By Rev. Napoleon Narag (Pastor, Pearl of the Orient Covenant Reformed Church)
There is a common proverb that says; “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere”. What is your take of this proverb? Do you agree? This proverb is very dangerous. We put premium on sincerity, because it’s so rare in this age of sham. We all admire the sincere man, but we despise hypocrisy. We have great respect for people who are sincere about their convictions and are willing to die for them. But is sincerity enough? A nurse sincerely believed she administers the right medicine to a patient, but the patient died instantly because the medicine she gave was a poison. Her sincerity didn’t save the patient. In the same manner, sincerity will not save our soul – it will not make us right with God – if we believe the wrong thing. In fact, it is far more deadly to believe the wrong thing than to drink poison.
Sad to say that the said proverb, describe lots of Churches and “so called Christians” today. Many confess a certain body of doctrine and they sincerely believe and adhere to it. But when they are measured by the truth of the Word of God, they are found to be flawed or unsound. Truth today are no longer seriously weighed by what we must to believe and confess the Bible teaches but by majority vote. For many, as long as majority are doing it, as long as popular people endorse it, as long as it has some taste of Christianity; as long as it makes people in the Church happy, as long as it makes the church grow in number, as long as things are done in the name of Christ, they are accepted as truth and people who claim to be Christian simply swallow and embrace it without discerning if it warrants the Scripture or not.
Brethren, does this describes you? “It is more often the case that the Bible’s theology just does not have meaningful bearing on what we think or do today. We see the real existence of this malady in many churches today. There is scarcity of a sound, biblical and well understood body of truth that the Church must believe and confess. Its existence is further manifested in the fall of many Churches and “so called” Christians to the prey of pragmatism and consumerism of our times.
Churches and Church leaders, instead of calling people to worship and serve God and teaching the right way to worship and how to serve God in a way that pleases him, they treat their parishioners as buyers and consumers of gospel products. Worst, they do this to the extent that the doctrines of the Bible are no longer guide for preaching, teaching, evangelism, worship and the daily life of God’s people. Many people who claim to be Christians today are shaped not only by popular emotionalism but also by whims of sentimentality. The culture of the Church that we are confronted with today goes back in the time of the book of Judges where it says that “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
For the message of the Lord for us this morning, I will first of all deal with a DENIAL and based on the DENIAL, I will deal next about an ASSERTION given in our text and based on the DENIAL and ASSERTION I will conclude with a CHALLENGE. So the message outline is simple, DENIAL, ASSERTION AND CHALLENGE. First then, in the passage given to me as the basis of today’s message we first of all see from verse 5-8. What is the denial?
I. Salvation Is Denied To Those Who Are Outside The Righteousness That Comes From God
In Paul’s discussion in verse 5-8, he emphasized two reason why Salvation is denied to those who are outside the righteousness that comes from God:
- FIRST: If salvation is to be achieved by the works of the law and self-righteousness, perfect obedience is required (vs.5). The condition is too high that it is beyond our reach.
The book of James affirms this when it says; “FOR WHOEVER KEEPS THE WHOLE LAW AND FAILS IN ONE POINT HAS BECOME ACCOUNTABLE FOR ALL OF IT” (2:10). Simply put, “By the works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal. 2:16) Getting to heaven through self-righteousness is deficient because we have nothing of such kind of righteousness. Merely doing our best will prove not enough. It is vitally important to grasp exactly how much righteousness God demands if we think we are going to be in right relationship with Him.
- SECOND: Paul emphasizes two impossibilities why Salvation is denied to those who seek it based on the works of the law and man’s own strength. He said; “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?” (That is, to bring Christ down) – “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?” (That is, to bring Christ up from the dead) – Here, the Apostle Paul insists that there is a denial of salvation to those who believe and confess that they will be favored by God through their own efforts of achieving righteousness through obedience to the law. It is a serious denial because as the text says; it impossible for us to ascend to heaven to bring Christ down and it impossible for us to descend to hell to bring Christ from the dead.
