5. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
5. Moses enim describit justitiam quae est ex Lege, Quod qui fecerit ea homo rivet in ipsis.
6. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
6. Quae vero est ex fide justitia sic dicit, Ne dixeris in corde tuo, Quis ascendet in coelum? hoc est Christum deducere:
7. Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
7. Aut, Quis descendet in abyssum? hoc est Christum ex mortuis reducere:
8. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach;
8. Sed quid dicit? Prope est verbum, in ore tuo et in corde tuo; hoc est verbum fidei quod praedicamus,
9. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
9. Quod si confessus fueris in ore tuo Dominum Iesum, et credideris in corde tuo quod Deus suscitavit illum ex mortuis, salvus eris:
10. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
10. Corde enim creditur in justitiam, ore fit confessio in salutem.
5. For Moses, etc. To render it evident how much at variance is the righteousness of faith and that of works, he now compares them; for by comparison the opposition between contrary things appears more clear. But he refers not now to the oracles of the Prophets, but to the testimony of Moses, and for this reason, -- that the Jews might understand that the law was not given by Moses in order to detain them in a dependence on works, but, on the contrary, to lead them to Christ. He might have indeed referred to the Prophets as witnesses; but still this doubt must have remained, "How was it that the law prescribed another rule of righteousness?" He then removes this, and in the best manner, when by the teaching of the law itself he confirms the righteousness of faith.
But we ought to understand the reason why Paul harmonizes the law with faith, and yet sets the righteousness of one in opposition to that of the other: -- The law has a twofold meaning; it sometimes includes the whole of what has been taught by Moses, and sometimes that part only which was peculiar to his ministration, which consisted of precepts, rewards, and punishments. But Moses had this common office -- to teach the people the true rule of religion. Since it was so, it behooved him to preach repentance and faith; but faith is not taught, except by propounding promises of divine mercy, and those gratuitous: and thus it behooved him to be a preacher of the gospel; which office he faithfully performed, as it appears from many passages. In order to instruct the people in the doctrine of repentance, it was necessary for him to teach what manner of life was acceptable to God; and this he included in the precepts of the law. That he might also instill into the minds of the people the love of righteousness, and implant in them the hatred of iniquity, promises and threatening were added; which proposed rewards to the just, and denounced dreadful punishments on sinners. It was now the duty of the people to consider in how many ways they drew curses on themselves, and how far they were from deserving anything at God's hands by their works, that being thus led to despair as to their own righteousness, they might flee to the haven of divine goodness, and so to Christ himself. This was the end or design of the Mosaic dispensation.
But as evangelic promises are only found scattered in the writings of Moses, and these also somewhat obscure, and as the precepts and rewards, allotted to the observers of the law, frequently occur, it rightly appertained to Moses as his own and peculiar office, to teach what is the real righteousness of works, and then to show what remuneration awaits the observance of it, and what punishment awaits those who come short of it. For this reason Moses is by John compared with Christ, when it is said,
"That the law was given by Moses, but that grace
and truth came by Christ." (John 1:17.)
And whenever the word law is thus strictly taken, Moses is by implication opposed to Christ: and then we must consider what the law contains, as separate from the gospel. Hence what is said here of the righteousness of the law, must be applied, not to the whole office of Moses, but to that part which was in a manner peculiarly committed to him. I come now to the words.
For Moses describes, etc. Paul has gra>fei writes; which is used for a verb which means to describe, by taking away a part of it [ejpigra>fei.] The passage is taken from Leviticus 18:5, where the Lord promises eternal life to those who would keep his law; for in this sense, as you see, Paul has taken the passage, and not only of temporal life, as some think. Paul indeed thus reasons, -- "Since no man can attain the righteousness prescribed in the law, except he fulfills strictly every part of it, and since of this perfection all men have always come far short, it is in vain for any one to strive in this way for salvation: Israel then were very foolish, who expected to attain the righteousness of the law, from which we are all excluded." See how from the promise itself he proves, that it can avail us nothing, and for this reason, because the condition is impossible. What a futile device it is then to allege legal promises, in order to establish the righteousness of the law! For with these an unavoidable curse comes to us; so far is it, that salvation should thence proceed. The more detestable on this account is the stupidity of the Papists, who think it enough to prove merits by adducing bare promises. "It is not in vain," they say, "that God has promised life to his servants." But at the same time they see not that it has been promised, in order that a consciousness of their own transgressions may strike all with the fear of death, and that being thus constrained by their own deficiency, they may learn to flee to Christ.
