“On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 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. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13 HCSB)
Belief. It is a word that has taken a beating in recent years. For some, it matters little what you believe as long as you have deeply held convictions about something – PASSION. For others, it matters greatly that you believe like them – CONFORMITY. The desire for passion and conformity can be political in nature, religious in nature, or even just cultural in nature. But, the one thing that seems to be lacking in our current understanding of belief is truth. Our culture has relegated truth to the realm of personal feelings and relativism. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “Well, that may be true for you but it isn’t for me.” Relative truth. Interesting idea, but it makes belief personal, private and, well, relative… but utterly irrelevant.
No, really. If belief is devoid of truth then it is nothing more than a bedtime story or fairy tale. It might make you feel good, relax you, and calm your nerves and quiet your anxiety enough to allow you to drift off into sleep, but reality slaps you in the face when you wake up the next morning. I like a good story as much as anyone, trust me. You can probably tell that, if you read these weekly posts. In fact, stories are an essential element to the Gospel. Jesus used stories (parables) a lot, but He always used them to convey essential truths and godly insight.
Let me blunt here, relative truth simply doesn’t work. It does matter what you believe and Paul emphasizes that issue in this passage. The belief you hold and the truth you confess is essential in your relationship with God and it must be consistent with God’s revelation of Himself to mankind – the incarnation – and God’s act of salvation – Jesus’ death and resurrection. So, “the message of faith we proclaim” is a truth that must be known: the confession of Jesus as LORD and the belief in His redemptive work as evidenced and demonstrated by the resurrection. As I mentioned last week, if you truly believe something then it becomes a statement or confession of the truth that you hold and follow. You don’t just believe it, you act on it!
Notice how Paul relates what you know to be true to how you act: “it is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” It is near you, on your lips and at the very core of who you are, in your heart. This is in stark contrast to verses 6-7; “who will go up to heaven… who will go down into the abyss” and get this salvation (or the fulfillment of God’s promises) for us? There’s no need, it is near you. On your lips and in your hearts. At the very core of your being you know that you need God. You long for Him. You pray to Him. God did not set us up for failure or frustration in our desire and need for Him. He’s not sitting on His heavenly throne chuckling at our frustrated attempts at reaching Him. NO! He stepped off, He stooped down, He became a man to show us the way. He said, “Follow me.” This message of faith is NEAR you… say it, believe it.
Next, not only is this message near you but it is for the ONE who believes and the ONE who confesses… everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame. Paul states that in a negative way, but the positive statement is also true: nobody who believes on Him will be put to shame. There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, in the condemnation of their sin or in their confession of Christ. This is the core of the Gospel and the foundation of His Church, it is for all who believe on HIM! So, two things you should notice in this, the ONEs who believe and confess come from very different and ethnically diverse backgrounds but they become part of the same body, the church.
Paul points out the need for individual knowledge, understanding, belief, submission and response to the truth of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter your ethnic heritage or your religious background, YOU must believe unto righteousness and confess unto salvation. A personal relationship with God demands an individual response from you. You will hear about and see faith in your family and friends, but their faith in God is unable to establish your relationship with Him. Family and friends may impact and influence us with their faith or lack thereof, but God demands an individual response to the Gospel’s message of truth. “If you confess and believe, you will be saved…. One believes with the heart… and one confesses with the mouth… resulting in salvation.” Ultimately, your relationship with God comes down to what you believe regarding the truth revealed in Jesus and your confession or response to WHO He is and WHAT He has done for you.
Now the hard part, all of those individuals are brought together into the Church, the body of Christ. While faith begins in the individual’s response to God, it never stays that way. We may respond to God individually but we must live out our faith in relationship to God and with one another. It would be so much easier to live out our beliefs in a protected, cloistered environment but we cannot become the people God desires by living our faith in isolation. In fact, we can’t become the people God desires by living our faith in ethnic or cultural isolation, either.
Consider this, one of our core beliefs about God is that “He is love.” Love cannot be known or expressed in isolation. That fact alone provides huge insight into the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity (go back and think about that for a little while – it can boggle the mind). For God to be “love” then He must have always existed as the Triune God as revealed to us in Scripture. In addition, for us to be the people of God then love will be the central expression of His person through our lives (see John 13:35) and, therefore, an ethnically and culturally diverse church is the natural result of that truth. It would be so much easier if we grouped together based on ethnic and cultural similarities, but to do so would break the plan and purpose of God and deny the truth of who He is, Lord of all. So, the struggle is very real but God uses the diversity of the church to develop our character, refine our obedience and to express His love through us to one another – the essence of following Christ.
Finally, this word of truth must be obeyed. Paul says, if ONE believes with their heart it results in righteousness and if ONE confesses with their mouth, it results in salvation. It isn’t enough to simply know these things to be true, you must act on them. The heart of man is the basis of his will and governs his decisions and choices. Jesus told us, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21).” Whatever you treasure or desire then your heart will follow and begin to make choices and decisions that are consistent with seeking and pursuing that treasure. So, when you truly believe that Jesus is the source of life and its ultimate treasure then your heart will follow and make choices and decisions consistent with that belief. In other words, obedience is the natural outflow of faith. Did you catch that? Obedience doesn’t produce faith, faith produces obedience.
In our efforts to secure God’s blessings, we often get that backwards. We tend to tie blessings to obedience instead of tying obedience to faith. If we have faith, we trust God and believe His word. If we believe His word then we know that obedience to His word will result in life that is blessed. Therefore, faith produces obedience and results in God fulfilling His promises in our lives. Paul put it this way, “everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame… for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Saved. It is a word I’ve grown up hearing all my life in the Baptist church. It’s not really a difficult concept to understand, but saved from what? Saved from destruction, from God’s judgement and wrath. Without telling us, Paul is quoting another Old Testament prophet here…
“After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. I will even pour out My Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days. I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and awe-inspiring Day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved, for there will be an escape for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, as the Lord promised, among the survivors the Lord calls.” (Joel 2:28-32 HCSB)
So, here’s the problem with truth: whether you believe it or not, it is still true. Truth is not determined by belief but belief really needs truth. What happens when you believe a lie? You get cheated or mistreated. If you believe the lie, then you believe something that only leads you away from what is good, just and right. In fact, Jesus told us that lying is the Devil’s nature and that he is the “father of lies” (see Jn 8:44). Blatant lies are usually easy to spot, it is the half truth/half lie that is so difficult to identify and the Devil is really good at telling them. Our culture has bought into his lie regarding love. They believe that the ultimate expression of God’s love would be to give them whatever they want. But the ultimate expression of God’s love is not to give them whatever they want, but what they truly need – God Himself. Why? Because God IS love and to desire Him above all else is to discover the truth, whether you believe it or not.
My prayer for you is that you’ll believe… and in that belief you will confess: Jesus is LORD! If you call on the name of the Lord, you will be saved – saved from yourself and the half truths/half lies you’ve come to believe. Saved from a life without God and into a life of discovering the truth of God and His love. As Jesus said, “follow Me.” Come walk with us…