Are you righteous by faith? And how does your righteousness, or lack of it, affect your life on this side of the grave?
In Rom 10:10, we read, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
The standard Christian interpretation of Rom 10:10 is “believe in your heart in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and confess He is Lord with your mouth and then you will be saved.” But what if that is not what Paul intended to say?
If we want to understand what Paul says in Rom 10:10, we have to read it in the language he used. When we read Rom 10:10 in Greek, we discover he uses Kardia for heart, pisteou for believing, and dikaiousne for justified. Kardia is a figure of speech for the mind, the inner self, our will, and emotions. Pisteou is a verb referring to something we do, in this case, something we trust in and have our faith in. Dikaiousne refers to God’s approval.
What is Paul trying to say in Rom 10:10?; If you focus your mind on what meets God’s approval, you will act on what you focus on and become justified. This is the same thing the Bible says in Prov 23:7; we become what we focus our minds on. So by now, we understand Paul says we are justified by what we do, not by a passive faith. The question then is, what are we supposed to do to be justified?
What is it we should focus our minds on that would meet God’s approval? Is it the cross of Christ we should focus our minds on?
When Paul wrote Romans 10:10, he did not have a New Testament. It would be another 3-400 years until the catholic church decided the need for a new testament. The Bible Paul read and considered to be God-breathed was the Old Testament, so if we want to understand Rom 10:10, we have to read Paul’s Bible in Ez 18:9, Jeremiah 31:33, and Habakkuk 2:4.
In Ez 18:9, we read, “He who follows My statutes and faithfully keeps My law. That man is righteous and justified; surely he will live, declares Yehovah.”
In Habakkuk 2:4, we read, “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright– but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness to the law.”
In Jeremiah 31:33, we read, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law (my Torah) in their inward parts, and write it on their minds; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
What is it we should focus our minds on that would meet God’s approval? According to Paul, it is not the cross; it is the law of Moses. So what Paul is saying to us in Rom 10:10 is this: If you focus your mind on the law of Yehovah (the law of Moses/the Torah), you will act on it, and Yehovah (God) will justify you. So, according to Paul, we are righteous if and only if we obey the law of Moses. He then reminds us that we need to have it as the object of our faith because as a man thinks in his mind, so is he.
In Rom 10:10, Paul makes a distinction between justification and salvation. He says we are justified by obedience to the Mosaic law, but we are saved by what we confess with our mouth.
The Greek word Paul uses for the mouth is stoma. Stoma can refer to the actual mouth, to the spoken word, but it can also refer to our testimony. We know it can not refer to the spoken word because, in the story of the seven sons of Sceva, we understand how the spoken word in itself has no power as long as a justified and righteous living does not back it up. So, in this case, it is more correct to say it refers to our testimony on how we live our lives. If we show, we obey the law of Moses; we are saved. This way of understanding stoma is backed up by James 2 and 1.John 2, which says that if we claim to obey the teachings of Christ (Hebr 5:9, Luke 6:46, Matthew 23:2-4), it has to be seen in how we live our lives.
So what Paul is trying to tell us here is that we are justified by having our minds focused on Moses’s law. And we are saved by obeying the law of Moses. Is Paul preaching works-based salvation?
In Gal 3:11, we read, “Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”
If we read the context of Galatians, it is evident the problem is not Moses’s law; the problem is the oral Torah (the oral law of Moses.) In Judaism today and in Paul’s time, Jews believe Moses was given two sets of laws on Mount Sinai. He was given the written Torah (which we find in the first five books of the Bible), and he was given the oral Torah, which he was not permitted to write down. The oral Torah is what we today know as the Talmud, and most Jews see the Talmud as being an authoritative and God-inspired text, often with a higher authority than the written Torah.
The Talmud has many rules and regulations on how a Gentile can develop a right relationship with Yehovah. One of those laws says they have to be circumcised right away, and their circumcision is proof of having a right relationship with Yehovah. In the written Torah, and Acts 15, the Bible says repentance is more important than a physical circumcision. According to the five books of Moses and Acts 15, a gentile first has to be circumcised on his or her mind by learning what the written Torah says and deciding to obey it. After learning the written Torah, then they can be circumcised.
This is the backdrop of Gal 3:11; here, Paul is not criticizing the written Torah; instead, he tells them nobody can be justified by keeping Talmud. How do we know this for sure? Because in Galatians, the circumcision party demanded a physical circumcision and said it was more important than repentance.
This is why we know Paul is still telling the Galatians to repent back to obeying Moses’s law in Galatians. One way of repenting is to repent from oral traditions and doctrines of men. And this is why we know Paul is not preaching work-based salvation; he is preaching repentance. Where in Paul’s preaching do we see him mentioning the cross?
