Brothers, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for (Israel) is for salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 Whereas Christ is the fulfilment of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes of the righteousness that is based on the Law, that the person who performs them will live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will go up 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 which we are preaching, 9 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; 10 for with the heart a person believes, [g]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever 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, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The echoes of Scripture I refer to in the title are Paul’s quotations from the Old Testament. To have a better understanding of the Apostle’s meaning it is always helpful to look back at the context of each quotation, especially the latter two from Deuteronomy and Joel which I believe pertain to some of the key truths I have recently been expounding, viz that the spirit and intention of God’s Law was always fulfillable utilizing innate spiritual faculties. For it must be remembered that God’s people neither possessed the Holy Spirit [Jn7:39 – note 1] nor the indwelling Christ in the sense that Christian believers do. Jesus made this clear as recorded by John:
Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down out of heaven, so that anyone may eat from it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats from this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I will give for the life of the world also is My flesh.” Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (Jn6:49-52)
This challenges Augustine and many Reformers’ assertions that God’s people of the Old Testament were “saved” in a like manner to that of the Christian. It is a difference between life and death: “Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is (i.e. I (Jesus) am) the bread that (has only now) came down from Heaven that brings Life eternal to those who eat it”. Old Testament saints could not partake of that blessed sacrament, yet “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood you have no Life in you” (Jn6:53). Confusion arises because people constantly take the Bible’s references to “being saved” as pertaining to whether or not the soul goes to heaven after physical death. The two are not synonymous as will continue to be demonstrated from Scripture.
Now note the do-ability of God’s Law according to its Giver in Paul’s quote from Deuteronomy:
The Lord will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; providing (like them) you obey the Lord your God, keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, turning to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. “For this commandment which I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it far away. It is not in heaven, that you could say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us and get it for us, and proclaim it to us, so that we may do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you could say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us and get it for us and proclaim it to us, so that we may do it?’ On the contrary, the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it (Deut30:9-14)
But how was the Law to be fulfilled? Not in letter but in spirit; not by works but by faith. The righteousness that God requires involves the exercise of faith rather than the meticulous fulfilment of outward ordinances the Jews were pursuing. And the fact that in their case such faith was innate is indicated in the Deuteronomic passage from which Paul quotes. No need to ascend the heavens or cross the sea, what is required was in their heart and in their mouth (vv12-13). Oh profound mystery: “the word is very near you”, for in the Old Testament passage it could not have related to Jesus per se – the Word had yet to be made flesh and dwell among us (Jn1:14). As third century Origen well understood it is referring to “Christ being in the heart of all in respect of His being the Word or reason . This is at the heart of what I and some of these earliest Fathers mean by natural law – “natural” in the sense of being innate to all, yet in essence thoroughly Christological. No wonder, for all things including nature herself has been created by the pre-incarnate Christ as Logos – through Him and for Him (Col1:16).
In terms of the New Covenant, the faith required of those who “come to share an inheritance with the sanctified” (Acts26:18) is centred on Christ’s Person, such 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” (v9). That brings us to the passage’s final echo and again it relates to what I have been recently adducing – that many who are not the disciples of Christ shall also be accepted into his Kingdom: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be “saved”(v13) (Joel2:32). Again, one needs to look at the context in Joel which the Apostle Peter also draws upon in his sermon at Pentecost. In both cases it is referring to “the Day of wrath” and the Hebrew word translated as “saved” in Greek and English literally means to slip away or escape. In its Final Judgement context, such salvation is not referring to the elect of God. For Christ shall come with His elect (living and resurrected – Jude1:14) to judge the Earth; those alive at the time having already been raptured. Many of those on Earth who remain shall mourn for Christ and their ignorance or rejection of Him as Lord and Saviour (Rev1:7). Yet the clear indication is that everyone who calls upon His name and subjects themselves to Him shall be spared. As explained in recent posts there will also be those who will do nothing of the sort: the Devil’s seed can and will have nothing to do with the One who is the summation of all that is good. Once the broader providence I have been outlining is perceived it will be seen to be thoroughly Christ-centred – the length, breadth and height of Whose love truly shall pass all knowledge.
1] The Spirit was given to prophets and kings such as David and Moses but the latter’s comments in particular affirm that that was not the case for the rest of God’s chosen people (Num11:29). Still less were they “to be saved” by believing that a Messiah was to come to die for their sins. We have shown repeatedly that none of Jesus’ twelve disciples understood that even as he approached the end of His earthly ministry