How does a person get saved? If you were put on the spot and had to answer that question for someone, what would you say? Let’s imagine for a moment that a friend of yours comes to you and says, “I see your life. I see what you do and don’t do. There is something different about you. What is that?” You then, rather than shrugging it off, present the gospel. Let me tell you who Jesus is. Let me tell you what he has done for me. Let me tell you what Jesus can do for you. And, then, incredibly, your friend says. I want that. I want what you have. How do I get that? And your response is…
What do you tell your friend? How do they get saved? Well, I guess you should pray this prayer. Oh cool, so I pray a prayer and then I’ll be saved. Well, not exactly. You know, on second thought, I think you should get baptized. Awesome, so I sign up to get baptized and then I’m saved? Well, no. So, I’m confused…I want this…how do I get it? Maybe you’ve heard one of the verses that we’ll look at today that says, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So, how do I do that? How do I call on the name of the Lord? Does that mean pray? I thought praying a prayer couldn’t save me.
Friends, I think that American evangelical culture is infinitely confused about this. If God is the one who saves, as we’ve learned, what exactly do I do? What role do I play in this?
There’s some good news here; this doesn’t have to be confusing. Here’s what God wants from you: God wants you to worship Him. And, that is all he’s ever wanted from his creation, that we would worship Him. Our worship, though, is a response to his saving grace, not the catalyst for it. We can’t get his grace unless he gives it to us as a gift through faith in Christ. But, that said, the response of worship is critical, because when Jesus is the object of our allegiance and our devotion, it will lead us to perseverance through tough seasons which is seen Scripture as the mark of true faith.
Answering this question about what we do is really important because not only will it help us to understand our own relationship to God better, but it will also make us better evangelists, better at sharing the gospel with others. So, imagine if that was something you did well and often.
Because if we aren’t clear on this, we will not only be confused about what it looks like to follow Christ, but we can also unwittingly lead people to give themselves over to lesser things, and we can ultimately lead people towards the very thing that Paul said was keeping some Jews from Christ…self-righteousness. Let’s look at our text:
5 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; for 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.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”
19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Now, remember, Paul is still talking about the Jews, and he’s been unpacking why so many Jews don’t believe in Christ. But, as he’s been doing this, he’s been teaching us what Justification is all about. It’s all about God’s righteousness through Christ being given to us as a free gift. We can do nothing to earn it, and yet, there are many people then and now who have clearly rejected the gift. Paul said of the Jews last week,
3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
In other words, there was a time when righteousness was pursued through faithful obedience to the law of God, but now Jesus has fulfilled the law, and it is over and done with. And, so, what do we do now? And the answer is we submit to Jesus as our king. We lay our lives before him. We lay our possessions before him. We lay our wishes and desires before him. In short, we obey him. And, when you submit everything to a king, we have a word for that, and the word is worship.
Paul begins the whole passage by quoting Deuteronomy,
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).
This sounds strange, but Paul is saying, “look, you don’t have to do superhuman or supernatural things to be saved, because this righteousness is based on faith, not on your works.” And God puts this faith inside you, verse 8, in your mouth and in your heart. So, what is the response of faith? Here’s what Paul says:
- Confess with your mouth – Declare what is true. Speak it to others.
- Believe it in your heart – At the very core of your being
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Here’s what we have to realize, this is not a magic formula to “get saved.” We can’t just “get saved,” rather we receive salvation from God. It is not a divine product that the church peddles. But, I’m afraid that is how it has been presented to many. Here’s this wonderful thing that change your life and here are the things you need to do to get it and then once you’ve got it you’re good to go.
What Paul is actually doing here is he is describing for us what a life of worship looks like. If Jesus is truly the object of your devotion and allegiance, you better believe you’re going to talk about it. But, a true worshipper doesn’t just talk about it; a true worshipper believes it in their hearts…at the center of their being. So, it’s this whole body, whole life response. And, it is simply fulfillment of the great commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” It’s not, do these things and you will be saved. It’s do these things because you have been saved. So, when Paul says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, its his way of saying, everyone who worships God in the way I’ve described will be saved. Then, verse 14:
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Now, remember Paul’s experience. How did he come to faith? Well, Jesus came to him audibly on the road to Damascus and struck him with blindness while calling him to obedience. So, Paul definitely heard the word of Christ in the most literal sense, and he believes completely that this is essential. His argument is simple:
- How can people worship something they don’t believe in?
- How can people believe in something they’ve never heard of?
- How will they hear about it unless someone tells them?
- How will someone tell them unless they are sent?
He then makes this classic statement, verse 17: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Friends, Paul is calling us to faithful worship of Jesus. He could say, well, most of the Jews have rejected this, so I guess it’s just a lost cause. But, the reality was, most of the Jews had not truly heard the gospel. Christians were a marginalized and persecuted sect. And, he’s says, listen, if you worship God. If you have experienced his gift of grace, recognize that at some point, you heard the word of Christ, the truth of the gospel and you responded to it. And, you heard because another believer was faithful to declare it to you. And if we’re going to be obedient to Christ, and because we have no clue who will be saved or not, we must also go and declare the truth of the gospel because how are people going to believe in something they haven’t heard. Declare it with your mouth. Believe it with your heart. Whole body, whole life devotion.
Think of the parable of the sower in Matthew. The sower simply scatters seed. Some seed falls in fertile places, some in infertile places, but the quality of the soil is not really the purview of the sower. His or her responsibility is to sow seed faithfully, not make judgment calls about the readiness of the soil. God is the one who creates fertile soil, but our role, our faithful obedience to sow seed, is critical. Who is one person in your life, whom you need to intentionally share the gospel with? You know it. Maybe you’ve done it before. Maybe you’re afraid to do it, but you have a lost friend or family member or coworker who you care about. When can you share the truth to them? Because, if you believe in your heart that these things are true, then the most unloving thing you could ever do for the people around you is to not share the truth with them.
God wants you to worship him. And, unfortunately, when we hear that word, worship, we just think that means sing worship songs. But, Scripture is clear that God wants what we confess with our mouths to align with the posture of our hearts. True worship is submission. True worship is allegiance to the king. And, as true worshippers, we are sent with the truth of a king and a kingdom. If we’ve heard the gospel and been changed, how could we ever not give someone else the opportunity to hear? This week, make a plan for sharing what Christ has done in your life with one person around you. Write that name down today. You can’t control the outcome, but you can be obedient to sow the truth of Christ.