Romans 10:6 MEANING

Romans 10:6
(6) But the righteousness.--In opposition to this righteousness of works, so laborious and so impracticable, the Apostle adduces another quotation to show that the righteousness which depends on faith is much easier and simpler.

The original of the quotation has, indeed, a quite different application. It referred to that very law which the Apostle is depreciating. Moses had described the Law as something quite easy and accessible; but history had shown that, especially in the development in which the Law was known to the Apostle, the words were really much more applicable to his doctrine of a righteousness which was based upon faith. He therefore regards them as spoken allegorically and typically with reference to this.

The righteousness which is of faith speaketh.--This faith-righteousness is personified as if it were speaking itself, because the language used is applicable to it.

That is, to bring Christ down from above.--The Apostle adds these interpretations so as to give a specially Christian meaning to the words of Moses. All that these had meant was that the Law was not remote either in one direction or in another. The Apostle in the phrase "ascend into heaven" sees at once an allusion to the ascended Saviour, and he interprets it as if it implied that the Christian must ascend up to Him, or; what comes to the same thing, as if He must be brought down to the Christian. In like manner, when mention is made of descending into the abyss, he sees here an allusion to the descent of Christ into Hades. Again, he repudiates the idea that the Christian is compelled to join Him there in literal bodily presence. A far easier and simpler thing is the faith of the gospel. All the Christian has to do is to listen to it when it is preached, and then to confess his own adhesion to it.

Verses 6-10. - But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart (in the original, It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say), Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down). The parenthesis is St. Paul's own; the original has, after "heaven," and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). Again the parenthesis is St. Paul's; and he has substituted "into the deep" (εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον) for " beyond the sea." The original is, Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart (the original adds, that thou mayest do it; and the LXX., after "heart," has, and in thy hands): that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that (or, because) if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. The apostle's purpose in varying from the original is obvious from his interposed comments, and from the application that follows. It seems to be as though he had said, "See how, with a slight alteration, the passage in Deuteronomy becomes an exact description of our Christian doctrine." The most marked alteration is the substitution of "into the deep" for "beyond the sea." The "sea" in the original, to which the term "abyss" is applicable (cf. Job 28:14; Psalm 107:26), may have suggested the word; but St. Paul here evidently means by it the regions of the dead, imagined as subterranean, equivalent to the Hebrew Sheol, and the Greek Ἅδης. For use of the word in this sense, cf. Psalm 71:20 (which may have been present to his mind), Ἐκ τῶν ἀβύσσων τῆς γῆς πάλιν ἀνήγαγές με cf. also Luke 8:31 and Revelation 9:1, 2, 11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1, 3; in which passages ἡ ἄβυσσος seems to denote the penal abode, corresponding to the Greek idea of Tartarus; but the word itself does not contain this idea, which is by no means intimated here. It may be taken to denote Hades, into which Christ "descended." Some commentators suppose the previous expression, "ascend into heaven to bring Christ down," to mean bringing him back to earth from heaven, whither he has ascended now. But the mere fact of its coming first, as well as the general sense of the passage, shows it to refer rather to the Incarnation, and what follows to the Resurrection. These were the two grand stages in the great work of redemption; both were required that "the righteousness which is of faith" might effectually be brought "nigh unto us." The impossible task of effecting either was not required of man; God has done both for us, and we have but to "believe in our hearts," that "the word" of his grace may be nigh us, in our mouth and in our heart, that we may do it. Thus all that was intimated or foreshadowed by that old passage in Deuteronomy is in its fullest sense to us fulfilled. (It may be observed, in passing, that the application to the Incarnation of καταγάγειν, etc., is, if correct, one of the instances of St. Paul's recognition of the Divine pre-existence of our Lord.) In ver. 9 the applicability of the words, "in thy mouth, and in thine heart," to the gospel dispensation is shown; the two expressions, properly understood, denoting all that is required of us. Confession of the Lord Jesus with the mouth must be taken to express generally, not only fearless avowal of the Christian faith, but also consistent life, according to the full meaning of our Lord's words in Matthew 10:32; Mark 8:38; Luke 10:26; Luke 12:8, etc. Confession of the Lord Jesus with the mouth, too, would have a peculiar significance then, when Christians were often so sorely tempted to deny him under persecution (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3). We may observe also how "the mouth" is elsewhere regarded as the index of the heart; as the main bodily organ whereby character is evinced and expressed (cf. Matthew 12:34, 37; Matthew 15:11, etc.). Further, the belief spoken of is belief in the heart - a living operative faith, not intellectual conviction only. Nor is belief that God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead to be taken as meaning belief of this one article of the Creed alone; it carries with it belief in the gospel generally, the doctrine of the Resurrection being here, as elsewhere, regarded as the central doctrine on which all the rest depends (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:17; 1 Peter 1:21). "Haec summa Evangelii est. Nam, cum credimus Christum excitatum esse e mortuis, credimus sum pro peccatis satisfecisse, et in coelis regnare, ut nos ad imaginem suam perficiat" (Bucer). In ver. 10, where the offices of the heart and of the mouth are denoted in general terms, the distinction between "unto righteousness" with respect to the one, and "unto salvation" with respect to the other, is significant. By faith alone we are justified; but by confession in actual life, which is the fruit of faith, our salvation is secured.

