For those unfamiliar with Deuteronomy, Paul’s words in Romans 10:6-8 must seem very strange.
But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’”(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.”
What in the world is Paul talking about?
In Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Moses says:
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
Keeping God’s law was the key to Israel retaining God’s material blessing and national protection. In speaking of God’s commandments, Moses said that it was well within the reach of God’s people to live as he desired.
“It’s not too hard to understand what keeping God’s covenant means,” Moses said. “It’s not as if you have to fly up to heaven to find it. You don’t have get in a boat and sail out to whatever is beyond ocean to find it. No, God took the initiative. God came to you and rescued you from slavery and gave you his law. When your read the law aloud, God’s word will be in your mouth. And when you desire to serve and please God, his word will be in your heart as well. And you can keep God’s covenant. ”
Two thousand years later, Paul envisioned something bigger than salvation from political oppression and national destruction. How can we be saved from every moral, physical and spiritual threat to human life? How, in other words, can we be part of the kingdom of God in the age to come?
Paul took Moses’ familiar words in Deuteronomy 30 and adapted them to a new new context. Authors and advertisers do it all the time.
Using the basic outline of Deuteronomy 30, Paul said something like this: “It’s not as if you had to go up to heaven to find the messiah for yourself and bring him back down to earth, did you? Or, when the messiah died, you didn’t have to go down into the realm of the dead to bring him back to the world of the living, did you? These are things you could not do. They are beyond your grasp. No, God had to take the initiative and do what was impossible for you. On his own accord, God sent the messiah to save you. He alone has the power of life and with that power he raised Jesus from the dead. God did what was impossible for you. Now, just as Moses said, salvation is as close as your mouth and your lips. If with the church you confess that Jesus is the one God sent to save us and believe in your heart that God did actually raise him from the dead, then you are indeed part of God’s kingdom community.”
Where Jesus is Confessed as Lord