Second Reading: Romans 10:8-13

In the Heart, On the Lips

Popular Translation

8 What did Moses say in the Bible?

God’s word is near you. It’s on your lips and in your heart.

It’s God’s word that we preach to you. 9 If you should agree out loud that Jesus is Lord, and if you should really believe deep down in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. 10 Whoever believes in their heart has the right relationship with God. Whoever agrees out loud will be saved by God. 11 The Bible says, “Anyone who believes in God will not be put to shame.” 12 So there is really no difference between people who are Jewish and people who are not. Jesus is the Lord of everyone. And he richly blesses everyone who prays to him. 13 For anyone who prays in the Lord’s name will be saved.

Literal Translation

8 But who said (the following)?

The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart,

this is the word of belief that we preached. 9 If you should confess the Lord Jesus in your mouth and (you) should belief in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For, (one) believes in (the) heart into righteousness, and (one) confesses in the mouth into salvation. 11 For the Scriptures say, “The (one) believing in him will not be shamed.” 12 For there is not a difference (between) Jew and Greek, for he is Lord of all, bestowing riches upon all (those) calling upon him. 13 For everyone who should call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

10:8 “But who said (the following)? “ In context, “who” referred to Moses, giver of the Law. Paul used Moses himself to argue for righteousness outside the Law.

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” Paul quoted Deuteronomy 30:14. The author of Deuteronomy placed this verse into the mouth of Moses as a counter-argument to the notion that the Jewish Law was incomprehensible. The author insisted that, because God was immanent, his Law (i.e., his will) was cogent.

10:9 “ If you should confess the Lord Jesus in your mouth” When would the believer “confess” Jesus as Lord? In the Roman community, two times come to mind: in worship or evangelization.

10:10 “For, (one) believes in (the) heart into righteousness” Some translate “righteousness” as “justification” in this context. When the preposition “into” was added to “righteousness,” the phrase indicated results. In other words, whoever trusts God (or believes God raised Jesus from the dead; see 10:9) will be made righteous by God. Paul held the faith relationship was key to understanding justification.

10:11 “The (one) believing in him will not be shamed.” This verse was from Isaiah 20:16. It referred to the establishment of Jerusalem by God. As a city housing the Temple, Jerusalem was a cornerstone of the religious piety and patriotism. Many of the faithful at the time believed that, as God was eternal, his city would stand the tests of time.

Paul took the subject out of context (i.e, Jerusalem) but not the basis for belief (dependance on God in worship). For Paul, the subject was now the faithful.

10:13 “For everyone who should call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” This verse was from Joel 2:32. Like Isaiah 20:16, this referred to the worship of the Lord in Jerusalem.

In his often quoted remarks on justification in Romans, Paul seemed to reject the duty of the Law for the freedom of faith. In a dualistic context of inner experience vs. outer activity, Paul seemed to argue that the inner relationship saved, not religious behaviors. A first glance, this insight made sense. However, we need to further investigate the relationship between spirit and the physical world, between intent and duty.

Paul was a Jew and had a Jewish worldview. Most Jews at the time would stress the unity of the human. The person was a single entity. Body and soul were two different aspects of that entity.

Much of Paul’s audience was Greek. The Greek culture was dualistic in outlook. The spirit and matter were separate realms. The human person inhabited both realms. But the Greeks held the identity of the person was spiritual in nature.

To Greeks, the opinion of Paul on justification would make metaphysical sense. The assent of the spirit mattered, not religious behaviors. These behaviors were acted out in the physical world which was imperfect. Activity in a plane of matter would also be imperfect, hence inferior to the perfection to be obtained on the spiritual level. Trust in God would make one perfect (in a right relationship with the Father). Such perfection would bring contemplative bless and spiritual insight.

But, Paul was not so concerned with the metaphysical as with the practical question of universal salvation. How can non-Jews (i.e., “Greeks” in 10:12) be saved by God? Paul rejected simple duty to the Law, for he himself had experience a relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Such a relationship stood outside the Law. For Paul, the duty of the Law was replaced by the duty of faith in Jesus. There were two components to faith, internal ascent and “confession of the lips.” In other words, Paul maintained the person made the faith commitment with the two aspects: intent and public declaration (whether informally among friends or in the worship community).

There has always been a tension in Christian spirituality between contemplation and social outreach, between the growth in the inner life and duty to others in the public realm. This tension can be expressed in a question: Where do we see Christ? In the self? Or, in others? St. Anthony, the father of monasticism, focused on the former, Mother Theresa of Calcutta on the later. Obviously, there is a continuum between intent and behavior, between insight and duty. Most Christians move from pole to the other throughout life. Paul argued for a balance between the two.

How are we saved? Through the gift of faith God gives us. We must always remember that faith involves the whole of the person, not just one part or aspect. Our job, as Christians, is to find balance between the two.

Where do you see Christ right now? Within yourself? Or, in another? Where do you see God calling you to find Christ?