Romans 10:9-10 is a popular set of verses in the Christian world in teaching people about salvation. What is typically done with this text is to say that all a person needs to do is confess that Jesus is the Lord and believe and that person will be saved. So then the person is directed in some sort of prayer asking to receive Jesus. Is this what Paul meant when he taught the content of the message of salvation in these verses? I believe Romans 10:9-10 have been oversimplified and taken out of their context so that the meaning has lost its original punch which Paul intended.
Notice in the first place that verses 9-13 of Romans 10 are all explanations and are not stand alone statements. Each verse begins with the word “because” or “for.” The NASB and NKJV use the word “that” in verse 9. The HCSB lets us down here by not translating these connecting words. The point is that verses 9-13 are all explanations of what Paul taught in verses 6-8. I will quickly summarize what Paul is doing in quoting Moses in these verses. For a more detailed study of these verses, please listen or read the lesson entitled, “Salvation To The Ends of the Earth (Romans 10:5-21).” In that lesson there is a deeper look at what Paul is doing. In summary, Paul is teaching that the righteousness of faith says that we can know God’s will and God’s will is not too difficult to obey. God’s will can be known because Christ has come down and revealed God’s will to us through his covenant. God’s will is not too difficult to obey because Christ has died and raised from the dead, offering grace and mercy to those who fall short will striving to serve him. The context of Moses’ message that Paul is reaching for in these quotations is that people are to love the Lord with their heart and obey his commands. Moses told Israel that they could do it. Paul is saying that we can do it because Christ has descended and ascended.
The content of God’s will is the very message that the apostles were proclaiming (10:8). The apostles were teaching not only about who Jesus was and what he did, but also what Jesus expects us to do because of his life, death, and resurrection. We do not have the time to trace through the whole of the New Testament, but much of the writings of Paul, John, and Peter are teaching how we are to live, love, and obey God because of the sacrifice of Jesus. This is the point of the quotation in Romans 10:8. God’s will, word, and commands have been revealed to us (through the apostles). God’s commands have been brought near to you. They are to be in your mouth and in your heart.
This thought parallels what Moses taught Israel regarding what God demands.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5–9; ESV)
In giving the instructions for the Passover and feast of unleavened bread, as Israel was about to leave Egypt, God commanded,
And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. (Exodus 13:9; ESV)
When God instructed the people to have something in their heart and in their mouth, this never meant some sort of vain repetition. This instruction never meant to just say a formula. God does not mean for us to just say, “Jesus is Lord,” and that is the end of the story. If this was all that God was wanting, God is going to get that simple confession from us on the day of judgment. Paul wrote these words later in this very letter:
For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:10–11; ESV)
God is not calling for us to say three words for salvation. Every tongue is going to confess that Jesus is Lord when he comes in glory. So what does it mean for us to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead (10:9)?
Confessing Jesus is Lord
The phrase, “Jesus is Lord,” is so short that it is easy for us to pass over it and say it quickly without digging out the full meaning. First, to testify that Jesus is Lord means that we know and accept who Jesus truly is. Jesus is not just an ordinary person. Jesus is not merely a prophet. Jesus is a not a good moral human who had some good teachings. What we are telling others and accepting within our own hearts that the Jesus who lived around 30 AD is God. He is full divinity. Paul would write to the Corinthians, “There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6). The apostle John also wrote similar of him, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). When Jesus was born, the angel declared, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Second, when we acknowledge Jesus is Lord, then we are accepting that he is in charge. Jesus is Lord means that he has rule. He is ruling over all rulers and powers. Jesus is ruling over his people. Jesus is ruling over all people. He is the king and we are the subjects. He is the master and we are the servants. Jesus is Lord is not just something that we say, it is something that we believe. Jesus is in charge. If I believe that Jesus is Lord, then I must find out what he wants me to do because he is over my life also. We have an unusual way of seeing Jesus. We see Jesus as Lord over the world, but somehow that excludes our lives. We think we can say that Jesus is Lord, yet live our lives how we want. This is the problem with what I see going on in the Christian world. People are claiming Jesus is Lord, but no one is changing their lives to reflect that truth. You say, “Jesus is Lord” but it does not look like in the way we live our lives. Remember that the gospel show us that even demons confessed Jesus to be the Holy One of God (Luke 4:34). It is not the mere uttering of words that saves. What Paul means is that if Jesus is Lord, then we will submit to his rule. He will be in charge of our lives, not us. We will act as he wants us to act. We will do what he says. We will yield our will to his will.
We say these things and we hear these things, but I don’t know that it is always sinking in. So I want to press this thought even further.
- If Jesus is Lord, then he is Lord over our minds. We will not think about sinful, impure, and unholy things. Our minds will be put under his rule so that we are thinking on things that are pure, holy, and excellent.
- If Jesus is Lord, then he is Lord over our ethics and values. We will behave as Jesus wants us to behave. We will not moved by what the world thinks is right. We will not be swayed by political correctness. If Jesus is Lord, then our values match his values in what is right and what is wrong.
- If Jesus is Lord, then he is Lord over our careers. We cannot detach what we do to earn a living as if there is some sort of exemption. Jesus is Lord over us all day, every day, not just when we are not working. Jesus must be placed first in everything that we are doing. I cannot do things for work that are contrary to the commands of Jesus. I cannot lie for my job. I cannot swindle for my job. If Jesus is not Lord over our careers, then we are not confessing that Jesus is Lord.
- If Jesus is Lord, then he is Lord over this local church. We cannot what we want to do as a church. We must do as Jesus instructs. We could have a lot of fun having rock bands, festivals, parties, and other forms of entertainment. We could spend the Lord’s money on all sorts of things that we think are fun or good. But if Jesus is Lord, then we do what he says. This is his body, and we must act like it. We must behave like his servants. We must worship him as he has told us. We must use the money as he has instructed.
- If Jesus is Lord, then he is Lord over my relationships. We are going to win souls to Jesus if Jesus is Lord. We are going work to save people’s souls and teach them about the good news of Jesus. I am not going to be friends with people who pull me into sin. I will be friends with people to pull them out of sin and to Jesus. But I cannot let me love for people cause them to pull into sin.
- If Jesus is Lord, then he is Lord over my marriage and family. Husbands will love their wives as Christ loved the church and not be insensitive warlords. Husbands will lead their families in the ways of righteousness, not in paths that will lead their families to hell. Wives will yield to their husbands and will not act like they are the head. Fathers will train their children to love the Lord and show them that the Lord comes first, not school, not sleep, not sports, not anything else. Mothers will nurture their children and care for them, setting an example of godliness.
- If Jesus is Lord, then he is Lord over my body. We will not be sleeping around. We will not have sex outside of marriage. We will not live with the opposite gender who is not our spouse. We will not look at pornography. We will not use our bodies for self-gratification. We will not commit adultery. If Jesus is Lord, then we will stop engaging in these sinful activities immediately. If Jesus is Lord, then we will control our bodies. We will not engage in sexual activities before marriage and we will keep our sexual activities confined to marriage.
Confessing Jesus is Lord is not just uttering three words. It is confessing that Jesus is number one in everything in my life.
Believing In Our Heart That God Raised Jesus From The Dead
God wants your heart. God wants you to believe with your heart. This is not just a mental assent that Jesus raised from the dead. It is a life changing belief. Jesus raised from the dead. That means Jesus is who he said he was. He is God. He is Lord. He is alive. He is ruling. He is in charge. He will bring judgment on his enemies. We are not serving a dead god. We are serving a risen Savior!
The resurrection means that we can have forgiveness of sins. Jesus has experienced death on our behalf so that God save us from our sins. We deserve the punishment for our sins. Jesus died and raised from the dead. This means we that through Jesus we can be forgiven of our evil and wicked ways. Through Jesus we are able to know God’s word and let it sink into our minds and hearts so that we can be saved.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:8–10; ESV)
God is not asking you to say the words. God asking you to live it. Live like Jesus is Lord. Believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord so that it transforms what you say, how you act, and how you live. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.