Last week, we ended with this statement by Paul: Romans 10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: The one who does these things will live by them. We start this week right there, with a great word - “but.” Knowing his audience has not lived by the law of Moses, we knowing neither have we, this “peoples’ apostle” speaks to us more about the righteousness of faith.
Romans 10:6-7 (HCSB) But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like this: Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ down or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. He quotes Deut 9 and 30 in verse 6, explaining that if man were to go to heaven in this age it would be to bring Christ down to where He is needed. He is God and He came down in the right moment at the predetermined counsel of God the Father (Acts 2:23). There is a common misperception about Jacob’s ladder that his passage in Romans helps clarify. Genesis 28 reveals a dream Jacob had while he was on the run from his brother. In this dream, he saw a ladder reaching into Heaven, upon which angels were going up and down. How many times have you sang the song about climbing Jacob’s ladder? It portrays people climbing up to Heaven on the ladder – as if to bring Christ down? The ladder prefigures Christ, bridging the gap between Heaven and Earth. If it were a ladder for sinners to draw near to Jesus, we would have much reason to boast in ourselves. By this we know this is the wrong interpretation as much of this epistle has been focused on killing the desires of the flesh, including any boasting in the flesh for our relation with God. All interaction between God and man is initiated by God – Paul has made that clear in this epistle as have others quoted in the Scriptures. So we do not go up to heaven to bring Christ down.
Verse 7 then asks who will down into the abyss to bring Christ up from the dead, quoting Deut 30:13 and Heb 13:20 – which tells us the God of peace brought Jesus up from the dead. In Paul’s mind, it is just as crazy that a mortal would think he could bring Christ down from heaven as thinking he could bring Him up from the dead! No matter what Benny Hinn has said (and he has claimed to raise several people from the dead!), such a work can only be wrought by the One Who creates life!
The righteousness of faith, Paul tells us, does NOT make these claims. The false righteousness of works – pictured well by the small boy who wants to show his mother every little thing he has done, and is all-too-often told how wonderful he is! No matter how young, we do not need encouragement to think highly of ourselves. The righteousness that comes from faith speaks against this notion that we can determine or influence where the Lord Jesus is. Romans 10:8 (HCSB) On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. Here, Paul continues quoting from Deut 30, this time verse 14, where Joshua is presenting the nation with the challenge to follow after YHWH and enter into promised land. When the gospel is presented to lost people, the message is very near them. We bring this message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to people, not the message of working harder. For those being called, the message resonated in their souls and is very close to them and will evidence this by being in their mouths. Just as there are two categories of people, in two very different realms, so there are two types of righteousness – one spiritual and one fleshly. In each case, the more common, larger group or trait is the one at war with God. For them He is not the God of peace spoken about in Hebrews 13. For those of us in Christ, He is the God of peace!