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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Word is Near You


Romans 10 (NASB)
In Romans 10, Paul is speaking to the Roman believers about Israel. His first statement in verse one of this chapter reflects his heart, “Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (NASB). Paul, though Christ called him to preach to the Gentiles had a heart for the Israelites. He loved them because he had been one of them. He even tells the Romans that the Jews have a zeal for God, a fervor of spirit for God, but it is with head knowledge. They still believed they must follow the Laws and so their fervor for God took place as a command of their religion to take these steps to be securely in God’s mercy and graces. Their knowledge of God was a works-based knowledge. They did not yet recognize Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah, nor did they realize that He was the fulfillment of the Law; they did not have to “keep” the Law requirements any more. They were seeking righteousness by actions/works and hoping to be in God’s graces through works. They did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God (vs. 3). This is how Saul lived before Christ encountered him with a blinding light and audible voice. Paul knows first-hand the futility of a works based righteousness and salvation.
What is this righteousness of God about which Paul spoke to the Romans? Righteousness means that one is in a state of being with God where He approves of the person. This state of righteousness is seen by the fruits that a person displays such as integrity, purity of life, virtue, and correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting. It is a state of being in which one is so close to God and in such a relationship with Him, that God’s character is seen within the person and his or her actions and attitudes. In Romans 1:17, Paul states, “The righteous shall live by faith” (NASB). Habakkuk 2:4 also says this, "Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith” (NASB). This Old Testament belief and teaching from God is also seen in Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. This idea, teaching, and belief are not new to Paul or any of the Jews; therefore, they would not be rebelling against the idea of righteousness. What Paul and others find is that the Jews were being stubborn about believing in righteousness through faith alone, without works. They did not want to submit themselves to God by doing it His way provided through Jesus Christ, but chose to do it in the way they felt comfortable and were familiar with, through works. By doing a works based righteousness, they could choose which action to do and which attitude was right. From this, some people lorded over others because they felt they were doing more than others were and were, therefore, worthy of more praise and prominence within the community. This was self-centeredness, arrogance, and envy playing out, not true righteousness that only can be attained through God’s grace and mercy supplied by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Jews knew that when the Messiah did come, the Law would have no more power or sway over their lives. They knew the Messiah would be the fulfillment of the Law (vs. 4-5). Not only did they not want their own grandiose and public works of the Law to be taken away from them, they did not want a common man from Nazareth, a lowborn person, to be the awaited Messiah. That would allow another to be placed in a position higher than them. Works based righteousness was held on to for sheer human desire, not Godly salvation. They supported the works based righteousness upon what Moses spoke in Leviticus 18:5. This was a part of the religion of the Jews; works were required. We must remember though, God only gave Moses 10 laws/commandments; humans created the other 622 laws by which a Jew was supposed to live and become righteous. Through time, God saw that they were unable to keep even the laws they made for themselves. He knew from the beginning of time that humanity would be unable to be righteous without His intervention and plan to make all who believe in Him become righteous.
Paul makes it clear for all now when he says,
The righteousness based on faith speaks as follows…THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart "-that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that 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 a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:6-10)
The Word is near you” is not something Paul made up. It was also stated in Deuteronomy 30:14, "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. Moses spoke these words to the Israelites. This teaching was common knowledge to any Jewish boy and man. This word of God is in the mouths and hearts of the children of God. He reiterated it in Jeremiah 31:33 when He said He would put His Law within them and write it upon their hearts. He said He would be their God and they would be His people. Having a believing faith that instilled righteousness is not new to the Jews during and after Jesus’ life on earth. God spoke of His faith being on their hearts and minds all the way back in Deuteronomy. Righteousness by faith in the Creator, Redeeming God has been God’s plan from the beginning of time. Paul goes on to make it plainly clear; the Word of God that they are preaching, that Word is near. The word that was placed in their hearts is near to them now, again as always. He is near now being preached to them so that they can believe and receive the righteousness that comes from belief. This belief is one that comes from absolute trust in Christ as the Savior and Redeemer come from God, Yahweh. Paul makes it perfectly clear all anyone must do to be saved, to have righteousness, which is what the Jews originally strived to do. In verses 9 and 10, Paul tells the readers and hearers of this letter to the Romans that if they confess that Jesus is Lord/Master (a hard thing to do when one is working to be the best they can be from their own strength) and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead (the only religious leader to ever come back to life after death), then they will be saved. This requires acquiescence by a person’s mind to use one’s mouth to declare someone else as Lord of their life and it requires absolute faith to believe that He is the Messiah and was resurrected by the Yahweh all Jews recognize as God. The heart belief brings righteousness and the mouth confession brings salvation into the human life. In verse 11 and in Isaiah 28:16, Paul and Isaiah both say that he who believes will not be disappointed/disturbed, will not be put to shame or disgraced. Are we ever put to shame by our inadequate acts to save our reputation, our wherewithal, and ourselves? We are inadequate to provide our own salvation because we are not perfect. Only One who has lived on earth, been tempted, remained sinless, and made to be our sacrifice, from which He was resurrected, is able to be the perfect sacrifice and means for our righteousness.
