Belief and Profession (Romans 10:5-13)

Most gospel presentations, especially the famous “Romans Road” witnessing technique, include Romans 10:9-10 to help explain the need for people to make a personal faith response to God’s plan of salvation. After an initial hook or introduction, a good gospel presentation then goes into a discussion of the universal problem of sin (Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned”) and its just penalty for all people (Romans 6:23a – “The wages of sin is death”). Next, the presentation will talk about what God did for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection to offer us a way of escape from hell and an entrance into eternal life (Romans 5:8 – “God demonstrates His love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and Romans 6:23b – “The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”). Finally, once these facts have been understood by the listener, the presentation will talk about how a person must turn from sin and to Jesus by faith. At this point, Romans 10:9-10 can be given as a simple path to salvation: To be saved, a person must be willing to “confess” aloud (publicly profess) that they “believe” in their “heart” (soul, mind, will – all of their being) that Jesus Christ is Lord. The belief comes first, but it is then followed by a public profession of that faith afterwards. A person “gets saved” and then has a desire to tell others about the miraculous spiritual event that has just occurred. This is what we see throughout the New Testament and even in places in the Old Testament – people who come to a genuine faith in the God of the Bible then make that faith known to others.

Remember that in Romans 9-11, Paul is considering the problem of why most of the nation of Israel has not accepted Christ. Most Jews have wanted to gain salvation by merely keeping the law of God outwardly rather than trusting in God’s Son from a heart of faith. They think that they will find life by following this way of Moses, who gave them the commandments (Romans 10:5). But that is not the way to life because nobody can really keep all the commandments, not inwardly or outwardly (Remember, “all have sinned”). Instead we need to put our faith in Jesus, who is the only one who both came down from heaven and rose from the dead to go back up again (Romans 10:6-7). This is another way of saying that only Jesus was perfect, that Jesus was the only man who always obeyed God’s law and will His entire life on earth. The “faith” or message “that we preach” as Christians is not to encourage others to try to be better people in their own strength, but to believe in Jesus with both our hearts and our mouths (Romans 10:8). To repent and believe is to renounce or give up trying to do our own thing in life and to instead let Jesus guide us by faith as or “Lord,” a word that means He is our God and our boss. The salvation that Jesus offers is freely available to everyone who hears the gospel, no matter their religious background (Romans 10:12). Anyone who is willing to believe in Jesus and make that belief known to others can have a relationship with God and be saved from sin, judgment, and hell (Romans 10:13). The promise here is strong and certain – God will not turn anyone away who truly believes upon His Son (Romans 10:11).

Today’s passage is a clear path to the lost person for how they may be saved and know God personally. For the Christian, today’s passage is a promise to hold onto in our darkest moments of sin, sorrow, and doubt: “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved!” And to everyone, these verses are a powerful testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of the one and only God, a God who is faithful to save anyone and everyone who will put their faith in Him. May we believe these truths of God’s Word today and have chances to share them with others.

The Text (Romans 10:5-13)

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 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 preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Questions to Think About

  1. How have other people (parents, teachers, pastors, etc.) explained to you the concept of “believing in Jesus with your heart”? Have you ever tried to explain heart faith in Jesus to someone else? Is there a difference between “head faith” and “heart faith”?
  2. When a person comes to a heart faith in Jesus and is saved, why is it important that they confess that new faith to other people?
  3. What are the different ways that a person can confess Jesus as Lord? If you are a Christian, how have you confessed your faith in Jesus to others?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Sincerely Wrong (Romans 10:1-4)

Believing something sincerely does not make that belief right. In our modern American culture that praises tolerance and acceptance above truth, many people think that every religion can be right and that there are in fact many roads to heaven. According to this mindset that does not want to offend anyone, what really matters is the sincerity of a religious person, not the actual things that their religion teaches. Sadly, this mentality is even embraced by many professing Christians. The devout Muslim or Jew, for example, shares the Christian’s belief in one God who is good and powerful and holy, as well as the belief that this God has given us moral standards by which we should live. It’s called “ethical monotheism.” Buddhists promote clean living and right thinking, and Hindus believe in doing good deeds. So, can’t it be true that people of different faiths can go to heaven by simply being more good than bad and believing sincerely in their religion’s teachings, as many Americans think?