In contrast, however, with these two clear impossibilities, Paul quoted Moses concerning God’s Word in verse 8 (READ) to show that the righteousness that will effect salvation comes from God alone. And this salvation is not remote from us. We do not have to go to heaven or into the world of the dead to find Christ in order to be saved for the simple reason that the gospel message (that is, the Word of faith that was proclaimed by Paul) is near us.
In fact, it is in our mouth and in our heart. That statement is a Hebrew idiom that stressed that salvation is within our grasp. It is right in front of us. It is not as high or deep or profound as to be beyond our understanding. This is because, besides having an innate knowledge about God, it is not the teaching of the Scripture that God hid himself and his ways from us. The Word of faith that saves was revealed to man, it was on his lips and heart. It is available, accessible and simple. In chapter 1:18, Paul said; “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
Again, so many people miss this truth for the simple reason that it is contrary to their understanding of what is in accordance with the revelation of God. Instead, they suppress the truth about the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own righteousness. And because they are determined to establish their own righteousness, they forsook and did not submit to God’s righteousness which brings salvation.
Ito ay nangangahulugan na yong relihiyon ng tao ay hindi noble move ng tao, kundi ito ay isang ebidensiya na gusto ng tao na takasan ang katotohanan tungkol sa Dios. Ayaw ng tao ang tutuo tungkol sa Dios, ang gusto niyang Dios ay yong Dios na kaya niyang controlin o manipulahin at paikutin sa kanyang mga kamay. Dios na pwede nyang hugisin sakanyang nais. Ibig sabihin ang relihiyon ng tao ay ebidensiya, na bagamat na meron siyang alam at narinig tungkol sa Dios siya ay nagrebelde at gumawa siya ng sarili niyang Dios. It is not that man didn’t hear anything from God, may narinig, may pahayag sa lahat ng tao, nasa bibig, nasa puso. Lamang, sa kanilang sariling paraan, hinugis nila yung kanilang relihiyon sa pamamaraan na hindi ayon sa katotohanan na ipinahayag ng Dios kundi ayon kanilang sariling gusto at paraan (Romans 1:28).
The temptation and challenge is so great for us today to change our position – to change our conviction – to change what we confess and believe the Bible teaches. Today many are abandoning the truths of the Scripture and the historic theology of the church. Churches and Christians have fallen into believing that man is basically good, that God owes everyone a chance to be saved, and that, if we are saved, in the final analysis, it is because of our own works of righteousness and religiosity.
Faced with this reality, given the challenge of prejudice and fear of being branded as a bigot from every corner, how do we fair when it comes to the issue of what we confess and believe about how a person can be saved or become righteous before God? Can we stand by the truth of what the Bible says that salvation is denied to those who try to become acceptable to God by their own way? Are we ready to say that no one can be reckoned righteous before God by his own labours, though it is coupled with zeal and tremendous sacrifices snd passion? Paul’s kinsmen are very zealous about God. But look at what he said in verse 1 and 2 (READ).
Are we ready to say for example of mother Theresa that salvation is denied from her, though she sacrificed a lot for the people of Calcutta in India? Are we firm in confessing and believing that she is in hell, since she is known as an advocate of Mary? Can you imagine a Gina Lopez, a philanthropist, who has done a lot of charitable works including preserving our environment, going to hell? We know that her hopes of salvation are anchored in these good works that she has done for the people. Are we ready to affirm the hopelessness and denial of salvation to her because she never confessed and believed the righteousness that comes from God?
Worst, can we imagine people who have tremendous display of being religious, people who are even in church, going to be tormented in hell because they trust that their good works can guarantee a place for them in heaven? Mga kapatid, maglagay kaya tayo ng mukha sa pagtangging ito – mga kaibigan, mga mahal sa buhay, asawa, anak, magulang. Hangaan mo man sila sa kanilang katapatan at mabubuting gawa, subali’t kahabag-habag sila sapagka’t malibang taglayin nila ang katuwiran na mula sa Diyos, madiin na ipinapahayag ng katotohanan ng Salita ng Diyos na ang kaligtasan ay itinatanggi sa kanila.
