As we saw in Romans 9, Paul longed and prayed for the people of Israel to be saved. So many of them were trying to be “good enough” for God to accept them by keeping the law. And they might have been very good – Paul was – but that’s not the way God saves. Perfect obedience to the law would save – but only one person has every accomplished that. And in him – Christ our Lord – the law’s purposes are finished. Simply believing in Jesus makes one right with God.
Trust in Jesus says that the really hard task is not something that we have to do. It’s already been done by Jesus. He has come down from heaven. He has suffered the agonies of hell. He has been raised from the dead. To think we need to ascend to heaven to bring the Christ down is to deny the incarnation of any worth. To think we need to descend to hell to bring him up is to deny his resurrection and triumph from the grave.
No – the message of faith, trust, is simply this: that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him form the dead, we will be saved. God’s way of making people right with him is our believing in our heart. And God’s way of saving us is through our confessing Christ. Of course – this isn’t a magic formula. Our belief has to be genuine.
Can one profess Jesus as Christ without trusting in him? Of course! Demons did all the time! And the temptation is still there to think that that alone will save us. But it won’t.
Can one believe without professing? Not, I imagine, for long. A Christian who never speaks of Christ being Lord is an anachronism – perhaps even an impossibility.
Can our trust waver, can we have times of doubt and still be right with God? I believe so. As a friend of mine likes to say, “unbelief is a mind closed to God, doubt is a mind open to God.” The fact is that everyone – who calls on the Lord’s name will be saved, and will never be disgraced. I love that. I am so thankful for those promises!
Of course – if you are to call on God to save you, you need to believe in him. And that means you need to have heard about him, which means someone has to tell you, which means they have to be sent to tell you. And that was Paul’s job: to bring the good news to the Gentiles. It’s our job too.
True – not everyone welcomes the Good news. Israel largely didn’t. They’d heard it. They’d even understood it – the reason there was so much antagonism against the early church was because they understood precisely the claims of the gospel that anyone who trusts in God will be saved. But they didn’t like it, and didn’t accept it.
God was found by those who weren’t looking for him. But those who were trying their hardest to be right with God refused to run into his open arms.
Oh Lord. I believe that you are the Son of God, the Lord. I trust you. Sometimes not as much as I want to. Sometimes I fall into the same trap as the Israelites – I try to make you love me. But all I need to do is to run into your open arms. That’s where I’m safe. That’s where I’m saved. Help me to trust you more. Help me to be bolder in speaking for you.