NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER TEN (Lesson XVI)
Ambrose sees the human heart and mouth as twin trumpets that should always sound together in harmony so that they may be in accord with what God says in His Word.1 There is nothing complicated about it. Believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and don’t be ashamed to tell others about it. But that’s only half of the story. They must also proclaim His resurrection from the dead by His Father in heaven as proof that Christ was His Son. Not only that but after God raised Him from the dead, He brought Him back up to heaven to stand at His right side as our only Mediator. And since He ascended in His transformed body, He will return in like manner to gather all those who believe in Him.2 Here we can see items that would later become part of the Apostles Creed written by Ambrose in 390 AD.
Augustine points to the fact that the innumerable and multiple rites by which the Jewish people had been oppressed have now been taken away so that in the mercy of God they might attain salvation by the simplicity of a confession of faith.3 But down through the ages, we have seen how believers in the church became oppressed by the innumerable and multiple rites that were developed to provide them grace for salvation and ensure their entry into eternal life.
But for Ambrosiaster, he looks into the future for the vindication of those who put their entire faith and trust in the Lord for salvation. Judgment Day is coming when everything will be laid out for all to see. That’s when all false doctrines and teachings will be exposed. But only those who truly believed in Christ will rejoice seeing that what they believed is true. There will be no reason to prove all other teachings and religions as false, that will be obvious. It’s like having a ring full of keys, but only one will open an important door. As soon as that one is identified by the owner, all the others are automatically disqualified4.5
Bishop Cyril had the same thing in mind as Ambrosiaster with regard to the Jews and Gentiles. He cautioned the Messianic Jews about assuming that salvation by faith is a blessing peculiar to them. The Scriptures disagree by saying that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. It doesn’t matter whether they are Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free.6 The God of the universe saves everyone without distinction because all things belong to Him. And everything God is and has is shared with His Son Jesus Christ7.8 Remember, Paul was writing to a church where both Jews and Gentiles met in fellowship and worship. But for some reason, Paul felt led to write them because news had reached him that the Jewish leaders were doubting the authenticity of the Gentile’s faith because they did not also practice the Laws and customs of the Jews.
Reformer Martin Luther makes it plain that faith alone will not suffice unless it is combined with a confession of belief in order to reach the goal of salvation. In his eyes, confession is the chief work of faith because it involves man’s denial of his ability to save himself and confesses that God is the only source of salvation. By doing this, a person surrenders their will in order for God to be acknowledged as their only source of salvation. God, in return, will confirm that person’s confession of faith as being genuine.9
John Calvin gives us his explanation concerning believing in one’s heart what they are willing to confess with their mouth. Calvin sees this passage as helping us to understand what justification by faith is; for it shows that righteousness then comes to us when we embrace God’s goodness offered to us in the Gospel. We are then, for this reason, justified because we believe that God is gracious to us in Christ. But let us observe this, – that the seat of faith is not in the head, (in cerebrum — in the brain,) but in the heart. To Calvin, Paul’s design was only to identify true faith out from which fruit proceeds. This would prevent anyone from laying claim to the name of faith. For real faith should kindle the heart with such zeal for God’s glory that it would ignite its own flame.10
As Calvin sees it, after stating all the reasons why God justly disowned the Jews, Paul gets back to the subject of the calling of the Gentiles. He has already explained the manner in which people obtain salvation, including Jews and Gentiles. So now it is time to hoist the universal banner of salvation so that it waves over those who were previously excluded. That’s when Paul repeats the testimony to which he called Isaiah as a witness. This certainly would establish more authority in the eyes of the Jews, and also establish as evidence how well the prophecies concerning Christ harmonize with the Law.11 As German Bible scholar Johann Bengel put it: “Unrighteousness and being lost produce shame; righteousness and being saved bring glory.”12
Adam Clarke is not bashful about what he hears Paul saying here. If you really put your faith and trust in Christ Jesus it will result in a full conviction of the truth of His message. Not only that but with it will come overwhelming evidence of His redemption that you will not be able to keep quiet. You will boldly confess your love and dedication to your Redeemer. Not only that, but declare for all to hear about how He and He alone has provided for the remission of all sins through His blood on the cross. One major goal in Paul’s efforts to get the word out is to show the simplicity of the Gospel’s Plan of Salvation. Not only is it simple but it is very effective. That’s because it does not rise or fall on the practice of rites, rituals, and ceremonies like the Law. Each one of these requires that they are perfectly fulfilled by each follower.
