By Justin Randolph
Pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church, Sevierville
I was in the Walmart checkout line recently, impatiently waiting my turn (don’t judge me), when I glanced at the shirt of the man in front of me. It made the observation that “only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you; Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.”
While I had seen this quote before, it took on new meaning as I prepared for this Sunday School lesson. Most religions in the world, including the Jews of Paul’s day, are very zealous for their beliefs. At the core of these beliefs is the idea good works can earn one favor with God. Even in our churches, we can find people who are living their lives attempting to connect with God by the things they do. My thought as I read this shirt was this: why would God send His Son to die for us if being good was good enough?
Paul attempts to answer this question in chapter 10 of his letter to the church at Rome. He begins by expressing his great love for his fellow Jews and how he fervently prays for their salvation. This causes me to question myself: do I fervently pray for the salvation of my co-workers, neighbors, and friends? It is one thing to say you care about the lost, it is quite another to put action to our desires though prayer and intentional evangelism.
After confronting the fallacy that one can earn salvation for themselves, Paul turns to how one must be saved. He argues one must confess and believe. But, what does one confess? Namely a person confesses, or agrees, that Jesus is Lord. For the Jew, this connects the name used for God in the Old Testament with Jesus in the New Testament. In other words, it is the confession that Jesus is God and thus He has authority over my life.
Second, one must believe that Jesus died in their place so that their personal sins might be forgiven and rose again proving that His sacrifice for sin was acceptable to God. Once this is done, a person is saved from the future wrath of God upon sin and saved unto good works for His God that will make a difference in eternity. These ideas do not stand alone, but are etched together. For we cannot be saved without first accepting Jesus as our Savior and then embracing Him as Lord over our life.
Finally, Paul demonstrates the openness of this salvation. Christ loves all and died for all. This gospel is for Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, rich and poor, women and men alike. Christ is “rich unto all.” Salvation is free to all, but it is not automatic. Like any gift, salvation is bought and paid for, but it must be opened and received. We receive God’s gift of forgiveness and grace through confession and belief. This confession of Jesus as Lord and the belief in His death, burial, and resurrection is how we all are saved and it is the hope of all mankind.