(Rom. 10:6-7) What does Paul mean, when he writes about “ascending into heaven” and “descending into the abyss”?

CLAIM: Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 30 twice in this small section (v.6 and v.8), which refers to the law. However, here, Paul is referring to receiving Christ as Savior –apart from the law. Is Paul quoting this verse out of context?

RESPONSE: Paul’s point is this: God’s message in the OT (Deut. 30) and his message in the NT (Rom. 10) are not too difficult for the Jewish people to understand.

In Deuteronomy 30, Moses explains that the law is not difficult for the Jews to understand. In Deuteronomy 30:11 (NLT), Moses writes, “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach.” In the next verse, he says, “It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’” (Deut. 30:12 NLT) Next, Moses writes, “It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it” (Deut. 30:13-14 NLT). Paul quotes this section to show that the law was easy to comprehend.

Next, Paul argues, “If the law was easy to comprehend, then how much more easy is the gospel to understand?” If the law ultimately points to Christ (v.4), then the message of Christ should be easy for a person to comprehend. The purpose of the law was not to “establish their own… righteousness” (Rom. 10:3). Instead, it was to bring us into faith in Christ.