(Read the series so far.)
The key principle in Romans 10 is that no one intrudes into a relationship with God. By His grace, there is a door, but that is the only way in. That door is Jesus Christ.
Look closely at what Jesus said in John 14. He told the men He was leaving, and He was about to be preparing their place in Heaven. Thomas wanted the location and directions. Jesus gave them—I am the way there, and there is no other.
Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (NASB, John 14:1-6)
A second truth about the way to God was offered in Romans 10 that is also worth our time and attention: There are significant differences between the old system of atonement and the completed system of justification by grace through faith in the Person and work of Jesus.
Continual Repetition vs. Complete Cleansing
Atonement required continual practice and devotion to the system that must be repeated throughout one’s life while justification by grace through faith in Jesus provides complete cleansing based on the open confession of submission to the Person and work of Christ:
For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “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 will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.” (Rom. 10:5-11)
The Law provided an education in substitution and clearly established the need for covering of one’s sin before a Holy God. It even provided a temporary solution for sin by instructing a people in continual blood sacrifice and a regular calendar of performances of those sacrifices. It was effective, and really made many things clear that would not have been without the help of God in special revelation at Sinai. The Jewish people were to learn important lessons: the seriousness of sin in the law of sin and of death (when one sins there must be death) and the need to be clean to have an intimate walk with a Holy God.
People that do not understand these concepts because they have been raised far from God’s Word will struggle with the Gospel, not because they don’t want to follow God, but because they do not see the point of the story. They may even be offended that God chose to allow His own Son to die in our place—judging that to be a cruel requirement. Men who know little of God’s story feel the right to judge Him based on their own sense of righteousness and truth. To the believer that sounds foreign and offensive, but we are seeing it more and more as young people are being educated according to pagan thought processes.
Look at the verses. God related that the problem with atonement law is that it is a closed system. Once you are in it, you have to stay connected to all the requirements—because it has no self-completion. Yet, the message of faith in Jesus can also be confusing. After all, where exactly is Jesus now? Who can bring Him into the room to testify of His message today? That is the idea behind Romans 10:6-7. Yet there is a solution, and it is found in Romans 10:8-11.
Jesus will testify within you. He will transform you. Your desires will change and your hungers will change. He enters when you ask Him to do so, and He transforms as you yield yourself—choice by choice—to Him. The confusion is that so many people CLAIM to follow Jesus, but are walking a path entirely unfamiliar to anything Jesus would say or do.
Last night I stood in line in Walgreens, getting a few items. Behind me were two young women. The woman who was making the purchases was talking to her friend, and evidently hadn’t learned appropriate words that weren’t what my mom would have called “potty mouth.” She expressed dismay and excitement with the same debased language, assuming her bodily functions were appropriate for casual conversation. When we walked outside, I saw her enter her car with her friend—a car decked out with the name of her church and some pretty interesting Christian sayings on its bumper stickers. I wondered if maybe she considered herself a follower of Jesus but thought that Jesus didn’t care about her mouth. If that sounds “judgy” to you, it may be that you have little true knowledge of what Jesus sounds like. What I know for sure is that He never sounded like that.
When we speak of a “church” we are not speaking of a denominational outpost or weekly meeting, but an public expression of people who come together to submit to Jesus as both Messiah and Master of their lives. Any group that claims to be a church that does not follow what the Word of God teaches is a false expression, period. If the standards of that work don’t follow the standards of the Word—they reveal they are not following Him—regardless of what they say they are doing.
Inadvertently, the grace in the message of the church has become part of the reason for the misunderstanding in our culture of the righteousness of God. Stressing that God desires a relationship given freely in Christ but failing to make clear the egregious nature of sin before God has led to a populace in America that confuses Jesus with Fred Rogers of “Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.”
Jesus never stood for “nice guy of the year” award—and wouldn’t be elected by current standards, according to the gospel record.
Access for Anyone
There is another startling difference revealed in these verse, but you have to really grasp the idea they contain. Atonement offered relationship to people who became part of one people (the Jews), while justification allows anyone access to God through the same door—but only that door. Paul wrote it this way:
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10:12-13)
The process of the gospel then is this:
- First, they submit to Jesus and are transformed by His mastery (Rom. 10:9-10).
- Second, they find satisfaction and complete identity in Him (Rom. 10:11-13).
- Third, they share their faith with others (Rom. 10:14-16).
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:14-17)
Virtually every believer I have ever met would offer a hearty “Amen!” to the idea that the gospel needed to be preached, shared and spoken—yet few give the gospel. We talk to many people during the week. We share about news, weather and even politics—but seldom do we share Christ. Yet, it isn’t because we don’t believe, and it isn’t because we don’t care…or is it?