If I were to step into any church building and speak to any congregation and ask, “Do you believe that Jesus is Lord,” I would receive a resounding, “Yes!” From less charismatic congregations, I might receive a slight hand raise or nod in affirmation. I have never spoken to someone who professes to be a Christian who has not verbally affirmed that Christ is Lord.
Here is what I have experienced. Most commonly, I hear people changing or adding to God’s word. If Christ is Lord, then His word is true as it is given. I was preaching at one church and reading from Genesis 1. If you didn’t know, God refers to Himself in the plural in Genesis 1. He says, “Let us create man in our image.” That wasn’t even the key focus in the sermon. After the service, one man greeted me on the way out and said, “I like everything you said except for one thing. There’s only one God,” and he walked out. He’s right, but changing Scripture to miss some details about God is not trusting in God’s sovereignty!
There are thousands of “Christians” who will verbally say that Christ is Lord, which means He owns everything, but still withhold their finances and their time from Him. Parents say things like, “It’s no big deal, Sally can go to softball instead of gathering with the church body so we can pursue holiness together.”
People also say that Christ is Lord, but then worry about all of the things that must be under Christ’s control if He is Lord. They don’t strive to live in Christ. They try to maintain some sort of authority for themselves. Churches even try their best to figure out how to operate the local church when God has given very clear instructions about how that ought to be done. We don’t hand everything over to Christ. Most of the time, those who verbally say that Christ is Lord are trying to hold something back from Christ. Lifestyle doesn’t match up with verbal acclamation, and people don’t even realize, most of the time, that there is a disconnect. In reality, the lordship of Christ is probably the thing that most ‘church’ bodies have the biggest issue with, and the problem goes unrecognized and undiagnosed by most people.
What might it mean for us to confess that Christ is Lord in our lives and in the local church?
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation! I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Because they disregarded the righteousness from God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: The one who does these things will live by them. But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like this: Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ down or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: 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. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
In this passage, we read again about two types of righteousness. One is a righteousness that is from God and the other is the righteousness that we try to produce of ourselves. One type of righteousness is our trying to submit to the law and the other is given in our faith (which is a gift).
Paul is, in a few lines, recapitulating his argument up to this point so that we don’t forget the idea that has been established and so that Paul can build upon the basic ideas of faith and righteousness. In the same manner, I want to remind us of the previous seven sermons so that the stage is set for Romans 10:
- In Romans 1, we are given the proper understanding of what faith is: True faith is a gift from God (not a work of self) that causes God’s people to depend fully on God and reveals the righteousness of God (not people) for the purpose of our humility and God’s glory, bringing about obedience in those who are given faith.
- In Romans 3, righteousness is explained for us: People are unrighteous. Righteousness belongs to God alone, and is declared to people so that people receive the righteousness of Christ and are justified by Christ, never by merit. Righteousness must, then, be imputed to the one who has been given faith by grace.
- In chapter 4, Salvation is described: Salvation is the giving of faith and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the person who believes in Christ. Salvation produces hope, joy, endurance, and proven character.
- In chapter 5, we are reminded that we are helpless and that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.
- In chapters 6 and 7, we learn that God gave the Law, which brought sin, for my good: that I might recognize my need for the gift of faith and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
- In chapter 8, Paul writes that God subjected the world to futility, and that the world was not willing, so that I might be free from my unrighteousness. God is working all things together.
- In chapter 9, we discovered that God is the one with the right to create some vessels prepared beforehand for wrath and some vessels prepared beforehand for glory.
Here in Chapter 10, the sovereignty of God in all things, especially in salvation is reaffirmed. This is seen particularly in verses 7 and 8, where Paul writes that those who have a righteousness that is by faith (not by works) “Do not say in [their] heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ that is, to bring Christ down or, ‘Who will go down into the abyss?’ that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.” What in the world did Paul mean? Have you ever read from the Scriptures, and you are left wondering, “What can I possibly glean from this, I don’t understand it!” This may very well be one of those.
Remember that Romans is essentially Paul’s broad commentary on the Old Testament with specific application made to the saving work of Christ. Here, Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 30:13. Just to gain a better understanding, I want to observe Deuteronomy 30:11-15:
“This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it. See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity.”
