The Righteousness Based on Faith (Exposition of Romans 10:5-13)

In this morning’s text the apostle Paul describes the righteousness based on faith by observing a contrast that must be observed, a content that must be believed and consequences that must be proclaimed!

For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. (6) 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:) (7) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) (8) 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; (9) 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. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (11) For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (12) For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I. A Contrast that Must Be Assumed, vv.5-8.
Paul has just made a definitive statement in verse 4 regarding Christ being the end of pursuing righteousness by the law for the one who believes. Now in verse 5, Paul briefly explains “the righteousness that is based on the law.” This righteousness consists in doing. It involves perfect and perpetual obedience to the law of God. Paul quotes from the law, from Leviticus 18:5, to make his point. The law itself says that life is only rewarded to those who do the commandments. The unstated assumption is that if one fails to do the commandments then death is the punishment. This curse of death for the one who fails to obey all the commandments is spelled out more directly in Deuteronomy 27:26 which says, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” If you’re going to receive “the righteousness that is based on the law” then you must completely and constantly obey that law. The problem with that is that if it were possible for us to start now, it would already be too late. We must look for righteousness elsewhere.

In verses 6-8, Paul paints a brilliant contrast to “the righteousness based on the law.” That a contrast is intended can be seen as Paul begins the next verse with the word “But…” What is contrasted? “The righteousness which is based on faith.” This contrast is also seen in Galatians 3:11-12 where Paul also quotes from Leviticus 18:5. There Paul says,

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

These two terms (“the righteousness which is of the law” and “the righteousness which is of faith”) are also contrasted in Paul’s own testimony in Philippians 3:8-9,

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

The contrast is between an inaccessible and unreachable standard and a totally accessible and reachable Savior. On one hand you have the righteousness attained by human achievement, on the other hand you have righteousness that is received by divine accomplishment. The righteousness of the law is unattainable. But the righteousness of faith is accessible to all. One is impossible, the other is possible. One is unreachable, the other is attainable. This is the contrast between the righteousness that comes from the law and the righteousness that comes from faith.

Here in Romans 10:6-8, Paul illustrates “the righteousness which is of faith” by appealing to a text from the law: Deuteronomy 30:11-14. This text reads,

For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

The apostle Paul interacts with this text in an interesting way. He will quote a section then comment, quote another section and then comment again. He does this three times in these three verses. Each verse contains a quotation from Deuteronomy 30 and the apostle’s inspired commentary.

In the context of Deuteronomy 30, Moses is actually discussing God’s gracious giving of the law. He is magnifying the fact that God has spoken. He has revealed Himself to the children of Israel. Therefore there is no need for man to attempt the impossible of trying to go up to heaven or cross the sea to hear from God. God has come to them! What mercy and grace!

Paul takes that text of Scripture referring to the law and applies it to the gospel. He says that God has likewise spoken to us through Jesus Christ. Therefore there is no need to ascend to heaven, because Christ has already descended. There is no need to descend into the depths, because Christ has already risen from the dead. And just as accessible as the law was to the children of Israel in the wilderness, the gospel is made accessible to all who hear it, speak it and believe it. It is as close as your ears, mouth and heart!

This is how close the gospel is to you today! If you will hear and believe the message of the gospel you will be saved!!!

As Phillips Brooks wrote in the third verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem,

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

II. A Content that Must Be Believed, vv.9-10.
But what is this “word of faith” which we preach that must be received? Paul spells out for us the barebone content of the gospel that must be believed in verses 9-10. First Paul speaks of two necessary components: confession with the mouth and belief in the heart. Although Paul at this point follows the order in the text quoted from Deuteronomy 30:14, it should not be assumed that confession with the mouth precedes belief in the heart. In fact, Paul quickly reverses the order back to the more expected in verse 10. But for the apostle Paul, confession with the mouth and belief in the heart are inseparable. They are linked together because as Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Therefore the confession with the mouth that does not include belief in the heart is a mere profession and will not save! Likewise, those who would think that they believe in their hearts but have not confessed Christ with their mouths do not possess saving faith.

So what is the content of our mouth’s confession and heart’s belief? We are to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord! This is the earliest confession of the church. What does it mean? It means to profess a belief in the deity of Jesus. That Jesus is God. The Greek word (kurios) translated “Lord” in this verse is used over 6,000 times in the LXX (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) to refer to Jehovah God. To say “Jesus is Lord” in the Roman Greek speaking world was to declare that Jesus is God! But it also had special significance to the Roman Christians to whom Paul is writing. In Rome lived the emperor and the religion of the day was emperor worship. Many Christians the first few centuries of the church were put to death for refusing to say, “Caesar is Lord.” Instead, they declared, “Jesus is Lord.” By the way, the same apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:3 that “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” This does not mean that no one can articulate with their lips the sounds forming the words of “Jesus is Lord.” It means they can not sincerely confess it with their lips from their hearts. Jesus said many will say to Him, “Lord, Lord.” But He will say, “Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity. I never knew thee” (Matt. 7:22-23). But not only must there be confession with the lips of the deity of Christ, there must also be a belief in the heart concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Why does Paul mention the resurrection without the death? Well, the death of Christ is obviously assumed in the resurrection, or else what was He resurrected from? But Paul points out the resurrection to show that Christianity is not about the death of a noble martyr, but the story of a living Savior! Hallelujah!!!