6. But the righteousness 1 which is by faith, etc. This passage is such as may not a little disturb the reader, and for two reasons -- for it seems to be improperly applied by Paul -- and the words are also turned to a different meaning. Of the words we shall hereafter see what may be said: we shall first notice the application. It is a passage taken from Deuteronomy 30:12, where, as in the former passage, Moses speaks of the doctrine of the law, and Paul applies it to evangelic promises. This knot may be thus untied: -- Moses shows, that the way to life was made plain: for the will of God was not now hid from the Jews, nor set far off from them, but placed before their eyes. If he had spoken of the law only, his reasoning would have been frivolous, since the law of God being set before their eyes, it was not easier to do it, than if it was afar off. He then means not the law only, but generally the whole of God's truth, which includes in it the gospel: for the word of the law by itself is never in our heart, no, not the least syllable of it, until it is implanted in us by the faith of the gospel. And then, even after regeneration, the word of the law cannot properly be said to be in our heart; for it demands perfection, from which even the faithful are far distant: but the word of the gospel has a seat in the heart, though it does not fill the heart; for it offers pardon for imperfection and defect. And Moses throughout that chapter, as also in the fourth, endeavors to commend to the people the remarkable kindness of God, because he had taken them under his own tuition and government, which commendation could not have belonged to the law only. It is no objection that Moses there speaks of forming the life according to the rule of the law; for the spirit of regeneration is connected with the gratuitous righteousness of faith. Nor is there a doubt but that this verse depends on that main truth, "the Lord shall circumcise thine heart," which he had recorded shortly before in the same chapter. They may therefore be easily disproved, who say that Moses speaks only in that passage of good works. That he speaks of works I indeed allow; but I deny it to be unreasonable, that the keeping of the law should be traced from its own fountain, even from the righteousness of faith. The explanation of the words must now follow. 2
Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend? etc. Moses mentions heaven and the sea, as places remote and difficult of access to men. But Paul, as though there was some spiritual mystery concealed under these words, applies them to the death and resurrection of Christ. If any one thinks that this interpretation is too strained and too refined, let him understand that it was not the object of the Apostle strictly to explain this passage, but to apply it to the explanation of his present subject. He does not, therefore, repeat verbally what Moses has said, but makes alterations, by which he accommodates more suitably to his own purpose the testimony of Moses. He spoke of inaccessible places; Paul refers to those, which are indeed hid from the sight of us all, and may yet be seen by our faith. If then you take these things as spoken for illustration, or by way of improvement, you cannot say that Paul has violently or inaptly changed the words of Moses; but you will, on the contrary, allow, that without loss of meaning, he has, in a striking manner, alluded to the words heaven and the sea.
Let us now then simply explain the words of Paul: As the assurance of our salvation lies on two foundations, that is, when we understand, that life has been obtained for us, and death has been conquered for us, he teaches us that faith through the word of the gospel is sustained by both these; for Christ, by dying, destroyed death, and by rising again he obtained life in his own power. The benefit of Christ's death and resurrection is now communicated to us by the gospel: there is then no reason for us to seek anything farther. That it may thus appear, that the righteousness of faith is abundantly sufficient for salvation, he teaches us, that included in it are these two things, which are alone necessary for salvation. The import then of the words, Who shall ascend into heaven? is the same, as though you should say, "Who knows whether the inheritance of eternal and celestial life remains for us?" And the words, Who shall descend into the deep? mean the same, as though you should say, "Who knows whether the everlasting destruction of the soul follows the death of the body?" He teaches us, that doubt on those two points is removed by the righteousness of faith; for the one would draw down Christ from heaven, and the other would bring him up again from death. Christ's ascension into heaven ought indeed fully to confirm our faith as to eternal life; for he in a manner removes Christ himself from the possession of heaven, who doubts whether the inheritance of heaven is prepared for the faithful, in whose name, and on whose account he has entered thither. Since in like manner he underwent the horrors of hell to deliver us from them, to doubt whether the faithful are still exposed to this misery, is to render void, and, as it were, to deny his death.
8. What does it say? 3 For the purpose of removing the impediments of faith, he has hitherto spoken negatively: but now in order to show the way of obtaining righteousness, he adopts an affirmative mode of speaking. Though the whole might have been announced in one continuous sentence, yet a question is interposed for the sake of exciting attention: and his object at the same time was to show how great is the difference between the righteousness of the law and that of the gospel; for the one, showing itself at a distance, restrains all men from coming nigh; but the other, offering itself at hand, kindly invites us to a fruition of itself, Nigh thee is the word.
It must be further observed, that lest the minds of men, being led away by crafts, should wander from the way of salvation, the limits of the word are prescribed to them, within which they are to keep themselves: for it is the same as though he had bidden them to be satisfied with the word only, and reminded them, that in this mirror those secrets of heaven are to be seen, which would otherwise by their brightness dazzle their eyes, and would also stun their ears and overpower the mind itself.
