Paul has pointed out that we cannot become right with God through our religious activities. Instead he stresses that faith is what matters. But what does he mean by faith? He tells us three of its features in this passage.
The first matter that Paul highlights is that we are not to want a special repeat of what Jesus has already done. Paul mentions the incarnation and the resurrection. The obvious reason for not wanting a repeat is that Jesus has already performed those requirements. If he had to repeat them, why should we have faith in him? Repetition would suggest a failure to complete his work. Instead we have to accept the finality and the perfection of what Jesus has done.
It is interesting that Paul here is almost citing from Deuteronomy 30:11-14: ‘For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.’ Initially these words had referred to obeying the commandments of the law by the Israelites. Paul takes those words and applies them to God’s greater message, the gospel.
So the second matter is that faith is based on the word or message of the gospel. This message comes right up to us, indeed is in our mouth when we speak about it and is in our hearts when we think about it. But what is the gospel that is to be proclaimed and believed? Paul here mentions the Lordship of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus. In what ways are they connected to the gospel?
The Lordship of Jesus reminds us that he is a divine person, that he should be addressed as Lord. It also reminds us of his position now in heaven, even after he became a man. As Paul writes elsewhere, Jesus has been given the name that is above every name, which is the name ‘Lord’. And the title reminds us that we have a personal responsibility to recognise that he is Lord. The message about his Lordship is not an opinion or a point for discussion. It is a fact.
When the Father raised Jesus from the dead, it was the evidence that the work of Jesus on the cross at Calvary had been accepted in the courts of heaven as an achievement that merited his resurrection. His work on the cross of Calvary had been to make complete atonement for the sins of his people. And in the gospel, the significance of the resurrection of Jesus is announced in order for listeners to trust in him.
Third, faith in Jesus involves the whole person, or as Paul puts it here, it will affect our speech and it will affect our affections. Obviously Paul is aware that a saving understanding of the gospel produces those changes. The confession of Jesus is not the condition of salvation, but it is a consequence and a confirmation of it to others.
Fourth, faith in Jesus involves speaking to him. Paul refers to this in verses 12 and 13. The apostle says that the change in status of Israel as a special people does not mean that they cannot call on Jesus for mercy. Instead the door for getting mercy has been widened to include everyone if they would ask for it. The fact that it is asked for indicates that there is expectancy in saving faith.