In this last post of the “salvation” series I want to take a quick look at perhaps the most famous, or arguably the most quoted, scripture in the Bible used in church circles when it comes to salvation.
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10: 9-10
There you have it. Just say it…believe it…and you’re saved.
Or are you?
Now you may be thinking this “method” of salvation seems a little different than the previous four examples I have highlighted. At least it seems the easiest. Even Peter’s “Repent and be baptized” meant having to scramble around and look for a swimming pool they could borrow.
Now we can have potential converts do a “repeat after me” confession, ask if they really meant it, and even if they give a bored look of “I‘ll say anything if it will get me out of here faster” we give them a big hug, a copy of the New Testament, and pronounce them “saved”.
But if you read Paul’s quote in context of the chapter you find that he was directing the famous ‘confess and believe’ statement to the people of Israel.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Romans 10: 1-4
Paul was preaching confession and belief in Christ to a people who chose to reject Jesus and instead follow their own way and what they believed to be “right”…that in this case was the “Law” which was imbedded in their culture.
To help you understand how strong the cultural hold was on many of the people of Israel, the cultural stronghold that Paul was trying to break, consider this:
Peter, probably the “leader” in some way of Christ’s disciples gets the revelation in Acts Ch 2 that the Grace of God is not just for Israel but for all people,
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.
Peter gets it. That in Christ there is neither Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free… it’s for everyone! But does Peter REALLY get it?
In Acts 10, only 8 chapters later God himself has to give Peter a vision and an audible voice to even go and associate with a “foreigner” who comes to him for help. Because of God’s intervention Peter obeys and when he meets with the Gentile Cornelius he says,
Then he (Peter) said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”
Acts 10: 28-30
Do you see the stubbornness of the culture Paul was trying to address in Romans? Even Peter, at this late stage of his understanding could barely stand to be in the same room with a “foreigner.”
Oh, but it gets better. Peter, despite having God tell him directly his heart on the matter, still hasn’t learned his lesson.
Later, Peter would hang and eat with the Gentiles but when other Jews came around he would quickly rejoin with them. Paul even had to confront Peter about it:
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
Galatians 2: 11-13
I’m going to propose an idea that may not sit well with you. I believe it’s entirely possible that the reason Peter’s ministry seems to fade a bit in visibility as the New Testament progresses and Paul’s seems to rise is because Peter never completely “got it”. His struggle with cultural baggage kept him from fully operating in the mandate that the Gospel was for ALL people and in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male or female, slave or free.” He limited himself!
But that was the level of cultural stronghold Paul is addressing in Romans. For the Jew that had been imbedded with the idea that the keeping of the Law was the way to salvation, the idea that simple confession and belief in Jesus would just seem absurd.
So why does it seem there are so many different “types” of encounters that seem to produce salvation?
When Jesus healed the sick, he did it in many ways so that we would not reduce healing to a magical ritual but would instead depend on faith in him. In the same way salvation comes in many forms, each one breaking the areas of our hearts that have hardness around them. Different people have different strongholds.
God is a loving father who desires that ALL would be saved. And as a loving Father some of what he has to do in you may be different than what he has to do in another. Salvation is a process that God is working out in those of us who will let him. Yes, we may mark the beginning of the journey as the day we were “saved” (and I wouldn’t argue that)…
…but the journey, and the process, continues!