The Word of Faith that We Proclaim, Part 2
From Gospel Translations
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'"(that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'"(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
We would be untrue to this scripture in verses 9-13 this morning if we did not preach it and hear it as amazingly expansive and inclusive and big-hearted and free and bountiful and enthralling. What we are going to focus on in just a few minutes is three things in these verses that press upon us for our joy the outreaching, merciful, generous heart of God.
We can hang these three things on three words: call, all, and riches. And if you wish the third one rhymed, then use enthrall and you will be profoundly right. 1) Coming to God for salvation is simply a believing in Christ expressed in "calling on the Lord" or confessing the Lord. 2) God invites "all" to come to him in this way, no matter what culture or religion or race. 3) And when anyone comes he finds all the "riches" of God. That is, God enthralls the one who calls with all the wealth that he is for him in Christ Jesus.
That’s where we are going. But first let’s make sure that we are tracking with the apostle Paul – with the Holy Spirit – in the flow of his thought so that we put the emphasis in the right place.
Review of Romans 9-10 So Far
Romans 9:1-23 gives the ultimate explanation why so few in Israel are saved. Why are so few physical Israelites not included in the true spiritual Israel? Answer: God’s purpose according to election, not ethnic identity or things we do (9:11-12), decides finally who are the vessels of mercy. "Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel . . . It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring" (Romans 9:6, 8).
This freedom of God in election opens a door for the Gentiles to belong to the true Israel. Paul walks right through that door in Romans 9:24-29, and says that Gentiles are included in the true Israel of God. Verse 24: "He has called [us], not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles." This amazing truth is Paul’s burden now for the rest of chapters nine and ten: Why are so many Jews not included in the true Israel while so many Gentiles are included?
This time his answer is not election (as in 9:1-23). This time the answer is justification is by faith alone. The Gentiles are seeing this and receiving it with joy, but Israel is stumbling over it because they still embrace justification by obedience to commandments not faith in the Messiah.
We need to pause here and feel the wonder and joy that those first century Gentiles felt when they heard the news that by faith alone they could be justified and become part of the covenant people and inherit all the promises of the God of Israel. They had been excluded so long. They were not only ethnically un-Jewish, they were unclean and uncircumcised and "alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:13). Listen to what happens when Paul turns to preach grace to them in Antioch of Pisidia in Acts 13:46-48.
And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you [Israel]. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’" And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
The Ground of Entrance into True Israel
Three times in Romans 9:30 to 10:8 Paul explains why Gentiles are entering the true Israel and Jews are turning away. Each time it is justification by works versus justification by faith. Notice each of them. This should make you leap for joy to see clearly the ground of your entrance into God’s family.
First, Romans 9:30-32, "What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone." The issue that divides is: whose righteousness do you count on for righteousness and entrance into God’s family?
Second, Paul says it again in Romans 10:3-4, "For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they [Israel as a whole] did not submit to God's righteousness. [And what is that?] 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Israel stumbled over this stone and the Gentiles believed and entered the true Israel: We trust not in our own righteousness but the righteousness of another, Jesus Christ.
Third, Paul says it one more time in Romans 10:5-8 which we looked at last week. We won’t go into it again. Just notice the two phrases. Verse 5: "For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them." Then the contrast in verse 6: "But the righteousness based on faith says . . ." That’s the dividing line: righteousness from law or righteousness from faith.
In summary then, why are so many in Israel not part of the true spiritual Israel and so many Gentiles a part of it? Paul’s first answer in Romans 9:1-23 is: God’s purpose according to election. And Paul’s second answer is: Israel, by and large, rejected Christ for righteousness while many Gentiles embraced Christ’s righteousness by faith alone.
Gentiles Are Included!
So as we enter verses 9-13, the overwhelming emphasis we see is: Gentiles are included! Gentiles are included by grace alone, through faith alone because of Christ’s righteousness alone! That’s the dominant note as we enter these verses. And to drive it home Paul quotes two more Old Testament Texts to strengthen his case and make it firm: Isaiah 28:16 in verse 11, and Joel 2:32 in verse 13.
And what makes these two Old Testament texts so relevant is that they both include all three of the points I referred to at the beginning which show the outreaching, merciful, generous heart of God. Recall those three words: call, all, and riches (or enthrall). 1) Coming to God is believing in Christ expressed in "calling on the Lord," or confessing the Lord. 2) God invites all to come to him in this way. 3) And when we come, we receive all the riches of God; that is, he enthralls us with all that he is for us in Jesus.
1. Call on the Lord
Let’s look first at # 1 – believing on Christ expressed in calling on the Lord or confessing the Lord. This is where Paul begins in verses 9-10. "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." The reason Paul mentions both the heart and the mouth in these two verses is that he saw these two in Deuteronomy 30:14 which he quotes in verse 8: "But what does it [the righteousness from faith] say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)."
You recall from last week that Paul saw verses 5-8 pointing to Christ. He put Christ where the commandment was because he believed that the commandment pointed to Christ the perfect commandment-keeper. Now he says in verse 8 that this word of Christ – this reality of Christ – is in your mouth and in your heart. What does that mean? You can see Paul’s thinking in verse 10: What does the heart do with Christ? It believes. What does the mouth do with Christ? It confesses. That’s what hearts and mouths are for. Hearts believe, and mouths confess what the heart believes, "that is the word of faith that we proclaim" (v. 8).
So he draws the great conclusion in verse 9 – a precious gospel text that we love so much: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." What is the pathway to salvation that opens the door to the Gentiles? Belief in the heart what is true about Christ, and confession with the mouth what the heart believes, not ethnic distinctives, not culture, not works.
