and there are thousands who have answered the call and found that what it says it does and what it says it will do.
This is why Jesus commanded His disciples and all who followed Him to go and proclaim the Good News. He did not want the lost sheep to go in search of Him, He wanted them to know that He was willing to go in search of them.6 Paul also made it clear when he said in the next verse: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” But such a confession is useless if it is not done sincerely by faith with a strong desire to be saved. By submitting to this method of justification which God has devised, there is nothing a person can do to augment it or make it better.7
Robert Haldane questions whether or not the Apostle Paul is looking for a way to show that when it comes to righteousness, the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ must agree on some mutual point since both come from God. It appears that Paul found such a coincidental point of view when he quotes from Deuteronomy 30:11-14. Or could it be that Paul saw the clear manner in which the knowledge of what God required given to the children of Israel, and compared it to the clear language of the Gospel required to be given to those who would become the children of God?
As Paul explains it, under the Law they had to reach out for righteousness through works. But in the Gospel, righteousness reaches out to the sinner because the work is already done by Christ. Furthermore, under the Law the sinners were encouraged to search in order to find the way to God. But in the Gospel we see that God found a way to the sinner by sending His Son. So since the door of truth, as contained in the Law, was staring the people of Israel in the face, all they had to do was knock so they could go in. But in the Gospel is it Christ who stands at the door and knocks, and whoever opens up, He will come in8.9
Albert Barnes notes that Paul’s quote of Deuteronomy 30:14 was to signify that the doctrine was already so familiar, and so well understood, that it was already part of their language; their common conversation. Moses had so often instilled it in their minds that it was understood and talked about by the people. That way, there was no need for them to go in search of it in some distant land among a foreign people in order to obtain it. So Paul’s point is that the same is true of the Gospel. The facts were so well-known by the preaching of the Apostles, that they might be said to be “in every man‘s mouth.” So there was no need to go looking for it, it was already in front of them. This simplicity and plainness of the Gospel will now be explained by Paul in the next verse.10
Swiss theologian Frédéric Godet does not hesitate to consider the writings of Moses from ancient times being considered relative truth, but in Christ it becomes absolute truth. There is, therefore, in this passage neither an attempt to merely quote the words of Moses, nor, as a Rabbi, for Paul to pretend to interpret it correctly. In fact, what Paul does here ought to be done in every sermon. First, point out in the strict sense of the text the fundamental and universal principle it contains. Then, in the broad spirit of the text freely apply that fundamental and universal principle to the circumstances in which the people hearing are living. But there is one critical part of this process. Whatever is taken from the wisdom of Moses, must be delivered to the current audience through the wisdom of Christ.11
But British scholar John Stott has a warning when such a process is used. He feels that many try to read into what Paul was thinking or saying things coming from their imagination but not a real part of the text. So, first the question is asked: “How does Paul use this passage from Deuteronomy?” Could we suppose that under the anointing, Moses was foretelling the death and resurrection of Jesus? Or could we assume that Moses was preaching the Gospel under the guise of the Law? The answer is emphatically, No!
Where we find the similarity between what Moses was teaching and what Paul was teaching lies in their easy accessibility. Paul knew that Moses began this part of his speech by telling the Israelites that his teaching was neither too difficult for them to understand, nor too far beyond their comprehension. Moses used dramatic imagery. He said it was neither up in heaven nor beyond the sea – remote and unknown. That’s why they did not need to have someone ascend into heaven or cross the sea in order to bring it back to them. On the contrary, what he taught was closer to them than he was. It was a part of them already. It was actually inside them, in their hearts and in their mouths. So the same can be said of the Gospel.12
Jewish scholar David Stern finds Paul telling the Israelites that what needed to be done was found in the Word given to them. It was not about following religious rules, but trusting in the message being brought to them. So the question needs to be asked: “What is this ‘trust’?” According to Paul, it consists of two components: privately trusting and publicly acknowledging. To do this, it requires using the heart and the mouth. On the basis of such trust alone can our efforts to obey God’s directives (Romans 1:5) lead to being made righteous (1:16–17). And that, in turn, will bring deliverance (or “salvation”) from the death penalty which sinners (that is, all people, 3:23) have earned (6:23).13
Verse 9: If you openly declare, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from death, you will be saved.
This scripture has been so misunderstood and misapplied that many who have heard it quoted to them as part of the sinner’s prayer are still not sure if salvation is theirs. Confessing that Jesus is ADONAI and believing that God raised Him from the dead, is only the first step toward salvation. In other words, there is no reason to go on confessing one’s sins and expressing that Christ is now Lord, Savior, and advocate before God the Father in order to receive forgiveness and eternal life. Unless you believe with all your heart that it is true, whatever else you may say will have no effect. It would be like a Jew reciting the Ten Commandments without believing they really came from God and are binding. Or, for someone to repeat John 3:16 without being convinced that it really happened and that by believing in Him they need not fear dying in their sins and facing everlasting punishment.
1 Philippians 2:5
2 Hebrews 11:1
3 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
4 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 324
5 Psalm 105:4-5
6 Luke 15:3-7
7 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 203
8 Revelation 3:20
9 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 504-505
10 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
12 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
13 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.