How shall we respond?
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:8-10
In the gospel, good news is announced. How shall we respond? What response is demanded of us? Paul tells us in our text for today. In it, we see that the response demanded in the gospel is one that corresponds to the news given. If it is true that Jesus Christ has finished the work of redemption, if it is true that he has accomplished salvation for us, then redemption and righteousness as a whole is something which we must receive from him. How do we receive it? We receive it by faith. The word preached is thus “the word of faith.”
Faith is the means by which we receive the free gift of salvation and righteousness. Faith is the open-hand of the beggar who comes pleading for grace and mercy from the Most High. It is fitting for us to receive salvation in this way, because in faith and trust we look outside of ourselves. It is impossible to be truly trusting in Christ for salvation while leaning on your own goodness and righteousness.
Nevertheless, this is not mere lip confession. Nor is the faith that saves an empty faith, a mere cognitive acquiescence to certain truths. The faith that saves is a faith the comes from the heart, from the very center of the human soul, and carries with it our will and affections.
Why does Paul put in confession though? Why does he make salvation in some sense depend on it? He doesn’t do so because confession is what makes us worthy before God. He does so because confessing Christ is the necessary concomitant of saving faith. What I mean by this is that if you truly believe in Jesus you will confess him before men. Confessing Christ, then, is not the ground of our salvation, it is the evidence of it. Confession and faith go together. Where confession is lacking, you can be sure that faith is lacking also. Someone who will not confess Christ is someone who has not trusted in him for his salvation.
I think it is also important to note how it is that we receive Christ: we confess with our mouths (expressing our faith) Jesus as Lord. This is parallel to believing that Jesus rose from the dead, and in the New Testament we see one as the evidence of the other (1:4; Acts 2:36; Eph. 1:19-21). Resurrection proves lordship (14:9). This is very significant.
First of all, it is a recognition of the divinity of Jesus Christ. The word here (kyrios) is used more than 6000 times in the LXX to represent the Tetragrammaton (the divine name, YHWH, translated in our Bibles as "LORD"). In Phil. 2:9, “Lord” is the “name which is above every name.” In verse 13 of our text, Christ as Lord is the object of prayer, and this is also significant since prayer to anyone other than God was to a Jew, as someone put it, “utterly repugnant” (also note the OT context of the verse 13, which is Joel 2:32). C.E.B. Cranfield puts it this way: “We take it for granted that, for Paul, the confession that Jesus is Lord meant the acknowledgment that Jesus shares the name and the nature, the holiness, the authority, power, majesty, and eternity of the one and only true God” (Cranfield, Romans [ICC, vol 2], p. 529).
Second, it is a recognition of ownership, of belonging to Jesus as a servant belong to his master, so that mere confession with no regard to the claims of Christ on the life is spurious and absurd. Remember Paul’s confession in 1:1; it must be the confession of every one who claims the name of Christ.
Sometimes you will hear well-meaning Christians put down “Lordship salvation” as if it is introducing a new kind of legalism into Christianity. But my friends, it is not. There is no other kind of salvation; if you do not receive Christ as Lord, and if your life does not bear out that relationship, then you are not saved. For the stunning announcement, “you will be saved” (9,cf. ver. 10, 11, 13) is only given to those who receive and believe in Jesus as the risen Lord.
This is where a good understanding of the total picture the Bible gives us of salvation is so important. Faith does not come out of nowhere. It is the gift of God, created in the heart by the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and brings us out of a state of spiritual death. In doing so, he makes us new creatures, gives us new affections, and begets in us new desires. Faith is born in that context, so saving faith is also a holy faith. Now it is true that it is not the nature of our faith that saves us, it is its object, Christ. But there is only one kind of faith that will receive the righteousness of God in Christ and that is a faith which is holy and which would never demur to receive Christ as Lord and to bow the knee to him in love and trust. Is that true of you?