His Achievement Are We
If ever you should be avowing with your mouth the declaration that Jesus is Lord, and should be believing in your heart that God rouses Him from among the dead, you shall be saved. (Rom.10:9)
THIS VERSE is probably employed more than any other in today’s popular, formularized preaching in which advice is given concerning “how to get saved.” Such an interpretation and application, however, is a gross misuse of the Word of God. This important text must not not be taken out of its context, divorced from its setting, and assigned an altogether new purpose of our own devising.
In our consideration of this passage, it should first of all be noted that Paul is not speaking here concerning the nations, but Israel. The subject of the context is the salvation of Israel; the pronouns “you” and “your” are in reference to individuals of that nation. Their salvation was the delight of Paul’s heart as well as his petition to God (Rom.9:31-10:1).
It should further be noted that the usage of “if ever,” does not speak of a salvation that is in doubt, but of a salvation that is certain to occur–for Israel.
In the phrase “if ever,” “if” is not the if of doubt but of argument. It is the practical equivalent of “whenever,” in reference to the salvation which will then be occurring. The sense is, Whenever the sons of Israel should finally be avowing with their mouth the declaration that Jesus is Lord, and should be believing in their heart that God rouses Him from among the dead, they shall be being saved.
The teaching of practically the entirety of Romans 10 and 11 is that God does not thrust away His people whom He foreknew (Rom.11:2), and hence that the day will yet come when “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom.11:26a). Israel will then be saved not only out of her stubbornness and unbelief, but out of the great affliction which shall befall her in the conclusion of the eon. In that day, “Arriving out of Zion shall be the Rescuer. He will be turning away irreverence from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, whenever I [Yahweh] should be eliminating their sins” (Rom.11:26b,27; cit. Isa.59:20,21; Psa.14:7; Jer.31:34).
Thus it is gloriously true that “if ever” Israel should be avowing with their mouth the declaration that Jesus is Lord, and should be believing in their heart that God rouses Him from among the dead, they shall be saved. They will then enter into the particular salvation which God has for them, that of life in the terrestrial kingdom in the coming eon, according to the writings of the prophets.
“Intense zeal, religious fervor, coupled with self-righteousness, does not lead to salvation. God demands subjection to His righteousness in Christ. The law should establish Israel’s unrighteousness and thus reveal God’s righteousness, which is manifested in Christ. Israel, as a nation, will be saved when they see Him Whom they stabbed, and recognize Him as their Righteousness.
“The law demanded obedience first, and promised life to those only who continued to keep it. But even in the law there was provision for faith. It taught that Yahweh Himself, He was their Life (Deut.30:20). In the day when He gathers them out of the peoples and brings them back into the land He will bring the word of faith very near to them (Deut.30:1-14). In place of their own efforts He will put the humiliation and resurrection of Christ before them. Their salvation, under God, will depend on their avowal of Christ’s lordship and resurrection.
“In the words, ‘Whoever should be invoking the name of the Lord, shall be saved’ (Rom.10:13; cit. Joel 2:32), there is an allusion to the ancient custom, still in vogue in eastern lands, of the right of sanctuary (cp Num.35:6-28). One who is in danger of death by the hand of the blood avenger, if he cannot reach a safe place in time, may invoke the name of some great and powerful person, and thus find salvation through his name. If the avengers of blood refuse to listen to his appeal, and take his life, it devolves upon the person on whose name he has called to take swift and summary vengeance. He gathers together all his friends and allies to assist him in punishing the outrage and in defending the honor of his name.
“Thus, ‘Whoever should be invoking the name of [Yahweh], shall be saved.’ When vengeance visits the earth, the only shelter will be the name of Yahweh. Therefore, it will require not only heart belief, but the avowal of the mouth. Thus it is that Israel will be saved and all others who, in that day, will seek refuge in His name.” 1
The full text of Joel 2:32 (from which Paul cites in Romans 10:9 and 10:13) is: “And it comes that everyone who shall call on the name of Yahweh shall escape, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem deliverance shall come to be, just as Yahweh says; and among the survivors are those whom Yahweh is calling.” All such ones will then call on the name of Yahweh and escape, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, His deliverance shall come to be. Their invocation of His name will be because of His deliverance, according to His calling. Hence their invocation should never be conceived as a means controlled by man in order to gain His deliverance.
