Man’s Responsibility In Salvation, Part 2

 Grace For The Journey

In today’s blog we come to one of the great missionary texts.  God has been faithful to send His messengers out with the gospel message.

Context

Yesterday we examined the first half of this chapter.  Today I would like to concentrate on the second half, but to do so, I need to set the context of the passage.

In the course of explaining the Gospel message of salvation from sin by faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul sought to bring comfort and assurance to believers by pointing out the sovereignty of God in salvation.  Though we struggle with our own sin, though we suffer persecution in this world for the sake of righteousness because we are identified with Christ; though we have not yet received the fulfilment of all God’s promises, we long for the fulfillment of those promises of our final redemption with great confidence.


Why?  Because God is omniscient, omnipotent and sovereign. Nothing can thwart His plans.  What He began in eternity past in His foreknowledge and predestination of those who would be saved has worked out in the present in His calling and justification of those who are saved and will be completed in His glorification of them.  There is absolute confidence that God will complete the good work that He began in us.  No circumstance and no entity of past, present, or future, nothing can separate us from His love.

These are wonderful truths, but the declaration of God’s sovereignty bring up some other questions including God’s justness if He is sovereign over a man’s eternal destiny. And what about God’s promises to the nation of Israel?  In view of the fact that much of the nation had not yet been saved, would God fulfill His promises to them?  Paul uses God’s relationship with Israel to demonstrate both God’s justness and mercy while also answering the question of the future of that nation of people.

In chapter 9 Paul demonstrated that God was just in His dealings with Israel, and all people, by virtue of the fact that He is the Creator and that He has been merciful to all people.  By virtue of being the Creator, God has the right to do whatever He wishes with the beings He has created.  We have no right to question what God does (9:20-23).

Paul points out further that irrespective of God’s right as Creator, God cannot be accused of injustice because His actual actions toward man are a step beyond being just fair.  God is merciful.  God would be fair and just to immediately condemn all men to eternal Hell.  Instead, God is merciful and patiently endures the rebellion of sinners while making known the riches of His glory to those He has chosen to be “vessels of mercy.”

God’s sovereignty in salvation is not a basis for any accusation that God is unjust in His dealings with man.  But Paul goes further in Chapter 10 to demonstrate that God is also just in His condemnation of the wicked because man is responsible for his rejection of God’s offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Israel’s Ignorant Zeal.

Yesterday we saw in verses 1-3 that Paul longed for the salvation of his fellow Israelites. They had a great zeal for God, but they were ignorant of the true nature of righteousness.  Paul had been that way himself when he was still Saul the Pharisee. Paul had considered himself then to be blameless according to the righteousness of the law.  He was so zealous for God that he became a persecutor of the church because he thought they were blaspheming God and His law.  But the truth was that he had been ignorant of God and the true nature of righteousness.  So many of his fellow Jews were still in that condition of being zealous, but ignorant.

Law vs. Faith.

Paul explains in verses 3-5 that they were still busy striving to gain righteousness for themselves through their diligent efforts to keep the Mosaic law.  However, that law condemns them for, as verse 5 states, those who practice the righteousness based in the law must also live by that righteousness, and no one can keep the law perfectly.  All have sinned (Romans 3:23), and to break just one commandment brings the full condemnation of the law (James 2:10).

As I also pointed out yesterday . . .

It is not just the Jews that have fallen into this trap.

Whether it is the Mosaic law, religious laws they

Have made for themselves, or the law of conscience

That God has placed into all people (Romans 2),

Everyone falls short and violates even their

Own standards resulting in condemnation.

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 Nearness of the Message.

Paul explains here that the righteousness of faith, which is the Gospel message that he has been explaining since the beginning of the book, is not something mystical that still has to be searched out from either heaven or from someone who has returned from the dead.  It is a message from heaven already given by Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead.  The message was near them and should even have been in their own hearts and mouths.  Paul gives the Gospel message in very simple terms in verses 9 & 10.

The Simplicity of the Salvation.

Verses 9-10 says, “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 message is simple.  

The correct confession

And heart belief

Will result in

The salvation

Of the individual.

As with Abraham (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3), God reckons or counts belief as righteousness.  This heart belief and not mere intellectual assent, but 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?

