Notes on Romans 10:4-9

Romans 10:4‑9  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 6
VERSE 4 has given rise to very various opinions. One which has prevailed from ancient times and perhaps still more among moderns, is that Christ is the accomplishment of the law. But there seems no ground whatever to confound τέλος with πλήρωμα. Others again take it in the sense of “object” or “aim.” But the simplest meaning as decided by the context appears to be “termination,” though we know it is also used for “issue” or “result.” And in this meaning the representatives of the most various systems coincide: Augustine and Luther on the one hand; Meyer, De Wette, &c., on the other. “Christ is [the] end of law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” The Christ of God is made unto us righteousness. “By law is knowledge of sin.” Righteousness cannot be had thus; only the believer is justified. Yet so sure is this result, that it belongs to every believer.
The apostle then contrasts the two systems and this by citations from the law itself. “For Moses describeth the righteousness that is of the law, that the man that has done the things shall live in virtue of them. But the righteousness that is by faith thus speaks, Say not in thy heart, Who shall go up to heaven? that is, to bring Christ down, or, Who shall go down into the abyss? that is, to bring up Christ from among dead (men). But what saith it? Near thee is the word, in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach, that if thou confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from among dead (men), thou shalt be saved.” (Vers. 5-9.) Faith applies when all is lost under law and its righteousness is impossible.
First then is quoted Lev. 18:55Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:5), which is indeed a general recognized principle of the law, as the spirit is embodied in many passages. The ground of the other side is found in Deut. 30. I do not agree with those who conceive that the apostle has put the smallest strain upon the latter citation. As in the former be speaks of life or living, not of eternal life which is God's free gift and only in Christ; so in the latter his use of Deuteronomy is most profound. Moses is setting before Israel not only the consequences of their unfaithfulness, but the divine mercy which meets them in their ruin when their heart turns to Him spite of the broken law. Now Christ really lies under the law however veiled. “The Lord is that spirit,” where those who read only the letter see nothing of Him and abide in death. But He is ever before the Holy Ghost. Hence the righteousness of faith did not cast the repentant Jew upon his own efforts, let them be ever so great.
“Say not in thy heart Who shall ascend to heaven? that is, to bring Christ down, or, Who shall descend into the abyss? that is, to bring up Christ from among dead (men).” Man could do neither. Had it been possible, neither would have suited the glory of God. He in grace meets man. It was the Father who sent His Son into the world. It was by the glory of the Father that He was raised from the dead. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son;” and God raised Him from the dead. On both truths the scriptures of the New Testament are most explicit. But what says Moses in this very passage here cited? “Near thee is the word, in thy mouth and in thy heart.” The blessing is at the doors. Christ is given and preached. It is for man to name Him with his mouth and to believe with his heart. There is no question of heights to be scaled or depths to be sounded, which would put honor upon human earnestness and ability. Christ is proclaimed for the simplest to confess Him, and to believe on His name. “That is, the word of faith which we preach, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from among dead (men), thou shalt be saved.” The outward expression is put first, not of course as most important, but as that which first comes into notice to the praise of Jesus: nevertheless it is of no value for the soul save as the embodiment of faith. “In thy heart” does not seem to be meant as a measure of affection, however truly there ought to be love for Him who first loved us. It does suppose however that the heart is interested in the truth, and that it is brought to desire what it hears to be true, instead of any longer fighting against it—brought to rejoice in the conviction that it is the truth of God.
Hence, believing in thy heart as well as confessing with thy mouth, the blessing is thine. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in thy heart that God raised Him from among the dead, thou shalt be saved. It will be observed that there is here no mention of death, but of resurrection. Death does not of itself imply resurrection; but resurrection does necessarily involve death. Jesus then is confessed to be Lord; why fear, why be anxious, if He who has undertaken to save is above all? You believe in your heart that God raised Him from among the dead. It is not only then that love came down to meet you and suffer for you, but power has entered, where Jesus was crucified in weakness. God entered the grave of Jesus in power and waked Him up—has raised Him and given Him glory, that our faith and hope might be, not in Christ only, but in God. He is for thee. He has proved it in raising up Jesus from among the dead. “Thou shalt be saved,” —not forgiven only—but “saved.” “If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”
Thus we see in Deuteronomy when the legislator has closed all the precepts and rites of the law, and shown Israel rebellious and ruined under that order of things, he does not fail to hint at the resources of grace. He supposes the Jew cast out of the land because of his infidelity to the legal covenant and of course to God Himself. Nevertheless though he could not draw near after that manner, the word was nigh him, in his mouth and in his heart. This is the word, says the apostle, which we preach. It is Christ, end of law to every one that believes. So it will be at the close of the age for the godly Israelite, who from his land of exile turns to God in the sense and acknowledgment of the people's ruin. If unbelievers were hopeless because they could not go up to Jerusalem, or cross the deep, for tithes or feasts or sacrifices, faith accepted the word which met their need in grace where they were. Christ ended law, yet was righteousness for the believer, and for every believer. It is too late to speak of living when the law is broken and you are banished in consequence under the sentence of death. Christ then is the one spring of confidence; but if for righteousness, He also closes law to every believer. The word of faith speaks a wholly different language from that of the law. Confessing Jesus as Lord or the Lord Jesus and believing that God raised Him from the dead is the word of faith; and it is not received only but preached. God is energetic in His grace and sends out the message far and wide.