NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER TEN (Lesson XV)
Dr. Hodge now moves on to the second requisite for salvation which is, “faith.” This faith must include the truth that God raised Jesus from the dead. The reason, this was God’s way of publicly acknowledging Him to be all that He claimed to be and verified everything He came to perform in His name. God wanted the world to know that this was His Son and the chosen Savior of the world. That is why He accepted His death and blood as the only sacrifice for sin.1
Having “faith” is a long way from simply guessing or speculating. It involves a commitment so strong that giving one’s life defending it is never out of the question. Such a commitment will always be accompanied by strong affections. That’s the foundation of why confession is considered an outward oath confirming an inward loyalty. With faith being more than an emotional act of the mind, it includes understanding such dedication. Saving faith is more than thinking you are saved by something you said you would do out of submission, commitment, and faithfulness. It is knowing you are saved by something God said He would do through His love, grace, and mercy.2
In Charles Spurgeon’s way of thinking, the Gospel’s command, “Be and live,” is just as clear, plain, and positive as the Law’s command, “Do and live.”3 From his perspective, there never was, and never will be, a person who confessed with their mouth Jesus Christ as Lord, and with their heart believed that God raised Him from the dead, that was not saved. When all the multitudes that end up in hell are examined, there will not be one confessing believer or one believing confessor among them. The same thing Jesus about the pairing of man and woman in marriage can be said of marrying confession and faith: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”4
It goes without saying, that the mouth and the heart are equally necessary to be a functioning, breathing body, and a living soul. Since one’s faith harbored in the heart cannot be seen on the outside, it must be attested to by spoken words and good deeds. What Paul says here is like taking these two and tying them with a rope to an anchor which is the work of Jesus Christ. Storms may come and the tempest may rage but the ship that is anchored to Christ will not be moved. By seeing Christ die on the cross, many thought He sank like a ship and our salvation sank with Him into the depths of the grave. But because He was raised out of the depths of the grave, then we will be raised as He was to be with Him forever.
As Spurgeon said, and I concur, if you throw yourself, sink or swim, on what Jesus has done, then you need not fear because you are saved. To say otherwise would make anyone who did so a liar. But even worse, this would make the Bible a Book of Lies as well. Not only that, but the Spirit of God would have perjured Himself by saying something that was not true. Spurgeon gives his own confession: “With my mouth, I do again confess the Lord Jesus, for I believe Him to be very God of very God, my Master, my all. Moreover, in my heart, I do verily and assuredly believe that God raised Him from the dead, and I am glad of it.”5
Frédéric Godet believes that what Paul says in this verse can be better understood in the light of what he says in verse 8. The Word is in your mouth and heart, that then becomes the message of faith you proclaim. This points out two conditions of salvation. First, faith is all that’s needed to take hold of our completed atonement in Christ. And, secondly, when this faith becomes a living lifestyle, that will then serve as an open profession. It reminds us that profession would be nothing without faith, and faith would be of no use without profession.6
F. F. Bruce agrees with many of the older commentators that if on your lips is the confession “Jesus is Lord,” while believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then salvation is yours. I like the way Bruce puts it: “Saving faith is resurrection faith.” This certainly echoes what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians: “If the Messiah has not been raised, your trust is useless, and you are still in your sins.”7
David Stern approaches the need for confession from a Jewish point of view. He talks about “secret believers” in Judaism. In using that term Stern identifies them as Jews who have come to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah but do not tell their family and friends, and have little fellowship with other Messianic believers. This stems from the fact that trusting in Yeshua is a process rather than an instantaneous event. During this period a person may not yet be ready to go public with their belief. But this raises the question of whether or not such a person would pass the test given by Peter?8 Stern admits that if that person is in touch with other Messianic believers and is receiving the proper instructions, this incubation period should last no longer than a few days or weeks. This seems to be a repeat of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.9 However, those who ultimately fail to acknowledge their faith for all to know face a reprisal from the Lord Himself.10 What Stern says here about Messianic believers among their fellow Jews, can easily be said of Christian believers among their non-believing friends and family.11
Verses 10-11: When we believe in our hearts, we are made right with God. We tell with our mouth how we were saved from the punishment of sin. Yes, the Scriptures say, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be sorry they did.”