10:5-11 The self-condemned sinner need not perplex himself how this righteousness may be found. When we speak of looking upon Christ, and receiving, and feeding upon him, it is not Christ in heaven, nor Christ in the deep, that we mean; but Christ in the promise, Christ offered in the word. Justification by faith in Christ is a plain doctrine. It is brought before the mind and heart of every one, thus leaving him without excuse for unbelief. If a man confessed faith in Jesus, as the Lord and Saviour of lost sinners, and really believed in his heart that God had raised him from the dead, thus showing that he had accepted the atonement, he should be saved by the righteousness of Christ, imputed to him through faith. But no faith is justifying which is not powerful in sanctifying the heart, and regulating all its affections by the love of Christ. We must devote and give up to God our souls and our bodies: our souls in believing with the heart, and our bodies in confessing with the mouth. The believer shall never have cause to repent his confident trust in the Lord Jesus. Of such faith no sinner shall be ashamed before God; and he ought to glory in it before men.But the righteousness which is of faith,.... Or "with respect to the righteousness of faith"; the other righteousness before called the righteousness of God, because God is the author of it, here the righteousness of faith, because that receives it,

speaketh on this wise; the selfsame writer who describes the righteousness of the law in such a manner, that it gives no room to a fallen creature ever to expect life and salvation by it, gives such an account of the righteousness of faith, as forbids all doubting and despair:

say not in thine heart; let not such a thought enter into thy mind, much less express it with thy lips;

who shall ascend into heaven (that is, to bring Christ down from above, or who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). These words are not properly a citation of Deuteronomy 30:12; but the apostle makes use of some phrases which are there, with his own explications of them; though the difference between them, stripped, of these explications is not very material: in the first clause, "who shall ascend into heaven?" the apostle leaves out the phrase, "for us"; which as to the sense was not absolutely necessary to retain; the difficulty, indeed, seems greater in the latter clause, "who shall descend into the deep?" which in the text of Moses is, "who shall go over the sea for us?" but when it is considered that the sea is often called the deep, and that sailing on it and over it, is expressed by "going down to the sea in ships", Psalm 107:23; and moreover, when it is observed that the Jerusalem Targum paraphrases it thus,

"the law is not in heaven that it should be said, oh that we had one of us, as Moses the prophet, who could go up to heaven and bring it to us! nor is it beyond the great sea, that it should be said, oh that we had one of us, as Jonah the prophet , "who could descend into the depths of the great sea", and bring it to us;''

the apostle is to be justified in his expressions. His sense, indeed, may seem to be different from that of Moses, and of the common interpretations of the Jewish writers, as in the above paraphrase and in the following account of them from the Talmud, understanding them of the law (w);

"says Abdimo bar Chama bar Dousa, what is the meaning of that Scripture, "neither is it in heaven, nor is it beyond the sea?" it is not in heaven, for if it was in heaven you must needs go up after it, and if it was beyond the sea, you must needs go over after it; Rabba says, not in heaven is it, you will not find it in him that exalts his knowledge in himself as the heavens, nor will you find it in him that enlarges his knowledge in himself, as the sea; R. Jochanan says, not in heaven is it, you will not find it in those that are of a haughty spirit, nor beyond the sea is it, you will not find it among traders abroad, or merchants.''

Though the apostle's sense may be brought pretty near to this, after this manner; who shall go up to heaven, or down to the deep, either to bring us the knowledge of the law, and yield an obedience to it which that requires of us, or to give us a full account of the Gospel of the grace of God? there is no room, nor reason, for men to say this in their hearts, or to make a doubt of them, as if they were not done already; to do so, is to deny that Christ is come in the flesh, and risen from the dead, who has given the true sense and knowledge of the law, and has perfectly fulfilled it, in the room and stead of his people, and by whom the doctrine of grace and truth is come, particularly the doctrine of a sinner's justification before God; this is brought nigh in the ministration of the word, so that there is no need of such inquiries as these. Moreover, for the illustration of these words, let it be observed, that these phrases are proverbial, and often used to express things impossible, of which take the following instances;

"it is a tradition of the Rabbins (x) if a man says to his wife, lo, this is thy divorce, on condition that "thou ascendest to the firmament", on condition that "thou descendest into the deep"; on condition that thou passest over the great sea on foot, this is no divorce;''

the reason is, , "because it is impossible". Again (y),

"if a man says to a woman, if thou wilt "ascend into the firmament", or if thou wilt "descend into the deep", lo, thou art espoused to me by this penny; but if thou wilt not go up into the firmament, nor go down into the deep, thou shalt not be espoused; and after that he puts the penny into her hand, lo, the condition becomes void, and behold she is espoused immediately, for the thing is known , "that it is impossible" for her to fulfil the condition.''

So here are forbidden all such thoughts, words, or expressions which carry such a sense as this; who will go down to the deep to fetch such a wretch as I am out of the lowest hell, to deliver me from the curses of the law, and the wrath of God, and bring me out of this wretched miserable condition in which I am? or go up to heaven and carry me there, and put me in the possession of the undefiled inheritance? all this is as impossible to be done, as for a man to ascend to heaven, or go down into the deep: now though the righteousness of the law encourages such despondency and black despair, the righteousness of faith, or the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ's righteousness, forbids every thing of this kind; assuring the sinner, that Christ is come down from heaven in human nature, that he has fulfilled all the righteousness of the law by his obedience in life, and has bore the penalty of it in his sufferings and death, and is risen again for justification; so that such questions should not be put, nor such despairing thoughts encouraged: besides, to think and speak in this manner, is to set aside the whole scheme of the Gospel, and supposes the person to doubt whether Christ is come down from heaven; and therefore asks, who shall go up to bring him down? and that he is not risen from the dead; and therefore puts the question, who will go down to the deep to fetch him up? whereas he is already come, has obeyed, suffered, and died, and rose again, and is become the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes.

(w) T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 55. 1. Maimon. Talmud Tora, c. 3. sect. 8. (x) T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 84. 1. & Bava Metzia, fol. 94. 1.((y) Maimon. Hilchot Ishot. c. 6. sect. 7. Vid. Zohar in Exod. fol. 40. 4. & 43. 1.

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