Again, why are so many people miss this truth? Sa simpleng dahilan na ang katotohanan ng Diyos ay hindi umaakma sa kanilang sariling pagkaunawa sa ipinahayag ng Diyos. Sa katunayan, galit sila sa mga katotohanang ipinahayag ng Diyos, kaya sinikap nilang magtatag ng sarili nilang katuwiran na sa haka-haka nila ay katanggap-tanggap sa Diyos. And since they are determined to establish their own way, they rejected and did not submit to the way of God.
Now, what is it really that will truly guarantee salvation for us? That’s the second point that we are going to deal with. Our passage makes an assertion expressed in verse 9-10. What is this assertion?
II. That Salvation Is Solely Based On Confessing With Our Mouth That Jesus Is Lord And Believing In Our Hearts That Jesus Raised Him From The Dead
This is none other than the summary of the totality of the message of the Gospel expressed in two imperatives – that is; CONFESSING WITH OUR MOUTH THAT JESUS IS LORD AND BELIEVING IN OUR HEARTS THAT JESUS RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. Verse 9 and 10 teaches us about the necessary and sufficient condition for our salvation.
Salvation requires verbal confession of the Lordship of Christ and inner conviction of His atoning works. Our text says; “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.” Is this where you still stand today? Here, Paul conjoins two elements embodied in the salvation of sinners. He does not just say that you must confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord but you must also believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. Let’s understand this two necessary and sufficient condition that will guarantee salvation for us.
- CONFESSING JESUS AS LORD– What does it mean to confess Jesus as Lord? There are people today who are denouncing the teachings of the Scripture concerning Lordship Salvation. They ask; “Must a person make Christ as Lord of our lives as a condition for Salvation? This terminology has become familiar in our generation that many “so called Christians” are tempted to think of it as Biblical. Is it Biblical to say that one must make Jesus as Lord in order to be saved? No! it is not!
Scripture never speaks of anyone “making” Christ Lord except God Himself, who “has made Him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). The Bible teaches that Jesus is Lord and remains to be LORD whether you make him Lord of your life or not. Thus the Biblical mandate is not to make him Lord, but rather to bow down to his lordship. And the Bible is clear that those who reject his lordship or give lip service to his sovereignty are not saved (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3, Luke 6:46-49). We observe from Matt. 7:22 for example: that many who verbally and intellectually confess that Jesus is Lord but will be turned away from heaven because they do not do the will of the father in heaven. Meaning, they do not live according to what they say they believe and confess about Jesus as Lord. All who believe the Word of God agree that Jesus is Lord. But what does our text exactly mean when it say that in order to be save, “WE MUST CONFESS WITH OUR MOUTH THAT JESUS IS LORD?”This word is a truth that must be known.
The content is seen as consisting of; JESUS’ PERSON– “JESUS IS LORD” is a reference to all we know about Jesus Divine identity. When we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we are saying that He is God. When we say that Jesus is my Lord, we are saying that Jesus is my God. To call Jesus as Lord is to claim that He has Supreme authority over the world, over the affairs of our life and over everything that exist in the world (Colossians 2:15). To confess that Jesus is Lord is to acknowledge his very nature, holiness, authority, power and majesty. It is to believe and confess that he is the one who was sent by God to redeem us from sin. It is to acknowledge that he is your Almighty God, the he is your Creator and that he is the Sustainer of all things, including your own life (Col. 1:16-17).
This is a profound declaration of truth that we must confess. Consistently Scripture affirms the Lordship of Christ in every way. Jesus is called Lord no less than 747 times in the New Testament. The book of Acts alone refers to him as Lord 92 times, while calling him Saviour only twice. Clearly in the early Church’s preaching, the lordship of Christ was the heart of Christian message. Thus we see that the centrality of Jesus’ lordship is clear from the way Scripture presents the terms of Salvation. No one who denies these truths about Jesus could be saved (1 John 4:2-3). A person living in rebellion against Christ’s authority does not acknowledge him as Lord in any sense and if such is the case then that person is not saved. Brethren, the signature of saving faith is surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The definitive test whether a person belongs to Christ is his willingness to bow to his divine authority.
