The Pursuit of God

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False Formulas for Salvation – Romans 10:9

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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. (Rom. 10:9)

Like John 3:16, Romans 10:9 is a favorite verse among Christians which they like to use as a quick summary for how to obtain salvation.  But like John 3:16, Romans 10:9 doesn’t come close to accurately summarizing God’s salvation requirements.  This isn’t because salvation is complicated—on the contrary, it’s a very simple matter of submitting to the real Gods as the Supreme Authorities that They are.  But this isn’t where Romans 10:9 takes us, because the apostle Paul wrote Romans, and the apostle Paul didn’t personally submit to any God as truly supreme.

WHAT PAUL MEANT

To understand how useless Romans 10:9 is, we have to start by understanding what Paul meant when he wrote these words.  The trouble starts with Paul referring to Jesus as Lord. In Bible times, the Jews used the title Lord or Adonai as a general title of respect.  How much respect you were trying to convey depended on who you were addressing.  Jewish women called their husbands their Lords. Jewish commoners referred to their rulers as their Lords.  The general policy in Jewish society was that if you ran into a male who looked like he was of a higher social rank than you were, then the polite thing to do was to call him Lord.  As far as social ranking went, husbands trumped wives, kings trumped commoners, the rich trumped the poor, fathers trumped children, and on and on we go until the use of the title Lord becomes extremely common in ancient Jewish society.  And this is just human dynamics that we’re talking about—now let’s move on to the supernatural realm.

The biblical world was filled with gods, and Jews referred to them all as Lords.  Yahweh was a Lord, but so was Baal, Molech, and a host of over deities.  Are you getting a feel for how generic and overused this title of Lord was?  Today in America, we don’t use social titles like the Brits do.  We don’t have Lords and Ladies running around, so the title of Lord feels far more special and significant to us than it was to a Jew like Paul.  When American Christians refer to Jesus as their Lord, many of them are using that title as a synonym for God.  Well, when Paul is talking about Yahweh, he also rotates between the titles of Lord and God.  In Hebrew, the title of God was pronounced El, but here we run into more problems…

Today English speaking Muslims and Christians all refer to their deities as God, however Christians do not recognize Allah as a true God.  To sort out the confusion, many Christians like to use a capital G when referring to one of the Gods, and a lowercase g when talking about false gods.  Well, ancient Hebrew didn’t have a sense of upper and lowercase letters.  Instead, it was like they wrote in all caps all the time. So if you were to read through the Old Testament in the original Hebrew, you’d find the title of El being used all over the place to refer to both Yahweh and false gods.  By the time we come to Romans 10:9, we find Paul using both the titles Lord and God—titles that were extremely common in his society, and titles which, by themselves, tell us nothing about the level of respect he’s conveying or which specific God he’s referring to.

So how do we figure out what Paul really meant?  We have to read through all of Paul’s writings to get an understanding of what the man’s personal theology was.  Once we do that, it becomes very clear that what he meant by Romans 10:9 is this:

If you publicly confess that you respect Jesus as a human who greatly outranks you, and if you believe in your heart that Yahweh—the only true God—raised human Jesus from the dead, you will be saved.

This is what Paul means by Romans 10:9.  Paul isn’t teaching anyone to submit to Jesus as a true God, because Paul doesn’t personally accept that this is who Jesus is.  This isn’t just a Paul problem—read through the New Testament epistles and you’ll find that Christ is being continuously demoted as Someone less than fully Divine (see How the NT Epistles Define Christ: Not God, Just Another Flawed Human).  The Jews who wrote the New Testament documents were monotheists and Yahweh was the only God they recognized.  So while they have no problems respecting Jesus as a mere Lord, they weren’t about to acknowledge that He was equal to the great Yahweh, because that was a ludicrous idea.  In the Old Testament Yahweh clearly states that He is the only true God in existence, and those who claimed to follow Yahweh viewed Him as the only Being who was capable of performing extreme miracles, such as bringing the dead back to life.  So when Jesus claimed that He would bring Himself back to life—thus proving His equality with Yahweh—the Jews fluffed that notion off as ludicrous.  How could a mere mortal like Jesus raise Himself back to life?  Mortals do not have the power to control the realm of the dead—only the great Yahweh is capable of pulling off resurrections.  So when Jesus raised Lazarus to life, what the Jews saw was Yahweh raising Lazarus, while Jesus was just the instrument who God chose to work through.  And when Jesus raised Himself back to life after three days, the Jews all said it was Yahweh who brought human Jesus back from the underworld.  It had to be Yahweh—there is no other explanation when you’re a monotheistic Jew like Paul.

