NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER TEN (Lesson XVII)
The Apostle Paul pushed this definition of a true confession a little further than some people think was necessary. For Paul, if a person does not confess Christ at the risk of losing their life, their character, their property, their liberty, and everything near and dear to them, they are not confessing true faith in Christ. We see a similar understanding expressed by the fifty-six signers of the United States Declaration of Independence. It reads like this: “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Did they really mean what they pledged?
History tells us that twenty-four were lawyers and judges. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners, and well-educated. But before it was all over, five were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they were put to death. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army. Another had two sons captured, and nine fought and died from wounds or hardships in the war to free them from British tyranny.
So if people were willing to suffer and died for the liberation of their country from the rule of a foreign tyrant, how much more should a person be willing to suffer and die for the faith that liberated them from sin’s bondage. So when Paul says that confession is made unto salvation, the Apostle meant that one’s commitment and dedication and loyalty to the Gospel should last from their rebirth until death separates them from this earth. Once they die, they can go to their rest until the day of resurrection when their eternal life will be activated.1
Albert Barnes feels that the reason why confession and faith are made so important is, that there can be no true attachment to Christ which will not manifest itself in life. Just as a city built on a hill cannot be hid,2 so should it be impossible for a person to build their house upon the Rock without wanting it to be seen.3 Jesus made it clear that we are to be a light to the world.4 Any true and genuine belief that is active in the heart of an individual should clearly show itself in their lifestyle and conversation. This is one sure way for a person’s faith and trust in God to prove its existence and have influence.
Barnes feels there are some important things we can learn from what Paul says here. One of them is that a profession of faith is as indispensable to salvation as it is to believing. One’s belief should be as connected with salvation as much as faith is attached to justification. Jesus made that clear when He said that anyone who acknowledges Him before the public He will likewise acknowledge them before His Father in heaven.5 Another thing, a person’s faith is less than useless if they are not willing to make public that they are followers of Jesus Christ. Just like there is no true repentance unless we are willing to confess our sins, so there is no true attachment to Christ unless we confess our faith in Him. What would you say of a person who claimed to be married but you never saw them with their spouse and their actions did not conform to those of a married person?
There is also another factor, anyone who claims to be a Christian but makes no profession of their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, is only pretending. As we all know, true emotions are easily expressed in life for others to see. Otherwise, they have no use. So a person can profess with their behavior or deny with their actions whether or not they have any regard or no regard for God. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we have been promised6.7
Bible teacher H. A. Ironside told his students that it is impossible to understand the Gospel if the basic principle is misunderstood or denied. Justification by faith is only part of it. No mind untaught by the Holy Spirit will ever learn to obey God. The Spirit is the One who helps the believer to distinguish between what is profitable or unprofitable as they grow in Christ. Paul could not have said it much better than the way he did to the Philippians: “You can be certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”8
That’s why we live to give honor, praise, and glory to the One who started the work and is committed to finishing the work in us. By doing so, His holiness is maintained and His righteousness vindicated. The plan of salvation was instituted not to bring death to the sinner but life to all who believe. Such a Gospel is worthy of a loving God, and in the heart of every believer it demonstrates its power to call and keep those who submit to its authority.9
Charles Hodge sees some doctrinal aspects in verse 10. For instance, having faith is more than just nodding your head in agreement to certain doctrinal positions. It is being joyfully convinced of the truth founded on an experience so powerful that the perception of its nature brings on rejoicing and an inspiring testimony. Seen this way, faith is a motivational exercise. That’s because faith is believing with the heart with the full consent of the mind. And anyone claiming faith that does not proceed from the heart will find no connection with justification.10 Furthermore, a person who is too timid or too embarrassed to openly acknowledge Christ as their Savior, cannot hope to saved. The lack of courage to confess with the mouth is a clear indication that there is lack of faith in the heart.