The basic idea is this, that people could not travel far enough or do enough to achieve God’s revelation. God is the one who delivered His people and gave them the Law for the purpose of revealing their unrighteousness. God places the message in the mouth and hearts of people that they may follow it. God sets before people life, prosperity, death, and adversity. It is the same way with Christ. I cannot reach for or achieve Christ’s righteousness. Christ must give His righteousness to me. I cannot go to Christ or bring Christ to me. Christ must come. That is the reality of the incarnation. When I had no hope, Christ came to me. I was unable to go to Him.
In this, Christ is transcendent. He is above all. Because He is above all, I am unable to reach Him or attain Him or obtain His righteousness. I can’t get there. He is far above me. The message of the Gospel is that Christ came to me.
Christ is above all.
If Christ has come to us, this means that He is also imminent (He has made Himself near to His people). In fact, He is the one who brings His people into relationship with Himself. Christ has made Himself so near to His people that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved! Belief results in righteousness and confession results in salvation. All those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved!
Do you sense the tension, yet? We have seen throughout the book of Romans that God is the one working all things together. Here, we read that if we confess and believe… If we are not careful, we might produce a contradiction because we don’t read carefully or because we graft our own ideas or traditions into the text. What I want to do, then, is observe the text without adding anything or twisting anything to make it say something it doesn’t. We will see Paul’s argument in full.
- Two types of righteousness, righteousness of God and righteousness of self. When we attempt to establish our own righteousness, we have not submitted to God (v. 1-3).
- Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes (v. 4).
- Self-righteousness is to strive only to submit to the Law, or live by works (v. 5).
- True righteousness cannot be obtained and Christ cannot be brought to a person by any work or searching of that person (v. 6-7).
- The message is near. 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. Everyone who believes will be saved (v. 8-13).
- How can people believe if no one tells them? How will someone tell them if there is no preacher who is sent (v. 14-15). These rhetorical questions, asked by Paul, serve the purpose of reemphasizing the fact that Christ must be revealed if people are to see. People will not come to Christ on their own.
- Not all obeyed, and people were unable to believe, just as it was prophesied (v. 16).
- Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes from the message about Christ or the words of Christ (v. 17).
- People heard because God made His message evident in creation (v. 18, quoting Psalm 19:4).
- Yet, they did not understand, so God chooses for Himself a people who lack understanding and reveals Himself to people who are not looking for Him or asking for Him (v. 19-20).
- Still God, in His mercy, had His hand stretched out to a disobedient and defiant people (v. 21).
Do we sense God’s sovereignty in all things? Do we see why it is unhealthy for us to remove verses 9-15 from their context? Out of context, a contradiction is forced because Scripture is made out to say that God works all things together, yet people must contribute. In context, verses 9-15 are being used as a tool to help us understand just how dependent we are on God and how helpless we are. There is no contradiction. The same idea is presented here that is presented in the previous nine chapters of Romans and in the entirety of Scripture. Christ is the one with authority. I have none.
Jesus is Lord. God is absolutely sovereign over all things. The Scriptures cannot rightly be interpreted any other way. I want to prove this from Scripture if we are not yet convinced. Let me plead with you and try to convince you on this point, though I know that the Lord is the only one with the authority to grant us understanding:
- “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You, for You gave Him authority over all flesh; so He may give eternal life to all You have given Him. This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent — Jesus Christ. I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed” (John 17:1-5).
- “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands” (John 3:35).
- “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created” (John 1:3).
- “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).
- “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything” (Colossians 1:17-18).
- “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent” (Matthew 10:28-29).
- “They were fearful and amazed, asking one another, ‘Who can this be? He commands even the winds and the waves, and they obey Him!’” (Luke 8:25).
- “Then they were all amazed, so they began to argue with one another, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him’” (Mark 1:27).
- “Yahweh said to him, “Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh?” (Exodus 4:11).
- “For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28).