Once you understand how the Jews thought, you can see how careful Paul is being to steer you away from revering Jesus as a true God by reminding you that it was Yahweh who raised Jesus back to life.  Paul doesn’t want people blurring the lines between the created and the uncreated.  Yahweh raised Christ, thus reminding everyone that Yahweh is God. Christ needed to be raised by Yahweh because as a non-God, Christ was clearly incapable of bringing Himself back to life.  And yet the fact that Yahweh chose to raise Christ, plus the fact that Yahweh chose Christ to serve as His Messiah, means we all ought to give Christ an extra measure of respect.  So let’s dust off that Lord title, and say it with more awe than we’d give to someone like the president.  Jesus will be pleased that we’re respecting Him.  Yahweh will be pleased that we’re respecting His Messiah while not forgetting that Yahweh is the One with the true power.  And by pleasing Them, we’ll all end up on the happy side of eternity.  This is how Paul arrives at his simple formula for salvation:

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. (Rom. 10:9)

Paul doesn’t even mention the Holy Spirit in this passage, because to Paul, the title Holy Spirit was just another title for Yahweh.  The Jews didn’t recognize the Holy Spirit as the separate, magnificent Being that He is, which is why you’ll barely find any mention of Him in the New Testament.  As far as the Jews were concerned, it was Yahweh’s Spirit who showed up on Pentecost, not a third glorious Deity.

So what’s wrong with Romans 10:9?  Well, everything.  For starters, talk is cheap, and merely saying the words “Jesus is Lord” won’t do anything to get you into a good place with the real Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t judge you by what comes out of your mouth, He judges you by how your soul is responding to Him.  Today Americans openly acknowledge who their president is, but they also openly mock the man, thus demonstrating that there is a big difference between acknowledging someone’s social rank and personally respecting that individual.  Jesus is God Almighty, not just some Lord.  But simply saying “Jesus is God” won’t save you from Hell.  Your soul needs to be sincerely submitting to Jesus as not just God, but as your God—as the Supreme Authority over your life.

In Romans 10:9, Paul says that if we believe in our hearts that Yahweh raised Jesus from the dead, we’ll acquire salvation. Well, no, we really won’t.  In the first place, Jesus raised Himself.  In the second place,  Yahweh has many abilities and He’s done many awesome things, but simply listing these things off and believing in the fact of them won’t save you from Hell.  Today scores of people believe that we were all created by a Divine Being, but they aren’t anywhere close to personally submitting to that Being.  Simply believing in God’s abilities or in the fact that God has performed miracles in the past has nothing to do with you personally submitting to Him as the Supreme Authority over you.

There’s only one way to acquire salvation, and that is through sufficient submission to the real Gods.  Before Christ was revealed, Yahweh was the only real God the Jews knew about, so submitting to Yahweh was good enough.  But today just submitting to Yahweh is not good enough.  Today we know that there are three Gods: Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  We must each personally submit to all three of these Gods as the Supreme Authorities of our own lives as well as over everything else before we’re going to be granted salvation.  Merely making verbal declarations or believing in certain facts about the abilities of Divine Beings isn’t good enough.  Believing that Jesus walked the earth and resurrected isn’t good enough.  Salvation can only be acquired through sufficient personal submission to the real Gods.  Since Romans 10:9 says nothing about this kind of submission, this verse is an utterly useless formula for salvation.

FURTHER READING:
Who raised Jesus from the dead?
False Formulas for Salvation – 1 John 1:9
False Formulas for Salvation – John 3:16
Understanding Salvation: How We Find the Real Gods & The Irrelevance of Titles
Salvation: How do you know when you’ve met God’s requirements?
Terrible Salvation Songs: BECAUSE HE LIVES (AMEN) by Matt Maher
Songs that Insult Yahweh: CHAMPION by Jesus Culture
Worship Song Analysis: IN CHRIST ALONE by the Newsboys
The Resurrection Myth: Why the Dead in Christ Won’t Really Rise

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