When it comes to verse 11, Hodge finds there are two points established. First of all, the universal applicability of salvation when what is said in verse 10 is followed. And second, it is by faith alone that brings the invitation to salvation. There are probably few things that prove more embarrassing than when someone attends an event and is discovered not to have received an invitation. If you are asked why you are there, you can show the invitation with your name clearly embossed on the front. You need not hide or pretend you were invited. In this case, Paul’s main object was not only to exhibit the true nature of God’s redemption plan but be given the privilege to announce that the Gentiles were now also on the invitation list. It is all important to know what the Bible teaches, both as to the object and nature of saving faith. That object is Christ, and saving faith is trust. He is so complete a Savior as to be able to save all who come unto God by him; and, therefore, whosoever believes in Him shall not be ashamed.11
Charles Spurgeon preached under the conviction that true faith must be accompanied by an open confession. Here’s his way of putting it: “Come forward, and outwardly own what you inwardly believe.” Jesus didn’t make it very complicated when He said: “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved.”12 As far as I know, the good Lord has not changed that formula. But it must be noticed that in Christ’s words, believing precedes baptism. That means a person must have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that the Gospel they heard was real and it resulted in an inward act of the will to believe. Then, and only then, is an outward and visible sign given in the confession of that faith. A person may sneak into church and pretend to be a believer by participating in the praise and worship, but no one will be allowed to sneak into heaven without first being able to testify that Christ was the one who saved them.
It is worthy of note, that after Jesus gave His formula for salvation, He followed it with this: “But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.” That’s why Paul made it clear that if your faith and beliefs are real, you’ll never need to fear being put to shame. You may be able to wear an imitation high luxury watch for awhile, but when it breaks down and you take it to the jeweler to be fixed the truth will come out. The same with salvation. You may have an imitation copy of the real thing but when you stand before God the truth will come out. Why risk such embarrassment before all the angels in heaven? Get the real thing now!13
When Frédéric Godet analyzes the idea of salvation he sees it embracing these two facts: being justified and being saved. Justification is especially connected to faith. Not as an idea, but as an act. The reason for that is because an act of faith demonstrates the strength of a person’s convictions. Salvation is especially connected to profession. This is more than just a testimony, it is also an act. If a person’s commitment to the guidelines of the Gospel allows them to submit to the discipline by those above them in the Lord, then such a profession results in becoming an active part of the body of Christ.
This is more than just a parallelism being express by the Apostle Paul. In his eyes, a real distinction must be made between being justified and being saved. As Paul expressed it back in Romans 5:9-10, justification is a prelude to the future. It introduces us from the time of our new birth toward complete reconciliation with God. And once we are reconciled with God, it provides His guarantee that the condemnation of sin – which is forever being separated from God, will not touch us. Once we receive that blessed assurance, we move on to sanctification and glory. So while justification depends on faith, salvation depends on faithfulness. And that faithfulness will keep us secure even unto death.
But Godet also touches on the idea of the liberality of salvation. The idea that it was offered to whosoever believed was something the Jews found hard to accept. Not only did they reject the idea of justification by faith, but spurned the idea that it was open to the whole world. What they didn’t know was that this was necessary for the implementation of God’s salvation plan. As long as they believed that salvation was tied to fulfilling all the dictates and ordinances of the Law, they could monopolize it to their advantage. That put it off limits to all Gentiles accept those who would accept circumcision and the Mosaic Law in order to become part of the people of Israel.
By having this concept of salvation, it put them in conflict with the mind of God. The reason He sent His Son was to lead all people who would believe out of a religious legal system that promised everything but gave nothing. His plan was to make salvation universal. That way the Gospel could be preached to every tribe and nation. That’s why Paul says here in verse 11 that anyone who trusts in Jesus will never be ashamed that they did so. In other words, God’s promise of salvation will never let you down or cause you feel sorry you accepted His love, grace, and mercy, even if it costs your life.14
1 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 507-508
2 Matthew 5:14
3 Ibid. 7:24
4 Ibid. 5:14
5 See Matthew 10:32; 25:31-46; Luke 12:8
6 Hebrews 10:23
7 See 2 Peter 1:2
8 Philippians 1:6
9 Harry A. Ironside: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
10 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 533
11 Hodge: ibid. pp., 534-536
12 Mark 16:16
14 Frederic Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.