HT: Slice of Laodicea.
by Samuel Guzman
“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.” Romans 10:9
I have seen this verse used many times as the magic formula for salvation. How many people have been told this is how they are to be saved? How many people have been falsely assured of their salvation with this verse? We have to understand that belief and profession mean absolutely nothing. The issues is faith. On the last day there will many who will confess to know Christ, saying, “Lord, Lord,” but they will spend an eternity in hell. As one man once put it, the question is not do you know Jesus, the question is, does Jesus know you. You believe Jesus died and rose again? To paraphrase the book of James, good for you, the devils also believe– and they tremble at what it means for them.
What does the verse mean then? The original historical context is essential. You see, we often forget that Paul was writing to Roman Christians– Christians who were being persecuted and killed for their faith, many times in an extremely cruel fashion. Paul was writing to assure these suffering believers that if, when faced with suffering and death, they were true to their Lord, they would without a doubt be saved. Paul, then, is talking about faithfulness unto death, a result and sure evidence of salvation, not a forumula for it.
Just this week, I read a vivid example of this very thing. I was glancing through a children’s textbook of Church history that I found on my bookshelf, and the first chapter dealt with the early church. It specifically addressed the sufferings they experienced, and recounted the martyrdoms of Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp, two early church fathers. It demonstrates what Romans 10:9 meant in the lives of these two early Christians, and what the verse still means today.
"Ignatius (A.D. 67-110) was ordered by the emperor to be arrested and was sentenced to be thrown to the wild beasts in Rome. He longed for the honor of giving his life for his Savior, saying, “May the wild bests be eager to rush upon me. If they be unwilling, I will compel them. Come, crowds of wild beats; come, tearing and manglings, wracking of bones and hacking of limbs; come cruel tortures of the devil; only let me attain unto Christ.”
Polycarp was the last one of those who had been personally taught by the apostles. He was arrested and brought into the amphitheater in Smyrna, which was filled with an immense multitude. Since there were no images of gods in the house of worship of the Christians, the heathen rightly concluded that the Christians did not in believe in the existence of the gods, and so they accused them of being atheists. The proconsul reminded Polycarp of his great age, and urged him to show his penitence by joining in the cry, “Away with the atheists!” Polycarp looked straight at the excited crowd, pointed his finger at them, and cried, “Away with the atheists!”
Then the proconsul said, “Revile Christ and I will release you.” But Polycarp answered, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has never done me wrong, how can I blaspheme Him, my King, who has saved me?” To the crowd the proconsul then proclaimed, “Polycarp has confessed himself to be a Christian.” The crowds yelled, “Let him be burned!”
Wood was collected and made into a pile. Polycarp asked not to be fastened to the stake. “Leave me thus,” he said, “He who strengthens me to endure the flames will also enable me to stand firm at the stake without being fastened with nails.” The woodpile was lighted. While Polycarp prayed with a loud voice, “Lord God Almighty, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I praise Thee that Thou hast judged me worthy of this day and of this hour, to participate in the number of Thy witnesses, and in the cup of Thy Christ,” the flames consumed him. Polycarp’s martyr death took place in the year 156 A.D." -From “The Church In History” by B.K. Kuiper