Thesis:The declaration of the "righteousness of faith" is that what needs to be done has been done so that if the word is in one's mouth and heart, he will obtain that righteousness.
Introduction:Last week we considered the message of "the righteousness of the Law". It boils down to this declaration: Do this and live. This marks out the final objective: living. This also marks out the primary methodology: obedience. This is a very simple principle on the surface, but it is an impossible principle at its core. In Paul's earlier words, "Thou shalt not covet" resulted in "all manner of coveting" (Romans 7:7-8).
This evening we are going to look into the message of "the out-of-faith righteousness". It actually has two major parts that, though it is not obvious from Paul's quotes, are separated in the writings of Moses by more than twenty chapters. The "Do not say in your heart" exhortation is found in the Septuagint in the exact form of Paul's words in two places; Deuteronomy 8:17 and 9:4. In attempting to decide which of these two texts he actually had in mind when he quoted Moses, we had to recognize that there is an overarching unity to both texts even though the particulars of each are somewhat different. So, that is where we will begin in our thinking about the message of the "out of faith" righteousness.
I. The Deuteronomy Texts Regarding the Prohibition.
A. In Deuteronomy 8:17 there are two issues.
1. The first is the fact of the wealth acquired.
2. The second is the source of that acquired wealth.
B. In Deuteronomy 9:4 there are also two issues.
1. The first is the possession of the land.
2. The second is the reason for Yahweh's exercise of power on Israel's behalf.
C. When we compare the two texts, we find there are actually three elements involved.
1. What they possess (wealth/land).
2. How they possess (my power/His power).
3. Why they possess (to establish His covenant/not "for thy righteousness").
D. When we consider the exhortation, we find that there are also two elements.
1. The first has to do with "saying in one's heart".
a. This terminology points to the actual point of view that a person has taken/is taking/and will take on any given issue.
b. This reality is the reason Paul decided to use this quote even though it is not in the immediate context of Moses' "Who?" questions: faith is the term that the Bible uses to identify this "in the heart" speech when the "what" that is in the heart is the Truth of God (all else is called "unbelief").
2. The second has to do with "what" is said in the heart.
a. In the contexts of Deuteronomy 8:17 and 9:4 this "what" has to do with the "How?" and "Why?" questions.
b. In Paul's use of Moses' later statements (from 30:12-14), the particulars of the "How?" and "Why?" questions are different, but the principle of "faith" (i.e., "saying in your heart") remains the same.
II. The General Significance of the Prohibition.
A. "What" is said "in the heart" is totally dependent upon the condition of that heart.
1. An exhortation by no means assumes compliance (just because Moses "laid down the Law" does not mean that the people paid him any mind).
2. The "condition" of the heart is totally dependent upon whether that heart has been "circumcised" (Romans 2:29) so that its "hardness" has been ameliorated (Romans 2:5).
3. Moses' own declarations regarding this are found both in Deuteronomy 29:4 and the opening statements of the context of Deuteronomy 30.
B. Whether the "heart" responds with obedience determines the long-term consequences.
1. Israel clearly disobeyed Moses' injunction in Deuteronomy 9:4.
2. Thus Moses prophesied that the very thing that happened to the nations by the invasion of Israel was going to happen to Israel by the invasion of foreign forces.
III. The Use of Moses' Exhortation by Paul.
A. Paul was writing to the circumcised of heart in Rome.
B. He used Moses' exhortation with the understanding that his readers actually could obey it.
1. By God's activity on their behalf, believers have the ability to decide what they will "say in their hearts".
2. "Faith" for the unbeliever is not an option, but, for the believer, it is always possible and "unbelief" is never acceptable.
C. He was not promoting the "say it" terminology of some today who call upon their hearers to "say it" so that they may "obtain it".
1. The most fundamental issue of "saying" is "in the heart".
2. The "mouth" that utters what is not in the heart is a lying mouth and the mouth that refuses to utter what is in the heart is a disobedient mouth (thus Paul's "believe in your heart and confess with your mouth" terminology in Romans 10:9-10).