As I pointed out yesterday . . .

To confess Jesus as Lord

Is to agree with God that Jesus

Is deity and your Master

With all the ramifications

That come with it.

The term “Lord” here is not a simple reference to deity because that is not how Paul uses the term in this context.  In addition, even if you wanted the term to be just a reference to deity, that does not remove the obligation for obedience.  God by His very nature is Master and His creatures are obligated to obey Him.

To believe in your heart that Jesus was raised from the dead encompasses all that Scripture says concerning Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It includes the purpose of Jesus death as an atonement for sin, and His resurrection from the dead according to His own prophecy (John 10:17-18; Mark 8:31).  Paul makes that clear in other passages dealing with the beliefs necessary for salvation.

The Offer of Salvation.

God has brought the message of salvation through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ near to man.  He has not left it as some mystical truth that can only be known through great effort.  Man is responsible for the message he has been given. God is just in this because not only has the Gospel message been openly proclaimed, but it is a message that is given to all.  Look at verses 11-13, “For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for ‘Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’  How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?  Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!’”

The Universal Offer.

Notice in verses 11-13 that the offer is made universally.  It is “whosoever believes” and “whosoever calls.”  The universal nature of the offer is emphasized by Paul’s statement that there is no difference between the Jews and the Greek in this, for the Lord has always had the same rich grace to all that would call upon Him.  The Scripture referenced in verse 11 is Isaiah 28:16.  

The offer of salvation to the Gentile

Was not something new,

But something that existed

In the Old Testament.

In fact, part of the responsibility that the nation of Israel had as God’s chosen people was to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation that would proclaim the true God to the other nations (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 3:21).  God had said when He made His covenant with Abraham, that through Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).

The Jews had responded negatively to the Gospel message Paul was proclaiming, because they were hostile to the idea of the Gentiles being included.  They, like all other people, were ethnocentric.  They viewed themselves as the best of all peoples, and so they wanted to be the exclusive people of God and keep the blessings for themselves instead of sharing them with others.  The book of Jonah is a good example of both God’s mercy toward Gentiles and Jewish exclusiveness.

Recall that God told the prophet Jonah to go to Ninevah, the capital of the Assyrian empire and warn them to repent or God would judge them.  The Assyrians had made many raids into Israel by that time, and so the Jewish people had a hatred for them. Jonah wanted God to destroy the Assyrians, and so he wanted no part in warning them of how to avoid it.  Instead of going to Ninevah, Jonah gets on a ship and heads the opposite direction.  But it is not wise to refuse to do what God tells you to do.  God caused a great storm to occur that threatened to destroy the ship.  Jonah told the ships’ crew that the storm would stop if they would throw him overboard.  They continued to fight the storm as best they could, but finally in desperation they followed Jonah’s advice and tossed him over.

That should have been the end of Jonah, but God still wanted him to go to Ninevah, so he had prepared a great fish that swallowed Jonah and transported him back to the shore where it spit him up.  Jonah got the point and went to Ninevah where he reluctantly warned them of God’s impending judgment.  They repented and God turned away from His fierce anger against them.  That bothered Jonah because he wanted the Assyrians to be destroyed by God, and as he states in 4:2, “I knew that You are a  gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.”

That is the nature of God.  He cannot be accused of being unjust in His judgement of sinners, for He has offered salvation to all.  Man is responsible to respond to that offer. Many other Scriptures make this same point: Jesus’ death as an atonement for sin is sufficient for all.

  • John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • Jon 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
  • John 6:40, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
  • John 8:51, “Verily, verily, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”
  • John 11:25, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
  • In Acts 17:22-31 Paul instructs the Athenians about the Unknown God to whom they had made an altar, and he tells them that this God, who made the world and all things in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, “Having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent.”  God commands people to turn from their false gods to Him.  The Gospels and Epistles are full of declarations of God’s offer of salvation to all who will believe in Jesus Christ.
  • 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  It is God’s moral will that all respond positively to His offer of salvation.
  • 1 John 2:2 says of Jesus, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for [those of] the whole world.”

As we have seen in Romans 8 and 9, God is sovereign in salvation, but here in Romans 10 we find that God has made a genuine offer of salvation to “whosoever will.”  Man is responsible for his response to the message of salvation.  