But here is the tragedy: after one has done their utmost with unreserved zeal to conscientiously observe all the precepts of the Law, not only will it fail to attain justification, but it does not bring any peace of conscience. That’s why Paul was so adamant that both Jews and Gentiles recognize that their faith and belief in the Lord Jesus, according to the simple declarations of the Gospel, had justified them freely. This was something the Law of Moses could not do. As a result, they now had the witness of the Spirit dwelling in them that they had passed from death to life.13 Clarke also feels that Paul is addressing the fact that many Jews despised the Gospel because it did not come with proper pomp and circumstance. So how could it put those who receive it into possession of every heavenly blessing? So Paul borrows from the prophet Isaiah to show that those who do believe will never be disappointed,14 and never be sorry,15 for taking such a leap of faith.16
Robert Haldane makes it clear that although confessing Christ as Savior is necessary, that alone is not enough to bring about salvation. Look at it this way: there is a confession of the mouth as a confirmation of the heart.17 This implies that the truth confessed with the mouth is known, received, and believed in the heart. So when both are authentically joined together, then one’s salvation is genuine. The reason for this unity can be seen if there is someone who says, “I believe in Christ,” yet when put in the spotlight of criticism they don’t have the heart to back up their claim. This proves that their faith is not genuine. It also must always be kept in mind that if a person believes anything other than what God said about the person and work of the Savior, that is not Gospel. Therefore, it can neither save or sanctify. The Gospel alone is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes it.18
Also, Paul’s statement: “Has raised Him from the dead,” poses the question – Why is so much stress laid on the resurrection? Isn’t what Jesus did on the cross sufficient to pay the ransom price for redemption? When He said, “It is finished,” was this not before His resurrection? Most certainly it was. But His resurrection proved that His work was finished. Therefore, the belief of His resurrection is part of His whole work. To illustrate this, a gardener plants all the seeds for a beautiful arrangement of flowers around the house. After all the seeds are planted and covered, they are then given water to grow. So the gardener tells the homeowner, it’s finished. But the homeowner will not be satisfied until they see the flowers sprout, blossom, and bloom. The same is true with Christ’s work on the cross. Although He said it was finished, He had to rise from the dead to show everyone all He came to do had been accomplished.
Haldane further explores the connection between believing and confessing. This is important since it results in righteousness and salvation. What righteousness is Paul talking about? It is the righteousness of Christ. What is the righteousness of Christ? It is His perfect standing with God having fulfilled all the demands of the Law. So how is this righteousness imputed to the believer? This righteousness is called “the righteousness of faith.” It is patterned after the righteousness of Abraham.19 Not that it IS faith, but what Abraham did by being obedient came BY faith; his faith in God’s Word and promise. Only in the believer’s case, their faith is placed in Jesus Christ.20 That means faith is in the work that Christ did on the cross by being the sacrifice for sin. By doing so, no longer must anyone try and produce their own righteousness through good works in an effort to completely obey the Law.21 By putting their faith in Christ as their justifying sacrifice, they simultaneously place their faith in Christ as their sole mediator with God the Father. This is not done simply by choice, but by their union with Christ.
Haldane then looks at Paul’s phrase: “And with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Confessing Christ as Savior is more than just taking an oath. It is more than making a substantiated claim. There is a difference between having faith in Christ and confessing Christ as Savior. Each one serves a different purpose. Faith is necessary to obtain the gift of righteousness; confession is necessary to prove that this gift has been received. When we look at the Greek term homologeō, it can be used to “give assent, to promise, to profess, to praise or celebrate.” Thayer, in his Lexicon, identifies its use here as, “openly declare, speak out freely.” He explains it as that of which a person is convinced, and which they hold to be genuine. It’s not a guess or a supposition, it is fact, a known reality.
1 Ambrose: On the Death of His Brother Satyrus 2.112
2 Ambrosiaster: On Paul’s Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.
3 Augustine: On Romans 67
4 See Matthew 12:36-37
5 Ambrosiaster: On Paul’s Epistles, op cit., loc. cit.
6 Galatians 3:28
7 Ephesians 1:10
8 Cyril of Alexandria: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
9 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cti., p. 148
10 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 Calvin: ibid.
12 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 325
13 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 204
14 Isaiah 28:16 (See Romans 9:33)
15 Isaiah 49:23
16 Clarke, ibid.
17 See Matthew 12:34; Also, Proverbs 4:23; 10:11; Psalm 14:1
18 Romans 1:16
19 Ibid. 4:13
20 Ibid. 3:22
21 Philippians 3:9