6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down from above)
The previous verse referred to the attempt to gain an acceptable status before God by human achievement. Verse six shows how we can gain that status by faith. There is a radical contrast between these two systems of salvation.
The word “but” introduces a contrast of salvation between (1) keeping the law and (2) salvation earned by Christ and offered by His grace.
the righteousness of faith speaks in this way,
By alluding to another Scripture, Paul showed that we find righteousness by faith in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. This phrase is a contrast to verse five, where some attempt to live up to the law.
“Righteousness of faith” is a central theme of the book of Romans (1:17). Faith in God’s provision of His own righteousness by what He has done is the believer’s response to the grace of God. The idea here is not that faith creates righteousness, but that faith is the means by which one receives salvation.
The point of the Deuteronomy passage has to do with the grace principle. God offered Canaan as a grace gift. The analogy is between entering Canaan and heaven.
He 4: 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
“Do not say in your heart,
This phrase is repeated in Deuteronomy 8:17 and 9:4. It is a warning against the idea that human righteousness can transcend God’s revelation of grace. To “say in the heart” refers to the self-delusion that what Israel accomplished was by her own efforts.
There are two questions that people are not to dispute in their hearts: (1) that the resurrection of Christ is a reality and (2) that He went to the grave and came back again:
“Who will ascend into heaven?” The implication is that the Messiah never came in order to ascend into heaven (raised from the dead).
“Who will descend into the abyss?” The “abyss” is the place of the dead.
The responsibility for grace is not for us to undertake. Christ achieved that for us by coming to earth, dying on the cross, and rising and ascending into heaven.
‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down from above)
The phraseology of verses six through eight is an allusion to Deuteronomy 30:12-14. This was Moses’ charge to Israel about how to enter the land of Canaan. The core idea is that God will promise blessing for obedient faith and chastisement for disobedience. Moses warned that Israel would face dispersion to other nations if they were disobedient to God’s law. If, however, after being dispersed to other nations they turned back to God in faith, He would restore them to the land in blessing and prosperity (30:1-10).
The idea of ascending into heaven is proverbial for something impossible to accomplish. Moses’ generation had the law. It was near them (Deut 30:11,14). They did not need direct revelation “from above.” This was also true of the generation of Jews in Paul’s day; as Moses’ generation did not need more revelation, neither did Paul’s readers need “to bring Christ down from above.” Christ had already revealed Himself in flesh:
Jn 1: 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
There was, therefore, no need for the Jews to ask God to bring Christ down from above for incarnation.
We have all the revelation in the Bible we need to understand how to go to heaven.
We do not obtain truth by esoteric means. Truth is accessible and understandable from divine revelation. The New Testament gives adequate information for people to become Christians.
We cannot put Christ at a distance and still have an adequate view of salvation. The clarity of the gospel that faith in the fact that Jesus died for our sins is all that is necessary for salvation.