It is especially wrong, then, to wrench these words from their context and employ them as a “formula” today, setting these words before the listener as “how to” advice as to what requirements he must fulfill in order to “get saved,” or, become spiritual.
It is true, incidentally, whenever anyone today is graciously enabled to recognize and avow that Jesus is Lord and to believe in his heart that God has roused Him from among the dead, that he then enters into a certain salvation of his own. But it is a salvation from ignorance and unbelief, not from being unchosen by God prior to this time. And it is certainly not some sort of qualifying step which then obligates God to include him among His chosen ones in return.
Indeed, we were chosen by God long before we were born, in accord with His purpose and the grace given to us in Christ Jesus before times eonian. In the counsels of God, it was actually “given to us.” This is what Paul says (2 Tim.1:9); not that it was merely made “available” to all who might one day qualify themselves for its possession. Membership in the body of Christ is by God’s grace, not by human qualification.
As long as we are altogether stubborn toward the things of God, we are “soulish, not having the spirit” (cf Jude 19). “Now the soulish man is not receiving those things which are of the spirit of God, for they are stupidity to him, and he is not able to know them, seeing that they are spiritually examined” (1 Cor.2:14).
One either has the spirit of God or else he does not. If he does not have it, he does not–he cannot–receive those things which are of God’s spirit. Indeed, the truth is, claim what he will, such a person considers them to be so much stupidity. He is unable even to know the things of God, much less to speak of them before others. “No one is able to say ‘Lord is Jesus’ except by [en, ‘in’] holy spirit” (1 Cor.12:3).
Those who do not yet have the spirit of God do not receive Christ at all actually, even if they, in their own flesh, may attempt to do so, having been misled into such a course through false teachings. In such cases, the “faith” is “feigned,” in the sense that it is simulated (eikê, SIMULATEly; 1 Cor.15:2), not genuine. Human efforts toward self-conviction are all in vain; we truly believe only when God graces us to do so, in His own time and according to His own powerful operations (cp Gal.1:15; 1 Tim.1:16).
Only those who have already been given God’s spirit receive Christ; their receiving of Him is a fruit thereof, as natural–and as much the work of God–as the spring blossoms on an apple tree.
INVOKING THE NAME OF THE LORD
On this subject, Dean Hough wrote, “It is ironic that these words of Paul [in Romans 10:9] should have been taken as standardized directions which must be followed if a person wants to be saved. Faith itself is thus given a legalistic twist, contrary to the whole tenor of Paul’s apostleship. Even in addressing Israel, the apostle is not imposing a set of rules for them to follow in gaining their salvation. Rather he is showing the pathway Israel needs to take, and indeed will eventually take, for the enjoyment of the salvation God has provided for them. It is a pathway of discovery, not human achievement. The salvation does not arise from either the avowal or the faith, but is found through their exercise . . . .
“The previous verses [Rom.10:6,7] show what Israel must not be saying if they wish to exhibit faith in God’s words and enjoy the blessings of salvation. This verse shows the opposite. Here is what they will be saying in response to true faith in the heart. They will acknowledge the lordship of Jesus, the One Who walked among them as a servant and Who was crucified as a criminal. And they will believe that God roused Him from among the dead . . . .
“The acclamation of the mouth [Rom.10:10], in the Scriptures, is an open expression of what is honestly believed. It must not be false. The Lord said, ‘Out of the superabundance of the heart the mouth is speaking’ (Matt.12:34). The sacredness of such an avowal can be traced back to the ‘ten words’ of the law, where it is written, ‘You shall not take up the name of Yahweh your Elohim for futility’ (Ex.20:7). What is said concerning God and His operations is to reflect His glory and manifest Israel’s confidence in Him.
“However, . . . even that future expression of Israel’s faith will not actually make them righteous or gain them salvation. What Paul has written concerning us in the earlier chapters of Romans and what he says concerning Israel in chapter 11 will help us supply the ellipses, somewhat along the following lines: ‘For with the heart it is believed for [the manifestation of] righteousness [established by God], yet with the mouth it is avowed for [the continuing display of] salvation [gained through Christ’s descent, death and resurrection].’
