But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” —that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved (8,9).
Both the issue of believing “unto righteousness” (v.10) and confessing Jesus as Lord “resulting in salvation” is the truth of His resurrection. For by his resurrection the Father in raising Him from death attests to His acceptance of that sacrifice as fulfilling every requirement as propitiation unto righteousness. That exaltation in being raised is the statement of the Father’s acceptance of the son’s humiliation [a foundational principle that underlies every subsequent action of the Church performed in His name in power!].
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:8-11).
“Calling on the name of the Lord” is no glib incantation, some vocalization to which someone may be coaxed or some mindless ‘decision’ made. It is the taking for one’s self the absoluteness of the Lordship of Christ in the forfeiting henceforth of all personal autonomy over one’s own life. Is it any wonder then that we see so little evidence of this transaction in the multitudes professing to be ‘saved’? That is why He must necessarily be ‘alive’, that is, raised from the dead so as to exercise that Lordship or the transaction is fraudulent and vain!
And all this to be required of the till then unbelieving Jew? The whole phenomenon of belief and confession after millennia of obdurate rejection must itself be by resurrection power! We as Jews personify the skeptical, unbelieving character of the modern rational and empirical mind! Resurrection, by its very nature, is the supreme calculated offense to human incredulity! It will take the very power of resurrection to overcome every resistance to its truth and that only as it is demonstrated and exemplified in those who preach! “Just as believing is logically prior to calling, so hearing is logically prior to believing. What kind of hearing, however?”
Stott argues, that “unless they hear him, they will not believe the truths of his death and resurrection”. In a word, Christ is so formed and present in the preacher, so much the issue of the preacher’s own life, message, voice and being that to hear him is to hear the resurrected Christ all the more as the words are not that of the speaker but His! In that, is His Lordship attested in the submission of the preacher not to speak his own words or formula for salvation but that of the Risen Lord himself! Little wonder that in the text of Isaiah 62 from which in v.7 Paul draws “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news” do we read in the verse that precedes it:
Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day I Am the one who is speaking, Here I Am (my emphasis).
The one who “announces” peace, “announces” salvation in fact pronounces it, that is, establishes their reality as event by his speaking for in being a “sent” one those who receive him receive Him who sent him (Mt. 18:4; Mark 9:37). Furthermore in speaking Christ’s own words and not his own, the messenger in his obedience attests to the fact that “Your God reigns“. Even though his hearer is unaware that an obedience is being rendered, still the spirit of Jesus’ Lordship is being attested and confirmed! So it is not only the words of the servant but his servanthood itself that testifies that Jesus is Lord!
Israel unbeknownst to themselves waits upon such “sent” ones; but what do the sent ones themselves wait? Nothing less than that which constitutes apostolic sending, namely an expression of the body constitutive of that reality as typified by Antioch in the first instance of such a sending in Acts 13. Here again, in the mystery of God, the issue of Israel’s restoration is the issue of the Church, but Church of an ultimate kind. Until such preaching comes, until such preachers can be sent, how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard and how shall they call except they believe? And what are the eschatological implications if they don’t?
We are not talking here only about the issue of salvation for yet another ethnic group nor even the long-desired redemption of Israel per se, however justly and passionately desired, but of the fulfillment of God’s redemptive program for very creation itself, the cosmic implications of His coming and Kingdom that hinges entirely upon Israel’s restoration! Israel is inert and is acted upon as we ourselves once were dead in our transgressions and trespasses. The whole premium rests upon the “word of faith” which we preach as sent ones, messengers, who are ourselves the evidence of His resurrection, ascension and authority and speak exclusively out of the power that raised Jesus from the dead!
So long as resurrection remains for us merely an article of faith and credal affirmation, so long does Israel continue to remain in the unbelief of death. So long as we are unwilling for the sacrifices of self-denial of cruciform lifestyle that alone fashions apostolic bodies out of charismatic-evangelical fellowships, their death remains. It is more than a ‘formula’ for salvation that Israel requires [where in fact have they even heard that?]. Not only Israel’s ages-long apostasy but her prominent position relative to the powers of darkness as central and brilliant in promulgating, explicating and promoting its worldly ‘wisdom’ makes that people especially difficult and resistant to the message of a competing Kingdom. All hell strains to keep them subservient to the kingdom of darkness where the remarkable gifting of this nation, subversive of their endowment, serves its interests. To touch the Jew in the power of the Spirit is to confront the powers of darkness at their nexus. Therefore, do they of all peoples require the demonstration of apostolic authority described above and for which reason, the priority of God”to the Jew first and also to the Greek”makes preeminent sense!
Again, it is the issue of the Jew that compels the Church to become the Church. For in becoming the Church Israel becomes Israel and God God to a long God-rejecting world! May our faith for this come by our hearing, and our hearing by the word of Christ. For “of Him, and to Him, and through Him, be all things to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”