There are many important questions that people confront in life—Will she say “yes”? Does this make me look fat? What is the meaning of life? What are women thinking/what are men thinking? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? What is next for me? What if I did this differently? Or, perhaps most precarious—where do you want to go for dinner? J While we may not take the time to answer some of these questions in this setting, we are, over the next several weeks, going to be asking and answering a very important question—Who are we? What is our identity and role as the church? This questions is an important thing to revisit from time to time, especially in a world that would cause us to doubt/question what we are, what we believe, and how we are supposed to exercise our faith. Thankfully, we do not have to come up with an answer to this important consideration ourselves. The Bible goes out of its way to bring clarity and definition to and for God’s people. Today we are going to begin answering this inquiry—who are we?—by looking at what the apostle Paul says in Romans 10:1-10. In this passage we will learn that, at least in part, we are what we confess.
Paul answers a lot of questions in Romans. Who is guilty and needs saving? How effective is the law? Who are God’s people? What is grace? Etc. However, in chapter 10, Paul answers what many in his original audience were wondering after hearing chapters 1-9: “How are people saved?” Paul’s presentation on means and method of salvation is given by means of four teachings in verses 1-10. These teachings will, once again, reveal that the church is, in many ways, a product of what it confesses/believes.
a) TEACHING #1: The Misconception of Salvation-10:1-3
Paul begins chapter 10 by reminding his audience what his entire ministry is all about—“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (10:1). Paul leaves no doubt here that he desperately longed for his audience (especially the Jews in his audience) to be saved. Unfortunately, many were not being saved. However, this did not quench Paul’s desire to share and explain the gospel message to those who desperately needed it.
But this begs a question. Why were so many of Paul’s compatriots in the dark concerning how to relate to God? How had this happened? An account of their failure is provided in verses 2-3. First, many had all the zeal they needed, they just weren’t directing that zeal in the right direction—“for I testify about them, that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (10:2). Throughout the New Testament, the idea of zeal is praised. The same is true here. However, zeal can only take one so far, especially if it is misplaced. Andy Stanley is famous for having said, “Your direction, not your intention, determines your destination.” Paul reiterates here that the Jews had all the right intentions, they were just heading in the wrong direction.
There was no question that the Jewish people were zealous for God, unfortunately, their zeal was not guided by “knowledge.” Attitude was great, information was lacking. They may have proven spiritual, the problem was, they were also ignorant. They were confessing something, but their confession was incorrect. What “knowledge” were they missing? What did they have wrong?
Paul provides an answer in verse 3—“for not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (10:3). In other words the Jews were misinterpreting God’s plan for providing righteousness. As a result, they failed to recognize the righteousness that comes from God. (Mounce, 207). To be saved, one must be made righteous. This righteousness has to be granted and cannot be earned. This is something that the Jews did not seem to understand. However, failure to understand was not due to a lack of information or revelation. The verb for “not knowing” means to “ignore” as much as it does to “fail to understand.” The Jews had ignored the true message and meaning of the Old Testament law (which revealed that none are righteous) and failed to listen to the prophets (which anticipated the only one who could bestow righteousness). Because they misinterpreted this data and/or ignored it altogether, they did not understand what salvation was all about—God’s righteousness bestowed by His Son Jesus.
As a result, they “sought to establish their own,” righteousness. Paul has already pointed this out in the previous chapter. In chapter 9, Paul admitted that so many of his fellow Jews were not entering into a relationship with God because they were trading grace for performance and relying on their own patriarchy (family heritage and traditions) rather than Christ. The consequence—they replaced the standard of God’s righteousness with their own—“they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (10:3). Instead of confessing that they needed saving, they were saying, “I’m fine, I can save myself.”
b) TEACHING #2: The Foundation of Salvation-10:4
Taking salvation into one’s own hands and believing that one can perform their way to personal righteousness is misplaced for, as Paul reveals next, Christ’s righteousness, not man’s, is the foundation for salvation—“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4). In other words, the unreachable standard of God’s righteousness has been achieved, not by us, but by Christ. Jesus’ achievement makes righteousness available for all who believe in him. One commentator has translated this important verse this way: “For Christ means the end of the struggle for righteousness-by-the-Law for everyone who believes in him.”
