A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Exercise of Human Responsibility in Rejection
The Gospel is Within the Reach of All
Paul first shows that the righteousness of the law was not within the reach of all. What does he say about it? "The man that does these things shall live." The righteousness of the law can be summed up in three words: "Do and live." Nobody ever lived by doing the law. They all died back there. That is what the Lord said, "Your Fathers ate manna in the wilderness an they are dead." Every Jew should have known that there was no life in the law, and that it was an impossibility to find it in those ordinances back there. But somehow or other, they did not seem to feel that way.
Verse 6 points to the contrast in "the righteousness which is by faith." "Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above)." What is he talking about? He is saying that man (humanity) had nothing to do with the coming of the Son of God down from heaven into this world. Man had nothing to do with the incarnation.
According to verse 7, it is clear that just as man had nothing to do with the incarnation, neither had man anything to do with the resurrection - with raising Him up from the dead. God did it! God did it all! There is nothing left for man to do in this "righteousness which is by faith." Do not say you have to do something big to be saved. "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). God raised Him from the dead, too.
According to verse 8, "The word is nigh thee even in thy mouth, and in thy heart." You cannot get anything much closer than that. That was literally true back there. This simple message of salvation, the righteousness that the Apostle Paul preached, was upon the lips of every Jew of the ancient world. Every synagogue where they met, whether they believed or did not believe, they were discussing Paul and what he taught. They argued hour after hour about this thing, trying to show how Paul was wrong. They had it in their mouths and in their hearts.
Let me give you an illustration. Here is a man taking the name of the Lord Jesus on his lips in vain. He is using profanity. Then he suddenly stops, and under the leading and energizing of the Holy Spirit, says, "Jesus is my Lord! I confess Him!" This has happened. Two thieves were crucified with our Lord Jesus Christ - one on each side. When put there they both reviled Him. Just a few moments passed and one of those thieves, with the reviling in his mouth, turned his face up to the Lord of glory and said, "Lord!" he confessed Him as Lord right there. More than that, he said, "Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42). That dying thief had the faith to believe that this crucified Lord would be risen from the dead! This dying thief was nailed to the Cross. He could not do any works of righteousness. There was no time to talk about obeying the law, doing works of goodness, and improving his character. All he could do was move his lips; and with those cracked, swollen, parched lips, he looked up into the face of the Lord and said, "Lord." With his heart he believed that this man would arise from the dead, and he was saved! For Jesus turned to him and said, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
That is an illustration of what Paul is talking about in verses 9 and 10. Verse 9 looks as though it were backwards, because it puts confession before faith. But that is merely the outside view. Until you confess Jesus as Lord, I do not know whether you believe or not. If you confess Christ, then I know there is faith in your heart. In the tenth verse comes the actual order. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
The illustration is sufficient to show that the gospel is within the reach of every man. "The Word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart" - just receive it and it is done. No Jew can say, "God has made this thing too hard for us, we cannot do it," blaming God for his condition.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 66 - "The Gospel is Offered to All")