Faith Comes by Hearing
How are we saved?
How are we saved?
This is an important question. It is really at the root of everything we have looked at so far in the book of Romans. If we were to ask this question we might be surprised by the answers. The range of answers would be across the spectrum. Everything from saving ourselves by our own works to the Biblical answer of being saved by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone. As we come to this question there may be no better place to land for an answer than here in . We see the distinction between law and gospel. We also see that salvation comes to us from outside of us and that it is by putting our faith and trust in Jesus to save us.
As we have seen in our journey through Romans so far the primary point being driven home to us is the idea that we are justified through faith in Jesus Christ. It is really important that we understand what this idea of being justified means. That is because it is the gospel. It is the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. To be justified means to be declared righteous. This is different than the way that many people would understand the way in which you are made right before God. Some people think that we are made righteous by our own works that by doing good deeds we make ourselves acceptable to God. Others think that yes, you need Jesus to get you back to zero with your sins but then it is up to you. That isn’t the idea we see in the Bible and it definitely isn’t what is clearly spelled out for us in the book of Romans. In his mercy and grace God gives us the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is through faith that we are declared righteous before a holy God. Not a random faith in faith itself but faith in Jesus Christ. When we are declared righteous it is not only as though we have never sinned but it is also as though we have also kept the law perfectly. In the eyes of God our unrighteousness has been put on Christ and paid for and his perfect righteousness is given to us as a gift. It is because of this that we can have confidence that we can stand before a holy God.
As we arrive in this is the good news that Paul has laid out for us. What he is saying in the first part of our scripture text this morning is that this is not some new idea. In fact, this is always the way in which people were accepted by God. This has been the teaching of the law and the prophets. While we do not see it perfectly until after the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus it was the work of Christ that the Old Testament was pointing to in types and shadows.
Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.”
Notice what we see here. If your righteousness is from the law the person who does the law lives by them. But there is a problem. Despite the way in which we as individuals like to see ourselves this is not good news for us. We like to see ourselves as good people who are doing a pretty good job of keeping the law but in the first part of Romans Paul has completely skewered us. The arrangement with righteousness by the law was that everything in the law would be not. Not just most of it but it all would be kept. There is not a one of us who can say that we have perfectly kept God’s law. That’s just the fact of the matter. The point is that if we are planning to stand before God with our own righteousness we have a serious problem because we do not have any righteousness of our own. We need a righteousness that is outside of us.
This is not to say that the law of God is a bad thing. It shows us how to live a godly life but most importantly the law of God shows that we are in need of Jesus. The good news Paul is desperately trying to get us to understand is that this righteousness has come to us.
But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down)
But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
This is kind of a confusing couple of verses. Paul is quoting from to make his point. What he is driving home to us is that we do not have to ascend into heaven in order to receive the righteousness of God. We also do not need to go to the depths of the seas in order to discover the righteousness of God. Instead it is right here.
I think passage is important for us as we try to live in light of the gospel that we believe. To have a righteousness of God we think we have to do something significant. We feel as though we need to ascend to heaven in some way through a particular way of worshiping or praying. Or maybe even keeping a particular spiritual regimen. Then, we are near God because we have risen up to his level in our own little way. We may also think we need to plumb the depths. That we can’t truly know God unless we have gotten down and put our hand to the grindstone and work to please God. But Paul comes to are extremes and gives us some of the best news ever.
But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:
The word is near you. It is right here. You don’t have to ascend or descend in order to get yourself to God. Instead, the word is right here. It is near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart. This is so very important. While our natural human inclination is to think that we have to chase after God and find him on mountaintops and monasteries the truth is that God is near us any time that his word is proclaimed. This unbelievably good news for us because it means that those who climb the mountains or lock themselves in rooms do not have a special access to God that we don’t have. Instead, the same word of God comes to us here as it does on the highest peaks or after the longest periods of self denial. The word is here. It is not dependent on your law keeping or your willingness to go on a pilgrimage. It is here and when it is proclaimed to you the Holy Spirit works to create faith in us. Again, this is a beautiful fact. The word comes in the same way to me as it does you. It comes to us the same way it does in Jerusalem or some big, fancy church. It comes to us the same way it came to our parents and grandparents. It comes to us the same way that it came to the Reformers 500 years ago. It comes the same way that it did for the church fathers. It is near us and it comes to us regardless of language or geographical barriers. God is near us because His Word has come to us.