How did Christ achieve this? The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21.
2 Corinthians 5:21-“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Christ, who was sinless (a.k.a. completely righteous), took on mankind’s sin (unrighteousness) so that by faith “we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (or exactly what we need to be in order to enter into a relationship with God). Christ has accomplished what man could—the righteousness of God.
A. M. Toplady: “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to the cross I cling.”
”The only thing God requires of people is that they not persist in trying to earn what they can only receive as a totally free gift” (Mounce, 208).
c) TEACHING #3: The Clarification of Salvation-10:5-8
After laying this foundation before his audience (again), Paul juxtaposes two brands of righteousness (misplaced self-righteousness and God’s true righteousness) to further illustrate his point. Self-righteousness has its origin in the law, “For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by that righteousness” (10:5). What Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5 (see also Gal. 3:12) to say that if someone were to perfectly adhere to all that the law demands, it would, in fact, lead to life. However, NO ONE has nor ever will be able to perform on that level. Again “there is none righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10).
God’s righteousness, on the other hand, is “based on faith” (10:6; see also 9:30). Righteousness coming through faith is reiterated in Ephesians 2:8-9-“for by grace are you saved through faith and not by yourselves, it is a gift, not of works lest any man should boast.” This kind of faith does not demand performance of any kind for effectiveness. This is what Paul means when he says that it “does not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down)” (10:6). Here, Paul interprets verses from Deuteronomy through the lens of Jesus coming to earth, dying on the cross, rising from the grave, and ascending into heave. “In Deuteronomy, Moses was telling the people that they did not have to climb up to heaven or cross the sea (in their own strength) to discover the will of God. Paul applied the passage to the availability of the message of salvation” (10:6).” Just as people couldn’t bridge the gap between themselves and God in the Old Testament, neither can they in the New Testament. God is the primary mover in the program of salvation and unless he condescends to reach us, we would be forever lost.
Not only do people not need to “storm the citadel of heaven,” in their own power to reach God, neither do they need to invade “the kingdom of the dead” (Hunter, Romans, 95)—“…or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)…” (10:7). Instead, Christ has done all of this! It is He who has come down out of heaven to bring grace to the sinner by means of His incarnation (coming to earth). It is He who has conquered sin and death (through the cross) and has been brought back up from the dead to grant righteousness and salvation (in the resurrection). “Christ the Saviour is here, incarnate and risen” (Hunter, Romans, 95).
As good as this news is, what makes it even better is it has been revealed and is near—“”The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching…“ (10:8). Paul is, at present, preaching this gospel message and many along with him have spread the word across the known world. In fact, when Paul says “in your mouth and in your heart” he is hoping that some in his audience have accepted and embraced the information given and, as a result, could echo the truth back to him and others.
This reference to the mouth and heart tees up the final element of Paul’s teaching concerning salvation nicely.
d) TEACHING #4: The Application of Salvation-10:9-10
As Paul elucidates the application of salvation, he indicates that there are two related steps—First, “confess with your mouth, Jesus as Lord” (10:9a). “Confession” involves the expression of one’s allegiance to a proposition or person. Here, the content of the proposition being endorsed is “Jesus is Lord.” Though this is a short phrase, it is heavy with salvific implications. “Jesus is Lord” betrays at least two things when said in the context of confessing salvation. First, claiming “Jesus is Lord” is claiming that Jesus is God made flesh. “Lord” (kurioV) is the New Testament and Greek equivalent of the divine name of God used in the Old Testament (yhwh). The implications of this are immense as such a claim necessarily signals belief in Jesus’ unlimited, universal, and absolute authority/equality with God. Second, “Jesus is Lord” indicates subservience to Jesus in large part because of His amazing power and authority as God. “Those who come to Christ by faith are acknowledging that they have placed themselves entirely and with no reservation under his authority to carry out without hesitation whatever he may choose for them to do” (Mounce, 209). Jesus, in essence, is master over whoever confesses these words in faith.
