If it is true that we are created and not merely the result of an accident of nature, and if it is also true that this life is not meaningless, but there is life beyond the grave, then the most important question in life is “how do I attain this life beyond the grave?”
Basically there are two answers to this important question. The most popular answer is that you have to earn eternal life in some measure. Almost every religion in the world has some formula for how you can earn God’s favor and gain life beyond the grave. In some cases it is an extraordinary act of sacrifice or service. For others it is adhering to a strict standard of behavior or being a “good person” (even though the definition of good is somewhat slippery). Many churches sadly promote a salvation that appeals to our good deeds.
The other way of answering the question, “how do I obtain eternal life?” is the answer given by the Bible and in our case, specifically, by the Apostle Paul. The Bible teaches that we can never earn eternal life. We are too deeply stained by sin to ever be able to attain God’s standard of holy living. Salvation must be received by faith as a gift from God given because of and through Jesus.
In our text this morning Paul contrasts these two approaches to a right relationship with God that leads to eternal life.
5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.”
What the Way of Salvation is Not
It is not Gained Through the Law Paul observes that those who wish to be saved by law-keeping need to understand that a person must keep ALL of the law ALL of the time in order to fulfill the laws demands and earn salvation. Our problem is that we have broken and transgressed that law countless times in our lives.
Any time we copy a music CD and give it to someone else, every time we let someone load our computer program on their computer, every time we use what someone else has written without giving them credit, every time we make a copy of copyrighted music without permission, every time we take something from where we work and take it for personal use we are stealing. Every time we think of someone other than our spouse in a sexual way we are guilty of committing adultery. Every time we feel hatred toward another or are unwilling to forgive we are guilty to a degree of murder. Every time we allow something other than the Lord to dictate what is important to us we commit idolatry. Every time we make a promise (even to pray for someone) and don’t do it, we lie. Every time we use God’s name in a haphazard way, we take His name in vain.
I hope you get the idea. If our eternal life is based on our ability to obey God’s law, we are in deep trouble. We don’t even come close to earning our salvation. Those who think they are good enough to get into Heaven have either a faulty view of sin, an inflated view of self, or a diminished view of God’s holiness.
It Does Not Demand Some Extraordinary Work Paul says,
But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: (Romans 10:6-8)
Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30 where Moses appealed to the people of Israel to be obedient to the Lord. He told them that God was not asking them to do some supernatural act. He was not calling them to go up into Heaven or to dig down into Hell. What God wants is for us to believe what he has told us.
Salvation does not require us to do some extraordinary work. We don’t have to have some incredible experience or serve in some wonderful way. We don’t have to look for salvation in gimmicks and programs. It is right in front of us.
The Nature of True Belief (9-10)
In verses 9-10 Paul tells us what we need to do to find eternal life. He tells us how we become friends, rather than enemies of God. He points us to the way of salvation.
if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
Our Confession: Jesus is Lord. The first thing Paul tells us that we must confess with our mouth that “Jesus is Lord.” On the surface this doesn’t seem so hard. We can all say this. The words fall easily from our lips.
Paul isn’t saying that we simply have to say the words. We must confess the truthfulness of those words. This word “Lord” or kurios in the Greek, is a word that was used as a title of respect; it was use as a title for the Roman Emperors; and it was the title given to Greek Gods. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) kurios was the word used to translate the divine name of God.
To say, “Jesus is Lord” implied several things. First, it acknowledged Jesus’ unique position as God in human form. There is only one who can have the title “Lord”. That title is reserved for God. To call Jesus “Lord” is to acknowledge His position as God.
Second, it acknowledges that Jesus is the Savior. He is the one who alone can transform us. His death alone can pay for our sin. He is “Lord” in the sense that He is the only one who can rescue.
Third, the title “Lord” acknowledges that Jesus has the right and authority to be ruler over our lives. When we confess, “Jesus Christ is Lord” we are saying His commands, His direction, His leading have supreme authority in our life. His values guide our living. His Word takes precedence above everything else. We are giving Him our allegiance. It is as if we said, “Jesus is my King, my Master.”
In Paul’s day, to confess, “Jesus is Lord” could get you killed. When Christian’s were taken to the Lion’s den they were told to declare that Caesar is Lord. The Christians would not do so. Their allegiance was given to only one. They would respect the government as far as they were able. However, if they were asked to choose between Caesar and Jesus they would choose Jesus.
This is still true is some countries around the world. If you declare, “Jesus is Lord” you may be arrested or disowned by your family. To Paul’s audience, saying, “Jesus is Lord” was not some glib phrase or some magic words. It was a declaration of commitment. Saying these words was to take a stand with Jesus.
It is a similar picture to what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego encountered back in the Old Testament book of Daniel. Everyone was told that at the sound of the trumpet they were to bow before the golden image King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. Anyone who did not bow to the image would be thrown into the fire. The trumpets sounded and everyone bowed to the image except for the three Hebrews. They were arrested and eventually thrown into the red-hot furnace. Before they were thrown into the furnace the three men said,
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
We can confess Christ in many different ways. Charles Spurgeon gives a helpful list.
