In Thy Heart And In Thy Mouth
Oft times we think of the Law of Moses as a law too hard for anyone to have kept. Indeed, it was a hard law, a "ministration of death," as Paul calls it. However, that it was a law too hard, too severe to live by, Moses himself denies in his final words to the children of Israel.
Almost the entire book of Deuteronomy is Moses' second giving of the Law and his final instructions to the Israelites before they cross over the Jordan into Canaan. These instructions are climaxed in chapters 28-33, when Moses very strongly exhorts the Israelites to remain faithful to Jehovah. In essence, he says that the Israelites will take Canaan and that, if they remain faithful, they will prosper in the land, but that, if they become disobedient, they will be cast out of the land.
In speaking of the blessings and the curses ahead of the Israelites, Moses uses very strong language, but he insists that what he says is not too harsh a burden to bear. He says, "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off .... But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it" (30:11, 14) He is simply saying, "Yes, what I have spoken is hard, but not too hard, because you have the word close to you, as a part of you, in your mouth, in your heart, and you will be able to live faithfully as God's children in Canaan."
If Moses could give such encouragement to the people of Israel, how much more encouragement have we who live under a "covenant of the spirit," a "ministration of righteousness." Besides not being bound by the innumerable do's and don'ts of the Old Covenant, and rather, being guided more by general principles of righteousness, we have the assurances that God has now provided us with "all things that pertain unto life and godliness, that "if we walk in the light as he is in the light," the blood of Jesus will keep us clean from the stain of sin and we will have fellowship with God, and that, if we are tempted to sin, God will provide for us a "way of escape." So, we know, even more than the Israelites knew, that God's commandment "is not too hard" to keep.
Paul, in Romans, contrasts living by the law with living by faith. A high point in the book is chapters 9 and 10, where Paul tells us that if we live a life of faith, a life of constant confession of Jesus Christ, we shall be saved. He quotes from Moses to bear out his testimony.
In Romans 10:5, Paul speaks of the "righteousness which is of the law" and of living "thereby." With this, in verse 6, he contrasts the "righteousness which is of faith" and says that this righteousness of faith does not ask such doubting questions as "Who shall ascend into heaven?" or "Who shall descend into the abyss?" After saying' that we who do righteousness of faith do not ask doubting questions, Paul asks, "But what saith it?" That is, what does righteousness of faith say? To answer his question, Paul says that "the word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach." (Rom. 10:8) Paul is simply saying that that which the righteousness of faith says is that which "we preach," the "word of faith," and that that word of faith is an intimate, personal part of us: it Is "nigh" thee;" it is "In thy mouth;" it is "in thy heart." In effect, Paul is describing a Christian.
But how is the word of faith in our heart" It is in our heart because we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. (Rom. 10:9) This is a belief that we must maintain and nurture throughout our lives, "for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness." Those who cease to believe lose the promise that they "shall be saved."
How is the word of faith in our mouth? It is in our mouth because we confess Jesus to be Lord. (Rom. 10:9) This is a confession that we must make as long as we live by faith.
Paul's contrast of life under the new law with life under the old law serves as an encouragement to Christians. He assures us that if we continue in our faith and in our confession of Christ we shall be saved. We should not doubt; we should not consider the law of Christ too heavy a burden; and we will not if the word of faith is really in our heart and, therefore, in our mouth. Let it not be said of us as it was of the Israelites, "All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.' (nom. 10:21) Rather, let us increase our faith and at every opportunity, in word and deed, confess our faith in Christ.
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