The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.
Repeat and Rinse
“The word” Paul proclaims to the Romans is the word of faith, which he defines in the next verse: “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.” Like millions of Fundamentalist youngsters, Romans 10.9 was drilled into my head as the single-scripture synopsis of God’s “plan of salvation.” Being a kid, it sounded fairly straightforward—a two-step protocol requiring little thought or effort. Confess and believe, and you’re good to go. With age, however, I’m convinced salvation is a process, less a one-time implementation of confess-and-believe than a recurring cycle of rinse-and-repeat—or, more accurately, repeat-and-rinse.
What do I mean? Repeated confession of Christ’s Lordship reinforces our faith and spiritual security. Knowing Jesus is Lord of all—that, as John 1.3 teaches, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made”—isn’t enough. It’s vital we speak this truth, particularly when life offers no alternative to trusting His grace and power. (Of course, since trust in Christ is always the best option, we’re wise to consider it our only option.) Repeatedly confessing He’s Lord in less taxing moments is crucial because it rehearses us to voice our faith when trials come. We keep the word of faith in our mouths.
Still, confession absent genuine faith can't save us. Jesus alerts us to this in Matthew 7.21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” And Hebrews 11.6 reminds us “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.” Here’s where “rinse” comes in. Human logic, natural law, and tempting ideas flood us with reasonable doubts. For starters, neither science nor history offers any proof of the resurrection; believing God raised Jesus to life is—frankly—irrational. Yet a dead Jesus is a defeated Lord, which makes confessing and following Him twice as nonsensical. So we rinse our minds of reasoning to open our hearts to God’s power. We pray with David in Psalm 51.10: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” We keep the word of faith in our hearts.
Openly declaring Christ’s Lordship and dismissing all evidence against His resurrection demands outrageous audacity. Our carnal side urges us to resist these requirements in fear we’ll be ridiculed as fanatical idiots. And make no mistake: we're surrounded by “smart” people who can’t imagine how and why we allow such crazy notions to govern our lives. They surrounded Roman believers too, which is why Paul dispels their worries about humiliation in verse 11 by quoting Isaiah: “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Instead of resisting salvation’s process, we build up resistance to non-believers' condemnation and shame. Let the scoffers scoff. Let the doubters doubt. The word is in our mouths and hearts. It’s eternally true and when we confess and trust it, we have no cause for embarrassment. Indeed, proclaiming Christ’s Lordship and believing He lives gives us—especially those bruised by religious and social bigotry—every reason to hold our heads high.
Lord of All
Paul closes his paragraph on the plan of salvation with added stress on Isaiah’s use of “anyone.” In verses 12-13 he writes, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for”—and here he quotes the prophet Joel—“’Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Jesus is Lord of all. He’s your Lord. He’s my Lord. He saves everyone who calls on Him. If only we could let the totality of what this means sink into the marrow of our beings, we’d confess His Lordship night and day, believe in His resurrection without a shadow of doubt, and pity anyone foolish enough to ridicule us. The word of faith is true and final. It can’t be revised, refuted, or rescinded. It’s near us—in our mouths and hearts. We must speak it. We must believe it.