The Word of Faith

18 02 2010

The title of my blog is drawn from Romans 10:8. 

“‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ – that is the word of faith that we proclaim”.

The Apostle Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 30:14 where Moses recorded his bringing of the commandments of God to the attention of the people Israel for (at least) a second time (that’s the idead behind the title of the book, deutero – second, nomy – law).  The commandment of God required of them one of two possible responses – ‘to obey his voice’ or ‘to turn your heart away’ – and Moses was urging them to obedience.  Moses anticipated a day when the people of God will be scattered throughout the nations of the world and He addressed their likely excuses concerning the Lord’s commandment to them one by one.  Don’t say it’s too hard; don’t suggest it’s too far away or somehow removed from you; don’t say it’s too heavenly to be of any earthly use; and don’t be lazy by your demands that someone bring it to you.  He was stressing the value of God’s purposes for those who will accept them.

Moses strongly urges them to accept God’s Word to them in willing obedience. They are being called to open their mouths and pledge allegiance to God (to renew the covenant) as an outward expression of a heartfelt desire to follow God’s ways.

The consequences of their obedience or turning away were also clearly laid out for them by Moses as the servant of God. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before your life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20).

Paul, in the first century world of the Roman empire, like us, has the advantage of looking back over history and recognising that although these people did renew the covenant with their mouths, their hearts were flawed and their actions showed it. They could not keep that covenant to save themselves!  Paul, enabled by the Spirit of God, saw that the commandments drive us to the need for a Saviour, they point us to Christ.  They continually remind us of our own sinfulness and failure and the need for righteousness in order to please God; something we cannot attain to alone.

This is Paul’s point in Romans 10: Moses wrote about the righteousness that is based on the law, but the righteousness that is based on faith is even nearer to us yet.  God, who revealed himself in the law of Moses, has now spoken a final word to us in the person of his Son, Jesus, the eternal Word of God.  He requires our pledge of allegiance and a commitment of faith in our hearts to him as the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.  The Word of the Gospel is the word that Paul proclaimed and which I believe and want to proclaim too…”because if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified (counted righteous) and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9, 10). 

This Word is our foundation and guiding principle for this life and the life to come.  The Word is certain, clear, unambiguous. It offers forgiveness, grace and peace.  It enlightens our minds, arrests us in our wilful disobedience and moves our hearts to respond to God’s great mercy by loving him and living to please him.

Keep the word near you… in your heart and in your mouth.

I hope that some of the posts here will help you do that…


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One response

9 03 2010
John Thomson

Hi Alan

The sentiments you express we all need to hear. Making God’s word central in our lives is surely the key to all spiritual growth and maturity. I would have a slightly different take on Deut 30. As you say the context is eschatological. He anticipates a time when Israel have been under judgement and in exile because of their failure to keep the covenant (Deut 29). They were unable to because they did not have circumcised hearts. In reality the word of the law was beyond their reach. However, in the new covenant, when God has himself cicumcised their hearts (30:6) obedience will no longer be beyond their reach – in the heavens above or beyond the sea (in the abyss) – it will be in their mouth and heart so they can do it (30:14).

The NC of course arrives in the life-giving obedience-generating word of the gospel. The Law was an administration or word of death but the gospel is an administarion or word of life (2 Cor 3,4). Thus Paul grasping the eschatological implications of Deut 30 interprets the text ‘the word which is near and is in heart and mouth’ as the NC gospel. It is no longer impossible for the impossible has been done for them – Christ has come down from heaven and has risen from the abyss – thus the word is near. It is simply to be received by faith. Faith confesses with the mouth and believes in the heart.

The Word of the Law could never bring life. It was works based. It demanded obedience for life (Roms 10:5), an obedience that was impossible. No impulse of obedience can arise from someone ‘in the flesh’ (Roms 7:1-6). It was like reaching for the heavens, trying to attempt the impossible.

Rom 10:5 (ESV)
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.

The Word of the gospel is different.

Rom 10:6-10 (ESV)
But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Sometimes I think we fail to grasp the implications of this. The deluge of books from the christian press that focus on self-help in holiness in one way or another witness to this. The only way for us to live holy lives is to be constantly living in the gospel. Filling our minds with Christ and gospel truths. In this way the word is constantly written on our hearts and by faith renews us in the image of Jesus Christ. We become like Christ by looking at Christ.

Anyway, so much for my ramblings. God bless. Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.

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