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Romans 10:8-12 In Context

Submitted by on Monday, 30 November 2009No Comment

 olivesfromjordan

In the Life Application Study Bible we read this about Romans 10:8-12

Have you ever been asked “How do I become a Christian?” These verses give you the beautiful answer:  Salvation is as close as your own lips and heart.  People think it must be a complicated process but it is not.  If we believe in our heart and say with our mouth that Christ is the risen Lord, we will be saved.

We have heard this a lot of times from groups that call themselves Christians and claim that their belief is based on the Bible.  This is an example of a reading that disregards the context of Romans 10:8-12 itself which is not about being saved but about the apostolic conviction that Christ is the goal of the Mosaic law (see 10:5).  Paul writes those words to people who already believe the apostolic preaching and therefore the suggestion that one can use these words for people who are still unregenerated is not in the intention of the author.  Rather, Paul is here drawing attention to what his readers are already doing:  that they have believed in the Lord because of the grace accorded to them.  Not only that, but within the context of the discourse in Romans 9-11, Paul is writing these words with an implicit comparison:  to the Jews who did not accept the Lord inspite of the proclamation of their fellow Jews – like Paul and Peter — about the Messiah.

Romans 9-11 in fact is Paul’s explanation of the mystery of calling of the Gentiles.  A summary of this discourse can be presented as follows:

  • Romans 9
    • 1-5 Paul’s sadness at the disobedience of Israel to the gospel
    • 6-13 The promises of God are not for the children of the flesh, but for the children of the promise
    • 14-24 Through the calling of the Gentiles and the rejection of Israel, God makes known the power of His mercy
    • 25-33 In this situation, the words of the prophets are fulfilled
  • Romans 10
    • 1-4 Christ is the goal of the Law for the justification of everyone
    • 5-13 The righteousness that comes from faith has been preached
    • 14-21 But Israel did not accept it
  • Romans 11
    • 1-10 There is however a remnant chosen by grace
    • 11-24 Israel is not totally rejected (the present situation is temporary)
    • 25-29 For God’s call to them is not irrevocable
    • 30-32 Paul hopes that in the end Israel too will be saved
    • 33-36 Conclusion: Praise of God’s Wisdom

 

Note that based on this reading, Romans 10:8-12 is not about salvation being offered but about salvation already received AND being expressed through the confession of the lips.  To be noted is the way Paul makes use of Deuteronomy 30:12-13 which in the context of Moses’ sermon is a literary device that gives emphasis on the words that the Israelites are to remember and constantly recall in the liturgy.  Paul transforms the meaning of the words in midrashic fashion to refer to the words of apostolic preaching about the death and resurrection of Christ, the significance of which fills up the explanations regarding the Law of Moses and its inability to justify and to free one from sin in Romans 6-8.  More, this “word” is no longer the one found in the scrolls of Moses but in the preaching of the apostles.

Salvation is offered to all, but it does not come cheap.  It comes with the blood of God’s only begotten Son.  One does not simply mumble certain words to be saved.  One must in the first place accept God’s claim upon one’s person in the name of Jesus Christ AND as preached by the apostles.  To take Romans 10:8-12 as basis for the idea that salvation is easy betrays a lack of understanding of Paul’s doctrine: 1 He does not intend – as can be seen from the distinctions he makes throughout his letter to the Romans – to show that salvation is “not that complicated”.  For if salvation were that “not complicated”, why would he say to the Philippians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (see Philippians 2:12)? 

Romans 10:8-12
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
8But what saith the scripture? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart. This is the word of faith, which we preach.
9For if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.
11For the scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not be confounded.
12For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon him.
Romans 10:8-12
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
8But what saith the scripture? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart. This is the word of faith, which we preach.
9For if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.
11For the scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not be confounded.
12For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon him.
Romans 10:8-12
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
8But what saith the scripture? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart. This is the word of faith, which we preach.
9For if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.
11For the scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not be confounded.
12For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon him.
Deuteronomy 30:12-13
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
12Nor is it in heaven, that thou shouldst say: Which of us can go up to heaven to bring it unto us, and we may hear and fulfill it in work?
13Nor is it beyond the sea: that thou mayst excuse thyself, and say: Which of us can cross the sea, and bring it unto us: that we may hear, and do that which is commanded?
Romans 10:8-12
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
8But what saith the scripture? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart. This is the word of faith, which we preach.
9For if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.
11For the scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not be confounded.
12For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon him.
Philippians 2:12
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
12Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but much more now in my absence,) with fear and trembling work out your salvation.

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  1. In this regard, the ESV Notes are to the point

    If you confess with your mouth does not mean that a spoken affirmation of one’s faith is a “work” that merits justification, but such confession does give outward evidence of inward faith, and often confirms that faith to the speaker himself. that God raised him from the dead. Paul does not mean that people need to believe only this individual event with no understanding of Christ’s death, but rather they need to believe in the resurrection along with the whole complex of truth connected with it, particularly Jesus’ sin-bearing death in mankind’s place, followed by his resurrection that showed God the Father’s approval of Christ’s work (see note on 4:25). with the heart one believes. Saving faith is not mere intellectual agreement but deep inward trust in Christ at the core of one’s being.

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