Read Romans 10:5-18
Of Filthy Rags and Transformed Hearts
That 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. For it
is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it
is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Digging Deeper: You cannot be saved by your good works, because no matter how hard you try, your “good” is not good enough for the perfectly holy and completely righteous God who alone grants salvation. Nor can you be saved by your moral perfection—no matter how moral or how perfect you are. As the Old Testament prophet Isaiah points out, your righteousness is about as good as a “snot rag”. (Isaiah 64:6). I have actually cleaned that up a bit, because the Hebrew phrase for filthy rags, ukabeged ehdim, literally means, “like as rags of menstruation.”
Sorry if that disgusts you, but it’s Scripture—so blame Isaiah. The point is, both our acts of righteousness, and the quality of righteousness that we hope they produce, are disgusting to God. So if you are disgusted by Isaiah’s language, think of how God, who inspired Isaiah to choose those coarse words, is repulsed by our efforts to get him to save us.
So what hope, then, is there for our salvation? Well, frankly, no hope resides within us. None whatsoever. Ephesians 2:1 says “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” That’s how hopeless we are apart from God’s work to save us. You see, all a dead person can do is lay there and be dead, let alone try to be righteous before God.
No, our righteousness—and let’s be clear, we do have to be righteous to be acceptable to God—comes from Christ alone. And here’s how that is possible: God sent his Son to die on the cross, to hang there as our sin, in order to pay the just punishment for sin that we deserved. That is our only hope, that Jesus became sin—our sin—and in so doing, he likewise became our righteousness. II Corinthians 5:21 says it well,
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him
we might become the righteousness of God.”
How dishonoring, then, it is to God’s grace and to Christ’s atonement when we try to save ourselves by our acts of righteousness and our efforts at moral perfection. The sooner we realize that, the sooner, we’ll join Paul in saying,
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them
[our best efforts] rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him,
not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness
that comes from God and is by faith.”
It is only through the power of Christ’s resurrection and our death to self (Philippians 3:10-11) that our heart—the core of who we are, that which represents every fiber of our existence—will get transformed. And it is out of a transformed heart, and only that, that our tongue can confess Jesus is Lord.
Then, and only then, are we saved.
So relax about trying to be righteous and morally perfect! Jesus did it for you. God accepts Christ’s efforts on your behalf as good enough, so you don’t have to be good enough. All you have to do is accept it, believe it, and conform your life to it!
“When the will of God crosses the will of man, somebody has to die.”
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?