When Romans 10:2 pointed out that the zeal of the Israelites about whom Paul was speaking was “not based on knowledge”, it appears that several verses found later in that chapter give us the knowledge that they were lacking, through “the message concerning faith”:
But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare 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 profess your faith and are saved.
Romans 10:8-10 NIV
What does this passage say about receiving salvation? Believe and confess (or profess) your faith.
Now, I think that we need to be careful to not mix up elements and principles of receiving salvation with a prescription for following Jesus. Here, I see at least two risks of getting stuck in the details, and missing the big picture: First, I’m sure that some would quibble about the differences between belief (in our heart) and confession (with our mouth) in verse 10, and how they lead to justification and salvation, respectively. I’m not sure that we really need to separate these that much, though. After all, if we truly believe, then our words – and our actions – should reflect that. And, if we are justified, then we can expect to be saved.
Secondly, some people might pull this verse out of context and say that if you merely say these words (perhaps even if you don’t mean them) and believe the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, then you’re “good to go” for Heaven. I think that this is an oversimplification (more on that in a little bit), but in the context of Romans, Jewish people were trying to use the law as their means of righteousness, and this just wasn’t going to work. As a result, this passage doesn’t seem to be a “checklist” for justification and salvation, so much as it is a contrast with other ways that people think that they can become right with God, versus God’s gift of salvation (from grace, through faith, and made possible by Jesus Christ).
Another reason that I suggest not using this particular passage (out of context) as a full understanding of the process of accepting and following Jesus, is that this process is also described in other passages within the Bible. A few months back, there was a helpful sermon at my church about how various elements of this process (see link below) are described in the Bible, including hearing, belief, repentance, confession, and baptism. The preacher (as part of a larger conversation about baptism, specifically) showed how we can only see the larger picture by taking the various elements (of discovering and accepting Jesus) together.
Now, some will suggest that certain steps – like baptism or confession or repentance – are “works”, and therefore can’t be part of salvation. On the other hand, one commentator differentiates believing that we are saved by perfectly following a particular law (or set of rules) from the steps that God has shared with us in order for us to receive God’s righteousness.
Personally, though, I see the various elements of salvation and sanctification as all being connected: being part of the same process. For instance:
- If you know the truth that Jesus is the only way to salvation, it just makes sense that you would accept that gift from Him, including following all of the instructions that are outlined in the Bible – not just to “get saved”, but to live an abundant life (see John 10:10) with Him here on earth.
- If you have faith that Jesus’ salvation is the only way back to God, and you choose to accept it, then this faith should show up through your words and actions.
- If you you realize how amazing it is that Jesus can save you and turn your life around, and you want to love others as much as He does, why wouldn’t you tell others publicly about that?
- If Jesus is your Lord, saying so is a confirmation of what is already true, and Jesus’ lordship in your life means that you are obeying Him. Obedience includes doing what He has taught and modeled for us, which would include things like repentance and baptism (see Acts 2:38).
So, rather than arguing about exactly where and when we are saved through a sequence of “procedural” steps, my hope is that Christians will focus on living in a daily practice of following Jesus, having made Him the Lord of our lives. Yes, I believe that – based on passages in the Bible – this will include things like faith, confession, repentance, baptism, and other behaviors (reflecting this condition of our hearts), but it’s all part of the same process of turning our lives over to God, and trusting Him not only for our salvation, but also for our daily decisions.
I suspect that, no matter where you are on your journey of faith, there are elements of your life that you haven’t yet gotten turned over completely to God. If anything in this article is being used by the Holy Spirit to convict you that there’s more to turn over, know that you’re not alone, and consider what’s next on the list for you personally give over to Him. I’m on that same journey with you, but I look forward to all of us walking daily with Jesus, not just “being saved”, but also living an amazing life with God that starts here on earth (not just when we get to Heaven).
From Sunday School lesson prepared for February 27, 2022
- The Lookout, February 27, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Romans, Volume 2, by Jack Cottrell. College Press Publishing Company, © 1998.