For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation.
For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation.
Moses writes of righteousness-by-the-Law when he says that ‘the man who does those things shall live by them’—which is theoretically right but impossible in practice. But righteousness-by-faith says something like this: ‘Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend into heaven?’ to bring Christ down to us, or ‘who will descend into the abyss’ to bring him up from the dead? ‘The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart’. It is the secret of faith, which is the burden of our preaching, and it says, in effect, “If you openly admit by your own mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and if you believe in your own heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” For it is believing in the heart that makes a man righteous before God, and it is stating his belief by his own mouth that confirms his salvation. And the scripture says: ‘Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame’.
The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying? The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”
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