Is that what you are? Is that what you have in your heart when you confess Christ as your Lord? In 1 Cor. 12:3 Paul made it clear that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, Jesus is accursed; and no one who can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit. Confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord is a clear indication that regeneration comes to our life. Any person then when he come to Jesus for Salvation, he come to the One who is Lord over all. Any message that omits this truth cannot be called gospel. It is a defective message that presents a Saviour who is not Lord, a redeemer who does not demonstrate authority over sin, is a weakened and sickly Messiah who cannot command those who he rescues. Brethren, where do you stand in terms of this great truth that we must steadfastly confess and believe?
Jesus could not be Saviour if he were not Lord. Again brethren, is this is where we still stand today? Is this our forever abiding confession and belief in the climate of intolerance and fanaticism?
- BELIEVING WITH OUR HEART– The second necessity and sufficient condition embodied in the salvation of sinners which is the other flip side of the coin is that we must “BELIEVE WITH OUR HEART THAT GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD.” This is nothing but refer to the works of Christ as Saviour – the technical term in theology is the State of Humiliation and state of exaltation of Christ. And what are the things that are involved in the state of Christ Humiliation?
It is expressed in the Creeds that we confess and believe every Sunday – The Apostle’s Creed.
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty”
When verse 10 says that we must “BELIEVE WITH OUR HEART THAT GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD,” included in what we must believe with our heart is all that Christ has done in his saving works – all that has been revealed about Him – And where are all the truths that has been revealed about Him? It is all in the Scripture. Thomas Adams, a Puritan Pastor said;“Christ is the sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibited, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line, the Scriptures being but as it were the swaddling bands of the child Jesus.”
In short, what remains to be the truth that we must believe with the heart and confess with the mouth? Basically, the whole of the Scripture because the whole of the Scripture is about Christ. The whole of the Scripture is the history of God unfolding his plan to save people for himself through the sacrifice, sufferings and death of His Son. This was already prophesied way back in Genesis 3:15. What does this implies?
Brethren, examine therefore what we confess and believe in the light of the Scripture. Keep alive our confession and belief in the light of God’s revelation. Keep alive our confession and belief in the light of God’s revelation about how man can become acceptable to Him. Keep alive our confession and belief in the light of God’s word about how we ought we worship and serve him. Keep alive our confession and belief in the light of God’s Word about how we evangelize, how to disciple people, how a person can be saved, how we live our lives as his children. All that is revealed to us about Jesus that we are to confess and believe firmly are fundamental tenets of the Christian faith that we have to proclaim to the world (1 Cor. 15:1-5).
Here in verse 9 and 10, we learn that genuine faith –involves both confession with the mouth and belief in the heart. These are not separate activities but two aspects of the same expression of faith in Jesus as Lord. Believing with the heart without confession with the mouth is not true faith. On the other hand, confession with the mouth without belief in the heart would be hypocrisy. Those who believe in their heart and confess with their mouths are saved. Paul explains the importance of belief and confession when he adds; “For it is with the heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. True faith always leads to confession and confession all springs from what you believe. Jesus said; “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34).
Verse 11-13 established that this salvation is offered to all; “For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him. In these verses Paul appeals to the testimony of the Scripture to support what he just asserted. That is, that salvation is not a possession of a privilege few – not even the chosen people Israel. The Gospel is Salvation without limits in its scope, it is universal promise for everyone who believes – It is for all who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead. All that anyone needs to do is to call on the name of the Lord (Verse 13).
