As we continue studying from Scripture what it means that Jesus is Lord, I want us to consider the primary implications of that reality. In other words, what are the main ways the New Testament applies this truth to believers?
As I thought through the various implications on this subject, I came up with a list of a dozen or so. Because that would be too many to deal with here, I distilled the list down to two. This week we will examine the first implication, and we will save the second for next time. So, the first primary implication for confessing Jesus is Lord is that it is a necessary condition for salvation. The apostle Paul makes this point in Romans 10.
Paul begins this chapter by contrasting two ways to be made right with God. First, by keeping God’s Law through your own works and efforts. Romans 10:5 says, “For Moses writes of the righteousness that is based on the Law, that the person who performs them will live by them.” Paul explains that man can be made right with God by keeping His Law perfectly. He says that the man who practices the righteousness that is based on God’s Law shall also live by that righteousness. In other words, you have to keep the Law perfectly to be right with God. Of course, we find both practically and according to the rest of Scripture, that’s impossible! No one can be made right with God based on your own work or merit.
A second way that man can be made right with God is by a righteousness that is based on faith. Paul goes on to say, “But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will go up into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Rom. 10:6–8).
Paul reveals that the message of faith demands something from both your heart and mouth. Verse 9 says, “that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (emphasis added). Here, Paul reveals two conditions for salvation.
The first condition for salvation and to receive a right standing before God is faith. Paul writes in verse 9, “…if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.” By the way, faith isn’t some sort of mystical feeling. Rather, true saving faith always has objective content—biblical truth. Paul says “if you believe that” (emphasis added). So, what content must we believe in order to be saved?
Of course, the resurrection of Christ isn’t all that’s in the gospel message. So, why does Paul choose that event in particular? Because the resurrection proves that everything else in the gospel is true. John chapter 2 confirms this understanding of the resurrection:
“The Jews then said to Him, ‘What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and yet You will raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking about the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (John 2:18–22).
At Jesus’ first cleansing of the temple, the Jews asked Him by what authority He was able to do such a thing. Jesus responded by connecting His authority to His resurrection. In other words, if Jesus was not raised from the dead then there was no reason to believe anything He said.
When Paul states that we must believe in the resurrection, that’s shorthand. It’s shorthand for believing Jesus’ claims to be the Christ, the Son of God. It’s shorthand for believing Jesus’ death to be a substitute in the place of believing sinners. It’s shorthand for believing the reality, physicality, and historicity of the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul says you must believe these things in your heart, that is, with your entire inner being: your mind, emotions, and will.
To gain a right standing before God, to be rescued from God’s coming judgment against your sin, you must believe the facts of the gospel message. You must believe that!
But salvation is more than merely believing the facts of Christianity. In fact, Scripture tells us that even the demons believe the facts of the gospel message (Jas. 2:19). So Paul adds a second condition in Romans 10:9 and we will examine it next time.