Saturday, February 02, 2008

“Confess with your mouth” means what?

Most Christians are very familiar with the passage, “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.” – Romans 10:9

Amen. But, let’s examine it a little more closely and try to understand this passage in its historical context. What did it mean for an early Christian to confess “Jesus is Lord?”

At the time Paul wrote this letter, the persecution of Christians was intensifying and he was keenly aware of the implications resulting from publicly confessing Jesus as Lord. The Apostle Paul knew a lot about persecuting Christians because he was one of the Jewish ringleaders who persecuted Christians until he himself very dramatically met Christ. As we know, he stood by and approved of the stoning (murder) of Stephen.

The Roman government also made it common practice to violently persecute, torture, imprison, and kill Christians. When Paul wrote this passage in his letter to the Romans, he was already acquainted with persecution. Paul was in prison more than once, he was stoned and left for dead, beaten with rods, and received 39 lashes several times. Paul was ultimately martyred for his confession of Christ and the gospel.

To confess with your mouth in those days that Jesus is Lord was an all-in proposition. When you publicly identified with Christ, everything could, and usually did change. You could lose your job, your status, your property, your health, your freedom, your family, and even your life. When Paul said that becoming a follower of Christ meant confessing Jesus as Lord, everyone knew it wasn’t just lip service. And because this confession was so significant, it was not made haphazardly or cavalierly. It was definitely not done because everyone was doing it. It was not done because they wanted to hedge their bet and cover all the spiritual bases either. Early Christians confessed when they were ready to give it all for Christ.

Unfortunately, many Christians today cheapen what it means to be a follower of Christ and think that it is all about words. Just say it, get that warm fuzzy feeling, and you are in – you’re a Christian who will be saved. Because it is “just words,” many continue living for themselves and actually demonstrate very little change. Oh, maybe they go to church a few times each month. But what about the radical change? What about being all-in? What about complete obedience, boldly sharing the gospel, putting on the mind of Christ, and completely changing what you say and do. What about giving every aspect of your being to follow Christ – even when it hurts?

We need to be careful to not throw around Romans 10:9 casually. When we use this scripture make sure we, and those we share it with, understand that confessing “Jesus is Lord” is an all-in proposition that requires our everything and must completely and forever change us. Don’t just give Christ lip service, give him your life. That is what he demands.

God, we need your grace. Thank you that it is sufficient and teaches us to live for you. Thank you that real change comes through Christ and that complete transformation is possible when we totally surrender in repentance to your will.


Jeremy said...

You can partner this one with 1 Cor 12:3 - No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.

It's not talking about actors who stand up on the stage and say for convenience, show, or just to fit in. It’s talking about those who say it and mean it from their hearts. Those who submit to the Lordship of Christ.

jeff said...

Not sure you're aware of how hard what you said is. You can't put that amount of guilt on people like that. There's no condemnation.

Ah yes, well said Eric.

Gord said...

I agree Eric. We are indeed living in a society that understands the gospel as cheap grace. I think we need more bold men to preach costly grace just as Dietrich Bonnhoeffer did. He knew what it meant to be "all-in" for Christ. I recommend his book "The Cost of Discipleship," as a great resource for modern Christians to learn what it means to give your all for Christ. Bonhoeffer didn't just confess it, he lived it. Blessings.

Liz said...

I saw no condemnation in Eric's post. Instead, as a believer, I felt encouraged to "run the good race." God never said the path would be easy. In fact, He makes it abundantly clear the road is narrow and the journey arduous but we are called to be over-comers in Him who strengthens us in all things.

Christina said...

Don't mean to be derogatory here or undermine the importance of the subject you discuss, but I in part agree with Jeff. Sometimes I think preachers get a thrill by saying really damning words to people or brutally emphasizing the cost of following Christ as if to point to their own assumed willingness to lay down everything and exempt themselves from needing such chiding. The Gospel is a message of freedom, and faced with the reality of God's love and Christ's sacrifice, I think people would be willing to lay down their lives anyways without having to make sure before committing to Christ if they are willing to so. That's how the early Christians did it, and although we in America have it easier than them, many around the world today have faced persecution with the same fortitude, and we probably would too if put into that situation. Peace <3

Anonymous said...

That's funny Jesus did'nt tell Nicodemus to do anything remotely like Romans 10:9 when telling him that he must be born again. If you are attributing Romans 10:9 with being born again, there is no such connection. You can confess with your mouth and believe in your heart as much as you like, but if you haven't received the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), you have no inheritance with Christ at all but eternal punishment.