Romans 9-11, Part 6

Romans 10:5-13

Delimiting the Text

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.

6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down)

7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

8 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);

9 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.

10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


Verses 5-8 function as the grounds for the claim of verse 4. Paul appeals to the differences between the righteousness that is based on the law by quoting from Leviticus 18:5 (in verse 5) and Deuteronomy 30:12-14 (in verses 6-8).

“You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.” (Lev 18:5)

“It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” (Deut 30:12-14)

The implication of verse 5 is that though there is a righteousness based on the law, no one can keep the law perfectly, and therefore no one can earn righteousness through obedience to the law.[1] Again as in verse 3, both the futility of perfect obedience to the law and legalism are indicted here.

The “But” of verse 6 should be construed as adversarial, with its basis in 9:31-32. There is a tension that exists in this part of the text between the righteousness from faith and the righteousness from doing. The alternative that Paul presents is a righteousness based on faith, and he adduces Deuteronomy 30:12-14 in support of this.[2] There are some equivalences that Paul substitutes in – the commandments that are the central focus of Deuteronomy 30:11-14 morph into Christ, and it is also identified as “the word of faith”. The righteousness based on faith precludes a righteousness based on works. Who will be the one that ascends into heaven to bring Christ down and descends into the abyss to bring Christ up? The obvious answer here is that no one except God will. It is a feat beyond human power and accomplishment, and yet it has been done by God. The righteousness based on faith does not ask for superhuman abilities to keep the law, it asks for faith in response to the glory and power of God.[3] Therefore, verses 5-8 prove the assertion of verse 4, because the end of the law is due to the nearness of a righteousness by faith.

Verses 9-10 restate the same argument, that true faith involves a confession with the mouth of the lordship of Christ and his resurrection, and a belief of the heart. The mouth-heart dichotomy is introduced as a commentary on the quotation from Deuteronomy in 10:8. Verse 10 in particular presents the requirements of faith as inseparable transactions that necessitate both the mouth and the heart.

The logic of verses 11-13 becomes a straightforward chain of explanation. Verse 11 is the Old Testament prooftext (from Isaiah 28:16) that supports verse the thesis of verses 9-10.

“therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’” (Isa 28:16)

There is a surety of salvation for everyone who believes in Christ. “For there is no distinction” further clarifies the universality of the offer of salvation mentioned in verse 11. Paul recalls the argument made in Romans 3:21-25 that God does not act with partiality toward Jews or Gentiles – it is the same Lord and the same righteousness at play. And finally, Paul quotes from Joel 2:32 to close his argument that the way to salvation for all men is based on faith. Despite the overarching topic of the inclusion of the Gentiles to the exclusion of the Israelites, the basis of salvation is in the righteousness of God. There will be no disappointment to anyone who calls on the name of the Lord, with a confession of the mouth and a belief in the heart.

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.” (Joel 2:32)

[1] Does Paul have Christ in view when he claims that no one (else) can follow the law perfectly? Probably, but it is not an observation from the text. Verse 5 is a generic pronoun (“the person”), not a specific reference.

[2] It is important that Deuteronomy was not written as a text for legalistic righteousness. The drift of Deuteronomy is the exact opposite (“Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. (Deut 9:4-6)). There are many other citations in Deuteronomy that point out that Israel was not saved for their inherent goodness, but because of God’s sovereign love.

[3] Lmao this whole post is footnotes. One of the more obvious problems here is that Paul seems to be pitting the Old Testament against itself (a violation of the unity of Scripture). On one side, he has Leviticus 18:5 supporting righteousness from the law (whether it be perfect obedience to the law, or through works-righteousness). On the other, he has Deuteronomy 30:12-14. One way out of this conundrum would be to say that works-righteousness is not presented as a concern in 10:5, but the assertion of 10:3 (“seeking to establish their own [righteousness]…” with its subsequent proof in 10:5 demands that it be present as a concern. Murray’s suggestion here is good, that though the principle of Leviticus is obedience in response to the favor of God, the wording of the text very well can be misconstrued to define legalism. Schreiner develops this further by arguing that Paul is countering the Jews who have misunderstood Leviticus 18:5 by citing from Deuteronomy.

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