According to the Bible, the answer is “No.” As we have seen in our study of Romans, the truth is that only the Jesus of the Bible can solve the universal problem of our sinfulness, which separates us from the holy God of the Bible who created us. Only by receiving forgiveness of sins and new spiritual life through a personal faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can a person be reconciled or made right with our Creator. Every other religion, including the dedicated Pharasaical Judaism that Paul was raised in, seeks to establish a self-centered righteousness based on the works of sinful man (Romans 10:3). Only biblical Christianity offers a righteousness that comes from believing in someone who is without sin, the perfect God-Man, Jesus (Romans 10:4). As God, Jesus has the power to save people from their sins, and as man, He was able to take our place on the cross and die the death we deserved as our substitute. No other religion teaches that God saves us; every false religion focuses on people trying to save themselves, which will always fail. That’s why Paul was so burdened for His Jewish brethren who had rejected Christ (Romans 10:1). He knew that though they were sincere and had great “zeal” or passion about their beliefs, they were sincerely wrong and would not be saved without turning to Jesus (Romans 10:2). In the same way, we as Christians should remain firm in our conviction that Jesus is the only way to heaven and be burdened for the souls of people we know who don’t share that belief. They may be sincere, but they are sincerely wrong. We should pray and labor to help these lost friends and family members to meet the Way, the Truth, and the Life – the Jesus of the Bible that we know and follow.

The Text (Romans 10:1-4)

10 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you know any people who think that many different religions can lead a person to heaven if the person is just sincere in their faith? Did you ever believe that way in the past? What makes that wrong belief so popular with Americans today?
  2. Have you ever thought about why the Bible teaches so strongly that Jesus is the only way to heaven and a relationship with God? Have you ever tried to explain that truth to a lost friend or family member? How did they respond?
  3. How does today’s post strengthen your own faith in what you believe as a Christian?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Stumbling Stone (Romans 9:25-33)

Once as Jesus was journeying through some villages and towns of Judea, the home of the Jews, his disciples asked him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” (Luke 13:23). Perhaps the disciples were astonished and discouraged by the fickleness of the crowds who came out to see their Master. Large throngs of people were constantly turning out to see Jesus work miracles and preach about the kingdom of God. Yet they would often leave Just as quickly, especially after listening to difficult teachings that they were not willing to accept. It is likely the disciples were wondering if anyone would follow Jesus to the end. Jesus’ response was direct and personal. Listen to His answer to their very important question:

And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:24-30)

These words of Jesus connect with what Paul is saying at the end of Romans 9. Paul reflects on the fact that most of the Jews to whom Jesus came first did not enter the kingdom of God. While Israel was a large nation of millions, only a small part, or “a remnant,” were willing to believe in and follow Him as Lord (Romans 9:27). The Lord had chosen a few, or a tiny “seed,” of the Israelites to accept the testimony about Jesus, thus preventing the entire nation from being spiritually destroyed as Sodom and Gomorrah had been physically destroyed by fire from heaven (Romans 9:29). Added to this remnant of faithful Israelites would be untold millions of converts from the Gentile or non-Jewish world who would also come to a saving faith in Christ. These Gentile Christians had not been part of the people of God, but now, through trusting in Jesus, they had been adopted into God’s family (Romans 9:25-26).

We might ask, “Shouldn’t a lot more of the Jewish people have been saved?” The Jews had so many spiritual advantages compared to the Gentiles. The Jews had the Law and the Prophets, the covenants and the knowledge of God. Why did so many Jews reject Christ while so many pagan Gentiles were willing to accept Him? Well, why are so many people today in the historically Christian world willing to be religious (celebrate holidays like Christmas, go to church sometimes, give a little money in the offering plate, and pray over a meal) but not be saved, while the Christian faith is spreading like wildfire in parts of Asia and Africa? Because, Paul writes, such unconverted casual churchgoers like the comfort of the law, which they believe lets them be in charge of their own salvation. For the religious unsaved, Jesus is a “stumbling stone” and a “rock of offense” rather than the foundational cornerstone that He demands to be. Such people do not want to give up control of their lives to Christ, so they don’t and they will eventually perish in their sins if they don’t repent (Romans 9:32-33). Because they want to be saved by obeying the law and no one is capable of perfectly obeying the law as God requires, the religious who won’t turn to Jesus by faith fall tragically and eternally short of salvation (Romans 9:31). But to those who know that they are sinful and need a Savior, the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is sweet news. No matter how rich or empty their religious background, those who simply come to Jesus in full faith and trust receive total forgiveness of their sins and inherit all of Christ’s righteousness (Romans 9:30). For this remnant of believers from among the lost religious and pagan world, Jesus is their only hope and trust, and the Scripture promises that for that faith, they will “not be put to shame” or disappointed (Romans 9:33). The guarantee of heaven awaits them, while the certainty of God’s presence is with them here and now on earth. May you be part of that faithful few and help gather more souls to the banner of Christ.

The Text (Romans 9:25-33)

25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”

26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.

28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”

29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

Questions to Think About

  1. Why are some churchgoers comfortable with being religious but not willing to commit their lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior?
  2. Do you have any Jewish friends, relatives, neighbors, or teammates? Have you ever asked them what they know or believe about Jesus? Their responses may surprise you. Many Jews in Jesus’ time were very religious and decidedly against believing in Him as their Messiah. However, many modern Americans with Jewish heritage are more secular and may not know much about Jesus or their own faith, especially the Old Testament that they should accept as God’s Word. Learning and then sharing some of the many prophetic OT verses and passages that Jesus fulfilled could be a good conversation starter for witnessing to a nominal Jewish person.
  3. How does knowing that you will not be disappointed or ashamed for trusting Christ with your life and soul encourage you right now?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Potter and the Clay (Romans 9:19-24)

To be a Christian is be someone who has given up ownership of your life to God. If you are truly saved, that means that at the moment of your salvation, you acknowledged that God was God and you are not. By the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, you were persuaded to turn from sin and self and submit control of your life to the Jesus Christ of the Bible as your Lord and Savior. Indeed, one of the most important mottos of the church for 2,000 years has been the simple yet deep biblical profession of faith: “Jesus is Lord.” If Jesus is indeed your Lord, then today’s passage from Romans should ring true in your heart even if it is difficult to understand and may take some time to process and accept.

Paul concludes his reflection on the mystery of God’s sovereignty over man’s salvation by using a familiar metaphor from the Old Testament of how God relates with people – the analogy of the Potter and the clay. Paul anticipates that some readers will object to the idea that God has chosen to save some people by changing their hearts to believe in Him while allowing many other people to die in their sin and unbelief. To our natural human minds, the concept may seem unfair and we might be tempted to blame God and say, “Then it’s His fault that lost people go to hell” (Romans 9:19). But Paul stops us cold in our tracks in the next verse with some spiritual “chin music” (that’s when in baseball or softball a pitcher intentionally throws a pitch high and inside to force a hitter to stop crowding the plate and “get back to where they belong”). Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit who is God, says, “O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:20). Biem! Checkmate, God. Drop the mike. Paul and God are right. The Lord is the divine Potter, and He has the right to form us, the clay, into whatever vessels He chooses (Romans 9:21). God in His unsearchable wisdom has willed to lovingly save some people and turn them into the humble recipients of his amazing mercy and grace destined for the glory of heaven (Romans 9:23). At the same time, God has also chosen to endure the sinful rebellion of others and allow them to face the final destruction and judgment that they have “prepared” or earned for themselves (Romans 9:22). That is the most straightforward interpretation of today’s passage, it is what we see all through the history of the Old Testament, the Gospels, and the book of Acts, and it is what we still see in the lives of people around us today. We know that this truth of God’s sovereignty in saving souls applies not just to Israel but to the rest of church (“Gentiles”), too, based on Romans 9:24, which says that God’s chosen vessels of mercy include – “even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.”

Now let’s deal with some possible misunderstandings of this passage as well as how this text should influence our personal walks with Christ. First, it’s really important to note that God actively saves and transforms Christians into “vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23). That means, as it clearly tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, that salvation is a total act of God’s grace and no Christian should ever brag or boast about being saved. As Christians, we need to be daily humbled and made grateful by remembering that but for the totally unearned grace of God in changing our wicked hearts to repent and believe upon Christ, we would still be dying as slaves of sin like our lost friends, family, and neighbors. Second, God’s choice to allow many people to continually reject Him for their entire lives and finally die and face judgment for their sins is a passive, not an active decision. Verse 22 does NOT tell us that God prepared the “vessels of wrath” or lost sinners for “destruction” in eternity past like He did with the “vessels of glory” (the saved). Instead, God has chosen for His own reasons to simply let some people get the fates that they have earned for themselves from their lifetimes of evil words, actions, thoughts, and desires. That is an act of justice and as God, He has the right to judge and punish sin. That He should choose to instead punish His own Son for some (the saved) that they might be forgiven and made into new creations of grace is a wonder for which we as Christians should never cease to praise Him. Third and finally, we are not God, so we do not know which of the lost people we love on, pray for, and witness to will ultimately become vessels of mercy like us. That means that we should be ever passionate in our lifestyle evangelism to the lost just as Jesus and the apostles were. We should freely and earnestly proclaim the gospel to our dying world daily through our words, attitudes, and deeds, praying that God’s Spirit would use our witness to help draw people out of the darkness of sin and death and into His marvelous light of eternal life. May God’s Word from Romans 9:19-24 stoke the fires of our love for Him and others today.

