Read Romans 10:1-13
The World’s Most Difficult Person
For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God,
but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
Digging Deeper: Who is the most difficult—and dangerous—person in the world? Is it not the one who is convinced he is really right when he is really wrong?
Do you know anyone like that? I do—I have friends who would have to rank as some of the most sincere people on the planet—sincere in their faith, convinced in their doctrine, determined in their witness—but being sure and sincere is not the hallmark of accuracy. In fact, the louder and more aggressive the sincerity, the greater the likelihood their sincerity is misplaced and wrongheaded.
The world is fully of sincerely wrong people. And in some cases, they make the world a very dangerous place. If you doubt that, take a look at any radical bent on having his way—a suicide bomber, an anti-abortion assassin, a jealous spouse ready to commit murder-suicide. Each of those people is convinced their cause is righteous and is ready to go to extreme measures to ensure that it’s “my way or the highway.”
Of course, most sincerely wrong people you and I know are not a physical threat to anyone, but they certainly can be dangerous to the emotional and spiritual health of those they influence. They are especially dangerous when it comes to faith. And that danger most often takes the form of a theology that is different from what Paul is specifically teaching in this chapter about what it takes to be saved.
While Paul is very clear that salvation is by faith, through belief in the heart and confession with the mouth, these sincere spiritual zealots tend to choke over that equation when you articulate it to them. Just reading the first half of the last sentence sends them into orbit—and not in a good way. They can’t resist adding “plus works” (articulated in a more sophisticated and convincing form, of course) to what Paul has said. But they are missing the whole point he is trying to make in Romans 10:5-6 (The Message),
For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven’ (to bring Christ down to earth). And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” In fact, it says, ‘The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.”
Did you catch that? “It is on your lips and in your heart.” In other words, the faith that produces salvation is not a result of any human effort, but comes from believing in the core of your being—your heart—and confessing with what reveals your truest belief—your tongue (Luke 6:45). When the heart is transformed by the work of God’s Spirit, and the mouth speaks what the heart has experienced, true salvation has occurred. For, as the Bible plainly reveals and absolutely guarantees, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” (Romans 10:11) Why? For this simple reason:
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
If you are going to be a spiritual zealot, get zealous over that! In that, you can be sincerely right!
And I sincerely mean that!
“There is no grace that the spirit of self can counterfeit
with more success than a religious zeal.”
This Week’s Assignment:
- Re-read Romans 10:1-21
- Memorize Romans 10:9-10, “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 it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”
- For Your Consideration: Read these verses, as well as the immediate context (Romans 10:5-13) from several different translations (I would recommend the NIV, The Message, and the New Living Translation). Why are these verses such a centerpiece to the Christian message? How does your own view of salvation line up with what Paul has written? Do you think your Christian friends have a good grasp on what it takes to be saved, and if not, how can you engage them in a spiritual conversation about this matter?