Here, Paul restates the lesson of the previous verses, Rom 10:6-8, with a saying in the form of a chiasm.
A chiasm is a literary device found throughout scripture, in which a series of statements are made and then repeated in mirror image. It takes the form of:
Where the statements A and A’ are mirror images, B and B’ are mirror images, C and C’ are mirror images, and D and D’ are mirror images. A chiasm can have as many elements in the series as desired, but a minimum of two. So the shortest possible chiasm is:
An example where this is found in scripture is in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus talks about dogs and pigs. It goes:
A – Dog
B – Pig
B’ – Pig
A’ – Dog
Here is the quote (note the order of dog, pig, pig, dog):
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).
You can see that B’ is pig, because pigs trample, and A’ is dog, because dogs bite. Once this format is familiar to readers of scripture, we will notice it is found throughout the Bible. Some demonstrate that the entire book of Daniel is written following a chiastic format. When the chiastic form is used, the emphasis is on the center. So in the instance of dog, pig, pig, dog, the emphasis is on “pig.” In Jewish culture, both pigs and dogs are unclean, but pigs are the more unclean example.
The chiasm of Rom 10:9-10 is also A, B, B’, A’:
Since Paul has just contrasted the righteousness of the law from Leviticus 18 (which does not bring righteousness) with the righteousness of faith from Deuteronomy 30 (which does bring righteousness), it makes perfect sense that faith, belief is the central point. And when Paul demonstrated from Deuteronomy 30 that “it is not that hard, it is simple” to gain righteousness and all its blessings, the path was simply to “believe what you know in your heart to be true, confess that belief, then do that belief.” Paul leaves out “do” in this summary, but it is implied. Once we openly confess something, action follows.
So, what Paul is admonishing us to do here is to take this principle from Deuteronomy 30 and apply it. The way we “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) is to believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead in other words believe the gospel, confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and live those words. That is what the obedience of faith looks like. It does not look like self-justification based on a set of rules. It looks like an obedient heart, reshaped by the indwelling Word of God.
Again, it is important to bear in mind the overall context of Romans, that Paul is answering a slander charge against his gospel of grace, his teaching that righteousness before God comes completely apart from the law or rules. Righteousness comes by faith alone. With the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, Paul now asserts again that living out the righteousness we are given as a gift comes in the same way, by faith. Living out righteousness in our daily lives also does not come by following rules. It comes by faith. As Paul stated in the theme verse of Romans at the very beginning, righteousness comes by faith from first to last (Romans 1:16-17). The power of God comes through the gospel to deliver us from separation from God, that is faith at the first. That is unconditional. Like physical birth, our spiritual birth is a gift we receive, without any help from us.
But righteousness in our daily lives comes through living by faith. It comes from believing the word of God in our heart, then confessing that word to be true, then living out that word. The obedience of the heart of faith is the key to living a life of righteousness. This is like our physical lives. While our physical birth is a gift we receive without action on our part, how we live our lives is largely shaped by our choices. Paul admonishes us to choose to believe the word in our hearts, confess it is true, and do it. We might substitute “think” for “confess”, but they are one and the same. By “confess” Paul clearly does not mean “state without intent to follow.” We become what we dwell upon, and Paul exhorts us here to dwell upon and confess with our mouths the truths we know in our hearts as the pathway to living out our daily lives the gift of righteousness we have in Jesus before God-with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
The result of all this is said to be “salvation.” Any time we see “save” (verb) or “salvation” (noun) we need to ask, “What or who is being saved from what?” Here it seems clear that anyone who is choosing life over death in their daily life (Deuteronomy 30:19) is being saved from the “wages of sin,” which is death (Romans 6:23). This is consistent with Paul’s urging in chapters 6-8 for us to choose life by choosing the obedience of faith, leading to life, rather than to go back into sin and its consequences (or “wages”). If we return to the slavery, death, and earthly condemnation from which we were delivered, then we get the negative consequences of sin—all of which we can avoid by living the resurrection power of Jesus.
Paul ends this passage with a promise in verse 11, again quoting scripture (Isaiah 28:16), saying that walking in faith will not lead to disappointment, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” This could also be translated that whoever believes in Him “will be excited.” There is great blessing and exciting rewards in store for us if we live out the gift of righteousness by walking in faith in our daily lives. Simple faith is all that is required to be justified in the presence of God. But Paul is trying to demonstrate to us that if we can see through the eyes of faith every day, there is enormous benefit to us to live by faith, and he urges his readers to choose that path.
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
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