“These matters in brackets, though helpful to us in following the overall teaching of Romans, are not of immediate importance in Romans 10. Here Paul is presenting the way to righteousness (by faith) in a manner most calculated to appeal to and be understood by Israel, so as to make the strength of Israel’s resistance all the more evident. He is not concerned here with the basis and purpose of salvation, but with the simple human situation which is the evidence of that salvation . . . .
“The attractiveness of the evangel, especially to those zealous for righteousness, is so great that we can only marvel at the strength of Israel’s stubbornness. Yet we would be the same apart from the grace of God. Israel remains under the disgrace of disbelieving God, stumbling and tripping, desiring the anathema of rejecting Christ, while we have the joy and peace of believing on Him Who is the Saviour of all mankind.
“ ‘For everyone, whoever should be invoking the name of the Lord, shall be saved’ (Rom.10:13). Once more Paul borrows from the Hebrew Scriptures, this time from Joel 2:32. This continued tying in of Old Testament passages with the message Paul was presenting before Israel should logically have made that message more welcome to them. The harmony of salvation through faith with the proclamations and pleas of the prophets is very striking, especially considering the place of the law in the days of such stalwarts as Isaiah and Joel. No wonder Paul testifies that the evangel of God was promised before through His prophets (Rom.1:1,2), and that the righteousness of God was ‘attested by the law and the prophets’ (Rom.3:21)!
“The differences between Paul and Joel are obvious to anyone who considers each passage in its context. But the similarities are what the apostle emphasizes here. The pathway to salvation is not distant, complicated or obscure. It is straightforward and near at hand. All Israel needs to do is believe, proclaim and invoke. But still they are locked up in stubbornness and will not heed a message of such bountiful mercy.
“As for us, we are aware that God is operating, and He is operating all, even the affairs of Israel. He is operating all these matters together, in a harmonious and glorious way. And He is operating them all together for good. This is the faith that God has implanted in our hearts and which we rejoice in acclaiming with our mouths, to the glory of God the Father.” 2
DECEPTIONS OF SUBJECTIVITY
Spontaneous informal petitions, prayers, pleadings, and thanksgiving to God, as circumstance evokes or occasion inspires, are but the natural outflow of our spirits. As the desire or need arises, such prayer and praise, even if very brief, is often most heartfelt and earnest. If we are walking in spirit, in the course of everyday life many occasions arise, or may well be before us continually, in which either petition or praise are regularly in our consciousness if not on our lips, even as they become our unintermittent experience, in spirit. Conversely, often, when we are not walking in spirit, it is both the painful trials and the special joys of the day that serve to awaken us to reliance upon God even as to thanksgiving and praise unto Him, in the name of Christ.
In order to minimize the intrusion of the flesh, ordinarily, except for brief public blessing or supplication, prayer should be made “in hiding”; that is, either privately or in silence (so to speak, “in your storeroom,” after “locking your door”; Matt.6:6). Indeed, it is the “hypocrites” who are “prolix” (i.e., abundant and extended) in prayer (Luke 20:47), who thus engage themselves that they may be seen of men, making “useless repetitions even as those of the nations” (Matt.6:7). Even though such prayers are directed to the God of Israel, faithfully speaking, they are largely but “useless repetitions,” even so. The Lord Jesus declared of such ones, “They are supposing that they will be hearkened to in their loquacity. Do not, then, be like them, for aware is God, your Father, of what you need before you request Him” (Matt.6:8).
Devoutness in general and communion with God in particular, must be natural and sensible, not contrived, artificial, or sensuous. Yet as a technique by which they suppose they can regulate the flesh and “gain” the spirit, some will repetitively vocalize such phrases as, “O Lord Jesus! O Lord Jesus!” doing so with much zeal and great gusto. Though this mantra-like practice is termed by some, “Calling on the name of the Lord,” it might more aptly be called, “Calling out the name of the Lord,” since, as ordinarily practiced, with much repetition of phrases, it becomes not so much a prayer of dependence upon God as a mood-altering technique, controlled by man.
Doubtlessly, if such procedures are practiced with sufficient frequency and sincerity, certain positive effects will be obtained as a result–especially if one is taught to expect such results. Such essentially pagan practices will often induce a certain ephemeral euphoria, which, in turn, deters those thus distracted from certain overt sins. One’s dependence upon such subjective, self-generated emotionalism, however, hinders if not precludes one’s dependence upon God.
