6) 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:)
7) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
8) 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;Romans 10:6-8 (KJV)
Introduction – The Approachable Word
Regrettably, there are men and women who think that the Bible and Christianity are unapproachable.
Some think that the Bible is too difficult to understand. As a result, they relegate scripture to the world of bearded theologians in ivory towers. Others classify it as a mystical, mysterious and incomprehensible tome.
Unfortunately, many within the church throughout history have presented the Bible this way. Thus, Christians need to be aware of those who regrettably but rightly are intimidated by Christianity.
Before the reformation for instance, and even today, many of the clergy set a line of demarcation between what the “common man” could understand and what he could not.
For many centuries, the church often held a monopoly on God’s Word while simultaneously leveraging the illiteracy of its congregants to its advantage.
This was all done in the name of church hierarchies and power structures.“We can be grateful that man’s selfish desires and misconstruing of God’s teachings will never hinder or contain God’s plan or Word.”
As such, for centuries many believed that they were incapable of comprehending God’s Word. These even believed that doing good works for God was only reserved for special saints.
None of this is Biblical, and thankfully, the reformation, of which we are all inheritors, and its reformers, believed in the Great Commission and the unencumbered “free course” of God’s word. (2 Thess. 3:1)
The reformers, as with all Bible believing Christians, worked to ensure that the Gospel would not be “hid under a bushel,” but that it would appear to all men. (Matt. 5:15, Tit. 2:11)
We can be grateful that man’s selfish desires and misconstruing of God’s teachings will never hinder or contain God’s plan or Word.
He is sovereign, His will is being done, and He is building His church and nothing can stand against Him. (Job. 42:2, Ps. 115:3, Matt. 16:18)
Yet there is still much work to be done. Moreover, there are countless individuals today who are still influenced by churchmen and Christians who claim the Bible is too high-minded for them.
However, if you are indifferent or intimidated by the Bible or Christianity, you can rejoice, and “be not afraid.” (Matt. 14:27) You can enjoy the nearness of God’s Word and take hold of its saving power for your life today.
In this lesson we are going to look at what happens when God’s Word is “near” us, including how His gospel speaks and leads us to a transformed life.
Indifferent and intimidated
Not all are intimidated by Christianity though. In fact, unlike in the Middle Ages, today many are aware of Jesus and Christianity.
Still, while this is a better scenario at face value, it is not without its own challenges.
We must remember that awareness is not the same as knowledge. In fact, both are far cries from saving knowledge.
Ultimately, an over-familiarity with the Bible can sometimes breed apathy towards it.
Despite being raised in cultures where many are nominally Christian, people can easily mistake scriptural platitudes and bad theology for Gospel truth.
As a result, many merely “think” they know about Jesus when the sad reality is they have never known Him as Savior and Father.“We must remember that awareness is not the same as knowledge. In fact, both are far cries from saving knowledge.”
These have never come to accept Jesus’ salvation by faith through belief and confession in Him.
For them, the devil’s lies and work, along with cultural traditions, have made God’s Word to have “none effect.” (Mk. 7:13)
The problem is that both the spiritually indifferent and intimated view God as distant when in reality God is not distant at all.
In fact, the opposite is true, for everything that Jesus does is in relation to us, the very people whom He created, but who have sadly rebelled against Him. (Gen. 3:6)
Jesus came to “seek and to save” the lost. (Lk. 19:10) He wants to be known, and He is working to reconcile the world unto Himself. (Jn. 3:17, 2 Cor. 5:19)
God is not distant, rather He is never more near than when His Gospel message is presented.
Salvation is accessible
Because God is not distant, He makes His free offer of saving grace accessible to all of mankind.
This comes through the sound preaching and witness of His Gospel from the Bible, which in turn brings His Word and power near.
Paul underscores this in the main verses for this lesson. For context, in this passage he was reasoning with a Jewish audience so that they might be saved. (Rom. 10:1)
Specifically, though they had a “zeal of God,” they rejected Jesus and were still working to follow the law in order to be in a right standing with God according to their “own righteousness.” (Rom. 10:2-3)
Paul responded by stating that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Rom. 10:4)
God, through His son Jesus’ death on the cross, put an end to the law as the means of having a right relationship with God.“As Paul makes clear, accepting God’s offer of salvation is not a matter of personal performance. Rather, redemption is based entirely on Jesus’ work on the cross.”
In fact, those who have been saved and who walk after the Spirit are living evidences of the fulfillment of the righteousness of the law through Jesus’ sacrifice. (Rom. 8:4)
As Paul makes clear, accepting God’s offer of salvation is not a matter of personal performance. Rather, redemption is based entirely on Jesus’ work on the cross.
What is more, His very atonement for our sins and imputation of His righteousness unto us upon belief in Him is not by our own power, but by His. (Acts 4:12)
Continuing on we arrive at the verses whereby Paul, who was a well-learned Jewish scholar, famously invoked an excerpt from a farewell address by Moses in Deuteronomy 30:11-14.
However, he placed Jesus at the center of its message instead of the law. His parallel to Moses demonstrated that just as the law was present in times past and needed to be acted upon, the same applies to God’s Word today.
As such Paul rounds out his discourse by pointing out that “righteousness which is of faith” speaks to a new way. He adds that this new way is near. (Rom. 10:8)
Put simply, God’s salvation is accessible and fully approachable. He comes to us through His Word. God who is not distant, is active, alive and seeks us.
