GRACE BIBLE CHURCH
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
for the week ending 12/21/03
Salvation is neither unattainable nor unavailable.
Matthew 15:1-3,7-9 Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." And He answered and said to them, "And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? He said "You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, this people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men."
Our Lord also said in MAR 7:8, "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men," and the Apostle Paul wrote in COL 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." Our Lord dealt with this principle many times throughout the Bible. You may think your spiritual life is blossoming, while you are still in bondage to tradition. A simple illustration of how easy it is to fall into bondage with tradition, rather than the true meaning of the holiday, is our current-day Christmas season. We should glorify God by teaching our children about Jesus Christ and His saving grace, because that is the real meaning of this holiday, not the absurd fantasy of Santa Claus. No person can reject the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah and ever have eternal life, ROM 10:9-10, ACT 4:12.
Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, took time out in the middle of the book of Romans, in chapters 9, 10, and 11, to explain what happened to the Jews in previous dispensations, Rom 9:30-33, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness [the righteousness of God], attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness [who strived for a righteousness with reference to the Law], did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by means of faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. Just as it is written [ISA 28:16], 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense [the Lord Jesus Christ in His hypostatic union], and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed [humiliated].'" The background to this passage is Paul's great burden for the Jews, his desperate desire for their salvation.
He goes on in ROM 10:1-4, "Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them [the Jews] is for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes."
Every person who adds other requirements to faith in Jesus Christ is in a state of arrogance because they are trying to help God! However, salvation is a grace gift from God; we cannot work for it, nor do we earn or deserve it. Christ is the end of the Law because He fulfilled the Law perfectly. However, rather than realizing this, the Jews chose to teach tradition and the Mosaic Law as a means of salvation and the spiritual life.
Paul's message of grace is in sharp contrast to the lifestyle of works righteousness being propagated by the Judaizers. Lifestyle is not the basis for salvation, but only instant faith in Jesus Christ, and arrogance distorts one's lifestyle into a way of salvation, EPH 2:8-9, "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that [salvation] not from yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast." No lifestyle, including "semi-perfection"based on morality, can open the gates of heaven for eternal life nor provide any real happiness in this life.
Paul is directly addressing the situation of the Jews here, and we now see a series of quotes from the Old Testament, the Jewish Torah. We see Rom 10:6 quoting DEU 30:12, ROM 10:7 quoting AMO 9:2, and ROM 10:8 quotingDEU 30:14. These three quotes will explain Paul's unique and unusual statement in Rom 10:9. One of the greatest problems that Christians face in understanding the Church-age is understanding the early part of the dispensation of the Church-age and what happened to the Jews. This is what the book of Acts is all about, and it is considered a transitional book, taking us from one dispensation to another. Many of these Jews were alive when our Lord was on earth; they had seen the dispensation of the Hypostatic Union where they rejected Christ, and they continued to reject Him. In fact, Paul's great ministry was constantly under attack from the Judaizers, the Jewish scholars who followed him everywhere to discredit him. They would attack his converts by enforcing legalism on them, and Paul addresses this issue with quotes from the Old Testament:
So Rom 10:6; ROM 10:7, and 10:8 all quote the Old Testament, and after studying these verses, we will understand Rom 10:9, where Paul says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved." If a Jew said, "Iesous sou Kurios" (Jesus as your Lord, or Jesus as your Yahweh) and confessed that Jesus is Lord, he would be affirming the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. He would be saying in effect that Jesus is Jehovah. This is the reason why Paul, who habitually teaches "salvation by grace through faith" throughout all his epistles, would suddenly throw in "confessing with the mouth, and believing with the heart." Why would he suddenly seemingly complicate salvation, which is so simple? Paul is dealing specifically with the Jews and their unique situation, as they rejected the Messiah but still proclaimed, "the Lord is our God, the Lord is one" (Adonay elohanu, Adonai echad) in the Temple; he is not talking "faith plus commitment" or "lordship salvation." Paul is deeply concerned about their salvation and about the divine discipline that they are facing.
In order to understand our context, we have to go back to DEU 30:10-14, "If you obey the Lord your God to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the Law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it." This is the passage Paul translated into Greek in Rom 10 to show the Jews their problem.
DEU 30:10 says, "If you obey [shama, listen to] the Lord your God [the Lord Jesus Christ]&ldots; [the first "if"], if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul [the second "if"]" We are talking about salvation here; we know this from the word "turn," the Hebrew verb jashub, which means to make a complete about-face or to be converted. In this verse we have two factors; first, if you are going to execute God's plan as a believer (the first "if"), and second, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul (the second "if," referring to salvation). Salvation is mentioned second, but obviously it must come first. This is a normal Hebrew reverse order, used to show that one principle is predicated on another-you cannot (1) live the Christian way of life until you (2) become a Christian. So in DEU 30:11, Moses says, "This commandment [for salvation] which I command you today is not too difficult for you [it is not unattainable], nor is it out of reach." Salvation is not unavailable or unattainable because you do not have to depend on your own righteousness for it. You do not have to cross an ocean or go down to Hades to receive it; in fact, as Moses says, it is as close to you as your own mouth and heart (verse 14). The way that one expressed his faith to God in the Old Testament was by saying, "Adonay elohanu, Adonai echad."
DEU 30:12 (quoted in Rom 10:6) continues, "It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'"
We do not have to send someone up to heaven to get the message of salvation because it's already on the earth. Someone already came down from heaven to save us, JOH 3:31, "He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all."
