This post continues a study of Romans 10:6-10 in which verse 9 is often used to define how easy it is to be saved, and how little knowledge is required for salvation.
In the previous post we tried to understand what is meant by the expression “Jesus is Lord,” that is “confessed” with the mouth. We noted that Jesus’ disciples and the Apostle Paul understand that Jesus is not only a descendant of the royal line of David, but also literally the Son of God – God in human flesh. What does that mean for Jesus’ followers then and now?
Paul tries to show that Jesus is now the highest authority in both heaven and earth. In Colossians 2:9-15 Paul, after stating the Jesus is fully divine, notes that Christians partake in Jesus’ sinless nature through symbolic participation in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Their sins are forgiven. He also says that the powers-that-be are rendered powerless by the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. How can Jesus’ resurrection do that?
Nations and empires rule by the power of the sword. It has always been so, no matter how modern or democratic a nation may appear. Even states with no standing army must supply a domestic police force to enforce civic laws. Sooner or later someone must punish lawbreakers – especially those criminals who take lives.
The ultimate threat that keeps citizens and subjugated peoples in line is the twin threat of torture and death.
The bad news for worldly governments is that Jesus was both tortured and killed – and now lives again, indestructible and all-powerful. Even worse news is that he promises to raise his followers from the dead if they continue to live in his grace, as Paul goes on to say in Colossians 3:1-4. He concludes, “ When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
The importance of Jesus’ literal and historical crucifixion and resurrection cannot be overstated. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul states, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Knowing Jesus Christ is the most important thing on Paul’s mind as he works among the Corinthian believers. Teaching them about Jesus’ death is a high priority.
That statement does not exclude the importance of the resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-14 Paul goes on to say what is of first importance to all Christians. He says that those important things are 1) Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; 2) he was buried; 3) he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures; and 4) he was seen alive after being raised by all the apostles, at least 500 other eyewitnesses, and by Paul himself.
For me, the logic goes something like this:
- God promised to die for our sins. He kept that promise.
- God promised to raise his Son (Jesus) from the dead. He kept that promise.
- Jesus promises to raise up his followers from the dead at his return. That promise is from the same God who has kept the other promises above.
Applying this logic to Romans 10:9, we have a powerful summary of the effect of really knowing that Jesus was raised from the dead by God. When you know that Jesus was raised from the dead all the way to the depths of your being, your life cannot help but change.
And it must change. That has always been the way with following God. As a nation, Israel was in dire need of change according to the prophets. For instance, the prophet Ezekiel says in Ezekiel 14:6, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!” Note that they had to turn away from idols and back to their true God. They also had to change their way of living to conform with God’s ways.
Isaiah says similar things in Isaiah 30:15, “ This is what the Sovereign1 LORD, the Holy One2 of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” Repentance leads to an inner peace and a kind of quietness in the soul. Note that Isaiah also tells them that they must trust God. We would call that “faith.”
As Jesus begins taking over after John the Baptist is imprisoned, he begins to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom. “The time has come,”1 he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Jesus has uttered two key words that parallel what the prophets above have stated. There must be repentance (life-change) and trust in God’s promises. (Mark 1:15)
Luke records Jesus’ near-final words to his disciples before his death in Luke 24:46-48. Jesus tells them he will die and be raised on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins will then be preached. Repentance and forgiveness of sins leads to rest for the soul.
Acts 2:36-39 records the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached beginning at Jerusalem after Jesus died and came back to life. The Apostle Paul defending himself in King Aggrippa’s court in Acts 26:20, notes, “ First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.
This is amazingly similar to what John the Baptist has to say to the scribes and Pharisees who were wanting to be baptized in Matthew 3:5-12, “You brood of vipers!2 Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
It would seem, then, that after unpacking the statements in Romans 10:9 we discover that confessing that Jesus is our Lord and believing in our hearts that God raised him from the dead involves our whole being.
It involves our knowledge of Jesus as Messiah (King) and Lord (God). It involves repenting of following false Gods and evil deeds (changing our life). It involves a deep-seated, gut-level belief that the God who raised Jesus from the dead has promised to raise us from the dead if we stay with his Son (motivation to steadfastness). And it involves God’s own Spirit as his presence in our minds, changing us from within into a reflection of Jesus’ image.