III. A Consequence that Must Be Proclaimed, vv. 11-13.
The consequences of this message of the gospel have already been mentioned in the previous verses (see vv. 9-10 “saved”, “justified” and “saved”). But in verses 11-13, Paul clearly spells out the implications of this salvation. He again quotes from the Old Testament. This time from Isaiah 28:16 (as in 9:33), “whosoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.” This Paul obviously takes to include Gentiles. This is Old Testament proof that salvation is now being offered to all people. By the way, we should not take this being “ashamed” as a psychological issue. Paul’s not saying that if you believe in Jesus you will neverbecome red faced again. This is not a psychological shame, but an eschatological shame! In other words, the one who believes on Jesus will not experience shame when he or she stands in the presence of Christ at the second coming.

Paul explains his application of this text in verse 12. Since “whosoever” or “everyone” who believes will not be put to shame, there is clearly no distinction between Jew and Greek since both have the same Lord who showers His riches on all who call on Him!

In verse 13, we have the conclusion. Again, Paul quotes from the Old Testament, this time from Joel 2:32. This same verse was used by Peter in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:21. It is interesting that the Hebrew of Joel 2:32 the LORD is YAHWEH (the personal name for God in the Old Testament). Here this same title is applied to Christ. Whoever calls on the name of the LORD who is God will be saved.

That this is a consequence that must be proclaimed is seen in the following verses (14-21). These verses will be dealt with in detail in a couple of weeks. But let me state now that Paul declares the importance of proclaiming this message as the only means of salvation for a lost and dying world!

Have you believed this message? Call upon the name of the Lord! Cast yourself upon Jesus! Some of you saw the news story this week of a woman who tossed her one month old child from the third story of a burning building. The baby was caught by an amateur baseball player who was standing outside. Neither the mother or child were seriously injured after the fall of some 30 feet. “I said ‘God, please save my son,'” the mother was quoted as saying. “I prayed that someone would catch him and save his life.” Let me very blunt, you’re the one in the burning building. You must cast yourself to Jesus. The difference is that He has promised to catch you! If you call upon Him, He will save you!!!


  1. Hi Steve ,

    God is so faithful..He has a title of perfection for every one of our failure. I love Him so much and I can see in your writing you do too.

    Thank you Brother

    May the Lord give you a pen of His Heart

  2. Wonderful!
    We have a totally accessible and reachable Savior.
    God has come to us.
    We will not be ashamed at His coming for we have cast ourselves on Him. Thank you for feeding His sheep.

  3. I saw the video on TV of that lady dropping her child from the window. What a great illustration. It was really incredible how that all turned out.
    Would I be able to drop my child to a group of men standing on the pavement? I hope I could if it was the only way to save his life.

  4. Hello Steve,
    I appreciate your thoughts but I would like to offer some constructive criticism.

    We should be careful when we make statements that many Christians in the first few centuries were put to death for not proclaiming “Caesar is Lord.” True that many were martyred, but we need to recognize that the emperor cult in the ancient world was not monolithic — with regard to the region in which one lived and with regard to each Emperor. Judaism during the first century wasn’t even monolithic–quite diverse. So we need to be more aware of this notion that the Empire was this consistent sweeping power against Christians (other religions were persecuted, too, but not for religious reason but rather political reasons mostly; we can say that as well for Christianity–most of the time it was political, not religious reasons for persecution; cf. Acts 17). It varied from each Emperor. E.g., when Paul wrote Romans, Nero was a good boy (but changed in his later years). Notice Romans 13 and compare with Revelation 13 (concerning government). On the surface, it seems the two passages are contradictory, but with further investigation they’re not. The situation has changed by the time Revelation was written.

    One other point is that I read and hear a lot of Christians overemphasize being “justified.” Well, that’s part of the truth, but not all of the truth. We need to remember the part of being “sanctified” also. If we’re in a covenant relationship with God, through the blood of Jesus, then we need to continue living in a sancitified state. Any covenant requires obligations. There’s no room for cheap grace (not saying you’re implying it, but I’m generally speaking). See Rom 15:15f where Paul uses the analogy of a priest. Paul, writing Christians in Rome, wasn’t simply writing to them about “getting them in,” but also “keeping them in” God’s covenant.

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