And what is that word?
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
That is how righteousness comes to us. This righteousness of God comes to us through faith and it is through faith that we are able to declare that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raise him from the dead and be saved. We cannot do this without the work of God through his word. Without God working in this way we would not have faith.
Let’s be very certain to understand the flow of Paul’s argument here as it is so important for understanding this verse. We pull out this verse on how we are saved all the time and use it by itself but rarely do we connect it to the verses in front of it. This verse is talking about salvation but what is salvation. It is having a righteousness that is not our own but from God. This comes to us through this confession of faith that we have. We are putting our trust in God to do what we cannot do on our own. It is the way that we are saved and it is the way that God comes near to us.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
The next verse makes this clear to us we are saved because we confess Christ and we cannot do that without God working in us through the Holy Spirit. This is what we have been seeing in Romans as a whole. Believe and be justified. You trust that God in Christ lived for you, died for you, rose again for you, and ascended to the right hand of the Father for you and by putting your trust in the work of Jesus Christ for you the result is that God has declared you righteous. Not on account of anything that you have done but because of all those things that Jesus did for you.
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
It is this faith that we have in Christ that allows us to know that we will not be put to shame. As we learned in God works all things together for those who love him. He has done all the work to save us and so we have a confidence that we are his own and he will preserve us.
Then we see another reminder of a major theme in the book of Romans.
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
Your ethnic heritage doesn’t save you. As we saw last week it is no longer the coding of your DNA that determines your being a child of God. Instead all people can come to God and know him as savior because those walls have been torn down. What is the standard now? Those who call on the Lord are richly blessed.
for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
When he says everyone there is an idea present here that we don’t really grasp in our modern context. Paul is quoting from Joel and it is talking about how people other than the Hebrews would one day be brought to salvation. Paul is announcing once again that this day of the Lord is upon us. The Lord is near to everyone through the proclamation of the word.
But so what? What do we do with this good news?
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
If all of this is true then the word of God needs to be on our lips. The proclamation of the word of God is so much more than just offering an opinion. It is more than just another religious book. It is God coming near to his people in faith and so we need to proclaim it. If this is the way that God works. If this is how he comes to all people regardless of their ethnicity or location then the word of God must go forth. If people do not hear, they cannot believe.
And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
The gospel is so sweet and it does such an amazing thing and that is why we must proclaim it.
I think that is this something that we miss. We spend our time looking for ways for us to climb to God and yet he is present near us in the most unlikely of places. In his Word. This shapes everything about us as Christians. We do not come hear each week for a motivational speech and to catch up on the local news for the week. We come here each week to meet with God. Ultimately, that is what worship is. God coming near to us in his word. When that word is proclaimed we can trust that God the Holy Spirit is working in us to create and build up faith in us because that how he has promised to be near to us. Not us meditating on mountain tops or locking ourselves in rooms. That is not how faith comes to us. Instead,
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”
How amazing is that? God has come near to us through a message. A message of salvation brought to us through his Holy Word about Jesus Christ. When we hear the word and Christ proclaimed from it we can be absolutely certain that God has come near to us because we have been given the gift faith and we hear and believe. This is the standard. Not how you feel when you hear it. Not the emotions you have on a particular day. Not whether or not you are willing to travel to a certain holy place. God has come near to us and is right now near to us because Jesus Christ and him crucified has been proclaimed to you.
Isn’t there great freedom in that? You know God loves you because of the gospel. You know that you are saved because you have heard and believed. You know that you are not only forgiven but you are also declared righteous. This is how we are shaped to love God and our neighbor by the gospel. It is because it is so much more than just a suggestion or tips for living. As we have seen in Romans it is the power of God unto salvation and it shows us that God has done everything to save us. As you walk from here each week. Know that you are Christ’s own. God has come near to you in his word and given you the gift of faith. Because of that he has saved you from the wrath of God for your sin and he is constantly working in you through the word to conform you to the image of Christ. Let the word of God dwell in you that you may live in the confidence and peace that God in Christ has given you. And may that peace guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.