The second step involved in the application of salvation, very much related to the first mentioned, is “believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead” (10:9b). Though Paul only mentions one element of Christ’s redemptive work here—the resurrection—he has the entirety of Jesus’ work in mind. We know this because of how Paul speaks about the resurrection in other places.
1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-“…and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain,…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins,”
These verses are offered after Paul defined the contents of his “preaching” and the proper elements of saving faith earlier in the chapter.
1 Corinthians 15:1, 3b-4-“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received in which also you stand,…that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.”
In 1 Corinthians 15 we have a clear case of what is called synecdoche—a literary device in which part of something, sometimes the most important part of something, is used as shorthand for the whole. Here, Paul uses the resurrection to allude to Jesus’ entire program of salvation from start to finish. Therefore, “believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead” is shorthand for believing in everything that Jesus did to accomplish salvation on one’s behalf. In fact, it logically follows that if you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, you would necessarily believe that Jesus had died. Even further, if one believes that Jesus died, it would naturally follow that one believe that he had been sent in the flesh in the first place.
Those who confess “Jesus is Lord” and trust in His completed work of redemption “will be saved” (10:9b).
Why? What is significant about these steps? Paul says “For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness” (10:10a). Belief in something implies complete trust and reliance in the truths involved. Contrary to where many were placing their belief in Paul’s day—themselves, the law, other gods, etc.—those who place their complete trust in and reliance upon Christ’s completed work will received what He alone is capable of giving (God’s righteousness). This righteousness is what God demands for relationship with Him.
Complementary to saving belief is saving confession—“and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (10:10b). The Bible has much to say about the tongue and the mouth. After all, God spoke the world and everything in it into existence with his voice (Gen. 1). Jesus is called the Word of God and the Word become flesh (John 1). These references indicate a creative power behind speech. Speech, in other words is capable of doing things. However, in the hands of man, the tongue can prove to be a “fire” (James 3:6) and “restless evil full of deadly poison” (James 3:9) proving that although “the tongue is a small part of the body,… it boasts of great things” (James 3:5). The Bible also teaches that out of the heart, the mouth speaks. Applied here, any mouth that confesses “Jesus is Lord” indicates a heart that has fully trust in Christ’s work for salvation.
What we have in these final two verses (9-10) is an example of a chiasm (and A-B-B-A presentation) in which both belief in Christ’s completed work and confession of His corresponding Lordship is celebrated. Both are necessary for salvation to take place in the life of the believer.
In this passage Paul has answered a very important question—perhaps the most important question—“How are people saved?” His answer is twofold—(1) confessing that Jesus is Lord of your life because of one’s (2) trust in His completed work of redemption on your behalf. Ultimately, one must believe and confess who Jesus is and what He has done in order to receive the righteousness that only he can provide to save. We cannot earn this righteousness ourselves and we cannot find this righteousness anywhere else.
Applied to this series, “Who are we?” We are what we confess—we are the saved people of God who confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God has raised Christ from the dead. This is of first importance in providing definition to our identity as God’s people here at Crystal Spring Baptist Church.
Have you made such a confession in your life? Is Jesus your Lord?...Do you trust in all that He has accomplished on your behalf for meaningful life both now and on into eternity? Or, are you the lord of your life? Do you trust yourself to pull yourself through to the end? As Paul reveals, this misplaced, ill-informed, ignorant. Such a confession will fail every time. My desire and the desire of this church is that you would not just have zeal for God or spiritual matters, but that this zeal would be accompanied by knowledge of Christ and what He has done to make it possible for you to enter into a relationship with God and be saved. You are, in part, what you confess. If you confess Christ, Paul teaches that you are saved. Praise the Lord!