What You Must Do To Be Saved

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Romans 10:5-13

According to the Bible, there are two very different kinds of righteousness that humans can possess. I’d like you to know how to get the kind that saves.

Writing about people who were not Christian but who were religious, the apostle Paul says this:

. . . being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “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) “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, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

Romans 10:3-10, NRSV

Whenever Paul talks about righteousness – one of his favorite topics in the book of Romans – we must remember that what he means is being right in God’s eyes. Righteousness has to do with God’s estimation of us. It’s the condition of being justified before God, being acceptable to him, obtaining his favorable judgment on ourselves. In the very beginning of the world, when God finished his creation, he looked all of his handiwork over and pronounced it “very good.” It wasn’t long, however, before the first people did something that wasn’t good, and sin destroyed our original goodness. Ever since then, we’ve been searching for ways to reestablish a righteousness that will make God again say of us, “Very good,” but unfortunately, our efforts have not been very successful.

CONTRASTING KINDS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

At the beginning of chapter 10 of Romans, Paul is talking about people who believe they can earn their salvation through their own righteous acts. It comes as a real shock to us to learn that religion and morality are not what saves. It’s not enough to be pious or devout or zealous; it’s not enough to do good works and strive for perfection. As explained here, there are actually two kinds of righteousness. One is a purely human righteousness, based on a person’s efforts to do right – what the apostle calls “the righteousness that is by the law” (v. 5). This righteousness is entirely a matter of individual performance. Earning salvation by it is like trying to long-jump the Grand Canyon; you just can’t get very far. And yet this kind of righteousness is the basis of all human religion. The other evening I was watching a television program about a very religious man. He had spent his whole adult life pursuing holiness with an intensity we can only wonder at. For two solid years, this man stood outdoors under a tree without ever sitting or lying down, only leaning for support against a swing suspended from a rope. And then some time later he decided to go on a pilgrimage to a certain sacred shrine. He believed that the greater and more difficult the penance he undertook, the more merit his actions would possess. So he decided not to walk on his journey, but to lie flat on the ground and roll there, over and over, spinning like a top. Accompanied by a small group of companions who, drumming and chanting, walked or danced alongside him, the man rolled day after day for six months. Across hundreds of miles, under blazing suns and torrential rains, onward he rolled until he reached a small mountain shrine. There he got to his feet, stooped at the entrance, and made an offering to the image within. “He entered the shrine a man,” said the program’s narrator, “and emerged a saint.”

Now that sort of piety is foreign to many of us, but its underlying principle is not. We might very well wonder what would make a man choose to roll across the ground for half a year, and what would inspire others to venerate him because he did. But we don’t have to search very far for the root belief that prompted this behavior because it’s a belief we all naturally share. It’s the belief that we can become holy by doing works of merit, and the harder the works we choose to do, the holier we will become. Now that’s something we all can understand, as I’ve said, because it’s “natural”; it is instinctive to human nature. The idea that righteousness is earned by meritorious conduct is what we all tend to automatically think is true.

Except it’s not true. Righteousness of our own, based on our own efforts, is illusory. It can only ever be a relative, “holier than thou” kind of righteousness, not an absolute and total goodness. The best we can do is to become better than most of our neighbors, or to develop a reputation for goodness in other people’s eyes. We can never become good with the perfection that God is looking for.

Fortunately for us, there is another kind of righteousness that’s possible, which can and does make us perfect in God’s eyes. The Bible calls this other kind of righteousness “God’s righteousness,” one that he provides freely as a gift, not something we earn by good behavior. It’s not achieved through our good works or sacrificial acts but it’s bestowed by God upon all who believe in Christ. It “comes from God” (v. 3) and “is by faith” (v. 6) as the Bible says here.

So there are very great and important differences between these two kinds of righteousness. One is human, coming from us; the other is God’s. One is based on our efforts, our attempts at doing good; the other is based on faith, trust in the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins. One leaves us anxious and uneasy in our conscience, because we can never be sure we have done enough, or good enough, works of obedience; the other gives us peace with God, joy for the present, and hope for the future. Most important of all, one leaves us still in our old sinful condition, while the other one saves.

