Rom 10:5-9 “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; 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.”
When reading this passage of scripture, we must be careful to not treat it as an island. We must consider it in the light of things that Paul has already said before. In the previous chapter, he pointed out that those who had sought righteousness by the law had not attained unto righteousness. True righteousness does not come by the law, but by the faith of God (Romans 9:30-32).
When a man seeks to attain righteousness by the law, he must live in all the things taught by the law. It is made evident throughout the scripture that we cannot keep the law of God perfectly. Even if we seem to do so from an outward appearance, we fail in our hearts. This was the point Jesus was making to the multitude in the fifth chapter of Matthew when He pointed out such truths as being angry with a brother without cause brings us in danger of the same judgment as killing (Mat. 5:21-22) or that lusting after another in our hearts was just as wrong as committing physical adultery (Mat. 5:27-28).
We see in this that living by the law will not make us righteous, for without the grace of God the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9-10). The Lord knows our hearts, and we cannot hide our unrighteousness from Him by appearing to live righteously according to the law. The righteousness that is of faith is here in us. It is revealed to us by the Holy Ghost that we have righteousness in Christ alone.
We cannot raise ourselves high enough to bring Christ down to us. He came because His Father sent Him. There was nothing in us that could command such a sacrifice. We cannot claim to be worthy of His resurrection because of anything that we have done. We are, in ourselves, all together unrighteous.
The righteousness which is of faith teaches us that the matter (word) is near unto us. It is not far above or far below, but rather is in our heart and in our mouth. It is put there by the grace of God so that we might rightly proclaim that Christ is all in all. It is brought to light by the gospel of Jesus Christ revealed to us by God through the Holy Spirit.
Again, we must be careful to keep this all in the context of Paul’s teaching. It would be easy for us to slip into the thought that all we have to do to go to heaven is confess Jesus with our mouth and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead. Remember that Paul is still dealing with his desire for his brethren (who already have a zeal of God) to be delivered from the error of seeking righteousness through the law instead of faith. We are saved from the sorrow of self-righteousness when we bless God by declaring with word and deed that our righteousness is in Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead!
May we declare Him by the true righteousness of faith in God and not man!