A closer look at Romans 10:6-8.
Revelation is not the product of human ingenuity, resourcefulness or confession. It is a good gift from the Lord, something that the Triune God has been pleased to bestow before us by good old-fashioned grace.
The apostle Paul makes this clear in no uncertain terms in Romans 10:6-8 writing the following:
“The righteousness which is of faith speaks on this wise: Say not in your heart, who shall ascend into heaven? (That is, to bring Christ down from above) Or, who shall descend into the deep? (That is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). But what does it say? The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach”.
What does Paul mean?
The apostle alludes to the doctrine of the Gospel. “The righteousness which is of faith” is a synonym of the Christian Gospel. It is the Good News which tells us not to seek to “ascend into heaven” or “descend into the deep”.
So what’s that all about?
It dispels any notion of justification by works. Humanity’s best efforts are next to useless. Sinners cannot save themselves by an intellectual or spiritual search for the truth (whether they be mystics, liberals or legalists!) The truth is before them. It has been set before them.
There is no need to go up or go down or to go anywhere else for that matter. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) put it, “You need not start off with your heroics, climbing into the heavens, going down into the depths, to find truth; there is no need to”.1
It was precisely this notion of embracing the truth as God had revealed it which Götthold Lessing (1729-81) so repudiated. In a couple of famous passages, he writes, “The true value of a man is not determined by his possession, supposed or real, of Truth, but rather by his sincere exertion to get to the Truth. It is not possession of the Truth, but rather the pursuit of Truth by which he extends his powers and in which his ever-growing perfectibility is to be found.”
And again, “If God were to hold all Truth concealed in his right hand, and in his left only the steady and diligent drive for Truth, with the proviso that I would always and forever err in the process, and to offer me the choice, I would with all humility take the left hand, and say: Father, I will take this one –the pure Truth is for You alone”.2
Lessing’s feigned humility which is characteristic of a whole wave of liberal thinkers in our own days is quite simply another Gospel as it preaches that God has left the quest for truth in man’s own hands.
Lessing’s prideful philosophizing is the stark contrast of what the Spirit-inspired apostle seeks to teach us in Romans, namely, that the truth of God is before us. It is there. We do not have to go about looking for it. We don’t need to go up or go down.
Well, why not?
Because someone has already done that for us! Who is that someone? Answer: Christ! Not only did He descend to the depths in his expiatory death for sinners but He also ascended to the heights in His glorification. “The righteousness which is of faith” i.e. the Gospel is inseparable from the blessed Lord Jesus. In fact, Jesus is the Gospel. Jesus is “the righteousness which is of faith”. Jesus is the “word of faith” which the apostles preached.
So as Christians we should never feel, like Lessing, as if the truth were out there in some far off place, hidden away in the secret shores of the distance. We have already found the truth.
Or, put more correctly, the truth has already found us! By no means is it an act of arrogance to claim that we have the truth for that it was God Almighty has been pleased to give us. To refuse His truth and to go on our own quest is the supreme act of human haughtiness.
Ultimately, any attempt at seeking the truth which bypasses the touchstone of Christ is doomed to failure even before it begins because man will never be able to justify himself by works before the presence of the Almighty.
A Christian, however, may rest assured in the glorious revelation that God has so freely shared with him (her). No longer does he (she) need to set off chasing shadows beyond our finite grasp.
The application, therefore, is for us all to be thankful for the blessed Word of God. The Scriptures are His revelation. We should neither try to improve upon the Gospel nor seek to be the Lord’s teacher. His revelation is sufficient. With this in mind, we must always be wary of anyone who would seek to go beyond the plain teaching of the Gospel in the name of an “evolving theology”.
Where can you find truth? Where can you find Christ? To quote Lloyd-Jones once more, “You need not go searching, my friend. He has come! […] So you need do nothing at all. It has all been done”.3
Indeed, Christ has come. So now, I urge you, come to Him!
1 LLOYD-JONES, Martyn, Romans: Chapter 10 (The Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 2015), p. 80.
2 www.harpers.org/blog/2007/11/lessings-search-for-truth [Accessed: 17th January 2017]
3 LLOYD-JONES, p. 83.