Paul's Passing Thoughts

Romans 10:6-9; Righteousness, Faith, Life, and Law

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 22, 2013

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FAITH

Faith and ROM 6

FAITH CONSTRUCT-001

I have been wrestling with this passage all week long through pondering and praying. Last week, we looked at Christ being the end of the law for righteousness, or for all practical purposes, justification. Then, we noticed that to further his points, Paul referred to his Old Testament commentaries. We wanted to read those commentaries along with Paul to better understand what he was teaching about righteousness/justification. Those two words mean the same thing for all practical purposes.

But reading the passages from Moses that Paul cites led to utter confusion. What Moses wrote seems to contradict Paul. Moses states that life comes through obedience to God’s law while Paul states that justification comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone. As we have seen, a righteousness apart from the law. Here is what Paul states:

Roman 10:5 – For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);

These are the two passages written by Moses that Paul is referring to:

Leviticus 18:1 – And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.

Deuteronomy 30:11 – “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

The idea that is in vogue in our day is that Moses continually prodded the Israelites to try to live by the law so that they would be driven to despair and see their need for Christ. This is the popular interpretation of what Paul meant by the law being a schoolmaster that leads us to Christ. In fact, we supposedly still use the law in that way to perpetually live by faith alone in sanctification. The law shows us our sinfulness and continual need for Christ’s saving grace and forgiveness. “Life” is not really found in obedience; Moses was just saying that to show us our inability to obey the law perfectly and thus be justified by it. Be sure of it: this is 90% of what is being taught in the church today. That fact alone should make us suspicious for a great revival is NOT predicted for the latter days; the contrary is predicted in no uncertain terms.

This approach demands a nonsensical approach to a massive portion of Scripture. The concept of happiness, blessings, and life being found in obedience to God’s word dominates the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Let’s look at an example:

Ephesians 6:1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

It might also be interesting to note King David’s final instructions to his son Solomon:

1Kings 2:2 – “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3 and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

So, what in the world is going on here? First, please hang on to this principle of Bible study: when you begin the study of any given passage, read it intently and look for what the passage is plainly stating, and pay particular attention to specific words. Do not underestimate the intended meaning of any given word by assuming its singular concept does not have vast implications.

Secondly, as Christians we must function on objective truth that we know definitively. Often, those truths will be building blocks that add to a more complete building of truth. And in my struggle to understand what Paul is trying to teach in this passage, we have a building block. The building block of truth that we can use to build more understanding is that faith and obedience are the exact same thing. No, I am not saying that obedience is a result of faith—I like the two sides of the same coin illustration. One side of the coin didn’t come before the other. You may see one side of the coin before you see the other, but one didn’t come before the other. They are the same. It might even be said that the inside of the coin is never seen as well. It might also be said that the coin has two sides that can’t be seen at the same time and an invisible aspect.

We tend to dichotomize faith and obedience; I doubt the Bible does that. Here is another building block: faith does have a result; it’s not obedience, but it is “life.” Faith and obedience are one, life is the result.

So, where can we back this up with Scripture? Well, first, let’s look at what Paul is pointing to in his Isaiah commentary, and then we will go back at some point to his Moses commentary. Paul reads it as follows:

Romans 10:15 – And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

Obey the gospel? Seems like a peculiar way to state it, until Paul rehearses what Isaiah says, “who has believed what he has heard from us?” We see that Paul has simply replaced believe with obey. This is not nearly the only place where Scripture does this:

John 3:35 – The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Obviously, the antithesis of faith is disobedience. In other passages, believing the gospel is replaced with obeying the gospel:

2 Thessalonians 1:8 – in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

1 Peter 4:17 – For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Now, let’s go back to Moses. When Paul quotes Moses as saying, “if a person does them, he shall live by them,” that is simply a statement of fact. Before Christ came, people were born again by believing God. We know from Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus that the new birth was prior to the cross. Any kind of standard is not the point, believing God is the point. And remember, obedience is faith. So, saving faith is a heart inclined towards God. Reaching a standard isn’t the point; an inclination towards God is the point.

Abundant life is found in obedience, but that’s not where justification comes from. Justification comes from faith only, and then faith will always be looking for a way to please God. Reaching a standard has never been part of justification; therefore, perfection has never been required for salvation. A goal of perfection (desire for) will be the inclination of faith, but has never been a standard for justification. In Exodus 19, the Israelites agreed to the covenant before they knew the details—they simply agreed to follow God wherever it led them by faith. Faith makes us able to obey in a way pleasing to God because the word is in our hearts and in our mouths as a visible manifestation of faith. The invisible part of faith is belief in our hearts; the visible part of faith is what we do. What we do brings blessings, but not salvation. That’s why the principle of blessings and cursings is the same in the Old Testament and New Testament. That’s why King David’s exhortation and promise to Solomon is the same as Paul’s exhortation to children in the New Testament (EPH 6:1-3). Now, let’s read Moses in full context and see if we can observe these principles:

Deuteronomy 30:9 – The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.

Like I said, these are building blocks and I am not sure how this all fits together, but let me add a third building block: Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. This doesn’t mean that there was previously righteousness in obedience to the law, but it means the following:

Galatians 3:17 – This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Granted, I am foggy on how all of this works in the first covenant, but the word that was in their heart and in their mouth is now replaced with Christ as the object of faith:

Romans 10:5 – For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based [“based” not in the manuscripts, added by ESV] on [*] the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based [Ibid] on [*in both cases could be “of” instead of “on”] faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);

Perhaps the law was the object of their faith because it promised Christ, a will that was inaugurated by blood and executed upon the death of the testator (HEB 9:15-22), but the object of faith justifies, and obedience brings life. Obedience doesn’t justify per se, it is just the body life of faith. We are justified by faith alone, obedience merely shows forth the life of faith:

James 2: 14 – What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Also, we have a choice in sanctification to enhance life through obedience. The blessings are “in” the “doing” (James 1:25). We can apply biblical wisdom to our lives in order to have a life built on a rock (MATT 7:24-27), and experience life more abundantly (2PET 2-11). But remember, This is apart from justification by faith alone that has an invisible reality and a visible reality:

Romans 10:9 – because, 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. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

This can be best summed up by “The just shall live by faith” (HEB 10:38, HAB 2:4). “Just” is our position and imputed righteousness of God; the faith that we live by justified us, but the obedience of our faith lives in sanctification. These two, faith and obedience, cannot be separate for faith without works is dead.

In the final analysis, because national Israel rejected Christ, they sought righteousness in that which pointed to Christ instead of Christ Himself. By “Christ Himself” I mean faith in Christ’s death and resurrection as stated in the Scriptures, and submission to His Lordship commands that are also found in the Scriptures. In other words, faith in Christ and the obedient life that is also faith. Hence:

John 5:39 – You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

It would seem, at least in my mind, that this whole concept of obedience and faith being one lends understanding to a host of difficult passages.

ADDENDUM:

Three Constructs

1. Reformed

A. Perfect keeping of the law is the standard for righteousness.

B. We can’t keep the law perfectly.

C. Christ must keep the law for us via faith alone in sanctification to maintain just

standing.

2. Reformed New Covenant Theology

A. The law has been eliminated or abrogated by the New Covenant.

B. Life and godliness guided by single law of love as mediated by our consciences.

3. Biblicism

A. Our righteousness is apart from the law and by faith alone in Christ.

B. The law informs our obedient faith for sanctification.

3 Responses

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  1. Andy said, on July 23, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    You said: “Justification comes from faith only, and then faith will always be looking for a way to please God.”

    The writer of Hebrews says just that! “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” ~ Hebrews 11:6

    Like

    • paulspassingthoughts said, on July 23, 2013 at 8:54 AM

      Andy,

      Wow, I was not even thinking of that verse when I stated that. Pretty cool.

      Like

    • paulspassingthoughts said, on July 23, 2013 at 9:04 AM

      ….forgot the word, “not” in previous comment.

      Like


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