For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 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 confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has 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 on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:5-13)
Rather than living by faith in God, the Jews established customs and traditions (in addition to God’s law) to try to make themselves acceptable in God’s sight. But human effort, no matter how sincere, can never substitute for the righteousness God offers us by faith. The only way to earn salvation is to be perfect – and that is impossible. We can only hold out our empty hands and receive salvation as a gift.
Christ is the “end of the law” in two ways. He fulfills the purpose and goal of the law (Matthew 5:17) in that He perfectly exemplified God’s desires on earth. But He is also the termination of the law because in comparison to Christ, the law is powerless to save. There are two kinds of righteousness, by works or by faith. One is inaccessible, the other is very accessible. Paul uses the words of Deut. 30:11–14 to demonstrate that righteousness by faith is not far off and inaccessible, but is as near as a person’s mouth and heart. All one has to do is repent, believe in Jesus, and confess that belief.
In order to be saved by the law, a person would have to live a perfect life, not sinning once. Why did God give the law when He knew people couldn’t keep it? According to Paul, one reason the law was given was to show people how guilty they are (Galatians 3:19). The law was a shadow of Christ – that is, the sacrificial system educated the people so that when the true sacrifice came, they would be able to understand His work (Hebrews 10:1-4). The system of ceremonial laws was to last until the coming of Christ. The law points to Christ, the reason for all those animal sacrifices.
Paul adapts Moses’ farewell challenge from Deuteronomy 30:11-14 to apply to Christ. Christ has provided our salvation through His incarnation (coming to earth) and resurrection (coming back from the dead), God’s salvation is right in front of us. He will come to us wherever we are. All we need to do is to respond and accept His free gift of salvation. The abyss (Romans 10:7) as used here refers to the grave or Hades, the place of the dead.
In Romans 10:10. “For” indicates that this verse explains Romans 10:9. The condition for righteousness, that is for being justified, is internal faith. The condition of salvation, meaning deliverance from wrath and from the power of sin, is external confession (see Romans 10: 1; 5:9, 10), which is calling on the Lord for help (see Romans 10:12, 13).
In Romans 10:11, Paul is not saying Christians will never be put to shame or be disappointed. There will be times when people will let us down and when circumstances will take a turn for the worse. Paul is saying that God will keep His side of the bargain – those who call on Him will be saved. God will never fail to provide righteousness to those who believe. Paul emphasizes the universal offer of salvation. Whoever in Romans 10:11 means “all.” Paul explains in Romans 10:12 that this includes Jew and Greek (Gentile). These verses must be read in context.
Have you ever been asked, “How do I become a Christian?” These verses Romans 10:9, 13, give you the beautiful answer – salvation is as close as your own mouth and heart. People think it must be a complicated process, but it is not. If we believe in our hearts and say with our mouths that Christ is the risen Lord, we will be saved. Confess comes before believe in this verse because “mouth” precedes “heart” in Deuteronomy (see Romans 10:8). The order is reversed in the next verse. One has to confess with the mouth to be saved.
Father God, it is my prayer today that whoever reads this post will humble themselves before you and repent of their sins and accept your Son Christ Jesus into their lives as their Savior and Lord. I also pray that the Spirit of Truth that now dwells in their hearts will convict them to be obedient to our Lord Jesus by being baptized and joining a local church of believers. I pray this all in Jesus' name. Amen.
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible