Man’s Responsibility in Salvation, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

Over the past several days, as we have been studying Romans 8 & 9, we have seen Paul emphasize God’s sovereignty in salvation as a means to encourage and comfort believers.  Those who have placed their faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ have been delivered from their bondage to sin and its condemnation of death and made free to live by the Spirit of God in righteousness.  The new nature that we receive at salvation makes us aliens and strangers in the very world to which we were born.  We have an increasing longing to depart from this world and be with our Savior in heaven, where our citizenship now resides.

God’s sovereignty guarantees that the promises

That He has made us will come true.

Salvation of the individual begins with God’s foreknowledge, which results in His predestination, which results in His calling and His justification and those in turn will conclude in that person’s glorification.  There is no circumstance that can separate us from the love of Christ.  There is no entity, past, present, or future, that can separate us from the love of God.  What began in eternity past and has come to past in the present is absolutely guaranteed in eternity future because God is omniscient, omnipotent, and sovereign.

These truths would have caused questions among the Jews about God’s faithfulness to Israel.  Since all of Israel was not saved, was God just in His dealings with them.  Paul spends chapters 9, 10 and 11 dealing with God’s relationship with Israel, and in so doing Paul demonstrates God’s justice, His faithfulness, and His future plan for His chosen people.

Paul greatly longed for the salvation of his “kinsmen according to the flesh,” and it greatly grieved him that the vast majority of them were not saved.  But this did not in any way mean that God was unjust towards them.  Paul uses God’s sovereignty to show this in chapter 9, and in chapter 10, our passage for study in today’s blog, Paul will use their responsibility to prove God’s righteous dealing with Israel.

In chapter 9, Paul shows that God sovereignly choose Abraham to bestow His blessing upon him.  God then choose Isaac to be the son of promise and not Ishmael or any of his other sons through Keturah.  God then choose Jacob to be the next son of promise and not Esau.  These were not choices God made based on anything in those chosen, either good or bad.  God has not told us His reasons.  It was simply His desire according to His own good pleasure.

That does not sit well with us humans

Because we want to be autonomous

And make our own decisions.  

We do not like the idea

Of being subjected to

The sovereign will of another.

Some have used this to say that God is unjust if this is the way it is, because no one can resist His will and therefore it is God’s fault if someone is not saved.

Paul gives two answers to this charge.  First, (9:20-21) man is a creature that has no right to challenge what God, who as creator, has the right to do, and He may do whatever He desires.  Second, there can be no justified claim that God is unjust when in fact God’s actions show that He has been merciful to all.  God has the right to cast the unrighteous into Hell immediately, but instead He mercifully endures them with great patience.  He uses them for His own glory despite their rebellion against Him.  God also extends mercy to “vessels of mercy” to whom He makes known the riches of His glory.

In the rest of chapter 9, Paul demonstrates the outworking of these truths to both the Jews and Gentiles.  Some gentiles have received the blessing of being vessels of mercy and have been included as part of God’s people.  Many Jews have rejected God’s plan and remain as vessels of wrath, though God has always and will always keep a remnant of Jews that belong to Him as vessels of mercy.

This now brings up other questions.

  • What is man’s responsibility in salvation?  
  • Can God be just if He does not give people a fair opportunity to become a “vessel of mercy?”
  • What about all the people that are very religious and claim to be seeking God?  
  • What about the Jews that have been so diligent to keep God’s law?

Paul answers these questions in chapter 10.  He does not back down from God’s sovereignty in the least, but he does clearly show that man is responsible to respond to the mercy that has been shown to him.  Israel has been zealous for God, but they have been ignorant of true righteousness.  They have sought to earn it instead of accepting it by faith.  They have been given the message, but they have rejected it.

Paul’s Desire.

What Paul has said in Romans 9 is offensive to most Jews.  What he’s about to say in Romans 10 about their stubbornness in their ignorance is even more offensive, so Paul begins the section with a statement to reassure them his desire toward them.  Verse 1 says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.”  This continues to be Paul’s great desire just as he had expressed at the beginning of chapter 9.  Note as well here that the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in salvation has not changed in the least with Paul’s yearning to see his fellow Jews come to salvation in Christ. On this basis . . .

I think it can be said categorically,

That if your belief in God’s election

Ever causes you to be less zealous

For the salvation of the lost,

Then you do not yet fully

Understand God or this doctrine.

If a person is indifferent toward the unsaved, then they themselves are comatose or dead spiritually, or they are believing a false doctrine, or both.  

A proper understanding

Of the doctrine of election

Does not reduce

Evangelistic zeal.

It did not in Paul.  It should not in anyone else.

Religious Ignorance.

What Paul states in verses 2 and 3 is the very life that he had previously lived.  He has great compassion on those still in that state, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.  For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” 

Zeal without Knowledge – Verses 2-3.

Zeal is an emotional fervor, a passionate pursuit toward something.  To have such zeal for God and at the same time to be ignorant of God and what He desires is a great, great tragedy.  Paul’s reference here would refer to so many Jews that he personally knew that were still like he used to be.  They still believed with all their hearts that they were pleasing to God with all their efforts to keep the law, some even believing they were actually doing so.  They thought God was pleased with them for achieving righteousness.  The truth, however, was the opposite.  They were ignorant of the true nature of righteousness before God and so did not submit to it.  Instead, many were wrapped up in their own self-righteousness and would look down upon or even persecute those who did not agree with them and pursue those same standards.  Paul had previously been a zealous persecutor of Christians because of this (Galatians 1:13).

But it is not just Jews that fall into this trap.  The Jews were self-righteousness based on their adherence to the Mosaic Law.  Paul has already stated in Romans 2 that there are many others that think themselves to be righteous before God because of they are zealous keep their own standards of conduct.  Then there are those Jesus warned about in Matthew 7 that would believe themselves to be righteous despite their disobedience to His commands.  Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”  Their manner of life demonstrated they did not love Jesus, for those who love Him and keep His commandments (John 14:15).  They thought they were righteous before God because of the ministry they were doing in Jesus’ name.

In all these cases, the people are self-righteous and ignorant of true righteousness that can only come through faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul points this out in verse 4 and 5.

Righteousness of the Law.

Verses 4-5 declare, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.  For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.”  As Paul has already pointed out in Romans 3:28, man is justified, or made righteous before God, by faith apart from works of the law.  If a man is striving to become righteous through the law, then they must not fail at any point for they will be judged by that law.  Paul refers to Moses statement in Leviticus 18:5 as proof for this.  Paul has already stated in chapter 2 that those who do not have the Mosaic law will be judged and condemned by the law of their conscience. They do not keep the basic aspects of the law that God has placed into the conscience of all people, nor do they keep even the standards they have set up for themselves.  No one will ever be able to justify themselves before God by the works of the law because they fail to keep the law and their works condemn them (Galatians 2:16; Revelation 20:12-13).

Since righteousness before God cannot be earned, it must be attained on another basis.  That basis is faith in Jesus Christ for He “is end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  In other words . . .

Jesus Christ is the end of a person’s futile effort

To achieve their own righteousness before God.  

Instead, the righteousness of Christ

Is imputed, or attributed to the believer.

This is the righteousness of faith that Paul has been talking about since the beginning of the book.

Paul speaks more of this in verses 6-10.

The Righteousness of Faith.

Verses 5-10 say, “But the righteousness based on faith speaks thus, ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

The Humility of Faith – Verses 6-8.

One of the first things we notice

About the righteousness that is

Based on faith is that it is simple

And it is something that is received as a gift.

It is not a difficult thing to understand or attain.

The righteousness of works is proud and must work through difficulty to achieve for itself.  Paul refers to Deuteronomy 30:11-14 here in verses 6, 7, and 8 but modifies them for his own purpose by including his own parenthetical comments about their meaning.  In the Deuteronomy passage, Moses explains to the people that the Word of God has now been brought to them so that they may know and observe it.  The commands of God were no longer too difficult or out of reach.  They did not need to send someone to heaven to bring back to them God’s will, neither did they need to send to a far-off land to find someone who would teach them about God.  The law of God had now been given to them through Moses.

What they had sought for had already been given and was embodied in the command to love the Lord God, walk in His ways, and keep His commandments.  The righteousness of works rejects the obvious to seek for something that must still be hidden, for their conscience still reminds them that there is a sin problem that has not gone away.

Paul explains here that . . .

The righteousness of faith does not

Need to seek out further

Revelation regarding salvation.  

They do not need to try

To get the Messiah, the Christ,

To come from heaven to tell them

What good thing they must do,

Or to search among the dead

To find the Christ and bring Him back

To tell them how to be saved

From God’s condemnation.  

The message has already been given

And it was now near them,

In their mouth and heart.  

It is the message that Paul

Has been proclaiming

Throughout this book.  

The righteousness of faith

Accepts the message

For what it is.  

It is a message from heaven

For Jesus descended from there

To proclaim God’s will to us.  

It is a message from one who

Has been raised from the dead

So that we might know how

To conquer death through Him.

It is the gospel message that Paul has been preaching.  What is the expression and belief of the gospel message?

The Expression and Belief of Faith.

Verses 9-10 say, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”  

That is the gospel message in brief.  

The righteousness of faith

Concerns the individual’s response

To the person and work

Of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In verse 9, Paul uses the order given in Deuteronomy 30:14 which he quotes in verse 8 in expressing the person’s response to Jesus Christ.  In verse 10, Paul reverses it into the chronological order by which salvation comes to an individual.

Confession means to “speak the same thing” or “agree with.”  In this case, to agree with God by stating it yourself with your mouth the specific truth that Jesus is Lord.  Belief is the assent of the mind to the truth of a declaration or proposition.  In this case it is an acknowledgment of the declaration that God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Paul adds here that this is a belief of the heart in order to distinguish from a mere intellectual assent.  We tend to us the term “heart” allegorically as a reference to emotion, but to the Jews, the term referred to the deepest, innermost aspect of a man’s personhood in which resided the thought, will, and motives of the individual.  It represented the core of that person’s being.

Paul states unequivocally that the

Correct confession and heart belief

Will result in the salvation of the individual.  

In both the confession and the belief

There are core truths that must be held

By the individual if they are to be saved.

In verse 10 Paul explains how this works.

As with Abraham (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3), God reckons, or counts, belief as righteousness.  Again, this is heart belief and not mere intellectual assent.  It is something that is held to as true by thought and will which in turn generates motives for action.  

Confession is the outward expression

Of the core belief of the heart.

Jesus stated in Matthew 15:18 that the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart.  In Matthew 10:32-33 Jesus said, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

Confession is the response of belief.  

Belief brings righteousness, and

Confession confirms that belief,

Resulting in salvation.

Now these truths that are believed and confessed are significant and by their very nature life changing.  Too often in American Christianity we find that they are treated as incidental or trivial truths.  Too many people profess Jesus as their Savior, yet live lives that are in contradiction to what they say they believe.  What then is the significance of confessing Jesus as Lord and believing God has raised Him from the dead?

There is a large section of American Christianity that teaches that confessing Jesus as Lord is not a big deal.  They pass it off as an intellectual acknowledgment that Jesus is God with little or no consequences in the life.  Not only is that idea not true, it is utterly silly.  The supposed justification by those promoting this idea is to protect the Gospel from any works-based righteousness.  They argue that if salvation was dependent on people confessing Jesus as Lord in the sense of a master who is to be obeyed, then works are added into the Gospel message.  Since salvation is based on grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2), then any requirement of salvation that demands people will obey Christ must be rejected.  Again, not only is that blatantly wrong, it is also plainly silly.

For the sake of argument, let me agree for the moment that the term “Lord” here is only a reference to Jesus’ deity.  If that is true, then I have a very simple question.  

What sort of God are you confessing

If you also think obedience to Him is optional?  

What sort of God is it that is not also master?  

The answer.  He is not God at all.  

God by His very nature and attributes

Is master over everything.  

The true God is Lord

Without any qualifiers.

Those who claim the term “Lord” here is only a reference to Jesus’ deity without respect to any demand of obedience have created for themselves a false God not worthy of worship.  Their belief is on par with that of the demons who also believe and confess that Jesus is God (James 2:19), except perhaps that the demons have a better understanding because they also confess Jesus’ authority over them.  An example of this is in Matthew 8:31 where the demons entreat Jesus that if He was going to cast them out of the man, to send them into the swine, which Jesus then did.

There are also those who will say that “Lord” here is only a title of respect, much in the same way “Lord” is used as a title in England to this very day for certain noblemen and those holding certain offices.  They also reject that “Lord” carries any meaning of required obedience too.  Confession of Jesus as Lord in that sense will not result in salvation, because such a Christ would not have the ability to save.

The sense of “Lord” here

Is a reference to both

Jesus deity and the position of Master

That He has because He is God.

In the book of Romans alone, Paul has already asserted the Deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Back in Romans 1:1-4 Paul asserts Jesus deity as the “son of God.”  Paul continues to assert Jesus as the son of God throughout the book (1:9; 5:10; 8:3,29,32; 9:9).  Could Jesus nature as master be asserted any better than Romans 6 in which Paul proclaims that the purpose of our salvation was to free us from slavery to sin and enslave us to God and righteousness?  What meaning would there be to Paul’s struggle against sin explained in Romans 7 if obedience to Jesus Christ is of little consequence.  Or what do you then do to Paul’s statement in Romans 8 that the mind set on the flesh is death (verse 6) if having a mindset on the Spirit with its resultant obedience to Christ in putting to death the deeds of the flesh (verse 13) is optional?

Or perhaps it would be best to go back to Jesus’ own declarations.  Jesus accepts the title “Son of God” in the sense of deity and uses it of Himself in many passages (Matthew 16:16; 26:63-64; Luke 22:70; John 1:34,49; 3:18; 5:25; 11:4) and continually referred to God as His Father (Matthew 7:21; 10:32; 11:27; 16:17; 20:23; 26:53; etc.). Jesus even calls Himself by God’s covenant name of “I am” for which the Jews sought to stone Him for blasphemy (John 8:58).  Jesus demonstrated the attributes of deity including authority over nature (Mark 4:41); disease (Matthew 4:24); demons (Matthew 8:31ff); and even death (John 11).

In regards to Jesus as Master He demands it all by virtue of who He is (Philippians 2:10), and requires it from His followers as evidence of their relationship with Him. Jesus plainly told His disciples that those that loved Him would keep His commandments, and that those that did not love Him would not keep His commandments (John 14:15, 24).  Jesus commanded His followers that because all authority was given to Him, they were to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe (obey) all that He had commanded.  In Matthew 7:21-23, which we looked at earlier, Jesus plainly states that even those who profess to minister in His name but who in fact practice lawlessness will be cast out from His presence because He never knew them.

All that to say this . . .

Confessing Jesus as Lord is to agree with

All that God has revealed about Jesus

As deity, sinless man, Savior and Master.

The term “Lord” must be applied in this verse is the same way it is applied to Jesus throughout the book of Romans and the rest of Scripture.  You cannot change the meaning to suit what you would like it to be.

Let me quickly add here that the statements concerning confession with the mouth do not exclude those who are mute.  That would seem like something obvious, but there are those that might think that.  There are also those that have used this verse to teach that a person can be saved if they can just get them to say the words.  That is not true either.

The reason that Paul refers to the mouth is because that is in keeping with his quote from Deuteronomy 30:14. 

The point of it is the personal response

To the person and work of Jesus Christ.

If you believe in Christ, then there is

An outward proclamation of that belief.

A person who cannot speak could do that through writing or drawing or whatever means by which they can communicate.  A person that can speak that refuses to confess Jesus as Lord with the mouth is a different issue.  They demonstrate that following Jesus is not as important to them as something else whether that be fear or pride.  Their actions prove that they in fact do not believe Jesus is who He claims to be, otherwise they would seek His favor above all else.

In regards to those who think that saying the words are enough, and I had a friend in college that got mixed up with such a group, such is pure nonsense even in keeping with the passage because there also has to be heart belief.  Paul will point this out in verse 13 and 14 that you cannot call upon a being in whom you do not believe.

The belief that Jesus rose from the dead

Is also important for it also encompasses

All that Scripture says concerning

Jesus’ death and resurrection.

In other words, it is not an equivalent to believing Lazarus was raised from the dead, but it encompasses the purpose of Jesus death as an atonement, for sin and His resurrection from the dead according to His own prophecy (Mark 8:31; John 10:17-18).

Well, I did not get as far this morning as I had originally planned.  Tomorrow we will finish this chapter and see further that man is responsible for his own response to the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Today we only got as far as the widespread ignorance of not only the Jews, but so many other people who continue to believe that they can attain a righteous standing before God by their good works.  In pursuing their own self-righteousness they do not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. The truth is that they will be held to the standard of righteousness of the law they are seeking to practice, and that law will condemn them, for sin causes everyone to fail to even keep the law of conscience, much less God’s revealed law.

The nature of the righteousness of God is found in faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  God has revealed the truth to us and placed it within reach.  God reckons faith in Jesus Christ to count for righteousness before Him.  That faith reveals its belief in Jesus’ atonement for sin and resurrection through a confession of who Jesus is. He is the true God in human flesh to whom obedience is due.  The obedience of the Christian is not given to earn salvation, but as a response to righteousness already given.

Tomorrow we will find in the second half of chapter 10 even more reason that man is responsible for his salvation.  The message of the Gospel is a universal offer of salvation and man is responsible for his own rejection of that offer.  God’s merciful character is seen in His continuing patient endurance of those who have rejected Him, and in the fact that He will keep His promises despite our failures.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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