Now be careful here: the mouth is not at odds with the heart. And the heart is not left behind when the mouth speaks. Paul doesn’t mean: Just believe that God raised Jesus from the dead but you don’t have to confess he’s Lord with the mouth; and he does not mean you must confess Jesus is Lord but you don’t have to believe it in the heart. No. The point is: The mouth confesses what the heart believes, and what the heart believes when it believes that God raised Jesus from the dead, is that Jesus is Lord! The resurrection is God’s vindication of everything Jesus accomplished in his life and death. And what he accomplished was a triumph over all our guilt, our condemnation, our death, Satan, and hell. And now as the risen victor over all his enemies he given a name that is above every name: Lord.
And let that sink in. Because even though there were many lords and many gods (1 Corinthians 8:5), this does not mean that Jesus was one lord among many. "Lord" (kurios) was the word the Greek Old Testament used to translate God’s personal name, Yahweh (Jehovah). And, most important, here in verse 13 Paul puts Jesus precisely where Yahweh was in Joel 2:32: "For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’" The staggering fact is: to be a Christian means to confess: Jesus is God. Not a god. Jesus is Lord – the Lord. Not a lord. That is what a Christian believes.
Paul carries the heart and the mouth on through verses 11-13. That is, he speaks of what the heart does in verse 11 and what the mouth does in verses 12-13. In verse 11 the heart believes: "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." And in verses 12-13 the mouth calls: "The same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’"
So we can sum up this first point – the "call" – like this: Coming to God for salvation means believing on Christ in your heart for all that he has done for you, and then giving expression to that with your mouth by confessing him and calling on him as Lord.
2. God Invites All
Second, after the word "call," we take up the word "all." We Gentiles are included in the true Israel not only because coming is by believing and confessing rather than by works of the law; we are included because the invitation is lavishly for all. This note is struck in verses 11, 12, and 13. And we know this is Paul’s own emphasis because he adds the word "everyone" to the quote from Isaiah 28:16 in verse 11, which he did not add in Romans 9:33. Verse 11: "For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’"
Then verse 12 underlines it: "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him." And then verse 13 strikes the note one more time: "For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’"
Paul’s point here is that "Yes, in a sense, it is surprising that Gentiles are being included in the true Israel. Yes, it is surprising that the invitation from God to trust Christ (the Jewish Messiah) as God and be a part of his covenant family is given indiscriminately to all races, all religions, all cultures." But, he is trying to show, once you catch on to the larger meaning of the Old Testament, it is not surprising. Isaiah 28:16; Joel 2:32; Hosea 1:10; 2:23 (=Romans 9:25-26), point to an expansive, inclusive, big-hearted, free, bountiful, enthralling heart of God.
Just as Christ is the goal of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes, so the goal of the whole Old Testament was to offer this way of salvation to all. That is why you and I are saved, and why we are debtors to the whole world.
3. The Riches of His Glory
Finally, after Paul’s focus on all and his focus on our faith and confession and call, there is the goal of it all, namely, the riches of God – God’s enthralling us with all that he is for us in Jesus. What do we receive when we believe on Christ with our heart and confess Christ with our mouth? Every one of these five verses (9-13) gives an answer to that question. I take the word riches from verse 12, "There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him." I put this one first because I think it sums up all the others and goes deep than the others.
God’s riches are not mainly earthly treasures – though he is very generous with those. He meets our earthly needs again and again. God’s riches are mainly what we need most, and what satisfies us most deeply and permanently – and that is not stuff, things, toys, cars, houses, lands, businesses, investments. These things do not satisfy the heart and they do not last. What are his riches?
They are called salvation in verses 9, 10, and 13. Verse 9: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Verse 10b: "With the mouth one confesses and is saved." Verse 13: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Saved, saved, saved. From what? Saved from guilt, saved from condemnation, saved from the wrath of God, saved from hell, saved from sinning. These are precious riches beyond all price. But they are all negative. They are all leaving something behind, not gaining something.
The riches of verse 11 are also negative – gloriously negative: "For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’" The wealth of God includes no shame. The children of God will be revealed for who they really are (Romans 8:19). Here they may be the off-scouring of the world. Here they may be shamed time and again as happened to Peter in Acts 5:41. Remember what Jesus said, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account [in other words, shame you]. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12). Your riches are great. They will reverse all shame. You will be vindicated in due time.
Indeed, in the eyes of God, you are already vindicated. That is the riches of verse 10a: "For with the heart one believes and is justified" (or literally: "with the heart one believes unto righteousness"). When your heart is wakened to see and embrace Christ as your righteousness, immediately you are in him and his righteousness is credited to you. That is wealth indeed. Better to be righteous before God with the righteousness of Christ, than have all the riches in the world and meet him in your own righteousness!
But is that the ultimate riches of God: a right standing before him in the righteousness of Christ, no guilt, no condemnation, no shame? No. All of that aims at the ultimate riches. The ultimate riches of God are, as Romans 9:23 says, "the riches of his glory." God’s riches are the riches of seeing him and knowing him admiring him and enjoying him forever. He himself is the sum of the riches that we have in Christ. Paul counts everything as loss because of the surpassing value of just knowing Jesus Christ – the very image of God.
God’s Word to You
God’s word to you this morning is: all his riches of forgiveness and justification and freedom from guilt, condemnation, and shame, and all his satisfying fellowship is extended freely to all of you – whatever your background (O hear the expansive heart of God!) – and it is offered not on the basis of working or measuring up. It is offered on the basis of Christ through belief in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, expressed through confession with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. Trust in him today, call upon him, and tell somebody: Jesus is Lord.