III. The Challenge
But now the challenge stated in verse 14 -15 is; (PLEASE READ) – God through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ has done everything. But the responsibility which the Gospel brings is not only to accept its offer, but afterwards take the Good News out to the world. How do people come to call on the name of the Lord? Paul presented to us how to fulfill the responsibility in bringing the Gospel to the world by four rhetorical questions:
- How will they call on him in whom they have not believe – First then, people can only call to God for salvation if they first of all believe (vs. 14a). This is what Paul has been talking about in verse 9-10 – this belief in our hearts towards the truth about Jesus and what he has done is what makes us Christians.
- But how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard ((vs.14b.) – Clearly, the message must be heard. God didn’t only want the message of Salvation to be heard, he also gave us the means to let people hear the Gospel. This is the reason why there is a Great Commission and Great invitation (Matt. 28:19-20 cf. Matt. 11:25-29). Saving faith cannot happen mystically but must occur in response to a presented truth – verse 17 supports this.
- But how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (vs. 14c.) – This means that the message of the Gospel must be communicated. It needs to be announced. John Murray says; “The main point is that the saving relation to Christ involved in calling upon the name of the Lord is not something that can occur in a vacuum, it occurs only in a context created by the proclamation of the Gospel on the part of those commissioned to proclaim it.
- And how can they preach unless they are sent? (vs. 15a.) – Someone must do the communication.
Brethren, Do we still believe that it is solely the solid preaching of the Gospel that people can come to the saving knowledge of God in Christ Jesus? Let us not invent any other way or means to bring people to salvation. Avoid entertainment-based methods or any other methods other than the presentation of the truth of the whole Gospel to people. So called Christians who are the product of entertainment will live their Christian life always looking for entertainment. Remember – what you win people with is likely what you win them to.
If you win people to Christ with entertainment rather than the message of who Christ is and what he has done, they’re likely to be won to the show, which increases the likelihood of false conversion. Entertainment-based methods make repentance and faith in Christ impossible. By this method we are not encourage to forsake our sin by having our senses amused or our preference pampered. The Gospel is inherently and irreducibly confrontational. It cuts our perceive righteousness and self-sufficiency, demanding that we forsake cherished sin and trust Christ to save us. Churches and Christians are most healthy and influential when they remain firm in this truth that we continue to believe and confess and therefore proclaim to the world.
Paul added this challenge to underline the importance of the proclamation of the righteousness that saves. He cites the Scripture; “How beautiful indeed are the feet of those who bring good news” (vs. 15).The quotation is taken from Isiah 52:7, part of the prophecy declaring the end of the Babylonian captivity and the return to Zion. The full quotation from Isaiah 52:7 says; “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
In Isaiah, the feet of those who brought the message of the return from the exile were beautiful, Paul here in verse 15 is saying that the feet of those who proclaim the Gospel of Christ is far more beautiful. Why? Because they were the feet of those whom God has blessed with privilege of proclaiming the most significant message people must hear.
Brethren, our confession and what we believe is hostile to modern pluralistic and relativistic tenants of the age. It goes against the very fabric of our postmodern world. But let me say this, our passage this morning was written in such an environment too – that is already very clear in chapter 1. But again the message of the Lord for us remains the same; THERE IS AN ABSOLUTE DENIAL OF SALVATION TO THOSE OUTSIDE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES FROM GOD. AND SECONDLY, IT IS ASSERTED THAT SALVATION IS SOLELY BASED ON CONFESSING WITH OUR MOUTH THAT JESUS IS LORD AND BELIEVING IN OUR HEARTS THAT JESUS RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD – This is what the Apostle Paul confessed and believed, what right do we have to change it? (2 Tim. 1:3) The same was the message our forefathers and Paul proclaimed, what right we have to proclaim a different Gospel. Listen to the warning Paul gave to the Galatian church; “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel l— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! Is this where you still stand today?
Is this what you still believe and confess firmly today? If so, don’t just believe and confess it alone, proclaim Him and His Gospel alone. And while we are fulfilling this duty that God entrusted to us, remember these words from Hebrews 4:14; “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”
You call me Lord but obey to me not. You call me Saviour but confess me not. If I will condemn you in hell blame me not since you did not live according to what you confess and you did not walk according to what you say you believe. AMEN!