Paul continues from verse 12 and says for all Romans and people who hear or read this letter that this righteousness is for everyone; no one will be disappointed. It is for Jew and non-Jew, rich and poor, slave and free person. There is no one who is beyond righteousness that is provided by God through His Son, Jesus Christ. He says, “The same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him. Whoever will call upon Him will be saved” from their sin, themselves, and the resultant eternal separation from God. “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord, will be saved” (Romans 10:13 NASB). It does not say, if you are a sinner that you cannot call upon the Lord. It does not say if you are rich or poor you cannot be saved. It says that everyone can be saved. The book of Joel in chapter 2 verses 32 says, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be delivered.” Even back in the Old Testament times, God knew and spoke through His prophet Joel about His desire to have His people whom He created and into whom He blew His breath come back to Him and provided the way. No one is beyond righteousness; it is just not possible by our own human strength, ability, or actions. None of us has ever been perfect, so we cannot ever attain the righteousness that is necessary to be in God’s presence. God, though, because He loves us and wants us to be with Him forever in heaven made a plan, provided a way. He provided His Son to live upon the earth as a man and to be tempted and able to avoid sin. This Son is Jesus who is perfect and never sinned, Who died at the hands of sinful man. God, however, is greater than anything that we can ever do and brought His Son back from the dead to be alive again. Jesus walked upon the earth for 40 days after His resurrection. Many people saw Him, touched Him, and spoke to Him. He was real. He was alive. He is God.
Verses 14-16 offer up the challenge to God’s called men and women to go out and tell others about Him for people must hear to know and believe in Jesus Christ. IT is not that people do not know there is a God, for He can be seen in His handiwork, the skies, earth, and people. These are general revelations. God has a special revelation though that He wants proclaimed to all people, Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God. All people know there is a God out there but may not know specifically about Him. Therefore, people must hear for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ” (vs. 17). This faith comes by the hearing the word of faith and hearing by the word of God, which brings faith. These two are interwoven, hearing and faith. The beginning and progress of faith comes from hearing. All people must hear; therefore, he encourages people to tell other people. Paul goes on to say in verses 18-21 that Israel surely knows Yahweh and the Savior since they have been the chosen ones of God. He uses a question in the Greek manner when he asks have they never heard; it implies an affirmative answer. Paul is about to indict the Jews for their denial so that they will be encouraged to believe with their hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. In verse 18, Paul says, “But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; "THEIR VOICE HAS GONE OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH, AND THEIR WORDS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD." Paul is saying without doubt that the Israelites have heard and known about the Father and the Savior, His Son, Jesus. They have experienced His protection and provision. David, from whom Paul quotes, said in Psalm 19:4, “Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun.” The story of them and their God, Yahweh, has spread throughout the nations so that all know of Yahweh, so how can they not know Him and His Son? Paul asks again in the Greek form in verses 19-21, “But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, ‘I WILL MAKE YOU JEALOUS BY THAT WHICH IS NOT A NATION, BY A NATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WILL I ANGER.’ And Isaiah is very bold and says, ‘I WAS FOUND BY THOSE WHO DID NOT SEEK ME, I BECAME MANIFEST TO THOSE WHO DID NOT ASK FOR ME.’ But as for Israel He says, ALL THE DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND OBSTINATE PEOPLE.’" Paul uses this form of questioning well in indicting the Jews. He provides the answer to this question with quotes from two of their prominent leaders. Both Moses and Israel spoke in the past against Israel with God’s word. Moses said that because they had turned their backs on Yahweh, He would pass His grace onto a non-Hebrew nation and make them jealous (Deuteronomy 32:21). Isaiah spoke God’s word to the Jews and explained that He was accepted by those who did not seek Him; the non-Jews accepted him. God says, too, that He stretched out His hands for these obstinate Jews to provide for and protect them yet those chose to be disobedient to Yahweh even though they were receiving His grace. Paul is making the point in Romans 12 that He made Himself known to the Israelites and poured mercy and grace upon them yet they repeatedly chose their own way. This is seen by their obstinance in not accepting the righteousness that comes from faith in Jesus Christ as Lord instead of their works based righteousness they have manufactured for themselves.
The lives of the Jews do not show that they are the sole rebellious people among God’s creation. All nations of people have been and are willful and fall short of God’s standard of righteousness. That is why Paul states, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Roman 3:23 NASB). This is why we all must “call upon the name of the Lord” (vs. 13). We all must seek Him, individually, confessing with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead (vs.9). This belief is made possible as a gift from God received when we believe, which comes from hearing the Word of God. God gives us the faith to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Getting ahead in this life really is not about doing the right thing or saying the right thing. It is about believing in the right Person, Jesus, the righteous Son of God. It is not about what I have done, but Who He is and what He has done. Just as the Israelites were chosen, God is choosing us. We can choose as the Israelites did to be rebellious and ignore God and His Son’s perfect righteousness bought for us with His death and resurrection. The Word is out there. Most of those who read this have heard of Jesus Christ and His Father. Since you know of Him, when you choose to go your own way, you are being rebellious and are not choosing righteousness, faith, and salvation. We each must come to the point of our own of choosing to hear the Word and believe the Word so that we can confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead. It is our choice. God chose you, but you must choose Him to receive righteousness and a relationship with Him that leads to eternal life with Him. We can leave it with Joshua’s quote from Joshua 24:15b, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” You will not be disappointed. Jesus died for all people because He loves all; God is the maker of all and has a plan of salvation for all His beloved people. Will you be rebellious, too? Who will you choose?