While God’s sovereignty and His universal offer

Seem to be opposites to our finite minds,

They are not to God’s infinite mind.  

The failure for men to be saved

Does not rest in God or

Anything that He has done,

But rather the responsibility

Rests upon man.

The offer is there,

And it is genuine,

And it is not that man

Cannot turn to Christ and believe,

But rather that because of his sinful nature,

Man absolutely will not believe

Unless God sovereignly intervenes.  

All man has to do is to

Call upon the name of the Lord

To be saved (verse 13).  

The idea of this would be a desperate cry out for help to God such as given by the tax-gatherer in Luke 18 who was beating his breast saying, “Be merciful to me, the sinner.” But man will not do this on his own because it is foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 2:14).

God has provided the means of salvation to men.  The message is simple and God has brought it to man.  God has made a universal offer to all men.  But some might still object saying that a universal offer is not worth much if the message is not told to everyone.  

In verses 14 and 15 we find that God has sent out His messengers and in verse 18 we find that they have proclaimed that message throughout the earth.

Provision of Messengers.

Verses 14-15 state, “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!’”  Paul brings up all the objections that could be made and then states that it has been fulfilled just as Isaiah 52:7 says.  Of course, this is not a praise of the messenger’s physical feet, but of the joy that comes with the Good News that the messenger has brought.  At that time, you got from place to place by walking or running. When someone arrived bearing Good News, you welcomed everything about them. Even their dirty feet seemed beautiful.  It is still the same way today.  Even though I think the UPS truck itself is pretty ugly, I like seeing it pull up.  You probably do too.  Why?  Because they usually bring good things.  But we can be a bit ambivalent toward the mail carrier because it could be good news, or it could be bills.

That is how it is for those who declare the Gospel message.  To those who understand it and receive it is great news and the messenger is given high regard.  Think back to those that shared the message of salvation with you, and what your regard for them became when you finally understood what Jesus had done for you, and you were forgiven your sins.  Of course, those that do not understand the message or reject it are not so favorably inclined to the messenger.  Perhaps that is why so many Christians are hesitant to tell others about Jesus Christ.  Most people do not respond positively to the Gospel.

Rejection & Responsibility.

Verses 16-18 declare, “But they have not all obeyed the Gospel.  For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  But I say, have they not heard?  Yes, indeed: ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”  These verses teach us two things . . .

Rejection.

Paul again quotes from Isaiah.  This time from 53:1.  The news of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us are the Good News of the Gospel.  He has proven His love for us.  He has paid the price of our sins.  He offers eternal life which will break the bondage to sin to everyone who will place their faith in Him.  Some will heed the report of what the Lord has done and believe thus becoming new creations in Christ.  But most will not.  In His “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”  That truth has not changed in our day.  The Gospel message goes forth, but most people still reject it.

Responsibility.

But let’s back up a minute and consider the rhetorical questions Paul presented in verses 14 and 15, “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” Add to this verse 17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

If people are going to

Respond to the gospel,

They first need to hear it.

They cannot call on someone they have not believed, and they cannot believe if they do not hear, and they cannot hear if someone does not tell them.  The word “preacher” in verse 14 is from “karusso” meaning “one who heralds or proclaims.”  A herald was sent with a message.  God has sent His heralds to proclaim His message.

There are two important points for us to consider in this . . .

1) Do not confuse the preacher/herald here with the office of pastor.  

Some have used this text to try to bolster the importance and authority of the pastor, but that would be contrary to the meaning of this passage.  As a pastor, I preach, but I am not the only one that is to be proclaiming the truths of God.  That is something that is the responsibility of every Christian.  Every single one of us reading this blog that know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior are to be proclaiming Him to others.  It is not just the responsibility of the pastor and the evangelist.

2) What then is this idea of the preacher/herald having to be sent in verse 15?  

It is not the idea of being sent by a church or a mission board.  Those would be foreign to the context.  It is the idea that any herald was sent to proclaim the message given to them by someone else.  They were not to proclaim whatever was on their mind.  They were to proclaim the message of the one that sent them.  Who has sent us?  More specifically, who has sent you to proclaim the Gospel message?  Your Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  That is the Great Commission.  You do not need my permission as the pastor of this church to do that.  I am only the undershepherd.  Your true shepherd, our true pastor, the Lord Jesus Christ has already told you to do that.

I cannot stress this fact enough.  

If people are going to hear the Gospel,

Then it will occur only because

God’s people told them

The message of Jesus Christ.

Even if your church were able to hire an evangelist, his job would be to train you to tell people the Gospel, not to fulfill your responsibilities for you.

The question that every Christian

Must answer then is this.

Who are you telling?  

You are God’s herald.  

Who are you proclaiming Him to?

Do not slip into the mindset of our society that is so self-centered where life revolves around doing what you like and being with the people who make you feel comfortable. The Christian is to be constantly making new relationships through which they can proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The fact is that God will get His message out even as verse 18 states.  They have heard for the sound of God’s messengers has gone to the ends of the earth.  Paul already said in Romans 1:20 that the Creation declares enough about God that all men are left without excuse for not seeking Him.  But the Lord has gone much further than that by declaring Himself to all people through His heralds.  God gives the Christian the privilege of being His herald.  It is your loss of being fruitful and fulfilling the purpose of your life if you refuse or fail to be and do what God wants you to be and do.  

Yes, you will suffer for Christ’s sake when you strive to live in godliness.  But the suffering of living in ungodliness is worse.  In addition, you also receive the blessings of having “beautiful feet” to those who do hear and heed God’s message from you.

There is no injustice with God in His condemnation of the unrighteous and the ungodly. God has sent His heralds to proclaim forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ.  The message of salvation has gone out to all.  It is a message that offers forgiveness of sin to all.  It is a message that is simple, understandable, and near to all men.  Man is responsible for his own rejection of that message.

God’s Faithfulness.

God’s faithfulness is further seen in verse 19-21.  The mercy He has shown to the Gentiles was also a means to provoke Israel to hear, heed, and believe.  He has also continued to persevere in declaring Himself to Israel despite their rebellion against Him. Paul reiterates that in these verses, “But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they?  At the first Moses says, ‘I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you.’  And Isaiah is very bold and says, “’I was found by those who sought Me not, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.’  But as for Israel He says, ‘All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.’”  In these verses we learn about . . .

Mercy to Gentiles.

The quote in verse 19 is from Deuteronomy 32:21.  Fifteen hundred years before Paul turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46) with the Gospel message, Moses had revealed that God would do this.  While it is a great mercy to the Gentiles, it was also designed to provoke Israel.  Israel did know God and His message of salvation of righteousness through faith.  But most of them rejected it, and so refused to tell others.  They were without excuse.

Isaiah also foretold that this would happen.  The quote in verse 20 is from Isaiah 65:1. God would reveal Himself to the Gentiles even though they had not sought Him.  The context of that passage shows that this would be done because of Israel’s rejection of the Lord.

Paul uses the quote from Moses to represent the law,

And Isaiah to represent the prophets.

It was no surprise to God that Israel would reject Him, and in that rejection He would show mercy to the Gentiles.

Mercy to Israel.

Verse 22, which is a quote of Isaiah 65:2, shows that even in the midst of Israel’s rejection of the Lord, the Lord was still merciful to Israel.  They were a disobedient and obstinate people, yet the Lord continued to “stretch out His hands to them.”  This in itself was an act of great mercy.  Justice would have allowed Him to destroy them, but mercy compelled Him to continue to reveal Himself to them and offer them forgiveness.  Tomorrow we will see that even with all this, only a remnant would hear, heed, and follow God.  The rest would suffer the Lord’s condemnation.

God is loving, merciful, gracious, kind, and longsuffering.  He declares His plan of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to all men.  He then patiently endures man’s rejection of that message and continued rebellion against Him.  But eventually, God’s holiness, righteousness and justice compel Him to judge the wicked and condemn them.

Any charge that God is unjust in His dealings with man is unfounded.  Man is responsible for his own rejection of God’s offer of salvation.  God continues to demonstrate Himself to be merciful.  His sovereign intervention in choosing some for salvation is only a greater extension of that mercy.  God is sovereign.  He is just.  He is merciful.

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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