Saturday, 14 September 2013
But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down from above)… Romans 10:6
To contrast the preceding verse which spoke of actively doing deeds to attain the righteousness of the law, Paul begins with “But…” One would think that by showing a contrast, he would remove himself from the law and initiate a new discourse apart from it; he doesn’t. Instead, he goes right back to the very same law he just spoke of and he cites Deuteronomy 30:11-14 –
“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor 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, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”
And so in 10:6, he cites a portion of this passage, “But the righteousness of faith…” Literally “of-faith righteousness.” He has personified righteousness and then causes it to describe itself – “The righteousness of faith speaks this way.” It is an ingenious way of showing us the source of righteousness.
Far too often, we look to the distant as better than the near. The saying “The grass grows greener on the other side of the fence” shows us this. From that springboard, we look at the more distant the fence, the greener the grass. When we look for wisdom, we don’t do it in our own household, but a college far away. And even better, we assume that we can travel to the Far East and attain the enlightened wisdom of those cultures. We look to Japan for business acumen, to China for better Kung-Fu, and to Tibet for spiritual enlightenment – as if they were the answer to our own failing wisdom.
Even Christian missionaries use the “far-away” logic. “I must travel across the seas to make a convert.” But one’s mission field can be in their own neighborhood; in their own family. Likewise, the righteousness of faith is found right in the precepts of the law as fulfilled in Christ. Understanding this, Paul notes the way faith-based righteousness calls out, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven.'”
Moses gave Israel the law which was near to them. It was to them their righteousness and it was handed to them as a people. All they needed to do was live within its precepts. They didn’t have to travel to foreign countries to find it, they didn’t need to search the heavens for it. Instead, it was right there for them to pursue. And the law they were given pointed directly to the coming work of Christ. In fact, the book of Hebrews clearly demonstrates that the fulfillment of the Mosaic and Levitical pictures are found in Him. He is the “greater than” of those types and pictures.
Now, with the fulfillment of those shadows clearly seen in the light of Christ – who came through Israel, there is much less need to “ascend into heaven. (that is, to bring Christ down from above.)” Such an attitude would be a denial of the incarnation. Christ has come down from above. To search for faith-righteousness in heaven after the coming of Christ would then be to deny what He has already accomplished.
Life application: Spiritual matters don’t require removing oneself to distant lands, either for education or execution. Jesus Christ is available to all by simple faith and His mission field is the entire world. One can serve Him wherever they are and one can fellowship with Him anywhere and at any time. Such is the beauty of a personal, faith-based relationship with the Lord.
Lord, it is so good to know that You aren’t a distant God. I don’t need to climb the highest mountain nor travel the widest sea in order to meet You. You are near and in You I have my being. I know that when times are tough, I need do nothing more than simply talk to You in order for Your comfort to come flooding in. Thank You for being with me always. Amen.