For the Love of God, Volume 1/August 20
From Gospel Translations
1 Samuel 12; Romans 10; Jeremiah 49; Psalms 26—27
HERE I WISH TO REFLECT on one small part of Romans 10.
As part of his insistence that Jews and Gentiles alike must be saved by faith or not at all, the apostle Paul reviews the fundamental Christian “word of faith”: “That 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” (10:9). This is then slightly expanded: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (10:10). The additional verse does not lay out salvation in two discrete steps: step one, believe in your heart and be justified; step two, confess with your mouth and be saved. This would almost imply that justification can take place apart from salvation, and that faith is an inadequate means that must be supplemented by confession. It would be closer to the apostle’s thought to say that the two lines are parallel—not because each says exactly the same thing as the other (they don’t), but because each throws light on the other, clarifying the other, expounding a little what the other means. Faith in the heart without confession with the mouth thus becomes unbelievable; conversely, confession with the mouth that is merely formal and not generated by faith in the heart is not what the apostle has in mind either. He propounds the faith that generates confession; this confession is borne along by faith. Out of this faith/confession comes justification/salvation—again, overlapping categories, such that in Paul you can’t have one without the other.
So Paul drives the point home: in this respect there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for the same Lord is Lord of all, and blesses all who call on him, as Scripture says: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (10:13; Joel 2:32). That means that Christians need to send people with the good news, for otherwise how shall people call on him of whom they have not heard (10:14-15)?
The point to observe is that the same Paul who insists so strongly in Romans 8 and 9 that God is unconditionally sovereign insists no less strongly in Romans 10 that people must believe in their hearts and confess gospel truth with their mouths if they are to be saved, and lays on the conscience of believers the imperative to bring this good news to those who have not heard. Any theology that attempts to diminish God’s sovereignty by appealing to human freedom is as profoundly un-Pauline as any theology that somehow diminishes human responsibility and accountability by appealing to some crude, divine fatalism.