DEU 30:13 continues, "Nor is it [salvation] beyond the sea [the Mediterranean], that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'"
We would think that Paul would quote this verse next (in ROM 10:7), but he does not, for one very simple reason. The Greeks were the ones who now lived beyond the Mediterranean Sea, and they certainly did not have salvation for Jews; also, crossing the sea was easy in Paul's day (Paul did it at least five times), and therefore "crossing the sea" would not work as an illustration for the unavailability of salvation.
Therefore, in ROM 10:7, Paul quotes a different Old Testament verse, Amos 9:2, "Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall My hand take them; and though they ascend to heaven, from there will I bring them down."
In other words, you cannot go to Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek) to find salvation. Paul portrays the unavailability of the Gospel through human works with first century impossibilities. It is impossible for man to go to Hades and get the Gospel and come back. Therefore, Paul uses something that is unavailable-Hades. Paul has to eliminate"crossing the sea," which is used in DEU 30:13, but he has to pick up the concept that Moses communicated-the concept of unavailability. By using the "Sheol" phrase of AMO 9:2 (in place of the "cross the sea" phrase of DEU 30:13), Paul makes it clear that we can not go get salvation on our own. Therefore, just as Moses had indicated, Paul taught that salvation is much closer to the Jew than heaven or Hades, making reference to our Lord's physical death on the Cross.
Next, DEU 30:14 is quoted in ROM 10:8; in DEU 30:14 Moses stated, "But the word [the doctrine, the message of salvation] is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it [believe in Jesus Christ, the Messiah]." Moses is saying that salvation is as close to you as your mouth and heart, which is a lot closer than heaven or Greece. In Rom 10:6 and 10:8, Paul quotes Moses from the book of Deuteronomy (a popular passage that most Jews had memorized), ROM 10:8, "But what does it [the Torah, in DEU 30:14] say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart'-that is, the word of faith which we are preaching."
Rom 10:6 states emphatically, "But the righteousness based on faith speaks thus, 'Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?"' (that is, to bring Christ down)." The Jews in Paul's day were saying that Christ was not the Savior; and that His work on the Cross was not efficacious. They were returning to the Mosaic Law as a means of attaining salvation. But Jesus Christ has already accomplished salvation on the Cross, once and for all, and He does not have to come back to do it again. This principle is also addressed in HEB 6:1-6, "Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we shall do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame."
Paul is saying in Rom 10:6 that in the previous dispensation of the Hypostatic Union, Jesus Christ had already come down from heaven. The Lord repeatedly presented the Gospel, and then fulfilled it by being judged for our sins on the Cross, dying physically, and then being resurrected. In Rom 10:6, we see the emergence of faith righteousness in contrast to works righteousness. Works righteousness and faith righteousness are mutually exclusive; you can only have one or the other, ROM 11:6.
The first concept in Rom 10:6 was unattainability (going to heaven to get the Gospel); the gospel was unattainable for man, but "The righteousness based on faith speaks thus, 'Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?"' (that is, to bring Christ [salvation] down)." The second concept is unavailability and Paul has to go toAMO 9:2, which he quotes in ROM 10:7, "or 'Who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)." He goes back to the Jewish Torah to get a perfect illustration of unavailability to the Jew.
Paul is saying that neither the Jews nor any other individuals can do anything to earn or attain salvation. In verse 6, you can't ascend into heaven to bring Christ down to be saved; in verse 7, you can't descend into Hades to bring Christ up from the dead to be saved. Paul combines the "heaven" of DEU 30:12 and the "Hades" of AMO 9:2 to indicate the impossibility of attaining salvation with human ability. However, salvation as a gift is as close to the Jew as his own mouth and heart.
The "righteousness based on faith" in Rom 10:6 is how people have always been saved. Jesus Christ accomplished salvation on the Cross; the work is complete. In ROM 10:7, where we read, "Who shall descend into the abyss (that is to bring Christ up from the dead)," the principle is that Christ has already come up from the dead in His resurrection. Finally, the statement in ROM 10:8, "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"-that is,the word of faith which we are preaching," explains why when the altar call (an invitation to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ) is given, it includes the principle, "In your own words, tell God that you're believing on His Son" or,"In your own way, right where you're sitting, in the privacy of your own soul, forming the sentences in thoughts only, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." Faith alone saves you, but when you confess it (homologeo means to admit), you admit or acknowledge to God that you're believing in His Son, Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, Christ was revealed as Jehovah Elohim, which is equivalent to Kurios ("Lord") in the Greek.
This is where many false doctrines come in and where legalistic preachers take ROM 10:9-10, and say you not only have to believe in Christ, but you have to make Him "Lord of all" in order to be saved. No one can make Christ "Lord of all." In fact, we do not even have the ability to make Him Lord of all. The moment that you believed, you entered into union with Jesus Christ, and He is your Lord, regardless of your lifestyle.
The Lord Jesus Christ is Kurios in the Greek, and He is also Yahweh, Jehovah, Adonay, and Elohim in the Hebrew. The Jews in Paul's day would verbally confess, on every Sabbath, Adonay as Lord, but they refused to believe that Adonay was Jesus Christ. Therefore, if they would only acknowledge that Adonay is Jesus Christ, they would be verbally confessing that "Jesus is Lord," as Paul says in Rom 10:9, and they would be saved! They were unbelievers saying, "Adonay elohanu, Adonai echad," refusing to acknowledge that it was Jesus Himself that they were speaking of. And to this day in the synagogue on Saturday, you will hear the phrase&ldots; "Shama, Israel, Adonay elohanu, Adonai echad." And they will say it every Sabbath, but they will not equate it with the One who truly is "Adonay elohanu, Adonay echad"-"the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." Religious people can use the name of Jesus, but it can be "another Jesus," 2CO 11:3-4, "But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully."
This is why our Lord said in MAT 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"
For a more detailed study, order tapes IA11-355 to IA11-357.