THE JUSTICE OF THE LAW AND THE JUSTICE OF FAITH
A Summary of Romans 10:5-13~The Apostle speaks in these verses, first of the justice of the Law, as contrasted with the justice of faith; he then shows that this latter is also necessary for the salvation of the Jews; there is no distinction, both Jew and Gentile must be saved by faith.
5. For Moses wrote, that the justice which is of the law, the man that shall do it, shall live by it.
The Apostle quotes Moses (Lev 18:5, according to the LXX) to show the difference between the justice of the Law and that of faith. If a man is able to obtain the justice of the Law, he will have as his reward, temporal, and even eternal life; but this justice is very difficult, being beyond man’s natural strength.
The justice … of the law, i.e., the justice which resulted from an observance of all the precepts of the Mosaic Law.
The man that shall do it, etc., i.e., the man that is able to do such a difficult thing.
Shall live by it. To the observers of the Law there was promised a life of temporal blessings (Deut 28:2-13; Deut 30:9-10), and also life eternal (Matt 19:17; Luke 10:25-28). But to obtain this latter it was necessary to observe, not only externally, but also internally, all the precepts of the Law; and, in particular, to love God and have faith in Christ to come (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:36; Rom 2:13; Rom 4:11)—a task utterly beyond the powers of fallen human nature unaided by grace (Rom 7:22-25). This grace, however, which the Law could not provide, would be given by God in virtue of faith in Christ to come. The Jews erroneously thought they could keep the Law by their own mere natural strength, and thereby obtain the rewards promised.
Wrote should be “writeth,” and scripsit of the Vulgate should be scribit, to conform to the Greek.
6. But the justice which is of faith, speaketh thus: Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down;
7. Or who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.
To show that the justice of faith, unlike that of the Law, is not difficult to obtain St. Paul here personifies it, and makes it address man in the words of Deut 30:11-14. These words, in their primary and literal meaning, refer to the Law of Moses, the precepts of which were not difficult to understand; but in their accommodated sense, here made use of by the Apostle (Calmet, Beelen, Cornely, etc.), they relate to the justice of faith,—to Christian faith, which is comparatively easy to obtain, involving no such insurmountable difficulty as ascending into heaven, to bring Christ down, the object of faith; or descending into the deep, i.e., into the grave, to bring up Christ again from the dead, i.e., to believe that Christ, the object of our faith, descended there. As Moses told the Hebrews that it was not necessary “to ascend into heaven,” or “go over the sea” in search of the Law which was indeed very near to them; so here the Apostle, accommodating the words of the Prophet, says that, since Christ descended from heaven and became incarnate once, and likewise once died, was buried and rose again for our salvation, it is not necessary that we should try either to ascend into heaven or descend to the abode of the dead to work out the redemption which Christ already has wrought for us. Since, therefore, the two fundamental mysteries of our redemption, the Incarnation and the Resurrection, have already been accomplished for us, our justification is easy, provided we have proper faith in God through His incarnate and risen Son.
The words of Deut 30:13 (“which of us can cross the sea”) are here somewhat modified by St. Paul (“who shall ascend into the deep”), in order to render more vivid the contrast between heaven and the abyss, and better to accommodate the words of Moses to Christ’s burial and Resurrection from the dead.
8. But what saith the scripture? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart. This is the word of faith, which we preach.
The word scripture is wanting in Greek, and is considered a gloss. This verse is the positive complement of the thought of the preceding verses. Justice personified is still speaking. It is not necessary to seek salvation afar off, it is very near. It consists in a word which must be received by faith. As Moses said the word, i.e., the Law, was nigh and easy to understand; so, says St. Paul, it is with the word of faith, which we preach, i.e., the Gospel truths that are necessary for salvation. These words, through the preaching of the Apostles, are carried to all in such a way that all may have them in their mouth and in their heart, without the necessity of long journeys or grave fatigue.
In the Vulgate scriptura should be omitted; justitia, understood from verse 6, is the subject of dicit.
9. For if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
The Apostle explains yet more clearly what is required in order to have part in the salvation of Christ. Not only is it necessary to believe, but thou must also confess with thy mouth, i.e., make public confession that Jesus is Lord (the literal order) of the universe, and therefore truly God. This means a public confession of Christ’s Divinity, such as was required before Baptism (Acts 8:37; Acts 16:31). Further, besides believing and confessing the Incarnation of the Son of God, it is necessary to believe in His Resurrection from the dead. Paul mentions these two mysteries because they are the principal ones of Christianity, those on which all others depend. If he speaks first of external, and then of internal faith, it is only because he is following the order of Moses’ words, which speak of the mouth first, and secondly of the heart.
10. For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.
St. Paul here returns to the natural order and speaks first of internal belief, and then of external profession of faith.
With the heart, etc., i.e., the internal act of faith is the beginning and foundation of justification.
We believe. More literally, Faith is formed (πιστευεται), i.e., a state of faith is formed on our part, as the present tense indicates. The phrase εις δικαιοσυνην, and not εις δικαιωσιν, shows that one attains real justice, and not a mere declaration of it, just as salvation will be really possessed (Lagrange).
Confession . . . unto salvation, i.e., salvation will follow upon our faith and justification, provided we persevere to the end of life in the justification we have received, and do not fail to make at times external profession of our faith. Again the present tense, ομολογειται, marks a state of justice, and not a mere act, on man’s part. Of course, justification, if ever lost through mortal sin, can always be regained by a proper use of the Sacrament of Penance.
11. For the scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not be confounded.
The New Dispensation is one of faith which gives to all the same rights to salvation. This doctrine of faith, however, is not new, having been already announced by the scripture, i.e., by Isaiah 28:16. St. Paul had previously (Rom 9:33) quoted these same words of the Prophet; but here he adds the word πας, whosoever, to the text of Isaiah, in order to express more clearly the universality of salvation through faith.
In him, in the context of Isaias, refers to the “corner-stone,” which was a figure of Christ.
Shall not be confounded, because through faith in Christ we are reconciled with God and have a firm hope of attaining salvation.
12. For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord oyer all, rich unto all that call upon him.
There is no distinction, etc. The Apostle had used the same argument, only more openly, to prove the universality of salvation in Rom 3:29. There he said God was the God of the Gentiles as well as the Jews; here he insists that both have the same Saviour.
Lord means Jesus Christ (Cornely, Lagrange, etc.), and not God the Creator, as some of the older commentators thought, because there is question here of faith in Christ. Jesus is the κυριος παντων, Lord over all, as in Acts 10:36; Philip 2:11.
Rich unto all, because by His death Christ has provided an infinite treasury of merits (Eph 3:8) which He holds at the disposition of all, on condition that they call upon him, i.e., that they believe in Him with their hearts and confess Him with their mouth (verse 10).
13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.
St. Paul appeals to the Prophet Joel 2:32 (3:2 in NAB and other translations) to prove that whosoever will call upon the name of Jesus shall be saved. The same text from Joel was quoted by St. Peter in his sermon to the faithful on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:21). The Apostle applies to Christ what Joel had said of Yahweh, which is a clear proof of the Divinity of Jesus.