As we have mentioned earlier, Paul was constantly persecuted by the circumcision party. They believed physical circumcision was proof of salvation instead of repentance. Why did they believe this? Because they saw themselves as righteous not on account of what they did but on account of what Abraham did. So if they got circumcised, they were righteous not because of something they did but because of what Abraham had done.
Paul saw repentance as being far more critical than circumcision. He was not again circumcision, but he believed repentance had precedence and then circumcision would come later. Why did Paul believe repentance to be more important? Because Jesus preached repentance, He did not preach a passive faith in the cross. Yehovah also preached repentance; He did not preach a passive faith in anything.
Most evangelical Christians today would agree more with the circumcision party. Because they believe we are righteous because of what Jesus did, and therefore we do not have to do anything, not even repent.
Paul is not negating the cross; he is emphasizing repentance to distance himself from the circumcision party. By telling everyone to repent back to Moses’s law, he is assuming his readers understand the requirement of the law. And history shows us all of Paul’s readers already knew and understood the law’s requirements, even if they did not believe in it. In Leviticus, the law requires a sin sacrifice when we have repented. So Paul is not negating the cross, but he is not emphasizing the cross. He emphasizes first and foremost repentance, and this should be our way of preaching as well; repent and then sacrifice by faith in the cross.
In Gal 3:11, Paul refers to Habakkukk 2:4, the righteous shall live by faith. What does it mean when Paul says the righteous shall live by faith? In Habakkuk 2:4, the Hebrew word for faith is Emunah, and the Hebraic word for righteous and justified is tsaddiq. We know from Romans 10:10 someone who obeys the law of Moses is justified, so what Paul says here in Gal 3:11 is this; those who follow the law of Moses shall live by their Emunah.
What is Emunah?
Emunah means faithfulness, so what Gal 3:11 and Hab 2:4 says is this; those who obey Moses’s law and keep on obeying it will have life and life more abundantly because of their obedience. If we keep Moses’ law on our minds, we will abide by it and be justified. If we obey it, we will be saved here and now from whatever is happening in our lives and given eternal life when we die. (Hebr 5:9)
Gal 3:11 and Hab 2:4 do not promise us instant salvation; instead, it says that if we obey the law and keep obeying it no matter what happens, we will because of our faithfulness see salvation.
This is the challenging part for most of us because we want our needs met here and now. Like the Israelites in the desert, we do not take too kindly to wait for our healing or provision. And if we do not get it right away, we will sometimes stop being faithful, but by doing so, we risk not being saved at all.
How do we handle the wait?
Gal 3:11 and Hab 2:4; by remaining faithful no matter what happens or how long it might take.
This is why the Bible says in 2.Chor 5:7 we are to walk by our faithfulness, not by our sight, and why the Bible says in Prov 3, we trust in and remain faithful to Yehovah not to our understanding.
This is sometimes easier said than done, especially if you have waited for a long time for your salvation and the situation only seems to worsen. In Eph 6:16, the Bible says when we are in a waiting period of our lives, the devil will attack us trying to tempt us to doubt and trying to lure us into not being faithful to Yehovah. In Eph 6:16 and Prov 4:23, the Bibel urges us to fight back and to guard our minds above all because from our minds (our hearts) comes life. It is to be expected that you will have an increase of thoughts like “you are never going to get well, you are never getting out of debt, your marriage will never be restored” when you have to wait. When a thought like these, or similar to these, attack you, the Bible says you have to fight back. If you dont fight back, you will lose the battle and perhaps even your salvation.
So how do you guard your mind? How do you fight the fiery darts and thoughts of the enemy?
Rom 10:10 by focusing and keep focusing your mind on the law of Moses.
How do you do this, considering the law has 613 commandments? Few of us can focus on more than one commandment on a good day, even less so on a day with stress, worrying, and anxiety attacks?
Yeshua (Jesus) answers our question in Matthew 22:34-40, the most important commandment in the law is; Hear and obey Israel, Yehovah is my God, Yehovah is 1 God, I will love Yehovah my God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength and my neighbor as I love myself.
If you cant focus on any other commandment, at least focus on loving Yehovah (not Yeshua), and you will see for yourself how this one commandment is your most crucial weapon to fight the enemy with. If you have the strength to do so, you should also remember Eph 6:17. The helmet of salvation is your reminder that because you love Yehovah, you obey Yehovah. Because you obey Yehovah, He guarantees your deliverance from your financial problems, your sickness, or whatever need you might have.
Nobody will fight the devil on your behalf, but Yehovah has given you the most powerful weapons imaginable when He gave you the Torah (the law of Moses.) If you repent from lawlessness and start obeying the Torah, and by doing so, also choose to sacrifice for your sins by faith in the cross, you are guaranteed to see victory over the devil and salvation here and now.
So choose today to repent, decide to sacrifice for your sins, and decide to take up the helmet of salvation, the Torah to fight the devil trying to take your Emunah and salvation.