The next question then is how does God draw near to us?
God is near
Paul states that the word of faith is even in the very mouths and hearts of the hearers that are present. (Rom. 10:8)“God’s saving power, and God Himself, are always near the hearts and mouths of all who hear Him preached, witnessed and taught.”
This has two implications. First and contextually, Paul was telling his audience in a literal sense that God’s plan of salvation was right there for them to take hold of since he was preaching to them.
Second, God’s saving power, and God Himself, are always near the hearts and mouths of all who hear Him preached, witnessed and taught.
Sometimes those who are not Christians think that the reason Christians ask them to go to church or tell them about Jesus is because they have an unhealthy obsession with religion.
Actually, that could not be further from the truth. In fact, I bet if you asked many of us you would discover that we were skeptical at first too, that is until God drew near to us.
The truth is, that it is not really us, but God working through us, Who is witnessing to others, for He is always with us.
This is why Jesus promised that He will always be with us before He ascended back to heaven. He is with us in Spirit wherever we go, especially when we witness on His behalf. (Matt. 28:20)
He also brings things to our remembrance, aids us in communicating His Gospel, and lets us come to others in His power, for His spirit is truth. (Jn. 14:26, Matt. 10:20, 1 Thess. 1:5, Jn. 14:17)
This is why those who confess Jesus as savior are of God. (1 Jn. 4:2) Salvation and witnessing is God’s work first and foremost.
As such, if you are not a Christian, every time you pick up scripture, hear from God’s Word or listen about it from a friend, God draws near to you and speaks to you. This is doubly true when you seek after Him.
His Word always approaches others in all of God’s power. Now then, we have seen that God is not distant, and how He works through His Word and witnesses in salvation.
The question now is what happens to non-Christians when God is near? We will see next how God’s nearness is the way by which they can become spiritually born again of God. (1 Jn. 4:2)
God’s saving Word requires a response from each person who hears it, and that response is encompassed by faith.
The key ingredient to salvation is that it is by faith alone. This “the righteousness which is of faith” speaks to us. Faith is paramount.
The doctrine of faith alone is what is usually missing from cold churches or doctrinally weak churches. Those that attend are taught an incorrect and incomplete version of Jesus’ saving message. “The key ingredient to salvation is that it is by faith alone.”
When a faith response is missing, God’s word profits no one. (Heb. 4:2) Furthermore, without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6) Why?
Because “he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6)
A Gospel where faith is not placed in Jesus through belief in Him has no utility. In addition, a Gospel message where God’s true plan of salvation is not presented does not benefit anyone, but can lead to indifference and intimidation in its hearers.
Still, we can be thankful that in God’s great plan for mankind, He has remained “with us,” and that His word speaks to us when it is given by Godly men. (Matt. 1:23)
This is why faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17)
Through God’s Word we need look no further than Jesus Himself to find salvation from sins and life eternal with Him.
When His word is close, He makes the ignorant aware, challenges the indifferent and calms the intimidated. His are words of peace and words of life. (Jn. 14:27, Phil. 2:16)
How do we put what little faith that we have in Jesus when He is preached to us and draws near to us?
It is simple, you must come to Him in faith with your heart and words.
Believe and confess
Faith is God’s way of saying to us “I am here, I bid you come.”
Our mouths and hearts are the avenues by which He draws near to us, and from them we are to believe and confess Him as our savior through faith.
As Paul states, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9)
It is through the heart that we believe unto righteousness and with our mouths that we confess Jesus for salvation. (Rom. 10:10)“It is through the heart that we believe unto righteousness and with our mouths that we confess Jesus for salvation.”
This is the great culmination of Paul’s message and that of God’s method by which He calls and saves His people.
It is at once accessible, personable and simple, and it is all of God.
When we are saved, we become “heirs of righteousness” just like Noah, and we find relief from guilt and shame at the cross where new life beings. (Heb. 11:7, Rom. 8:33)
Conclusion – Not hidden
Today we have witnessed the tremendous and incredible things that take place when God’s Word comes near to us through His witness.
We have seen that feelings of indifference or intimidation towards God give us a false image of a God Who is distant, when in fact God is very much active in calling us back to Him.
His activeness, particularity through the transmission of His Gospel to the world through preaching, committed Christians and His Word, makes His salvation wholly accessible.
Yet it is also, through faith, simple. As He draws the lost to Him He draws near to their hearts and mouths, beckoning them to answer His plea to return to Him though faith.“His Word is not in heaven, nor is it beyond the sea, rather it is right here, among you and me.”
Those who act on their faith believe that Jesus is their savior in the hearts, and confess with their mouths the same. In return, they are saved.
It is truly amazing that whenever Jesus’ Gospel is given, He is never far away. Truly, when God is near, the incredible happens. Taking a queue from both Moses and Paul, let us remember…
His Word is not in heaven, nor is it beyond the sea, rather it is right here, among you and me.
Christian, have you brought Jesus near to someone who does not know Him? Non-Christian, have you responded to God when He is near?
Soli Deo gloria.
Image Credit: The Aegean Sea by Frederic Edwin Church (American, Hartford, Connecticut 1826–1900 New York). The Met Fifth Avenue (Gallery 760) Bequest of Mrs. William H. Osborn, 1902, 02.23.