Summary: Saying "Jesus is Lord" has lost its potency with many American believers, but Paul’s audience in his epistle to the Romans certainly understood the cost of this statement!
9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
19You believe that God is one; you do well. So do the demons believe and shudder [in terror and horror such as  make a man’s hair stand on end and contract the surface of his skin]! (Amplified Bible)
In order to be saved, is it simply enough to say: “Jesus is Lord?” Like so many in the church, I used to think so. I like so many American “Christians” failed to grasp the potency behind this verse. I am sure most of the people in our town would say: “Jesus is Lord.” However, saying that Jesus is Lord and making Him such are two different things. This morning we are going to look at this statement and what it has cost some of those who have made it.
To understand the potency of Romans 10:9, we must first look at who this letter was originally written to—the Romans. We must understand that according to Roman law only Caesar could be called “Lord.” In fact, there was a whole cult of Caesar worship.
In Latin, Roman believers would declare: “Dominum Iesum!” (Jesus is Lord!)Paul understood that for the Roman to publicly declare “Jesus is Lord” was a state felony often prosecuted with a death sentence. Romans and others in the empire declaring Jesus as Lord were beheaded, crucified, and ripped apart by animals in the Roman arena. For those believers living in Rome, saying “Jesus is Lord” was synonymous with saying: “I am ready to be persecuted, tortured, and die for His namesake.”
I believe the potency of saying “Jesus is Lord” has been lost in our American culture of compromise. Certainly I am not saying that all American Christians are guilty of this, but certainly many who claim to be. When I look at the history of the persecuted church, I see that the meaning of this verse does not escape those believers. Consider, for example, the fate of the first apostles.
Here is how they died:
Peter-Crucified upside down.
Andrew-Crucified on an x-shaped cross.
James-Killed with a sword. (see Acts 12:1-2)
John-Died of natural causes, but still suffered immensely for his faith. He was exiled to Patmos during the reign of Domitian. According to Tertullian, John had been put into a cauldron of boiling oil in Rome, but suffered no injury.
Bartholomew-Beaten and crucified.
Thomas-Speared to death.
Matthew-Axed to death with a halberd.
James, son of Alphaeus-clubbed to death at age 94.
Thaddaeus or Judas Lebbaeus-Crucified.
Paul of Tarsus-Beheaded.
Matthias-Stoned and Beheaded.
Let’s not forget Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who was stoned. Let us now look at the persecution others in the Roman Empire experienced simply for making this statement. What did it really cost those in the empire to say: Jesus is Lord?
Persecution under Nero
Claudius Nero became emperor when he was 16, reigning from A.D. 54-68. Nero was so evil that he almost made King Ahab in the Old Testament look good. He was so paranoid and power hungry that he had his mother killed in A.D. 59. He even had his wife killed so he could marry another woman. He also killed a brother and his teacher, Seneca.
The worse that Nero was to do, however, was to the Christians in Rome. This occurred shortly after the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64. When talk started going around that Nero started the fire himself, he turned to the Christians as a scapegoat. Phillip Schaff in his book, History of the Christian Church, Vol 1, says that "there began a carnival of blood such as even heathen Rome never saw before or since....A ‘vast multitude’ of Christians was put to death in the most shocking manner." Many were crucified, sewn up in animal skins and thrown to savage animals. Others were covered in pitch, nailed to wooden posts, and burned as torches to light up Nero’s macabre parties. (http://www.probe.org/docs/persecution.html)
Those believers certainly understood what it meant to declare Jesus as Lord!
Persecution under Trajan
Persecution in Syria and Palestine became quite fierce during Trajan’s reign. In 107, it was decreed that everyone in Antioch sacrifice to the Roman gods. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch and pupil of the apostle John, refused and was put to death by being thrown to wild animals.
Before his martyrdom, he wrote: "Let the fire, the gallows, the wild beasts, the breaking of bones, the pulling asunder of members, the bruising of my whole body, and the torments of the devil and hell itself come upon me, so that I may win Christ Jesus." He certainly knew what it meant to declare Jesus as Lord! (http://www.probe.org/docs/persecution.html)