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The Word Is Near You (10:5-13)

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There is a saying that, “Ignorance gets us into trouble and pride keeps us there.” The reason pride often prevents us from escaping the situation we are in is that we don’t like to admit that we are wrong. We don’t like to confess that we have made a mistake.

In the Old Testament there is an excellent example of how pride can prevent us from accepting a solution to our problems. A man by the name of Naaman suffered from leprosy. He went to the prophet Elisha in search of a cure for his disease. Elisha told him to go wash himself in the Jordan River. Instead of being pleased at such a simple solution, Naaman became angry and left in a rage. “Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’?”” (2 Kings 5:13 NIV) Fortunately, Naaman set his pride aside and listened to his servants. He obeyed what the prophet told him to do and was healed. You can read the story in 2nd Kings, chapter 5.

Just as pride almost kept Naaman from being cured, our pride can keep us from being cured of our sin. We like to think that we are capable of saving ourselves. We want salvation, but we want it on our own terms. Instead of accepting the simple solution that God gives us through Jesus, we insist that we earn our way into heaven by our own mighty deeds of righteousness.

In his inspired letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul describes the difference between these two attitudes. In chapter 10, verses 5 through 13, he writes, “For Moses writes about the righteousness of the law, “The one who does them will live by them.” But the righteousness which is of faith says this, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down); or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.)” 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 preach: that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on him. For, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.””

In this passage, Paul contrasts two means of obtaining salvation. The first is by keeping the Law of Moses. Paul quotes Moses to establish the fact that if someone keeps the Law perfectly, he will live. As human beings we like this approach because it keeps salvation in our own hands. We save ourselves by our own efforts. No matter how difficult the task, we can do it by ourselves. Our pride tells us that, if necessary, we can scale the heights of heaven or plumb the depths of hell. We don’t need any help.

The problem with this approach is that there is only one person who has been able to keep the Law perfectly – that is, Jesus Christ. Scripture says that Jesus, “...has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV) As for the rest of us, Paul has already said in this letter that we have failed, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23 NIV)

If keeping the Law of Moses cannot save us – because we have already broken it – then how can we become righteous in God’s sight? Paul writes that it is through faith. Faith does not require us to scale heaven’s heights and return with a Savior. Jesus has already come to earth and ascended back to heaven on our behalf. Faith does not require us to plumb the depths of hell and bring someone back from the dead. Jesus has already risen from the dead and now lives in God’s presence to intercede for us. Faith is not some distant object which we can only obtain after traveling through arid deserts. Instead, it is as near as our own hearts. Faith is not some unpronounceable spell in an obscure language. Instead, anyone is capable of expressing his faith in his own words.

What is this word of faith, this good news which we must believe and proclaim? Paul writes that we must have a heart-felt belief that Jesus rose from the dead. In another place Paul explains more fully, “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved... For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 NIV)

If we truly believe that Christ died for our sins and then rose from the dead, it should cause us to also recognize and accept the position which God has given Him. We must not only believe, we must confess that Jesus is Lord. The literal meaning of the word Paul uses, which we translate “confess” is “to say the same thing.” In this case, we are to say the same thing about Jesus that God does. God has declared that Jesus is Lord, therefore we also must declare that Jesus is Lord. He is our ruler. It is to Him that we owe our allegiance.

This brings up a difficulty. Paul is writing to people in the city of Rome. The proclamation that “Jesus is Lord” would have immediately brought to their minds the oath of allegiance that Roman citizens were supposed to make. They were supposed to say, “Caesar is Lord.” To confess Jesus as Lord was to invite torture and death. Paul assures the people to whom he is writing that confessing Christ will save them. As he had already said in chapter 8 of this letter, they may have to endure the sword. Nevertheless, their confession will save them. God will never let those who trust in Him be put to shame.

This promise is not restricted to the the Jewish people – those who used to be under the Law of Moses. The promise is for everyone, both Jew and Gentile, who calls on or confesses Christ as Lord. However, this raises a question. If the only way someone can be saved from his sin is to believe on and confess Christ, how can he do it if he has never heard of Christ? Listen to our next program to find out.