Paul is not about to leave the understanding of what he is saying here up to personal interpretations by his readers. He wants to make it crystal clear that a right standing with God is based upon true belief in the heart, and salvation is joined to that belief by a sincere confession of the mouth. Jesus illustrated this in his parable about seed sown in the ground; some falling on a hard path, some on stony ground, and some among weeds. But Jesus said that when the seed falls on good ground, “The good soil represents honest, good-hearted people. They listen to God’s words and cling to them and steadily spread them to others who also soon believe.”12
In the opening chapter of his Gospel, the Apostle John makes the same point: “Even in His own land and among His own people, the Jews, He was not accepted. Only a few would welcome and receive Him. But to all who received Him, He gave the right to become children of God. All they needed to do was to trust Him to save them. All those who believe this are reborn!—not a physical rebirth resulting from human passion or plan—but from the will of God.”13 Today, we would rephrase this to say that when Jesus came to the Jews He was preaching to the choir. But even among those who sang the songs of praise and worship, there were many who did not believe what they were singing.
And the writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “So, brothers, we have confidence to use the way into the Holiest Place opened by the blood of Yeshua. He inaugurated it for us as a new and living way through the parokhet [veil], by means of His flesh. We also have a great cohen [priest] over God’s household. Therefore, let us approach the Holiest Place with a sincere heart, in the full assurance that comes from trusting – with our hearts sprinkled clean from a bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.14 Let us continue holding fast to the hope we acknowledge, without wavering; for the One who made the promise is trustworthy.”15 So true conversion that comes from confessing faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior is more than a prayer, it is a life-changing experience.
No wonder Paul told the Galatians: “You and I are Jews by birth, not mere Gentile sinners, and yet we Jewish Christians know very well that we cannot become right with God by obeying our Jewish Laws but only by faith in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And so we, too, have trusted Jesus Christ, that we might be accepted by God because of faith – and not because we have obeyed the Jewish Laws.”16 And Paul shared this personal experience with the Philippians: “I have put aside everything else, assessing it as being worth less than nothing, in order that I can be joined to Christ, and become one with Him, no longer counting on being saved by being good enough or by obeying God’s Laws, but by trusting Christ to save me; for God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith—depending on Christ alone.”17 The Apostle John said Amen to what Paul says here. He told his readers: “Anyone who believes and says that Jesus is the Son of God has God living in him, and he is living with God.”18
So the doctrine of belief and confession became an important part of the early church, especially as it relates to converts. Ignatius, a disciple of the Apostle John, stated: “It is better for a man to be silent and be a Christian than to talk and not be one.” For Ignatius, people must believe with their heart and confess with their mouth for a reason. The first, to declare their right standing before God, and the second, to proclaim their salvation through Christ. He points out that it is good to teach, but only if the teacher does what he or she tells others to do.19 Usually, such statements are made in trying to straighten out a case of people who have become victims of misbelief. It appears that some were going around saying they were Christians but the lifestyle did not support their claim. This is an early example of the saying: Practice what you preach.
1 See Romans 4:25, 1:4; Acts 13:32, 33; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:14, et seq.; Acts 17:31
2 Hodge: ibid., p. 530
3 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
4 Mark 10:9
5 Charles Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Mouth and Heart #1898, Delivered on Sunday, April 25, 1886.
6 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
7 1 Corinthians 15:17
8 1 Peter 3:15-16
9 John 19:38
10 Luke 12:8
11 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
12 Luke 8:15
13 John 1:11-13
14 Ezekiel 38:25
15 Hebrews 10:19-23 – Complete Jewish Bible
16 Galatians 2:15-16
17 Philippians 3:8b-9 – Living Bible (redacted)
18 1 John 4:15
19 Ignatius: On Ephesians 15