Summary: Does what I do save me? Do I have to finish what God started? If I’m saved, should I sin even more so I can experience even more of God’s grace? To all these questions, Paul answered a huge and powerful, “NO!”
Context is king when it comes to meaning. For someone to understand what someone else has said, he must first understand the setting. If someone doesn’t account for what was taking place when something was said, the conclusions he will come to will often reflect more about himself then what the speaker meant to say.
When it comes to Scripture, we are often like the child who hears something, understands the words, but then misses the intended meaning. When that happens in real life, we adults bust out laughing, because the child’s misunderstanding was so hilarious. When it comes to the Bible, the errors are just as great. But in this case, they aren’t funny, for people’s eternal lives may be at stake.
If we don’t understand the setting and what was going on when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, we too may miss the intended meaning.
Paul wrote to a church in Rome going through many struggles. Some of their struggles dealt with understanding the tie-in between faith and works. Does what I do save me? Do I have to finish what God started? If I’m saved, should I sin even more so I can experience even more of God’s grace? To all these questions, Paul answered a huge and powerful, “NO!”
But some of their struggles dealt with doubts about salvation. How do I know if I’m saved? And so Paul also deals with such doubts in the book of Romans. He says, “‘The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the Word of faith that we are preaching.”
Is the Word of God, is Jesus Christ, near you? Is He in your mouth and in your heart? Is He is in the preached Word you hear? If He is, then what is there to doubt? Have you received Jesus in your mouth, in the Lord’s Supper? Have you heard the preached Word and believed? And have you confessed that Word of Jesus? Then why do you doubt?
It is as Paul says:
For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes, so that he is counted righteous, and with the mouth a person confesses and then he is saved. For the Scripture says, everyone “who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” . . . For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Paul wrote such words to comfort doubting Christians. Think about everything that happens in the verses I just read. Where do all those things take place: confessing, believing, and calling on the name of the Lord? They all take place during worship--or at least they’re supposed to!
Paul tells those doubting their salvation to key in on real, concrete events, not feelings. To tell someone to rely on his feelings when He doubts his salvation is like a dog chasing his tail. That’s why Paul says, “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the Word of Christ that is preached. For it’s the Word of Christ--the Word who is Christ--being near someone, in contact with him, in his mouth and in his heart, that saves and continues to save him!
That seems obvious, doesn’t it? But we still often misunderstand the verses in today’s Epistle, so much that we may even miss Paul’s main point. Take verse 13. It says that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” And so we think that “calling on the name of the Lord,” that our calling, causes us to be saved.
But how can someone call on the name of Lord unless the Holy Spirit has already breathed faith in his heart? For believing and confessing are joined at the hip. One can’t even confess unless the faith is first there to begin with. Yet, it is still true that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Why?
You see, salvation isn’t only a one-time event. Ephesians 1:4 says, “God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.” So all Christians were saved before God even created the world.
On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished!” That was when Jesus finished all He came to do, even saving you from sin, death, and hell, even saving you to share in Christ’s divine nature. And so you were saved when Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago.
But were you also saved after you were born? Of course! 1 Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism now saves you.” And then Peter tells how God saves through baptism: “[baptism is] an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” So God saved you when He came to you in the Word and water of baptism. That’s were He forgave you your sins so you could have a clean conscience before God.