Such exuberant vocalizings and related practices are, in fact, as fleshly and injurious in their way as those more conventional fleshly thoughts and deeds which they are designed to attenuate. Self-regulated experiences of ebullience, albeit in the name of Christ, constitute a spurious spirituality. Irrational, self-generated emotionalism is unhealthy, not to mention unwise. For some, such religiosity may gratify the senses or distract the flesh; but it cannot truly nourish the spirit of any. Nor is any such aura of religious euphoria somehow useful in preparation for the spirit’s presence–as if the Almighty had need of our crude devices in order that His testimony might be heard or His influences rendered effectual.
“INVITATIONS” AND “ALTAR CALLS”
Many have been deceived into conceiving of the evangel in proud and conditional ways through the false teachings of those who have been unfaithful to its message. Ever so many have been put through the paces of taking part in an “acceptance” of Christ which supposedly only brought salvation to them inasmuch as they fulfilled its “terms.” Such claims and practices have only perpetuated confusion and deception. Wherever God intends, however, the power of the evangel itself still works salvation–in spite of the presence of these errors.
The customary invitation or altar call of today is simply a vain tradition of men (cp Mark 7:8). It is used because it “gets results.” Through such means, many become converts to the “Christian religion.” Such popular techniques are based upon the false idea which has well been termed “decisional regeneration.” The number of those from among such throngs whom God Himself has already chosen is known to Him, not to us.
Entrance into the terrestrial kingdom under law is one thing; the apostle Paul’s evangel of grace among the nations is quite another. Yet on the basis of Matthew 10:32,33 (and Luke 12:8,9), many today are warned that they must not only believe but also “confess” Christ before men in order to be saved. The scope of these words, however, is confined to the Circumcision. It is true that it was necessary for those called into Christ through the evangel of the Circumcision to heed all such instructions if they would enter into life. God, however, graciously fulfilled in His chosen ones all essential obedience (cp Isa.26:12). They would have life eonian only if they obeyed; but their obedience was due solely to His grace.
In the Circumcision calling, personal righteousness and endurance are essential, but they are not provided by man. Those in Christ of that calling, whether in the beginning or end of their life of faith, are saved entirely in grace, as much as ourselves. The throngs at large, some of whom had a certain recognition of Christ, must be distinguished from those who were truly chosen of God, “begotten anew” and “in Christ.”
Such matters as these do not concern us; it is a corruption of Paul’s evangel to attempt to incorporate them into his message, especially when the grace which alone can fulfill the essential obedience of that calling is denied.
For ourselves, it is not that we must acclaim Christ, but simply that we gladly do so, according to His grace. We should not speak of “confessing” Christ, but of “acclaiming” Him. When exomologeõ (OUT-LIKE-LAY [say]) is used in a positive sense, the CV translates it “acclaim” (e.g., Matt.11:25). When it is used concerning sin, it is translated “confess” (e.g., Matt.3:6). If a new believer should wish to share his first joy in Christ with others during a meeting of his fellow believers, this should be encouraged. But such actions must not be psychologically induced, or made into veritable laws or ceremonies.
Many may actually believe for some time before they ever “go forward” at a church service. If so, they are already in Christ, and complete in Him (cf Col.2:10). But if their faith has lacked commitment and obedience, not yet knowing His grace, they may well suppose that by taking part in this tradition they will somehow motivate God to bless them in return. Indeed, “orthodoxy” teaches this error, and proclaims it as truth.
If any should genuinely believe for the first time during such a meeting, this will be so only because God has decided to grant them faith in the message of “Christ crucified” upon this particular occasion. If so, one should glory in God in it all, in God’s good pleasure to be graciously granting faith, and not taint such a marvelous occasion with an abundance of boastful imaginings about “having done one’s part” by going forward at the altar call.
May our God and Father give us grace not only to be invoking (calling upon, or petitioning) the Lord out of a clean heart (2 Tim.2:22), but to be correctly cutting the word of truth (2 Tim.2:15), heralding the evangel of His grace to the honor of His name.
1. adapted from A. E. Knoch, CONCORDANT COMMENTARY, p.240.
2. Unsearchable Riches, vol.74, pp.91-96, “Faith in Heart and Mouth.”
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