- “Remember what happened long ago, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like Me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will. I call a bird of prey from the east, a man for My purpose from a far country. Yes, I have spoken; so I will also bring it about. I have planned it; I will also do it. Listen to me, you hardhearted, far removed from justice: I am bringing My justice near; it is not far away, and My salvation will not delay. I will put salvation in Zion, My splendor in Israel” (Isaiah 46:9-13).
- “He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals the deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:21-22).
Christ is Lord over life, death, sin, Heaven, Hell, angels, demons, salvation, condemnation, kings, queens, culture, society, the church, the saved, the lost, the healed, the hurting, the one who spends forty hours every week in intense study, the manual laborer, the one without a job, the wealthy, the poor, the religious, and the irreligious. This is absolute sovereignty described for us in God’s revealed word.
Christ is absolutely in charge of all things with no diversion in power.
This is our savior! I wonder why 78% of professing Christians believe that an individual must contribute his or her own effort for personal salvation (stateoftheology.com). All of Scripture has revealed that this is impossible. God made Himself available and people still chose not to listen or to understand. Christ is Lord in salvation, which means He has all authority in Salvation, period.
I want to take a moment and observe verses 9 and 10 particularly now that we know the context, not only within Paul’s letter to the Romans but within all of Scripture.
“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. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.”
Here is what we do not read:
- Admit to God you are a sinner.
- Believe that Jesus is God’s Son.
- Commit your life to Jesus as savior and Lord.
Nowhere in all of Scripture are we given those instructions in order that we might achieve salvation or a relationship with Christ. There was someone who wanted to make things simple and easy to understand and, in doing so, misrepresented the Gospel. Now, virtually every western church uses the ABC’s! If I read the Bible correctly, I don’t even begin understanding that I am in sin. I’m always convinced that I am correct morally. I can’t just will myself to believe that Jesus is God’s son. I am unable to commit my life to Christ.
I just ruined someone’s whole childhood. Sorry. Scripture does not even say, “You must of your own volition give your life into the authority of Christ and give Him control if you want to be saved” That is called adding many words to God’s word to produce a message that is not there. News flash. Christ is already in control. Do you see even in the way most professing Christians try to confess Jesus as Lord they are insisting that it is by their work and their contribution that Jesus is given authority? That is not a confession in Christ as Lord, it is a confession in your own sovereignty as you try to give Jesus permission to guide a certain area of your life. That is not the confession of someone being saved by Christ. We have created a great misunderstanding in modern-day evangelicalism by “dumbing down” the Gospel. We’ve made it incoherent and human-centered. Shame on us. Shame on us for making little of Christ’s lordship.
The confession of Christ as Lord is a recognition that He already has all authority. We are at His mercy. I can only take my next breath if He has ordained it. I only come to an understanding of who Christ is if He has chosen to give me understanding. I can only write my next word if (Thank you, Lord) Christ decides it to be so. According to Scripture, even the death of a random bird in the most remote area is being worked together by God, who has all authority in an absolute manner (Matthew 10:29). This is our confession. When 17 people die because a duck boat has capsized in Missouri, it is not beyond God’s sovereign working. Neither is cancer or disease or stupidity. This should be a great comfort for us, yet so many people use it as an excuse to be angry with God. Without God’s working all things together, the world goes out of existence. There is no hope whatsoever. Jesus is Lord! If this is our confession, and we have believed that Christ is risen from the dead, we will be saved. For those who take issue with Christ’s absolute sovereignty in all things absolutely, there is still hope because Christ is the one saving, not us.
This is encouraging. Christ isn’t so small. There is hope for anyone because everyone lacks understanding and rejects what can be known about God from general revelation. My prayer is deeper now because I recognize, at least in part, the extent of Christ’s lordship. My praise is meaningful because Christ provides my next breath, the breath I use to sing. It means something when I sing, “Amazing grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see!” My heart for people is greater along with my passion for evangelism and training in righteousness because I am in anguish over the people who are unaware or who don’t understand that Christ is Lord over their lives. Yes. Lordship is the greatest issue in the modern day church. So, I ask: Do you really believe that Jesus is Lord?
True confession is recognition of Christ’s absolute authority.
Christ is above all.
Christ is absolutely in charge of all things with no diversion in power.
True confession is recognition of Christ’s absolute authority.