WHAT WE DON’T HAVE TO DO

Now if all this is true (and it is the plain teaching of the Bible), then it seems to me the most important question anyone could ask is: “What must I do to have this righteousness that comes from God?” Paul answers that question right here in Romans 10. But he begins by telling us what we don’t have to do. We don’t have to go to great lengths or exert extraordinary efforts to find the righteousness God offers through Christ. It is easily available to anyone. Unlike the way of good works, which demands perfection and thus puts salvation really out of reach, God’s way is close to us. It’s open to us. It really isn’t difficult. You don’t have to perform incredible feats to find it.

This is another thing about the Bible’s way of salvation that runs counter to our human intuition. It just seems to us that salvation is such an important thing – the most important thing imaginable – it must take an all-out effort on our part to receive it. Doesn’t everything of value in our experience cost a great deal? There’s no such thing as a “free lunch.” Anything worth having is going to cost you a lot. There was a story in the Bible about a Syrian general named Naaman who was stricken by leprosy. He heard that a cure might be obtainable in the land of Israel from the prophet of the Lord and so he traveled there with a long baggage train of treasures and money and expensive clothing to try to bribe the prophet into healing him. But when he arrived, God’s servant told him: “I don’t want any of that. Just go wash yourself in the Jordan River.” The man’s pride was offended. With great indignation, he refused, until one of his servants said to him, “Master, if he had told you to do some hard thing, would you not gladly have done it? So why not this simple thing?” Now that’s exactly how it is with God’s salvation. The most valuable thing in the universe is free for the asking. We think that in order to succeed in life we have to work at it with every bit of our strength. And so we wonder, can the ultimate success of eternal life just be there for anyone who wants it? And yet it is, according to the Bible. We don’t have to do the impossible. We needn’t try to climb up to heaven or descend into the abyss to lay hold of Christ (vv. 6-7). No, “the word is near you . . . in your mouth and in your heart” (v. 8). All anyone has to do is hear the truth about Jesus Christ and believe it.

WHAT WE HAVE TO DO

So how does one do that? What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ in such a way as to be saved? Here is the plain and simple statement of the gospel: “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (v. 9). That’s how it is. That’s what it means to have saving faith. Notice there are two parts to it. You must “believe in your heart” that God raised Jesus from the dead. Faith means having an inward conviction about the truth of the gospel. Paul singles out the resurrection for special mention because it’s the key event. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead demonstrates the truth of all he said and did. Since Jesus rose, we know that God is real, and that Jesus is God; we know that his death will cover our sins, and his life can be our life forever. By faith we accept all this as true, we really believe it at the core of our being, and that’s what saves us. The other part of saving faith is outward confession: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ . . . you will be saved.” “Confessing” here means to acknowledge and express what we believe inwardly in our hearts, outwardly with our words and in our actions. We confess both with our lips and with our lives, both by what we say and also by how we live and what we do.

So in order to be saved, you need to do two things, both of them equally necessary. You need to have an inward conviction (to believe in your heart) plus outward confession (to acknowledge in your speech and life). Confession without conviction is empty hypocrisy; conviction without confession is cheap faith that tries to have God’s new life without giving up your old one. But confession and conviction together are saving faith.

Think about this for just a moment longer. What was written so many centuries ago in the Bible is true for you right now, right here. At this very moment, “the word is near you.” It’s in your heart. It’s in your mind. If you’ve been reading this, that very fact means that God’s word, God’s message of salvation, is with you at this instant. All you need to do to be saved is to accept it, believe it and confess it. Have you done that? Will you do it now?

Believe in your heart that Jesus is God’s Son, that he died on the cross for your sins, and that he rose again from the dead and lives and reigns over the whole universe! Confess that Jesus is Lord! Tell someone today, “I’m a believer in Jesus!,” and then begin living for him and his glory. If you do these things, you will be saved forever.