Romans 10:5-17: When were you saved?

Questions (610x351)If you lose the basics, it’s hard to move beyond that. For if the basics aren’t there, when you move to something more advanced, your weakness in the basics will always undermine what you are trying to do. Take reading the Bible. One of the basics is to know who the writer is (or who the writers are, for many of the New Testament epistles have more than one writer). The other is to know to whom the writer is speaking.

Let’s look at the first few verses for the book of Romans. Romans 1:1 identifies the writer of the book of Romans as Paul. It reads, “From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an Apostle.” Later in Romans 1:7, Paul writes, “To everyone in Rome, loved by God, and called as saints.” So, Paul wrote the book of Romans for all the Christians in Rome, those “called as saints.”

So, if you read the word “I” in Romans, you know that refers to the Apostle Paul. If you read the word “you,” you know that refers to the Christians at Rome, and possibly all Christians in general. For what applied to the Christians there may likely still apply to us today.

But what about the word “they”? That has to refer to someone other than the Christians at Rome.   Let’s take a look at how Paul used the word “they.” In Romans 9:31-32, a few verses before today’s epistle reading, Paul used the word “they” to refer to Jews who did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. He wrote, “The people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, did not reach their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but (as if it were possible) by works.” In those verses, the “they” to whom Paul referred were unbelieving Jews.

And so now we come to our epistle reading in Romans, chapter 10. Paul was still referring to unbelieving Jews but then he moves to focus on the Christians at Rome. How do we know that? Paul used the word, “you.”

Paul told the Christians in Rome: “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 depths?’ (that is, to bring Christ back from the dead).” Contrasting works and faith, Paul was telling the Christians not to be like the Jews whom he had just mentioned: don’t place on yourselves that which only God can do. You can’t go into heaven to bring Christ’s righteousness down to you. You can’t descend into the grave to make Christ rise from the dead. You don’t have that ability or power.

But then who or what has the power to bring Christ’s righteousness to us? Paul answers that in Romans 10:8: “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the Word of faith that we preach).” The Word has the power to give you, the Christians at Rome, even you Christians here today, Christ’s righteousness. It was that Word that Paul, the other Apostles, and the pastors in Christ’s Church have all preached. For that Word brings down the Word, the Word who is Jesus Christ, and gives the faith and righteousness that God requires for salvation.

Paul was reminding Christians that salvation is all God’s doing. For not even a Christian could go up into heaven to bring Christ down or descend to the depths to bring Him up. Only God can, and does, what is needed for salvation.

But then Paul says something that confuses many Christians. Still speaking to Christians, he says: “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).

Wait a minute, Paul is writing to Christians; yet, it sounds like he’s writing to non-Christians. After all, if they’re Christians they’re already saved. So, why would Paul tell Christians, the “you” to whom he refers, “If you confess” and “if you believe,” you will be saved? That doesn’t make sense.

And so many now take words that Paul specifically wrote to Christians and apply them to the non-Christian. But if Paul were speaking to non-Christians, or the Jews whom he had referred to a few verses earlier, he would have said, “they.” If they confess with their mouths and believe in their hearts, they will be saved.

But that’s not what Paul wrote, did he? And so Paul forces us to contend with that word “you.” If you Christians confess with your mouth and believe in your heart, you will be saved. But I’m already saved, why do I need to be saved? That doesn’t make sense. Only non-Christians need to be saved, right? Wrong! The Gospel is also for the Christian, not just the non-Christian.

Again, we must go back to the basics. For if we get the basics wrong, then we’ll get most other things wrong, as well. Salvation is not only a one-time event. Again: salvation is not only a one-time event. It’s true that faith is a gift that God gives. For Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you [that is the Christians to whom Paul writes] are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it [that is, faith] is the gift of God.” Faith is a gift that God gives you in the way He chooses to give it to you.

So, when did (or does) God give someone His gift of faith, His gift of salvation? Instead of guessing, let’s turn to the Scriptures. Ephesians 1:4 says, “God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.” So, when were you saved? You were saved even before you were born, even before God laid the foundation of the world. For that’s when God chose you as His own!

And then closer to your time of birth, we get to Jesus on the cross. Right before He died, He said, “It is finished!” That’s when Jesus finished taking your sin into Himself and granting to the world His righteousness. So, when were you saved? You were also saved when Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago.

But still, that doesn’t make complete sense, for somehow God still had to give me the gift of faith after I was born, right? Yes, that’s true. And He did. 1 Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism now saves you, not as the removal of dirt from the flesh, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” So, when were you saved? You were saved when the waters of baptism came to you, forgiving your sin and bringing you into God’s family.

But does God save at any other time, other than baptism? Yes, He saves you every week when You come to the Divine Service. How do we know that? In the last verse of today’s epistle reading, Paul says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Every time Christ is preached into your ears, there the Holy Spirit is at work, creating and strengthening faith. So, when were you saved? Every time the Word of God comes to you and creates, and continues to create, faith in your heart.

You see, salvation is not just a one-time event. It’s also a continuing event. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Imagine that! Paul was writing to Christians, who were already saved, and yet he tells them that they “are being saved.” So, when are you saved? You are saved whenever the Word of the cross still comes to you, here and now, in the present tense.

Ah, if salvation were only that cut and dried. In Romans 5:9, Paul says, “Since we have now been declared righteous by Christ’s blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath.” Christians who are already saved, who are still being saved, will also be saved in the future. As Paul wrote, “We will be saved.” So, when will you be saved? You will also be saved when Jesus admits you into His eternal presence.

You are saved. You are being saved. You will be saved. And yet, even when someone’s soul is in heaven with Christ, he still is not fully saved. For the finality of someone’s salvation doesn’t take place until the Last Day, when body and soul are reunited.

For those now living in heaven, God has confirmed them in sinlessness. Their reality is one of joy and love, with no pain or suffering. And yet they are still incomplete. For they are not the full people whom God created them to be. They are still awaiting the fullness of their salvation. They are still living in faith, trusting in Christ to bring about what He has promised on the Last Day: a new heaven and a new earth where we will live as God’s holy people in body AND soul. Right now, they are only living as souls, still lacking their bodies.

All of this shows the continuing nature of our salvation, which Paul simply reflects in passing as he tells Christians: “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). The Christians to whom Paul writes are saved. Yet, they will also be saved. The fullness of their salvation still awaited them, as it still awaits you.

Let me ask you this? When do you as a Christian confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord? Don’t you do that every in Divine Service when you confess the Creed? Yes, you do!

And when do you as a Christian believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead? Don’t you hear as much in every sermon, when Jesus gets preached into your ears? For how does your heart even get to believe in Christ? Paul tells us that at the end of today’s epistle reading: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

In every Divine Service, God the Holy Spirit is using the preached Word to save you. For how can you ever have too much salvation? You can’t. And so, every week God fills your cup to overflowing, so you will be saved, even on the Last Day. Amen.