Paul’s concern for Israel brings him to the core need that exists not merely among the Jews but among all peoples, the want of righteousness. Only Justification at the bar of God can supply this need.
God’s Plan For Israel
(h) The Righteousness which is by Faith
In identifying the need of Israel in the opening section of this chapter Paul states that the Jewish people “have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God”. He then progresses to explain and identify this righteousness. In so doing Paul returns to the central theme of his letter, Justification by Faith. As he has already expounded this doctrine in a theological sense he deals with it in this passage in a more evangelistic manner. His concern for Israel brings him to the core need that exists not merely among the Jews but among all peoples, the want of righteousness. Only Justification at the bar of God can supply this need. Therefore in this chapter, which considers the means that God uses to save his elect people, the apostle instructs us as to how God’s righteousness becomes the possession of a sinful and wicked people.
1: The Attribute of this Righteousness
v4 ” For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. “
The solution for the want of righteousness that exists in man’s nature is Christ; “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” In living a perfect life for 33 years Christ provided righteousness by keeping the precept of the law in a human body. In sacrificing himself on Calvary he absorbed the penalty of the law by taking upon himself our wrath and curse. In rising from the dead God accepting the righteousness of his Son in his life and sacrifice for fallen man. Therefore at the core of the Justification (which is the key doctrine of the Gospe) is the person and work of Christ our Mediator.
2: The Availability of this Righteousness
V5-8 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
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:)
Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
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;
The righteousness of the law is unavailable. Man must maintain the law of Moses and live by those principles to be accepted by God (v5). As we know, this is impossible as a result of our unrighteous nature. In v6-7 Paul shows that Christ is not at a distance from man. He is neither in the heavens nor is he in the depths. Rather he is near or “nigh” through the “word of truth” which is preached (v8). These verses are a clear reference to Deuteronomy 30:12-14 where Moses was teaching the people regarding their privileges. It is a privilege indeed to possess the word of God and to hear the Gospel presented. Experts in Jewish teaching, however, claim that the references to bringing Christ up from the depths or down from above reflect the idea that one must work to earn salvation. The rabbis taught that the Messiah would only come when Israel repented. Paul was teaching that the Messiah is here through the Gospel; there is nothing for man to do.
3: The Acceptance of this Righteousness
V9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath 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.
Merely listening to Gospel ministry is insufficient. There needs to be an acceptance of its contents. This acceptance is two-fold:
A One must believe in the resurrection of Christ from the heart in order to be made righteous. This clearly is the act of saving faith, the emphasis being upon believing from the heart, not simply knowing with the mind. The resurrection is highlighted because this was the climax of Christ’s work on earth for us. If Christ is raised then he is God’s Son incarnate in human flesh who lived and died for us.
B Paul also stresses the importance of confessing Christ with the mouth. One obviously is a natural progression from the other. “Faith is necessary to obtain the gift of righteousness. Confession is necessary to prove that this gift is received.” (Robert Haldane). Dr James Montgomery Boice, in a very practical manner, outlined some ways by which we can confess Christ:- Public worship; the sacraments; association with Christians; honest in business; witnessing; overcoming temptation; maintaining faith in severe trials; and through death.
4: The Assurance of this Righteousness
V11-13 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
This section closes with a word of comfort for those who have believed on and confessed the name of Christ.
V11 – they will not be ashamed. Trusting Christ carries no regrets and we are assured of acceptance in the last great day.
V12- God responds to all those who call upon him, whether Jew or Gentile. Therefore, in this section dealing with the future for Israel, Paul is teaching that the Jews must come the same way to God as the Gentiles, through Christ. The old divisions are now obsolete.
V13 – all those who call will be saved; this a glorious promise repeated now for the third time in Scripture (Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21).