The Text (Romans 9:19-24)

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever found yourself questioning God about what He has done in your life or the lives of people you care about? Are there good and bad ways to question God? Explain.
  2. Have you ever been tempted to take some credit for your faith and actions as a Christian? How should today’s passage change the way you think about your own walk with Christ?
  3. How should today’s passage influence your approach to personal evangelism?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Mercy Is God’s Choice, Not Ours (Romans 9:14-18)

Every NRCA teacher wants every student we teach to love Jesus and do what He says. We are passionate about the specific subjects we teach, but we are more passionate about the God we serve and the students we seek to disciple. We want to be God’s instruments to help form a biblical worldview in the young minds and hearts entrusted to our care. Sometimes we get bogged down in the nuts and bolts challenges of teaching so many students at a time: discipline, lesson planning, grading, and handling various interruptions and special circumstances…😔. But if you catch an NRCA teacher on a good day (probably after a few days…or weeks…off) and ask them, “Why do you teach in a Christian school?”, you will hear something about helping children and young adults become like Jesus in their thoughts, desires, and actions.

And yet not all of our students seem to want that for themselves. The cost of following Christ seems too great for some to be willing to let God change them. For others, the cares and worries of this present life seem more important than eternal spiritual matters. For a few, they remain unconvinced for different reasons that Jesus really is God, that there really is a life after this, and that Christianity is more than a human invention to get people to behave. In biblical terms, such students are “hardened” by sin and unbelief and cannot see the awesomeness of God and the urgency of His kingdom. They are spiritually dead and not alive to Christ. And it is absolutely heartbreaking to watch from our places as teachers. For reasons beyond what we can understand, Romans 9:17-18 tells us that God allows some people to remain hardened in their sins and even somehow strengthens their unbelief as He did with Pharaoh, who would not let God’s people go in the face of countless miracles proving God’s power. But God cannot be blamed for the hardness of anyone’s heart. Unbelievers will bear the full responsibility for their sins both now and on the day of their judgment; there is no “unrighteousness with God” for not waking them up and saving them (Romans 9:14). This may seem unfair to us, but we are not God, says Paul, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit (who is God) when He wrote today’s verses.

Instead, God directs us to focus our attention on His incredible mercy in saving some, namely us as Christians! Just as God chose to show mercy to Moses, a runaway murderer, and Israel, an ungrateful and disobedient nation, He chose to show mercy in saving us, people who were not loving and seeking Him before our salvation (Romans 9:15). If you are a Christian, it is because of God’s mercy and grace in changing your heart to hate sin and love Jesus. In the midst of going your own way in life, in the middle of your sin and selfishness, the Word and Spirit of God went to work on you and you were saved by the power of God. Our conversion or new birth from the Spirit did not come by our own will or doing – it was “not of him who wills, nor of him who runs” – but was accomplished by “God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:17). This truth about God’s sovereignty is humbling and freeing because it gives God all of the glory for our salvation. And it helps us to persevere in our attempts to make disciples because we realize that God alone has the power to change hearts, not us; our job is just to be faithful witnesses for Jesus. Finally, this leads us to pray for God’s mercy and compassion to reach out and save those whom we so want to see saved. May God continue to save and redeem people in our school community, and may He get all the praise for it.

The Text (Romans 9:14-18)

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

Questions to Think About

  1. Can you think of some examples from the Old Testament of famous Israelites who sinned greatly but still received God’s mercy and grace?
  2. As you heard the teacher and staff testimonies in chapel, what examples did you hear of people sinning and ignoring God for a time but still receiving His mercy and grace?
  3. In your own life, give some examples of sin and unbelief that God has chosen to forgive you of and blessed you with grace in spite of.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel