Believing Unto Righteousness
The Exercise Of Faith

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 48c of 83


5  For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:5-13).

[God is transcendently holy; therefore, anyone who would enjoy fellowship with Him must be righteous. As Paul shows in our text, we can be righteous if we keep God’s law perfectly. However, this is impossible for fallen man. Only Christ could be perfectly righteous, and God has appointed that all who truly believes in Him may be imputed with His righteousness.  This is what Paul is elaborating on in the two famous verses that conclude of text for the present study. —JJL]

3.  The Exercise of Faith

Look at verses 9-10 (above) again. Notice how Paul speaks of believing and confessing. We must believe and we must confess. But take note that these are not really two different steps needed for our salvation; —otherwise we must confess first and then believe, —which makes no sense.

Confession and believing (or faith) are really two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one side without the other.

·     Think of a car. Confession is the car moving, faith is the engine running.

·     Think of a burning lamp. Confession is the light produced by it, faith is the burning of the fuel. You cannot have light unless the fuel burns, and you cannot burn the fuel without the light.

Now, believing that God raise the Lord Jesus from the dead, of course, means believing that Christ took on human flesh, suffered and died, and rose and ascended to heaven again. You can’t believe that God raised Jesus unless you believe all these things.

But take note that there is such a thing as mere intellectual faith. Most of us believe that Siddhartha Gautama (or Gautama Buddha) actually lived and died. Most of us also believe that Mohammad of Islam actually lived and died.  But their life and death makes no difference to us.

Likewise there are many who believe that Jesus lived, and died and rose again. But His life, death, and resurrection make no difference to them. They have a faith not very different from what the demons have. Their faith is a dead faith in the words of James.

Paul is not interested in such faith. He is speaking about believing in the heart, not believing in the head.

But what is the difference between such intellectual faith and saving faith?

·     In the first place, intellectual faith does not take ownership of the object of faith. Saving faith says, “God raised my Lord from the dead.” Intellectual faith will go only as far as to say only, “God raise Jesus from the dead.” Saving faith is personal and involves a relationship.

Intellectual faith knows the facts, saving faith knows the person.

·     In the second place, intellectual faith does not affect the believer’s life, whereas saving faith transforms the believer. The man who has intellectual faith is not changed by what he believes. The man who has saving is a different man from before he had faith.

?  Intellectual faith tickles the mind, saving faith transforms the person.

·     In the third place, intellectual faith does not overflow with assurance and confidence. Intellectual faith says, “So what that God raise Jesus from the dead?” Saving faith says, “God raise my Lord from the dead so that I may have life everlasting.”

Intellectual faith swells the head; saving faith warms the heart in a way that can be felt by others. The man who has saving faith overflows with gratitude from the bottom of his heart so that he confesses that Jesus Christ is his Lord. 

This leads us confession. Paul speaks about believing with the heart and confessing with the mouth.

What does it mean to confess with the mouth? Well, it means just that: using the mouth to acknowledge something verbally. What does Paul tell us we must confess? We must confess the Lord Jesus. In other words, we must confess that Jesus is Lord!

But make no mistake! Though Paul speaks about confessing with the mouth, we must not imagine that he is speaking about mere mouth-confession.

There is a difference between mere mouth-confession and a true verbal confession.

What is the difference between mere mouth-confession and a true confession? Well, a true confession flows from the heart. It is not a mere ritualistic acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord. The Lord condemned through Isaiah the Israelites for drew near to Him with their mouth but remove their hearts far from Him (Isa 29:13). Paul could not be contradicting the words of the Lord.

He could not be saying a person can become a Christian simply by saying that “Jesus is Lord!”  as if it is a magical incantation.

Many years ago, I was in Campus Crusade, and we would go out to the streets to witness to the people. Whenever we meet someone, we would ask: “Have you heard of the four spiritual laws?” If he has not, then we would launch into “sharing session” in which we would tell him about how God loves him and offer a wonderful plan for his life.

And we would persuade him to believe in Jesus and to pray the sinners prayer with us. Well, often times, we are successful in getting the people to pray. And then we would shake their hands and say, “Welcome into the kingdom of God.” And then at the end of the day, we would gather all our statistics together and we would project the statistics on the wall: “Today 50 of us went out; we shared with 250 people and 120 prayed to receive Christ!”

But really, how many of these were truly converted to Christ. I believe the number is very small if any of them were converted in this way.

It took me some time to come to grips with the truth; but the fact is the confession that the apostle Paul talk is not a mechanical, liturgical sinner’s prayer. We simply do not make someone a Christian by asking him to repeat the sinner’s prayer after us or by making him read the sinner’s prayer.

And moreover, the confession and faith that the apostle talks about is not a one time confession and expression of faith. Yes, there is the first time you would believe and confess. That happens as the immediate response of the new birth in the case of an adult. But this belief and confession must persist on. The Greek tense in the verbs in verse 10 makes it very clear, for both the words “believe” and “confession is made” are in the present continuous.

10 For with the heart man believeth [or continues to believe] unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is [or continues to be made] made unto salvation.

The fact is: We are not saved and that’s it! Christ saved us and is saving us and will save us. Confession and faith is needed at every step of the way, not just at the beginning.

With the heart man continues to believe unto righteousness; and with the mouth, confession continues to be made unto salvation” says Paul.

And let us be reminded, moreover, that this confession that is unto salvation is not just about words. It is about a conviction of who the Lord Jesus Christ is.

·     When we confess that Jesus is Lord, we are acknowledging that He is the King of king and Lord of lords. He is the Sovereign Lord of the Universe. He is upholding all things in this world by the word of His power.

·     And not only is He the Lord of the Universe. But He is the Lord of the Church. He is the head of the Church. The Church belongs to Him. We must therefore love Him and serve Him. The Church is not about man, it is not about seeking the approval of man. It is not about ISO9000 certification as done by one church in Singapore.

·     But to confess the Lord Jesus is not only about confessing that Jesus is Lord of the Universe and Lord of the Church, it is about confessing that Jesus is my Lord.

It is about confessing Him as Lord in every area of my life, whether my private life or public life. He is my Lord at home, in church, in school, at work, in the street, in the bus and MRT. It is about not being ashamed of Him in whatever situation I find myself in. It is about being prepared to say: “I will not do this, for Christ is my Lord.”

Is Jesus your Lord, dear reader? If so, you should not do anything in which you cannot say “Jesus is Lord” of it. You want to join a certain activity. But can you say Christ will own Lordship over it. Will He be pleased to put His name as the Lord of it; or will He disown it.

You are thinking about entering into a business partnership. But you must ask yourself: Would Christ be pleased to be known as the Lord of this partnership. Or conversely, would I be able to say “Jesus is Lord,” when I meet with the partners? If not, then you really should not be entering into it.

Likewise, if there is a place you are planning to go and you know that you cannot say “Jesus is Lord” in that place, then you should not be found there. Let me put it this way: Can you step into a casino and when confronted say: “Jesus is LORD!”

Similarly, you must ask the same question when you are considering taking up a job offer. A job is a job you say. But the question is: Can you say while you are on the job: “Jesus is Lord”? If you cannot, or you would get into serious trouble for saying that, you know that that is not a company you should work in. I do not wish to go into specifics, but you ought to ask yourself these questions.

Now, take note that the text does not require us to literally and continually say that “Jesus is Lord” in our workplace or anywhere else. We ought, of course, be courageous enough to say it when the occasion arises.

But this is not the point that Paul is bringing up. The point that Paul is saying is that every child of God will believe that Christ lived, suffered, died and rose again, and that every child of God is willing and ready to confess that Jesus is Lord at any time.

Or let me put it this way: If you are not willing to confess that Jesus is Lord or you knowingly deny that Jesus is Lord, then you can have no part in His salvation.

There is no place for those who use these two verses to plead with the sinner to accept Jesus Christ into their heart.

We do not become righteous by our act of confessing. But we become righteous in Christ. It is not my faith that saves me. It is Christ that saves me. I can have no access to Christ other than by faith. I must by faith cling on to Christ. But it is Christ who saves me. If it were faith that saves me, I am doom for my faith wavers. One day it is a tower; the next day it is a valley. But Christ the Rock of God is unchanging. Thank God that it is Christ who gives me faith that I may live in Him.

Conclusion

As we conclude our present stay, may I leave you with three questions:

First, do you believe in your heart that God raise the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead?

  • Christianity is not an invention of man. It is not the overflow of an overactive imagination of someone. Neither is it some devious scheme to gain followers.
  • Christianity is rooted in history. Christ lived some two thousand years ago. But His life was no ordinary one. He was born of a virgin, and He was fully God and fully man at the same time. He lived on behalf of God’s people. And then He shed His blood and died to pay for the sin of His people.
  • But He did not remain dead as all the founders of the religion of the world, for He rose from the dead on the third day. Many people saw Him after He rose from the dead. And many witnessed His ascension to heaven. The Bible contains four different eye-witness accounts of his life, death and resurrection!
  • This is the Jesus we serve. Do you believe Him? Do you believe all that the Scripture says about Him?
  • Blessed are you if you believe, for flesh and blood could not have revealed it unto you; for by nature, because of sin, we would believe anything but we would reject the truth. We would suppress the truth. You believe only because of the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

But secondly, I would ask you: If you say you believe, then do you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord? Do you love Him and keep His commandments lovingly and humbly?

Has your faith transformed your life? If I ask you whether you believe that the Lord Jesus live and died for you and rose again from the dead, I am sure you will say, ‘yes’. But let me ask you: Have that faith made you different from your unbelieving classmates, neighbours and cousins.

Millions throughout the ages believe and have their lives changed.

Some are already enjoying perfect fellowship with God in heaven.

Some are today experiencing a foretaste of that joy—for though we still suffer because of sin and the world, we have a joy and peace that the world cannot understand.

Eternal life has begun for us and we are day by day looking forward to the day when we shall enjoy our salvation to the full. What about you? If your life has not been changed, will you not plead with the Lord to change you that you may be the kind of man, woman and child that God wants you to be?

But finally, I would ask you: If you believe and confess that Jesus is your Lord, are you living by faith or are you living by law? If you are truly a child of God, I know that you are striving to keep the Law of God out of gratitude and love for Christ.

I know also that the thing that perplexes you most is sin. I know you daily struggle against sin and you grieve in your heart because of your sin. But let me ask you: Are you still beating yourself for your failures? If you are living by faith in Christ and Christ has already forgiven you, why is it you cannot, as it were, forgive yourself? Does not your beating yourself indicate that you are still trying to win righteousness by the law? Oh, child of God, will you not rest in Christ for your righteousness and salvation.

He died and rose again. He has given you perfect righteousness and He will make you perfectly righteous. Only trust him! Amen.

—JJ Lim