- By our public involvement attendance at worship.
- By involvement in baptism and the Lord’s Supper
- By our association with God’s people
- By leading your family in the ways of God
- By choosing to stand with Christ in the time of trial
- By choosing Christ in the time of temptation like Joseph when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife.
- By sharing your faith with those around you
In all of these ways we can declare and confess, “Jesus is Lord.”
What We Must Believe The second part of the requirement is to “believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead”. It is important that both part of this instruction are taken together. You can do all the things listed above and still not be going to Heaven. You can go to church, recite the creeds, and argue theology and still not be saved.
Paul says we must “believe in our heart”. Usually we think of believing as something that we do with our head. When we believe something with our heart, we believe it to the depth of our being. When we say we love someone with our whole heart we are saying our love is deep. It is total. It is without reservation. This is the kind of belief we are asked to have.
Suppose you have a serious infection and you are given penicillin as an antibiotic. The penicillin sits in a container near your bed. You have three options,
1. you can accept that the bottle of penicillin exists
2. you can trust that it is capable of curing my illness, which may kill you otherwise. However you will not be made well unless-
3. you act upon that trust and take the penicillin
True Faith is not just confessing certain facts or even agreeing with those facts; true faith means betting your life on those facts. It means standing with Christ even when the world turns against us. It means deferring to Christ even when His way is different from our own. It means putting our confidence in Him.
Second, Paul says we must believe that God Raised Jesus from the dead. Why this requirement? Why not tell us that we must believe in our heart that He died, or that He did miracles, or that He was born of a virgin? The resurrection is what sets Jesus apart from everyone else. Jesus died and physically, bodily, and victoriously came back from the dead. This was not some “Jesus lives in my heart” kind of resurrection. He was really and physically alive.
The resurrection of Jesus proves that what He said was true and His offer of salvation is valid. It proves that He is a living Savior.
Paul tells us that if we will recognize and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, if we believe that God raised Him from the dead, if we are willing to entrust ourselves to Him alone as our Savior, we will be saved.
What are we saved from? We are not saved from problems, from trials, from disease or struggle. We are saved from judgment. We are saved from God’s wrath and punishment for our sin. If we will trust Christ, we will no longer be God’s enemies; we will be made His friends.
This is True for Everyone
As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame. ”For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (11-13)
If the promise of eternal life and salvation is for everyone who believes, then it stands to reason that it is also for you if you will believe. We all fall back into performance mode. We look at our life and we think we can be saved because we go to church; we have lived a “good” life, or have a good reputation with others. On the other side, others believe they cannot be made right with God because they have blown it too many times. They have sinned (sometimes horribly and publicly). They have hurt people, cursed God, and been embarrassed by their actions. They believe they have too much baggage to ever be made right with God.
This offer of salvation is extended to sinners (because that is all there is in the world). It is offered freely to anyone who will trust Christ. This invitation is extended to you. If you feel you do not deserve God’s grace, you are correct. You don’t, and neither do I. That’s what makes it a gift of grace.
There are three lessons for us today. First, we learn what the true gospel message really is. We must not water down what God asks of us. He is not simply asking us to have a momentary experience. He is asking us to trust Him with our past, present, and future. Jesus told people who followed Him to “count the cost”. We should do the same.
Second, we should be led to evaluate our ‘faith’. What kind of faith do you have? Do you believe in Jesus? Do you accept the fact that He can save you? If you believe these things you believe as much as the demons! The key question is, do you believe in your heart? Are you willing to confess Him as Savior and Lord of your life? Are you willing to take your stand with Christ? Are you willing to get off the fence and trust Him alone for your future? This is what is required for salvation.
You may be hesitant because you know your own weakness. Good! The person who understands his own weakness is the one who has the greatest potential. Think of it like committing yourself to the coach on a team. You believe in the coach. You accept the fact that the coach knows what he is doing.
There is this great exchange in one of the Rocky movies. Rocky had been beaten badly in a fight. His coach, Apollo Creed, said he had to change his style. He needed to learn good footwork and to develop his knockout punch with his other hand. Rocky trusted his coach. At first his footwork was horrible. He lacked precision with his less dominant hand. It was awkward, frustrating, and embarrassing at times. However, Rocky trusted his coach. After lots of hard work he became quick on his feet and equally devastating with both hands. He became a different fighter.
As we begin to follow Christ we will stumble, fall, and at times feel like the task is impossible. Learning to live God’s way and trust God’s strength will take time. It will take the better portion of a lifetime. However, if you will really trust Him, if you will continue to work at what He tells you to do, you will become the person God created you to be. Jesus calls you to trust Him fully.
If you are ready to make that decision to declare Jesus as your Lord and Savior and to do so with all of your heart, tell God in the quiet of this moment that you acknowledge Him as the one who can pay for your sin, make you new, and lead you in life. This is between you and God. He alone knows your heart. If you will trust Him, you have God’s promise, “whosoever truly calls on Him will be saved.”