Hence the faithful derive from this passage remarkable consolation with regard to the certainty of the word; for they may no less safely rest on it, than on what is actually present. It must also be noticed, that the word, by which we have a firm and calm trust as to our salvation, had been set forth even by Moses:
This is the word of faith. Rightly does Paul take this as granted; for the doctrine of the law does by no means render the conscience quiet and calm, nor supply it with what ought to satisfy it. He does not, however, exclude other parts of the word, no, not even the precepts of the law; but his design is, to show that remission of sins stands for righteousness, even apart from that strict obedience which the law demands. Sufficient then for pacifying minds, and for rendering certain our salvation, is the word of the gospel; in which we are not commanded to earn righteousness by works, but to embrace it, when offered gratuitously, by faith.
The word of faith is to be taken for the word of promise, that is, for the gospel itself, because it bears a relation to faith. 4 The contrast, by which the difference between the law and the gospel appears, is indeed to be understood: and from this distinction we learn, -- that as the law demands works, so the gospel requires nothing else, but that men bring faith to receive the grace of God. The words, which we preach, are added, that no one might have the suspicion that Paul differed from Moses; for he testifies, that in the ministration of the gospel there was complete consent between him and Moses; inasmuch as even Moses placed our felicity in nothing else but in the gratuitous promise of divine favor.
9. That if thou wilt confess, etc. Here is also an allusion, rather than a proper and strict quotation: for it is very probable that Moses used the word mouth, by taking a part for the whole, instead of the word face, or sight. But it was not unsuitable for the Apostle to allude to the word mouth, in this manner: -- "Since the Lord sets his word before our face, no doubt he calls upon us to confess it." For wherever the word of the Lord is, it ought to bring forth fruit; and the fruit is the confession of the mouth.
By putting confession before faith, he changes the order, which is often the case in Scripture: for the order would have been more regular if the faith of the heart had preceded, and the confession of the mouth, which arises from it, had followed. 5 But he rightly confesses the Lord Jesus, who adorns him with his own power, acknowledging him to be such an one as he is given by the Father, and described in the gospel.
Express mention is made only of Christ's resurrection; which must not be so taken, as though his death was of no moment, but because Christ, by rising again, completed the whole work of our salvation: for though redemption and satisfaction were effected by his death, through which we are reconciled to God; yet the victory over sin, death, and Satan was attained by his resurrection; and hence also came righteousness, newness of life, and the hope of a blessed immortality. And thus is resurrection alone often set before us as the assurance of our salvation, not to draw away our attention from his death, but because it bears witness to the efficacy and fruit of his death: in short, his resurrection includes his death. On this subject we have briefly touched in the sixth chapter.
It may be added, that Paul requires not merely an historical faith, but he makes the resurrection itself its end. For we must remember the purpose for which Christ rose again; -- it was the Father's design in raising him, to restore us all to life: for though Christ had power of himself to reassume his soul, yet this work is for the most part ascribed in Scripture to God the Father.
10. For with the heart we believe 6 unto righteousness, etc. This passage may help us to understand what justification by faith is; for it shows that righteousness then comes to us, when we embrace God's goodness offered to us in the gospel. We are then for this reason just, because we believe that God is propitious to us in Christ. But let us observe this, -- that the seat of faith is not in the head, (in cerebro -- in the brain,) but in the heart. Yet I would not contend about the part of the body in which faith is located: but as the word heart is often taken for a serious and sincere feeling, I would say that faith is a firm and effectual confidence, (fiducia -- trust, dependence,) and not a bare notion only.
With the mouth confession is made unto salvation. It may seem strange, that he ascribes no part of our salvation to faith, as he had before so often testified, that we are saved by faith alone. But we ought not on this account to conclude that confession is the cause of our salvation. His design was only to show how God completes our salvation, even when he makes faith, which he implants in our hearts, to show itself by confession: nay, his simple object was, to mark out true faith, as that from which this fruit proceeds, lest any one should otherwise lay claim to the empty name of faith alone: for it ought so to kindle the heart with zeal for God's glory, as to force out its own flame. And surely, he who is justified has already obtained salvation: hence he no less believes with the heart unto salvation, than with the mouth makes a confession. You see that he has made this distinction, -- that he refers the cause of justification to faith, -- and that he then shows what is necessary to complete salvation; for no one can believe with the heart without confessing with the mouth: it is indeed a necessary consequence, but not that which assigns salvation to confession.
But let them see what answer they can give to Paul, who at this day proudly boast of some sort of imaginary faith, which, being content with the secrecy of the heart, neglect the confession of the mouth, as a matter superfluous and vain; for it is extremely puerile to say, that there is fire, when there is neither flame nor heat.